The Secret History of the Lower Southeast Between 1733 and 1794
Did you know that Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Atlanta and Augusta were originally in South Carolina?
Between 1733 and 1790, all maps except those sponsored by the Colony or State of Georgia showed South Carolina extending to the Mississippi River. On these maps the northern boundary of Georgia was a little south of Augusta, GA. Until 1786, all maps showed the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation to be the present day boundary between Georgia and North Carolina. Between 1764 and 1784, the Cherokees retained the relatively small area of land, now in South Carolina, between the Tugaloo and Keowee Rivers. However, Georgia’s colonial and early statehood maps showed this land also to be within their boundaries.
There are MANY eyewitness accounts of Spanish-speaking Caucasians in the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia during the 1600s. I strongly suspect that such settlements were also in northern Alabama. The eyewitness accounts include people like British explorer Richard Briggstock, Virginians James Needham and Gabriel Arthur, Governor James Moore of South Carolina, Colonel John Tipton of Virginia and Colonel John Sevier. Yet there has been absolutely no efforts by archaeologists to find and study these 3-400 year old villages. They are not even mentioned in the American history books.
The Proclamation of 1764
After Great Britain acquired all of France’s lands in Canada and east of the Mississippi River in what is now the United States, King George III decided to permanently eliminate conflicts between British settlers and Indian tribes. The approach was to create a roughly 100 mile wide “demilitarized zone” between Indians and settlers. In North Carolina, Great Britain seized all Indian lands, east of the 84th meridian, which runs through Robbinsville, NC and Murphy, NC. White settlers were forbidden to settle west of the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
All of the Cherokee villages in this buffer zone had either been burned by the Coweta Creeks in 1754 or combined Colonial Militia-Redcoat forces in 1761. However, some Cherokees moved back into its western edges after the proclamation. Shawnees living around Asheville, NC; Uchees living around Lenoir and Old Fort, NC and Creeks living around Hendersonville, Brevard, Sapphire Valley and Cashiers, NC lost all their lands without compensation. Some continued to live in remote valleys of this region, but they had no property rights.
In late 1754, the Coweta Creeks conquered back all their lands lost in Georgia and North Carolina, south of the Hiwassee River, at the opening stages of the Creek-Cherokee War. The Cherokees formally ceded those lands in the surrender treaty of December 1754. However, within King George’s proclamation was the creation of a buffer zone in the northeastern tip of Georgia, north of the Broad River, which could be hunting lands for both tribes. The region, west of the Chattahoochee River in present day Helen, GA remained Creek territory. So both Brasstown Bald Mountain and Track Rock Gap were in Creek territory until after the American Revolution.
The official British maps say one thing, but eyewitness accounts say another. White men married Cherokee women and established many farms in the buffer zone within North Carolina. Their mixed blood children often continued to live in the buffer zone. All of the buffer land in Northeast Georgia had been ceded back to the Creeks in the December 1754 treaty and had never been occupied by ethnic Cherokees . . . only Uchees, Chickasaws and Cusseta Creeks. Many of these non-Cherokees never left. My Uchee and Creek ancestors moved NORTHWARD into the southern part of this buffer zone, immediately after the proclamation had been issued. South Carolina colonial maps show property owners with English or mixed English-Creek names on both sides of the Savannah River up to present day Toccoa, GA. In 1776, William Bartram specifically stated that the northern boundary of the Creek Nation (and for him safety from being scalped by hostile Cherokees) was 15 MILES SOUTH of the North Carolina line in what is now Rabun County, GA.
The maps and eyewitness accounts of the 1700s speak for themselves. Nationally respected archaeologist, Joseph Caldwell, working for the Smithsonian Institute, found that Tugaloo Island, GA was occupied by ancestors of the Creeks with the same cultural traits as those in the Macon area from around 1000 BC until at least 1700 AD, when the town was burned. In a few years, a small section of the island was occupied by Uchees. Twenty years after Caldwell’s excavation of Tugaloo Island, the State of Georgia erected a historical marker at the site, stating that Tugaloo was Georgia’s oldest Cherokee town and that its eight mounds were built by the Cherokees around 1450 AD.
