The Secret History of Ellijay and the “Great” Cherokee Chief White Path

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

A full-blood Georgia Cherokee Chief was actually a mostly white Quaker from northeastern North Carolina. He was distantly related to the white father of Cherokee leader, Charles Hicks. His father was also a Quaker.

Over and over again, we find examples in the Southeastern United States, where local tourism promotion organizations, even state government agencies, have ignored the findings of competent archaeologists and historians to create fictional histories, which replicate themselves across official state history texts, historical markers and internet references. In this case, they even ignored an official investigative report by the National Park Service!

In northern Georgia, there is far more serious version of this problem. Vast amounts of North Carolina Cherokee casino profits have been used to bribe Georgia politicians, rural community cultural centers, online references, museums, museum board of directors; publicly funded, county convention and visitors bureaus and individual professors to promote false history, which is detrimental to the tourism industry and economy of Georgia. All of these recipients are receiving much larger amounts of public funds from Georgia taxpayers, but betray their true patrons for 30 pieces of silver.

For the past 14 years, the People of One Fire has been quietly amassing proof of this corruption with solid evidence that will stand up in court. Certain Georgia archaeologists, museum directors and chamber of commerce officials have been receiving “travel expense checks” and substantial free perks at Cherokee North Carolina casino hotels, which have NOT been reported as “Other Income” on federal and state income tax forms.

View of Rich Mountains from Ellijay, GA

Propagandized history No. 1 – Ellijay, GA

Ellijay is today the county seat of Gilmer County, Georgia, which is located in the heart of the North Georgia Mountains. The county is a beautiful region known for its apples and peaches, crystal clear rivers, Carters Lake, Lake Blue Ridge and pristine mountainsides. The beautiful Cartacay, Ellijay and Coosawattee Rivers flow through the county. The Coosawattee was the inspiration for the best-selling book and blockbuster movie, “Deliverance.” The author of the book, James Dicky, lived in Gilmer County as a teenager. His most famous poems were also located in Gilmer County. These assets attract many tourists, most of whom are completely unaware of the region’s rich and ancient Native American history.

Ellijay is the Anglicized version of the Itsate Creek word, Elasi, which is pronounced, Ĕ : lă : jzhĭ. The word literally means “Offspring from foothills,” but in 18th century usage referred to the mixed Creek-Spanish-Asturian-Sephardic Jewish descendants of 17th century Spanish-speaking gold miners. Two other forms of Elasi are place names in northern Georgia, Elachee and Elatee.

Apparently, most of the Native residents left the region when the United States and State of Georgia secretly stole north-central and northwest Georgia from the Creeks and Chickasaws in the 1784 Treaty of Augusta. They gave the region to the Cherokees in return for the Cherokees giving up most of their lands in Tennessee. Georgia was then given a secret treaty by the federal government in 1795, which promised that the Cherokees would be removed from the state by 1805.

The Creek leadership declared war on the State of Georgia, when they found out about the secret clause in 1784 treaty with the Cherokees, which they never saw . . . that gave the Cherokees all the lands west of the Chattahoochee River and north of the Etowah River. President Washington dispatched General Marinus Willit to explain to them that a war against Georgia would become a war against the United States. The Creek leaders backed off, but Upper Creek towns continued their sporadic raids on the frontier until 1795.

These Spanish-speaking “Creeks” ended up in southern Florida. Ellijay, Florida was one of several Spanish-speaking Seminole towns in southern Florida until they were destroyed by federal troops in the 1840’s. The word, Ellijay, only appeared as a family name in the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

Up until the 1600s, the region was within the famous Province of Coosa, which was visited by Hernando de Soto in the summer of 1540. De Soto planned to make the capital of Coosa the capital of La Florida . . . which then included most of the present-day Southeastern United States. The people of Coosa were the ancestors of the Upper Creek Indians.

There is also a large agricultural terrace complex in the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area of the Chattahoochee National Forest in eastern Gilmer County. This archaeological zone indicates the presence of Itza Mayas in the region, prior to the arrival of the Kaushe (Coosa). I am keeping its location a secret since it would be almost impossible for USFS and state forest rangers to protect the site.

