The Cherokees were first contacted by Europeans in 1540, by Hernando Desoto’s expedition. Desoto found them living in villages surrounded by fields of corn, living in sturdy houses and summer arbors. Central townhouses were meeting places for the entire town. Women were wearing skirts and mantles made of thread as fine as European linen thread. Cherokee men could draw and loose their bows accurately seven times in the time it took a Spanish soldier to load and fire his gun.
Between 1500-1650 more than 90% of American Indians were killed by European diseases. Cherokee population became concentrated in the Overhill Towns, Middle Towns, Valley Towns, and Lower Towns, located in present day east Tennessee, western North Carolina, and upper South Carolina, with additional towns in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.