I've been trying, too, to find out the origin of the name. We had thought it was Cherokee, but according to three different name origin websites, it is Hebrew:
MAHALA (f) Variant of MAHLAH MAHLAH (f,m) Possibly "tender" (Hebrew). This name is used in the Old Testament as both a masculine and feminine name. Mahala, a 3-syllable girl's name of Hebrew origin, means: Marrow; tenderness. Nicknames for Mahala are * Malialia * Mehala. Other names associated with Mahala are * Mahalah * Mahla.(For example, see Numbers 26: 32-34; 1 Chronicles 7:18.)
ALSO Mahaley, was a nickname of my g.g.grandmother, Mahala. I was surprised to discover that it is also a LAST name, which makes it possible that the use of it in a family line may actually be related to an ancestral surname:
FROM A "McHALEY" SURNAME WEBSITE: When I started this research over ten years ago I was convinced that my McHALEY line was ofScotch-Irish orIrish origin, for such was the family lore. I held to this presumption strongly for a long time.I created a database of census, court, land, marriage, military, and will records of MICHAELEY sounding names in North Carolina. Surprisingly, I found that often records indexed as MCHALEY, included MAHALA and MAHALEY name variations. And I found that records indexed at MAHALA, or MAHALEY included the McHALEY name. Variations included MAHALA, MAHALAY, MAHALEY, MAHALY, MALEY, McGALEY, MCHALY, MCHALEY, MCKALEY, MEHALA, MEHALEY, MICHAELY, MICHALEY, MICHALY, MHALY, MHALEY, and MICHALY. This data made it apparent that the surname was very fluid in the early 1800’s. Generally by the 1840’s descendants became established as MAHALA, MAHALEY, or MCHALEY.