King Hagler (ca. 1749-1763), as the English called the tribal Catawba chieftain, was a powerful ally to the English and much respected among the Piedmont tribes along the Catawba River. He was wisely courted by the early Colonial officials in both North and South Carolina.
Hagler led the Catawbas as allies of the English against the French and their Indian allies at Fort Duquesne. Repeatedly, the Catawbas defended settlers from Cherokee marauders.
On 26 May 1756, Hagler met with North Carolina Chief Justice Peter Henley in Salisbury. The purpose of the conference was to discuss disputes between the Catawba and Cherokee Nations and to reassure Hagler that North Carolina intended to honor the provisions of a February 1756 treaty negotiated between the colonies of North Carolina and Virginia, and the Cherokee and Catawba Nations.
Hagler arrived accompanied by “15 of his principal Warriors and about 30 of his young Men painted and armed in the manner that they are when going to War.” During the meeting Hagler professed his friendship and loyalty to the English, declaring that their alliance would last “as long as the sun endures.”
Hagler and Henley discussed a number of topics including relations between the English and Indians and the impending escalation of the French and Indian War. Hagler expressed his concern that the Cherokee “have been playing the Rogue.”
Hagler issued a promise in possibly one of the state’s earliest temperance speeches:
Mine is a small Nation yet they are brave men, and will be fast friends to their Brothers and White people as long as the sun endures…I desire a stop may be put to the selling of strong Liquors by the White people to my people especially near the Indian Nation. If the White people make strong drink, let them sell it to one another or drink it in their own Families. This will avoid a great deal of mischief which otherwise will happen from my people getting drunk and quarreling with the White people. Hagler asked the chief justice what to do with a white woman he had captured from the Cherokees. The chief justice indicated that she was an indentured servant. Hagler agreed to return her to her owner in Virginia, adding wistfully, “I am always sorry to lose a Woman. The loss of one Woman may be the loss of many lives because one Woman may be the mother of many children.”
Liquor sales to the Indians continued, and Hagler watched his tribes diminish from war and disease. Hagler, in 1761, brought his grandson before South Carolina Lieutenant Governor William Bull. “I am an old Man and I have no Son, but a Grand Son, whom I have brought hither to see your Honour. He will succeed me and I have recommended to him to love the English the same as I have done and I hope he will do so.”
A canny diplomat, Hagler continued to negotiate for lands to guarantee against inroads of the settlers until the day in 1763 when he was murdered by seven Shawnees.
After his death, the land agreement he had so long pursued was finalized. A tract fifteen miles square, covering 144,000 acres, was set aside for the Catawbas. King Hagler’s name was put on the document, since it accomplished what he had persistently sought. The Catawba land centered on the mouth of Sugar Creek, and the English asked Hagler if he wanted to be in North or South Carolina. He chose South Carolina, which is why the state line has the odd angle, framing Catawba land.
Hagler’s burial—five years before Charlotte was founded— ended an era along the Catawba River and among the Indian nation. In 1775, James Adair, Irish traveler, writer and trader, wrote, “The Katahba are now reduced to very few above one hundred fighting men.”
Mary Kratt, Charlotte North Carolina: A Brief History (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2009)