Love Story Legend
This story begins sometime around the 1880’s when two brothers while hunting on the side of Forge Mountain came across a young Indian brave close to death after being mauled by a large black bear lying dead a few feet away with three arrows in him. Both the boy and the bear were taken back to the cabin dwelling of the family. Where the men took charge of preparing the bear for future meals and the women tended to the boy’s wounds.
The head wound from the powerful paw of the black bear not only left a large gash but also caused memory loss so bad that the young boy could not remember his own name or the name of his tribe. The family contacted all the nearby Creek and Cherokee tribes asking if anyone was missing a young male. None were missing and it became a mystery as to who and where this young brave came from. So that he would not continue to go nameless the family, in honor of his bravery for standing his ground and putting three arrows into the bear before it attacked him, decided to name the boy Three Arrows.
As his wounds healed some of his memory slowly returned. He recalled that he had been travelling for a long time in search of Forge Mountain. It was the ancestral home of his grandfather who as a young brave was driven from the land with the rest of his family. He was unable to remember why this return to the ancestral home was so important only that with the death of his grandfather he no longer had family. As time went on Three Arrows grew close to the family that cared for him as their own.
Once while hunting in the woods he saw a white squirrel high in a tree. White squirrels were rare in the mountains and consider an omen of good fortune for anyone able to wear the white tail. As he aimed at it, a shot rang out and the squirrel dropped to the foot of the tree and was collected by a striking young white woman holding the rifle that brought it down. He introduced himself to her noting her impressive skill as a marksman and gave her the Indian name of White Squirrel. She smiled at this handsome young man and invited him back to her father’s cabin for squirrel stew. Her father was friendly towards the young man but saw how the young people looked at each other and began to feel uneasy. Three Arrows in turn invited them to meet his adopted family for dinner the next Sunday. As the two young people spent more time together it became apparent to all that they were falling in love. They braided leather together and exchanged these bracelets as a symbol of the growing bond between them.
Unwilling to allow his daughter to become entangled with an Indian the father moved his family off the mountain. No one in the small community knew he was leaving or where he went. He traveled down into the valley where he built a cabin near the French Broad River (the river that Indians simple referred to as the ancient river) and began to farm the fertile soil. His daughter continued to pine for many months for her lost love. Her father explained to her that it was for the best. He believed he was saving her from a life in which neither Indian nor white man would accept her. Her children would be taunted as “half-breeds.”
Three Arrows suffered anguish at the loss of White Squirrel. One night while he lay on the ground gazing up at the full moon he shook his fist toward the heavens as if to do battle with the fate that brought this heartache. It was at the moment his fist was silhouetted in the full moon and he saw White Squirrel’s bracelet dangling from his wrist that he no longer felt lost and alone. A warm loving feeling engulfed him as he felt the spirit of White Squirrel. He knew she was at that very moment looking at the same moon and calling to him to come to her. Feeling the need for guidance for his first experience into the spiritual realm he turned to an old medicine man living on top of the ridge. He was known for his willingness to help guide anyone seeking spiritual insight that was willing to share food with him. Three Arrows gathered some rations from home and set out to find the medicine man.
Upon his arrival to the medicine man’s hut he offered the rations and explained how he had felt a spiritual bond with White Squirrel and he had come seeking guidance to find and reunite with her. The medicine man told him that for such a request it would require a ceremonial purification, involving the “black drink” and smoking the ceremonial pipe. He commenced to place dried leaves from a pouch into a boiling pot of water over his open fire pit. From another pouch he removed what looked like ground up tobacco but had a more pungent aroma like mushrooms and placed it into the long narrow tobacco pipe. As they set by the fire and drank the black drink while taking turns smoking the pipe a fog seem to come over him. The medicine man asked Three Arrows to stare into the fire then close his eyes and tell him what he sees. Three Arrows struggled for a long moment then replied…”I see only a shadow and it is moving along the ground.” The medicine man took a puff of the pipe and a vision came to him…”Along a mountainside a shadow glides and high above an eagle flies.” Yes, responded Three Arrows, “It is an eagle.” “See what the eagle sees,” counseled the Medicine Man.
“I see the great valley where the ancient river flows towards the white man’s village” replied Three Arrows. “Very good,” said the medicine man. “Think back to when you made this spiritual contact with White Squirrel and retrace those steps.” Three Arrows holds his fist high against the full moon and gazes on the bracelet. A small stone on the bracelet turns in the stillness of the night and Three Arrows knows where White Squirrel can be found! He recounts to the medicine man that at one point the ancient river forms a fist and he feels strongly that White Squirrel will be found just below the wrist.
The medicine man said the fist shaped land was once the village of the Creeks Indian tribe. It was surrounded by water on three sides making it an ideal fortress. It allowed the Creeks to live in peace and prosper over many years. They were a warm, friendly people who did not condemn marriage outside the tribe. They had learned that by accepting others all are enriched.
“Follow the streams to the ancient river then follow the blue Heron down river to the place where your lost love will be found. Now sleep you have a long journey before you.” Three Arrows then fell into a deep sleep brought on by both the black drink and pipe. He dreamed vivid colorful dreams that felt more like a memory of a past life. He saw himself as a young boy sitting around a campfire with an Indian Chief he recognized to be his grandfather. The Chief was drawing maps on the ground with an arrow and at one end of the map the word Oklahoma and at the other end Forge Mountain. The map also showed that at the base of the North side of the mountain was a small lake known as the Lake of Silver and inside that lake was a small island with an X marked on it. Buried on this island was a great amount of gold mined by his family many years ago. The source of all this gold could be found traveling due South from this point to the South side of the Mountain and follow the streams down to where they intersect.
