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The Unsolved Mysteries of Tuckabatchee

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.

Tokee-warriorCould 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.



    Thanks again for the ongoing stream of new learning. My family name (MIZE) settled in the late 1600s in VA colony along the “Cherokee” Trading Path by Fort Christiana (under Gov Spotswood). After the Rev War they moved south into Spartanburg/Union Co SC, thence into the Currahee/Toccoa are of NE GA (now Stephens Co GA). My family names of MIZE, ADDISON, WHITEHEAD, SMITH, GUEST/GUESS/WOFFORD are all deeply tied to the Toccoa Falls area of NE GA since the time of the Revolutionary War.


      Joel, my aunt married a Guess, I have never heard of anyone of that last name here in Missouri, always wondered were it came from.


    Big Warrior, chief of Tukabatchee during the Creek Indian War, was said to be the one of the biggest men you ever saw and “spotted as a leopard.”

    • Sharman, that’s very interesting. I wish I had a time machine. We can speculate about things, but it is very difficult to know the facts.


        Sharman Ramsey; good to see my “family” chime in. My Ramsey’s (John S. Ramsey b 1794 son of Wm Newman & Rhoda McMillion Ramsey) of Pittsylvania Co VA & into Franklin/Hall Co GA after Rev War by 1790s. My “Cherokee” blood” is strongly tied to this family line. Burials on mound at Airline cem, between Gainesville/New Holland & White Sulfur Springs.


