1001 things to use instead of charcloth

Well, not really 1001.

This is partly from a post on Frontier Folk (http://frontierfolk.net/phpBB/index.php) by Michael Galban asking about charcloth alternatives (not necessarily documentable, just alternatives).

My response:

I’ve tried about anything that doesn’t run away. Sometimes using a relatively scientific method to test . I was keeping up with it pretty well, but I lost the excel spreadsheet storing all the data to stupidity — don’t keep your only copy of something on “removable media”. It can get removed when you aren’t around.

Not sure if you mean “not charred” or “not cloth”. I’m assuming the latter for this reply, though commenting on the former. I have found that a lot of things that won’t catch and hold a spark will work after being “charred” like charcloth or after just burning a lot of the volatile gasses and probably just plain water out of them.

Here’s a random list: Yellow dried yucca fiber (vs. the still green scraped), basswood, thistle and dogbane fiber that are prepped for twine making, makes great char. They don’t work so great before charring, though dogbane comes closest. Thistle fluff makes a good spark catcher whether charred or not, but has to be really dry if not charred. I need to try cattail charred — didn’t have much luck with it. The light fluffy stuff on top of phragmites reeds works like thistle down when charred.

Finely shredded river cane leaves work if you char them. (This learned after a stringmaking experiment went bad). Have thought of trying corn silk, leaves, or shucks the same way. I tried these – the silk and shucks work, not the leaves.  The shucks are hit or miss, but the silk works pretty well, at least the already brown and dried parts.  Char carefully, and it’s really delicate when charred – you’ll want a tin or foil or something.

Cypress bark does not catch a spark, whether charred or not. Cedar isn’t great to catch a spark with, but is my favorite tinder.

Various fungi (not good at IDing them) with the thick pithy centers seem to work well once sorta charred — basically dried to a deep chocolate brown. We don’t have many real birch trees, so it’s not the genus that Amadou is, but it still works. The original color ranges from cream to light brown to nearly black with a chocolate center. Puffballs added to tinder make tinder catch better, but don’t catch sparks.

To teach people (especially kids), I’ve been using charred “fluff” — shredded string, cotton or linen thread pulled from fabric, castoffs from twine making, etc., put in a “charcloth tin” and cooked off. If I were in a survival situation, I think this is what I’d want around, as it catches on the first or second swipe with my steel, and you can’t make it go out.

Just found a suggestion from the PaleoPlanet boards – use mullein leaves (not native to NA, but all over now): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aShFULVWkYc

Edited Aug 18, 2012 to add additional suggestions and hands on research.

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SE Native Quiver quotes

A couple of the few references to quivers in use among 18th c. SE native people, both Cherokee, I believe.

“When they celebrated these funeral rites of the above chieftain, they laid the corpse in his tomb, in a fitting posture, with his face towards the east, his head anointed with bear’s oil, and his face painted red, but not streaked with black, because that is a constant emblem of war and death; he was drest in his finest apparel, having his gun and pouch, and trusty hiccory bow, with a young panther’s skin, full of arrows, along side of him, and every other useful thing he had been possessed of, — that when he rises again, they may serve him in that tract of land which pleased him best before he went to take his long sleep.”

(p. 183) Adair, James, History of the American Indians…. 1775. London. Edward and Charles Dilly, Publisher.

“The Indians went in with him, & Mr. Dog , Mr. McDonald , Mr. Bil , and two or three more; mean while a notorious V the Raven of Keowe , came riding along, without any other Weapon than a Bunch or Arrows in a Bear-Skin Quiver and a bow; up in which they pretended to want Dinner ’till he had joined the company when he came pretty near, Dog invited him in, told him what Headmen were there, and that all were to dine together, for it would soon be Peace; after some Hesitation the R[aven] was prevailed upon to enter likewise, but Dog observing that the Bow and Arrows were too cumbersome, took then off with one Hand, and immediately seized the the other, as did Mr. Man at the same Time the Rest;”

The South-Carolina Gazette CHARLES-TOWN, May 24 (1760). Available via subscription to the Accessible Archives http://www.accessible-archives.com/.

