The research for what will be the final novel of my Restoration Chronicles Trilogy, Witch: 1790 (www.deniseweimerbooks.webs.com) has included learning about the Creek Indians. My Georgia Gold Series featured some late Cherokee history just prior to the Trail of Tears, but until I moved out of the foothills to the Georgia Piedmont, I knew little about this area of the state’s early residents. So who were they? And what were they like? In a series of articles I’ll share some of my findings on Creek Indian towns, appearance, beliefs, Colonial war in Piedmont Georgia and the charismatic half-blood Supreme Chief Alexander McGillivray (by the way, someone needs to write a novel about him). Today’s article will serve as an introduction.
|Musgrove & 3rd husband Rev. Bosomworth negotiating for Creek|
Before the middle of the 16th Century, the Creek Indians (Muscogee, Muskogee, or traditional spelling Mvskoke), Mississippian Culture mound-builders, controlled most all of present-day Georgia. Following the battle of Slaughter Gap against their neighbors, the Cherokee, the Creek moved past the Etowah River. Another battle in 1755 determined the later Creek-Cherokee border with the Creek south of the Chattahoochee River in Georgia and west of the Coosa River in Alabama. This began the period of referring to the Upper and Lower Creek tribes. Piedmont or Middle Georgia was the home of the Lower Creek. Mary Musgrove, daughter of an English trader and a Muscogee woman from the Wind Clan, helped her husband John run a fur trading post and became the main interpreter for the first governor of Georgia. Under these favorable conditions, peace and deerskin trade flourished.
During the French and Indian War, the Upper Creek sided with the Cherokee against the English. The peace conference in Augusta, Georgia, in 1763, gave the victorious English colonies a large section of Indian lands. White settlement began. By 1773, Georgians demanded payment of the trade debts accrued by the Native Americans. This occurred at a land cessation meeting in Augusta.
Even after the land cessations, many Creek farms remained on open-to-settlement land. True Muscogean speakers sometimes looked down on Yuchi or Hitchiti speaker members of Creek Nation, calling them “stinkards.” Hitchiti considered Muscogees interlopers from the west in the past who had moved closer to traders and trapped and hunted year round to satisfy their desires for white goods. From 1716 on, many Creek Indians fled the land pressures in Georgia for Florida, becoming Seminole Indians. Seminole was a corruption of the Spanish word Cimarron, meaning “runaway” or “wild one.”
On the eve of the American Revolution, the Spanish to the south, French to the west and Cherokee and Creek on the frontier placed Georgia in an insecure position. Even though the Lower Creeks were more a loose confederation of independent towns than a unified people, they could have overpowered the still randomly populated state. Supreme Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray, son of a wealthy Scottish trader and planter whose property had been confiscated by the state of Georgia, pushed the Upper Creek to ally with the British, fighting alongside the Chickamauga (Lower Cherokee) warriors of Dragging Canoe. Meanwhile, McGillivray’s ex-trading partner George Galphin had some success in persuading the Lower Creeks to remain neutral. However, after the capture of Savannah by the British, they became nominal allies. Muscogee warriors also fought with the British in the campaigns of Mobile and Pensacola.
Following the war, a series of treaties between the new U.S. government or the State of Georgia and the Creek Nation led to misunderstanding and frustration on both sides and were not recognized by McGillivray and the main body of Creek Indians. By 1786, war had been declared on the Georgia frontier, one that would rage for many years.