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The Haw River
The Haw River has its humble beginnings just to our west in ForsythCounty. It enters Guilford County flowing northeast through Oakridge and Summerfield, and then passes into Rockingham County before it does a turn to the south and heads southward through Alamance County to our east. Most of the major streams of Guilford County are tributaries of the Haw River (or tributaries of tributaries) – Troublesome Creek, Mears Fork, Reedy Fork, Buffalo Creek, Alamance Creek, and Stinking Quarter Creek to name a few. A good portion of Guilford County lies in the Haw River watershed. Eventually the Haw River joins the Deep River to form the Cape Fear River.
According to the John Lawson’s famous account of his travels in present day Carolinas, which began in the year 1700, Lawson spent some time with the Keyauwee Indians at their impressive town/fortification on Caraway Creek in (the creek deriving its name form the Indian tribe) northwest of present Asheboro. After leaving KeyauweeTown, he followed an old Indian trading route and proceeded northeastwardly, crossing over the Deep River and Polecat Creek. The next day his party traveled some 30 miles in one day, across Big and Little Alamance Creeks before fording the Haw River near present day Swepsonville.
In Lawson’s words, “As the wind blew very cold at N. W. and we were very weary, and hungry, the swiftness of the current gave us some cause to fear; but, at last, we stripp’d, and with great difficulty, (by God’s assistance) got safe to the North-side of the famous Hau-River, from the Sissipahau Indians who dwell upon this stream, which is one of the main branched of the Cape-Fair, there being rich land enough to contain some thousands of families; for which reason, I hope, in a short time, it will be planted.”
The “Sissipahaw” Indians were a tribe of the Siouan linguistic family, their name an Anglicized version of what phonetically may have been “isi asepihiye.” Their name has also been referred to as the “Saxapahaw.” There is some disagreement over the origin of “Saxapahaw.” Some believe that this name derives form a Spanish name “Sauxpa” given to the tribe (and river) by a Spanish officer in 1569 as a place visited by Juan Pardo on a journey from Florida to the Appalachians. Others believe that a local Quaker, John Newlin, who built a mill on the Haw River, changed the “Sissipahaw” name to “Saxapahaw” because it was easier to pronounce.
The Sissipahaw Indians were concentrated in the area around the present day town of Saxapahaw, an area noted as containing one of the largest areas of fertile and easily tillable field-land in the North Carolina piedmont.
Little is known of what came of the Sissipahaw Indians. It is believed that they may have joined with other Indian tribes in the Yamasee War of 1715, and possibly after that, along with remnants of other Siouan tribes, merged in with the Catawba Indians.

Back Porch Art by Mark Ferencik 1998