Creek Indian Chiefs and Leaders

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Mary Bosomworth

A noted Creek Indian woman, also known as Mary Mathews and Mary Musgrove, who created much trouble for the Georgia colonial government about 1752, nearly rousing the Creek confederacy to war against the English. She seems to have been of high standing among her own people, being closely related to leading chiefs both of the Upper and Lower Creeks, possessed of unusual intelligence and knowledge of English, for which reason, and to secure her good will, Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony, made her his interpreter and negotiator with the Indians at a salary of $500 per year. About 1749 she married her third white husband, the Rev. Thomas Bosomworth, who, by reason of his Indian marriage, was given a commission from the colony of South Carolina as agent among the Creeks, and within a few months had nearly precipitated civil war among the Indians and rebellion among the licensed traders. Being deeply in debt, he instigated his wife to assume the title of “Empress of the Creek Nation,” and to make personal claim, first to the islands of Ossabaw, St Catharine, and Sapelo, on the Georgia coast, and afterward to a large territory on the mainland. Notifying Gov. Oglethorpe that she was coining to claim her own, she raised a large body of armed Creeks and marched against Savannah. The town was put in position for defense and a troop of cavalry met the Indians outside and obliged them to lay down their arms before entering. The procession was headed by Bosomworth in full canonical robes, with his “queen” by his side, followed by the chiefs in order of rank, with their warriors. They were received with a military salute and a council followed, lasting several days, during which the Indians managed to regain possession of their arms, and a massacre seemed imminent, which was averted by the seizure of Mary and her husband, who were held in prison until they made suitable apologies and promises of good behavior, the troops and citizens remaining under arms until the danger was over, when the Indians were dismissed with presents. Nothing is recorded of her later career.

Consult Further:

  1. Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of Am. Biog.; various histories of Georgia;
  2. Bosomworth’s MS. Jour., 1752, in archives B. A. E.

Chekilli

Chekilli (from achikilläs, making a short step backward. Gatschet). The principal chief of the Creek confederacy at the period of the settlement of the Georgia colony in 1733, having succeeded the “Emperor Bream” on the death of the latter. He appears to have been one of the Creeks who visited England with Tomochichi in that year. In 1735, as “Emperor of the Upper and Lower Creeks,” he headed a delegation in a council with the English at Savannah, on which occasion he recited the national legend of the Creeks, as recorded in pictographs upon a buffalo skin, which was delivered to the commissioners and afterward hung up in the London office of the colony. It is now lost, but the translation has been preserved, and has been made the subject of a brief paper by Brinton and an extended notice by Gatschet. In 1752 Chekilli was residing at Coweta, and although still regarded as principal ruler of the confederacy had delegated his active authority to Malatche, the war chief, a younger man. The name appears also as Chiggilli and Tchikilli.

Consult Further:

  1. Bosomworth, MS. Jour., 1752, copy in B. A. E. ;
  2. Brinton, Nat. Leg. Chahta-Muskokee Tribes, in Hist. Mag., Feb., 1870;
  3. Gatschet, Creek Migr. Leg., i, n, 1884, 1888.

John Davis

A full-blood Creek, born in the “Old Nation.” In the War of 1812, when a boy, he was taken prisoner, and was reared by a white man. He emigrated from Alabama in 1829, and was educated at the Union Mission after reaching Indian Territory. He had good talents, and in early manhood became a valuable helper to the missionaries as interpreter and speaker in public meetings. He was an active worker in 1830, and died about 10 years later. Two daughters survive him, who were educated in the Presbyterian boarding school, one of whom, Susan, wife of John McIntosh, rendered important service to Mrs. A. E. W. Robertson in her Creek translations. Davis was joint author with J. Lykens in translating the Gospel of John into Creek, published at the Shawanoe Baptist Mission, Indian Territory, in 1835, and was also a collaborator with K. M. Loughridge, D. Winslett, and W. S. Robertson in the translation into Creek of two volumes of hymns.

