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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 5, No. 4
December, 1927
LEGEND OF THE TIE-SNAKES

BY REV. J. J. METHVIN

Page 391

It was a location wild and romantic, situated on the North Canadian River, in the northern part of what was then the Seminole Nation. Camp had been pitched in a beautiful grove of wide spreading elms and giant oaks on an elevation overlooking the river, while down the incline to the river was a dense, tangled undergrowth impenetrable save only where the wild beasts or the range cattle had tramped out a path to the river’s brink.

To the south and west, was the far reaching prairie overwhelming in its vastness, and gazing across the hazy distance, one was enchanted with the mystic beauty of the wonderful landscape, as swayed by gentle breeze, the wild sage and prairie grass waved to and fro in mimicry of ocean waves.

It was the occasion of the summer gathering of the Creek Indians in their annual camp-meeting, 1885, and they were coming in from every direction. Some could be seen far across the prairie, mere specks in the distance. Others emerged from the skirt of forest from the east, while many others were already upon the ground.

It was a mixed multitude that gathered here, men, women, children, all dressed in the fantastic colors of the Indian paraphernalia, while running free and privileged were a multitude of "sofky" dogs stealing a double living among the pots.

The evening came on and settled down into denser night. The yellow light from the various campfires flashed upon the dusky faces close around, while back in the spectral shadows sat a solitary Indian here and there in apparent meditation.

The hum of human voices, the yelping of the dogs answering to the howling of a pack of wolves across the river, the multitudinous sound of the coyote close on the outskirts of the camp, presented a scene wild and weird, and quickened the heart-throbs almost to the point of painfulness.

It was an earnest crowd that gathered here, and at the hour for worship, the signal being given, all with prompt response assembled under the brush arbor built in the center

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of the encampment. There were three white missionaries present, with a number of native preachers and interpreters to conduct the series of services to be held.

There was also with his accomplished wife, an old exfederal army officer, Major Cramer, who had in former days been overcome by the drink habit, and who had sought refuge from the temptations of the saloon by hiding himself out among the Indians with whom, for a livelihood, he carried on a barter trade. He and his accomplished wife gave ready aid to the meeting and enjoyed the services greatly.

From the first there was great interest manifested, which grew in intensity from day to day, till one morning at the preaching hour, the Indians who had been holding prayer services out on the prairie not far away, came marching into the arbor, the men from one direction, the women from another, singing praise songs as they marched, and meeting at the entrance of the arbor, their voices blended in one common refrain and a mighty volume of praise ascended to heaven. Such was the manifestation that a sermon was impossible but ere the meeting closed a number professed faith in Christ and asked for church membership. This was a Methodist meeting but two of the candidates for church membership asked for baptism by immerson. In response to the request, a place was selected down in the river for the ceremony and the time set for the next afternoon.

At the time appointed, all gathered at the river, but to the waiting wonder of the congregation, no candidates appeared. While waiting in suspense, Major Cramer spoke and said, "This is a tie-snake hole, and those Indians will not be here." The crowd dispersed and returned to camp, where Major Crarner gave the story of the Tie-Snakes, as follows

It was many years ago, about 1812, when the encroachments of the whites had grown more and more oppressive to the Indians, and revenge rankled in their hearts, and they determined to get rid of the hateful "pale face." At this time the Creeks lived in Georgia. Tecumseh, who was a Shawnee Chief, a half-breed Creek, his mother being a Creek, undertook to organize all the Indians from the Gulf to the Great Lakes into one united effort to exterminate the ever increasing and oppressive whites. He came to the Creeks

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and found all willing and ready to enter such an alliance except one band, the Tuc-ca-ba-ces. This was his mother’s band of Creeks and he came to them very confident that he would find them ready to join the alliance, and when they persistently refused he was greatly angered. He threatened them with dire punishment if they persisted in their refusal. He told them that when he got back home he would stamp his foot upon the ground and it would be heard from one end of the line to the other, for it would jar the whole earth and by this they would know that his anger was great against them, and if they did not at once arm themselves and join the alliance they would suffer great punishment.

The Indians counted the days it would take Tecumseh to reach his home back in Ohio on Mad River, and by a strange coincidence, when the time predicted for arrival came, the whole country was shaken by a great earthquake. Trees fell, houses were shaken down, the waters boiled and seethed. and New Madrid was completely swallowed up. The Indians who had hesitated became alarmed and convinced of Tecumseh’s mission, rushed to arms. But the Tuc-ca-ba-ces still refused. It was then that an effort was made to coerce them, but the Tuc-ca-b-a-ces, declaring that they would not enter the war, gathered in their square grounds, a kind of fort, and prepared to defend themselves. Here for days they were besieged.

Thousands of missiles sent by their foes fell in their midst, but no one was hurt, and the Tuc-ca-ba-ces felt assured that the Great Spirit was befriending them. The arrows of the besiegers were silver tipped and lay three inches deep, but still no one was hurt.