You can go on YouTube right now and see a lecture by an anthropology professor at the University of West Georgia on “The Cherokees and Creeks of Georgia.” He states that the Cherokees occupied North Georgia from at least a time immediately after the De Soto Expedition and probably were living there hundreds of years earlier. Now do you understand why most Native Americans are so contemptuous of what is being taught high school and college students these days?
How Georgia snookered the Creeks, the Elate, the Uchee and South Carolina
Georgia’s charter from King George II included all the lands west of the Savannah River, but South Carolina’s charter originally included all the lands from the Atlantic Ocean west to French held territory. No one in Westminster Palace ever dreamed that Georgia’s population would explode and start pushing northward into the Piedmont and ultimately, the North Georgia Mountains.
During the mid-and-late 1700s, Northeast and North-Central Georgia was occupied by a confederacy of at least a dozen towns, plus numerous hamlets, which called itself the Elate or Elasi, which mean “Foothill People” in Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek. They lived on land that was officially territory of the Creek Confederacy, but had their own tribal alliance. Their membership was composed of mixed-blood Itsate Creeks, Uchee, remnant Creek tribes from South Carolina and the descendants of the Satale People, who formerly lived on the Georgia coast near present day Brunswick, GA. Ellijay, GA is the Anglicization of the Creek pronunciation of Elasi.
These Elate may have had more Old Word DNA than indigenous American. During the 1600s, this region had been populated by French Huguenot, Sephardic Jewish, Spanish and Dutch gold miners. The original town in Lumpkin County, GA (Dahlonega) during the 1700s and early 1800s was named Nuevo Potosi, and was located where the Chestatee River crosses US 19, south of Dahlonega. There was also a large concentration of Spanish-speaking Jews in the vicinity of the Nacoochee Valley. Farther south in Hall, Banks and Jackson Counties, GA, the region was dominated by a Spanish-speaking tribe called the Bohurons, who were officially members of the Creek Confederacy. Their name means “Nobles” or “Elite” in Ladino Spanish . . . a language spoken by Sephardic Jews, which mixed Castilian, Moorish and Hebrew.
In 1757, James Adair recruited a company of Chickasaw soldiers from North Georgia to fight the Cherokees after they changed from being British allies to enemies. The British promised the Chickasaws that they could stay in Georgia forever, if they aided their cause. The Chicksasaws are not even mentioned in Georgia history textbooks . It was during this period that Adair met his mixed Chickasaw-Jewish wife in the Chickasaw town of Ustanauli on the Coosawattee River in northwest Georgia.
When the Cherokees suddenly attacked the South Carolina frontier in 1776, Adair moved his wife and mixed-heritage children to the Oothlooga Creek near Ustanauli, so they would not be attacked by vengeful white frontiersmen. The South Carolinians were assuming any Indians they met were Cherokees and killing them on the spot. Soon thereafter, several other white traders with Indian wives moved to Northwest Georgia for the same reason. They settled on Pine Log, Scarecorn, Talking Rock and Salacoa Creeks. The children of Adair and the other traders became the leaders of the Cherokee Nation in the early 1800s, even though there is no evidence that any of their mothers were ethnic Cherokees.
The last battle of the American Revolution was fought on Long Swamp Creek in present day Pickens County, GA, three miles upstream from the Etowah River. There was NEVER a Cherokee village called Long Swamp Creek. It does not appear on any map or list of Cherokee villages from the early 1800s. The large town with mounds on the river was abandoned in the 1600s.
In November 1783, a combined detachment of South Carolina and Georgia Mounted Militia attacked a Tory camp under the command of Major Thomas Waters near Koola-koa, a small hamlet of approximately 50 Cherokees, who had been evicted from the Cherokee Nation in 1777. Waters was married to the niece of its chief, Ookaseta or Sour Mush. Colonel Andrew Pickens, who owned land on the east side of the Savannah River at the edge of Cherokee Territory, led the detachment. His second in command was Major Elijah Clarke, a Georgian. The South Carolina and Georgia militia first attacked the Cherokee hamlet, which gave time for most of the Tories, camped nearby, to escape up to the headwaters of the Etowah River. Sour Mush offered Pickens a treaty, which gave away all the Creek territory in Northeast Georgia. The Patriots then hung several wounded Tories, who had been left behind in their camp.