Consult Further:

  1. Pilling, Bibliog. Muskhogean Lang., Bull. B. A. E., 1889.

Emistesigo

Known also as Gurister-sigo. An Upper Creek chief and noted warrior who came prominently into notice in the latter part of the 18th century. The British being in possession of Savannah, Georgia, in June, 1782, Gen. Wayne was dispatched to watch their movements. On May 21, Col. Brown, of the British force, marched out of Savannah to meet, according to appointment, a band of Indians under Emistesigo, but was intercepted and cut to pieces by Wayne. Mean while Emistesigo succeeded in traversing the entire state of Georgia without discovery, except by two boys, who were captured and killed. Wayne, who was not anticipating an attack, was completely surprised by the Indians, who captured 2 of his cannon, but succeeded in extricating his troops from their danger, and, after severe fighting, in putting the Creeks to flight. Emistesigo was pierced by bayonets, and 17 of his warriors fell by his side. He was at this time only 30 years of age, and is described as being 6 ft 3 in. in height and weighing 220 pounds.

Fife

An Upper Creek chief, called James or Jim Fife, who flourished in the early years of the 19th century, and whose importance arose chiefly from the aid he rendered Gen. Jackson in the latter’s fight with the Creeks, January 22, 1814, on Tallapoosa River near the mouth of Emuckfau cr., Ala. In this battle, Fife, who had joined Jackson with 200 warriors at Talladega, not only saved Coffee s division from de feat when hard pressed by fearful odds, but turned the tide of battle in favor of Jackson s army. “But for the promptness of Fife and his warriors,” says Drake[1], “doubtless the Americans must have retreated.” He signed the treaty of Indian Springs, Ga., Feb. 12, 1825, only as representing Talladega, and is not included among “the chiefs and headmen of the Creek nation” who signed the supplementary treaty.

Great Mortar (Yayatustenuggee)

Creek chief; an ally of the French in the Seven Years war. When the English superintendent of Indian affairs called a council of the Creeks with the object of winning them over, he refused the pipe of peace to Great Mortar because the chief had favored the French, and the latter withdrew with his followers, confirmed in his hostility to the British. He received a commission from the French, and after killing or driving out the English traders and settlers took up a position on the border, where he could raid the Georgia settlements, obtaining his arms and supplies from the French fort on Alabama River. Many Creeks and Cherokee joined him there until the Chickasaw surprised the camp and put his warriors to flight. He settled at another place whence he could resume his depredations and continued to ravage the scattered settlements, including Augusta, Georgia. In 1761 Col. James Grant, at the head of 2,600 Americans and friendly Indians, brought all the hostiles to terms, and a peace was made which fixed the watershed of the Allegheny Mountains as the boundary between the British colonies and the lands of the natives.

Consult Further:

  1. Drake, Aborig. Races, 384, 1880.

Chilly

Creek chief.  after his brother William was slain by Menewa for having betrayed the Creeks by “selling the graves of their ancestors,” he became the head of the minority party that acquiesced in the proposed emigration to Indian Territory. As such he frequently visited Washington to treat with officials regarding the transfer of lands and acquitted himself as a capable man of business.

