Shawnee Indian Tribe

The earliest known home of the Shawnee was on Cumberland River. From there some of them moved across to the Tennessee and established settlements about the Big Bend. As we have seen, Henry Woodward was a witness, in 1674, to what was probably the first appearance of members of the tribe on Savannah River. 1 Although he represents them as settled southwest of that stream near the Spaniards, it is more likely that the individuals whom he met belonged on the Cumberland, had been to St. Augustine to trade with the Spaniards, and were on their return home. Shortly afterwards a Shawnee band settled near what is now Augusta, and, as already stated, in 1681 1 they drove the Westo Indians from that neighborhood. In 1708 they had three towns on Savannah River, and the number of their men was estimated at 150, 2 but in 1715 a more detailed census gives three towns, 67 men, and 233 souls. 3

Before even the first of these enumerations, however, a part of the Shawnee had moved north to join their relatives from the Ohio and Cumberland who had settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, about 15 years before. 4 These latter belonged to the Piqua band, and the association of the southern Shawnee Indians with them led Mooney to state that the Shawnee in Carolina belonged to both the Piqua and Hathewekela, 5 but there is no absolute proof of this, and it is more likely that all the Piqua came directly from the Cumberland. There is some doubt as to the time when the first Shawnee moved from Carolina into Pennsylvania, yet we are able to fix upon the probable period. In the first place, Lawson, in his History of Carolina, published in 1709, says that the “Savannas Indians” had formerly lived on the banks of the Mississippi “and removed thence to the head of one of the rivers of South Carolina [the Savannah], since which, for some dislike, most of them are removed to live in the quarters of the Iroquois or Sinnagars [Seneca], which are on the heads of the rivers that disgorge themselves into the bay of Chesapeake.” 6

In June, 1707, Gov. John Evans of Pennsylvania visited the Shawnee Indians on the Susquehanna and states that, while he was at their village —

several of the Shawnee Indians from the southward came to settle here, and were admitted to so do by Opessah, with the governor’s consent; at the same time an Indian from a Shawnee town near Carolina came in, and gave an account that 450 of the Flat Head (Catawba) Indians had besieged them, and that in all probability the same was taken. Bezallion (a Trader, who acted as interpreter) informed the Governor that the Shawnees of Carolina, he was told, had killed several Christians; whereupon the government of that province had raised the said Flat Head Indians, and joined some Christians to them, besieged, and have taken, as it is thought, the said Shawnee town. 7

It is probable that the numbers of those Carolina Shawnee who had migrated to Pennsylvania were constantly swollen. In 1715, as a result of the Yamasee war, a part of the Shawnee on Savannah River moved to the Chattahoochee, settling apparently near where Fort Gaines is now located. The rest either remained in their old towns until about 1731 or began moving north immediately. All we know with certainty is that they were in Pennsylvania by October of the latter year, as the following testimony demonstrates:

On October 29, 1731, two traders, named Jonah Davenport and James Le Tort, furnished detailed information to the governor of Pennsylvania regarding the number of Indians in the Alleghany country, and this testimony contains the following item:

Assiwikales: 50 families; lately from S. Carolina to Ptowmack, and from thence thither; making 100 men. Aqueloma, their chief, true to the English. 8

On an earlier page he enumerates these people as if they were distinct from the Shawnee. As a matter of fact they were the principal Shawnee division in the south, and according to recent information gathered by Doctor Michelson would seem to have been considered first in rank.

In order to reach Pennsylvania the Piqua seem, as Hanna suggests, to have ascended the Ohio or Cumberland and then to have crossed to the headwaters of the Potomac by “the Virginia Valley, the Kanawha, or the Youghiogheny,” 9 Part of them occupied towns on the upper course of the Potomac for a time, while the remainder kept on eastward to the Susquehanna. As these upper Potomac towns appear to be apart from and to one side of the Shawnee towns reported near Winchester, Virginia, the latter may have marked a stage in the northward movement of the Carolina Shawnee. The following information regarding the Winchester settlements is contained in Kercheval’s History of the Valley of Virginia:

The Shawnee tribe, it is well known, were settled about the neighborhood of Winchester. What are called the “Shawnee cabins” and “Shawnee springs” immediately adjoining the town is well known. It is also equally certain that this tribe had a considerable village, on Babb’s marsh, some three or four miles northwest of Winchester. 10

