Toqua was an eighteenth-century Overhill Cherokee village located on the Little Tennessee River in present day Monroe County. Toqua means “place of a mythic great fish.” Toqua (site 40MR6) also designates a late Mississippian Dallas culture (ca. A.D. 1200-1600) village and two mounds at the same location. Henry Timberlake's 1762 map showed thirty-two domestic structures and a council house at the site. He also indicated that eighty-two warriors resided there, suggesting a total population of two hundred to three hundred people. American Revolutionary War forces destroyed the town in 1776 and 1780, and again in 1788 as hostilities continued after the war. Nevertheless in 1797, Duke Louis Phillipe of France observed ten houses at Toqua and wrote one of the most detailed descriptions ever made of a Cherokee council house. His brother's drawing of Toqua is the only known contemporary image of an eighteenth-century Cherokee town. In 1818 only thirty-five Cherokees lived in the town's thirteen dwellings.

In the 1970s, extensive archaeological excavations were conducted at Toqua prior to its inundation by the Tellico Dam Reservoir. The largest mound contained sixteen building stages, twelve of which had multiple structures built on their summits. The second mound, built in three stages, was used primarily for mortuary purposes. Village excavations revealed a plaza, three palisades, fifty-seven domestic structures, and numerous refuse-filled pits and burials. Excavations of the eighteenth-century Cherokee occupation recorded two townhouses, ten dwellings, and a smaller number of refuse-filled pits and burials. The Toqua research contributed greatly to the description and interpretation of Mississippian Period sociopolitical organization and to the understanding of Cherokee culture and culture change.

Suggested Reading

Gerald F. Schroedl, “Louis-Phillipes Journal and Archaeological Investigations at the Overhill Cherokee Town of Toqua,” Journal of Cherokee Studies 3 (1978): 206-20

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Toqua
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date June 22, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018