The famous archaeologists Warren K. Moorehead (1926) and Robert Wauchope (1939) found dozens of mounds along the rivers of Gilmer County. The largest ones were adjacent to Downtown Ellijay. In one of the largest mounds, Moorehead found several rusted IRON nails, tools and weapons, mixed with typical Pre-Columbian Creek artifacts and burials. He had no explanation for the iron artifacts and it is not known what became of them. Also, numerous 16th and 17th century metal tools, armor and weapons have been found in the eastern part of the county.

Some ethnic Cherokees village bands, associated with the Chickamauga Hostiles, DID enter the county during the 1780’s. One such renegade village on Bear Creek in the western part of the county, was massacred by the Western Territorial Militia from what is now, Tennessee. However, in general, true Cherokees did not settle in the Georgia Mountains because they were eligible for obtaining prime bottomland farms in the Great Appalachian Valley, farther west. There was NEVER a major Cherokee settlement in the county. Most maps of the Cherokee Nation in Georgia do not show any Indian villages in present-day Gilmer County.

We have found that the residents of Gilmer County are generally unaware of its extraordinary Native American heritage. Even families living next to mounds or on ancient town sites are unaware of their existence.

Ellijay’s fictional history

The New Georgia Encyclopedia tells us: “Ellijay is an Anglicized form of a Cherokee word, perhaps meaning “place of green things” or “many waters.”. The latter definition seems sensible because the town of Ellijay, once a large Cherokee trading center.”

A website maintained by a tourism agency, based in Gilmer County, tells us: “The origin of the city’s name is not certain but thought to be the English derivative of an Indian word(s) meaning “many waters”, “place of green things” or “new ground”. Some histories say it may have been named for an Indian chief. Inhabited for countless years by the Cherokee people indigenous to North Georgia, the area was first mentioned as a village and trade center before the onslaught of white settlers inhabited the region.”

Fact Check: The Cherokee words meaning “many waters, ” “place of green things” or “new ground” bear absolutely no resemblance to the word, Ellijay. They were just tall tales, made up by people in the past, who had no knowledge of either the Cherokee or Creek languages. The “major Cherokee trading center” refers to the large Proto-Creek towns with mounds in Ellijay, which were abandoned about a century before the Cherokees were given ownership of that region.

Thunder Falls on the Cartacay River in Gilmer County

Propagandized history No. 2 – Chief White Path

On July 27, 1827 the Cherokee Nation adopted a Constitution, which replaced the traditional tribal government, based on clan and villages with one directly modeled after that of the United States. Whereas Cherokee women previously had considerable influence on tribal decisions, the new constitution disfranchised all females.    One of the men elected to the new council, known in references today solely as “Chief” White Path, lived in Turnip Town near present day Ellijay, GA.  He would have been completely forgotten like 99% of his contemporary Cherokees, had he not attempted vehemently to persuade the council to abandon the new constitution. 

It is also said in modern references that he tried to get rid of the Christian missionaries and return the Cherokees to their traditional religion.  If one learns about the real White Path, that modern example of “faith-based history” seems unlikely.

In the 1980s, when transportation planners were studying the proposed four lane route of an extension of Interstate 575, called Hwy. 515, through Gilmer County, GA, they identified a very old log cabin near the banks of White Path Creek.  Local historians told them that it was former the home of Gilmer County’s first judge, Aaron Pinson, and before that the home of Chief White Path.  An archaeological consulting firm was brought in to study the site.   Its archaeologists and historians confirmed the historical value of the old building. 

It is the standard policy of the Georgia Department of Transportation to bulldoze Creek heritage sites and mounds throughout the state, after they are secretly studied by archaeological consulting firms. The public and Georgia’s Creek descendants almost never know that a town or mound site has been destroyed.  This was the policy for all Creek and Uchee sites on Highway 525, but an exception was made for this log cabin.  Civil engineers designed the expressway lanes to go around the cabin . . . leaving a park-like green space in the widened media.

