Hilibi Tribe

We now come to three towns or groups of towns —Hilibi, Eufaula, and Wakokai— which, while they have had a long separate existence, claim and in recent years have maintained terms of the closest intimacy. Their square grounds are much the same and they generally agree in selecting their chief from the Aktayatci clan. It is possible that this points to a common origin at some time in the remote past; but it would be hazardous to suggest it in stronger terms. From one of the best-informed Hilibi Indians I obtained the following tradition regarding the origin of his town. It was, he said, founded by a Tukpafka Indian belonging to the Aktayatci clan. Having suffered defeat in a ball game he determined to leave his own people, so he went away and founded another, gathering about him persons from many towns, but especially from Tukabahchee. When the people began to discuss what name they should give to their settlement their leader said ”Quick shall be my name,” and that is what Hilibi (hilikbi) signifies. It was because it grew up so rapidly. This story was confirmed independently by another of the best-informed old men, except that he represented the town as built up entirely of Tukpafka Indians. Tukpafka was, however, only a branch, and probably a late branch, of Wakokai, therefore we should have to look for an origin from the latter town. The historical value of this tradition may well be doubted, even with such emendation, but it serves to show the mental association between the places mentioned.

After De Soto had arrived at Cofitachequi, Ranjel states that “on Friday, May 7, Baltasar de Gallegos, with the most of the soldiers of the army, arrived at Ilapi to eat seven barbacoas of corn that they said were stored for the woman chief .” 1 If Cofitachequi was Kasihta it is quite possible that other Muskogee settlements were in the neighborhood and that Ilapi was the town later called Hilibi. It is true that Hilibi is known to us almost entirely as a town of the Upper Creeks, but several of the well-known Upper Creek towns of later times were once as far east as the Ocmulgee. In northwestern Georgia is a creek called Hilibi Creek, which may mark a former town site of this tribe while on its way west. When we first get a clear historic view of the town it is on the creek which still bears the name in Alabama. On the De Crenay map the name is spelled “Ilapé,” which suggests the form given by Ranjel. 2 The p form is used by the Lower Creeks. It appears in the census lists of 1738 and 1750 as “Ylapé,” 3 and in those of 1760 and 1761. 4 In the third of these there is also a “Little Hilibi.” In 1761 it was assigned, along with its outsettlements, to Crook & Co. 5 Bartram places it among the Coosa towns, 6 and Swan gives it as one of the towns “central, inland, in the high country, between the Coosa and Tallapoosee Rivers, in the district called the Hillabees.” 7 The town and its branches are thus described by Hawkins:

Hill-au-bee; on Col-luf-fa-dee [kålofti=”bluff “], which joins Hill-au-bee Creek, on the right side, one mile below the town. Hill-au-bee joins the Tallapoosa on its right bank, eight miles below New-yau-cau. One chief only, Ene-hau-thluc-co Hau-jo [Heniha låko Hadjo], resides in the town; the people are settled out in the four following villages:

  1. Thlā-noo-che au-bau-lau; from thlenne [lini], a mountain, oo-che [utci], little, and au-bau-lau [abála], over. The name is expressive of its position. It is situated over a little mountain, fifteen miles above the town, on the northwest branch of Hill-au-bee Creek; the town house of this village is on the left side of the creek.
  2. Au-net-te chap-co; from au-net-te, a swamp, and chapco, long. 8 It is situated on Choo-fun-tau-lau-hat-che [tcufi itålwa håtci, Rabbit Town Creek], which joins Hill-au-bee Creek three miles north from the town: the village is ten miles above the town.
  3. E-chuse-is-li-gau (where a young thing was found). A young child was found here, and that circumstance gives it the name. This village is four miles below the town, on the left side of Hill-au-bee Creek.
  4. Ook-tau-hau-zau-see; from ook-tau-hau [oktaha], sand, and zau-see [sasi], a great deal. It is two miles from the town, on a creek of that name, a branch of Hill-au-bee, which it joins a quarter of a mile below Col-luf-fa-dee, at a great shoal.

