Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 14, No. 4
December, 1936

By Gerald Forbes

Page 478


In an agricultural civilization, the Creek Confederacy occupied a vast area of southeastern North America which the Spanish gold-seekers invaded early in the sixteenth century. The Confederacy formed the strongest native element in the southeastern part of the continent. It was divided as Upper and Lower Creeks and the villages were centered about Chattahooche, Flint, Alabama, and Mobile rivers, that emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. There were some affiliated tribes on the headwaters of the Atlantic streams flowing through the present states of Alabama, Georgia, and northern Florida. The powerful influence of the Confederacy was felt from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, from the Gulf of Mexico to the highlands of the Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws.1

For nearly a century the armor-clad Spaniard and the attendant missions were bitterly, if sporadically, fought by the Creek Tribes. The colonizing English trader invaded more slowly but firmly from Virginia, and the Carolinas—he desired commerce and territory. Salvation of savage souls was a minor care of the English. Save as their numerical weakness forced it, the English disregarded the possessory right of the Creeks to the lands of their ancestors.

In the final quarter of the seventeenth century the Creeks, Spanish, and English were involved in an active international contest for the lands of the native Confederacy—a struggle which continued almost a century. The Spanish established missions on the Chattahooche among the Lower Creeks by mili-

Page 479

tary force. English traders reached the region and an Anglo-Creek alliance against they Spanish resulted. The Virginia Assembly ordered the erection of forts at the heads of the rivers.2 LaSalle reached the mouth of the Mississippi, originating the French, and fourth, claim to the territory of the Creek Confederacy. The Yamassee revolted from Spanish domination and moved to the sphere of English influence.3 A migration of natives from the Atlantic coast gave the English an hegemony north of the Florida peninsula.4 The Spanish succeeded in ejecting the adventurous English trader, Dr. Henry Woodward, from the Chattahooche region a maneuver which strengthened the Anglo-Creek bond. Superior English goods defeated Spanish arms. To complicate the difficulties, the governors of Carolina and Florida, became involved in a boundary dispute, each claiming the realm of the Lower Creeks.5

Spanish and English alike had looked apprehensively into the setting sun since LaSalle had followed the Mississippi to, its mouth. The Spanish answer was the establishment of a fort on Pensacola Bay. The Spanish discovered that the Mobile tribe had gone inland to trade—the English response to the French exploit.6

Despite Governor Archdale's efforts to discourge the traffic, Carolina became the center of the Indian slave trade, a great deal of which is traceable to the campaign of the Spanish for control of the Lower Creeks. Now urged by English dealers the Lower Creeks captured many Florida Indians.7 The individual traders trudged to the villages of the Alabamas and

Page 480

Chickasaws, where many established depots.8 Subsequently the trading center of Carolina, followed them west from Charlestown to the confluence of the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers.9

Carolina now had a white population of 1,100 families and four times as many negroes. A militia of 1,500 was organized and the germ of imperialism began to develop.10 The plans of France to colonize the Gulf of Mexico stirred Carolina, many of whose residents had suffered in the Anglo-Spanish-Creek contest and had no desire to occupy a frontier which four contestants claimed.11 Daniel Coxe offered a solution when he brought forward the grant of King Charles I to Sir Robert Heath which in its vast bounds included lands far south of Carolina.12 In this proposal to colonize is to be seen the germ of Oglethorpe's buffer province.

In less than a century the English had crushed the Spanish power and removed its influence outside the peninsula of Florida. They had allied themselves with the great Confederacy of Creeks and the hostile tribes that surrounded their realm. They had enslaved and deported their enemies, but in 1699 a French colony was planted on Biloxi Bay near the mouths of principal rivers of the Creek Confederacy.13


The year 17 00 was an important one for the Creek Confederacy and the involved international conflict for their grounds. At Caveta a Muscogee woman presented her English husband with a daughter, later to be known as Mary Musgrove.14 Iberville founded Mobile as an English outpost and

Page 481

with gifts made friends of the nearby Creek tribes and the distant Choctaws. A third hostile factor thus was interposed between the Carolina traders and the Lower Creeks.15 The French began their western approach to the Creek lands by exploring the Mississippi from its mouth.16 During this year the Anglo-French rivalry for control of the interior was initiated. The Anglo-Spanish animosity that involved the Apalachee and the Caribbean pirates aroused hostilities which were deadening to Spanish infuence and left the dons south of the St. John's river in 1702.17

