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The Surprising Origin of Annewakee Creek. . . Central Mexico

The Surprising Origin of Annewakee Creek. . . Central Mexico

There are two spectacular streams in Douglas County, Georgia that are chock full of Native American town and ceremonial sites . . . Anneewakee Creek and Sweetwater Creek.  Douglas is in Southwest Metro Atlanta.   In more arid lands, they would be called mountain rivers.  However,  in the Georgia Piedmont, they are white water creeks that tumble down into an ancient geological fault containing the Chattahoochee River.  You will learn more about them in the next edition of our series on the Chattahoochee River.

Anneewakee is one of those OMG!  surprises that has occurred over the past ten years of POOF research.    We really have no theories, but merely follow the evidence, wherever they lead us.  This was one of those unexpected forks in the road.


Life is indeed a box of chocolates.  Many years ago . . . in a land faraway, I was on a fellowship in Mexico and falling in love with a beautiful, intelligent seňorita, who was a student at the Universidad Anahuác and of all things, of Sephardic Jewish heritage from French-Turkish immigrants.  Her family had converted to Catholicism in order to escape the Nazi’s and emigrate to Mexico.  That in itself was major history lesson.

It was from what I learned from Alicia about the history of Sephardic Judaism that enabled me to first recognize the evidence of Sephardic colonists in the Appalachians during the 1500s and 1600s.  However, this story does not end there.

The Anahuác “thing” seemed insignificant until this past weekend.  It is a word that was, at least back then, seldom seen in Architectural History and Anthropology books.  Alicia told me that it was the ancient, pre-Aztec name for the Valley of Mexico, where there were once five large lakes.  She said that the word had something to do with those lakes.  That was true.  According to a website maintained by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México  (UNAM) . . . it is a Toltec or even older, word that means “beside the water.”   Wikipedia (probably incorrectly) states that it was the Aztec name for the Valley of Mexico.

Late last week, I was studying archaeological sites on the section of the Chattahoochee River, which passes between Douglas and Fulton Counties.  There is a huge town site that stretches along both sides of the Chattahoochee for about five miles between Anneewakee Creek and Campbellton Road.   The town was first founded during the Early Woodland Period (c. 1000 BC – 200 BC) and continued to have indigenous occupants until the Creek Confederacy ceded all its lands in Georgia during 1827.   Archaeologists called the portion of the site nearest the Campbellton Ferry Bridge,  Anneewakee.

According to local legend,  Anneewakee was the name of a “Cherokee Princess,” who was buried in the ancient mound.  As almost always, the word has no contemporary meaning in Cherokee, or Muskogee for that matter,  but it makes a nice story.   The word Cherokee first appeared on European maps in 1717, but there were only a minuscule of them living in the extreme northeastern tip of Georgia until after the American Revolution.   The ancestors of the Creeks had princesses, but the Early Woodland Period mound probably was not Muskogean either.

I looked up Anneewakee in George White’s Historic Collections of Georgia (1855).  The book often mentions mounds and stone architecture sites, which are no longer visible.   White stated that the original name of the creek was Anawaqua in some other language, probably Cherokee.  “Ki” or “ke” is the Muskogee-Creek suffix for “people or tribe” so the current word is of hybrid Creek origin.

“Qua” or “koa” is the Middle Arawak suffix for “people or tribe.”   The equivalent Cherokee suffix is “gi” or “agi”.  However, “qua” or “koa” are seen at the end of some early 18th century Cherokee village names . . . probably villages originally occupied by Arawaks.

The spelling of Anahuac-ke put the word in an entirely different “ball game.”  It means either Anahuac People or People Beside the Water.  Had I not dated a seňorita at the Universidad Anahuác, I would have kept on reading and merely reported George White’s statement without comment.   I later found a contemporary archaeological report by a Georgia archaeological firm, which did just did that.


“Beside the water” certainly is an appropriate name for a town that stretched along the Chattahoochee River and Anneewakee Creek.   That means that the people, who settled that section of the Chattahoochee River Basin either spoke the language of the Valley of Mexico or else were actually from there.   In either case, it is a bombshell.  The ancestral pedigree of the Creek and Seminole Peoples just got a whole lot more complicated.



