We have shown that South Carolina had been established as a colony for some years, that its seat of government was at Charleston, and that its inhabitants, in endeavoring to extend the English trade to all the Western Indian nations as far as the Mississippi river, had many conflicts and difficulties with the French, who occupied the territory of Alabama. They were also constantly opposed by the Spaniards of the Floridas. In order to interpose a barrier to these foes, as well as to protect the citizens from the attacks of the Creek Indians, the King of England and the British Parliament listened to a proposition of a great philanthropist, to plant a colony upon the western bank of the Savannah river. His motives, purely noble and disinterested, originated in a desire to ameliorate the condition of many unfortunate people in England. To carry out his plans of humanity, he was willing that the King should blend with them politic measures for the advancement of this, his most Southern province, and it was determined that “silk, wine and oil should be cultivated most abundantly.”
James Oglethorpe, a descendant of one of the oldest and most influential families of England, was born on the 22d of December 1688, and after graduating at Oxford University, was commissioned an ensign in the British army. In 1713, he accompanied the Earl of Petersburg, then Ambassador to the Italian States, in the capacity of aide-de-camp. Returning to England, a year afterwards, he was promoted to a captaincy in the first troop of Queen Anne’s Guard, and was soon an adjutant- general of the Queen’s forces. He was next transferred to the post of aide-de-camp to Prince Eugene, the first general of the age, and was with him amid all the sanguinary battles fought between the Austrians and the Turks, upon the frontiers of Hungary. When these wars were over, Oglethorpe returned to England, and in 1722 was elected a member of the British Parliament, where he soon became useful and influential.
Oglethorpe caused an investigation to be made into the state of the English prisons, and it was ascertained that they groaned with thousands of poor wretches who had been imprisoned many years for debt. That the kingdoms of England also contained thousands “descended from good families,” who were in destitute circumstances, and that hundreds of German exiles, driven from their native country by religious persecution, were starving among them. He brought this unhappy state of things before the King and Parliament, and, by his zeal and ability, succeeded in procuring a charter for the colonization of Georgia, the inhabitants of which were to consist of these distressed people. He resolved, himself, to embark with the first emigrants. They consisted of thirty families, numbering, collectively, one hundred and twenty-five souls. Entering the sea from the Thames, the vessel, after a long voyage across the Atlantic, furled its sails in the harbor of Charleston. Oglethorpe landed, and was received with attention by the Governor and Council of South Carolina. The King’s pilot carried the ship into Port Royal, while small vessels were furnished to convey the emigrants to the Savannah River. Leaving his people at Beaufort, Oglethorpe ascended the Savannah, and launched his boat at this splendid bluff, which now forms the site of the commercial emporium of Georgia. At the northern end of this bluff, the great philanthropist came upon an Indian town, called Yamacraw, the chief of which was named Tomochichi, and where Musgrove, a Carolina trader, married to a half-breed named Mary, had established himself.1
This Indian, Mary, was born in the year 1700, at the town of Coweta, upon the Chattahoochie, in Alabama. Her Indian name was Consaponaheeso, and by maternal descent she was one of the Queens of the Muscogee nation, and the Indians conceded to her the title of princess. When ten years of age, her father took her to Ponpon, in South Carolina, where she was baptized, educated and instructed in Christianity. Afterwards, she fled back to her forest home, laid aside the civilization of the British, and assumed the ease and freedom of the happy Muscogee. In 1716, Colonel John Musgrove was despatched to the Chattahoochie, by the government of Carolina, to form a treaty of alliance with the Creeks, with whom the colony had been at war. It was there stipulated that the Creeks were remain the free occupants of all the lands east, as far as the Savannah River. The son of the British negotiator, John Musgrove, had accompanied his father to Coweta, and falling in love with the Princess Mary, made her his wife. After remaining in the nation several years, and after the birth of their only child, they removed to South Carolina. There residing seven years in much happiness, they afterwards established themselves upon Yamacraw Bluff, at the head of an extensive trading house, and where Oglethorpe found them, as we have just observed. By his alliance with this remarkable woman. who was well versed in the Indian and English languages, Musgrove obtained considerable influence over the natives, and became exceedingly wealthy. Mary was, afterwards, the warm friend of Oglethorpe, and several times saved the early colonists of Georgia from savage butchery.