On the morning of the third day, the chief of the Tucca-ba-ces called his only son and heir, a lad of fourteen, and gave him a message to the chief who lived some distance up the river, stating his situation and asking his aid.

As a token of friendship, the chief sent one of the tribal vessels, a small round pot.

The boy called two other boys of this own age and together they started off up the river. After seven or eight miles they grew tired and forgetting the urgency of their mission and the need of haste, they stopped to look around and just as boys often do, began some sport. They began to

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riccochet stones upon the water in the river, when finally the chief’s son concluded to try the skipping properties of the sacred vessel. A rash act apparently, but the Tuc-ca-baces ever contended that it was the Great Spirit that caused the boy to do it. The boy threw the vessel and it skipped along till it reached the center of the river when it suddenly sank out of sight. The boy was dismayed, for he knew it would be useless to go without the vessel and to return to his father he dared not. There was but one way open. The vessel he must have at any cost. So stationing the other boys to guide him to the spot where the vessel sank, he swam after it. When just over the vessel he saw it lying on the bottom of the river. He dived for it, hoping to reach it and bring it up again. But on reaching the bottom, he was seized and securely bound, hands and feet, by the snakes, that had gathered around the pot. They carried him along on the bottom of the river till they came to a sandbar and lifting him safely over that they went on till they finally came to an island composed entirely of snakes, though the boy did not notice this at the time.

He was taken to the center of the island where he was released and placed upright before a throne upon which sat the king of the "Tie-Snakes." The king invited him to a seat, upon the throne beside him but as he attempted to reach the seat the throne raised up. This was repeated three times before he was able to step upon the platform of the throne. As soon as he had stepped in front of the king he was directed to a tomahawk sticking in a column at one side of the throne. This he was told to take, as it was his. But three times the column receded before he was able to secure the weapon. In another column was a large eagle feather which the king told him to take also, but the column receded before he was able to gain the prize. On still another was a wampum belt which he must obtain also by the threefold effort.

After all this the king said to the boy, "I am aware of your father’s trouble and know of the hostile bands that are trying to drive him into war. Your father is my friend and is acting in the right and I, the king of the Tie-Snakes, will help him. Go back to your father and tell him that, when he can hold out no longer against his foes to come to the river

Page 395

where the tribal vessel sank and just at sunrise, facing the east, prostrate himself three times to the earth, and when he has done so and he stands erect again his eyes will behold standing before him the king of the Tie-Snakes, who will be there to deliver him and his people. The king finished speaking and as the boy was dismissed, the snakes, that had brought him there, approached and again tied themselves about his body and bore him away. As this was taking place, he discovered for the first time that the platform, throne, columns, pillars, and islands were all composed of Tie-Snakes. He was taken up and carried back out of the lagoon over the sandbar to the very spot in the river where the sacred vessel had sunk. Here he was released, the snakes unwinding themselves from his body. He was given back the tribal vessel, and rising to the surface, he swam to the landing.

In the meantime the two boys on the river bank, convinced that the chief’s son was drowned, in great trepidation, returned to tell him of the sad tragedy.

This startling news broke the old chief’s heart for all his, hopes were centered in this son and he would not be comforted. But just at sunrise on the third morning the lad suddenly returned. Consternation for awhile seized upon the camp, for they thought it was the boy’s spirit in tangible form come back from the dead. But their fears were turn into rejoicing when he related all that had happened to him and the message that the Tie-Snake king had sent to his father. The foe had failed to make any (successful attack upon the Tuc-ca-ba-ces until the night before his return when renewed assaults fierce and strong were made, and so urgent was the conflict that it seemed the foe would certainly overcome them.

This was renewed with greater force for three successive nights, but still the Tuc-ca-ba-ces kept back their foes. It seemed that they could hold out but a little longer, for the hostile Indians were receiving reinforcements each day, until great multitudes surrounded the camp. On the third morning after the return of the boy, the chief of the Tuc-ca-baces went as was directed to the appointed place on the river to meet the king of the Tie-Snakes. As the message directed, facing the east just at sunrise, he prostrated himself three

Page 396

times to the earth. As he arose the third time and stood erect, the Tie-Snake King arose from the water and stood before him. He told the chief to go back to his camp, continue his vigilance, but rest assured that deliverance would come that night.

Every Tuc-ca-ba-ce was in dire dread and expectancy for the approaching night, for they anticipated a still fiercer attack from their relentless foes. But to their surprise and wonder no attack was made and the hours of the night passed away in silence. In the early morning the whole camp was thrilled by the news brought in by some scouts that all warriors in the besieging army were lying dead out there on the field. But when the chief, with a band of warriors, ventured out he found that instead of being dead, they were all securely bound hands and feet by the Tie-Snakes.

This is the history of the Tie-Snakes and from that day, in the various creeks and rivers, there are holes or pools supposed to be the Tie-Snake holes and nothing could induce a Tuc-ca-ba-ces to venture into one of them. Unwittingly one of these had been selected for the baptismal rite that day but the ceremony never took place.

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