Appalachia Folklore

Fairy Cross


the legend of the fairy cross in Brasstown nc

Fairy Cross found in Brasstown, NC

Mountain Bred: The Fairy Crosses – Brasstown written by John Parris

Even the Fairies in the Great Smokies wept when Christ died. And the tears they spilled turned to stone and formed tiny crosses-symbols of the Crucifixion. That is the story old Indians tell.

For the skeptical, the Cherokee will show you the tiny crosses to prove the story they tell-a story that has been handed down through almost 2,000 years of telling. No human hand carved these crosses, which lie scattered upon the earth near here. And nowhere else in all the Cherokee land will you find them except at this one spot in the Clay County hills.

I first heard the story of the fairy crosses many years ago, but it was only recently that I went searching for the spot where the strange miracle occurred.

A friend of mine, Lynn Gault, led me to the spot and I have a hundred or more of the tiny crosses which I picked up to prove they do exist. But unless you know what you are seeking you probably would never notice them, for they are the color of the earth and at first glance look like so many pebbles. The little crosses only become significant when the story about them is told.

And the story the Cherokee tell is a story that rightfully belongs in the treasury of world folklore and myth and legend.

“My people,” said Arsene Thompson, “have told the story through the ages about the crosses. It is a beautiful story.”

Arsene is a Cherokee Indian preacher who plays the role of Elias Boudinot, the Indian missionary, in the Cherokee Indian drama, “Unto These Hills.”

“Yes,” said Arsene, “it is a strange story. And this is what the old men told me when I was a boy. When the world was young there lived in these mountains a race of little people. They were spirit people. Like the fairies you read about. Now, one day when these little people had gathered to dance and sing around a pool deep in the woods a spirit messenger arrived from a strange city far, far away in the Land of the Dawn. But soon the dancing and singing stopped, for the messenger brought them sad tidings. The messenger told them Christ was dead. The little people were silent, then they were sad. And as they listened to the story of how Christ had died on the Cross, they wept and their tears fell upon the earth and turned into small stones. But the stones were neither round nor square. Each was in the form of a beautiful little cross. Hundreds of tears fell to earth and turned into tiny stone crosses, but the little people were so dazed and heartbroken they did not notice what was happening. So with the joy gone from their hearts, they wandered away into the forest to their homes. But around the spot where they had been dancing and singing, where they had stopped to shed their tears, the ground was covered with these symbols of the death of Christ.”

What happened to the little people? I asked. Are they still here in the mountains? Has anyone ever seen them?

“No one knows for sure what happened to them,” said Arsene. “I first heard the story when I was a boy and the old men of the tribe who told it to me said that after that day the little people were never seen again. But the old men said that on still nights you could hear them whispering along the river and that when there was a gentle breeze their sighs could be heard in the tall trees.”


I don’t remember where I first heard the legend of the fairy cross, but it seems like I was very young when someone told me about it. I’m thinking it might have been Pap. There was a gentleman along his oil route that collected Cherokee artifacts and one time he sent home a fairy cross with Pap for us kids.

One of the girls found the fairy cross in the photo at the place in Brasstown that Parris described. Although he states that’s the only area that fairy crosses can be found, I believe there is a place in Fannin County GA where the rocks are common too.

Ever found a fairy cross?


*Source: Mountain Bred: The Fairy Crosses – Brasstown written by John Parris

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  • Reply
    Billy Hugh Campbell jr
    December 5, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    I have heard about fairy crosses, but near have found one. Here in Northeast Tennessee it is considered very good luck to find a rock with a hole all the way through it. I have found several on our family farm. Our old people were very happy when they found one.

  • Reply
    betty stephenson
    November 5, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    what a lovely story havent heard it before another for my collection have a lovely day

  • Reply
    Matthew Jones
    April 22, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    There was a spot here in Fannin County ages ago that my Papaw would take us to do Fairy Cross hunting. It was slightly dammed up so there was a pool for us to scrounge about in to find the rocks. Sadly, that spot has been redeveloped into a subdivision and the Fairy Crosses are long gone. But it’s a memory that will never fade of my Papaw taking us on hot summer days up to the creek and letting us get filthy in the mud and finding some truly priceless relics (at least priceless to us).

  • Reply
    Melinda Holloway Hadden
    March 29, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Yes, I have many that I picked up with my Grandfather and Daddy. I have a slab of rock with crosses embedded in it. These were found in Fannin County. Love your stories. Keep them coming.

  • Reply
    Tracy Setzer
    March 17, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I grew up in the Catabwa/Burke County area and have always heard this story. My granddaddy gave me and my sister fairy crosses when we were little girls. I had not thought of them in years. We always believed the story. I’m going to go hunt and see if I van find mine. Thanks for the memory.
    Tracy from Bk. Mt

  • Reply
    March 16, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    I found this interesting.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I have never heard this story before. I’m glad I’ve heard it now. I have found heart shaped stones and ones shaped like russet potatoes often, but never one shaped like a cross. I wish I had.
    Prayers everyone is safe and warm this cold night.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Leslie Haynie
    March 16, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Boy howdy, I want to go rock hunting with Ed!
    I’ve been to one place in fannin where the crosses are and picked up a few.