At once the region of the Lower Creeks became the strategic center in the struggle for domination. English traders gained the allegiance of the Indians against the nation that had forced their migration from the Chattahooche to the 0cmulgee, where they had acquired the name Creeks.18 Governor Moore's capture of San Augustin was an expensive failure for Carolina; but it united Spanish and French forces. The French traders were foiled by English competition from Carolina. Elimination of Carolina would bring a measure of peace and much commerce to both French and Spanish. Consequently Iberville devised a plan for the devastation of Carolina at once, and the remaining English colonies eventually, through the instrumentality of Indian alliances. With French guns he would arm fifteen hundred Spanish Indians and with nine hundred soldiers from France and Spain he would obliterate Carolina.19 The English were aware of the French menace. Through the Indians they learned of Iberville's scheme. At Caveta, a Lower Creek town, a council of war was held that started five hundred Indians with English leaders down the Flint River. The Creek force was met by a Spanish-led, French-instigated war party of nine hundred. Almost none of the larger force survived

Page 482

the ambuscade.20 This was the first large scale encounter of the warring forces in which the Creeks took a leading part.21

At London the Carolinas had been considered defenseless.22 But while the Spanish were reorganizing the remains of the subdued Apalachee and while Iberville was reshaping his imperialistic plans, the aroused Carolinians were being organized by former Governor Moore. At the head of fifty English and a thousand Creeks, Moore pillaged and razed thirteen villages of the Florida Indians. Three Spanish friars and fourteen soldiers were burned at the stake and Moore returned to Charlestown with loot from missions three quarters of a century old, more than one hundred Indian slaves and thirteen hundred Apalachees to settle as a protective bulwark on the Carolina frontier. The English looked on this exploit as a brave protection of the frontier.23

Moore had destroyed the chief allies of the Spanish in raids on the English. He had made an initial thrust at the French. The Creeks now could occupy the northwestern part of the Florida peninsula. Bienville, realizing the French now needed allies more urgently than ever, welcomed and settled near Mobile several refugee tribes fleeing from Moore's attack. He considered Moore's raid a threat to force his countrymen from the realm of the Creek Confederacy, and wrote to Paris that Mobile would be evacuated if the English came.24 The French project of conquest that DePontchartrain had approved had been shattered but there were other methods of opposing the English—methods the French, Spanish, and English could use.

Page 483

The weakness of the French demanded native allies. This necessity resulted in a congress of Chickasaw and Choctaw leaders at Mobile in May, 1703. After Iberville had distributed gifts among the Indians, he argued that these two tribes should cease their warfare. They objected. Iberville contended that they were being kept at war by the English, who wished to weaken both tribes by exhaustion. If they would drive the English traders out of their villages, Iberville would erect a trading post for skins and not for slaves. Peace was made at this congress, the French proviso being that the Indians would try to influence the Creeks to trade no more with the English.25 The commercial competition of the French and English among the Alabamas, a tribe of Upper Creeks, on the Tallapoosa river, became bitter when five traders went there from Mobile. The English were said to have been there for years, but the Alabamas had sent their chiefs to Mobile where they had conferred with Bienville in 1702. In this intrigue the English were victorious and one French trader, not without painful injuries, reached Mobile to tell the story. French retaliation took the form of exchanging guns and ammunition with the Chickasaws and Choctaws for Alabama scalps.26 For three years the French led expeditions against the Alabamas.27

The French raids assisted the English of the Carolinas in the negotiation of an alliance with the entire Creek Confederacy, which was another blow to the rapid penetration of the district from Mobile. The struggle that now permeated the homeland of the Creek tribes caused several of the weaker groups to draw into the protecting sphere of Mobile.