This dream was relayed to the medicine man that responded that he too had such a dream many moons before in which he was given instructions about hiding an old canoe between the Still River and the Lake of Silver. In his dream the canoe would someday be replaced by a bag of gold.
The medicine man gave Three Arrows directions to the Lake of Silver directing him to travel north over the mountain ridge and follow the stream down into the valley known as the Fertile Crescent. The stream empties into the Still River. Follow the river until it runs beside a small lake with an island that is the Lake of Silver. You will find an old canoe hidden by brush there on the banks of the Still River that will take you to the Ancient River. Once you start down the Ancient River a great blue heron will guide the way. Each time you catch up to the heron it will fly further down river but if it allows you to pass by it then you are approaching your destination. Now go and may the Great Spirit be with you.” Three Arrows thanked the Medicine Man and headed north over the ridge top.
Following directions he finally found the Still River and follow it to the Lake of Silver where as the medicine man foretold, there was an old canoe hidden under brush between the lake and river. He placed the canoe into the lake and paddled over to the island. The small island was flat except for a small mound in the center. Using the paddle that came with the canoe he begin to dig at the mound. A few feet down he hit something hard. He began using his hands, as he would pull out one bag after another of gold wrapped in deerskin and tied with leather straps. There were many of them in a variety of sizes. So many that he had to make two trips from the island because the weight was too much for one trip. He hid the gold under a nearby dead tree. Leaving one bag at the location where he found the canoe and taking another bag with him.
The heavy snowfall in the winter followed by April showers had swollen the Still River. The river, which is usually very shallow, was now flowing swiftly. Three Arrows was able to glide easily down river until he came out into the Ancient River.
Three Arrows had not traveled very far before a great blue heron appeared and flew overhead landing on a tree branch some distance down river. As predicted by the old Medicine Man, as Three Arrows got close, the heron would take flight moving further down the river until it landed on another limb in the distance. This continued until light began to fade from blue to pink in the West. The heron perched on a limb where it did not fly off but allowed Three Arrows to pass by. A flickering fire could be seen on the riverbank in the distance and he smelled the aroma of food being cooked. Excitement stirred within Three Arrows as he glimpsed a silhouette standing by the fire. As he drifts closer, he realizes that the silhouette is White Squirrel. She recognizes Three Arrows, is unable to contain herself, running out into the water toward him as he jumps from the canoe. They embrace in the cold water. After a lingering kiss, he picked her up and walked over to the open fire. He gently puts her down and they kissed again with the warm flames from the fire flickering on their faces.
He tells her how he found her with the help of the old medicine man, about the dream and the buried gold. He presents her with a bag of gold. He told her to buy traveling clothes, and suitcases because he wanted to take her around the world. She held the bag of gold up in amazement as the gold glistened in the firelight. She realized this gold made all the difference in giving them freedom from the bondage of poverty and freedom now to fly away on their own. The excitement was too much for her as she cried with joy. They made plans to meet at the train station within three days. That would give him enough time to transport the gold to a bank and set up an account. Also, giving him time to show his adopted family where the source of the gold was located on the south side of Forge Mountain.
White Squirrel, always frugal, did not use very much of the gold for clothes and bags. Instead she left most of it in her father’s cabin with a note explaining everything. Saying that she loved Three Arrows and would pray that someday they might be accepted as a couple. She met Three Arrows at the train station where they boarded the train to begin their new life of travel together.
Some years later White Squirrel’s father and Three Arrows adopted family both received ceremonial shields that were branded with the likeness of each of them. It was believed that this might have been an Indian custom that represented the birth of the first child by sending the likeness of the proud parents dressed in tribal ceremonial dress to members of the family.
Legend has it, that as these shields were passed down from one generation to the next, the power of love that they symbolize would draw them back together. Those who would eventually possess them would be drawn to each other by a strong spiritual connection of love that would remain with them for as long as they lived.
*Nelson: I took my high school sweetheart, Rebecca, up to my grandfather’s home to pick apples in his orchard and go horseback riding. Afterwards, at the stable, I presented her with an engagement ring and a proposal of marriage. Upon our return to the cabin at suppertime I announced our engagement to the family. Sometime later my grandfather removed the ceremonial shield of an Indian Chief, that had hung over his fireplace mantel for as far back as anyone could recall, and presented it to me as a family heirloom, since I was the eldest son.
This took place at his log cabin on the south side of Forge Mountain not very far from where his family in the winter of 1885-86 discovered gold and the Boylston gold mine was formed in 1886.
*Rebecca: One of the few truly old heirlooms my mother left me was a round wooden disk with what looks like an Indian Princess carved on it and on the back it had the date Dec. 9, 1902 carved into it. I have no idea where she got it but I know she had it for years. I do know that my family once owned the adjoining property to the west of us.
(In the early 1900’s William M. Smith (my Great Grandfather) purchased the 33-acre tract land that adjoins our property to the West. He was a retired merchant that had operated a produce store on Patton Avenue in downtown Asheville for 25 years. On March 9, 1953 his daughter, Zeta and her husband Jasper Warlick sold the property to the International Association of Firefighters who own the property to this day under the name Asheville Firefighters. In 1966, they deeded an easement for a roadway through their property to William B. Allison, Nelson’s father. That roadway is now known as Parkway Lane.
Nelson and I have been happily married since 1970 and keep our family heirlooms proudly displayed beside our front entrance as a reminder of “something special.”