The Obscure Legend Of "Usonvi-Kahnanesgi"
Long before the appearance of the French Huguenots and their settlement, the area surrounding and including modern day Ashmore was once part of the vast territory of the Cherokee Nation. Despite the fact that this land, a roughly circular area of 5.6 square miles lied in the heart of their hunting territory the Cherokee people avoided the area citing a legend about the "Usonvi-Kahnanesgi" (The Corrupt Spider) as well as their belief that the area was cursed by the "Azgen" (The Moon-Eyed People).
Cherokee Sculptures Depicting the "Azgen"
The "Azgen" or as they are referred to today as "The Moon-Eyed People" were a mythical race composed of a small human beings of diminutive stature that once called the area of Southern Appalachia/Cherokee territory home. The "Azgen" were a particularly strange race in both their appearance and practices. The "Azgen" were described as having skin as pale as the moon with large eyes that failed to work during the day. The males of the race kept beards but both the males and females had hair as white and fair as snow. The strange people called the various underground caverns that dotted the mountain landscape home. When the Cherokee people began to settle the area a conflict arose between the Azgen and the Cherokee leading to the Azgen eventually being wiped out entirely. Their history and culture presumably disappeared with their deaths as no written records or items pertaining to the mysterious people have been found. Strange structures and carvings however have been found throughout Southern Appalachia that some anthropologists believe may be actual remnants of the mythical Azgen. Others suggest that they point to the possibility that the area had once been inhabited by settlers from Europe hundreds of years prior to what conventional historians believe today. The general consensus among most anthropologists are that any stories about the Azgen people are more than likely just myths and folktales that exist in the Cherokee mythology.
Though a curious if obscure piece of folklore that has been discovered through one of the last interviews with an elder of a tribe of Cherokee located in Cherokee County, South Carolina may hold one of the last wisps of information regarding the Azgen and the first reports of the mythological entity "Daddy Long Legs" The tale states that during a migration by the Cherokee into the southeast United States that stories from encounters with the Azgen emerged that dealt with an entity known simply as "Usonvi-Kahnanesgi" a rough translation being (The Corrupted Spider). The Cherokee upon entering the area known today as Ashmore noticed markers that had been left by the Azgen. The markers were described as great slates of stone carved with symbols and signs unknown to the Cherokee. Though even to the Cherokee the markers seemed incredibly old even by that time. The Azgen despite calling the area home for presumably hundreds if not thousands of years were strangely absent in this area save for small groups scattered around and about. The Azgen themselves made attempts to warn off the Cherokee from the area. The legend goes that upon arriving at the area the Cherokee scouts discovered the dead bodies of several Azgen whom seemed to have expired from sheer terror. Their bodies were twisted and left as mere husks. Despite the horrors around them the scouts chose to make camp. Their courage left them blind to the horror and warnings around them. There were no animals in sight and an eerie quiet befell the men. The forest and it's spirits had abandoned this place. As the night fell deeper into darkness the scouts discovered what had killed The Moon Eyed People.
"Daddy Long Legs"
From The Folk Art Collection of Donald Seagrave
What came upon the Cherokee scouts that night was not described in exact detail, but the lone survivor of the scout party had referred to it as "Usonvi-Kahnanesgi" (The Corrupted Spider). The eldest Didanawisgi (Medicine Man) of the tribe known as "Oukonunaka" (White Owl) traveled to the area with a group of warriors to survey the land. Upon entering the spot in which the scouts had been killed a terrible dread fell upon them. From the silence of the forest appeared "Usonvi-Kahnanesgi". The entity tainted the land with each step as it approached. Each warrior stepped forward to defend the Medicine Man as he began to perform an obscure ritual he had learned as a child from his own encounters with the Azgen. Soon after the ritual began the forest filled with crows and various carrion birds that began to pick at the flesh of the entity. Though as each bird tasted the corrupted flesh of the entity their feathered bodies withered and dropped from the sky dead. The entity escaped but its corrupted touch upon the land could not be dispelled by the medicine man alone. Knowing that the thing could not be completely vanquished the medicine man brought forth others from his tribe to seal the borders of the land through incantations originally from the Azgen. Nothing in concerns to the rituals and incantations used by the medicine man exist today from what modern Anthropologists have been able to discover. It is known that even today the area is still considered tainted land by the local Native American people. This story has largely fallen into obscurity and has been chalked up as merely another tale from their mythology. However this obscure tale seems to echo similar events as to what happened to Doctor Bradford and his party hundreds of years after this supposed encounter by the Cherokee. Local folklorists have noted similarities to this and to an event that occurred in a segregated section of Ashmore in 1938 known as "Shadytown" in which many of the town's African American citizens lived until the abolishment of segregation in the south during the 1960s.
Part 3 will discuss the events of 1938 as well as the numerous modern folktales attributed to the entity known as "Daddy Long Legs".