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How did Tobesofkee Creek get its name?

How did Tobesofkee Creek get its name?

 

Tobesofkee Creek is a major tributary of the Ocmulgee River, which flows from northwest to southeast across northern Metro Macon, Georgia.  Lake Tobesofkee is a public recreational lake that is a popular camp site for vendors and the annual Ocmulgee Southeastern Indian Festival.  By the way, its county-maintained campground has hot showers and clean restroom facilities!  Visitors can also bring their canoes or kayaks for a tour of the lake . . . but what does Tobesofkee mean?

Tobesofkee is the Anglicization of the Creek words Topv-Sofke, which in contemporary English would mean “buffet – fancy grits.”  In the Oklahoma Muskogee-Creek dictionary,  Topv (Topah) is defined as a “hospitality board.”  This type of outdoor furniture consisted of wooden boards (made by splitting logs with a wedge) that were supported by a wooden frame. It was not a whole lot different than the buffet table or smörgåsbård (butter board) of modern restaurants.

Sofke or Sofkee is a traditional Creek dish made from hominy grits.  The cooks would mix bits of meats, vegetables and flavoring herbs with the grits and keep them simmering over hot coals for hours to provide a warm, nutritious meal any time of day.  The version of sofkee that my Granny Rubby made, consisted of yellow grits with bits of either country ham or home-smoked bacon mixed in.

However, typical of many agglutinative words in the Muskogean languages,  the two words combined together have a broader meaning.  The synthesized word is the name of a type of building.

All Creek and proto-Creek communities of any significant size contained at least one topv-sofke.  It could be as simple as a three sided shed or a fairly large bungalow style building that provided cooking facilities and seating space for large banquets.  Hunters coming in at odd hours of the day and all visitors to the community would be assured of having a warm nutritious meal at no cost to the diner. In addition to the mainstay of sofke, their menu typically included boiled hominy, hush-puppies, corn fritters, popcorn, tamales, brunswick stew, baked beans, baked winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes baked in coals, boiled green vegetables, seasonal fruits, toasted nuts, batter-fried fish and poultry and smoked meats.  It was found that if keeping smoked meats and fish, wrapped in corn husks, above about 140 degree F. , would keep them from spoiling for several days . . . especially in cooler weather.  Dried, smoked meats would keep for long periods during the fall, winter and early spring.

As the reader might have already guessed,  the menu of the Creek topv-sofke became what is called today,  Traditional Southern Cuisine.  Undoubtedly, Southern Cuisine began when newcomers from the Old World were offered traditional Southern hospitality by their Creek and Uchee hosts.

Archaeologist Arthur Kelly discovered banquet halls on the Ocmulgee Acropolis, which could hold 200-300 guests.

 

 

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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.

5 Comments

  1. Iwg42@hotmail.com'

    Hey Richard,
    I laughed so hard at the meaning I hurt. Fancy grits buffet is a great name for a restaurant.
    I always enjoy your articles on food and gardening. Most people,even southerners dont realize their favorite dishes are native american.
    I would also guess the famous southern hospitality can be traced back to the native americans. I am not aware of any other culture that had this type of hospitality. Most cultures were afraid of strangers, but the Creeks didn’t appear to be, quite the opposite. You have said in many articles Creeks welcomed run away slaves and the white neighbors did not like that fact. Through intermarriage of Europeans and native americans and living together that attitude of hospitilitybecame so common in the south it became a part of our wonderful southern culture. Well like usual when you write about food i get a craving for BBQ and fried chicken so being lunch time I’m off to the local BBQ house for lunch!
    Thanks for a good laugh

    Reply
    • Well, actually, I wasn’t trying to be funny, but now that I have had lunch . . . it is funny.

      Reply
      • Iwg42@hotmail.com'

        Yes it is funny. I will never be able to drive I 475 in Macon without laughing now thanks to you!!!

        Reply
  2. markveale@hotmail.com'

    Richard, Our wonderful food of the South does trace back to many Native peoples creations. The first corn farmers of the South found among the “Waka” people of Florida (200 BC)? Were there any ancient Native people of Florida or Georgia planting potato’s? The term “Waka” you have also associated with the 20 ? mile long metro city area of the Ocmulgee river (Macon).
    The Apalache, Paracus-si, Chiska peoples all seem to have migrated from South America. The Apalache and Chiska warriors dancing artwork found at different locations of the South this could imply a peace treaty and union of those peoples that began somewhere. Perhaps at Kolomoki or Ocmulgee ? Temple mounds of both the circle and rectangle shapes are found at Ocmulgee (Waka) and Kolomoki perhaps referring to the different house shapes of those two peoples.

    Reply
  3. Deltatigermom@aol.com'

    I recently bought land and an 1893 farm house in Lamar County, Georgia, on Tobesofkee Creek. Love learning about the history! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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