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The Etymology and History of Tuckabatchee Town, Alabama

Model: William Bartram meets the leaders of Tuckabatchee for the first time in 1776. Tuckabatchee was the favorite Native American town visited by William Bartram in his famous travels through the Southeast. In fact, he stayed there twice. His detailed architectural sketches made possible a very accurate museum model of the town. It is on display at the Muscogee-Creek Capital in Okmulgee, OK.

Model: William Bartram meets the leaders of Tuckabatchee for the first time in 1776. Tuckabatchee was the favorite Native American town visited by William Bartram in his famous travels through the Southeast. In fact, he stayed there twice. His detailed architectural sketches made possible a very accurate museum model of the town. It is on display at the Muscogee-Creek Capital in Okmulgee, OK.

The Etymology and History of Tuckabatchee Town, Alabama
Related to the history of the Creeks, Shawnees, Koasatis, Cherokees, Seminoles, Wetumka, AL, Toccoa GA, Blue Ridge, GA, Highlands, NC and Venore, TN

On the eve of the American Revolution, Tuckabatchee was considered the most militarily powerful Native American town in the British colonies. No one messed with Tuckabatchee and everyone wanted to be its friends. The community, located near the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, did not have walls, but its hybrid Upper Creek – Shawnee soldiers were not inclined to lose battles. Tuckabatchee was also the “capital” town of the Upper Creeks, and chronically in political disagreement with Koweta, the Muskogee Creek capital on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. Koweta favored economic assimilation with the British people and was prospering as a result. Tuckabatchee wanted the Creeks to remain a sovereign nation.

The men in Koweta were not exactly wusses, even though they enjoyed friendly relations with the Colony of Georgia and were intermarrying with British families. In 1754, Koweta’s soldiers had singlehandedly ended the 40 year long Creek-Cherokee War by burning a third of the Cherokee’s villages, taking back all their lands lost in 1715 and executing 32 Cherokee town chiefs. Six of the Cherokee chiefs had been burned at the stake at the approximate location where General/Mikko William McIntosh is now buried. Furthermore, a Koweta army composed entirely of teenage girls had by itself captured and burned the principal Cherokee town of Quanasee, near present day Hayesville, NC. However, Koweta’s people had no desire to be in a military conflict with Tuckabatchee. Its soldiers were tough cookies, but not prone to suicide. That’s right, the Battle of Taliwa in Ball Ground, GA, where a Georgia historical marker says that the Cherokees conquered all of northern Georgia, never happened.

William Bartram was fascinated by the Creek towns in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Unlike any other Native American towns in the British colonies, they were planned in advance and laid out by Creek surveyors with streets, plazas, sports fields, common pastures and public buildings. However, he quickly noticed that Tuckabatchee was planned, but different than the other towns. Its Creek square was rotated at a 45 degree angle. Also, there were no mounds. The elders of Tuckabatchee told Bartram that they had never built any mounds, except small ones for the burial of great leaders. How could they be Creeks and not have been mound builders?

The lack of mounds at Tuckabatchee and the lack of scholarly study of its name, have led to many myths, both in the Alabama history books and among the Creek People. Because of its political power in the late 1700s, Tuckabatchee is typically described as ancient Creek town. Because of its lack of mounds, and substantial Shawnee population in the early 1800s, it is often described as a Shawnee town that joined the Creek Confederacy. The real history of Tuckabatchee will surprise you.

Etymology of Tuckabachee

Tuckabachee is the Anglicization of Tokahlepasi, pronounced Tō : kō : lĕ : pä : shē. It is Itsate Creek and means, “Freckled or Spotted People – place of – offspring of.” The “pa” locative suffix comes from Itza Maya. Mvskoke speakers replaced the Maya “pa” with “fa” when adapting Itsate words.

Tokah-le now means “freckled, spotted or covered in sores” in Oklahoma Mvskoke. My guess is that very few Oklahoma Creeks know where that adjective came from. The “Spotted” name, probably means that the Tocahle tattooed spots on their bodies in order to look like bobcats, ocelots or jaguars. The Koasati (Kowasi-ti ~ Bobcat People) originated from that part of the world. They probably tattooed their bodies to look like bobcats.

However, the “spotted” label could also mean that they literally had freckles or light colored spots on their skin. In that case, the Tokah-le could have been the descendants of Bronze Age or Early Medieval Gaelic colonists in the New World. They also could have been a people, who had a genetic mutation known as vitiligo. In this condition, spots with absence of pigmentation appear all over the body. It is seen in some South American tribes.

The Tokah-le were called the Toque by 16th century explorers of South Carolina, such as Juan Pardo. At that time, their leaders had Creek political titles, but their villages seemed to have names of Siouan or some other non-Muskogean origin. Most village names ended with a “waw” or “maw” suffix. Since the highest title of a Toque leader mentioned by Pardo was orata (faciltator, one who makes one happen) it can be presumed that they were at that time vassals of a Muskogean provincial king. The orataw was appointed by a provincial leader as a village chief or neighborhood foreman.