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SE NA foodways brochure

The attached document is one I wrote for a southeastern Native foodways presentation I’ve done at a good many sites for the Southern Indian Department.









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Paintings of Southeastern Native People during the 18th. Century

Tomochichi, headman of the Yamacraw near Savannah, GA and his nephew, painted in London, 1730s by Verelst.

Syacust Ukah, Cherokee , painted in London by Parsons, early 1760′s

Info from Pare Bowlegs, who sent me this image: “Copper engraving called “An American Prince”, which was done in 1722 from J. Kanold and J. Kundman. There were two Creek men (as far as I know of) that were taken to England by Capt. John Pight, who participated in the Yamasee War. It’s in Christian F. Feest’s book, The Cultures of Native North Americans

Cunne Shotte, Cherokee , painted in London by Parsons, early 1760′s

Woodcut of the “three Cherakee kings” printed in several London tabloids, early 1760′s.

“James Oglethorpe Presenting the Yamacraw Indians to the Georgia Trustees” – Tomochichi and other representatives of the Yamacraw people being presented to the Georgia Trustees in England, 1730′s. Also painted by Verelst.  It is in the Winterthur museum, London, and a reproduction hangs at Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simon’s Island, GA.  Click image for full/larger version that shows all the people involved.  Further information on the painting can be found at the Georgia Info site.

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Images of Southeastern Natives In von Reck’s drawings

Below are thumbnails of some of the significant native-focused drawings/paintings done by Philip von Reck in Georgia during his short stay in the early years of the colony. This is an excellent, relatively recently discovered source of images and information. Many of the images he created are available in Von Reck’s Voyage; Drawings and Journal of Philip Georg Friedrich von Reck.  Edited by Kristian Hvidt, Savannah, The Beehive Press, 1980.    Copies were provided free to public libraries in Georgia, and should be available through Interlibrary Loan elsewhere, but you should purchase a copy if you can–it’s well worth the money. Copies are available from:

Library of Georgia
c/o the Beehive Foundation
321 Barnard Street
Savannah, GA 31401
Click here to go to Beehive Press Website

The Danish Royal library has made the entire collection available online as well, via this link


“Is-ti a Creek.” not a lot of detail here, but note the pipe, possibly of European manufacture.


Senkaitschi- is this Tomochichi? Great detail on the tattoos.



“WarDance-Yuchi”. The second “von Reck shelter” image that also shows dance sticks, hairstyles, and some other interesting items

“Indian Camp” – one of the “von Reck” shelter images.  Notice the trade kettles.


“Two Indians” – this is based on other images of the period, most likely, as the bow looks nothing like any other images or descriptions, and the poses are very much like those from White.  There is consistency with other images, such as hairstyles and tatoos.


“Indians going hunting.”  Notice the blankets, clothing, and accoutrement.  I like the pack bags, tumplines, and gourd water bottle.




“King and Queen of Uchi.”  I have often wondered if Senkaitschi is “Tomochichi”.  The tatoos are the same as those in the Verelst painting, the name is close enough for bad Eurpean translations to fit.  Nice buffalo robe, wool leggings, and good view of the mocassin, breechclout, and woman’s trade wool skirt.


”Indian woman” -Yuchi.   interesting tattoos and hairstyle detail.