Partly because of the superior transportation gained through the convenience of the Gulf rivers, the English looked on Mobile as the key to commercial dominance of the Creek region. The South Carolina Assembly adopted (1707) a western program intended to eliminate competition. Thomas Nairne

Page 484

was chosen agent to the Indians. Bienville was warned by his native allies and he in turn notified the Spanish at Pensacola. The warning arrived too late to prevent an Anglo-Creek force from burning Pensacola. This removed Spanish interference to the anticipated English attack on Mobile.28 The raiders did not stop with the destruction of Pensacola, however, for thirty-two towns of Indian allies of Spain were extinguished.29

The Carolina traders were traversing trails 700 miles from the Atantic ocean and selling a great quantity of English merchandise. They were conversant with the populations and market possibilities of the different tribes and nations. The Chickasaws were too distant for profitable trade, but the Alabamas were situated among the concentrated towns of the Upper Creeks and there the French had aroused a factional friendship which reduced the consumption of English goods.30 The excitement and profit of the Indian trade in peltry and slaves attracted many loose and vicious men to the lands of the Creeks. Attempts were made to control the unruly traders through licenses and penalties for disturbances.31 The superiority of English goods was credited, however, with attracting and holding Indian friendship despite the dishonesty and abuses of the traders.32 After the English campaigns against the tribes of Spanish influence, the Carolina trade was undisturbed among the Lower Creeks. Fifty thousands of skins were exported in 1709 from Charlestown. They had cost in English trading goods no more than three thousand pounds sterling.33

The eradication of French influence among the Upper Creeks was important to the traders, as was the destruction of

Page 485

Mobile to the Carolinas in the contest for territorial control. The Indians were aware of omens of war.34 The attack on Mobile (1708) was a failure, despite the report that 4,000 men participated, for the French were warned by the small tribes to whom they had offered sanctuary.

The aggressive Carolinians at this time became involved in a controversy with traders from Virginia, whom they also wished to exclude from the Creek trade. Viriginia contended that the Indian trade was hers by right of priority, to which Carolina officials replied that the land of the Indians was a part of their grant. To enforce its will Carolina levied a duty on goods and skins in transit, some of which were seized.35

Charlestown was warned in 1709 that the French and Spanish planned another attack. Immediately defenses were strengthened.36 Nine hundred and fifty white men were found fit to bear arms and two regiments were organized.37 Plans were made to enlist four hundred Indian warriors, half of whom would be Lower Creeks.38 Governor Johnson wrote that he expected the many Indians under the protection of Carolina to be of great use in case of attack. There were the Yamassee on the south, five hundred of whom should be able to bear arms. Farther south were the Apalachees whom Moore had brought from Florida. Charlestown was armed with bastions, pallisades, and mounted guns. The fort at the harbor entrance was strengthened and England was asked to send fifty more cannon.39 The attack did not materialize and the colony apparently maintained friendly relations with the Indians until 1711.

Page 486

Indian alliances were difficult to maintain. The French and the Spanish constantly were endeavoring to arouse the tribemen to animosity for the English, particularly after the war of Spanish Succession. The chief enemies to English control of the Creek tribes were found in the ungovernable, independent character of the Carolina trader, and the indifferent enforcement of trade regulations. The rum trade was particularly profitable, and an effort to reduce the evils of drunkenness provided for a dilution of one-third water. This angered the Indians. They avowed that they were paying rum prices for flavored water. The abuses that the Indian was subject to included: the gradual encroachment on the lands, fraudulent transactions in the purchase of skins and slaves, seizure of property on pretense of debt, excessive prices of manufactured goods, the enslavement of friendly Indians, immorality, and the instigation of feuds.40 The trader was an unofficial Indian agent, a peace maker and a trouble developer, an arch-intriguer and conspirator. There were those who believed inter-tribal peace an evil omen for the colonies.41 Tribal wars also were a source of slaves, one-fourth of whom in Carolina were Indians at one time. The authorities supplied branding irons, locks, and shackles.42

In 1714 Bienville signed a treaty with the Creeks providing for the construction of a fort high in the interior. The structure was placed on the Tallapoosa river and called Fort Toulouse.43 This French penetration to the heart of the Creek Confederacy district—an area that previously had been controlled exclusively by the English—was an indication of the failure of the Anglo-Creek friendship. The French thus held the Alabama basin and were provided with protection for Mobile.44

Page 487

The successful relations of the English with the Indians broke under the strain of enslavement and the misconduct of the traders in April, 1715. The Yamassee tribe, which had attached itself to the English because of the failure of Spanish protection and then had become the tool of the Carolina slavery traffic, led the rising. The war probably was caused by the English when they took a census of the Indians, which caused the natives to fear enslavement of themselves.45 Before June ended the massacre had subsided. More than 200 pioneers had been killed and all outlying settlements destroyed. The Yamassee returned to Florida.46 Several other tribes joined in this attempt to end English encroachment. The French and Spanish were accused of directing the assault.47

