NC’s early geosocial divide: tuckahoes vs. cohees

“… During North Carolina’s early history, it was the Eastern counties that held not just most of the political power but also most of the wealth. It was the Piedmont and Western counties of the Carolina backcountry that were relatively poor.

“The two sides of the dispute had colorful nicknames, although the terms were not limited to North Carolina. During colonial times and the early decades of the American republic, east-west rivalries in both Carolinas and Virginia were sometimes described as a contest between tuckahoes and cohees.

“The Easterners called the Westerners ‘cohees,’ which would be akin to calling someone a redneck or hick today. According to one 19th century historian, the term originated when Easterners heard Scotch-Irish Presbyterians use the phrase ‘quoth he’ instead of ‘he said.’ Meanwhile, the Westerners came to call the Easterners ‘tuckahoes,’ which was the Indian name of a plant that grew along the tidewaters of Virginia and North Carolina. Tuckahoe was also the name of the famous William Randolph’s Virginia plantation later acquired by Thomas Jefferson. In using the term, Westerners were ridiculing the East’s Anglican establishment for being pretentious and patronizing. It’s a bit like calling someone a ‘country-clubber’ today.”

– From “Who You Calling a Cohee?” by John Hood at carolinajournal.com (July 30)

 

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