Oglethorpe returned to Beaufort, and, collecting his colonists, sailed up the Savannah, and landing at the bluff, where now stands the beautiful city, immediately disembarked and pitched four large tents. Here the emigrants spent their first night in Georgia. The Indians received them with hospitality, and gave pledges of future friendship. Oglethorpe marked out the streets and squares; all was bustle and activity, and it was not long before Savannah assumed something of the appearance of a town. A small fort was established at the edge of the bluff, as a place of refuge, and some artillery was mounted upon it. Fort Argyle was built at the narrow passage of the Ogeechee, above the mouth of Canouchee, to defend the inhabitants against inland invasion from the Spaniards of St. Augustine.
Soon after his arrival, Oglethorpe despatched runners to the Lower Creek nation, and having assembled eighteen Chiefs and their attendants, at Savannah and the Altamaha. It was also stipulated, among other things, that English traders should be allowed to establish themselves in any part of the Creek nation. Their goods were to be sold at fixed rates — thus, a white blanket was set down at five buckskins, a gun at ten, a hatchet at three doeskins, a knife at one, and so on. Returning to Charleston, after this important treaty, a dinner was given to the philanthropist by the legislative bodies, which he returned by a ball and supper to the ladies.
A company of forty Jews, acting under the broad principles of the charter, which gave freedom to all religions, save that of the Romish Church, landed at Savannah. Much dissatisfaction, both in England and America, arose in consequence of the appearance of these Israelites, and Oglethorpe was solicited to send them immediately from the colony. He, however, generously permitted them to remain, which was one of the wisest acts of his life, for they and their descendants were highly instrumental in developing the commercial resources of this wild land. There also came, in the months of September and October, three hundred and forty-one Salzburgers, driven from Germany for their religious opinions, and Oglethorpe settled them above Savannah, on the river of that name, where they formed a town and named it Ebenezer. These people were succeeded by many Highlanders, from Scotland, who, being brave and hardy, were located upon the banks of the Altamaha, the most exposed part of the colony, where they founded the town of Darien.
In the meantime Oglethorpe had made a voyage to England, taking with him Tomochichi, the Chief of Yamacraw, Senanky, his wife, Tooanhouie, their nephew, Hillipili, the War Captain, and five Chiefs of the Cherokees. He was most graciously received by the ruling powers of England and her citizens; and his noble and disinterested exertions were universally approved. In due time he returned to Georgia, with his Indian friends.
The lands, between Ebenzer and Briar Creek, belonged to the Uchees, who refused to dispose of them. But to secure this part of the country, two forts were built on the South Carolina side of the river, which answered the purpose. Establishments were also made at Silver Bluff, and at the falls of the Savannah, where the town of Augusta was laid out, warehouses erected, and a garrison thrown into a small fort. Augusta immediately became a general resort for Indian traders, where they purchased annually about two thousand packhorse loads of peltry. Six hundred white persons were engaged in this trade, including townsmen, packhorse men and servants. Boats, each capable of carrying the river a large quantity of peltry, were built, and four or five voyages were annually made with them to Charleston. A trading highway was opened to Savannah, on which few of the creeks were bridged, or marshes and swamps causewayed.
He who became the wealthiest and most conspicuous of all these traders, was George Galphin, a native of Ireland. When quite a young man, he established himself upon the site of De Soto’s ancient Cutifachiqui, where that remarkable adventurer first discovered the Savannah River, in 1540. Upon the site of this old Indian town, on the east bluff of the Savannah, in Barnwell District, South Carolina, now called Silver Bluff, and at present the property of Gov. Hammond, young Galphin first began to trade with the Creek Indians. Although he made Silver Bluff his headquarters, he had trading houses in Savannah and Augusta. He was a man of fine address, great sense, commanding person, untiring energy and unsurpassed bravery. His power was felt and his influence extended even to the banks of the Mississippi. Among the Upper and Lower Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws and Choctaws, he sent forth numerous packhorse men, with various merchandise, who brought back to Georgia almost countless skins and furs, kegs of bears’ oil, hickory nut oil, snake root and medicinal barks, which he shipped to England. He often went himself into these nations, fearlessly trading in the immediate vicinity of the French Fort Touslouse, upon the Coosa. Commercial policy and an amorous disposition led him to form connections with several females, who were called his wives, and from whom descended many intelligent and influential persons, now inhabiting Georgia, Alabama and the Arkansas Territory.
