The Unsolved Mysteries of Tuckabatchee
Many People of One Fire readers were shocked when they saw the maps placing Tuckabatchee on the Chattahoochee River after 1776 in present day Douglas County, GA. An anthropology student at the University of Alabama wrote that there was no mention of this in her classroom lectures or textbook, when they were studying Tuckabatchee.
There is an even bigger mystery. Tuckabatchee is the Anglicization of Tokah-pa-si, which means “Spotted People-Place of-Offspring of.” Who in the heck were the Tokah? They seem to play an important role in our ongoing study of the Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola Basin.
Yet, the Tokah People are mentioned repeatedly by Juan Pardo’s chronicler, so apparently they also had a substantial presence in the Carolina Up-Country. During the period between the French and Indian War and end of the American Revolution, they dominated the Creek Confederacy. They became a core member of the Seminole Confederacy, yet one band occupied a powerful town in the Cherokee Alliance, Tocqua. There are numerous place names in the Lower Southeast derived from their name, but we really don’t know who they were or where they came from.
To see the maps that show Tuckabatchee on the Chattahoochee, to to the recent article: Province of Chattahoochee.
We first hear of a town and province, named Tocae, in Juan dela Bandera’s account of the two expeditions into the Southeast’s interior between 1567 and 1569. They were a powerful tribe, which lived in a high mountain valley between Joara and Chiaha. The location appears to be where Highlands, NC is now located. Immediately, to the west in Georgia are surviving place names, derived from Tokah, Toccoa and Tugaloo. We will get back to them.
Once Charleston was established in 1674, colonial records began to speak of a powerful tribe in the North Carolina Mountains called the Tokee. They were described as being allies of the eight villages at the head of the Savannah River. However, according to the excavations of archaeologist Joseph Caldwell, a large Muskogean town on an island in the Tugaloo River was sacked around 1700 AD or slightly later. The Tokee are no longer mentioned after then, so perhaps they were the aboriginal occupants of the large island town. Uchee villagers from Tennessee were living on that island in 1715.
John Barnwell’s 1721 map of South Carolina located a large town named Tuckabachee on the Lower Tallapoosa River. Initially, Wetumka (means water fall) was at the falls of the Chattahoochee, where Phenix City, AL is located. The town soon moved to the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, just south of Tuckabatchee.
In the 1725 John Herbert Map of South Carolina, a Cherokee town named Tocqua was located on the Little Tennessee River near present day Vonore, TN. The area around the Tugaloo River was labeled as being Hogeloge (Uchee), not Cherokee. All maps from then until the end of the French and Indian War continued to label that region either Hogeloge or Uchee.
In his memoirs of his time in Georgia (1735-1738) the Reverend John Wesley specifically stated that the Tugaloo River and headwaters of the Savannah was occupied by a branch of the Uchee and that the Cherokees lived to the north of there. He made no mention of the Tokee. Early 18th century British colonists had forgotten their existence.
In 1756, on the death of the Koweta Creek and Principal Chief of the Creek Confederacy, Malatchi, the title passed to his teenage son Togulki. An oligarchy of leaders from Tuckabatchee soon took control of the Creek Confederacy and remained in power until the final years of the American Revolution.
In 1775 and 1776, William Bartram visited Tuckabatchee twice. It has always been assumed that he was visiting the town site on the Tallapoosa River. However, the 1776 map of the British Southern Provinces, prepared by the British Army, placed Tuckabatchee at what is now called by archaeologists the Anneewakee Site in Douglas County, GA. The Tallapoosa River location on this map was labeled “Tuckabachee Old Town” . . . meaning that it had almost completely been abandoned. Did Bartram actually visit the new principal town of Tuckabachee on the Chattahoochee or the old town on the Tallapoosa River?