“Kipahalgwa” — Yuchi  Good image of trade shirt and leggings

Georgia Forts through the 19th century

Gleaned from books, the web, and old maps:

Fort Name County/Location Year/era built Century built
Fort King George McIntosh 1721 18
Fort Argyle Bryan 1733 18
Fort Wormsloe Chatham 1735 18
Fort Augusta Richmond 1736 18
Fort Frederica Glynn (St. Simon’s Island) 1736 18
Fort St. Andrew Camden 1736 18
Fort St. Simon Glynn 1738 18
Fort Prince William Camden 1740 18
Fort William Camden 1740 18
Fort Wimberley Chatham 1741 18
Fort Ebenezer Effingham 1757 18
Fort Halifax Chatham 1759 18
Fort Wayne (orig Fort Savannah) Chatham 1759 18
Fort Barrington (later called Fort Howe) McIntosh 1760 18
Fort George Chatham 1761 18
Fort Heard Wilkes 1774 18
Fort Morris (Ft. Sunbury) Liberty 1776 18
Fort Telfair (also called Beards Bluff Fort) Long 1776 18
Fort Howe McIntosh 1777 18
Fort McIntosh Camden 1777 18
Mud Fort Chatham 1778 18
Fort Edwards Oconee 1789 18
Fort Massachusetts Baldwin 1791 18
Fort Fidius Baldwin 1793 18
Fort Mathews Clarke 1793 18
Fort Twiggs Hancock 1793 18
Fort Advance Baldwin 1794 18
Fort Montpelier Baldwin 1794 18
Fort Winston Baldwin 1794 18
Fort Wilkinson Baldwin 1797 18
Fort Hughes Decatur 1700s 18
Fort Yargo Barrow 1790s 18
Fort Darien McIntosh aft 1736 18
Fort Uchee Screven bef 1742 18
Fort Cockspur Chatham by 1764 18
Fort James Elbert 1776 18
Fort Tybee Chatham 1779 18
Fort Greene Pulaski destroyed 1804 18
Fort Swamp McIntosh mid 1700s 18
Fort Tonyn at Scrubby Bluff on St. Mary’s River Rev War 18
Fort Defense Wayne Rev. War 18
Fort Grierson Richmond Rev. War 18
Fort Wrightsboro McDuffie Rev. War 18
Fort Alert Charlton 18
Fort Cornwallis (erected by British) Richmond Rev. War 18
Fort Defiance (by Elijah Clarke) Baldwin Rev. War 18
Fort Erwin (by Jared Irwin) Washington 18
Fort Galphin (aka Fort Dreadnought, erected by British) Silver Bluff, SC 1760 18
Fort Hawkins Bibb 1806 19
Fort Jackson (on site of Mud Fort, built 1778) Chatham 1808 19
Fort Early Dooly/Crisp 1812 19
Fort Daniel Gwinnett 1813 19
Fort Mitchell Russell, AL 1813 19
Fort Perry Marion 1813 19
Fort Gaines Clay 1814 19
Fort Peachtree Fulton 1814 19
Fort Scott Decatur 1816 19
Fort Recovery Decatur 1817 19
Fort Deposit Dawson 1818 19
Fort Cummings Walker 1836 19
Fort Gilmer Gilmer 1836 19
Fort Floyd near Okefenokee Swamp 1838 19
Fort Frogtown White 1838 19
Fort Tattnall Clinch 1838 19
Fort McAllister Bryan 1861 19
Fort McPherson Fulton 1867 19
Fort Screven Chatham 1875 19
Fort Cedartown Polk 1830s 19
Fort Chastain Towns 1830s 19
Fort Dahlonega Lumpkin 1830s 19
Fort Dearborn Clinch 1830s 19
Fort Heitzel Gilmer 1830s 19
Fort Lawton Jenkins 1864 (POW camp) 19
Fort McCreary Stewart bef 1836 19
Fort Lawrence Taylor c1804 19
Fort Pickering Charlton c1812 19
Fort Pulaski Chatham c1829 19
Fort Jones Stewart c1837 19
Fort Brown Chatham Civil war 19
Fort Oglethorpe Bibb Civil War 19
Fort Tyler Troup Civil War 19
Fort Walker Fulton Civil War 19
Fort Bartow Chatham
Fort Buffington Cherokee
Fort Gilmer Clinch
Fort Gilmer (orig. name for Fort Peachtree) Fulton
Fort Hill Dougherty
Fort Lamar Madison
Fort Mudge Brantley
Fort Mudge Pierce
Fort Nell Greene
Fort Pond (lake named for Fort Greene) Pulaski
Fort Romulos (sited, but never built) Monroe
Fort Walker on Chepucky Island
Fort Washington Wilkes