“Cherokee” histories describe this event as the “The Treaty of Long Swamp Creek . . . the FIRST TREATY between the Great Cherokee Nation and the United States.” It was none of the above. Sour Mush was merely the leader of a very small band of Cherokee renegades, who were newcomers to the Elate Confederacy. No treaty was signed at his camp.
If one reads the memoirs of Andrew Pickens or even official South Carolina history, one learns that two days later, the Patriot Militia traveled to the principal town of the Elate, Satile-koa, which was on present day Salicoa Creek near the small town of Fairmount. The Satile originally spoke Panoan from Peru, when on the coast of Georgia, but probably by this time were speaking a dialect of Itsate (Hitchiti). They were NOT Cherokees. Salicoa is a “frontierization” of the word Satile-koa. A treaty WAS signed there by the Principal Chief of the Elate, which ceded all Creek Confederacy lands in Northeast Georgia, but guaranteed the boundaries of the Elate.
In December 1783, Pickens invited representatives of the Elate and real Cherokees to his Hopewell Plantation to sign a treaty confirming the cession of Creek lands in Northeast Georgia and also setting the boundary between the Cherokees and Elate to be what is now the North Carolina-Georgia Line. He also invited five Creek men from Northeast Georgia, who had served as scouts for the Patriots. Two of them were my direct ancestors. These Creeks had no authority to sign any treaty and when they read what it said, they balked. When Pickens tried to get them drunk, three of the Creeks, including my ancestors, left in disgust. Two X’s were marked on the treaty beside the names of the two drunk Creek men. However, it is not even certain that they were aware of this.
At the very same time, the American Revolution officially ended, but Pickens didn’t know it. Hollywood and history books have concealed the fact that in 1784, the Creek Confederacy was the largest and most powerful Indian tribe in North America. It had survived the war relatively unscathed, while the Cherokee and Iroquois were shadows of their former tribes and thoroughly hated by the winning side. When they heard about the Treaty of Hopewell Plantation, the real leaders of the Creek Confederacy threatened to declare war on the new United States. They were quite capable of wiping our Georgia and South Carolina. Congress agreed with the Creeks that the Treaty of Hopewell Plantation was fraudulent and illegal. Under the Articles of Confederation, only Congress could make treaties with Indian nations. Congress appointed agents to meet with the “Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Cherokees” in June 1784 in Augusta to negotiate the first treaties of this nation with the Indians. This is the exact point in our nation’s history when the Uchee and Elate lost their separate identities. Almost immediately Northeastern academicians and mapmakers erased their existence.
As can be seen below, Georgia’s first official state map in 1785 labeled most of northern Georgia, “Upper Creeks of the Muskhogee Creek Confederacy.” The northwestern tip of the state, above the Oostanaula and Coosa Rivers, was labeled “Chickasaws.” No Uchee or Elate villages were shown to exist in the state. The word “Cherokees” was clearly placed in North Carolina and then extended across that extreme northeast corner of Georgia, where there were Uchee hamlets, associated with the Cherokees.
Did you know that until 1784, the Uchee People sparsely occupied a vast territory, between the Oconee and Ogeechee Rivers, which extended about 200 miles southward from present day Athens, GA to near the Georgia Coast? After 1784, they ceased to exist as a separate ethnic group in the eyes of the United States government.
However, behind the scenes, Georgia was playing some very dirty tricks. It ignored Congress and began giving land grants in Northeast Georgia to thousands of Patriot veterans, who were owed back pay. Many were from Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina. The other states secretly looked the other way, because it was a means of satisfying the thousands of veterans, who they owed back pay. There were also hundreds of Creek Patriot veterans in Northeast Georgia. To avoid them going to war, they were awarded super-sized veterans reserves. My extended family was eventually given a total of over 3,000 acres in the Savannah and Broad River Valleys. Creeks, who had been neutral or sided with the British found a tidal wave of armed veterans taking over their farms. Vastly outnumbered, they were forced to move.
