Native American History of Paulding County, Georgia

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Paulding County is located in west central Georgia and is part of the Atlanta Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA.) It was named after Revolutionary militiaman John Paulding (1758-1818) who led a party of three young farmers in the capture of Major John Andre. Andre was carrying secret papers to traitor, Gen. Benedict Arnold. Paulding refused a bribe from Andre and turned him into George Washington’s headquarters; thus saving Fortress West Point. The county seat of Paulding County is Dallas.

Paulding County is bounded on the north by Bartow County. On the east, it adjoins Cobb County. On the southeast it is bordered by Douglas County and on the southwest by Haralson County, GA. Polk County is located on the western side of Paulding.

Geology and hydrology

Paulding County is located at the juxtaposition of three geological zones, the Piedmont, the Great Appalachian Valley and the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Province.

There are alluvial riverine bottomlands along several tributaries of the Etowah River. Seasonal or permanent wetlands parallel some of its streams. These are relatively narrow bands of soggy terrain that provide ecological diversity for animal and plant life. The top soils are thin over most hills and steep slopes, while much deeper near streams. Streams in the Great Appalachian Valley are prone to flooding, but also have substantially larger riverine bottomlands than the other two geological provinces.

The Piedmont is characterized by underlying rock strata of igneous and metamorphicized igneous rock. Georgia’s famous gold vein passes under the eastern side of the county in the Piedmont. The terrain consists of rolling hills and stream valleys. Short-sighted cultivation techniques in the 19th and early 20th century caused much of the best top soil to be eroded; thus exposing red clay sub-soil. Sandy loam can still be found near streams.

The Great Appalachian Valley is characterized by rolling land that is lower in elevation than either the Piedmont or the Ridge and Valley Province. The Great Valley was created by the erosion of sedimentary rocks that were softer than those rock strata in the other two regions. Rapid erosion stopped when the strata containing dolomite limestone and sandstone were reached. Leaching of rainwater caused many caves to form in the limestone strata. Occasionally, sinkholes will form in the region when a cave collapses. Much of the soil in this region is extremely fertile, especially in alluvial bottomlands where the calcite-bearing soils have mixed with sediment from the Piedmont.

The Ridge and Valley Province was created by the rapid erosion of soft shale soils, thus exposing much harder sandstone and metamorphic rocks. The ridges were caused by folds in the earth that pushed up sandstone and mudstone. Its terrain in Paulding County can be extremely rugged, even though most elevations are below that of the Piedmont. In some areas of the county, such as around the Pickett Mill Civil War battlefield, deep ravines formed. The soils in the bottoms of the valleys in this region can be fertile, but top soil is extremely thin on the slopes of most hills and mountains.

Most of Paulding County is drained by several tributaries of the Etowah River. A few streams on the eastern edge of the county drain into the Chattahoochee River. The headwaters of the Tallapoosa River are in the extreme southwestern corner of the county.

Paulding County contains numerous creeks. These include Pumpkinvine, Little Pumpkinvine, Raccoon, Goldmine, Possum, Thompson, Powder, Crider and McClendon Creeks. Pumpkinvine is a large creek that flows into the Etowah River at Etowah Mounds National Landmark.

Paulding’s streams are prone to flooding. After 18 inches of rain fell in one night during September of 2009, flood waters spread far beyond the official flood

Native American occupation

A common misconception among many Paulding County residents is that the Cherokee Indians always lived in their region. For example, the county government’s official web site states, “Although the Removal Act was passed in 1830, most Cherokee Indian tribes that had inhabited much of Georgia did not leave Paulding County until 1838 on the Trail of Tears.” The Daughters of the American Revolution’s History of Paulding County, GA states, “Creek and Cherokee Indian tribes inhabited this area long before the white man came here; possibly centuries before. The Tribes contested to see which would have control of the area, and the Cherokees won.

Until the 1790s, present day Paulding County was actually associated with the Etalwa, Apalachicola and Talwa-Posa (Tallapoosa) branches of the Creek Indians. Talwa-Posa means “Town Grandmother.” It was the first branch of the Muskogee-speaking Creeks to arrive in what is now Georgia. A glance at a topographic map quickly reveals that most of Paulding County was drained by streams that flowed northward into the Etowah River – the riverine expressway of a province ruled by the great town at Etowah Mounds.

