Cowee Mound, located on the banks of the Little Tennessee River, was the heart of the Cherokee town known as Cowee, the principal commercial and diplomatic center of the Cherokee Nation in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is considered one of the most important historic sites of the Cherokee people and is the most intact Mississippian period archeological site in Western North Carolina.
On the eve of the American Revolution 250 years ago, British and Colonial armies clashed with native peoples for control of the principal trade route through the southern mountains. Cowee is also among the most significant historic sites in the South from the period leading up to the American Revolution.
On October 23, the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians agreed to partner with the Land Trust to purchase the site and thereby save it from future development.
Earlier this year, the Land Trust secured a grant from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund to cover a portion of the land purchase while protecting a half-mile of Little Tennessee River frontage. The tribe will finance the rest of the purchase and will assume ownership of the site next year.
There will be no commercial development on the land — a requirement of receiving grant funding from the state — although plans are to enhance the historic interpretation of the rich, heritage site. Part of the historic interpretation will include continuing the thousand-year agricultural traditions on the land.
For the past 175 years, the Cowee Mound was owned by the Hall family until the death of Katherine Hall Porter in 2002. After Katherine’s death, the land passed to her husband, James Porter. The Land Trust worked with James and his heirs to arrange a sale of the property to insure its conservation.
“Katherine Porter left a wonderful legacy of conserving the Mound and it was James’ desire to have the Mound return to Tribal ownership,” said Paul Carlson, Executive Director of Land Trust for the Little Tennessee.
Cowee Mound is bordered on both side by tracts that were protected under Land Trust for the Little Tennessee’s guidance and vision: a parcel of the Needmore Tract, managed by the N.C. Wildlife resources Commission, and the upstream half of the historic Hall Farm, which was conserved by LTLT last year through the acquisition of a working farm conservation easement.