All these veterans had suddenly become owners of large tracts of land due to the “generosity” of the State of Georgia, prior to the Indian Treaty Conference in Augusta. South Carolina had not issued land grants west of the Savannah. South Carolina officials screamed in Congress about the take over of what was still officially Indian lands in South Carolina, but as the French would say, it was a fait accompli. These thousands of veterans considered themselves living in Georgia, no matter what all the maps said. Georgia doubled in size, but this would not be reflected in official maps of the United States until 1790.
Some Elate and Uchee chiefs attended the Augusta Conference. They were clumped up with the Cherokees and Creeks, respectively, but had no say so in the proceedings. However, the Congressional agents continued to play their dirty tricks. They met separately with the top leaders of each tribe. Leaders of each tribe were not aware of what agreements had been made with other tribes. In fact, several prominent Cherokee, Upper Creek and eastern Chickasaw leaders were at war with the United States. They had been allies of the British and were secretly encouraged by the British to continue fighting. They came to be known as the Chickamaugas.
Readers should be reminded that despite all the bravado tourists are exposed to today, Georgia officials considered the Cherokee Tribe to be a broken people in 1784 and not to be feared. What they did fear was the current arrangement in which the weak new state was surround on three sides by the Creek Confederacy, which exited the American Revolution more powerful than ever. Indeed, several hostile Upper Creek towns in northern Alabama and northwest Georgia continued to attack frontier settlements in Georgia until 1794. It was obvious to Georgia’s leaders that the leadership of the Creek Confederacy could not control their Upper Creek towns or else were intentionally feigning peace, while allowing some remotely located towns to torment the Georgia frontier.
The Augusta Treaty Conference of 1784
- Step I – Most of the top leaders of the Creek Confederacy were Muskogee-Creeks. They did not want to sell anymore land, but because Georgia had already settled Creek lands in the eastern part of the state, they reluctantly sold the lands, occupied by Uchees and Itsate Creeks, east of the Oconee River. Few Muskogee Creeks were affected by this sale. The Creek leaders went home.
- Step 2 – The Choctaw Treaty mainly involved clarification of their boundaries with the Chickasaws, but did involve sales of some lands near the lands owned by Spain after the Treaty of Paris. The Americans viewed this as a stepping stone to conquering New Orleans. The Choctaws went home.
- Step 3 – The Chickasaws ceded all their lands in Southeastern and Central Tennessee. Many Chickamauga Chickasaws in present day Northeastern Alabama and Northwest Georgia were at war with the United States and were obviously not present. That region was a no-man’s land for whites because of the danger of guerilla attacks. The Chickamauga Chickasaws soon were outnumbered by hostile Cherokees and so the Cherokees became known as Chickamaugas. The Chickasaws went home.
- Step 4 – The Elate’s Territory was merged with the Cherokees even though they were located in lands that the official state map designated “Creek Territory.” The Elates ceased to exist as a separate polity. The Elate villages had the option of being under Cherokee government or moving southwestward to Creek territory. The Cherokees ceded much of their lands in eastern Tennessee and their claims to land in Northeast Georgia from Tugaloo Island down to Augusta. The Creek leaders never saw this Cherokee treaty and its contents were concealed from them.
- In return, the United States Commissioners gave the Cherokees all the lands in central and southeastern Tennessee, ceded by the Chickasaw. Upper Creek and Chickasaw lands in present day Northeast Alabama, Northwest Georgia and North-central Georgia . . . west of the Chattahoochee River and south to the Etowah River . . . were given to the Cherokees as “hunting territory”. The region around Etowah Mounds remained in Creek territory, but the vast new Cherokee “hunting grounds” were the base of operations for the Chickamauga hostiles. No white man would dare enter this region for another decade, unless he was in a militia army bent on massacring Chickamauga Cherokee villages. Creek leaders never saw this Cherokee treaty and its contents were concealed from them.
All that was left of the Creek Confederacy lands in Northeast Georgia was a narrow corridor of land on the east side of the Chattahoochee River that reached up to Clarkesville, GA. The northern half of what is now Habersham County was awarded to a Muskogean tribe from South Carolina, named the Sokee or Soque. Residents of the region today assume that the Soque were Cherokees. They were not. They were the same ethnic group as the Miccosukee in Florida. Gainesville, GA (then Mule Creek Springs) was in the Creek corridor, but nowadays local history texts in the Gainesville Area call their region “the ancient homeland of the Cherokees” and don’t even mention the Creeks.