Many local and Georgia history references refer to a Battle of Taliwa in 1755, in which the Cherokees “won all of Northern Georgia.” There is no mention of this mythological battle until attorneys representing the Cherokee Nation in a Supreme Court case, used the battle as justification of the Cherokee’s presence in Georgia. Colonial archives and maps tell an opposite story in which during the 1750s, the Cherokees lost what little land they had in Georgia plus an substantial territory in North Carolina and Tennessee to victorious Creek armies – thus ending the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War. Paulding County was actually in the heart of traditional Creek territory until 1794, when the northern half of the future county was given to the Cherokees by the United States government in a treaty.

Native American Cultural Periods

Earliest Inhabitants

Archaeologists believe that humans have lived in Paulding County for at least 12,000 years, perhaps much longer. Clovis and Folsom points, associated with Late Ice age big game hunters have been found in the upper Coosa and Chattahoochee River Valley. During the Ice Age, herds of giant mammals roamed the river bottom lands. The mastodons, saber tooth tigers, giant sloths and other massive mammals died out about 8,000 years ago. The ethnic identity of the Clovis Culture hunters is not known. They were long presumed to be American Indians, but recent research by anthropologists have revealed many similarities with the big game hunters of Western Europe. An ice cap on the North Atlantic Ocean may have permitted early humans to move back and forth between continents by paddling, while gaining sustenance from hunting sea mammals and fishing.

Archaic Period (8,000 BC – 1000 BC)

After the climate warmed, animals and plants typical of today soon predominated in this region. Humans adapted to the changes and gradually became more sophisticated. They adopted seasonal migratory patterns that maximized access to food resources. Archaic hunters probably moved to locations along major rivers during the winter, where they could eat fish and fresh water mussels, if game was not plentiful. During the remainder of the year, smaller streams would have been desirable camp sites.

Paulding County was an ideal location for bands of hunters and gatherers. The county’s network of creeks and wetlands provided a diverse ecological environment for game animals and edible plants. Native Americans learned to set massive brush fires in the late autumn which cleared the landscape of shrubs and created natural pastures for deer, bison and elk. The landscape that European settlers encountered in the region was not natural. It had been altered for thousands of years by Native Americans to create optimum environments for the natural production of food sources.

During the late Archaic Period, several trade routes developed in this region that interconnected the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes. Native Americans began traveling long distances to trade and socialize.

Woodland Period (1000 BC – 900 AD)

The Etowah, Chattahoochee and Flint River Valleys were locations of some of the earliest permanent villages in North America. A sedentary lifestyle was made possible by abundant natural food sources such as game, freshwater mussels and chestnuts and the cultivation of gardens. Agriculture came very early here. Initially, the cultivated plants were of indigenous origin and included a native squash, native sweet potato, sunflowers, Jerusalem artichoke, amaranth, sumpweed, and chenopodium.

The early villages were relatively small and dispersed. There was probably much socialization among these villages because of the need to find spouses that were not closely related. Houses were round and built out of saplings, river cane and thatch.

The Woodland Period peoples of the region built numerous mounds. Apparently, most mounds were primarily for burials, but may have also supported simple structures that were used for rituals or meetings. They were constructed accretionally. This means that the mounds grew in size over the generations by piling soil and detritus from the village over recent burials.

Archaeological evidence in the Etowah, Chattahoochee and Flint River Valleys suggests that the first Muskogean farmers entered northeast Georgia around 400 BC, after migrating from west-central Mexico. However, the region was probably was already occupied by ancestors of the Yuchi and Southern Siouans with languages similar to the Catawba. There may have been other ethnic groups whose identities have been concealed by time. Agricultural technology, cultural traditions and DNA probably blended between these peoples. Modern “Creek” Indians may represent a genetic mix of several indigenous ethnic groups.

