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Tukabahchee Tribe

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Tukabahchee was not only considered one of the four “foundation sticks” of the Creek Confederacy, but as the leading town among the Upper Creeks, and many add the leading town of the whole nation. During later historic times it was the most populous of all the upper towns, and is to-day the most populous without any exception. Like the other head towns, it has a special ceremonial title, Spokogi, or Ispokogi. Jackson Lewis thought this meant that Tukabahchee brooded over the other towns like a hen over her chickens. Another old Creek was of the opinion that it meant “to hold something firmly,” since it was this town that held the confederacy together. Gatschet interprets it as “town of survivors,” or “surviving town, remnant of a town.” 1Gatschet. Creek Mig. Leg., I, p. 148. It can not be said, however, that any of the suggested interpretations has great probability in its favor. As some early writers give the second consonant as t instead of k, the initial word in the name may have been tutka, fire. The original Spokogi were supposed to be certain beings who descended from the upper world to the Tukabahchee and brought them their medicine. From the intimacy which long subsisted between the Tukabahchee and Shawnee I am inclined to think that the resemblance between this word and that of one of the Shawnee bands, Kispokotha, or Kispogogi, is more than accidental.

It would certainly be a shock to almost any Creek to be told that this reputed capital of the confederacy, from which, according to some of them, the busk ceremonial was derived, was not originally a true Muskogee town at all. This, however, is the conclusion to which we are brought by a study of the facts concerning its early history. It is the statement of Milfort, who probably derived his information from Alexander McGillivray, and who says:

About the same time [as that in which the Muskogee and Alabama finally made peace with each other] an Indian tribe which was on the point of being destroyed by the Iroquois and the Hurons, came to ask the protection of the Moskoquis, whom I will now call Crĕcks. The latter received them among themselves and assigned them a region in the center of the nation. They built a town, which is now rather large, which is named Tuket-Batchet, from the name of the Indian tribe. The great assemblies of the Crĕck Nation, of which it forms an integral part, are sometimes held within its walls. 2Milfort, Mémoire, pp. 265-266.

Alone this would not amount to proof, Milfort not being the most trustworthy authority, but Adair confirms it in the one important point. He quotes a Tukabahchee Indian of his time named “Old Bracket” to the effect that the people of this town “were a different people from the Creeks. ” 3Adair, Hist. Am. Inds., p. 179. Their origin myth also appears to have varied considerably from that of the Creeks proper. This appears from some confused notes furnished by Gatschet, 4Gatschet, Creek Mig. Leg., I, p. 147. but still more from the following legend preserved in the Tuggle collection, though that differs not so much in general plan as in the line of march, south instead of east.

The Took-a-batchees say that a long time ago their people had a great trouble and moved away. They came to water they could not cross. They built boats and crossed the water and marched south. They decided their course of march by a pole. They stood the pole perpendicularly and let it fall and in whatever direction it fell they marched in that direction. This pole was entrusted to a prophet. They continued marching south until the pole would not fall in any definite direction, but would wabble as it fell. Here they stopped and lived a long time. After a while another great trouble came and they resumed their march until they came to water, which was too wide to cross in boats, so they marched along the coast. They followed their pole going east till they came to Georgia, where they lived when the white people came to America.

A difference is possibly indicated in the claim made by the Tukabahchee that they are “a stray” (town). This is explained, however, on the ground that they could do as they pleased, and this again may have been on account of their superiority. They were also called Itålwa fåtca, “town deviating from strictness,” a title said to have been shared by the Abihka. 5Ibid., p. 148.

The migration legend just quoted is borne out in this particular, that when the Spaniards first heard of the Tukabahchee they appear to have been in Georgia, but it is improbable that they reached that country by marching along the coast. The earliest notice I have of them is in a letter of Antonio Mateos, lieutenant of the Apalachee province, of May 19, 1686, already several times mentioned, in which he says that Indians reported the English to have visited “the province of Ticopache.” 6Serrano y Sanz, Doc. Hist., p. 195. From the description it would appear that Coweta lay between this ”province” and Carolina. In 1695, in retaliation for attacks upon the Apalachee, an expedition consisting of 400 Apalachee Indians and 7 Spaniards visited the towns of Coweta, Kasihta, Oconee, and Tukabahchee (“Tiqui-pache”). In one — the narrative does not say which — they captured 50 persons, but they found the other places burned and abandoned. 7Ibid., p. 225. The Oconee were on the Oconee River at this time and the Coweta and Kasihta on the Ocmulgee, so that it seems probable the Tukabahchee were then in the same general region. They perhaps removed as a result of the attack. Tukabahchee Talla-hassee, noticed above as an Okfuskee town and located on the upper course of Tallapoosa River, 8See p. 247. Cf. “Tukabatchee old Fields,” of plate 8. was probably so named because it occupied a site formerly held by the Tukabahchee, and it is likely that this was after their removal from Georgia.

