Esseneca, being in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, was considered a Lower Cherokee town.
The Lower towns were concentrated along the headwaters of the Savannah River in both northwestern SC and northeastern GA. Middle or Valley towns were found in the mountains of western NC on the headwaters of the Tennessee River, and Overhill towns were in eastern Tennessee and northwestern GA.
Mooney wrote that Esseneca was near where Conneross Creek empties into the Seneca River,9 but most maps place the town closer to Seneca Creek, where the northernmost dike now sits.
There is a high chance that Esseneca had two locations during the course of the 18th century.10 William Bartram, a naturalist who traveled the region in 1775, noted that Esseneca was a "new town rebuilt since the late Indian war,"11 the Anglo-Cherokee War of 1760-1761 (a local front of the French and Indian War). Keowee, just 16 miles upriver from Esseneca and the largest town in the area, was destroyed in 1760 (though later rebuilt).12 If Esseneca's site did move in the 1700s, it would have been in the 1760s.
(click on the images to view high-resolution versions of the corresponding maps)
The Esseneca that Bartram visited was situated around the deep bends the Seneca River makes on Clemson University's property. Some of that part of the river can still be seen near the baseball stadium and football practice facility. According to The History of South Carolina in the Revolution,13 this was where the river was most easily forded.
THE Cherokee town of Sinica is a very respectable settlement, situated on the East bank of the Keowe river, though the greatest number of Indian habitations are on the opposite shore, where likewise stands the council-house in a level plain betwixt the river and a range of beautiful lofty hills, which rise magnificently, and seem to bend over the green plains and the river; but the chief's house, with those of the traders, and some Indian dwellings are seated on the ascent of the heights on the opposite shore; this situation in point of prospect far excels the other, as it overlooks the whole settlement, the extensive fruitful plains on the river above and below, and the plantations of the inhabitants, commanding a most comprehensive diversified view of the opposite elevations.14
The picture he describes places the west side of town upon a flat area between the river and western hills. The council house and most of the structures or dwellings were located on this side. The eastern half, however, was on a strategic hill that overlooked the rest of the town as well as the surrounding area. This is where the chief's house, traders' homes, and some other dwellings resided.
Looking at a map of Clemson prior to Hartwell, the western half of Esseneca might have been on the plain between the river and the middle dike. That would put the eastern half on the same hill that is now the Woodland Cemetery and R3 parking lot.
In fact, when the Clemson Protective Works project was underway, numerous artifacts were found in the hill that was dug out to be the diversion channel, as reported by The Tiger.
Below is the map that visualized the land changes dictated by the Treaty of Dewitt's Corner in 1777. Esseneca, among other Lower Cherokee towns, was included in the area ceded to the state of SC. The 1777 map has been warped to match modern maps, so move the spyglass around to get an idea of how the upstate looked in the late 18th century!
To view the spyglass map in a separate window, click here.
*The name of the Seneca River varies in old documents. It has been referred to as the Savannah as well.