“Cherokee History” maps today show the land between Toccoa and Augusta as having been lived on by the Cherokees for 10,000 years. This is why the Cherokees in North Carolina now claim to have “invented” Stallings Island pottery. Stallings Island is immediately south of Augusta. However, the Cherokees never, ever lived in this region. In fact, until after the American Revolution, it would have been very dangerous for them to have even stepped foot on it.
1785 Treaty of Hopewell Plantation
The following year, another treaty was signed at Hopewell Plantation. Most of the signers were former Elate chiefs, but were now listed as Cherokees. Note that the “Cherokee hunting lands” in Northeast Alabama and much of North Georgia are not even included in the treaty’s text. Most of the southern boundary of the Cherokees was back to being what is now the Georgia-North Carolina Line, but was then considered by most whites attending the South Carolina-North Carolina Line. The Creeks received a copy of this treaty
“thence to Camp-creek, near the mouth of Big Limestone, on Nolichuckey; thence a southerly course six miles to a mountain; thence south to the North-Carolina line; thence to the South-Carolina Indian boundary, and along the same south-west over the top of the Oconee mountain till it shall strike Tugaloo river; thence a direct line to the top of the Currohee mountain; thence to the head of the south fork of Oconee river. “
The former Elate chiefs were: Newota, or the Gritz of Chicamaga (a Jewish name), Konatota, or the Rising Fawn of Hiwassee, Tuckasee, or Young Terrapin of Ellajay, Toostaka, or the Waker of Oostanawa, Untoola, or Gun Rod of Sati-coa, Unsuokanail, Buffalo White Calf of New Cussaw, Kostayeak, Tuckasee or Terrapin of Hightower, Chesetoa, or the Rabbit of Tlacoa, Chesecotetona or Yellow Bird of Pine Log, Sketaloska, Second Man of Tillico, Chokasatahe, Chickasaw Killer of Tasonta, Onanoota, of Koosoate, Ookoseta, or Sour Mush of Koolo-koa, Umatooetha, the Water Hunter of Chickamauga, Wyuka of Lookout Mountain, Tulco or Tom of Chatuga, Will of Akoha, Necatee of Saute, Amokontakona of Kutcloa, Kowetatahee of Frog Town (a Muskogee name) and Keukuck of Toccoa, Even though several of the former Elate chiefs now lived in northwest Georgia, their villages were outside the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation described on the treaty.
The friendly Chickasaws and Creeks who attended the conference in Augusta also avoided Northeast Alabama and Northwest Georgia throughout the 1780s and early 1790s for the same reason as the whites. Alabama and Mississippi were part of Georgia at that time. For several years, Creek leaders were not aware that their lands had been given to the Cherokees. Hostile Upper Creek war parties continued to attack Friendly Creek and white farmsteads in Northeastern Georgia until 1794, when the Chickamaugas were crushed.
After an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a treaty with the Creeks at Shoulderbone Creek, which ceded more land to the United States, a treaty was successfully negotiated during early 1790 in New York City, then the capital of the United States.
The 1790 Treaty of New York included this clause:
The boundary between the citizens of the United States and the Creek Nation is, and shall be, from where the old line strikes the river Savannah; thence up the said river to a place on the most northern branch of the same, commonly called the Keowee, where a north east line to be drawn from the top of the Occunna mountain shall intersect; thence along the said line in a south-west direction to Tupelo river; thence to the top of the Currahee mountain; thence to the head or source of the main south branch of the Oconee river, called the Appalachee; thence down the middle of the said main south branch and river Oconee, to its confluence with the Oakmulgee, which form the river Altamaha; and thence down the middle of the said Altamaha to the old line on the said river, and thence along the said old line to the river St. Mary’s.
Note that there is no mention of the Creek lands in North Central and Northeast Georgia being ceded to the Cherokees. Some of the lands lost in Northeast Georgia in the 1784 Augusta Treaty, such as in present day Stephens, Habersham, White and Banks Counties were returned to the Creeks. So the Creek leaders were satisfied with the new treaty. The lands that they lost in Northeast Georgia were by then filled with white settlers, anyway.
