The Georgia-Texas Connection, Texas Creeks and Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar
The labeling of Ocmulgee National Monument as being a manifestation of the “Mississippian Culture” and the specific indigenous traditions that spawned the Creek Confederacy being called the “Lamar Culture” are a direct result of seldom recognized demographic connections between West Georgia and East Texas that began in 1763. They also explain the brutal massacre and expulsion of the Texas Cherokees.
As discussed in the POOF series on William McIntosh, former National Park Service Director, Roger Kennedy discovered a profound cultural connection between Antebellum Georgia and the Republic of Texas. Apparently, academicians had missed it because of the obsession in 20th century America over “Davie Crockett and the Alamo.” Kennedy was convinced that much that was still not understood about the development of the “Old South” Culture would be found in Texas.
Kennedy brought me into the research process because I was a Registered Architect with much experience in the restoration of very old buildings in the Southeast, but would also be able to recognize Georgia Native American influences in Texas. Well, also I was homeless and getting hungry by late winter. As we dived into the history of Texas from our unique perspectives, we would experience many surprises.
(Photo Above) Most of the 500+ men killed in the infamous Goliad Massacre were members of the Georgia Battalion. The Lone Star Flag that they carried to Texas was designed and sewn in Georgia by 17 year old Joanna Troutman.
Early Creek settlement of Louisiana and Texas
Very few of the Creeks and none of the Cherokees and Shawnees living in Alabama in 1812 were indigenous to Alabama. When France was defeated in the French and Indian War, she turned over her lands east of the Mississippi to Great Britain and those west of the Mississippi to Spain. Over 5,000 Creeks, Alabamas and Koasatis left Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, when the French did. They settled in western Louisiana, Tejas and Coahuila. They were baptized by Catholic priests with Spanish names. Only the Alabama and Koasati maintained their distinct Native American identity. South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee Creeks moved their towns into the vast area vacated by France’s indigenous allies.
So by the time that Anglo-American settlers arrived in western Louisiana and Texas 60 year later, they assumed that the very tall, bronzed skinned Mexicans were just . . . very tall Tejanos. Roger and I were never able to prove it, but we suspected that the Georgia Creeks, who settled in East Texas in the 1820s and 1830s, knew that there are already large numbers of Creeks living there.
While the surviving archives of the presidential administrations of Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar frequently mention problems with the Comanches and Lamar was constantly vexed with the “Cherokee Problem,” there is virtually no mention of the Creeks. Apparently, Creeks in Texas were so assimilated into the emerging hybrid Anglo-Tejano Culture that they were hardly noticed.
The research that Roger Kennedy and I did determined that the mass migration of affluent mixed-blood Creeks from West Georgia was precipitated by the executions of William McIntosh and one of the sons of US Government Agent to the Southeastern Indians, Benjamin Hawkins. The migration was led by surviving offspring of Hawkins and their husbands. Some of these Creeks later relocated to Mississippi and established plantations there.
William McIntosh was brutally executed on the morning of April 30, 1825. Samuel and Benjamin Hawkins, Jr.(sons of Agent Benjamin Hawkins and brothers-in-law to Chilly McIntosh) who had also signed the treaty, were captured later that day. Samuel was hanged, but Benjamin escaped after being shot.
The power structure in the Creek Confederacy was suddenly in disarray. Georgia Creeks, who had served under McIntosh in the Red Stick War realized that the State of Georgia was not going to protect them and feared that former Red Stick warriors would murder them next. Moving to Alabama was therefore not an option after all Creek lands in Georgia had been ceded. Immediate relocation across the Mississippi River to Louisiana and Texas seemed to be the safest refuge from danger. These families were affluent and living lifestyles similar to white planters. They carried their hybrid Creek-Southern culture with them to Texas.
Georgia Hawkins Woods became the matron of a prominent family in East Texas. A direct descendant, Janice Woods Windle, published the book, True Women, about the life of this half-blood daughter of Benjamin Hawkins and a high-born Creek lady. She was born on a plantation in Crawford County, GA, but spent most of her adult life in Texas during the period when many dramatic events unfolded. The book was made into a movie in 1997, staring Angelina Jolie as Georgia.
Cherokee settlements in Texas
In 1806 a band of Cherokees from Arkansas founded a village along the Red River in Louisiana and Texas. That same year, an inter-tribal delegation, including Creeks, Alabamas, Koasatis, Shawnees and Cherokees petitioned Spanish officials at Nacogdoches for permission to settle there, which was granted. Cherokee immigration into Texas increased between 1812 and 1819.
