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Creeks remembered visit by Jean Ribault in 1562!

The Creek Migration Legends Series

We are still rummaging through the UK National Archives and Lambeth Palace Archives and finding extraordinary information that will radically change the understanding of the past. 

After Tamachichi (Tomochichi in English) and James Edward Oglethorpe first met in early 1733,  the elderly Creek leader took Oglethorpe on a walking tour of the landscape where Savannah would be built.  He said that the colony was going to be developed at the location of the Creek Indians’ first town.  He pointed out a large mound, where he said “was the tomb of our first emperor. ”


Walking along Yamacraw Bluff,  Tamachichi pointed to a small conical mound and told Oglethorpe, “This is the tomb of my ancestor, a king, who  many years before entertained Frenchmen visiting here. The leader of the Frenchmen had a red beard. They rowed up the Savannah River from the ocean in a barge.”   Tamachichi then insisted that his village, which contained the ancestor’s burial, remain, even though Savannah was being developed immediately to the east and south.

jean-ribaultCaptain Jean Ribault was known for his “trade mark” bushy red beard.   When executing Ribault in the vicinity of present day Brunswick, GA, the Spanish thrust a dagger into his heart then cut off the skin of his lower face in order to send the beard to King Phillip II of Spain.  Those Spaniards REALLY didn’t like Protestants!  *

The water color above portrays the Ribault’s fleet exploring the Bay of Dolphins (probably St. Andrews Bay, GA).  Note the barge being rowed near shore in the upper right portion of the painting.   In 1562,  Ribault commanded a barge to explore the region south of Charlesfort (Parris Island, SC).  He made contact with the King of Chicola, after rowing up a river.

In 1565,  Captain René de Laudonnière, Commander of Fort Caroline, sent a barque, which had sails, northward to beg food from Native provinces along the Georgia coast.  His memoir mentioned that the King of Chicola had provided food, but did not specifically say that his sailing ship visited the town.  De Laudonnière did emphasize though, that Chicola was the same province that the Spanish had called Chicora in the 1520s.  Its actual name was Parachicora or Palachicola. The Irene Island royal compound and the original  town of Parachicora were apparently abandoned in the late 1500s then moved upstream to present day Allendale County, SC and Screven County, GA in order to escape Spanish depredations and European plagues.

It is possible that the Frenchmen remembered by the Creeks were from Fort Caroline,  but since the Creeks remembered a leader with a red beard and a barge being rowed, it was far more likely to be Jean Ribault.  It is also quite likely that the UK National Archives will eventually reveal the Creek’s memories of Fort Caroline or the handful of its survivors, who settled in Northeast Georgia.  All French, Spanish, English and Dutch maps placed Fort Caroline at the mouth of the Altahama River in Georgia.

*The myths of the Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine and Fort Caroline being in Jacksonville, were created in the mid-19th century by a real estate speculator from New York, who purchased large tracts of lands near both towns.  The report by the founder of St. Augustine, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés  to the King of Spain, placed the original location of St. Augustine in September 1565 at the latitude of St. Andrews Bay, GA.  St. Augustine was moved to its current location in March 1566. The dense and hostile Native population at St. Augustine’s original location made life miserable for the Spanish colonists.  The current location had relatively few Native occupants.



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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    I read the article “CREEKS REMEMBERED VISIT BY JEAN RIBAULT IN 1562!” and had a question/observation. In the watercolor depicting the barge landing party, I noticed a lone man sitting on what appears to be a ground cover of leaves. Could that possibly be a woven mat? That would identify the status of the man and his town.
    I am a member of the White Earth tribal town (mvskoke) and absolutely love learning my history through your articles.

    • Estanko! The mat of leaves indicates that the person is a leader – perhaps a king or a priest. However, the people living in that portion of Georgia were not Muskogeans, but from South America. Some of them DID later become members of the Creek Confederacy, however. Eufaula Town was originally located on the coast of Georgia, not too far from where this painting portrays.

      Word of warning. The flow of new knowledge coming in now is so rapid that what we think are the facts today, may change somewhat tomorrow. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that South American immigrants would have had such a profound impact on the Creeks. Even our name for the Sacred Black Drink comes from the Amazon Basin. They perform the same ceremonies with the Black Drink that we do.


      Richard T.


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