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Creeks and Cherokee kicked out of Georgia and Alabama

As several of you know, over the past two years Access Genealogy has been funding the research to create Native American histories for every county in Alabama and Georgia, plus the Muskogean areas of Florida1. Also, I worked with former National Park Service Director, Roger Kennedy, on his last book about Greek Revival Architecture, before he died of cancer on September 30, 2011. Roger was particularly interested in the Indian Removal Period because the outrages committed against the Five Civilized Tribes seemed directly related to cotton and slavery. These local history research projects are the sources of most of the new discoveries that have been described in Brainfood.

One thing has become very obvious. The reasons told in textbooks for expelling the Native Peoples from Alabama and Georgia are not the real reasons. “Official history” and Wikipedia tells you that the Cherokees were deported because gold was discovered on their land. These same references say that the Creeks were driven out of Alabama because they couldn’t get along with their new white neighbors.

Cherokees

There were very, very few real Cherokees living in portion of the Georgia Gold Belt within their boundaries, when gold was re-discovered in the Nacoochee Valley. The State of Georgia quickly seized the gold fields anyway . . . arbitrarily redrawing the boundary. The vast majority of real Cherokees were always concentrated in northwest Georgia. When given Northwest and North-Central Georgia by the Federal government in 1793, the Cherokees bypassed the more mountainous region to the east and allowed the remnant Upper Creek and South Carolina Creek hamlets to remain. The Upper Creeks had given the Cherokees sanctuary during the Chickamauga War.

The myths about Cherokees conquering all of northern Georgia in a great battle with the Creeks, originated during the period when the Cherokees were fighting eviction in the Supreme Court. Georgia’s primary legal ground was that the Cherokees were not indigenous to the state. The lawyers for the Cherokees made up the story about the great battle, and presented it as evidence that the Cherokees had won all of North Georgia prior to Georgia becoming a state – English Common Law right of first possession. I still can’t understand why no 20th century Georgia historian or anthropologist ever looked at a map from the 1700s to see the truth of the matter.

I became suspicious while living in Union County, GA when I saw that all of the people who claimed Native American ancestry, whether calling themselves Creek or Cherokee, looked Upper Creek. In the next county to the east, Towns, the Native people have called themselves Cherokee, but DNA tests have shown them to be a mixture of Maya and South American Indian ancestry – and completely unrelated to the Cherokees on the reservation. Only two of the mountains in northeast Georgia with “Indian” names are Cherokee words. The others are either Upper Creek or South Carolina Creek tribal town names.

I have looked at the names of handful of supposed “Cherokees” living in the Dahlonega area before it became the center of gold-mining activity. Almost all the Native names are Creek. However, most of the names on the special census of the Cherokee Nation had Scottish, Irish or English names . . . suggesting that they were mixed bloods. Other than the Etowah and Chestatee Rivers, the most important stream in this county is Yahoola Creek.

Community leaders in Dahlonega just created the Yahoola Cherokee History Museum. I am certain that MCN National Council Speaker, Sam Alexander, will be delighted to learn that he now has a Cherokee title.

What the late Roger Kennedy discovered in his research was that the same agronomists, who delineated on a map the prime cotton growing soils so that Andy Jackson could steal 24 million acres from the Creeks, ALSO delineated the areas in northwest Georgia that were below 1000 feet in elevation and therefore suitable for cotton production. From 1814 onward Andy Jackson planned to steal northwest Georgia from the Cherokees so his slave-owning buddies could develop plantations there.

I had an OMG moment when I drew the maps for Kennedy’s book. It is no accident that a real estate consortium of Virginia and South Carolina planters bought up the bottomlands of the Cherokee Nation immediately after the Cherokees were locked inside timber forts.

Creeks

Alabama history books tell its students that in 1832 the United States government graciously gave allotments to the Creek families, who wanted to stay in Alabama. Unfortunately, the primitive, ill-tempered Creeks just couldn’t get along with their civilized white neighbors. The Creeks caused trouble and eventually started another war. Most had to be marched to Oklahoma at bayonet point in 1836 because they were so unruly.

Roger Kennedy discovered that the diversified Alabama Creek farms, before and during the takeover, were far more productive than those of their white neighbors. The Creek farmers in western Georgia and east Central Alabama had become quite affluent by selling livestock and produce to whites in Georgia. The Georgia Crackers preferred to grow cotton, or even more commonly, didn’t know diddlysquat about agriculture.

The Creek families in southwest and east central Alabama did get unruly. The reason was that real estate speculators hired gangs of thugs to march into their farms and drive away the Creek owners at gun point. If the Creek men resisted, they were shot down with impunity.

There is a dirty little secret left out of the Alabama and Georgia history books. The Georgia Gold Belt extends southwestward through the original Muskogee Creek homeland in west-central Georgia and into east-central Alabama. Roger Kennedy discovered that when William McIntosh ceded all of the Creek lands remaining in Georgia in the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825, he KNEW there was gold there. He kept a square mile reserve for himself in Carroll County, GA where the gold was especially abundant.

Gold prospectors poured into west Georgia as soon as the ink had dried on the treaty. Even though this treaty was later rejected by Congress, it was too late, because so many squatters had moved into the gold belt.

Immediately after the Treaty of Cusseta was signed in 1832, there was a gold rush in east central Alabama. Particularly in Randolph, Chambers and Lee Counties in Alabama, Creek families elected to take allotments, thinking that the cotton planters would not be interested in their hilly farms. However, these Creek allotments were almost instantly overrun by gold prospectors. IN ONE VALLEY in Randolph County, where the Hillabee Creeks tried to remain, over 5000 gold miners pitched their tents. The Hillabee Creeks were awarded the label in future history books of being troublemakers. They had a good reason for being grumpy. Thar was gold in them thar Hillabee Hills.

America does have a secret history


  1. See: People of One Fire on AG 

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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.

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