1775 Mousons Map

Notes On Creek History

To offer a history of the Creek tribe from its discovery down to our epoch to the readers does not lie within the scope of this volume, and for want of sufficient documents illustrating the earlier periods it could be presented in a fragmentary manner only. But a few notes on the subject, especially on the Oglethorpe treaties, will be of interest to the reader.

In the year following their departure from the West Indies (1540), the troops led by H. de Soto traversed a portion of the Creek territory, taken in its extent as known to us from the end of the eighteenth century. De Soto’s presence is proved by the mention of Creek tribes bearing Creek name’s in the reports of his three chroniclers. The most circumstantial report in topography is that of the Knight of Elvas. He states that de Soto’s army usually marched five to six leagues a day in peopled countries, but when passing through deserted lands proceeded faster. From Chiaha H. de Soto reached Coste in seven days. From Tali, probably contiguous to Coste, he marched for six days, through many towns, to Coca, arriving there July 26th, 1540. Leaving this town after a stay of twenty-five days, he reached Tallimuchase on the same day, Ytava on the next, and had to remain there; six days, on account of a freshet in the river. Having crossed the river he reached Ullibahali town, fortified by a wooden wall, and on the next day stopped at a town subject to the lord of Ullibahali, to reach Toasi the day after. Then he traversed the Tallise “province,” peopled with many towns, and entered the great pueblo of Tallise on September 18th, to stay there twenty days. Many other towns were visible on the opposite side of the “maine river,” on which Tallisi 1 stood. On leaving this pueblo he reached Casiste on the same day, and Tuscalusa, whose chief was lord of many territories, after another march of two days. From there Piache, on a great river, was reached in two days, and Mavila in three days from Piache. De Soto arrived in Mavila on October 18th, and the whole distance from Coca to Tuscalusa is computed by the Knight of Elvas at sixty leagues, the direction of the route being from north to south. In this particular Biedma differs from him.

The villages of Chiaha (Chisca, Ychiaha, China, var. lect.) and of Coste (Costehe, Acostehe) provinces were fortified and stood on river-islands. This latter circumstance makes it probable that they lay on Tennessee River, and hence were held by Cheroki Indians. Tali is either the Creek term tali dry, exsiccated, or the Cha’hta tali rock. Coca, then in a flourishing condition, is the town of Kúsa. Talli-muchasi, or “Newtown,” near Coca, is clearly a Creek term, and so is Ytava, Itáwa, which I take for the imperfectly articulated italua, tribe. Toasi is, I think, the town of Tawasa, which was one of the Alibamu villages, q. v., and lay on the southern shore of the Alabama River.

Tallisi is undoubtedly Talua-hassi, “old town,” but which one of the numerous settlements of this name it may have been is now impossible to determine. Casiste resembles Kasí’hta, but cannot have been Kasiχta on Chatahuchi river, for de Soto reached Tuskalusa or “Black Warrior,” which I take to be a town on the river of that name, within two days from Casiste, traveling west. 2 Piache, if Creek could be ápi údshi little pole, small tree. Garcilaso de la Vega states that Tascalusa was on the same river (?) as Tallisi and below it. The documents of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries frequently give names of localities and tribes to the local chiefs, as was done here in the case of Tascalusa, Mavila, Alimamu and others. Chiaha is a Cheroki name, and is explained elsewhere as “place of otters.” Some modern (1884) critics believe that de Soto’s army did not cross the mountains into what is now North Carolina and Tennessee, the “over-hill” seats of the Cheroki people, but only skirted the southern slope of the Apalachian ridge by passing through Northern Georgia west into Northern Alabama, and then descending Coosa river. In order to determine de Soto’s route in these parts, we have to decide first, whether the days and directions of the compass noted by his chroniclers deserve more credence than the local names transmitted in cases when both form conflicting statements. The names of localities could not be pure inventions; they prove by themselves, that tribes speaking Creek or Maskoki proper were encountered by the adventurous leader in the same tracts where we find them at the beginning of this nineteenth century. It follows from this that the Creek immigration from the west or northwest, if such an event ever occurred within the last two thousand years, must have preceded the time of de Soto’s visit by a long lapse of time. Thus the terms italua, talófa, talássi belong to the Creek dialect only; had H. de Soto been in a country speaking a Hitchiti dialect, he would have heard, instead of these, the term ókli, and instead of tálua mútchasi: ókli imásha. 3

