- Access Genealogy - http://www.accessgenealogy.com -

Muskogee Indians

Muskogee. Meaning unknown, but perhaps originally from Shawnee and having reference to swampy ground. To this tribe the name Creeks was ordinarily applied. Also called:

Muskogee Connections. The Muskogee language constitutes one division of the Muskhogean tongues proper, that which I call Northern.

Muskogee Location. From the earliest times of which we have any record these people seem to have had towns all the way from the Atlantic coast of Georgia and the neighborhood of Savannah River to central Alabama. (See also Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.)

Muskogee Villages

It is difficult to separate major divisions of the Muskogee from towns and towns from villages, but there were certainly several distinct Muskogee tribes at a very early period. The following subdivisional classification is perhaps as good as any:

Abihka (in St. Clair, Calhoun, and Talladega Counties):

Atasi:

Location

  1. on the upper Ocmulgee River
  2. on the Chattahoochee
  3. on the Tallapoosa in Tallapoosa County
  4. on the south side of the Tallapoosa in Macon County
  5. on the north side near Calebee Creek in Elmore County.

Coosa:

Coweta (early location on the upper Ocmulgee, later on the west bank of Chattahoochee River in Russell County, Ala. opposite Columbus, Ga.)

Eufaula:

Hilibi (at the junction of Hillabee and Bear Creeks, Tallapoosa County)

Holiwahali (on the north bank of Tallapoosa Ruver in Elmore County)

Kasihta (best-known location on the east bank of Chattahoochee River, at the junction of Upatoie Creek in Chattahoochee County, Ga.):

Okchai:

Pakana:

Tukabahchee (in the sharp angle made where Tallapoosa River turns west in Elmore County):

Wakokai (on the middle course of Hatchet Creek in Coosa County):

Besides the Muskogee tribes noted above, there were the following:

In addition to the above there were a number of towns and villages which cannot be classified, or only with extreme doubt. They are as follows:

Muskogee History. Muskogee tradition points to the northwest for the origin of the nation. In the spring of 1540, De Soto passed through some settlements and a “province” called Chisi, Ichisi, and Achese, in southern Georgia, which may have been occupied by Muskogee because they are known to Hitchiti-speaking people as Ochesce. Somewhat later he entered Cofitachequi, probably either the later Kasihta, or Coweta, and the same summer he entered Coosa and passed through the country of the Upper Creeks. Companions of De Luna visited Coosa again in 1559 and assisted it in its wars with a neighboring tribe to the West, the Napochi. Cofitachequi was visited later by Juan Pardo and other Spanish explorers and some of Pardo’s companions penetrated as far as Coosa. It is probable that part if not all of the province of Guale on the Georgia coast was at that time occupied by Muskogee, and relations between the Guale Indians and the Spaniards continued intimate from 1565 onward. Soon afterward the Spaniards also encountered the Creeks of Chattahoochee River. At what time the confederacy of which the Muskogee were the most important part was established is unknown but the nucleus probably existed in De Soto’s time. At any rate it was in a flourishing condition in 1670 when South Carolina was colonized and probably continued to grow more rapidly than before owing to the accession of Creek tribes displaced by the Whites or other tribes whom the Whites had displaced. Before 1715 a large body were living on Ocmulgee River but following on the Yamasee outbreak of that year they withdrew to the Chattahoochee from which they had moved previously to be near the English trading posts. Occupying, as they did a central position between the English, Spanish, and French colonies, the favor of the Creeks was a matter of concern to these nations, and they played a more important part than any other American Indians in the colonial history of the Gulf region. For a considerable period they were allied with the English, and they were largely instrumental in destroying the former Indian inhabitants of Florida and breaking up the missions which had been established there. Finding the territory thus vacated very agreeable and one abounding particularly game, they presently began to settle in it permanently, after it was ceded to Great Britain in 1763. The first of the true Muskogee to emigrate to Florida, except for a small band of Coweta, were some Eufaula Indians, and the Muskogee do not seem to have constituted the dominant element until after the Creek-American war 1813-14. In the last decades of the eighteenth century, the internal organization of the Confederacy was almost revolutionized by Alexander McGillivray, the son of a Scotch trader, who set up a virtual dictatorship and raised the Confederacy to a high position of influence by his skill in playing off one European nation against another. After his death friction developed between the factions favorable to and those opposed to the Whites. Inspired by the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, a large part of the Upper Creeks broke out into open hostilities in 1813, but nearly all of the Lower Creeks and some of the most prominent Upper Creek towns refused to join with them and a large force from the Lower Creeks under William MacIntosh and Timpoochee Barnard, the Yuchi chief, actively aided the American army. The war was ended by Andrew Jackson’s victory at Horseshoe Bend on the Tallapoosa River, March 27, 1814. One immediate result of this war was to double or triple the number of Seminole in Florida, owing to the multitude of Creeks who wished to escape from their old country. From this time on friction between the pro-White and anti-White Creek factions increased. When the inducing Indians to emigrate, the friction increased still more and culminated in 1825 when the Georgia commissioners had induced William MacIntosh, leader of the pro-American faction, and some other chiefs to affix their signatures to a treaty ceding all that was then left of the Creek lands. For this act formal sentence of death was passed upon MacIntosh, and he was shot by a band of Indians sent to his house for that purpose May 1, 1825. However, the leaders of the Confederacy finally agreed to the removal, which took place between 1836 and 1840, the Lower Creeks settling in the upper part of their new lands and the Upper Creeks in the lower part. The former factional troubles kept the relations between these two sections strained for some years, but they were finally adjusted and in course of time an elective government with a chief, second chief, and a representative assembly of two houses was established, which continued until the nation was incorporated into the State of Oklahoma.