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Recreating a twined pack bag from von Reck

I’m working on twining a pack bag based on Indians Going A-hunting, by Philip Georg Friedrich Von Reck, a 1730′s image of Yuchis going on a hunting trip.  There’s not a lot of detail, so the recreation is a best guess based on the image and Adair’s descriptions of SE women ‘weaving bags’ (quoted on this page: http://amohkali.com/?p=451).  Click the image for a larger view of the portion of the image being referenced.

Detail of von Reck's "Indians going a-hunting"

I’m working from this image and suggestions from some fellow researchers.  Tom Conde, of Conde Trading: – http://www.condetrading.com/ helped me learn the proper way to build a bag from bottom up, rather than top down, and recommended an excellent work on Mississippian textile research.  I also discovered a couple of other works listed in the references below.  These works outline the different weaves used during the Mississippian period in the Southeast; in this case, it seems appropriate to slide those techniques forward, as they fit other cultures use during the 18th century (as described in Petersen).

I’m going for roughly the size of the bag pictured, and from an earlier experiment, know that it’ll need to be between 15 to 20 inches wide, and about 24 inches deep, to work like the one in the picture.

I decided that this should be a very utilitarian bag, open twined, made of a tough fiber.  I’ll use it, throw it on the ground, hang it on my back and from available tree branches.  It will have to support 10 or 20 pounds in normal use, sometimes more. Knowing I couldn’t make enough twine from the fiber I have available in the south this time of year, I decided on a z-twist jute that is much tighter and harder spun than the typical craft and garden three strand.

It’s got roughly 550 feet of twine for the warp, cast onto a support stick.  I’ve gotten the bottom three rows plus first 8 rows of body twining done as of this evening.  I did the bottom and first row holding the support stick by hand, but was killing my back, so knocked up a stand to hold it, even though the stand is likely not correct – if anything, the support stick was probably hung to work on.  Rather than spiral the twining up the warps, I’m doing a complete circle, moving up the bag, then starting a new weaver.  The twining pattern is based on a couple of pot sherds from the Macon Plateau site (in the Ocmulgee National Historic site collection, one is on display in the visitor’s center)

As I got started, I realized somethingabout one of James Adair’s description in History of the American Indians:

“ and they have a couple of threddles, which they move with the hand so as to enable them to make good dispatch, something after our manner of weaving. This is sufficiently confirmed by their method of working broad garters, sashes, shot-pouches, broad belts, and the like, which are decorated all over with beautiful stripes and chequers.” (423)

The likely “threddles” are probably the way native women wrapped the ends of the wefts when twining to keep them from tangling.

Pictures soon.


Adair, James,  History of the American Indians…. 1775. London.  Edward and Charles Dilly, Publisher.

Drooker, Penelope B. Mississippian Village Textiles at Wickliffe. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama press, 1992. Print.

Petersen, James B. A Most Indispensable Art: Native Fiber Industries from Eastern North America. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996. Print.

Spanos, Mary. 2006. Mississippian textiles at Beckum Village (1CK24), Clarke County, Alabama. Thesis (M.A.) University of Alabama, 2006.

Reck, Philipp G. F, and Kristian Hvidt. Von Reck’s Voyage: Drawings and Journal of Philip Georg Friedrich Von Reck. Savannah: Beehive Press, 1980. Print

Von Reck’s Drawings, Center for Manuscripts & Rare Books Kongelige Bibliotek, Denmark.

My favorite story from Adair

One of my favorite period accounts – from Adair, page 392-395.