In 1559 another Spanish leader, Tristan de Luna, disembarked in or near Mobile bay, then went north in quest of gold and treasure, reached Nanipacna, or “pueblo Santa Cruz de Nanipacna,” and from there arrived, after experiencing many privations and trials, among the Cocas, who were then engaged in warfare with the Napochies (naⁿpíssa? cf. Chicasa). He made a treaty of alliance with the Cocas, and deemed it prudent to return. The distance from Coca to Nanipacna was twelve days, from there to the harbor three days march. 4

In 1567 Captain Juan del Pardo set out from St. Helena, near Charleston Harbor, S. C., on an exploration tour with a small Detachment, following partly the same aboriginal trail which had guided de Soto through the wastes of Georgia and the Cheroki country. On leaving the banks of the Tennessee River, he turned south, touching Kossa, a sort of a capital (evidently Kusa), then Tasqui, Tasquiqui and Olitifar. These are the only names of places mentioned by his chronicler, Juan de la Vandera (1569), which refer to the Creek country. Tasquiqui cannot be anything else but Taskigi, near the junction of Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers.

From the beginning of the eighteenth century the French, Spanish and British colonists endeavored to win over the tribes of the confederacy to their interests. The Spaniards established in Northern Florida paid honors to the “emperor of the Cowetas,” therewith hoping to influence all the Lower and Upper Creeks, and in 1710 received Kawita delegates with distinction at St. Augustine. After the conflict with the Spaniards the British established Fort Moore for trading purposes among the Lower Creeks. In 1713 chiefs of the Alibamu, Koassáti and other tribes visited the French colony at Mobile, entered into friendly relations, invited them to construct Fort Alibamu, also called Fort Toulouse, near Odshi-apófa, q. v., and were helpful in erecting it. The French entertained a small garrison and a trader’s post there, and subsequently the fort was called Fort Jackson.

The first British treaty with the Creeks was concluded by James Oglethorpe, Governor of the Carolinas. He set out May 14th, 1733, from Charleston, his residence, and on May 18th met in council the representatives of the Lower Creek tribes at Savannah. During the meeting many facts of interest were elicited. The Creeks then claimed the territory extending from the Savannah river to the Flint river, and south to St. Augustine, stating that their former number of ten tribes had been reduced to eight. Wikatchámpa,, the Okoni míko, proclaimed that his tribe would peaceably cede to the British all lands not needed by themselves. The Yamacraw chief Tomochichi, then banished from one of the Lower Creek towns, spoke in favor of making a treaty with the foreigners, and Yahola ‘láko, míko of Kawita, allowed Tomochichi and his relatives “to call the kindred, that love them, out of each of the Creek towns, that they may come together and make one town. We must pray you to recall the Yamasees, that they may be buried in peace among their ancestors, and that they may see their graves before they die; and our own nation (of the Lower Creeks) shall be restored again to its ten towns.” The treaty of land-cession, commerce and alliance was signed May 21st, and ratified by the trustees of the colony of Georgia, October 18th, 1733. It stipulated a cession of the lands between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers, and of some islands on the Atlantic coast, to the British; it further stipulated promises to enter into a commercial treaty at a later date, to place themselves under the general government of Great Britain, to live in peace with the colonies, to capture runaway slaves and deliver them at Charleston, Savannah or Palachukla garrison for a consideration. The treaty was confirmed by pledges on the side of the Creeks, which consisted in a bundle of buckskins for each town, whereas the English made presents of arms, garments, etc. in return. The Indians expressed a desire of receiving instruction through teachers, and the success obtained in concluding this first treaty was mainly attributed to the influence of Tomochichi upon his fellow-countrymen. The eight tribes represented were Kawita, Kasiχta, Ósotchi, Chiaha, Hítchiti, Apalatchúkla, Okoni, Yufala. The “two lost towns” were certainly not those of the Sawokli and Yuchi, although these do not figure in the list. Only one of the headmen signing the treaty of 1733 figures in the prooemium of our legend (written in 1735): “Tomaumi, head warrior of Yufala, with three warriors;” he is identical with Tamókmi, war captain of the Eufantees (in 1735). Chekilli is not mentioned.

The above treaty is printed in: Political State of Great Britain, vol. 46, p. 237 sqq; extract in C. C. Jones, Tomo chichi, pp. 27-37.

Although encouraged by this first successful meeting with the Creeks, the colonists knew so well the fickleness of the Indian character that they were distrustful of the steadiness of their promises, and thus sought to renew the friendly relations with them as often as possible.