The English now were confronted with the reconstruction of their disrupted trade.48 This was serious in view of the migration of the Oconee tribe from the Oconee southwest to the Chattahooche river where they were joined by other bands, who had moved to prevent easy access by English retaliatory expeditions.49 The Creeks made peace with the Spanish, although a powerful faction that favored the English developed. For a decade the Creek tribes were the center of a diplomatic war for supremacy between the Spanish and English. The result was an English victory.50 The French, despite fears of English invasion and the importance of helping to maintain Pensacola, apparently profited by the war. They were thought to have gained an annual business from the English amounting to 30,000 pounds.51 The importance of a buffer state was impressed on the English and fundamental precepts to gain and hold the loyalty of the Creek Confederacy were discussed. There should be no design to rob the natives of their land. The activities

Page 488

of the other colonies should not be upheld. This colony should redress wrongs, comfort and assist the Indians at all times. The colonists should show as little distrust as possible—but be on guard at all times against the Indians. In trade they should undersell the French, but never cheat the Indians. Above all considerations, treaties should be religiously exact and irreproachably observed.52

French and Spanish agents among the Creeks used their powers to keep the Indians hostile toward the English, and the Council of Trade and Plantations at London petitioned the sovereign to send several hundreds of troops across the Atlantic.53 A humanitarian aspect of the situation in the Carolinas is to be seen in the decree of 1716 that brands should be worked into the skin of Indian slaves with oil and gunpowder.54 By 1717 the strength of the English faction among the Creeks was sufficient to require an armed guard for the safe retirement of Spanish envoys from Caveta.55 During the next year the English colonists proposed the construction of a chain of forts designed to control the Indian trade, check the Spanish and French, and prevent their own loss of territory. Independent English traders were excluded from dealing within twenty miles of the three colony-operated factories. A ten per cent tax was levied on the trader's business to finance the construction of stone forts.56 The Spanish strengthened their position by the construction of the San Marcos presidio (1718) and additional missions.57 Near the Spanish, the French erected Fort Crevecoeur on St. Joseph's bay, but the objections of the Pensacola Governor caused the abandonment of this post. This was a preamble to the Franco-Spanish war for control of the Gulf coast in 1719. A weak effort was made to take Mobile.

Page 489

Bienville, however, with the aid of Indian allies captured and burned Pensacola.58

The country of the Creeks was occupied with wars, peace conferences, intrigues, fort and trading post construction, and a scramble for alliances during the dozen years preceding the founding of Georgia. The Spanish maintained a garrison of four-hundred at San Augustin. Raids by the Creeks on the returned Yamassee became frequent. Pensacola was reoccupied and rebuilt by the Spanish, this time on Santa Rosa Island.59 The French argued with the Indians that the desire of the English for slaves was the cause of their inter-tribal wars. So active and persuasive were they among the Upper Creeks that the English were fearful that the French would deflect this powerful ally. Five-hundred Frenchmen were said to be mingling with the Indians. The French were forced, as a means of gaining Indian good will, to buy deerskins for which their mother country offered no market. The skins were sold at Boston or New York, or exchanged for stocks of English trading goods. The French were especially troublesome to the English because of Fort Toulouse.60

In violation of the treaty of 1715, Mary and John Musgrove augmented English security by starting a trading station (1725) south of the Savannah river. Fort King George was erected on the Altamaha and Spanish boundary arguments were politely unheeded while the Upper and Lower Creeks were encouraged to attack the Florida Indians. Carolina traders crossed the Mississippi with their packs. Scoundrels swarmed throughout the district of the Creek Confederacy. Anglo-Indian diplomacy dealt chiefly with the traders and in the eleven years subsequent to 1722, South Carolina, enacted seven laws

Page 490

for the regulation of commerce with the tribesmen. Charlestown exported 225,000 deerskins in 1731 alone. Thirty-seven Creek tribes were represented in the treaty of friendship with South Carolina, but they were none-the-less restive in their relations with the English. This is to be seen in the fact that the agent to the Creeks served in the dual capacity of supervising the traders and inspecting the forts.61

With the intention of increasing the Indian trade, providing a barrier for South Carolina, and offering relief to the poor, King George chartered Georgia in 1732.