Muskogean town dwellers (900 AD – 1784 AD)

Muskogeans carried with them advanced cultural traditions from Mexico and the Lower Mississippi Valley. The early Muskogeans eventually formed provinces that were governed by large towns. Prior to arrival of Europeans, there were no Indian “tribes.” The large towns were usually located in the bottomlands on major rivers such as the Chattahoochee. Smaller villages located near creeks. Native Americans continued to live in what is now Paulding County, but their populations were concentrated at towns on major rivers

Throughout the Southeast, many provinces began to share common artistic symbols and agricultural lifestyles. Societies became more organized politically with elite families, non-agricultural specialists and local leaders. This era is known as the Southern Ceremonial Cult Period, Mississippian Period or Hierarchal Period. The “Mississippian” label came from a conference at Harvard University in 1947 which adopted the inaccurate belief that all advanced Native American culture originated north of the Mason-Dixon Line along the Mississippi River. Villages located in Paulding County would have been affected by the cultural influence of the great town of Etalwa (Etowah) which was located about a day’s walk to the north on the Etowah River.

European exploration period (1540 AD – 1717 AD)

There is evidence that European diseases began affecting coastal populations as early as 1500 AD Native American traders carried the microbes northward from Cuba and then into the lowlands near the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Coast. Shortly after the Hernando de Soto Expedition passed through Georgia in 1540, waves of European diseases began to decimate the Native American population. De Soto probably passed through or near Rome, GA in August of 1540. The indigenous people of Paulding County would have been exposed to deadly pathogens at least by the summer of 1540. Anthropologists currently believe that the indigenous population of Georgia dropped about 95% between 1500 and 1700 AD.

From the 1690s until the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, France claimed all of what is now Paulding County. French maps of the period indicate that French Colonial Marines and traders traveled up the Tallapoosa and Etowah Rivers to trade and establish friendly relations. Locations of villages are shown on several maps.

Dispersed farmsteads: 1780 AD – 1821 AD

After the American Revolution, Creek and Cherokee families dispersed across the vast territory still controlled by the Creek Confederacy or the Cherokee Nation. They lived in log cabins on farmsteads that differed little in appearance from Anglo-American farmsteads. Local histories that recall Indian village names from the 1800s are actually records of rural communities, where the farmsteads were closer together, not palisaded towns as in the pre-European days.

In 1793, the Creek Nation was shocked to learn that the Federal government had given away some of its most sacred territory, the Etowah River Valley down to the middle of what is now Paulding County, to the Cherokees. The Principal Chief of the Muscogee Creek Nation is still called Etalwamikko . . . King of Etowah. The remainder of northwest Georgia was taken from the Upper Creeks as punishment for assisting the British in the Revolution. Of course, the Chickamauga Cherokees had massacred over a thousand settlers between 1776 and 1793, but Tennesseans were mad at the Upper Creeks for almost capturing Nashville. It was explained to the Creeks that the land theft was a “clerical mistake,” but they were promised that their other Sacred Lands, the Ocmulgee Bottoms, would be theirs forever.

In 1794 the Chickamauga Cherokee War formally ended. Peace came to the frontier. Cherokee families poured into the fertile river bottom lands of northwest Georgia from North Carolina and Tennessee. Creek families tended to disperse across the 30+ million acres that the Creek Confederacy still controlled.

Redstick War: 1813-1814

Many Georgia Creeks prospered when improved road transportation and explosive expansion of the state’s population brought plantations and towns in proximity to Creek farms. Creek farmers were vastly more skilled at growing food crops than either the Cherokees or European immigrants. While white Georgians and some Cherokee leaders chased the dream of becoming wealthy cotton planters, shrewd Georgia Creeks shifted from subsistence farming to the production of agricultural surpluses, which were sold for cash outside the Creek Nation. Meanwhile, many Creeks in northern and southwestern Alabama attempted to cling to the old way of life, which included extensive hunting and fishing. It was an impossible dream, because over-hunting in the 1700s had swept the forests clear of all the bison and elk and most of the deer.

The branches of the Creek Confederacy in Georgia were already different than those in much of Alabama to start with. They spoke different languages and dialects, plus had been in direct contact with the British colonists since the 1670s. The Georgia Creeks had a long history of peaceful relations with all their European and African neighbors. They were also increasingly becoming Protestant Christians.