A convention was arranged with the chiefs of the Lower Creeks at Savannah in 1735, during which the legend of the Kasiχta migration was delivered, but it does not appear whether any new treaty stipulations were mooted or not at that meeting.

Just after his return from England, Governor Oglethorpe again came to Savannah on October 13th, 1738, to meet in council the míkos of Chiaha, Okmulgi, Ótchisi and Apalatchúkla, who were accompanied by thirty warriors and fifty-two attendants. They assured him of their firm and continued attachment to the crown, and notified him that deputies of the remaining towns would come down to see him, and that one thousand warriors of theirs were at his Disposal. They also requested that brass weights and sealed measures should be deposited with the míkos of each town, to preclude the traders settled among them from cheating.

On the 17th of July, 1739, Oglethorpe with a large retinue started to meet the Creeks in their own country, at Kawita. He traveled up Savannah River to the Yuchi town, twenty-five miles above Ebenezer, then followed the inland trail, for two hundred miles, without meeting any Indians. The council lasted from August 11th to 21st, and terminated in a treaty, by which the towns renewed their “fealty” to the king of Great Britain, and confirmed their cessions of territory, while Oglethorpe engaged that the British should not encroach upon their reserved lands, and that their traders should deal fairly and honestly with the Indians. The towns on Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers participated in the treaty. 5

It may be regarded as a consequence of this compact, that Creek warriors joined the British as auxiliaries in the expedition against St. Augustine in 1742.

Important and detailed information on the relations of the Creeks and all other Southern tribes with the British and French settlers of colonial times may be found in the documents preserved at the State Paper Office, London. The contents of such papers as relate more especially to South Carolina are hinted at in numerous abstracts of them given in a catalogue in Collections of South Carolina Historical Society, Vols. I, II, Charleston, 8vo (Vol. II published in 1858); cf. II, 272. 297-298. 315-317. 322, etc. Compare also W. de Brahm’s writings, mentioned in: Appendices.

An incomplete and unsatisfactory, though curious list of the elements then (1771) composing the Maskoki confederacy and of its western allies is contained in B. Romans, East and West Florida (p. 90). The passage first alludes to the Seminoles as allies, and then continues: “They are a mixture of the remains of the Cawittas, Talepoosas, Coosas, Apalachias, Conshacs or Coosades, Oakmulgis, Oconis, Okchoys, Alibamons, Natchez, Weetumkus, Pakanas, Taensas, Chacsihoomas, Abekas and some other tribes whose names I do not recollect.”

An interesting point in early Creek history is the settlement of Cheroki Indians in Georgia, and their removal from there through the irruption of the Creeks. W. Bartram, Travels, p. 518, in describing the mounds of the country, states “that the region lying between Savanna River and Oakmulge, east and west, and from the sea-coast (of the Atlantic) to the Cherokee or Apalachean Mountains (filled with these mounds) was possessed by the Cherokees since the arrival of the Europeans; but they were afterwards dispossessed by the Muscogulges, and all that country was probably, many ages preceding the Cherokee invasion, inhabited by one nation or confederacy (unknown to the Cherokees, Creeks) . . . etc.” In another passage he gives a tradition of the Creeks, according to which an ancient town once built on the east bank of the Okmulgi, near the old trading road, was their first settlement in these parts after their emigration from the west.

The topographic names from the Cheroki language throughout Georgia testify strongly to the presence of Cheroki Indians in these countries. The tracts on the Okoni and Okmulgi are nearer to the seats of the Élati Cheroki than the Creek settlements on Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, where Cheroki local names occur also.

The legend reported by C. Swan 6 that the Creeks migrated from the northwest to the Seminole Country, then back to Okmulgi, Tallapoosa and Coosa Rivers, deserves no credit, or applies to small bodies of Indians only.

From an ancient tradition John Haywood (9John Haywood, the Natural and Aboriginal History of Tennessee (up to 1768). Nashville, 1823.)) relates the fact (pp. 237-241) that when the Cheroki Indians first settled in Tennessee, they found no other red people living on Tennessee River, except a large body of Creeks near the influx of Hiwassee River (and some Shawanese on Cumberland River). They had settled “at the island on the Creek path/ meaning a ford of the Great Tennessee River, also called “the Creek crossing,” near the Alabama State border. At first they lived at peace with them, but subsequently attacked them, to drive them out of the country. By stratagem they drew them from their island, with all the canoes in their possession, to a place where others lay in ambush for them, engaged them in battle, took away their canoes to pass over to the island, and destroyed there all the property of the tribe. The enfeebled Creeks then left the country and went to the Coosa River.