Early the next year, General James Oglethorpe disembarked with the first. 114 settlers of Georgia, 18 miles from the mouth of the Savannah river—a territory depopulated by the Anglo-Spanish wars, save for one small band of Creeks, the Yamacraws.62 At this time the land of the Creeks was interlaced with trails traversed by antagonistic trappers, most of the Indian villages held French or English traders, and at strategic points along the rivers there were loading docks for boats.63 The Creeks were acquainted with the feud of the Carolina and Virginia traders. Now a third English element was launched. The Georgia grant included the area between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers, running west to the South Seas; but Oglethorpe reacquired the title from the Creeks to the tidewater section.

Although for five years Georgia was involved in bluster and argument, General Oglethorpe from the beginning was successful in his Indian diplomacy. The consideration of Oglethorpe for the interests of the Indians combined with the influence of Mary Musgrove and Chief Tomochichi to nurture Georgia. The Creeks, as the owners of the lands, south of the Savannah river, granted the English the use of all the soil that the Indians were not occupying, with the provision that

Page 491

camping grounds be reserved for the natives. The treaty was designed to form a basis for amicable intercourse of the Creek tribes and the Georgia settlers. It specified the prices of English goods in buck and doe skins, the reward for the return of escaped slaves, and the punishment of inter-racial crimes. The natives greeted the English as teachers.64 Savannah grew on the site of Mary and John Musgrove's trading post,65 and in two years Georgia traders were roaming throughout the northern Spanish claims.

Governor Antonio de Benavides wished to destroy Savannah before fortifications could be erected. The Yamassee again deserted the Spanish for the Englishmen. The Creeks raided the fort at St. Francis de Pupo, sixteen miles from San Augustin, an act inspired by Georgians.66 Florida had only 416 Indian allies capable of bearing arms, but, the English evacuation of Georgia was demanded. Oglethorpe and Governor Sanchez conferred (1736) and signed the Treaty of Frederica, in which it was agreed that the mouth of the St. John's river would not be settled. The delineation of the boundary would be left to the mother countries. This was not satisfactory to Spain, which country contended the line should be thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude. In addition to the garrison in the castle at San Augustin, Florida had forty-three infantrymen and three pieces of artillery in Apalache and at the San Juan presidio, near San Augustin, nine foot soldiers and eight mounted. A war junta was held at San Augustin, but no action taken.67

Meanwhile the French learned that the Georgians were capable diplomats who were making progress even with the Alabamas, a tribe that for a time (1733) might have involved Pensacola, Mobile, and themselves in war.68 The French were

Page 492

in a dilemma in endeavoring to interrupt the Anglo-Indian trade and friendship, for the construction of forts or strengthening of present garrisons would arouse suspicions of evil designs.69 They prevented the migration of the Talapoosa tribe to a site near Mobile, fearing they were impelled by an English design. Mobile was disturbed by the report that hordes of Swiss and English were being planted in Georgia. The price to be paid for enemy scalps was fixed by the French and the number that would be purchased from a single war party was limited by Bienville.70 A warning was sent to Mobile from Pensacola, calling attention to the danger of the English conquest, an aggression as dangerous to French as Spanish interests. Fort Toulouse was the key to the Creek region, but it depended on the neutrality of the adjacent area. There even the French soldiers frequently deserted and joined the English and the Creeks would not permit an attack on traders from the Atlantic coast.71 France was asked to send troops for defense and the Mobile traders were instructed to increase the competition with the English.72

Despite the early arrival of the Lutheran colony from the Swiss Alps, Georgia grew slowly, avoiding at first the consequent Creek ill-will from encroachment. Augusta was founded in 1735 at the first fall of the Savannah river, seven miles from the Carolina post, Fort Moore. In the same year Fort Okfuskee was erected on the Talapoosa forty miles from Fort Toulouse. With these establishments went an infiltration of Georgians who lived with the Creek tribes. They raised horses, encouraged the Indians to steal more horses from their enemies and neighbors, led war parties and taught the natives vices by example.73 Near the coast was settled a Scottish colony on the Altamaha and Georgia fortified itself with Frederica, Fort St. Andrew and Fort William. The approaching international