Among the passengers who came out with Oglethorpe, upon his return to America, were the celebrated Methodists, John and Charles Wesley, who ate at the table of the philanthropist, and who received from him much kindness and courtesy, during a stormy and dangerous voyage. Their object was to make religious impressions upon the minds of the Indians. Among the colonists, with whom they resided many years, they became not only unpopular, but very obnoxious. They finally returned to England much mortified and much disappointed. Stevens speaks of these talented and pious men: “The proceedings of the Wesleys in Georgia have, indeed, been violently assailed; and even writers, who can offer no excuse for their ignorance, accuse them of immorality and blame. But it was not so. They were men delicately brought up, of fine sensibilities, of cultivated minds, of deep learning and of ardent devotion.
Accomplished, though reserved in their manners — associating from childhood with refined and learned society — they could not conform at once to the tastes and habits of communities like those at Savannah and Frederica, but were rather repelled by the gross immoralities and offensive manners of the early colonists. Their error was, especially in John, of holding too high ideas of ecclesiastical authority, and the being too rigid and repulsive in their pastoral duties. They stood firmly on little things, as well as on great, and held the reins of church discipline with a tightness unsuitable to an infant colony. But no other blame can attach to them.”2
The colony of Georgia had prospered under the wise guidance of Oglethorpe. Five principal towns had been surveyed and settled — Augusta, Ebenezer, Savannah, New Inverness and Frederica — besides forts and villages. More than one thousand persons had been sent to Georgia, on the account of the trustees alone, while hundreds of other emigrants came at their own expense. The colonists being from different nations, were various in their characters and religious creeds. Vaudois, Swiss, Piedmontese, Germans, Moravians, Jews from Portugal, Highlanders, English and Italians were thrown together in this fine climate, new world and new home. With all these people, in their various costumes, were often intermingled different tribes of Indians. What a field for a painter the colony presented! What materials for a scribbling tourist!
Having thus colonized the northern, southern and eastern borders, Oglethorpe returned to England, and presented to his majesty and the Parliament an account of the affairs of Georgia. He asked, at their hands, a sufficient supply of military stores and men to defend the province from an invasion contemplated by the Spaniards of the Floridas. The colonization of Georgia had given great offense to Spain. That power claimed the whole of Georgia, but made no serious opposition so long as the English settlements were confined to Savannah River, but when Oglethorpe planted his Highlanders upon the Altamaha, the Spaniards resolved upon their expulsion. A long succession of border wars and difficulties ensued, which, having but little connection with the history of Alabama, are omitted. It should be observed, however, that Oglethorpe succeed in his applications to the Court, and was appointed General of the forces in South Carolina and Georgia. In September he was made Colonel of a regiment to be employed in defense of the colony, which he had successfully established. He returned to Georgia, with his army, and disembarked his artillery at St. Simond’s Island.
No sooner had Gen. Oglethorpe placed his feet upon Georgia soil than he saw the necessity of renewing his treaty with the Creeks, and of cultivating their alliances, for fear that they might form a dangerous connection with the Spaniards. He went immediately to Savannah, where he had an interview with the Chiefs of four towns, and succeeded in strengthening their fidelity to the English. But in order to accomplish a complete alliance with the brave Creeks he resolved to attend the great council of that nation, which was to assemble at Coweta in July and August following. It was a long and perilous journey. Coweta lay upon the west bank of the Chattahoochie River, three miles below the falls, at which the city of Columbus is now situated, and within the limits of the present Russell county, Alabama. The distance from Savannah to that point was not only considerable, but lay over extensive pine forests, dismal swamps and rapid and dangerous rivers, while the solitary trail was not infrequently beset by English banditti. However, when the time arrived he, who had so courageously fought under Prince Eugene upon the frontiers of Hungary, was not to be dismayed by obstacles like these. With only a few attendants, and some packhorses laden with goods, designed as presents for the Indians, Oglethorpe set off on his journey. He crossed the Ogeechee, Oconee, Ockmulgee and the Flint, carrying over his effects in canoes, and sometimes upon the rafts. Finally he halted upon the banks of the Chattahoochie. He had camped out every night in the woods, exposed by day to the heat of the sun, and often to pelting showers of rain. Crossing the Chattahoochie, and ascending its western bank, the great and good Oglethorpe soon arrived in the town of Coweta, upon Alabama soil. Forty miles in advance the Indians had met him, and at various points upon the route had deposited provisions for his subsistence. They now received him in their capital with every demonstration of joy.