In the 1700s, the Cherokees called them either dugale (Tugaloo) or dokoa (Toccoa.) Later, English speakers called them either the Tokee, Toccoa, Tugaloo, Tocquaw or Tocahsee.

History of Tuckabatchee Town

The original location of the Toklahle People was in the vicinity of Toccoa, GA, Highlands, NC, Sapphire Valley, NC and Cullawhee, NC. The Tuskasegee River is the Anglicization of the hybrid Itsate-Muskogee Creek word Tokahle-se-ke, which means “Spotted People – offspring of – people.”

The town of Tuckabatchee was located on the Chattahoochee River in present day NW Atlanta until 1763. The town then moved to the vicinity of the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa River after about 5000 French-allied Creeks and Alabamas left with the French in 1763.

In 1785, the United States government “gave” all of northwest Georgia, north of the Etowah River, to the Cherokees and most of Alabama to the Creeks. Indigenous Creeks and Chickasaws in northwest Georgia had to move out. One of the places they moved to was the old site of Tuckabatchee. They gave the town a new name, Pvkvnv-eto (Peachtree) because of an old peach tree that grew on an ancient mound, which preceded by centuries the presence of the Tokah-le. That’s how Peachtree Creek and Peachtree Street in Atlanta got their names.

Relationship of Tokahle to Cherokee and Shawnee History

The majority of Tokahle moved southwestward to the Chattahoochee River Valley (Atlanta Area) in northern Georgia during the early 1700s and became associated with the Upper Creeks. Their Shawnee allies in the North Carolina Mountains moved with them, establishing villages on the Chattahoochee and Etowah Rivers immediately north of the new Tokahle province. Suwannee, GA in Gwinnett County, GA and Saunee Mountain in Forsyth County, GA get their names from these Shawnee refugees.

It is highly probable that some Shawnee allies moved with Tuckabatchee town to Alabama. This would explain why Tuckabatchee received so many Shawnee refugees from present day Kentucky and West Virginia during the 1700s.

Part of the Tokahle moved southward to escape the Cherokees and ended up in north-central Florida, where they became a major branch of the Seminoles.

The remainder of the Tokahle villages became associated with the Cherokees. They occupied villages on the Toccoa River in NE Georgia, another Toccoa River in north-central Georgia or at the town of Tocqua (Tokah – koa) on the Little Tennessee River in Tennessee. “Koa” is a South American and Arawak suffix for “people.” Tocqua was one of the most important of the eight Overhill Cherokee towns. The village site was excavated by archaeologists from the University of Tennessee in advance of the flooding of the Lake Tellico reservoir.

The individual identity of the Tokahle among the Cherokees and Creeks disappeared in the late 1700s. However, their towns and villages in northern Florida played a major role in the First and Second Seminole Wars. Some of the most famous early leaders of the Seminoles came from the Florida Tocah-si (Tocasee.)

As you have just learned, the real history of Southeastern Native Americans is far more complex than the history textbooks tell you.

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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 your very interesting article. I am half Catawba and trying to find the origin of that name which I believe is Creek. Possibly it is Okatappa like the Creek in Alabama which is reported to mean ” river with a dam”. Great Falls, on the Catawba River in S.C., was originally marked Takaya on the map which looks like Toccoa to me. There was a town on the Catawba River in N.C. in Spanish accounts called Cataba as well. I would realy appreciate your comments on my theory.


    Please! help me conect my greatgrandmother to the Taylor families. That are from Tuckabachee area. She had my grandmother in Holdenville Oklahoma. I’m trying to find her relatives with the last name Taylor that was living in Tuckabachee grounds. Her name is Myrtle Taylor and her fathers name Robert Taylor. Than You.

    • I am sorry, but the People of One Fire research does not get into genealogy. Your best hope of success is to post an inquiry on one of the genealogy web sites.

      Have a great day.


      I’m trying to find her relatives with the last name Taylor that was living in Tuckabachee grounds. Her name is Myrtle Taylor and her fathers name Robert Taylor. Members of the Taylor family continue to own and live in the area. One presently owns the property where Tuckabachee Town once sat. I have met two of them and one seems to be fascinated with the history of his property. Others, not so much. I would think that if you could search a Tallassee, Alabama phone book, you could identify these folks, and write to them, they may respond with knowledge of the names you seek – or not. I would love to help but cannot because my wife’s health requires my presence 24-7-365. Be very careful in searching on-line genealogy of local Native Americans. You will get caught up in an excessive amount of “creative history.” Please let me know how I might be of assistance – without leaving my residence. Glenn.


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