1775 Mousons Map
1775 Mousons Map

The Broad River, a western affluent of Savannah River, formed for many years the boundary between the Cheroki and the eastern Creeks. It figures as such in Mouson’s map of 1775.

The Creeks remained under the influence of the British government until after the American Revolutionary war, and in many conflicts showed their hostility to the thirteen states struggling for independence. Thus they acted in the British interest when they made a night attack on General Wayne’s army, in 1782, led by Guristersigo, near the Savannah River. An attack on Buchanan’s station was made by Creek and Cheroki warriors near Nashville, Tenn., in 1792. Treaties were concluded with them by the United States at New York, August 7th, 1790, and at Coleraine, Georgia, June 29th, 1796. An article of these stipulated the return of captured whites, and of Negro slaves and property to their owners in Georgia. Trading and military posts were established among them, and an agent of the Government began to reside in one of their towns. Further cessions of Creek lands are recorded for 1802 and 1805.”

Instigated by the impassioned speeches of Tecumseh, the Shawano leader, the Upper Creeks, assisted by a few Yuchi and Sawokli Indians, revolted in 1813 and massacred the American garrison at Fort Mimms, near Mobile bay, Alabama, on August 30th of that year. General A. Jackson’s army subdued the revolt, after many bloody victories, in the battle of the Horse-Shoe Bend, and by taking Pensacola, the seaport from which the Spaniards had supplied the insurrection with arms. A peace treaty was concluded on August 9th, 1814, embodying the cession of the Creek lands west of Coosa River. Surrounded as they were by white settlements on all sides, this revolt, known also as the Red Stick War, was the last consequential sign of reaction of/the aboriginal Creek mind against civilizing influences.

Previous to the departure from their lands in the Gulf States to the Indian Territory (1836-1840), scattering bands of the Creeks joined the Seminoles in 1836, while others took arms against the United States to attack the border settlements and villages in Georgia and Alabama. These were soon annihilated by General Scott. The treaty of cession is dated April 4th, 1832, and the lands then granted to them in their new homes embraced an area of seven millions of acres. On October 11th, 1832, the Apalachicola tribe renewed a prior agreement to remove to the west of Mississippi river, and to surrender their inherited lands at the mouth of the Apalachicola River. Only 744 Creeks remained east of the Mississippi River.

At the outbreak of the Secession war, in 1861, the Creeks separated into two hostile parties. Chief Hopó’li yahóla with about 8000 Creeks adhered firmly to the Union cause, and at the head of about 800 of his warriors, aided by auxiliary troops, he defeated the Confederate party in one engagement; but in a second action he was defeated, and with his followers fled into Kansas. Both rencontres took place in the territory of the Cheroki Indians, in November and December 1861.

The statistic dates of the Creek population given before B. Hawkins time are mere estimates. In 1732 Governor Oglethorpe reported 1300 warriors in eight towns of the Lower Creeks (Schoolcraft V, 263. 278), and in 1791 all the Creek “gun-men” were estimated to number between 5000 and 6000; the same number is given for these in the census of 1832 (Schoolcraft V, 262 sqq.; VI, 333), living in fifty-two towns, the whole population being between 25,000 and 30,000. In the same year the Cha’hta population was conjectured to amount to 18,000 (Schoolcraft VI, 479). The Report of the U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs for 1881 gives a Creek population of 15,000, settled upon 3,215,495 acres of land; one half of these are tillable, but only 80,000 acres were cultivated during that year by these Indians.Citations:

  1. Italisí, var. lect.[]
  2. For Casiste compare K6sisti, a term appearing in Creek war-titles; its signification is unknown.[]
  3. When stopping at Ullibahali, he was in the country of the Alibamu, ifor óla, úla is the term for town in their dialect. Cf. p. 85 (Note).[]
  4. Cf. Barcia, Ensayo, p. 37. The report is almost entirely devoid of local names, which alone could give indications upon the route traveled over.[]
  5. Cf. C. C. Jones, Tomochichi, pp. 113-119.[]
  6. Schoolcraft V, 259[]

Gatschet, Albert S. A Migration Legend of the Creek Indians. Pub. D.G. Brinton, Philadelphia, 1884.

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