A party of the Senekah Indians came to war against the Katahba, bitter enemies to each other. In the woods, the former discovered a sprightly warrior belonging to the latter, hunting in their usual light dress; on his perceiving them, he sprung off for a hollow rock, four or five miles distant, as they intercepted him from running homeward. He was so extremely swift, and skilful with the gun, as to kill seven of them in the running fight, before they were able to surround and take him. They carried him to their country in sad triumph: but, though he had filled them with uncommon grief and shame, for the loss of so many of their kindred, yet the love of martial virtue induced them to treat him, during their long journey, with a great deal more civility, than if he had acted the part of a coward. The women and children, when they met him at their several towns, beat and whipped him in as severe a manner as the occasion required, according to their law of justice, and at last he was formally condemned to die by the fiery tortures. It might reasonably be imagined that what he had for some time gone through, by being fed with a scanty hand, a tedious march, lying at night on the bare ground, exposed to the changes of the weather, with his arms and legs extended in a pair of rough stocks, and suffering such punishments on his entering into their hostile towns, as a prelude to those sharp torments for which he was destined, would have so impaired his health, and affected his imagination, as to have sent him to his long sleep out of the way of any more sufferings. Probably, this would have been the case with the major part of white people, under similar circumstances; but I never knew this with any  of the Indians: and this cool-headed brave warrior did not deviate from their rough lessons of martial virtue, but acted his part so well, as to surprise and sorely vex his numerous enemies. For, when they were taking him unpinioned, in their wild parade, to the place of torture, which lay near to a river, he suddenly dashed down those who stood in his way, sprung off, and plunged into the water, swimming underneath like an otter, only rising to take breath till he made the opposite shore. He now ascended the steep bank; but though he had good reason to be in a hurry, as many of the enemy were in the water, and others running every way, like blood-hounds, in pursuit of him, and the bullets flying around him, from the time he took to the river, yet his heart did not allow him to leave them abruptly, without taking leave in a formal manner, in return for the extraordinary favours they had done, and intended to do him. He first turned his backside toward them, and slapped it with his hand; then moving round, he put up the shrill war whoo whoop, as his last salute, till some more convenient opportunity offered, and darted off in the manner of a beast broke loose from its torturing enemies. He continued his speed so as to run by about midnight of the same day, as far as his eager pursuers were two days in reaching. There he rested, till he happily discovered five of those Indians, who had pursued him — he lay hid a little way off their camp, till they were found asleep. Every circumstance of his situation occurred to him, and inspired him with heroism. He was naked, torn, and hungry, and his enraged enemies were come up with him. But there was now every thing to relieve his wants, and a fair opportunity to save his life, and get great honour, and sweet revenge, by cutting them off. Resolution, a convenient spot, and sudden surprize, would effect the main object of all his wishes and hopes. He accordingly creeped towards them, took one of their tomohawks, and killed them all on the spot. He then chopped them to pieces, in as horrid a manner, as savage fury could excite, both through national and personal resentment, — he stripped off their scalps, clothed himself, took a choice gun, and as much ammunition and provisions as he could well carry in a running march. He set off afresh with a light heart, and did not sleep for several successive nights, only when he reclined as usual a little before day, with his back to a tree. As it were by instinct, when he found he was free from the pursuing enemy, he made directly to the very place where he had killed seven of his enemies, and was taken by them for the fiery torture.

He digged them up, scalped them, burned their bodies to ashes, and went home in safety with singular triumph. Other pursuing enemies came on the evening of the second day to the camp of their dead people, when the sight gave them a greater shock, than they had ever known before. In their chilled war council, they concluded, that, as he had done such surprising things in his defence, before he was captivated, and since that, in his naked condition, and was now well armed, if they continued the pursuit, he would spoil them all, for he surely was an enemy wizard. And therefore they returned home.

Adair, James. History of the American Indians. 1775. London: Edward & Charles Dilly
A couple of versions are available online: