The governor of Florida authorized the construction of a trading post in Georgia's Nacoochee Valley in 1646. The La Cota Trail, serving the trading post, was soon extended through the North Carolina Mountains to reach several large Koasati, Yuchi and Creek Indian towns along the Tennessee River in present day Tennessee. It was North America's first regional road.
Several sections of the 450 mile (724 km) La Cota Trail had probably been used for thousand of years by Native American traders. However, the routes were interconnected, smoothed and widened to allow for large Spanish mule trains. Almost all of the route is now followed by paved highways. In the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia the route is now known as the Unicoi Turnpike.
In 1646 Governor Benito Ruíz de Salazar Vallecilla established a trading post on the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in the Nacoochee Valley of northeastern Georgia. The purpose of the trading post was to initiate the deerskin trade with the Native Americans living in the Southern Highlands. According to archives from that era, Native Americans had been traveling to St. Augustine from the mountains for several decades to obtain European manufactured goods. Jewish Sephardic colonists began colonizing the Southern Highlands at least as early as the first decade of the 1600s.
The village that developed around it was called Apalache on a English map published by John Morden in 1693. It appears to be approximately in the section of the Nacoochee Valley where Sautee, GA and Helen, GA are now located. A polyglot community of gold miners occupied Apalache in addition to their Native spouses and mestizo’s.
Initially a pack mule trail was constructed between St. Augustine, San Mateo on the St. Johns River, present day Waycross, present day Dublin, present day Athens and the Nacoochee Valley. It was later extended to the Tennessee River and probably the Holston River. According to Charles de Rochefort, the Spanish also built a Catholic mission next to the trading post in the Nacoochee Valley, but to date, no other description of this mission has been found. Over time the pack mule trail widened into a dirt road, but there is no record of bridges being built over the major rivers.
The Spanish trade route, known as the La Cota Trail, was still in use in the late 1700s. It appears on maps of northeastern Georgia in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The 1684 Jean Baptiste Franquelin Map (pictured above) shows the general route of the La Cota Trail. The map states in French that Koasati, Kusate, Shawnee and Yuchi from the Southern Highlands went to St. Augustine to trade.
There is extensive linguistic and cultural evidence that the people living in northeast Georgia prior to the Revolution were not ethnic Cherokees, but rather Europeans and mestizos of Sephardic Jewish, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Dutch ancestry. They spoke a language that mixed Hebrew, Spanish, Arabic and Dutch.
The Westos and Rickohockens were Dutch mestizos who spoke a language that mixed Dutch with Virginia Indian words. Weste and Rickohocken are Dutch words. Several of the geographical place name in Northeast Georgia that have been presumed to be Cherokee, are actually Dutch words and have no meaning in Cherokee.
After the colony of Charlestown was founded in the new English colony of Carolina in 1674, Anglo-Celtic traders began to quickly compete with their Spanish counterparts. A party on horseback of British soldiers and their American Indian scouts observed a large, thriving Spanish gold mining village in the Nacoochee Valley during 1693. The village disappeared from official maps during the Queen Anne's War that occurred a decade later. It was probably destroyed by Native allies of the British. However, there were bands of non-English people with European and Arabic names living in the northeast Georgia until after the American Revolution.