The Legend of the Esta”Toe” River

This legend was printed as told by the students in the Mitchell County Schools in 1938. Some versions of the story depict Estatoe as a Cherokee Indian, others as a Catawba Indian.

In the early days before the white came to these parts, there lived two tribes of hostile Indians. To the east, beyond the Blue Ridge, lived the Catawbas; to the west, among the foot hills of the Unaka Mountains, dwelt the Cherokees. The area that is now known as Mitchell County was rich in Mica, which was used for barter and jewelry. The area was abundant in fishing, and also in hunting. Here the braves met to fight. And sometimes a man and maiden would meet and fall in love.
Among the maidens of the Catawba, was the beautiful princess Estatoe, daughter of the Catawba chief. Not unlike the other Catawba women, Estatoe was adept at making jewelry. One day she went out to admire a necklace she had just made in the crystal water of a nearby brook. As she gazed at the stream, she was startled by a sound. She turned to see a young Cherokee warrior.
The young brave explained that he had separated from his hunting party and was on his way to meet them. The young Indians found many things to talk about, and their first meeting was a long one. They were both reluctant to return to their tribes and they decided they would meet again. Late in the afternoon would come the distant call of a whippoorwill, and they knew it was time to meet again.
Late one evening as Estatoe returned to camp from a meeting with her lover, she paused at the door of her father’s lodge. A council was in progress and the warriors were giving warning of a hated Cherokee that was lurking near the village. They decided to seek him out and kill him.
Estatoe wasted no time in going to warn her lover.
Estatoe begged him to escape, but he refused to leave without her. So off they went together.
But a sentry followed her, and overheard her plans, and went back to tell the Catawba Chief.
The tribe chased them until they were surrounded on a high bluff overlooking the river. Escape was impossible.
The young Cherokee warrior tried to push Estatoe back toward her Kinsmen, but she refused to budge.
Placing her hand in his, she stood by his side at the edge of the cliff.
As they stood facing the sunset, they gave a silent prayer to the Great Spirit, then they jumped, hand in hand, from the precipice, far down into the foaming waters.
The Catawba chief and his braves approached the spot where the lovers had stood and gazed into the depths below.
He raised his eyes to the heavens, and with arms outstretched, he committed his daughter to the keeping of the Great Spirit.
The chief decreed that the river whose waters had enfolded his daughter in death, should be called forever by her name, The Estatoe.
The white man later shortened the name to the Toe River, but the spirit of Estatoe lives on in Mitchell County through the telling of this legend.