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Joseph Mahan’s Uchee research available at Columbus State University

Joseph Mahan’s Uchee research available at Columbus State University


During the late 20th century, Dr. Joseph Mahan made an enormous impact in the understanding of the Southeast’s past . . . both before and after Columbus.  He was one of the very few academicians, who has seriously studied the Uchee (Yuchi-Euchee) People, and actually had Uchee friends.  He was directly responsible for the preservation of the ruins of the important Creek town of Potauli (Singer-Moye Site) featured above, but also was the moving force in the preservation of hundreds of 19th century structures in the Lower Southeast. 

During the last decades of his life, Dr. Mahan became increasingly focused on his interest in possible Pre-Columbian connections between the Americas and the Old World.  This was at a time when several authors, without professional qualifications, were making a great deal of money off of books on the same subject . . .  but with dubious evidence.   Mahan’s beliefs were based on a handful  of intriguing artifacts discovered in the Chattahoochee Valley by laymen, which were quickly dissed by most professional archaeologists.   He made the mistake of interpolating too much from those artifacts and thus, was easily “non-personed” after his death by academicians, who really knew nothing about him or the Uchee.

Typical of the inaccurate portrayal of his career, is the “Bad Archeology” web site, maintained by archaeologists in the United Kingdom.  The creators of this web site are obviously ignorant about the complex cultural heritage of the Southeastern United States or Dr. Mahan’s long career, yet feature him as a hoaxer.   For example, they have no clue that the Uchee People always said that they originated across the Atlantic Ocean in the “Home of the Sun.”

Despite the undeserved abuse given his academic reputation in recent decades,  Columbus State University in Georgia has maintained his research papers on the Uchee.  They are available to the public.  To learn more about this library collection go to:  Dr. Mahan’s Legacy.


Biography of Dr. Joseph Mahan

Joseph Mahan, Jr. (1921-1995) was born June 11, 1921 in Cassville, Georgia.  He attended Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia and the University of Georgia, where he took an A.B.J. in 1946 and an M.A. in 1950.  He received his PhD from the University of North Carolina in 1970.  He served with the U.S. army in Europe from 1942 to 1945.  Among the positions he held were teaching jobs (1952-1959) with the University of Georgia at the Continuing Education Division at Columbus, which preceded the establishment of Columbus College.  At the same time he served as Curator and Director of Education and Research at the Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts (1959-1972), Executive Director of the historic village of Westville in Lumpkin, Georgia (1972-the 1980s) and as the Historic Preservation planner for the Lower Chattahoochee Area Planning and Development Commission.  He organized and was a moving force within ISAC (the Institute for the Study of American Cultures) which sought to document pre-Columbian contacts between the old and new worlds.  He married Dr. Katherine Hines Mahan (1920-2001) in 1956.

Scope and Content of Mahan Collection

The collection reflects his career activities and his research.  The largest part of Dr. Mahan’s materials consist of his subject files, which cover all aspects of his life and career.  The other series are more specific to the various phases of his life.  The ISAC series also contains a subject file and there is some overlap with the first subject file.  The papers include correspondence, copies of articles or excerpts from longer secondary works, notes extracted from primary sources, tapes of interviews and Indian ceremonies, tapes and interviews of research trips to Mexico, India and Pakistan, and student papers.  It also contains notes taken from colonial and early national period primary sources relating to the history of Eastern North American Indian tribes and early 19th century archeology; articles from periodicals and newspapers (1952-1977) relating to American pre-history, particularly discoveries of inscriptions, coins, and metal artifacts indicating pre-Columbian trans-Atlantic cultural contacts; personal correspondence (1943-1956) relating to his service in Europe in World War II, research into American Indian and Georgia history; and a card file which indexes and annotates information, dates, and bibliographies in this collection.

The Yuchi Indians represent one of the largest subject areas within the collection with publications, notes, and correspondence relating to their history, culture, ethnology, phonology, the visit to Columbus of Chief Joseph Brown (1833-1935), their Green Corn Ceremony (tape), and the Coweta Memorial Association which acquired land in Russell County, Alabama, for the Yuchi tribe.  Alternative spellings of the name of the tribe include Euchee, Outchee, Uchee, Uchi or Yuchee.  Other subject areas include general archaeological investigations in the region; the Bull Creek archaeological site in Columbus; the Kolomoki Indian mounds; the Singer-Moye Mounds; the Rood Mounds; the Hearn Tablet, a Sumerian tablet found in LaGrange, Georgia; the Treaty of Indian Springs Folder, February 12, 1825; the Haiman Civil War Sword Factory in Columbus; the Gunboat Chattahoochee crew members; The Gallant City, the Civil War Centennial pageant; King’s Gap in Harris County; Walker-Peters-Langdon House; Major Raphael J. Moses; extensive primary and secondary material on Brigadier General Paul J. Semmes, a Columbusite killed at Gettysburg; symposium papers from 1973 and 1974 conferences on pre-Columbian contacts held at Westville; and Westville correspondence and other records, 1968-1978.

The collection is divided into seven series:

Series 1 — Subject Files
Series 2 — American Historic Preservation Commission
Series 3 — Westville
Series 4 — Institute for the Study of American Cultures (ISAC)
Series 5 — Lower Chattahoochee Area Planning and Development Committee
Series 6 — Research Notes
Series 7 — Artifacts – 1800s-2000s



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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.



    Yet another extremely interesting post. Thank you Richard.


    Joe Mahan was a courageous pioneer and a great friend. Thanks for sharing this info on his legacy.
    The ISAC Collection at the Columbus State University library is a treasure trove.


    Have You read anything in Dr Joseph Mahan’s work about the Buffalo Rock located in north Fulton county, GA or the round Green Corn/sacrificers rock located in Forsyth county?
    I have seen old black and white pictures of both in Eugene Croys book “Silent Wings”. Other than those pictures I have found on information or pictures on the internet. Now days that could be a good thing.
    I have had several people that went with me find the Buffalo Rock, but each time they realized the rock is in a subdivision in someones back yard. After that they would not leave their vehicles.
    Both the Buffalo Rock and Green Corn stone are really to big to load up and move away without spending a small fortune.

    • I have not heard of any of those placed Chris. Could you send me an email at with the GPS coordinates and anymore information that you have . . . like photos. We are developing a Southeastern Native American Stone structure archive. I have set up a file for each known site.


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