In 1995, funds were obtained, including casino money from the Eastern Band of Cherokees, to dismantle the White Path cabin and reconstruct it next to the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville, GA.  It was presented as a Cherokee heritage site and the Gainesville Area is now described as a place where the Cherokees lived for thousands of years. In fact, until 1805, the site of Gainesville was within the lands of the Creek Confederacy. From 1805 until 1818, the Gainesville Area was on the extreme edge of the Cherokee Nation. Very few, if any, ethnic Cherokees ever lived there.

I first became suspicious because of discrepancies in the age of the cabin and the fact that the Northeast Georgia History Center tells you that he grew up in a cabin that was built either 20 or 40 year after he was born.  Before telling the reader what the National Park Service and the United States Census tells us about “Chief” White Path, we will let you peruse what is said on historical markers, web sites and museum brochures.  Afterward, POOF will fact check those statements.

Famous Cherokee Leaders – Keetoowah Band of Cherokees

(1) Chief Whitepath or Nunna-tsune-ga was a son of Chief Red Horse and was born 1763 in Sogwiligigageiyi, Cherokee Nation, NC, and died 1838 on the Trail of Tears.  The Sogwiligigageiyi or Scribe Clan has for four centuries maintained the secret Cherokee writing system.  White Path’s father was one of those scribes and passed this sacred information down to him.

*Fact-Check – Sogwiligigageiyi means “Horse Red People – Place of.”   There is a “Red Horse” family name in Oklahoma, but there is no mention of a Cherokee chief named Red Horse or a village by that name in the Southeast during the mid-1700s.  This is typical of much of the amateur Keetoowah Cherokee historians.  They have been gone from the Southeast for 200 years and don’t know diddlysquat about the Muskogean languages spoken in Georgia or the geography of the region. Note that this version says that White Path was born in 1763.

Descendants of George Guess (Sequoyah) Website

(2)  Chief White Path was born in 1761He and his brother, Sogwilli (Sequoyah) were the sons of Red Horse. They were born in Sogwiligigagayee on the White Fires River, which was located in Rutherford County, NC.  Red Horse, was the chief of the Scribe Clan that were caretakers of the secret alphabet for four centuries. White Path and his brother Sogwali brought the secret alphabet out of obscurity after the fall of the Cherokee Nation in 1795. 

*Fact Check – So White Path and Sequoyah were brothers? The Red Horse Thing began with an alternative history book about Sequoyah by Traveller Bird.  In several sections of the book, Bird describes major tribal towns of the Creek Confederacy as “ancient Cherokee clans,” not knowing that they were Creek words.  Later Cherokee and wannabe-Cherokee writers have taken Bird’s book as total fact then spiraled farther and farther away from reality.

Private Gilmer County History Website

(3)  White Path was a full blood Cherokee and great war chief of the Cherokee Nation.  He was born in 1761 near Ellijay, GA, where his parents had always lived.   He led the charge at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend against the Shawnee Creeks, which helped General Andrew Jackson win the battle. Afterward he became a man of peace and buried the hatchet. He then fought to return the Cherokee Nation to its traditional ways. He died on the Trail of Tears, while leading his family and neighbors to Oklahoma.

* Fact Check – Research by the National Park Service and the archives will refute most of the statements made on this web site.  They are presented below.

State DOT stone monument on Hwy. 515

(4) Home of the Cherokee Indian Chief Whitepath stood from 1800 to 1982, 338 yards S.W. of this marker. Aaron Pinson born Feb. 5, 1784 lived here from 1838 until his death Dec. 7, 1843.

Fact Check – The consultants for the Georgia DOT determined that the cabin was built 20 years later than stated by the Gilmer Historical Society and Northeast Georgia History Center.

(5) Chief White Path of the Cherokee Nation – The cabin was built c. 1780 near the site of present day Ellijay, Georgia by White Path’s parents. During White Path’s time the cabin consisted of a single room downstairs with a loft above. In the land lottery of 1832 the cabin and the land it was on was awarded to the Pinson family who were white settlers. The Pinsons later added a dogtrot central hallway and another room downstairs. They also extended the loft into a full story under the eaves to bring it to the full size that it remains today. The cabin was relocated onto its current site in Cherokee County in 1995 under the direction of Counte Cooley, a descendent of White Path, and of James Mathis.