The land on these creeks, within the scope of the four villages, is broken and stoney, with coarse gravel; the bottoms and small bends of the creeks and branches are rich. The upland is generally stiff, rich, and fit for culture. Post oak, black oak, pine, and hickory, all small, are the growth. The whole abounds in veins of reeds and reedy branches. They call this the winter reed, as it clusters like the cane.

The villages are badly fenced, the Indians are attentive to their traders, and several of them are careful of stock and have cattle and hogs, and some few have horses. Four half-breeds have fine stocks of cattle. Thomas has one hundred and thirty cattle and ten horses. Au-wil-lau-gee, 9 the wife of O-pi-o-che-tus-tun-nug-gee, 10 has seventy 11 cattle. These Indians promised the agent, in 1799, to begin, and fence their fields; they have one hundred and seventy gunmen in the four villages.

Robert Grierson, 12 the trader, a native of Scotland, has, by a steady conduct, contributed to mend the manners of these people. He has five children, half breeds, and governs them as Indians, and makes them and his whole family respect him, and is the only man who does so in the Upper Creeks. He has three hundred cattle and thirty horses; he has, on the recommendation of the agent for Indian affairs, set up a manufactury of cotton cloth; he plants the green-seed cotton, it being too cold for the blackseed. He has raised a quantity for market, but finds it more profitable to manufacture it; he has employed an active girl of Georgia, Rachael Spillard, who was in the Cherokee department, to superintend, and allows her two hundred dollars per annum. He employs eleven hands, red, white, and black, in spinning and weaving, and the other part of his family in raising and preparing the cotton for them. His wife, an Indian woman, spins, and is fond of it; and he has a little daughter who spins well. He employs the Indian women to gather in the cotton from the fields, and has expectations of prevailing on them to take an active part in spinning.

Hill-au-bee creek has a rocky bottom, covered in many places with moss. In the spring of the year the cattle of the villages crowd after it, and are fond of it. From thence they are collected together by their owners, to mark and brand the young ones.

The climate is mild; the water seldom freezes; they have mast every other year, and peaches for the three last years. The range is a good one for stock. The owners of horses have a place called a stomp. They select a place of good food, cut down a tree or two, and make salt logs. Here the horses gather of themselves in the fly season. They have in the village a few thriving peach trees, and there is much gravelly land, which would be fine for them. 13

A battle was fought near Hilibi town on November 18, 1813.

Another village which separated from Hilibi was known as Kitcopataki, “a wooden mortar spread out,” perhaps referring to an old rotten mortar. It may have originated after Hawkins’s time, since it is first mentioned in the census rolls of 1832. 14 It is the only branch clearly remembered at the present day. Of the older villages the most prominent was Oktahasasi, which appears to have maintained a separate existence for a considerable period. It is not to be confused with a modern settlement known as Oktaha, “Sand town,” composed of families which had fled from the other villages to avoid being involved in the Creek-American war. After their removal to Oklahoma the latter lived for a time upon the Verdigris River, but subsequently appear to have separated. Kitcopataki does not have a distinct busk ground at the present time, but that of Hilibi is (1912) kept up near Hanna, Oklahoma.Citations:

  1. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, II, p. 100.[]
  2. Plate 6; also Hamilton, Col. Mobile, p. 190.[]
  3. MSS., Ayer Coll.[]
  4. Miss. Prov. Arch., I, p. 95.[]
  5. Ga. Col. Docs., VIII, p. 523.[]
  6. Bartram, Travels, p. 462.[]
  7. Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, v, p. 262.[]
  8. Au-net-te really means a grassy thicket that one can hardly get through; a swamp is pilofa. A battle was fought here on Jan. 24, 1814.[]
  9. Awulgi, “they came out.”[]
  10. Abohiyutcl tåstånnagi, “Putting-something-down warrior.”[]
  11. The published edition has “seven.”[]
  12. In notes taken in 1797 Hawkins adds that “David Hay was his hireling, “and that another white man in Hilibi, evidently a trader, was “Stephen Hawkins, an active man of weak mind; fond of drink, and much of a savage when drunk.”? Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 109. Robert Grierson was the direct ancestor of the late G. W. Grayson, chief of the Creek Nation.[]
  13. Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, pp. 43-45.[]
  14. Senate DOC. 512, 234 Cong., 1st sess, IV, pp. 318-319.[]

Hilibi, History,

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

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