The first written record of the Etiwan occurs in the reports of Spanish Captain Francisco Fernandes de Ecija who sailed from St. Augustine Florida and entered Cayagua (pronounced Kiawah) or today Charleston Harbor in August 1605 and again in August 1609. Both reports make careful note of the names of the tribes in the area which included the Cayagua, Xoye (Sewee), Sati (Santee) Oriesta (Edisto), Ostano (Stono) and the Ypaguano (Etiwan). While at anchor in 1609, an Etiwan Indian who had claimed to have visited the English settlement in Virginia and seen "many people, one fort" was taken prisoner and interrogated at length. The earliest English reports referred to the occupants of present day Daniel Island as Ituan (1670), Ittiwan (1671) Etttowan (1672) and described them as living on the island at the junction of the Wando and Ittiwan (the present day Cooper) Rivers, and north along the Ittiwan River.
Our Varnertown community is also mention on the Daniel Island Historical Marker in Ittiwan Park as Etiwan descendants.
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In 2015 the "Ittiwan Oak" In Daniel Island Park was nominated, and later named, the South Carolina 2015 Heritage Tree. The tree stands in an area on Daniel Island in which a high concentration of Native American artifacts have been found. The Daniel Island Historical Society has since dedicated the tree to The Ittiwan People and their descendants.
Find more information here: https://dihistoricalsociety.com/the-ittiwan-oak/
At the time of English colonization, the Edisto Indians were a tribe living between the Savannah and Edisto Rivers. Originally inhabitants of St. Helena Island, the tribe relocated in the late 1500s to Edisto Island. The English captain William Hilton first contacted this tribe when his ship, Adventure, visited St. Helena’s Sound in 1663. Hilton observed that the Edistos knew many Spanish words and had regular visits from the Spaniards at St. Augustine. He also made records of the Edisto villages, noting that each contained a round house of about two hundred feet in diameter covered with palmetto leaves.
Another Historic Site on the Island is the Edisto Indian Mounds. The ancient shell midden located on the park was created by the Edisto Indians. This mound, made up mostly of oyster shells was where the Native Americans deposited of their trash and other unwanted items. The mound dates back to 2,000 B.C.
In the 1670s, Stephen Bull came to North America and settled just north of Charles Town. By 1676, Stephen was granted 400 acres along the fertile banks of the Ashley River and founded one of the first plantations in South Carolina, Ashley Hall. Here, he built the house where he lived and where his children were born – a small, single-story, brick dwelling that still stands today as one of the oldest surviving structures in South Carolina. He would go on to gain a well-earned reputation as a diplomat between the British colony and Native Americans in the region – so much so, that the Etiwan tribe named him one of their chiefs.
In 1724 the journal of the Commons House of Assembly reported that the Etiwans wanted their own land. By then the Etiwans were scattered in small groups in St. James Goose Creek Parishes, St. Thomas Parish, St. Johns Parish, St. Andrews, St. Paul Parish and St. Helena Parish. Some natives wanted a single settlement area to bring the tribe members together and provide a means of support for their dwindling number. The Commons House of Assembly granted the request and issued land on the western side of Wassamassaw Swamp.
More historical information is provided when examining the Catawba deerskin map
Finally, a phenotype of generic “settlement Indians” characterized the natives of Wassamassaw and the land beyond, where they served as sentries against an increasingly dangerous frontier. Those “Settlement Indians,” some wandering the middle ground and some settled west of Wassamassaw, are likely the tribe indicated on a Catawba deerskin map given to South Carolina colonial Governor Francis Nicholson in 1721. That map indicates a ““Wafmisa” tribe west of Charleston. The““Wafmisa” identity is likely referring to the obscure“settlement Indians (Etiwan)” that relocated beyond the Wassamassaw Swamp.
For more information read:
- Wassamassaw and beyond. Author: Heitzler, Michael J.
Carn's Crossroads is the intersection of Old State Road (Hwy 176) and Alternate 17. Carn's Crossroads was named after Dallas Carn, plantation owner and local magistrate in the early 1900's. The historical Cherokee Path to Charleston ran across Goose Creek near Moncks Corner and through the Varnertown Indian Community where our Etiwan ancestors settled.
For more information read:
- Carnes Crossroads. Author: Heitzler, Michael J.
Varner Town (or Varnertown) is a distinct Native American community including descendants of the Etiwan, Catawba, Cherokee, Edisto and other area tribes. This community, located near Goose Creek, was named for William Varner (d. 1927) and his wife Mary Williams Varner (d. 1924).
Several Indian schools served this community. The Varner School, also called the Varner Indian School, was built here in 1939 and closed in 1963. The church nearby has been the center of the community for many years. Nearby Williams Cemetery was named in memory of William W. Williams, an Indian ancestor.
Find more information on our History page or here:
Also attached is the Wassamasaw State Designated Tribal Statistical Area map from the recent Census.
In the early 1920s, Mary Williams Varner (wife
of William Varner, Jr), donated 1/4 acre of land to the congregation of the Good Hope Baptist Church to build a church in the community. A small wooden framed building was erected with two classrooms
in the back. Later a bell tower was built and the bell would ring for Sunday services as well as for deaths in the community.
The church now is the center of the community. Here services are held as well as special family events. Community members gather to share in family activities and honor the elders and enforce social norms and traditions. The community church also unites the kinship bonds with other native communities. The Edisto Tribe and Santee Tribe also built churches of the same faith. These three communities shared in circuit pastors and services, such as singings, baptisms, and revivals. Community members identify with the Pentecostal faith.
The church is now called Gateway Community Church, it is still located and operating in Varnertown.
The Varner Indian School was established in 1939 in the community. It was a one room school that served the Native American children in the area. Mrs. Robert Dehay and Mrs. Annie Tupper served as teachers for the school. The school closed in 1963 due to desegregation.
Our Community has many Ancient buririal Grounds on Edisto and Daniel Islands. Our Core Community has many more modern burial grounds scattered among Carnes Crossroads and Wassamassaw. Most noticeably Old Calamus Pond Cemetery as well as the Williams cemetery are both burial places beyond Wassamassaw significant to the Wassamasaw Tribe and Varnertown people
Although we are a State Recognised Tribe we are also organised as a non-profit organization and welcome any kind of support. If you would like to help out, please contact us for a list of our most needed items or volunteer opportunities or you can donate.
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