Later in 1790, Georgia’s claim on what is now North Georgia was affirmed by Congress. That is probably how Creek leaders learned that their lands had been secretly given to the Cherokees and that this fact had been concealed from them in the 1790 Treaty of New York. The Creek Confederacy then declared war on the State of Georgia, but affirmed its continued friendship to the United States.
In 1790, an Itsate-Creek village named Nukvnahiti, moved southward to the east side of the Long Swamp Creek and the Etowah River, when they learned that their land in present day Dawson County, GA had been given to the Cherokees. They had to move again in 1795, when the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation was extended southward to Kennesaw Mountain. The Creek village of Kennesaw had to move southward at that time, also.
President George Washington asked Colonel Marinus Willett, a hero of the Revolution, to travel down to the Creek Country and explain that war with Georgia now meant war with the United States. After visiting with Andrew Pickens, Willett wisely chose to skirt the southern edge of the Cherokee’s new territory, which he found virtually uninhabited except for two newly founded villages with Creek names. The names of these villages did not appear on any later maps and also were never on lists of villages in the Cherokee Nation. Willett persuaded the Creek leaders that war with the State of Georgia meant war with the United States. The Creeks were promised that they would be able to stay in most of Alabama forever.
In late 1793, the Chickamauga Cherokees were catastrophically defeated by the Tennessee Militia in the Battle of Etowah Cliffs in present day Rome, GA. The surviving Chickamauga’s evaporated after then.
The Cherokee Treaty of 1794, in which all branches of the Cherokees agreed to peace with the United States, included references to the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell, but not the 1784 Treaty of Augusta, in which the Cherokees had been given North-Central Georgia, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama. Nevertheless, by this time Cherokees were swarming into Northwest Georgia. North-central Georgia continued to be sparsely occupied by Creeks and mixed blood Sephardic Jews, who now were in the territory of the Cherokee Nation.
In 1818, Yale professor, Elias Cornelius, visited Etowah Mounds. He was told by Cherokees living in a village about a mile to the north that the Cherokees had been living in the Etowah Valley for 25 years . . . i.e. they arrived in the region around 1793.
In 1796 Treaty of Collerain, the Creek Confederacy signed a document that finally acknowledged loss of most of North Georgia, except for a narrow corridor along the Chattahoochee River up to Clarkesville, GA. They were persuaded to shift the southern boundary of the Cherokee Nation southward to Kennesaw Mountain. A fort was established at the Creek village of Standing Peachtree to guard the frontier between the Creeks and Cherokees. Again, they were promised that all of the remainder of Georgia and most of what was about to become Alabama would be their territory forever. That statement would only be valid for five years.
In the meantime, ethnic Cherokees from Tennessee had become the vast majority in Northwest Georgia. Former Chickamauga Cherokees, most of whom were much more white than Indian, eventually took complete control of the tribal government. Principal Chief Pathkiller, a full blood hereditary principal chief, evolved into a largely symbolic role. By the early 1800s, former Elate villages are seldom mentioned in the archives of the Cherokee Nation and their leaders had no role in its governing. In fact, many of the Elate villages were no longer even on lists of Cherokee villages. It is quite possible that many Elate, who did not speak Cherokee, moved elsewhere.
When the Cherokee Nation sued the State of Georgia in federal courts during 1828 in a vain effort to avoid deportation to the Indian Territory, attorneys for Georgia used as their primary counter-argument the claim that the Cherokees were squatters, who were not indigenous to Georgia. It is true that they were not indigenous, but Georgia officials had 40 years earlier used Machiavellian maneuvers to replace the Creeks with the Cherokees . . . perhaps never intending for them to remain permanently.
The real history of the Southern Highlands is starkly different than the mythical history that you read in Chamber of Commerce tourist brochures.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- Soque River Basin Stone Architecture Survey . . . list of project sites - October 17, 2018
- The Coweta Creek Confederacy . . . announcement of enrollment prior to petition for Federal recognition - October 15, 2018
- Where did the Chickasaws originate? - October 15, 2018
- The Mexican wedding fiesta . . . really an ancient Native tradition - October 13, 2018
- Houses will tell us who came from Mexico and when - October 12, 2018