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Colonial Catawba leader inducted into hall of fame

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – A Catawba chief who lived in the middle 1700s was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the convention center.

Known as a peace maker, King Hagler, Catawba leader between 1750 and 1763, was honored for his accomplishments and inducted before an audience of more than 400 people.

With his induction, Hagler joined 80 other South Carolinians like John C. Calhoun, Francis Marion, Andrew Jackson, Strom Thurmond, and “Dizzy” Gillespie, who were previously inducted. Hagler is the only American Indian to be honored.

Historians say that Hagler (also Haigler) lived during the time when his tribe was emerging from traditional ways into an English lifestyle; they had met the white man in the early 1500s and had since sided with the English who brought them copper kettles, knives, cloth, shoes, dishes and log houses.

Although the Catawbas were learning how to read and write English at the time, none had recorded when and where Hagler was born. He was given names as “Nopkehe,” “Oroloswa,” and “Arataswa,” early in his life, but kept Arataswa and added Hagler. The title, “king,” was given to him by South Carolina Gov. James Glen who saw him as an equal to European leaders.

In an article, John Blair Hagler wondered why the Catawba leader chose a German last name. He said Hagler likely picked up the name from his ancestor Ol’ John Hagler, who in 1752 bought land and lived near Catawba country.

When Hagler became tribal leader about 1748, he followed in the footsteps of Chief Young Warrior who was friendly with the English newcomers. Hagler became known as the “friendly Indian” by the settlers.

In 1751, he traveled to Albany, N.Y. with South Carolina Lt. Gov. William Bull to negotiate and sign a peace treaty with the Iroquois nations, who had been Catawba enemies for decades.

In May 1756, Hagler met with North Carolina Chief Justice Peter Henley in Salisbury, N.C. about “having heard of some injuries lately done to my brethren.” Among their discussion was Hagler’s concern for the sale of liquor to the Catawbas.

Hagler told Henley, “I desire a stop may be put to the selling 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 quarrelling with the White people. Should any of my people do any mischief to the White people, I have no strong prisons like you to confine them for it.”

Around 1759, when many of the Catawbas were dying from smallpox in villages near today’s Rock Hill, S.C., Hagler lived in the Camden, S.C. area. A trading post was there, and Hagler befriended the trader and local settlers.

As a result, Hagler became known as “the patron saint of Camden.” Today, a weather vane in his image sits on top of a tower above a Camden department store. “The Haigler Theater” there was named for King Hagler.

In 1760, Hagler saw many settlers moving in, taking up land where his people once hunted and fished. In July, he negotiated with the King of England in the Treaty of Pine Tree Hill for a 15 square mile reservation on the border of what is now North and South Carolina. He affirmed the treaty with the Treaty of Ford Augusta in 1763.

That same year, Aug. 30, 1763, Hagler visited his Waxhaw tribal neighbors. He was returning home near “Twelve Mile Creek,” where seven Shawnee warriors waited. They ambushed and killed him. A historical document states that the Shawnees were caught, six were captured and one escaped. The six were executed by the Catawbas.

Thomas Blumer, in his booklet, “Nesbit Bottoms,” states that Hagler was buried with many gifts. Sometime later, his grave was robbed by white men, forcing the Catawbas to move his remains to a permanent, unmarked grave probably on land known today as Nesbit Bottoms near the town of Van Wyck, S.C.

During the induction ceremonies, a portrait of Hagler was hung along with portraits of other inductees in the South Carolina Hall of Fame at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Hagler’s portrait was a photograph of his weather vane image in Camden.