Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thomas "Kanawah" Spratt (1731-1807)

Thomas "Kanawah" Spratt was born in 1731 onboard ship while his parents and older sisters were crossing the Atlantic from Ireland. Thomas was his parents' only son, and lived to become a legendary figure in their region of the Carolina frontier. According to Carolina historian Louise Pettus:

    Some writers say that Thomas "Kanawah" Spratt was on his way to settle in either Abbeville [South Carolina] or Fairforest (near present-day Spartanburg) when the Catawba Indians persuaded him to settle among them. The nickname "Kanawah" was given to Spratt by the Catawbas. Spratt fought with the Indians on several occasions, and it is said that on an expedition in the area of present-day West Virginia, Spratt displayed such courage that the Indians named him for the nearby river. That's the same way the Catawba chief earned the name "New River."
    The Catawbas were greatly attached to Spratt. Evidence was given of that in a tale about Spratt participating in the signing of the famed Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775. Spratt was to be a signer but "instead of dipping into an ink well, he dipped into a gallon jug." Spratt was placed in the county jail, and when some Catawba Indian friends heard of it, they "got on their horses, rode up to the jail, ripped off two or three planks and took Kanawha out, put him on his horse, then they raced their steeds around and around the court house several times––yelling and whooping––after which the Catawbas and Kanawah headed their horses back down Nation Ford Road for their homes in what is now Fort Mill."