  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 16, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Tipper, I have never heard the story of the fairy cross, but what a grand and glorious story. The finding on one in Brasstown. awsome

  • Reply
    March 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I love the story no matter what tribe it is attributed to. I first heard it as a child visiting the Smokies with my Tennessee relatives. A gift shop in the National Park was selling them (story attached) but after reading comments here and doing a little research on line, my purchase (very early 60s) must have been manufactured – perfect right angles). Funny thing is, when my husband was discharged from the Navy (mid 70’s), our things were gone through by someone and several items stolen. Among them was my treasured tiny fairy cross.

  • Reply
    Trevis Hicks
    March 16, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    I know of a place in Andrews where they can be found as well.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 16, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Actually I have seen many of a Rock Cross. They are what you get when you put a Cornish rooster in with Plymouth Rock hens. Their offspring are Cornish Rock Crosses. If you have ever bought chicken at a supermarket chances are pretty high that it was a Rock Cross.
    I don’t know why but here lately I have been reading things and wondering “where else have I heard that? At least this one didn’t keep me up into the wee hours of the morning thinking about it.

  • Reply
    March 16, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    That’s a wonderful story about the Cherokee and their take on the Fairy Crosses. I love stories like this, although I’ve never seen a Fairy Cross.
    I was listening to our Christian Radio Station at Murphy this morning when Donna Lynn introduced Paul Wilson and Don somebody. Paul talked about his school and finally Don asked Paul what he liked most about the School. Paul answered, “when my father passed, everyone showed so much love, and this helped me get through a hard time.” Paul is the Principal at Martin’s Creek. …Ken

  • Reply
    March 16, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Lisa-thank you for the comment! The cross in the photo is about an inch long. I’ve seen smaller ones and slightly larger ones too : )

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    March 16, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Interesting! I love the story! I hadn’t ever heard of these, so I looked them up. Apparently these crystals occur in many parts of the world, and one website I looked at called them “Tears of the Angels.” Another site was that of a man in New Mexico who knows where these are found near his home, but he won’t reveal the place. He sells the little crosses to tourists.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    March 16, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Not in all my born days have I ever seen such a thing as that. I know a place where we used to pick up amethyst, garnets and quartz crystals right off the top of the ground. I know a place where a vein of the purest whitest clay comes right out of the mountainside and where books of mica are scattered about as if blown there by the wind. I know a place where white flint rocks are seamed with red such that when cleft reveal a perfect slab of bacon. But, little crosses sprinkled on the ground, never!

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    March 16, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Staurolite aka as fairy crosses can be found in Fannin County and is the official state mineral of Georgia according to Wikipedia. I am familiar with the fairy crosses but I have never really looked for them. My mother was from Fannin so maybe I’ll ask her brothers if they know where to find them there and go looking for them. I like to look for artifacts so I’m sure I would like looking for fairy crosses. In the little town of Ball Ground in Cherokee County GA there was a man who owned most of the buildings in town and he was known as the “Rock Man” because he filled every building with all kinds of minerals and he was a huge fairy cross collector. The problem was you could only look through the windows of his shops because he was so eccentric that he would not allow you to come in to look. On rare occasions he might let someone in but it was very rare. He was known to sit on the street in his truck and watch his shops and would yell at people if they lingered too long looking in his windows. He had many beautiful minerals that rock hounds would drool over but looking through a dusty window was as close as you could get. He passed away a few years ago and his family was left to deal with tons of minerals. They sold some and are suppose to make a museum with the rest. I don’t know about the fairy crosses but I’m sure they kept some. There is still a building that was left full of stuff you can see through the window so if you’re passing through down 515/575 the little town is your first exit inside Cherokee County.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    March 16, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Very interesting. What is the approximate size of the stone in the photo?

  • Reply
    March 16, 2017 at 8:32 am

    We have a state park in Virginia, called Fairy Stone State Park, with the same legend, different tribe. I have never been there, but it has those fairy stone crosses.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 16, 2017 at 8:28 am

    I have not ever found one, but wanted to. You are correct that they occur in Fannin County, GA. I have heard there is a road bank on a Forest Service road on the Chattahoochee National Forest where they can be found. The USFS does not publicise it and collection requires a permit. However, I do not know if such permits are granted.
    Fairy crosses also occur in VA at Fairy Stone State Park. I believe they allow collection there also.
    Geologists call them ‘staurolites’. If natural, the angle formed by the arms is not 90-degree. If it is 90 it is fake.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    March 16, 2017 at 7:56 am

    That is a great story and a really cool find. I need to get out in the woods and do some looking. Although, I suspect these aren’t an Ohio phenomenon. I like the connection between telling, looking, and finding. That about says it all.
    This is something to study on today.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 16, 2017 at 7:15 am

    What a beautiful story. I don’t think I’ve heard it before. Perhaps that’s why there are so many sweet people in Brasstown. Now don’t laugh at me, but I’ve noticed that since I moved to Brasstown I’ve become acquainted with a lot of very sweet people. People like you ,Tip, and Pap, and folks I see at the community center gatherings. There is something soft and yielding about this area. Perhaps that’s why the crosses are here.

    • Reply
      Donna S. Jennings
      July 17, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      Cindy, do you know of any place in Brasstown that will let you hunt for them?

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