This area was first settled around 1838 when the Indians left. Originally named Painter, it was renamed Cullowhee in 1903. Downtown Cullowhee was destroyed in the flood of 1940, and never rebuilt.
The area is most noted as the location of the Judaculla Rock. Supposedly this stone was carved 1,500 years ago, that would make it year 520. Petroglyphs are images and designs engraved within a rock’s surfaces to symbolize important places, stories or events. If done today it is graffiti, if done a thousand years ago, a Petroglyph.
The name of the town is derived from the Cherokee phrase joolth-cullah-wee, which translates as “Judaculla’s Place”. Judaculla was the Cherokee legendary giant and master of animals. According to Cherokee legend, Judaculla was a slant-eye giant (that would be considered racist today) who lived high up in the Balsam Mountains. He guarded his hunting grounds from Judaculla’s Judgment Seat, today known as Devil’s Courthouse, a site on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
As legend has it, once, a party of disrespectful hunters came through his land, Judaculla chased them down the mountain. With a mighty leap, the angry giant landed here on this boulder. Putting his hand down to steady himself, he left his mark on the rock’s surface. The impression of his hand can still be seen at the lower right of the rock.
I was not impressed with the rock. In fact, if I were not told it was a Petroglyph, I would have just stepped on it, continuing on my hike.
Maybe the rain and weather of a thousand years has made it less impressive. Here is an illustration of what the rock carvings are supposed to look like:
What do the carvings mean? Fortunately, the Cherokee left us a message: