The Good Lord Willing and If the Creeks Don’t Rise!
Ever wondered where this common American phrase came from?
US Agent to the Southeastern Indians, Benjamin Hawkins, received a letter from President Thomas Jefferson, requesting that he immediately come to Washington, DC to discuss the situation with the Indians in the Southern States. Violence had broken out in the region near the Oconee River in Georgia between white squatters (aka Crackers) and the Creeks, who lived in that region. The Federal Government was pressuring the Creek Confederacy to cede all its land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers in order to end the problem of squatters stealing Creek land there. Don’t you love the logic of government officials when dealing with indigenous peoples?
Hawkins wrote back:
God willing and the Creek don’t rise.
Recently, several cynics from outside the Southeast have decried this explanation as being an “Urban Legend” . . . well, in this case, “Rural Legend.” They quote usage of a similar phrase by late 19th century newspapers in the Northeast that don’t capitalize the word Creeks. They state that Benjamin Hawkins never wrote the sentence. That makes about as much sense as saying that because Kroger Supermarkets in Buffalo, New York don’t sell grits, there is no such thing as grits.
Well actually he did. All of Benjamin Hawkins’ correspondence is preserved by the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. Founded in 1838, it is the nation’s oldest historical society. The organization’s first task, after being formed, was to preserve all the surviving correspondence related to the Creek, Uchee and Cherokee Indians, who had just been deported to the Indian Territory.
Now you know!
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