William MacIntosh

McIntosh
McIntosh
Creek Chief

MacIntosh, William, A mixed-blood Creek, son of a Scotch trader and all Indian woman. The United States, in consideration of the relinquishment by Georgia of the Mississippi territories, engaged in 1802 to extinguish the Indian titles to lands within the borders of the state as early as could be peaceably done on reasonable terms. A cession was procured in 1805 by which millions of acres of Creek lands were transferred to Georgia. The people of the state constantly clamored for the fulfillment by the Government of its compact, and the Creeks, alarmed at the prospective wholesale alienation of their ancient domain, on the motion of MacIntosh made a law in general council in 1811 forbidding the sale of any of the remaining land under penalty of death. Macintosh, who by his talents and address had risen to be chief of the Lower Creeks, led the Creek allies of the Americans in the war of 1812 with the rank of major and took the chief part in the massacre of 200 of the hostile Creeks, who were surprised at Atasi on Nov. 29, 1813. He was prominent also in the final battle with the hostiles, March 27, 1814, when, at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama, nearly a thousand warriors were exterminated. A large part of the territory of the conquered tribe was confiscated and opened to white settlement. In 1818 more lands were acquired by treaty, and in 1821 the fifth treaty was negotiated by Georgian citizens acting on behalf of the United States, with MacIntosh, who was in the pay of the whites, and a dozen other chiefs controlled by him, while 36 chiefs present refused to sign and made clear to the commissioners the irregularity of a cession arranged with a party representing only a tenth of the nation, which to be legal must have the consent of the entire nation assembled in council. After an attempt made by Macintosh to convey more land in 1823 the law punishing with death any Creek who offered to cede more land was reenacted in 1824, when 15,000,000 acres had already been transferred and 10,000,000 acres remained in possession of the Creeks, who had so advanced in education and agriculture that they valued their lands far more highly than before. In the beginning of 1825 Georgian Commissioners, working upon the avarice of Macintosh, induced him and his followers to set their names to a treaty ceding what retrained of the Creek domain. Although Secretary John C. Calhoun had declared that he would not recognize a treaty in which the chiefs of the Creek nation did not acquiesce, President Monroe laid it before the Senate, and after the accession of President Adams it was approved. The Creeks did not rise in rebellion, as was expected, but, in accordance with the tribal law already mentioned, formal sentence of death was passed on Macintosh, and was executed on May 1, 1825, by a party of warriors sent for that purpose, who surrounded his house and shot him and a companion as they tried to escape. Macintosh was a signer of the treaties of Washington, Nov. 4, 1805; Ft Jackson, Ala., Aug. 9, 1814; Creek Agency, Ga., Jan. 22, 1818; Indian Springs, Ga., Jan. 8, 1821, and Feb. 12, 1825.

Alexander McGillivray

A mixed blood Creek chief who acquired considerable note during the latter half of the 18th century by his ability and the affection in which he was held by his mother’s people. Capt. Marchand, in command of the French Ft Toulouse, Alabama, in 1722, married a Creek woman of the strong Hutali or Wind clan, from which it was customary to select the chief. One of the children of this marriage was Sehoy, celebrated for her beauty. In 1735 Lachlan McGillivray, a Scotch youth of wealthy family, landed in Carolina, made his way to the Creek country, married Sehoy, and established his residence at Little Talasi, on the east bank of Coosa river, above Wetumpka, Elmore county, Alabama. After acquiring a fortune and rearing a family he abandoned the latter, and in 1782 returned to his native country. One of his children was Alexander, born about 1739; he was educated at Charleston under care of Farquhar McGillivray, a relative. At the age of 17 he was placed in a counting house in Savannah but after a short time returned to his home, where his superior talents began to manifest themselves, and he was soon at the head of the Creek tribe.

Later his authority extended also over the Seminole and the Chickamauga groups, enabling him, it is said, to muster 10,000 warriors. McGillivray is first heard of in his new role as “presiding at a grand national council at the town of Coweta, upon the Chattahoochie, where the adventurous Leclerc Milfort was introduced to him”[2]. Through the advances made by the British authorities, the influence of Col. Tait, who was stationed on the Coosa, and the conferring on him of the title and pay of colonel, McGillivray heartily and actively espoused the British cause during the Revolution. His father had left him property on the Savannah and in other parts of Georgia, which, in retaliation for his abandonment of the cause of the colonists, was confiscated by the Georgia authorities. This action greatly embittered him against the Americans and led to a long war against the western settlers, his attacks being directed for a time against the people of east Tennessee and Cumberland valley, whence he was successively beaten back by Gen. James Robertson. The treaty of peace in 1783 left McGillivray without cause or party. Proposals from the Spanish authorities of Florida through his business partner, Win. Panton, another Scotch adventurer and trader, induced him to visit Pensacola in 1784, where, as their “emperor,” he entered into an agreement with Spain in the name of the Creeks and the Seminoles. The United States made repeated overtures to McGillivray for peace, but he persistently refused to listen to them until invited to New York in 1790 for a personal conference with Washington. His journey from Little Talasi, through Guilford Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Philadelphia, was like a triumphal march, and the prospective occasion for such display was a strong inducement for the shrewd chief to accept the invitation. According to Pickett[3] there was, in addition to the public treaty, a secret treaty between McGillivray and Washington which provided “that after two years from date the commerce of the Creek nation should be carried on through the ports of the United States, and, in the meantime, through the present channels; that the chiefs of the Okfuskees, Tookabatchas, Tallases, Cowetas, Cussetas and the Seminole nation should be paid annually by the United States $100 each, and be furnished with handsome medals; that Alexander McGillivray should be constituted agent of the United States with the rank of brigadier-general and the pay of $1,200 per annuls; that the United States should feed, clothe, and educate Creek youth at the North, not exceeding four at one time.” The public treaty was signed Aug. 7, 1790, and a week later McGillivray took the oath of allegiance to the United States. Nevertheless he was not diverted from his intrigue with Spain, for shortly after taking the oath he was appointed by that power superintendent-general of the Creek nation with a salary of $2,000 a year, which was increased in 1792 to $3,500.