Restored interior of the Chief White Path cabin in Gainesville

Gilmer County Historical Society and Northeast Georgia History Center websites

A full-blood Cherokee, Chief White Path was born in 1761 near Ellijay and grew up in the cabin.* His Cherokee name, Nunna-tsune-ga, translates literally as “I dwell on the peaceful (or white) path”. A skillful orator he frequently spoke out at the Cherokee national capitol at New Echota against ceding land to the white settlers.

In 1814 he joined General Andrew Jackson to fight the Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama War (of 1812). He along with a small band of Cherokees was instrumental in securing victory for Jackson when they stole the Creeks’ canoes, cutting off their escape by water.

White Path strongly protested the influence of white settlers in fiery oratory at the Cherokee capitol of New Echota. A strict follower of the traditional ways he spoke against the new Cherokee constitution and the introduction of Christianity by the missionaries. He eventually yielded to the new ways and focused his efforts on fighting the removal policies of his old comrade and now president, Andrew Jackson. He and Chief John Ross traveled to Washington to denounce the removal treaty signed as void. They were unsuccessful and returned to Georgia.

In the fall of 1838 at the age of 77 White Path helped to organize the removal, later known as the “Trail of Tears.” He and other Cherokee leaders realized that the best chance for survival lay in an orderly march to Oklahoma. On a stop near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Chief White Path died and was buried beside Chief Fly Smith who also died during the night. Today his former home is interpreted as a Cherokee farmstead c. 1835, with authentic furnishings, vegetable gardens and herb gardens typical of a Cherokee home just prior to the removal.

* Fact Check – How could White Path have grown up in the cabin, when it was built 20 or 40 years after he was born?  Nowhere in the archives of the Old Cherokee Nation was White Path listed as a chief of the Cherokee Nation.  He was a member of the National Council for one term. There are many more surprises below.

Obituary in Kentucky newspapers

(6) “WHITE PATH, a Cherokee Indian chief, died near Hopkinsville, Ky., a few days ago, aged 75 years; he was part of the company of Indians migrating west; “was near the Nashville road and monument of wood, painted to resemble marble [was] erected to his memory on which is inscribed his name.”

Fact Check – The Kentucky newspapers stated that White Path was two years younger than stated in bios published by the Gilmer County Historical Society and the Northeast Georgia History Center.


(7) Wikipedia – Nunnahitsunega, or “Whitepath”, was a full-blood traditionalist leader and member of the Cherokee National Council who lived at Turnip Town (Ulunyi), near the large Ellijay (Elatseyi) in the early 19th century. In 1824, influenced by the teachings of the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake, he began a rebellion against the acculturation then taking place in the Cherokee Nation, proposing the rejection of Christianity and the new constitution, and a return to the old tribal laws. He soon had a large following, whom his detractors referred to as “Red Sticks”, and they formed their own council, electing Big Tiger as their principal chief.

The more progressive leaders on the national council—such as Pathkiller, Charles R. Hicks, Major Ridge, and John Ross—deposed him from his seat in 1826, but when he submitted to their authority in 1828, he was returned to his seat.He died sometime in 1838 in the vicinity of Hopkinsville, Kentucky during the Cherokee removal.

Actual historical documents rather than folklore

National Park Service

The National Park Service and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma hired historians to prepare a complete list of Cherokees, who fought in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, regardless if they were not listed on US Army rosters. The purpose was to erect a monument to the Cherokee veterans at Horseshoe Bend National Battlefield Park.  The list does not contain a name similar to White, White Path or Nunna-tsune-ga.

Fact Check – White Path did not fight at Horseshoe Bend as almost all references state.  It would seem odd that a 50 year old man would volunteer to fight other Native Americans for the US Army, if he was an avowed pacifist and angry at the United States government for its treatment of Native Americans.  In that era, an age of 50 years would be considered quite old . . . certainly too old to fight in a vicious guerilla war.

