Looking for Okfuskeena in all the wrong places
Between 1966 and 1969, Smithsonian Institute archaeologist, Harold Huscher, was paid by the US Army Corps of Engineers, to survey the Chattahoochee River Valley near the planned basin of West Point Reservoir, for archaeological sites. First priority was given to finding the “Burnt Village of Okfuskeena on Wehadka Creek” since that story had become a cultural icon in the region. Today, “The Burnt Village” even has its own Wikipedia article. You can read it HERE. It was probably the largest scaled excavation ever of an 18th century Creek town site.
Huscher returned again to the archaeological site 9TP41 in 1972, just as the lake’s waters were filling up the basin. He vainly searched for the more evidence of a Creek town that had been completely burned, but found none. Charcoal survives the damp, acidic soil conditions of Georgia much better than raw timbers. There should have been a large black scar in the subsoil. Then the waters covered the site and it was too late to search anymore.
Huscher thought he found the edge of the town site at the mouth of White Water Creek. That was a good guess, because Wehadka is the Anglicization of Ue-Hatke, which means “Water White” in Muskogee-Creek. What he found were some post hole patterns, which he interpreted as rotundas for communal meetings. Others disagree. Other than a rich trove of Historic Period artifacts, there was not a significant amount of architectural evidence found.
University of Georgia Anthropology Professor, Mark Williams worked on the site as an undergraduate student and has the artifacts from the dig in his possession. Williams wrote a paper on “The Burnt Village” in 2009. It presents substantial criticisms of Huscher’s methodology and provides much detail on what the archaeological team actually found. You may read Williams’ paper HERE.
Drawing lines between dots
When I first read accounts of “The Burnt Village” in a Troup County History Website and then in Wikipedia, something seemed very wrong about the official history of this cultural icon. Perhaps only a Georgia Creek would immediately recognize the dubious statements in the mid-19th century newspaper article that was re-published in the May 14, 2016 edition of POOF.
Okfuskeena was an Ilape (Hillabee Creek) village. The word means “Little Okfuskee.” I accessed several academic articles from Alabama universities, which listed Little Okfuskee on the Little Tallapoosa River and Okfuskeena on the Chattahoochee as separate towns. Oops! One of them was from a professor, who describes herself as an expert on Creek culture and language.
The Ilape were not attacking Georgians in 1793. I should know. My Creek ancestors were hunkered down in Wilkes County, GA forts along with their white neighbors that year.
Since the beginning of the American Revolution, Muskogee-speaking Upper Creeks from North-Central Alabama had repeatedly launched bloody raids on the Hitchiti-speaking Creek allies of the American Patriots and their white neighbors in Northeastern and Middle Georgia. These Upper Creek renegades were allied with the Chickamauga Cherokees and continued their attacks until late 1793, when both groups were thoroughly defeated at the Battle of Etowah Cliffs.
The newspaper article claimed that the white attackers “only” killed all the adult males . . . and “tried” to avoid killing women and children. They attacked individual houses as the occupants slept in the dark. Horse manure . . . this was a Southern Fried version of the Massacre at Sand Creek in Colorado. How did they discern a man from a woman or teenagers in the pitch dark of a house’s interior? Methinks that they were not wearing night vision goggles.
“Hey Injuns, before we’uns butcher y’all in the middle of the night, is this actually the village of Okfuskeena? We’uns kinda got lost back thar.”
There was also something wrong about the description of Okfuskeena. It was said to be a major Hillabee town located where several important trade paths converged. The excuse used by the militiamen, who massacred the village was that it was a staging area for attacks into the rest of Georgia.
The attacking militiamen men were from Greene County, GA on the Oconee River northeast of Macon. I looked at the maps of Georgia from that era. Not one major trade or war path passed through the supposed location of Okfuskeena. The route used by Upper Creek renegades to attack Greene County crossed the Chattahoochee River at Tuckabatchee. The site of Tuckabatchee is now in Douglas County in Southwest Metropolitan Atlanta.
There have been thousands of people to graduate in history, geography and anthropology in Alabama and Georgia during the past 160 years. Not one of them ever looked at a map and realized that Tuckabatchee moved to the Chattahoochee River in Georgia at the beginning of the American Revolution. It was accompanied by several other Pro-Patriot towns on the Tallapoosa River. Beginning in 1776, maps either don’t show Tuckabatchee being in Alabama or else label “Tuckabatchee Old Fields” – which means it was abandoned.
Not only did the official 1785 and 1795 maps of Georgia show Tuckabatchee on the Chattahoochee River, but the 1795 one showed Okfuskeena on the Tallapoosa River in Georgia.
Beginning with the 1800 Official Map of Georgia, Okfuskeena was placed much farther south, near the Alabama line, and on the west side of the Chattahoochee River. An accompanying note stated that the town was burned on September 27, 1793 by Georgians. A map prepared in 1812, at the beginning of the Red Stick War, did not mention Okfuskeena, but still showed Tuckabatchee in Georgia on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River. Tuckabatchee was used as the staging area for an invasion of Alabama by federal troops.
The riddle of the actual location of Okfuskeena was somewhat ended in 1827, when Congress refused to ratify the fraudulent 1825 Treaty of Indian Springs and ordered a survey of Creek lands in Georgia. The surveyors found that Okfuskeena still existed, because it was a Friendly Creek town during the Red Stick War. It was located where Carrollton, GA is located today. Since the Creek town was at the conjunction of several important roads, it made an ideal location for the development of the Troup County Seat, Carrollton.
Apparently, Ue-Hatke, located at the presumed location of the Okfuskeena Massacre, was also not burned by “the Georgians.” It still existed in 1827.
The most likely victim of the Greene County Militia was the Friendly Creek village of Sulakaka, near where Six Flags Over Georgia is now located. It was on the west side of the Chattahoochee and on the Upper Creek Trade Path, which Chickamauga Creeks used to raid eastern Georgia. That location would have been an ideal staging area for raids. The non-hostile Hilabee Creeks probably just stood aside when Upper Creek war parties came through town. There was a ford on the Chattahoochee River there, through which the militiamen could have waded across to reach Sulakaka.
Thus, the real story of Offuskeena is that a frontier militia army massacred a non-hostile Creek village during the night in order to get revenge for raids made by Upper Creek renegades. The reason that the attackers did not suffer any deaths was that their victims did not expect to be attacked and had no guards posted. It was an almost identical situation to a massacre 70 years later in Eastern Colorado . . . the Sand Creek Massacre (November 29, 1864).
There is one final note of irony. In 1939, archaeologist Robert Wauchope, surveyed the probable location of Offuskeena on the northern edge of Carrollton, GA in the flood plain of the Little Tallapoosa River. The archaeological zone was in the vicinity of the “Old Racetrack” and “Old Kingsberry Place.” He assigned it the label of 9CL10. The north side of Carrollton contains many Native American artifacts from several time periods. Of course, that location may be the “suburbs” of a larger town that was located on a prominence, where Downtown Carrollton is located today.
Wauchope’s archaeological zone is about 2 miles from the University of West Georgia’s Department of Anthropology. Much of the zone along the Little Tallapoosa River is in a Green Belt. Sounds like a convenient location for those professors and students to do some “poking around.”
Now you know!
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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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