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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.


  1. naneix@aol.con'

    Please let me know next time you’re in this area, we can shelter and feed you and my friends own lots of land you speak of, there are indigenous graves etc all along there…also I will get you fish weir coordinates and stelae photo on Thornton Rd if you didn’t… I’ve had pneumonia but better now…thanks for your good work

    • I live on a very modest income, so I can’t travel very much. However, I notified Douglas County officials that we were studying that area and that Douglas County had incredible archaeological resources that could be developed into cultural tourism.


        Ok thank you, when you can come, I can send you some gas money. There are so many things here I have questions about. I live just north of campbell fairburn rd 1/8 miles west of chattahoochee, I have found three chunkey stones etc. and staircases and rock overhangs with grinding stones etc. I tried to get UWGA prof to come study but he said they needed like a million dollars and I should call amateur archeo club. I decided then that I no longer wanted them poking around my most treasured sites since childhood. My friends own land at the cambelton ferry fields and the glover farm where I have found pottery, points, and even fire rings…no one seems moved by it though. As a child I loved seeing the Annewakee mound, and now it is gone, there is another near by on a horse farm.

        • Let’s see if I can get more income from some new activities. Actually, I am very familiar with your neck of the woods. The old Thornton place is in Palmetto and Thornton Road is named after those Thorntons. I was a member of Red Oak Methodist in Red Oak and attended Lakeshore High. One of its arch rivals was Campbell High School in Fairburn.

          I am not an archaeologist and never disturb archaeological sites. However, some members of the People of One Fire seem to be the only folks interested in the town sites along the Chattahoochee. I don’t understand the attitudes of archaeologists these days. Most seem to have no intellectual curiosity, which is certainly NOT the case of the famous archaeologists, who taught me.


          The one on the horse farm is no longer there. If your speaking of the one on river just south of caps ferry rd.


          Hii Robin, have a history show and would love to see your annewakkee gems , please contact Jay at 678-471-9439..

  2. naneix@aol.con'

    Ps…doesn’t Oconoluftee also mean village by the water?

    • Hey,

      The Oconaluftee River’s name is the Anglicization of the Creek words, Okone – luftee, which mean “Oconee People – Cut Off”.

      Cut off was an 18th century term for a village being massacred. In other words, the Cherokee Reservation was originally an Oconee-Creek Province.


        Hey Richard, nice looking girl friend, what happen?? Now tell us the rest of the story !!!! MMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!

        • We planned to get married. She actually had been born in the United States, so at age 21 could have declared herself a United States citizen. It was a different world back then. Under the laws of Mexico at the time, females were virtually slaves of their parents until age 21 – like in Muslim countries today. Also, long distance calls to Mexico were extremely expensive and there were very few Latin Americans in the Southeast.

          However, also her mother disliked me because I was Protestant and didn’t want her daughter to move to the USA. She stole Alicia’s passport and hid it. Her mother also instructed their maid to hide all letters from me. So Alicia kept on writing me, inquiring why I was not writing her. Finally, a Georgia Tech classmate from Mexico went by to see her during summer vacation and found out what was going in.

          Two years later, she was studying in Paris at the same time I was working in Sweden, but neither of us knew it. I actually spent several weeks traveling through France, but did not know that she was there. Her last letter described our relationship as “Amor Detras Barrieras” . . . Love Between Bars, the Spanish title of the movie, “West Side Story.”

          We talked on the phone in 1980, when I was visiting Tepotzlan, Mexico. By then, both of us were married to others. Ironically, she married a chef from Naples, Italy. He hated Mexico so they soon moved back to Italy. That is a lot farther than Georgia.

          Guess it could make a “Chick” movie for some cable network.

        • I forgot to mention that her mother rarely darkened the doors of a Roman Catholic Church and was ethnically, a Sephardic Jew. However, she was furious when she found out that I took mass with Alicia and Alicia took communion with me at a Methodist Church. So much of what we call religion today is “man made” . . . well, in the South, religion and politics have almost become the same thing in recent years.


            Thanks Richard, I too have had Love`s that I would really like a do over, thank you for sharing.

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