Page 493

struggle resulted in the arrival of six hundred troops. England found that this barrier colony was expensive, for in five years parliament had appropriated sixty-six thousand pounds for Georgia.74 At this time, however, Augusta was thriving. In the year of 1738, the six hundred traders who operated from Augusta exported through Savannah ten million pounds of hides.75 Georgia had won the trade of the Creeks and South Carolina was antagonized. An agreement was reached by the two English colonies to license the traders, each undertaking control of half. This policy failed, however, and rivalry among the traders reached a state of war. This conflict among the English traders was complicated by French and Spanish intrigues.76 The angered Creeks notified Oglethorpe. He did not fail to attend a conference of the confederated tribes at Caveta (August, 1739) from which he returned to Savannah with an Indian land grant. This agreement, in addition to expressing friendship, gave the Georgia trustees exclusive right of settlement in the region extending south to the St. John's river, west to Apalache Bay and north to the mountains belonging to the Creek tribes. This was an answer to the French and Spanish intrigues.77

By Oglethorpe's trip to Caveta he had held the strategically situated Creek Confederacy to English control in the War of Jenkins' Ear, in which the Spanish had massed their resources to expel the Georgians. Led by friends Oglethorpe had made at Caveta, the Creeks increased their attacks on the Spanish, who never seriously threatened Georgia again.78 The French felt the power of the English also, when the forces of Mobile were defeated by an Anglo-Chickasaw band (1743).

By 1745 traders from Georgia and the Carolinas were established in the Creek towns only eight miles from Fort Tou-

Page 494

louse. The Indians near Mobile were friendly with the Creeks.79 Edmund Grays led his "gang" south into the "neutral ground" and traded with the Creeks and Spanish. The French attempted to eliminate Augusta with an attack by the Shawnee. In 1749 the English traders among the Creeks were anticipating an attack by the tribes under French influence.80 Savannah was terrorized for a month by Creeks under the guidance of Mary Musgrove, Bosomworth, the former interpreter for Oglethorpe, who now was incensed by real and imaginary grievances.81 This disturbance threatened to disrupt the Anglo-Creek alliance which the English were most anxious to maintain in anticipation of a war with France. The French ran up their flag at Caveta. The English were infuriated and at once pacificatory gifts were sent to the Creeks.82

The conniving of the French and English for the strength of the Creeks became more intense in 1754, when a group of the Upper Creeks were guests at Fort Toulouse and later at Mobile. At Fort Toulouse the Indians agreed to destroy the English traders, but one chief restrained them. Later at Mobile they were shown a letter that was represented as evidence of an English conspiracy to destroy all the Indians. The failure of the French to succeed in this intrigue for the assistance of the Creek Confederacy was the result of the influence of Lachlan McGillivray, a successful Scottish trader.83 The Alabamas remained the only Creek group allied with the French.

The Creeks complained that the traders asked higher prices of them than were listed among the Cherokees. They threatened war but Governor Ellis of Georgia offered a bounty of eight pounds for French scalps and attention was turned toward Mobile.84 The unrest that the traders had aroused since the settlement of Georgia, however, attracted the serious at-

Page 495

tention of officials in England. With the intention of eliminating inter-colonial competition and creating a uniformity of regulation, the Council of Trade and Plantations in 1755 appointed agents to control the Indian commerce.85

The uneasiness of the frontier was displayed in the petition of Augusta the next year for a larger garrison. Augusta argued that the stores of trading goods should be protected. It was pointed out that if Augusta fell, the entire colony would also and the garrison on duty amounted to only twenty-five to eighty men. In response an adequate supply of gunpowder was sent to the post.86 Georgia boasted eleven settlements, five of which were classified as cities.87 To keep the French and their allies out of the Creek region, George Galphin, an English trader, took arms and amunition to the Chickasaws.88 The Spanish frontier was marked by a road from San Augustin to San Marcos, along which were several missions and presidios.89

A decade of disturbance preceded the Treaty of Paris (1763) in the country of the Creeks. It was reported in Georgia that Spain intended to fortify Amelia Island and again occupy the Apalachee Old Fields. To hinder this, gifts were sent to the Lower Creeks and for four years Chief Cowkeeper, a leader of the newly originated Seminole tribe, fostered attacks on the Spanish. A new treaty of amity was signed with the Creeks and part of the nation was induced to raid the French.90 Edmund Gray was placed at the head of a Creek war party. A Cherokee rising was rumored and Savannah strengthened its alliance by being host to an Indian gathering. To prevent Mary Musgrove Bosomworth from interfering with the Creek friendship, her claims against the English were paid.

