by Denise Weimer
|Col. Elijah Clarke|
Since the back story uncovered by my modern characters as they restore a log cabin in the third book of my upcoming Restoration Trilogy dates to 1790, my research delved into the history of the early settlers and Creek Indians of Middle Georgia. My prior blog post related the beginning of the Oconee Indian War between those two parties. Between the 1773 Treaty of Augusta unofficially opening lands east of the Oconee River to settlement and the burning of the town of Greensboro in 1787, attacks became common. Revolutionary War hero Colonel Elijah Clarke and his son John supervised the upgrading and establishment of government forts. On Sept. 1, 1787, Clarke attacked 100 Creek Indians camped in a canebrake at the Battle of Jack’s Creek, killing 25 even though women and children were present. This battle provided only temporary relief, as Indian arson and scalpings peppered the years 1788 and 1789.
Negotiations in mid-1789 failed as Creek Supreme Chief McGillivray avoided recognizing the U.S. as a protector, which would annual his other treaties and legitimize the lands Georgia settlers had taken. However, by 1790, the Creek leader and lesser chiefs traveled to New York in dress regalia to be fêted and promised reparations in return for signing away land east of the Oconee River. The government feared McGillivray’s close Spanish connections and arms dealings would lead to a Spanish country bordering U.S. lands. Yet the treaty pleased no one. The Indians vainly wished for the return of lands between the forks of the Apalachee and Oconee Rivers. Revolutionary War heroes grew angry that the deal bypassed state leaders and ignored head rights grants on the west bank of the Oconee. Some settlers began to ambush Indians on sight, including a group led by Benjamin Harrison which killed 17 Indians crossing the river. Local citizen of now-Oglethorpe County Ferdinand Phinizy advanced a large sum of his personal fortune to equip a company of soldiers. Indians also initiated unprovoked attacks, especially as the drought of 1792 led them to hunt deer west of the Oconee, where they frequently encountered white hunters. One attack on the mill village of Scull Shoals killed six settlers.
In response, Georgia Governor Edward Telfair ordered a dozen log forts built to supplement the settler compounds along the Oconee, and Georgia citizens turned in fear to Elijah Clarke, who dispatched Phinizy’s Dragoons to Scull Shoals Station and resigned from the state militia to build his own private militia. While Clarke marched his men to the Georgia-Florida line to meet with a French agent who had toured the South stirring trouble in social and political circles against Spain, the new Georgia governor warned citizens against joining Clarke’s militia. Clarke had gone too far, establishing his own “Trans-Oconee Republic” with its own constitution! By September of 1794, Clarke surrendered and was discharged, too much a hero for a trial.
The Indian attacks staunched by Clarke’s militia’s might resumed, to be finally ended in that area of Georgia (if not in Alabama, as the Red Stick War flared in 1813) by the 1802 Fort Wilkinson Treaty's relocation of the Creek boundary to Middle Georgia.