Apalachicola Indian Tribe

There has been considerable confusion regarding this tribe, because the name was applied by the Spaniards from a very early period to the Lower Creeks generally, Coweta and Kasihta in one account being mentioned as Apalachicola towns. 1 It is used in its general sense in the very earliest place in the Spanish records in which the name occurs, a letter dated August 22, 1639, and in the same way in letters of 1686 and 1688. 2

On the other hand, in the letter of 1686 the name “Apalachicoli” is distinctly applied also to a particular town, 3 and inasmuch as it is clearly the name of a tribe and town in later times it is probable that its original application was to such a tribe among or near the Lower Creeks. From this the Spaniards evidently extended it over the whole of the latter. That the town was considered important is shown by the Creek name which it bears, Tålwa łåko, “Big Town,” and from Bartram’s statement that it was the leading White or Peace town. 4 In one Spanish document we read that Oconee was “under Apalachicolo,” and at a council between the Lower Creeks and Spaniards at San Marcos about 1738 Quilate, the chief of this town, spoke for all. 5 Replying to a speech of John Stuart, the British Indian agent, delivered in the Chiaha Square, September 18, 1768, a Lower Creek speaker says: ”There are four head men of us have signed our Names in the presence of the whole lower Creeks as you will see: Two of us out of the Pallachicolas which is reckoned the Head Town of upper & lower Creeks and two out of the Cussitaw Town, which are friend Towns, which two towns stand for in behalf of the upper and lower Creeks.” It is probable that this speaker wishes to exaggerate the representative character of the chiefs of these two towns, but the important position assigned to Apalachicola was not a mere invention on his part. Ten years later we find John Stuart writing, without the same bias as that which the speaker quoted above may be supposed to have had, that this town ”is considered as the Mother & Governing Town of the whole Nation.” 6

It is quite probable, as we shall see later, that it was a tribe of considerable size, often scattered among several settlements. In spite of the resemblance which its name bears to that of the Apalachee I am inclined to think that there was only a remote relationship between the two peoples, although the meanings of the two words may have been something alike. The ending of the name resembles okli, the Hitchiti word for “people.” Judge G. W. Stidham told Dr. Gatschet that he had heard the name was derived from the ridge of earth around the edge of the square ground made in sweeping it. 7 In recent times Apalachicola has always been classed by the Creeks as a Hitchiti-speaking town, while the fragment of Apalachee that has come down to us shows that language to have been an independent dialect.

According to Creek legend the Apalachicola were found in possession of southwestern Georgia when the Muskogee invaded that section. 8 In 1680 two Franciscans were sent into the Province of Apalachicola to begin missionary work, but the Coweta chief would not allow them to remain, and the effort was soon abandoned. 9

A great deal of light has been thrown upon the ethnographical complexion of the region along Apalachicola River by the discovery by Mr. D. I. Bushnell, Jr., of an old manuscript already alluded to (p. 13), preserved among the Ludwell papers in the archives of the Virginia Historical Society. 10 This gives the account of an Indian named Lamhatty, who was captured by a band of “Tusckaroras,” in reality probably Creeks, and who, after having been taken through various Creek towns, was sold to the Shawnee. Later he came northward with a hunting party of Shawnee, escaped from them, and reached the Virginia settlements. As much of his story as he was able to communicate was taken down by Robert Beverly, the historian, and on the reverse side of the sheet containing it was traced a map of the region through which Lamhatty had come, as Lamhatty himself understood it. In his narrative this Indian represents himself as belonging to the Tawasa, or, as he spells it, “Towasa,” people, which he says consisted of 10 ”nations.” In the year 1706, however, the “Tusckaroras” (or Creeks?) made a descent upon them and carried off three of the ”nations.” In the spring of 1707 they carried off four more, and two fled. The narrative says “the other two fled,” but that would leave one still to be accounted for. It is difficult to know just what Lamhatty means by the 10 “nations.” On his map there are indeed 10 towns laid down on and near the lower Apalachicola, but only one is marked “Toẃasa.” Nevertheless it appears likely that the 10 towns are the “nations” to which Lamhatty refers, especially as what he says regarding their fate may be made to fit in very well with other information concerning them. The names of these 10 towns are given as: Toẃasa, Poúhka, Sowólla, Choctóuh, Ogolaúghoos, Tomoóka, Ephippick, Aulédly, Socsósky, and Sunepáh. Toẃasa is of course the well-known Tawasa tribe. The five following may probably be identified with the Pawokti, Sawokli, Chatot, Yuchi, and a band of Timucua. This last and the Poúhka are the only ones the identification of which is uncertain. With the remaining four nothing can be done. Of the first six, the Tawasa and Chatot are known to have taken refuge with the French and may have been the two that Lamhatty says fled on the occasion of the second attack. 11 The band of Yuchi evidently remained in this country much longer and may have been the ”nation” left out of consideration. The three others identified always remained separate, and we are reduced to the conclusion that the four unidentified towns represented the people afterwards called Apalachicola. They were perhaps those carried off on the last raid.