The versatile character of McGillivray was perhaps due in part to the fact that there flowed in his veins the blood of four different nationalities. It has been said that he possessed “the polished urbanity of the Frenchman, the duplicity of the Spaniard, the cool sagacity of the Scotchman, and the subtlety and inveterate hate of the Indian.” Gen. James Robertson, who knew him well and despised the Spaniards, designated the latter “devils” and pronounced McGillivray as the biggest devil among them “half Spaniard, half Frenchman, half Scotchman, and altogether Creek scoundrel.” That Alexander McGillivray was a man of remarkable ability is evident from the consummate skill with which he maintained his control and influence over the Creeks, and from his success in keeping both the United States and Spain paying for his influence at the same time. In 1792 he was at once the superintendent-general of the Creek nation on behalf of Spain, the agent of the United States, the mercantile partner of Panton, and “emperor” of the Creek and Seminole nations. As opulence was estimated in his day and territory, he was a wealthy man, having received $100,000 for the property confiscated by the Georgia authorities, while the annual importations by hire and Panton were estimated in value at .£40,000[4]. Besides two or three plantations, he owned, at the tine of his death, 60 Negroes, 300 head of cattle, and a large stock of horses. In personal appearance McGillivray is described as having been six feet in height, sparely built, and remarkably erect; his forehead was bold and lofty; his fingers long and tapering, and he wielded a pen with the greatest rapidity; his face was handsome and indicative of thought and sagacity; unless interested in conversation he was inclined to be taciturn, but was polite and respectful. While a British colonel he dressed in the uniform of his rank; when in the Spanish service he wore the military garb of that country; and after Washington appointed him brigadier-general he sometimes donned a uniform of the American army, but never when Spaniard were present. His usual costume was a mixture of Indian and American garments. McGillivray always traveled with two servants, one a half-blood, the other a Negro. Although ambitious, fond of display and power, crafty, unscrupulous in accomplishing his purpose, and treacherous in affairs of state, the charge that he was bloodthirsty and fiendish in disposition is not sustained. He had at least two wives, one of whom was a daughter of Joseph Curnell. Another wife, the mother of his son Alexander and two daughters, died shortly before or soon after her husband’s death, Feb. 17, 1793, at Pensacola, Fla. He was buried with Masonic honors in the garden of William Panton, his partner.