United States Census Bureau

 Armajor White (Chief White Path)

b. August 23,1762 in Nash Co. (Rocky Mount) N.C. ~ d. 1842 in Coosa, Alabama.  

His father was Joseph White Sr. His mother was Gulyema Newby. They were Quakers.  The Quaker version says that they lived their entire lives in Nash County, NC. Detailed information on Joseph and Gulyema White can be found in Hindshaw’s American Quaker Encyclopedia.  Online genealogies state that they both died 1794 in the Cherokee Nation.  *Gulyema is an Italian and Bohemian first name.  She, was not Cherokee as stated in a legion of “Cherokee heritage” websites and was listed as white in the US Census.

Amajor and Absilla White, were Quakers, who lived in Northhampton County, NC before moving to the Cherokee Nation. The father of Cherokee Chief Charles Hicks, also a Quaker, was born in the Virginia county, immediately north of Northhampton.

Armajor White was married to Absilla Knight

Absilla was born in 1755 in Northampton County, North Carolina and died on February 05, 1800 (44-45) on Brasstown Creek, Cherokee, North Carolina.  She was a white woman, not the daughter of a famous Cherokee chief as most internet Cherokee histories state. Obviously, the Whites were Quaker missionaries or traders.

They had five children: Archibald/William/Joseph/Thomas/Mary. None lived in the Cherokee Nation and their descendants always listed their race as white.  Thomas White served as a lieutenant in the US Army during the War of 1812.

Archibald White (son of Whitepath) was born Abt. 1810, and died date unknown.  He is listed on the 1840 census as living in Township: Division 3 – Fleming County, Kentucky  (1 male over 20 under 30 and 1 female over 20 under 30 in his household) All that were listed in 1840 were him and his wife.

United States Census Bureau ~ Year:1840 ~ Roll:M704_110 ~ Page:238 ~ Image:122

Mind-Blowing Fact Check

1.  Amajor White (White Path) had no Cherokee heritage and probably was no more than 1/16th Native American from Penobscot tribe in Maine.  His wife, Absilla, was not Cherokee and was also born in NE North Carolina.  She died in 1794 in Brasstown, NC  Her name is English.  It is quite possible that White later took a common law mixed blood Cherokee wife, which enabled him to live within the Cherokee Nation, but this is not known for sure. Possibly, they allowed him to live there because of the Penobscot heritage and the fact that Amajor’s father had once belonged to the same Quaker congregation in southeastern Virginia that Charles Hicks’ white ancestors attended.

2. Amajor White was a pacifist because he was a Quaker. According to the land surveyors, who in 1828 surveyed Turnip Town, it was an African-American community.  The surveyors actually used a pejorative word to describe the ethnicity of Turniptown and the appearance of their houses.   

3. Amajor White probably arrived in Turnip Town after the Chickamauga War ended or between 1795 and 1800, since his house was built around 1800.

4.  One of Amajor’s sons left the Cherokee Nation before the Trail of Tears and lived as a white man in Fleming County, KY.  A younger son, Tom, was a Lieutenant in the US Army during the War of 1812.  After the Cherokee Removal, he obtained a tract of land near Coosa, Alabama and lived there the rest of his wife.

5.  White Path’s other children also left the Cherokee Nation before 1836 and also represented themselves as whites on US Census forms.

And now YOU know!


  1. Richard, Great research. As i had to rethink the history that i was taught… the earth works of Ohio are symbols connected to Sweden, Bell beaker, Judah, Old math of Babylon, Druid serpent of Scotland seems to be a meeting place of many different peoples. Perhaps also a connection to the Tokah /Yuchi lore people that arrived in the 31-15th B.C century….some noted as being blond haired whites.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was just working on my family tree and discovered Armajor and Absilla to be my 5th great-grandparents. I’m glad to have found your research.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful research! One of the more ridiculous stories I’ve heard is that his name really meant “He kills whites on the road”, since “tsvnega” is the plural form of “unega”, white. However, it can also be an emphatic, “The path of much happiness”.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.