Muskogee Population. Except where an attempt is made to give the population by towns, it is usually impossible to separate the Muskogee from other peoples of the Confederacy. Correct estimates of all Creeks are also rendered difficult because they were taking in smaller tribes from time to time and giving off colonists to Florida and Louisiana. In 1702 Iberville placed the whole number of Creek and Alabama families at 2,000. In 1708 South Carolina officials estimated about 2,000 warriors. In 1715 something approaching a census was taken of the tribes in their vicinity by the government of South Carolina and a total of 1,869 men and a population of 6,522 was returned for the Creeks, exclusive of the Alabama, Yuchi, Shawnee, Apalachicola, and Yamasee. A town by town enumeration made by the Spaniards in 1738 shows 1,660 warriors; a French estimate of 1750, 905; another of 1760, 2,620; a North Carolina estimate of 1760, 2,000 warriors; an English estimate of 1761, 1,385; one of about 3,000 the same year; an American estimate of 1792, 2,850; and finally the census taken in 1832-33 just before the emigration of the Creeks to their new lands across the Mississippi, showed a total of 17,939 in the true Muskogee towns. Besides these more careful statements, we have a number of general estimates of warriors in the eighteenth century ranging from 1,250 up to between 5,000 and 6,000. This last was by Alexander McGillivray and is nearest that shown by the census of 1832-33. It would seem either that the earlier estimates were uniformly too low or that the Confederacy increased rapidly during the latter part of the eighteenth century and the first part of the nineteenth. After the removal estimates returned by the Indian Office and from other sources ranged between 20,000 and 25,000. When a new census was taken in 1857, however, less than 15,000 were returned, and there was a slow falling off until 1919 when there were about 12,000. It must be noted that the census of 1910 returned only 6,945, a figure which can be reconciled with that of the United States Indian Office only on the supposition that it is supposed to cover only Indians of full or nearly full blood. The report of the United States Indian Office for 1923 gives 11,952 Creeks by blood. Regarding the later population it must be remembered that it has become more and more diluted. The United States Census of 1930 gave 9,083 but included the Alabama and Koasati Indians of Texas and Louisiana and individuals scattered through more than 13 other States outside of Oklahoma, where 8,760 lived. These “general estimates” include the incorporated tribes.

Connection in which they have become noted. In the form Muskhogean, the name of this tribe was adopted by Powell (1891) for that group of languages to which the speech of the Muskogee belongs. In the form Muscogee it has been given to a county in western Georgia, and to a railroad junction in it, and to a post-village in Escambia County, Fla. In the form Muskogee it is the name of the capital of Muskogee County, Okla., the third largest city in that state. The political organization of which they constituted the nucleus and the dominant element represents the most successful attempt north of Mexico at the formation of a super state except that made by the Iroquois, and the part they played in the early history of our Gulf region was greater than that of any other, not even excepting the Cherokee. They were one of the principal mound-building tribes to survive into modern times and were unsurpassed in the elaborate character of their ceremonials (except possibly by the Natchez), while their prowess in war was proven by the great contest which they waged with the United States Government in 1813-14, and the still more remarkable struggle which their Seminole relatives and descendants maintained in Florida in 1835-1842. Their great war speaker, Hopohithli-yahola, was probably surpassed in native greatness by no chief in this area except the Choctaw Pushmataha. (See Foreman, 1930.)