Making Coweta his headquarters, Oglethorpe occasionally rode to some of the towns in the vicinity, the most prominent of which were Uchee, Cusseta and Ositche, conversing with these people through his interpreters, and engaging their affections by his liberality and irresistible address. He drank with them the black drink — smoked with them the pipe of peace – and lounged with them upon the cool cane sofas with which their ample public houses were furnished. In the meantime the Chiefs and warriors from the towns of Coweta, Cusseta, Ufaula, Hitchitee, Ositche, Chehaw, Oconee and Swagles, assembled in the great square. After many ceremonious preliminaries, they made a treaty of Alliance with Oglethorpe. It was declared that all the lands between the Savannah and the St. John’s, and from the latter to the Apalache bay, and thence to the mountains, by ancient right, did belong to the Creek nation. That neither the Spaniards nor any other people, excepting the trustees of the colony of Georgia, should settle them. That the grant on the Savannah river, as far as the river Ogeechee, and those along the seacoast, as far as the St. John’s river, and as high as the tide flowed, with the islands previously granted to the English at Savannah, should now be confirmed. The Chiefs again reserved all the lands from Pipe Maker ‘s Bluff to the Savannah, with the Islands of St. Catherine, Osabow and Sapelo.
After signing the treaty, Oglethorpe left with the Chiefs, for their protection against English encroachments, the following singular paper:
By James Oglethorpe, Esquire, General and Commander-in-Chief of all His Majesty’s forces in South Carolina and Georgia, etc.: To all His Majesty’s subjects to whom these presents shall come, greeting-
Know Ye, That you are not to take up or settle any land beyond the above limit, settled by me with the Creek nation, at their estates held on Saturday, the eleventh day of August, Anno Domini, 1739, as you shall, through me, at your peril, answer.
Given under my hand and seal, at the Coweta town, this, the 21st day of August, Anno Domini, 1739.
We desire it to be borne in mind, by the reader, that none of the Upper Creek Indians, who lived upon the Alabama, Coosa, and Tallapoosa Rivers, were present at this treaty. They never recognized any of the treaties made at the Lower Creek nation with the Georgians. At this time, they were under the influence of the French; afterwards, they placed themselves under the wing of the Spaniards. Although the English built a fort and occupied it for many years, with a garrison, in the town of Ocfuske, on the east side of the Tallapoosa river, within forty miles of the French fortress, Toulouse, and partially succeeded in alienating some of the Upper Creeks from the French, yet the great body of these people forever remained the implacable enemies of the Georgians.
Oglethorpe departed from Coweta, and after a disagreeable journey, reached Savannah. Sept. 22 1739: He there assisted in the funeral ceremonies of his friend, Tomochichi, who died at Yamacraw Bluff. Oct. 5 1739: The body, brought down the river in a canoe, was received by Oglethorpe, and was interred in Percival Square, amid the sound of minute guns from the battery.3
Stevens’ History of Georgia, vol. 1, pp. 58-76-89. Georgia Historical Collections, vol 1, pp. 9-11-12-167-174. McCall’s History of Georgia, vol. 1, pp. 9-32. ↩
Stevens’ History of Georgia, vol. 1, pp. 339-349. ↩
Stevens’ History of Georgia, vol, 1 pp. 89-158. McCall’s History of Georgia, vol. 1 pp. 32-142. Georgia Historical Collections, vol. 1, pp. 18-22-262-182. ↩