It is to be noted that in most Tukabahchee traditions the Shawnee play a leading part, and Gatschet says that some Tukabahchee claimed they were Shawnee. This statement may, however, be accounted for by the metaphorical term employed to designate certain Tukabahchee clans. This association and their tradition of a northern origin lead to the suggestion that the Tukabahchee may have been those mysterious Kaskinampo discussed elsewhere who in the seventeenth century are frequently connected with the Shawnee Indians. 9See pp. 213-214.

In the South Carolina records under date of 1712 mention is made of two “Tukabugga” slaves. 10Proc. of Board Dealing with Ind. Trade, p. 59, MS. The Tukabahchee appear among the Upper Creeks, but at an indeterminate place, on the De Crenay map of 1733. 11Plate 5; also Hamilton, Col. Mobile, p. 190. Here the word is spelled “Totipaches,” in the list of 1738 “Tiquipaxche,” in that of 1750 ”Totipache,” and on the census list of 1760 “Totepaches.” 12MSS., Ayer Lib.; Miss. Prov. Arch., I, p. 95. In 1761 James McQueen and T. Ferryman were officially recognized traders at this town, “including Pea Creek and other Plantations, Chactaw Hatchee Euchees, &c.” 13Ga. Col. Docs., VIII, p. 523. In 1797 the traders there were Christopher Heickle, a German, and Obadiah Lowe. 14Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 168. Bartram 15Bartram, Travels, p. 461. and Swan 16Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, V, p. 262. mention it, and Hawkins gives the following description of the town as it existed in 1799:

Took-au-bat-che. The ancient name of this town is Is-po-co-gee; its derivation uncertain; it is situated on the right bank of the Tallapoosa, opposite the junction of Eu-fau-be, two and a half miles below the falls of the river, on a beautiful level. The course of the river from the falls to the town is south; it then turns east three-quarters of a mile, and short round a point opposite Eu-fau-be, thence west and west-by-north to its confluence with Coosau, about thirty miles. It is one hundred 17The Lib. Cong. MS. has “120”. yards wide opposite the town house to the south, and here are two good fords during the summer, 18The town house was opposite the mouth of the Eu-fau-be.— Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 38. one just below the point of a small island, the other one hundred yards still lower.

The water of the falls, after tumbling over a bed of rock for half a mile, is forced into two channels; one thirty, the other fifteen feet wide. The fall is forty feet in fifty yards. The channel on the right side, which is the widest, falls nearly twenty feet in ten feet. The fish are obstructed here in their attempts to ascend the river. From appearances, they might be easily taken in the season of the ascending the rivers, but no attempts have hitherto been made to do so.

The rock is a light gray, very much divided in square blocks of various sizes for building. It requires very little labor to reduce it to form, for plain walls. Large masses of it are so nicely fitted, and so regular, as to imitate the wall of an ancient building, where the stone had passed through the hands of a mason. The quantity of this description at the falls and in the hill sides adjoining them, is great; sufficient for the building of a large city.

The falls above spread out, and the river widens to half a mile within that distance and continues that width for four miles. Within this scope are four islands, which were formerly cultivated, but are now old fields margined with cane. The bed of the river is here rocky, shoally, and covered with moss. It is frequented in summer by cattle, horses, and deer; and in the winter, by swans, geese, and ducks.

On the right bank opposite the falls, the land is broken, stony, and gravelly. The hill sides fronting the river, exhibit this building rock. The timber is post oak, hickory, and pine, all small. From the hills the land spreads off level. The narrow flat margin between the hills and the river is convenient for a canal for mills on an extensive scale, and to supply a large extent of flat land around the town with water. Below the falls a small distance, there is a spring and branch, and within five hundred yards a small creek; thence within half a mile the land becomes level and spreads out on this side two miles, including the flats of Wol-lau-hat-che, a creek ten feet wide which rises seventeen miles from its junction with the river, in the high pine forest, and running south-southeast enters the river three miles below the town house. The whole of this flat, between the creek and the river, bordering on the town, is covered with oak and the small hard shelled hickory. The trees are all small; the land is light, and fine for corn, cotton, or melons. The creek has a little cane on its margins and reed on the small branches; but the range is much exhausted by the stock of the town.

On the left bank of the river, at the falls, the land is broken pine forest. Half a mile below there is a small creek which has its source seven miles from the river, its margins covered with reed or cane. Below the creek the land becomes flat, and continues so to Talesee on the Eu-fau-bee, and half a mile still lower, to the hills between this creek and Ca-le-be-hat-che. The hills extend nearly two miles, are intersected by one small creek and two branches, and terminate on the river in two high bluffs; from whence is an extensive view of the town, the river, the flat lands on the opposite shore and the range of hills to the northwest; near one of the bluffs there is a fine spring, and near it a beautiful elevated situation for a settlement. The hills are bounded to the west by a small branch. Below this, the flat land spreads out for one mile. It is a quarter of a mile from the branch on this flat to the residence of Mr. Cornells (Oche Haujo [Hickory Hadjo]), thence half a mile to the public establishment, thence two miles to the mouth of Ca-le-be-hat-che. This creek has its source thirty miles to the east in waving, post oak, hickory, and pine land; in some places the swamp is wide, the beach and white oak large, with poplar, cypress, red bay, sassafras, Florida magnolia, and white pine. Broken piny woods and reedy branches on its right side, oak flats, red and post oak, willow leaved hickory, long and short leaf pine, and reedy branches on its left side. The creek at its mouth is twenty-five feet wide. The flat between it and the river is fine for corn, cotton, and melons, oak, hickory, and short-leaf pine. From this flat to its source, it is margined with cane, reed, and palmetto. Ten miles up the creek, between it and Kebihatche, the next creek below and parallel with this, are some licks in post and red oak saplin flats; the range on these creeks is apparently fine for cattle; yet from the want of salt or moss, the large ones appear poor in the fall, while other cattle, where moss is to be had, or they are regularly salted, are fat.

