Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
How the Creek Migration Legend led to formation of the Methodist Church – Part One
A totally implausible chain of events begun by an elderly Creek leader, who wanted his village’s children to get an English education and a devout colonial official, who funded an endowment to the Church of England, spawned one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world. In the decade prior to the American Civil War, over half of all church-goers in the United States were Methodists . . . They included Abraham Lincoln.
The Creek Migration Legends Series
The two principal characters in Part Three of our drama are young, devout-to-the-point-of-being-arrogant brothers, recently graduated, with divinity degrees from Oxford. We will get back to them later in the story.
Act I: The year is 1717. After coming very close to driving the Colony of South Carolina into the ocean, an alliance of Southeastern indigenous peoples fell apart. The tribal alliance, closest to South Carolina, the Yamasee, is decimated. Several Creeks towns in what is now central Georgia fled to the Chattahoochee River to escape the wrath of South Carolina militiamen. The three British trading posts, established in the 1680s at the shoals of the Ocmulgee near Indian Springs; in the heart of the ancient Ocmulgee Mounds near Macon, GA and near the Forks of the Altamaha in south-central Georgia, are piles of ashes.
Even though himself a major collaborator in the attacks on British traders from South Carolina, the leader of the town of Koweta, Bemarin (Emperor Brim) decides to form a new alliance that will be openly an ally of Great Britain. He moves his town southward from near Indian Springs to the former location of Oka-mole-ke (Ocmulgee) which is now the Amerson River Park in Central Macon, GA. The Creek Capital will stay at that location till the early 1740s.
Looking for a scapegoat, Emperor Brim blames the leader of the Istate speaking Creeks. The scapegoat’s name is Chichimako (Dog King in Itza Maya.) Since most of the Dog King’s constituents along the Ocmulgee River moved to the Chattahoochee River, he is in a weak position, politically. The council of the new confederacy banishes Dog King from their lands, as punishment for being involved with burning of the trading post fort on the Ocmulgee River.
Dog King moves to the oldest Creek town, Palachicola, on South Carolina side of the Lower Savannah River. Dog King traces his ancestry to that town, when it was located where Savannah, GA sits today. Palachicola is better known to academicians by its Spanish name of Chicora.
Dog King becomes a trader and slave catcher. Palachicola is in a ideal location to intercept escaped African slaves, headed for Spanish Florida. Dog King changes his name to Tamachichi, which is Itza Maya for “Trade Dog.” Perhaps this is a colloquial word for a middleman trader.
He eventually becomes so prosperous that he is elected to be the leader of Palachicola. Tamachichi is in his 80s and so eventually passed his leadership role on to another man.
Act II: In late 1732, Tamachichi hears that a new British colony is going to be founded at the mouth of the Savannah River. There are no Native American villages at this location or nearby. He leads about 40 men, women and children to Yamacraw Bluff, which is about 16 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean. The burial mound of the first king of the Itsate people in North America is located at Yamacraw Bluff. Tamachichi’s people are building a village at about the same time that the ships carrying the first Georgia colonists is departing from England.
In February 1733, James Edward Oglethorpe and a small delegation arrived at Yamacraw Bluff. He was probably extremely surprised to see a Native village, since the site was originally selected because South Carolina officials said it was uninhabited. Nevertheless, Oglethorpe and Tamachichi get along well. Tamachichi states that even though this is his ancestral land, he is willing to share it with the British . . . with the stipulations that his village remains on the outskirts of Savannah and that the first Itsate king’s mound remains unmolested.
Tamachichi accepted the amount of British gold sovereigns offered for his land (not beads and trinkets) and work began on the building of Savannah. In the process, Oglethorpe and Tamachichi became close friends. This was something that none of the Creeks expected to happen.
More good fortune soon came the way of Tamachichi. His arch-enemy, Emperor Brim, died shortly after the founding of Savannah. The National Council elected Chikili as the High King. Chikili had formerly been the War King of the Palachicola. Tamachichi was immediately invited to join the Creek Confederacy and annex his little Yamacraw Tribe’s land to that of the confederacy.
Oglethorpe detested slavery. It was illegal in Georgia until 1751. Exposure to Oglethorpe’s religious beliefs caused pangs of guilt in Tamachichi, because his role in supporting the diabolical institution. Tamachichi began to see the positive side of British culture.
James Oglethorpe was not only a brave soldier and humanitarian, but also a brilliant city planner. He personally prepared the plans for Savannah. The city produced by his design is now a UNESCO World Heritage City.
Act III: In early 1734, James Oglethorpe invites Tamachichi and his immediate family to accompany him on a voyage to England. While there, the Creeks are received warmly by King George II, the Georgia Board of Trustees, members of Parliament and the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Wake.
In late April 1734, the Creek delegation visits Lambeth Palace, the official home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Tamachichi is invited by the archbishop to visit his massive library, which contains books and artifacts going back to the 600s AD. Tamachichi is so impressed by these books that he asks Wake to send teachers to Savannah so that the children in his village would be able to read these books just like Christians could.
Wake wrote a letter to Thomas Christie about this matter and sent it along on the ship carrying the Creek delegation and Oglethorpe back to Savannah. Christie had been contributing to an endowment fund for the church. Wake asked about the value of the endowment and inquired if it could be used to hire missionaries for the Creek Indians. History was about to take an unexpected turn.
The letters associated with Tamachichi’s visit to Lambeth Palace, the Migration Legend of the Creek People, and Thomas Christie’s letter in response to the archbishop’s remained lost for 280 years. Multiple delegations of Ivy League scholars tried to find them in England throughout the 1800s without success. They were found almost exactly 281 years after Tamachichi’s visit to the Lambeth Palace Library IN the Lambath Palace Library (April 28, 2015).
Methinks that Tamachichi and Chikili have become grandfather spirits, who guide our research. In Part Two, two brothers travel to the new colony of Georgia “to save their souls by converting the Creek Indians.”
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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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