Chief Bowl (Di’wali) a former Chickamauga leader and friend of Sam Houston, led many Cherokee families into Texas in 1820. They settled near present-day Dallas, but were forced by local tribes to move east into what is now Rusk County, Texas. By 1822, an estimated 800 Cherokee lived in Texas. Also, by this time, Richard Field had been elected Principal Chief and War Chief of the Cherokees, while Bowl was named Second Chief and Peace Chief.
In 1822, a convention was made between the Cherokees and the Empire of Mexico, by which the Indians were permitted to occupy and cultivate certain lands in eastern Texas, in consideration of fealty and service in case of war. Neither the empire, however, nor its successor, the Republic of Mexico, would consent to part with their sovereignty in the soil, and persistently refused any other rights than those of domicile and tillage.
During the short-lived Fredonia Rebellion in 1825, Anglo-American settlers around Nacodoches attempted to revolt against the Mexican Empire, because the democratic ideals of the Mexican War for Independence had been betrayed by self-proclaimed Emperor Augustin Iturbide. Chief Bowl urged the Cherokees to remain loyal to Mexico, while Richard Fields opened up negotiations with the rebels. Fields was subsequently executed by the Mexicans.
Apparently, no Creeks were involved with the Fredonia Rebellion. However, long time Spanish-speaking Creeks and the new Creek settlers from West Georgia played critical roles in the Texas War for Independence. Some died at the Alamo and in the Goliad Massacre. In fact, Roger Kennedy discovered that several of the most prominent “first families” in Texas today are descended from Georgia Creeks. Former members of the Creek Mounted Rifles in Georgia formed similar units in Texas to fight the Comanches. These Creek Mounted Rifle units evolved into the Texas Rangers and are accurately portrayed in the movie, True Women.
On the other hand, some bands of Texas Cherokees openly fought for the Mexicans during the Texas War of Independence, while their chiefs attempted to maintain neutrality. The pro-Mexican Cherokee renegades thought it was the Chickamauga War all over again and scalped non-combatants, women and children. Texans from Tennessee blamed all the Cherokees for these atrocities.
In 1836, the Republic of Texas, following Sam Houston’s recommendations, established a reservation for the Cherokees, but the negotiated Treaty of 1836 was never ratified. At the time, Houston did not think that this was a serious problem, but he failed to recognize the continuing bitterness toward the Cherokees among Tennessee families, who lost loved ones in the Chickamauga War during the late 1780s and 1790s or more recently from renegade Cherokee attacks.
Georgia’s key role in Texas Independence
Georgia was the only state government that openly furnished munitions to Texas to assist in its fight for independence. Several of the most prominent leaders of the war came from Georgia. The Lone Star Flag of Texas was originally the flag carried by a battalion of volunteers from Georgia. It was sewn by 17 year old Joanna Troutman. When news arrived of the opening Battle of Gozales, the October 1835 Macon Messenger stated, “The cries of our fellow countrymen of Texas have reached us, calling for help against the Tyrant and Oppressor.
James Fannin (1804-1836)
James Fannin was a merchant from Columbus, GA, who had immigrated to Tejas and immediately become prosperous. He had attended West Point, but received no combat experience. Fannin moved his family from Georgia to Velasco, Coahula Y Tejas in 1834, just as the resistance to dictator Santa Ana was quickly evolving from political protest to military action.
Prior to permanently relocating, Fannin had been an empresario, who had recruited hundreds of Georgia families to relocate to Texas. He participated in the initial Battle of Gonzales and several other battles in the fall of 1835. In December of 1835, he was made a colonel in the army. His primary talents, though, was essentially that of a quartermaster, not a field commander.
When the commanding general of the provisional Texas Army resigned, Fannin, Sam Houston, Frank W. Johnston and James Neill feuded over who was in command. For weeks, each ignored the orders of the others. Of the four, only Houston and Neill had any military experience, whatsoever; and that consisted of participation as temporary volunteers in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, near Talladega, AL.
Once Houston was named by the Provisional Government as Commander-in-Chief, Fannin was appointed commander at its largest garrison in Goliad. Fannin was definitely no military genius, but he faced extremely serious obstacles to molding a fighting force out of the volunteers at Goliad. Only about 25 of the approximately 400 men in the garrison were citizens of Texas. The rest were members of the Georgia regiment carrying the Lone Star Flag.