They have 116 gun men belonging to this town; they were formerly more numerous, but they have been unfortunate in their wars. In the last they had with the Chickasaws they lost thirty-five gun men; they have begun to settle out in villages for the conveniency of stock raising and having firewood; the stock which frequent the mossy shoals above the town, look well and appear healthy; the Indians begin to be attentive to them, and are increasing them by all the means in their power. Several of them have from fifty to one hundred, and the town furnished seventy good beef cattle in 1799. One chief, Toolk-au-bat-che Haujo [Tukaba’tci Hadjo], has five hundred, and although apparently very indigent, he never sells any; while he seems to deny himself the comforts of life, he gives continued proofs of unbounded hospitality; he seldom kills less than two large beeves a fortnight for his friends and acquaintances.

The town is on the decline. Its appearance proves the inattention of the inhabitants. It is badly fenced; they have but a few plum trees and several clumps of cassine yupon; the land is much exhausted with continued culture, and the wood for fuel is at a great and inconvenient distance, unless boats or land carriages were in use, it could then be easily supplied; the river is navigable for boats drawing two and a half feet in the dry season from just above the town to Alabama. From the point just above the town to the falls, the river spreads over a bed of flat rock in several places, where the depth of water is something less than two feet.

This is the residence of Efau Haujo [Dog Hadjo], one of the great medal chiefs, the speaker for the nation at the national council. He is one of the best informed men of the land, faithful to his national engagements. He has five black slaves and a stock of cattle and horses; but they are of little use to him; the ancient habits instilled in him by French and British agents, that the red chiefs are to live on presents from their white friends, is so rivited, that he claims it as a tribute due to him, and one that never must be dispensed with.

At the public establishment there is a smith’s shop, a dwelling house and kitchen built of logs, and a field well fenced. And it is in the contemplation of the agent to have a public garden and nursery.

The assistant and interpreter, Mr. [Alexander] Cornells (Oche Haujo [Hickory Hadjo] ), one of the chiefs of the Creek Nation, has a farm well fenced and cultivated with the plough. He is a half-breed, of a strong mind, and fulfills the duties enjoined on him by his appointment, with zeal and fidelity. He has nine negroes under good government. Some of his family have good farms, and one of them, Zachariah McGive is a careful, snug farmer, has good fences, a fine young orchard, and a stock of hogs, horses, and cattle. His wife has the neatness and economy of a white woman. This family and Sullivan’s, in the neighborhood, are spinning. 19Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, pp. 27-31.

Hawkins mentions a village belonging to Tukabahchee called Wehuarthly [Wī hīłi] (sweet water) from a little creek of that name near which it stood. 20Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 46

Tecumseh held most of his councils with the Creeks in this town. The name appears in the census of 1832 21Senate Doc. 512, 23d Cong., 1st sess., IV, pp. 243-252 and often in later history. After the removal the Tukabahchee settled in the southeastern corner of their new territory, but later drifted westward, following the game, and at the present time their square ground is just north of Holdenville. This is still the most populous town in the nation and has the largest square.

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Gatschet. Creek Mig. Leg., I, p. 148.
2.Milfort, Mémoire, pp. 265-266.
3.Adair, Hist. Am. Inds., p. 179.
4.Gatschet, Creek Mig. Leg., I, p. 147.
5.Ibid., p. 148.
6.Serrano y Sanz, Doc. Hist., p. 195.
7.Ibid., p. 225.
8.See p. 247. Cf. “Tukabatchee old Fields,” of plate 8.
9.See pp. 213-214.
10.Proc. of Board Dealing with Ind. Trade, p. 59, MS.
11.Plate 5; also Hamilton, Col. Mobile, p. 190.
12.MSS., Ayer Lib.; Miss. Prov. Arch., I, p. 95.
13.Ga. Col. Docs., VIII, p. 523.
14.Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 168.
15.Bartram, Travels, p. 461.
16.Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, V, p. 262.
17.The Lib. Cong. MS. has “120”.
18.The town house was opposite the mouth of the Eu-fau-be.— Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 38.
19.Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., III, pp. 27-31.
20.Ga. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, p. 46
21.Senate Doc. 512, 23d Cong., 1st sess., IV, pp. 243-252

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