In the long, long ago, before the Cherokee came from their homeland of great snakes and water monsters to the mountains of blue smoke and sparkling streams, so said the Old Men, there lived in these beautiful hills and glades a race of men who were not Cherokee. These men had white skin, bearded faces, and blue eyes like the sky, and they were here even before the lusty Spaniards who came seeking gold. They possessed all the land from the Little Tennessee River to Kentucky, with a line of fortifications from one end of their domain to the other.
These white men lived in little houses of logs and mud, dug out from the inside, and they never emerged from their rounded dwellings in the daytime because they were blinded by light. They came out only at night, in the dark of the moon, to hunt, fish, build their mounds and fortifications, and carry on warfare. During the full moon they were stone blind, and so they were called the Moon Eyed People.
Once at the full of the moon, said the Old Men, the Creeks came up from the south and drove the Moon Eyed People from their beautiful homeland. From where they came and where they went are equal mysteries, but it is told that they were driven far to the west toward the setting sun, and vanished into its light.
There is no proof that such a people ever existed; and there is no valid explanation for the crumbling mounds, such as the one near Franklin, and fortifications that the Cherokee totally disclaim, but there are several legends that seek to unravel the mystery.
One tale is that the Moon Eyed People were small folk, white, who lived at the mouth of Peachtree Creek near Murphy. As they could not cross the creek because the Great Leech who inhabited its waters would swallow them up, they went west in a time before history.
Another story says the Moon Eyed People were the ones that sailed with Prince Madoc in about 1170, finally reached this land and settled in the Great Smokies.
And still another tells of a people, white, bearded, and blind in the light, who lived on the Hiawassee, built mounds and fortifications for some unknown reason, went west before the coming of the Cherokee.
Were there really Moon Eyed People – white, blue-eyed, and bearded – who lived in the Smokies before recorded time? Nobody knows….