Perhaps over a thousand Shawnee moved down into what is now Alabama in the mid-and late 1700s. The Shawnees were animists and did not come from a long history of town living and large scale agriculture. The Creeks in Alabama had formerly been allies of the French, as had been the Shawnees before 1763. A few of the Creeks and Shawnees had become Roman Catholics, but most now practiced a religion that blended Shawnee animism, with Creek monotheistic traditions.

At the beginning of the War of 1812, British agents and Northern Shawnee leaders such as Tecumseh exacerbated the difference between the Creeks in Georgia and those in northern Alabama. Tecumseh’s mother was an Alabama Creek. A civil war broke out when many Alabama Creeks became allies of the British in defiance of the Creek National Council. The rebels called themselves Redsticks and they attacked loyalist Creek farmsteads. Eventually, whites were also killed.

The United States declared war on the Redsticks after whites were killed at Fort Mims massacre. Already a regular army Creek regiment had been raised from Creeks in northeast and southeast Georgia, plus South Carolina to fight British Rangers from Florida, who were attacking coastal plantations. Many more West Georgia Creeks volunteered for military duty to fight the Redsticks. A Creek mikko, William McIntosh, was appointed a Brigadier General in the United States Army. Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw men who joined his regiment were promised that they could stay in their present homeland forever, if they fought the Redsticks. This turned out to be a lie.

Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee Volunteers would have probably been annihilated without their army being doubled with Friendly Creeks and Cherokees. On several occasions Creek or Yuchi officers saved Jackson’s life. In gratitude he hired four agronomists to determine what portions of the Creek Nation were best suited for growing cotton. They drew a map. After the Redsticks were defeated, Jackson called his Georgia Creek allies together and informed him that they must give up over 20 million acres of potential cotton land, as punishment “for allowing the Redsticks to rebel.” Jackson also quietly sent word back to Georgia that encouraged home guard and vigilante groups to burn the farms of Jackson’s own Creek allies.

The chaos and violence of Redstick War created an environment in which hooligans were able to destroy Friendly Creek properties in Georgia, assault their women or even murder whole families with impunity. Surviving Creek families were forced to flee the northeastern part of their nation with few of their possessions. Their actions almost destroyed over a century of interracial harmony.

Creek Indian Removal Period: 1817-1827

Many Creek veterans from West Georgia came home from fighting for the United States to see their buildings in ashes and their livestock stolen. Some came home to bury their families. In 1818 a corridor that ran from Habersham County in the mountains to present day Albany in southwest Georgia, was ceded to the United States. In 1821 much more landed was ceded by the Creeks immediately east of the Chattahoochee River.

Southeastern planters, however, were greedy for more land. Politicians focused their energies and money on a few Creek leaders in West Georgia headed by William McIntosh . . . who happened to also be the first cousin of Governor Troup. In 1825, Troup, McIntosh and some white real estate speculators set up a partnership. Troup and McIntosh arranged a treaty conference at McIntosh’s new Indian Springs Hotel. The elected leadership of the Creek Nation was not invited. McIntosh, his sons, his son-in-laws and some of his Creek buddies were paid large sums of money to sign a treaty with Georgia that sold all Creek lands in the state for a cheap price. The signers reserved square mile reserves for themselves that were then sold to the real estate investment partnership. Theydid not reserve the Ocmulgee Bottoms, which had been promised to the Creeks for eternity.

As soon as they heard about the scam, the Creek National Council members ordered all signers of the Indian Springs Treaty executed. McIntosh was first on the list. He was killed on the grounds of the McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County, GA and is buried there. His son, Chilly, was one of the few that got away from the execution squads.

Chilly McIntosh gathered up all West Georgia Creeks who wanted to get away from both the Georgia hooligans and the Alabama Redsticks then headed toward Indian Territory along with their slaves. Estimates vary from 700 to 3000 as the number who left with the McIntosh Party. Being the first Creeks in the future state of Oklahoma, they were able to pick out the prime locations for growing cotton. Most became wealthy cotton planters.

