Few landmarks are left from an early occupation by the Indian tribes that inhabited the Yadkin Valley or from the early European settlers who ventured up the Yadkin River beyond the Great Wagon Trail and the Indian Trading Trails. What we do have, though, are the Mineral Spring, where legends tell us that Indians carved a channel into the bedrock for the water to flow more easily. We have countless unnamed road beds which disappear into the woodlands or follow the creek and river banks north and south or trail into the creeks and river at points that were most likely fords or ferries … We have the remnants of a fish trap and our fields yield the arrowheads and stone implements of civilizations past … And unless we capture the essence of these landmarks, these relics, even the legends — their memories and historical significance will vanish — never to be replaced.
Once called the “Great Sapona” River, the Yadkin River and its valley was treasured by early inhabitants as a rich hunting ground. Our Mineral Spring may have gained its reputation as a 18th and 19th-century “healing spring” from early legends.
The first people came into the Yadkin Valley at least 12,000 years ago…that’s 6,000 years before the Egyptians started building their pyramids! And it’s about 11,500 years before the first Europeans set foot in what would one day be known as the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, where you live today …..
During those thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived, Native American cultures slowly developed and adapted to changes in climate and the environment. Although today their technology might seem very crude and primitive to us, the simple tools invented by the earliest Americans was an important factor as well. The stages of the Native American culture are traditionally divided into 3 segments, or eras – Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Woodland.
The Region’s First Settlers
When settlers began to arrive in the early to mid-1700’s, they came from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia along the Great Road to the Yadkin Valley. They were of German, Scotch-Irish and English heritage, coming to the new land to escape the persecution and poverty they had known in Europe.
About the time the first European settlers arrived in the Yadkin Valley, there were no resident Native Americans. The Saura, Saponi, and Keyauwee had been absorbed into other tribes or had moved out of the area entirely, perhaps to avoid raiding parties from the tribes to the north. To testify to their 12,000 years of occupation, they left behind stone tools, projectile points, broken bits of pottery, and the graves of their dead. In the Yadkin Valley a single site was located that held stone tools and campfire remains from over a 10,000-year period. Excavation and analysis allowed construction of a detailed chronological progression in artifact styles. They also left behind their name for the river that had been a central element in their lives…the Yadkin.
The majority of the first settlers in the Yadkin Valley were not immigrants fresh from the old country… that group would come later. These first settlers were second and third generation colonists who knew what to expect and how to survive in a backwoods economy that demanded near complete self-sufficiency. That experience would prove invaluable, for the nearest towns and the “civilization” of the coastal areas were many days… or even weeks… away.
They generally planned their arrival for late fall or winter, bringing seed and food from the last harvest at their previous home. If all went as planned, the food would sustain them while they went about establishing themselves; for there was much to do…
One of the first tasks was finding land. While land was readily available, the new settlers wished to find tracts of fertile soil with good water and few defects such as swamps or irregular ground.