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 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.
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.
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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.
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