Opothleyaholo

Opothleyaholo (properly Hupuehelth Yahólo: from hupuewa ‘child,’ he’hle ‘good’, yohólo, ‘whooper,’ ‘halloer,’ an initiation title. G. W. Grayson). A Creek orator. He was speaker of the councils of the Upper Creek towns, and as their representative met the Government commissioners in Feb., 1825, at Indian Springs, Ga., where they came to transact in due form the cession of Creek lands already arranged with venal Lower Creek chiefs. Opothleyaholo informed them that these chiefs had no authority to cede lands, which could be done only by the consent of the whole nation in council, and Macintosh he warned ominously of the doom he would invite by signing the treaty. Opothleyaholo headed the Creek deputation that went to Washington to protest against the validity of the treaty. Bowing to the inevitable, he put his name to the new treaty of cession, signed at Washington Jan. 24, 1826, but afterward stood out for the technical right of the Creeks to retain a strip that was not included in the description because it was not then known to lie within the limits of Georgia. After the death of the old chiefs he became the leader of the nation, though not head-chief in name. When in 1836 some of the Creek towns made preparation to join the insurgent Seminole, he marched out at the head of his Tukabatchi warriors, captured some of the young men of a neighboring village who had donned war paint to start the revolt, and delivered them to the United States military to expiate the crimes they had committed on travelers and settlers. After holding a council of warriors he led 1,500 of them against the rebellious towns, receiving a commission as colonel, and when the regular troops with their Indian auxiliaries appeared at Hatchechubbee the hostiles surrendered. The United States authorities then took advantage of the assemblage of the Creek warriors to enforce the emigration of the tribe. Opothleyaholo was reluctant to take his people to Arkansas to live with the Lower Creeks after the bitter contentions that had taken place. He bargained for a tract in Texas on which they could settle, but the Mexican government was unwilling to admit them. After the removal to Arkansas the old feud was forgotten, and Opothleyaholo became an important counselor and guide of the reunited tribe. When Gen. Albert Pike, at the beginning of the Civil war, visited the Creeks in a great council near the present town of  Eufaula and urged them to treat with the Confederacy, Opothleyaholo exercised all his influence against the treaty, and when the council decided after several lays of debate and deliberation, to enter into the treaty, he withdrew with his following from the council. Later he withdrew from the Creek Nation with about a third of the Creeks and espoused he cause of the Union. Fighting his way as he went, he retreated into Kansas, and later died near the town of Leroy, Coffey County.

William Weatherford

William Weatherford (known also as Lamochattee, or Red Eagle). A halfblood Creek chief, born about 1780; noted for the part he played in the Creek war of 1812-14, in which Gen. Jackson was leader of the American forces. There is some uncertainty as to his parentage. Claiborne[5] says his “father was an itinerant peddler, sordid, treacherous, and revengeful; his mother a full-blooded savage of the tribe of the Seminoles.” Another authority says that a trader, Scotch or English, named Charles Weatherford (believed to have been the father of William), married a half-sister of Alexander McGillivray, who was the daughter of an Indian chief of pure blood. In person he was tall, straight, and well proportioned, and nature had bestowed upon him genius, eloquence, and courage, but his moral character was far from commendable. He led the 1,000 Creeks at the massacre of Ft Mimms, August 30, 1813. Gen. Jackson having entered the field, the Creeks were driven from point to point until Weatherford resolved to make a desperate effort to retrieve his waning fortunes by gathering all the force he could command at the Great Horseshoe bend of the Tallapoosa. The signal defeat his forces suffered at this point ended the war, and Weatherford, to save further bloodshed, or perhaps shrewdly judging the result, voluntarily delivered himself to Jackson and was released on his promise to use his influence to maintain peace. He died Mar. 9, 1824, leaving many children, who intermarried with the whites. It is said that after the war his character changed, and he became dignified, industrious and sober.

Consult further:

  1. Red Eagle, by G. C. Eggleston, 1878

Yoholomicco

Yoholomicco (yahblo, ‘hallooer,’ an initiation title; miko, ‘chief’). A Creek chief , born on Coosa River, Georgia, about 1790; died in Arkansas about 1838. He was headman of Eufaula town, a warrior of prowess, and one of the most persuasive orators in the Creek nation. Of the party of MacIntosh, he fought under Gen. Jackson against the rebel Creeks in 1813-14, and subsequently signed the various treaties ceding Creek lands and agreeing to emigrate beyond the Mississippi. He died of the hardships of the journey when the removal took place, having previously lost his chieftaincy and seat in the council on account of his complaisance to the whites.

Footnotes

   (↵ returns to text)

  1. Ind. Chiefs, 104, 1832
  2. Pickett, Hist. Ala., 345, 1896
  3. Pickett, Hist. Ala., 406, 1896.
  4. Am. St. Papers, Ind. Aff., 1, 458, 1832
  5. quoted by Drake, Inds. N. Am. 388, 1860



MLA Source Citation:

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 23 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/creek-indian-chiefs-and-leaders.htm - Last updated on Oct 17th, 2013


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