The Federal Government ruled that the 1825 Treaty of Indians Springs was fraudulent. By this time, West Georgia had been overrun by squatters, so the Creek National Council had no hope of retaining any of their territory. A new treaty with more favorable terms was negotiated that included the Creek’s permanent ownership of the six square mile, Ocmulgee Reserve. However, by this time it had been gobbled up by politically powerful real estate speculators. Technically, the Muscogee-Creek Nation still owns all of Macon, GA, southwest of the Ocmulgee River. This tract included the Macon Coliseum, Ocmulgee National Monument, the regional airport, and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

During 1834-36 approximately 20,000 Creeks migrated from Alabama to the Indian Territory. However, at least 20,000 remained in the east in Georgia, Florida and Alabama. Due to continued harassment in the Southeast, a trickle of Creeks continued to migrate to Oklahoma for the next 35 years.

Cherokee Indian Removal Period: 1832-1838

Throughout the 1820s, Cherokee leaders and their attorneys fought the State of Georgia in courts in hope of thwarting efforts to evict the Cherokees from the state. The Cherokee’s position was that treaties between the United States and the Cherokee Nation could not be affected by laws passed unilaterally by Congress or the Georgia General Assembly. The State of Georgia’s position was that the Cherokees were a northern tribe, not indigenous to the state. Therefore, they could not be considered to be sovereign over any territory. Also, an agreement between the Federal government and Georgia in 1798 had promised Georgia that all Native Americans would be removed from the state after it ceded the territory that was to become Alabama and Mississippi. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the Cherokees.

Both the Executive Branch of the Federal government and the State of Georgia refused to obey the Supreme Court’s ruling. In 1832 Georgia dispatched surveyors to divide up what is now Paulding County into 40 acre “gold lots.” Gold miners and homesteaders began occupying lots they had won in the Cherokee land lottery, even as many Cherokees struggled to remain on their farmsteads.

In 1836, a faction of Cherokee leaders, led by Major Ridge, signed the Treaty of New Echota, without authorization of the elected Cherokee government. Congress approved the fraudulent treaty anyway. It ceded all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi and made provisions for the Cherokees to be relocated to the Indian Territory – now the State of Oklahoma.

In 1838, Georgia and the Federal government began forced removal of any Cherokee families who had neither applied for state citizenship nor moved to the Indian Territory on their own. Crude stockades were constructed to temporarily contain captured Cherokee families until they could be quickly relocated outside of the state. One of those stockades was at the Cherokee village of Cedartown. Cedartown was then Paulding County, but is now in Polk County, GA. The following is correspondence from a militia officer in Paulding County.

Milledgeville Dece. 15th 1837

To His Excellency George R. Gilmore

Sir in answer to your letter under date of the 22nd ult., I take this oppertunity of saying in relation to theIndians in Paulding County that there are any Considerable settlement of Indians. This Town is the nearest Cherokee vilage to the Creek country and besides have intermarried with the Creek Indians and consequently have many of the renegade Creek Indians lurking about this Town. In addition to this the whole of the Cedar Town Indians belong to the Ross party and oppose emmigration. From this state of things my belief is that a small force should be stationed at Cedar Town as a rallying point say 25 or 30 men. What makes this more important is, that the distance from Cedar Town to New Echota where the principle force is stationed is considerable and in case of any difficulty the necessary assistance would be too distant. If a few of the regular troops were stationed in Cedar Town they would answer every purpose.

With Sentements of esteem your Excellency obt. servt.

W. H. Adair

By October of 1838, all Cherokees had been removed from Paulding County. It is not clear what happened to the Creeks living in the Cherokee portion of the county. Their names were not on any “pick up lists” used by federal soldiers or state militia. Many Cherokee and Creek women, who were married to white men, stayed in the region, because they were not required to relocate.




MLA Source Citation:

Thornton, Richard. People of One Fire. Web. Georgia. 2010-2013. Digital Rights Copyright 2010-2013 by AccessGenealogy.com. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 13 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/native-american-history-of-paulding-county-georgia.htm - Last updated on Jul 1st, 2012


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