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Post Great Apalachee Explained; from Gary Moore
Created by John Eipper on 06/21/18 12:41 PM

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Great Apalachee Explained; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 06/21/18 12:41 pm)

Gary Moore writes:

JE asked on June 20th about the Renaissance maps that referred to the whole of eastern North America as "Great Apalachee" (hence the name of the mountain chain long after people had forgotten the mythical roots).

In school, those of us corrected for misspelling the mountains may have wondered at the illogic: Shouldn't it be Appala-CHAIN--for a chain of mountains? Well, I don't have the actual parchment, but the roots are this: Pánfilo de Narváez, one of the more repugnant of conquistadores, landed his troops near Tampa Bay in 1527, before De Soto, before St. Augustine (the town), but still looking for gold. Asking and sometimes torturing the local natives to find where the gold was (one of his methods was to unleash his brace of mastiffs), Narváez began getting cooperative replies: "Yes, there is a great city of gold, but not right here. You've got to leave here and go up the trail to get the good stuff." As he went, the tales conflated with vague native knowledge that some kind of kingdom did lie to the north (in the present Florida panhandle), and that the people there were called the Apalachee. Red-beard eventually found the real Apalachees, in mound-builder elevated lodges thatched with cabbage palm, and some interesting social dynamics, but no gold.

(I think JE has previously narrated the sequel, when Pánfilo died in his quest and the sole conquistador survivor was Cabeza de Vaca, plus a slave named Esteban.)

On maps back in Europe, the mountains became the "Apalachee-an" before anybody really knew what they were. The Apalachees themselves survived as later Spanish serfs, until complicated wars around 1700 found the English raiding south into Florida, whereupon the remaining captive Apalachee villages were burned and the survivors carried to the Carolinas as slaves, not only by the British but by various native groups of enslavers. I dimly guessed in school that the funny look the teacher gave me when I complained about the spelling of "Appalachian" meant that sensible people didn't venture into such mazes.

JE comments:  Narváez also fought against Cortés in Mexico, and had an eye put out in the melee.  Appalachia is one of those words that somehow got re-pronounced in the last twenty years.  It used to be Appa-LAY-shuh.  Now it's Appa-LATCH-shuh.  See also Carnegie, which has shifted its stress from the first to the second syllable.  (Old Andrew himself was a penult guy, but years of radio broadcasts from CARnegie Hall set the mood for two or three generations.)


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