Franklin – Treasure in the Nantahala

Franklin, NC is steeped in history, and arguably one of the most cultural significant spots in North Carolina.

Sheltered by the Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of the Nantahala National Forest, the area of Franklin has been a central settlement for centuries from early Mississippian cultures to the Cherokee and beyond.

Before European settlement, the area now known as Franklin was Nikwasi – one of the  a major trading hub and cultural center for the Cherokee Nation. The earliest European written accounts of the settlement date back to the late 1500s.  

The Cherokee considered Nikwasi, ‘the mother town,’ as it was a gathering place for economic, spiritual and ceremonial life. A center of Nikwasi was the ceremonial Nikwasi Mound, where the Cherokee kept the ever-burning sacred fire, since inhabiting the area.  mound

Interestingly enough, the mound predates the Cherokee, they believed a spirit people named the Nunne’hi lived under the mound and defended the Cherokee people.  The mound is most likely dates back to the Mississippian era…it is a mystery of history and reminder of those who lived and loved the area long before our present time.

I have a deep respect for the Cherokee and their history…as a history buff, Franklin is a window into centuries of human life, interactions and the mountain beauty that remains fixed, yet ever changing.

After the Cherokee were forced out of Nikwasi, Franklin became the seat of Macon County and a hub of mountain industry.  Today, Franklin is known as the ‘Gem Capital of North Carolina’ and is known for its quaint shops and local eateries and outdoor recreation.

Rock hounds rejoice in Franklin, as they try their luck at area gem mines – sifting for native stones like ruby, sapphire and garnets…The Gem and Mineral Museum (25 Phillips Street) offers exhibits on local and state specimens, fossils and Indian artifacts.  The nationally renowned, Macon County Gemboree typically draws hundreds of gem seekers to the city every July.

And for those who love Tartan plaid, you can explore the Scottish Tartans Museum (86 East Main), which is the only American extension of the Scottish Tartans Museum in Scotland.  The North Carolina mountains were heavily settled by Scots-Irish in the 1700s-1800s.  Scottish heritage can be found from the Franklin Museum to further north at Grandfather Mountain’s Highland Games.

With COVID-19, my mom and I were limited in our ability to explore Franklin, but we plan to return.  It is a quaint town with a lot of history!

Our next step….dig deeper into Cherokee history at Judculla Rock

*For more information about Franklin…

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