When ordered to lead his 600 man army to relieve the Alamo, Fannin’s volunteers went one mile out of Goliad, and began to balk. Fannin was forced to turn around and go back to Goliad. Fannin was soon ordered to abandon Goliad because a much larger Mexican force was headed toward him. When General Urrea’s army blocked his path, he submitted articles of surrender, rather than putting up a fight or trying to escape. It was very stupid thing to do.
Fannin and his entire command were soon executed after surrendering. It should have never happened. Fannin’s little army was heavily armed and well provisioned. The Anglo-Americans had proved themselves superior in hand-to-hand fighting, while being rather inept in conventional warfare. If they stood and fought, they may have been victorious or at least some of Fannin’s men would have probably made it to safety, while causing severe casualties among Urrea’s troops.
Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (1798-1859)
Was it any accident that a member of one of Macon’s most prominent families, Mirabeau B. Lamar, became an important leader of the Texas War for Independence, yet had only recently arrived in Texas? Lamar was from a wealthy French Huguenot family, which helped settle Georgia, and thoroughly detested anything Spanish, because of the massacre at Fort Caroline in 1565. French Huguenots in Georgia and South Carolina always assumed that their doomed colony was on the Georgia Coast.
The Georgian newspaper of Milledgeville announced, “”Let all who are disposed to respond to the cry, in any form, assemble at the courthouse, on Tuesday evening next, at early candle light.” The newspaper, which Lamar founded, the Columbus (GA) Enquirer urged the state to send troops to Texas; that Georgia did . . . an entire battalion, in fact. They were armed with new rifles issued directly from the state armory. Georgia continued to equip and send relatively large contingents of soldiers, even after the Battle of San Jacinto. Many of those Georgia boys stayed in Texas because of free or cheap land. Many of their relatives and friends joined them.
After being a hero at the Battle of San Jacinto, Mirabeau Lamar was appointed Secretary of War. He was elected Vice President under Sam Houston then elected the second President of Texas. He appointed the commission which selected the site of the national capital, Austin, and then took an active role in its planning. He went on to found the Texas State Library and the Texas public education system. Lamar entered the U.S, Army at the advent of the Mexican-American War, where he served with distinction.
Lamar exhausted the Texas treasury to finance repeated, unsuccessful attacks on the Comanche’s. He rejected the use of the style of guerilla warfare favored by the Mounted Rifles and instead repeatedly tried more conventional military tactics that had been used successfully against the Mexicans.
Lamar grew to hate Native Americans because of the incessant raids by the Comanches and intermittent attacks on farmsteads in East Texas by Cherokee renegades. On more than one occasion he was publicly quoted as calling for the extinction of all Indians.
Ironically, the Lamar family owned a vast tract of land near Macon, which is the site of Ocmulgee National Monument and the Creek capital of Ichese. This is where the Creek Confederacy was founded, but is known to archaeologists as “the Lamar Village” site. Today, archaeologists call the Creeks in the Southeast, the Lamar Culture. That also can be explained by the Georgia-Texas Connection. See below in the article about Arthur Randolph Kelly.
The Massacre and Expulsion of the Cherokees
The massacre of Chief Bowl’s Cherokee Band and the subsequent expulsion of all Cherokees from Texas was concealed from Texas history books for many generations. During the late 20th century, it was again publicized by Cherokee descendants in Oklahoma. However, what occurred then was a one-sided presentation of the Cherokees being peaceful farmers, who were brutally murdered or driven out of their homeland by land hungry Texans.
Roger Kennedy found that the Cherokee Massacre and Expulsion was far more complex than most references were stating. While publicly professing neutrality, the Cherokees had assumed that the Mexican government would defeat the Texas rebels. Many covertly provided intelligence to Mexican armies and some Cherokee bands were actively involved in attacking Anglo-American settlements, using the same brutal tactics as the Comanches. Furthermore, these Cherokees continued to fight for the Mexicans for three years after the Battle of San Jacento. They were supplied munitions and supplies by the Mexican army.
This is why Mirabeau Lamar equated the Cherokee renegades with the Comanches. There were no differences in their tactics and the Cherokees were being supplied by the Mexicans. However, if the Cherokee Reservation had been formally ratified, most of the Cherokees would probably have ceased their attacks and the remainder would have fled to Mexico.