Be that as it may, the next we hear of the Apalachicola they were settled upon Savannah River at a place known for a long time as Palachocolas or Parachocolas Fort, on the east or southeast side, almost opposite Mount Pleasant, and about 50 miles from the river’ s mouth. In 1716, after the Yamasee War, the Apalachicola, and part of the Yuchi and Shawnee, abandoned their settlements on the Savannah and moved over to the Chattahoochee. The Apalachicola chief at that time was named Cherokee Leechee. 12 The date is fixed by a manuscript map preserved in South Carolina. They settled first at the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, at a place known long afterwards as Apalachicola Fort. Later they abandoned this site and went higher up; in fact, they probably moved several times.

Some early Spanish documents treat Apalachicola and Cherokee Leechee as distinct towns. Thus in the directions given to a Spanish emissary about to set out for the Lower Creek towns he is informed that he would encounter these towns in the following order: ”Tamaxle, Chalaquilicha, Yufala, Sabacola, Ocone, Apalachicalo, Ocmulque, Osuche, Chiaja, Casista, Caveta. ” This was evidently due to the removal of a large part of the Apalachicola Indians from the forks of Chattahoochee River to the position later occupied by the entire tribe, while some still remained with their chief in the district first settled.

Tobias Fitch, in the journal narrating his proceedings among the Creeks in 1725, relates, under date of September 28, that Cherokee Leechee had, indeed, intended to move north as well, but had been frightened out of his purpose by a Spanish emissary who represented that the English were trying to draw away his people in order to send them all across the ocean. 13 He, too, mentions Apalachicola as a distinct town.

A Spanish document gives the name of the Apalachicola chief in 1734 as Sanachiche. 14 Bartram visited them in 1777 and has the following account:

After a little refreshment at this beautiful town [Yuchi] we repacked and set off again for the Apalachucla town, where we arrived after riding over a level plain, consisting of ancient Indian plantations, a beautiful landscape diversified with groves and lawns.

This is esteemed the mother town or capital of the Creek or Muscogulge confederacy; sacred to peace; no captives are put to death or human blood spilt here. And when a general peace is proposed, deputies from all the towns in the confederacy assemble at this capital, in order to deliberate upon a subject of so high importance for the prosperity of the commonwealth.

And on the contrary the great Coweta town, about twelve miles higher up this river, is called the bloody town, where the Micos, chiefs, and warriors assemble when a general war is proposed; and here captives and state malefactors are put to death.

The time of my continuance here, which was about a week, was employed in excursions round about this settlement. One day the chief trader of Apalachucla obliged me with his company on a walk of about a mile and a half down the river, to view the ruins and site of the ancient Apalachucla; it had been situated on a peninsula formed by a doubling of the river, and indeed appears to have been a very famous capital by the artificial mounds or terraces, and a very populous settlement, from its extent and expansive old fields, stretching beyond the scope of the sight along the low grounds of the river. We viewed the mounds or terraces, on which formerly stood their round house or rotunda and square or areopagus, and a little behind these, on a level height or natural step, above the low grounds, is a vast artificial terrace or four square mound, now seven or eight feet higher than the common surface of the ground; in front of one square or side of this mound adjoins a very extensive oblong square yard or artificial level plain, sunk a little below the common surface, and surrounded with a bank or narrow terrace, formed with the earth thrown out of this yard at the time of its formation; the Creeks or present inhabitants have a tradition that this was the work of the ancients, many ages prior to their arrival and possessing this country.

The old town was evacuated about twenty years ago by the general consent of the inhabitants, on account of its unhealthy situation, owing to the frequent inundations of the great river over the low grounds; and moreover they grew timorous and dejected, apprehending themselves to be haunted and possessed with vengeful spirits, on account of human blood that had been undeservedly spilt in this old town, having been repeatedly warned by apparitions and dreams to leave it.

At the time of their leaving this old town, like the ruin or dispersion of the ancient Babel, the inhabitants separated from each other, forming several bands under the conduct or auspices of the chief of each family or tribe. The greatest number, however, chose to sit down and build the present new Apalachucla town, upon a high bank of the river above the inundations. The other bands pursued different routes, as their inclinations led them, settling villages lower down the river; some continued their migration towards the sea coast, seeking their kindred and countrymen amongst the Lower Creeks in East Florida, where they settled themselves. 15

While this account apparently throws a great deal of light upon the history of the Apalachicola, it actually introduces many perplexities. At the present time Coweta is indeed recognized as the head war town of the Lower Creeks, but the head peace town among them, so far as anyone can now recall, is and always was Kasihta. Still, the name by which this Apalachicola town is now known to the Creeks proper is, as stated above, Tålwa łåko, or Big Town, from which a former prominence may be inferred. Moreover, in the migration legend told to Oglethorpe the priority of Apalachicola as a peace town seems to be taught, Kasihta having acquired the ”white” character later. 16 Therefore it is probable that this town did anciently have a sort of precedence among the peace towns of the Lower Creeks. Again it is perplexing to find that Bartram appears to have been entirely unaware of the former residence of the Apalachicola on Savannah River, though their removal had not taken place much over 60 years earlier. In the light of other facts brought out this seems still more confusing. He explains the reference to ”human blood undeservedly spilt in this old town” in a footnote, which runs as follows:

About fifty or sixty years ago almost all the white traders then in the nation were massacred in this town, whither they had repaired from the different towns, in hopes of an asylum or refuge, in consequence of the alarm, having been timely apprised of the hostile intentions of the Indians by their temporary wives. They all met together in one house, under the avowed protection of the chiefs of the town, waiting the event; but whilst the chiefs were assembled in council, deliberating on ways and means to protect them, the Indians in multitudes surrounded the house and set fire to it; they all, to the number of eighteen or twenty, perished with the house in the flames. The trader showed me the ruins of the house where they were burnt. 17

This wholesale massacre reminds us so strongly of the sweeping character of the Yamasee rebellion, which the fact itself cannot have followed by many years, that one is at first tempted to think reference is made to that uprising. But at that time the Apalachicola were upon Savannah River, and, since the trader was able to show Bartram the ruins of the house in which the unfortunate victims were burned, it is evident that the massacre could not have taken place there. Another suggestion is that only part of the Apalachicola were on Savannah River, but of this we have not the slightest evidence. It is surprising, to say the least, that Bartram’s trading acquaintance could not or would not tell him about the comparatively recent immigration of this tribe among the Lower Creeks. The extensive mounds which Bartram notes must have owed their origin for the most part to some other of the Lower Creek tribes. It should be observed also that the people whom Bartram calls Lower Creeks were really Seminole, and it is to the Seminole that most of the scattered bands of Apalachicola went.

We find through a list of trading assignments made in 1761 that the “Pallachocolas” were then assigned to Macartan and Campbell. 18 In 1797 the trader was Benjamin Steadham. 19

Hawkins, in 1799, has the following to say regarding Apalachicola:

Pā-lā-chooc-le is on the right bank of Chat-to-ho-che, one and a half miles below Au-he-gee creek on a poor, pine barren flat; the land back from it is poor, broken, pine land; their fields are on the left side of the river, on poor land.

This was formerly the first among the Lower Creek towns; a peace town, averse to war, and called by the nation, Tal-lo-wau thluc-co (big town). The Indians are poor, the town has lost its former consequence, and is not now much in estimation. 20

This confirms Bartram and Tchikilli regarding the former importance of the town, and also shows a rather early fall of the tribe from its high estate.

The census of 1832, taken just before the removal of the Creeks west of the Mississippi, gives 77 “Palochokolo” Indians, and 162 “Tolowarthlocko” Indians, besides 7 slaves. 21 While there were no doubt two settlements of these people at the time, the enumerator has made an evident error in giving the Hitchiti name to one and the Creek name, Tålwa łåko, to the other.

The remnant are to be found principally in the neighborhood of Okmulgee, Okla., a former capital of the Creek Nation in the west.Citations:

  1. It appears in two forms, Apalachicoli and Apachicolo, the first of which is evidently in the Hitchiti dialect, the second in Muskogee. Apalachicola is a compromise term.[]
  2. Lowery, MSS.; Serrano y Sanz, Doc. Hist., pp. 199-201, 219-221. The latter has made an unfortunate blunder in dating the letter of 1685 as if it were 1606.[]
  3. Serrano y Sanz, op. cit., pp. 193, 195.[]
  4. Bartram, Travels, p. 387.[]
  5. Copy of MS. in Ayer Coll., Newberry Library.[]
  6. English Transcriptions, Lib. Cong.[]
  7. Creek Mig. Leg., i, p. 127.[]
  8. Ibid., p. 250.[]
  9. Lowery, MSS.[]
  10. Published in Amer. Anthrop., n. s. vol. x, pp. 568-674.[]
  11. Later information shows, however, that the Chatot must have fled after the first attack, for they had gone to Mobile before July 28, 1706 (see pp. 123-124).[]
  12. “Cherokee killer” in Creek. Brinton, Floridian Peninsula, p. 141.[]
  13. Tobias Fitch’s Journal, in Mereness, Travels, p. 193.[]
  14. Copy of a MS. in Ayer Coll., Newberry Library. This name may, however, be intended for that of Tomochichi, the Yamacraw chief.[]
  15. Bartram, Travels, pp. 386-390.[]
  16. Gatschet, Creek Mig. Leg., i, pp. 244-251.[]
  17. Bartram, Travels, pp. 388-389, note.[]
  18. Ga. Col. Docs., viii, pp. 522-524.[]
  19. Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., ix, p. 171[]
  20. Ibid., in, p. 65.[]
  21. Sen. Doc. 512, 23rd Congress, 1st Session, IV, pp. 345-347.[]

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

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