Of course, which band of Shawnee was actually settled here can not as yet be demonstrated. Those who went to the Chattahoochee probably remained there very few years, since we soon hear of them among the Upper Creeks. Another band of Shawnee came from the north about this time, but whether the two belonged to the same Shawnee subdivision we do not know. These were evidently the Indians encountered by Adair in the year 1747 on their way south. 11 According to Draper these Shawnee made a settlement in the northern part of the Creek Nation, and after a few years returned to the Ohio without going farther south. 12 Adair himself speaks of the Shawnee “who settled between the Ooe-asa and Koosah towns.” 13 Some Chickasaw legends regarding the movement of these people to the Creeks and back is given in another place. 14

At any rate several distinct Shawnee settlements existed among the Upper Creeks at the same time. In 1752 and the year following there was a Shawnee town not far from Coosa River, apparently in the country of the Abihka Indians. In fact, some maps show two settlements of the tribe here, one of which is called ”Cayomulgi,” which is evidently the “Kiamulgatown” of the census list of 1832. No town of the name is now remembered; perhaps it was the Creek name for the Shawnee town, which had by the whites been applied to a later Creek settlement. Hawkins gives “Kiomulgee” as the name of the upper part of Natchez or Tallasee Hatchee Creek, which extends toward Sylacauga. 15 This would agree well with the location of a town on the Purcell map (pl. 7) called Mulberry Tree, not otherwise identified. It should be noted that the Creek word for mulberry is kĭ while omulga signifies all.

In the French census of 1760 there appear among the Creeks two Shawnee towns of 50 men each. One was evidently the settlement just mentioned, which is called Chalakagay, perhaps intended for Sylacauga, a name which indicates in Creek a place where buzzards are plentiful — and the other is meant for “Little Shawnee.” The latter is placed within 3 leagues of Fort Toulouse. 16 In the census of 1761 we find only the latter settlement, “Savanalis opposite to Mucklassee or shaircula savanalis.” “Shaircula” is probably intended for Hathawekela. It then numbered 30 hunters and had as agents William Trewin and Crook & Co. 17 Bartram includes this in his list of Creek towns, but confounds its inhabitants with the Yuchi. 18 Swan gives a town bearing the Shawnee name and states that Kanhatki was also occupied by Indians of this tribe. 19 I have elsewhere shown that, on this latter point, he is in error.

In 1797 Hawkins states that the trader here was “John Haigue, commonly called Savannah Jack,” evidently a mixed blood. 20 In his sketch he has the following to say regarding it:

Sau-wa-no-gee is on a pine flat, 21 three miles below Le-cau-suh, and back from a swamp bordering on the river; their fields are on both sides of the river, but mostly on the left bank, between the swamp and the river, on a vein of rich canebreak land; they are the Shaw-a-ne, and retain the language and customs of their countrymen to the northwest, and aided them in their late war with the United States. Some Uchees have settled with them; they are industrious, work with their women, and make plenty of corn; they have no cattle, and but few horses and hogs; the town house is an oblong square cabin, roof eight feet pitch, the sides and roof covered with the bark of the pine; on the left of the river. 22

The tribe does not appear in the census list of 1832 unless it may be concealed under the appellation “Kiamulgatown” above mentioned. 23 At what time the Shawnee separated definitely from the Creeks I do not know, but it was as early as the time of the removal, although their reservations in the west adjoined and the Shawnee and Creeks retained their old-time intimacy.Citations:

  1. See: Yuchi Indian Tribe.[][]
  2. S. C. Pub. Docs., V, pp. 207-209, MS. Ethn., pt. 2, Article “Shawnee.”[]
  3. Rivers, Ilist. S. C, p. 94.[]
  4. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, i, pp. 119-160.[]
  5. Handbook of Amer. Inds., Bull. 30, Bur. Amer.[]
  6. Lawson , Hist. Car., pp. 279-270.[]
  7. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, I, pp. 150-151; Day, Hist. Coll. State of Pa., p. 391.[]
  8. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, I, p. 296.[]
  9. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, I, p. 158.[]
  10. Kercheval, Hist. Val. of Va., p. 58.[]
  11. Adair, Hist. Am. Inds., pp. 2-3.[]
  12. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, II, pp. 240-242.[]
  13. Adair, Hist. Am. Inds., pp. 155-156.[]
  14. See pp. 414-416.[]
  15. Ga. Hist. Soc., Colls, IX, p. 34.[]
  16. Miss. Prov. Arch., p. 96.[]
  17. Ga. Col. Docs., VIII, p. 523.[]
  18. Bartram, Travels, pp. 462, 464.[]
  19. Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, V, p. 262.[]
  20. Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 169.[]
  21. The published edition has “forest.”[]
  22. Hawkins in Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, pp. 34-35;  IX, p. 41.[]
  23. Senate Doc. 612, 23d Cong., 1st sess., IV, pp. 302-303.[]

History, Shawnee,

Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

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