Roger Kennedy discovered that the proposed Cherokee Reservation was located on some of the best cotton-growing land in Texas. Whites from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia used exactly the same tactics to constantly irritate the Cherokees that they had used on the Alabama Creeks to provoke the Red Stick War. The goal was the same . . . provoke the Indians into a war they couldn’t win, then steal all their land.
In 1839, in his first formal address as president, Mirabeau Lamar urged that the Cherokee and Comanche tribes be driven from their lands in Texas, believing that the “total extinction” of the Indian tribes was necessary to make the lands available to whites. Lamar instructed the Texas military to construct a military post on the Great Saline (in the southwest corner of present-day Smith County), with Di’wali warning that such a move would provoke a violent response.
Lamar sent word to Di’wali that the Cherokee were to depart East Texas or suffer removal by force, but Di’wali was determined that Texas should honor its 1836 treaty. He stated that if he didn’t fight, his people would kill him. He didn’t understand that the Texas government had never ratified this treaty.
The Cherokees were thoroughly defeated in a battle on July 16, 1839. Di’wali, a close friend of the first Texas president, Sam Houston, was killed after being found wounded and laying on the ground. In fact, the Texans killed most of the wounded and captured men. Subsequently, all remaining Cherokee men, women and children that could be captured, were marched out of Texas. Some of the hostile Cherokee band were able to escape to either Mexico or what is now Oklahoma.
Arthur Randolph Kelly (1900-1979)
Arthur Kelly grew up in the town of Hubbard in Eastern Texas. Hubbard was in the exact same area that the Alabama Creeks settled in the 1760s and the West Georgia Creeks settled in the 1820s. His physical feature showed many Native American traits, but when I asked him if he was part Indian, he shrugged and said that there was some Indian or Mexican somewhere back in the past.
Kelly went out from Hubbard to gain a PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University. After teaching three years at the University of Illinois, he was hired to direct the excavation of Ocmulgee National Monument. He would spend the rest of his life in Georgia.
Being new to the profession, Kelly let his regional biases influence his interpretation of Ocmulgee. The oldest structures were massive round houses with center poles. Their footprints were larger, but otherwise similar to the Caddo houses in East Texas and Louisiana. Therefore, Kelly decided that Caddo Indians from the Mississippi River Valley had settled Ocmulgee. Hence was born the label, “Mississippian Culture.”
The Lamar family was not the owners of Ocmulgee National Monument when the lands were purchased to create the park. In the 1800s they had owned part of the bottomlands. Nevertheless, Arthur Kelly chose to name the Late Mississippian town about two miles downstream from the Acropolis, the Lamar Village, rather than some Creek name. Undoubtedly, this was because of the importance that one member of the Lamar Family had in the history of Texas. Within a few years all of the Late Mississippian and Proto-Historic Period in Georgia was named the Lamar Culture.
When it came time to build the Ocmulgee Museum in 1951, Kelly had been replaced by archaeologists from the Midwest. They decided that Ocmulgee was settled by Indians from the Midwest, most likely Cahokia. They therefore concealed the presence of large round houses and only showed the public later types of houses at Ocmulgee, whose footprints were more like those at Cahokia. However, in actual form these rectangular houses were like those in southern Mexico, not Cahokia. The public never knew this.
Kelly’s favorite assistant was James Ford from Mississippi. At age 21, he was hired as a professional archaeologist, when only had about three years of liberal arts education. Kelly assigned him the full responsibility for the excavation and reconstruction of the so-called Ocmulgee Earthlodge. Unfortunately, Ford had no knowledge of architecture, structural engineering, Creek cultural history or even the eyewitness drawings that William Bartram drew of cone-shaped Creek chokopas or rotundas. Ford decided that the building he had unearthed was built by Mandan Indians, who were the founders of Ocmulgee. Therefore, he directed the reconstruction of a Mandan earthlodge.
So to this day, Georgia archaeologists describe any round building they find at a Creek town site, as an earthlodge. They have repeatedly been told by the Oklahoma Creeks and myself that they have it wrong. The last time I told an archaeologist this, he pouted, crossed his arms and said, “You are nothing but an architect. The Ocmulgee Earthlodge was thoroughly studied by professional archaeologists with many years of experience in determining such things. My professors told me that it is an earthlodge and therefore that is what I will call it!”
And 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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