After the collapse of the British war effort in 1781, half-breed Tory, Alexander McGillivray, seized power, designating himself the Emperor of the Creeks. Tuckabatchee ceased to play a dominant role in Creek politics. Beginning in 1782, McGillivray launched attacks by Upper Creek towns in present day Alabama against Pro-American, Hitchiti-speaking and Apalachicola Creek villages in Georgia.
The “pro-American” Creeks and whites in Georgia took shelter together in a chain of forts, built for their protection. Tuckabatchee is seldom mentioned after that time. Many Creeks in Georgia permanently disassociated themselves from the hostile Creek faction at this time and cast their lot with their white neighbors. This is probably what happened to Tuckabatchee, Georgia.
Apparently, at least by the 1790s, the Tuckabatchee town in Georgia was Pro-American. It was here that United States Agent the Southern Indians, Benjamin Hawkins, met his wife, Lavonia Downs. By tradition, she was reputed to be a “Creek Princess” and daughter of a Tuckabatchee “Chief,” but her maiden name suggests that she was the daughter of an Indian trader and a Creek woman, who was perhaps the daughter of a mikko.
About that time, the Tokase (Offspring of Tokah) in Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida became a dominant member of the emerging Seminole Confederacy. They eventually moved southward from the Georgia-Florida Line.
After the American Revolution, the Cherokee town of Tocqua disappeared. It is not known why this band of the Tokee became Cherokees, while the majority joined the Creek Confederacy.
Etymology of Tokah
Tokah does not seem to be an aboriginal Muskogean root word, but rather an ethnic name that the Creeks made into adjective, because the Tokah People were spotted.
Tokase is the root word of Tuckabatchee and Tuckasegee. The “se” suffix means that they were colonists of the mother town or mother province of Tokah.
Tokahle is today an adjective in the Muskogee-Creek language, which means spotted, freckled or covered in sores, like when one has smallpox, measles or chicken pox.
Tugaloo is the Anglicization of the Cherokee or Uchee pronunciation of Tokah-le . . . which combines “Spotted” with the Northeastern Mexican suffix for “people or tribe.”
Toccoa is the Anglicization of the hybrid Creek-Arawak word Tokah-koa, which also means Tokah People.
Tocqua or Tokwa is another Anglicized spelling of Toccoa.
The Tuckasegee River in North Carolina is the Anglicization of the Creek words Tokase (Offspring of Toka or Tokah) with the Muskogee or Cherokee suffix for “people or tribe.”
Significance of the adjective “Spotted”
For the past ten years, People of One Fire researchers have assumed that the adjective, tokah, applied to the Tokee People, meant that they were freckled or carried a genetic trait in which they had patches of skin with pigmentation missing. The men of Tuckabatchee were described as being of exceptionally large stature (even for Creeks) and covered with spots on their skin like wild cats or jaguars.
The fact that in Tuckabatchee moved in 1776 to a massive and abandoned, ancient town site on the Chattahoochee River raises another possibility. Perhaps this was the mother town of Tokah. As discussed in the previous POOF article, that province’s current name of Anneewakee appears to be derived from Anahuac, the ancient name of the Valley of Mexico.
In the September 7, 2015 article on the Toltecs, it was mentioned that Mexican anthropologists have discovered that the Valley of Mexico and area around the Orizaba Volcano were originally occupied by an extremely tall people that the Aztecs later called Toltecs. See Toltecs. Nahuatl-speaking invaders eventually drove them out of the Valley of Mexico. Later, the Aztecs launched an ethnic cleansing campaign that pretty much made the Toltec language and gene pool extinct in Mexico.
Could it be that the ancestors of Tuckabatchee were those tall people, who were driven out of Anahuac by the Aztecs?
It does make sense, even if the speculation is far removed from conventional accounts of the Southeast’s past. There are numerous accounts of Southeastern warriors covering their body with spotted tattoos like jaguars.
About the only way to prove this speculation would be to compare the DNA of the tall skeletons being unearthed in Central Mexico, with skeletons from the burials at Tuckabatchee, Alabama and the Anneewakee site in Georgia.
The truth is out there somewhere.
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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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