Page 496

Since the war of the Creeks and Cherokees injured the fur trade a peace was arranged between the tribes, which only united them against the English.91 The events of this decade served to convince the English that peaceful relations with the Indians could be maintained by excluding the Europeans from the lands of the natives.92 Georgia, nevertheless, erected a new fort and quartered thirty rangers on the Ogeechee river.93 On the border of South Carolina a camp was formed for welcoming those who escaped from the Indians.94

The English land policy was developed by 1761 when the Lords of Trade called attention to the importance of bearing the rights of the Indians in mind. It was mentioned that the Indians had yielded their lands but not their hunting grounds, and the granting of lands to colonies before ascertaining the claims of the natives was declared most dangerous. The Lords submitted to King George a draft of instructions for colonial governors that would prevent the granting or settlement of lands which might interfere with neighboring Indians. The plan was checked by a division of power that gave authority to the various governors and to an agent named by the crown.95 The English policy continued to extinguish the Indian title as rapidly as possible.96

With knowledge of the home government's policy set forth in the Proclamation of October 7, 1763, the governors of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia and Captain John Stuart, the Indian Agent for the South, conferred with the Creeks, and other tribes at Augusta, November 5, 1763. The Indians refused to go deeper into the settled area of Georgia for the conclave, being hesitant to accept security from a people who were crowding them for territory.97 All crimes

Page 497

were forgotten and peace and friendship established in the treaty which was signed. Hereafter the Indian and the white man were to be one people, neither to molest the other. The governors and the Indian agent were always to be ready to do the native justice. The boundary between the Upper and Lower Creeks and Georgia was established, and the English agreed not to settle west of this line.98 By this clause the recognized area of Georgia was increased more than 3,300 square miles.99

The elimination of French and Spanish claims by the treaty of 1763 left the Creeks only one contestant for their lands and it was the intention of England to maintain forts and colonize the region.100 Despite treaties, there remained a conflict in the region. The French traders remained in the forests and their influence in many cases was strong. The Alabamas moved across the Mississippi river, continuing their French allegiance, as did several small tribes from the vicinity of Mobile.101 Two towns of the Coosa left the Talapoosa for the Tombigbee farther west.102

The King's proclamation removed the restrictions on trade by which colonies of Georgia and South Carolina had intended to govern the Indian commerce. Any subject of England who complied with the provisions of the free license might enter the traffic. All persons living on lands not purchased from or ceded by the Indians were ordered to remove, and future land purchases were restricted to the government. The territory west of the headwaters of the rivers falling into the Atlantic was reserved to the Indians.103 Governor Wright of Georgia compiled rules for the conduct of the traders; but the influx

Page 498

of irresponsible men soon overstocked the district with goods, enlarged the credit of the Creeks, and started serious discord.104

The land of the Creek Confederacy soon contained many men who would abide by no law and the provisions of the Proclamation resulted in protests to England.105 The English feared that the Creeks and Choctaws might unite with the Spanish in an attempt to reconquer the region and dispossess the victors of 1762. Substance was given this supposition by the knowledge that a Spanish vessel had appeared on the Gulf coast and had taken several Creeks on a Cuban visit.106

Of the three invading nations which sought the realm of the Creek Confederacy the Trench were the most successful in gaining the loyalty of the natives, a conclusion supported by the migrations of 1763. The Spanish neither gained the loyalty of the Creeks nor were they able to organize the Indians for successful defense or aggression. The English were the most grasping of the three, advancing slowly but holding the territory as they moved westward. The dominating motives of the English were avarice and fear—they sought the control and profit of the Indian's body and property and simultaneously armed in dread of his attacks. The constant emisaries to the Creeks were the traders, each of whom endeavored to cultivate allies for his own countrymen. The tribes of the Creek Confederacy were pawns in a conflict of blood and intrigue for the control of the lands of their fathers. Alliances with the Europeans divided them against themselves. They could not win. By 1763 the fundamental causes for the removal of the Creeks and other civilized tribes to lands west of the Mississippi had been developed.

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site