    Great article Richard,
    Here is an interesting connection to the Shawnee, Creeks, and Tuckabatchee. Sorry the post is a bit long but this ties into Tuckabatchee.
    I was reading ” The Life of Tecumesh and of his brother the
    Prophet with a historical sketch of the Shawnoe Indians”
    By Benjamin Drake printed in 1841. On page 142 he mentions Tecumesh going south to the Creek nations to try to get them to join the Shawnoe (Shawnee) in opposing the white settlers moving west/northwest into the Indian territory. Then on page 144-146 he quotes from “Letters from North America” by Hodgson”Our host told me that he was living with his Indian wife among the Creeks, when the celebrated Indian warrior Tecumseh, came more than one thousand miles, from the borders of Canada, to induce the lower Creeks, to promise to take up the hatchet in behalf of the British, against the Americans, and the upper Creeks whenever he should require it: that he was present at the midnight convocation of the chiefs, which was held on that occasion, and which terminated after a most impressive speech from Tecumseh with a unanimous determination to take up the hatchet whenever he should call upon them. This was at least a year before the declaration of the last war.” Then he went to Tuckabatchee on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama and met with a chief named Big Warrior. In the “History of the Tribes of North America,” (no author mentioned) there is an interesting notice of this visit of Tecumseh.
    “The following remarkable circumstance may serve to illustrate the penetration, decision and boldness of this warrior chief. He had been south, to Florida, and succeeded in instigating the Seminoles in particular, and portions of other tribes, to unite in the war on the side of the British. He gave out that a vessel, on a certain day, commanded by red-coats, would be off Florida, filled with guns and ammunition, and supplies for the use of the Indians. That no mistake might happen in regard to the day on which the Indians were to strike, he prepared bundles of sticks, each bundle containing the number of sticks corresponding to the number of days that were to intervene between the day on which they were received, and the day of the general onset. The Indian practice is to throw away a stick every morning; they make, therefore, no mistake in the time. These sticks Tecumseh caused to be painted red. It was from this circumstance that in the former Seminole war, these Indians were called ‘Red Sticks.’ In all this business of mustering the tribes, he used great caution; he supposed enquiry would be made as to the object of his visit; that his plans might not be suspected, he directed the Indians to reply to any questions that might be asked about him, by saying, that he had counselled them to cultivate the ground, abstain from ardent spirits, and live in peace with the white people. On his return from Florida, he went among the Creeks in Alabama, urging them to unite with the Seminoles. Arriving at Tuckhabatchee, a Creek town on the Tallapoosa river, he made his way to the lodge of the chief called the Big Warrior. He explained his object, delivered his war-talk, presented a bundle of sticks, gave a piece of wampum and a hatchet; all which the Big Warrior took. When Tecumseh, reading the intentions and spirit of the Big Warrior, looked him in the eye, and pointing his finger towards his face, said: ‘Your blood is white: you have taken my talk, and the sticks, and the wampum, and the hatchet, but you do not mean to fight: I know the reason: you do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me: you shall know: I leave Tuckhabatchee directly, and shall go straight to Detroit: when I arrive there, I will stamp on the ground with my foot, and shake down every house in Tuckhabatchee.’ So saying, he turned and left the Big Warrior in utter amazement, at both his manner and his threat, and pursued his journey. The Indians were struck no less with his conduct than was the Big Warrior, and began to dread the arrival of the day when the threatened calamity would befal them. They met often and talked over this matter, and counted the days carefully, to know the time when Tecumseh would reach Detroit. The morning they had fixed upon, as the period of his arrival, at last came. A mighty rumbling was heard—the Indians all ran out of their houses—the earth began to shake; when at last, sure enough, every house in Tuckhabatchee was shaken down! The exclamation was in every mouth, ‘Tecumseh has got to Detroit!’ The effect was electrical. The message he had delivered to the Big Warrior was believed, and many of the Indians took their rifles and prepared for the war.
    “The reader will not be surprised to learn, that an earthquake had produced all this; but he will be, doubtless, that it should happen on the very day on which Tecumseh arrived at Detroit; and, in exact fulfilment of his threat. It was the famous earthquake of New Madrid, on the Mississippi. We received the foregoing from the lips of the Indians, when we were at Tuckhabatchee, in 1827, and near the residence of the Big Warrior. The anecdote may therefore be relied on. Tecumseh’s object, doubtless was, on seeing that he had failed, by the usual appeal to the passions, and hopes, and war spirit of the Indians, to alarm their fears, little dreaming, himself, that on the day named, his threat would be executed with such punctuality and terrible fidelity.”
    If the time lines are correct the town on the Tallapossa river was the old town at this time. Tuckabatchee on the Chattahoochee was the main town. We know the New Madrid earthquake happened in 1811-1812, and that there were 3 after shocks. Do the Creeks have any record of this event, Tecumseh cursing Tuckabatchee and the town falling down in the New Madrid earthquake? It makes a great “curse” story and may be one reason the old town was abandoned.
    The Great Sprint got mad and wanted us to leave this place has been used before to move people to another area.
    The entire book is on line at Project Guttenburg under the Native American: Shawnee link.
    Thank you and keep up the wonderful work.

    • Yes, Tecumseh’s wife WAS an Alabama Creek. Most of the Southern Shawnee joined the Creek Confederacy and the Creeks have a tradition of being close friends of the Shawnee for at least a thousand years.
      Thank you for your kind remarks.


    Richard, further to the major New Madrid Quake of 1811-1812, there is also post-removal Quake events in SE USA, ref: 7.3 Richter Scale Charleston SC quake of 1886. Another major-event category are the “cold-spells” experienced periodically, such as those re-visits of near ice age conditions that block agricultural yields. [since it happened at least once, it likely has a series of earlier happenings]

    Nomadic period of Great Migration ca 1700 BC
    Vesuvius/Etna Grecian Cold ca 350 BC period
    Dark Ages ca 700 AD period
    Sporer Minimum ca 1540 period; occurring in “Little Ice Age”
    Maunder Minimum ca 1685 period
    Dalton Minimum ca 1805 period

    • Joel,

      Right now we are have the most active volcanoes in the world since worldwide records were kept. We are also getting severe earthquakes in many locations. We may be in the first stage of a new Little Ice Age.


        I’m wondering that myself. If not an ice age, the earth is certainly having some sort of birth pangs these days. Very telling. Thanks for a wonderful post. Fascinating.

        They were spotted, yes, but do you know whether or not any had red hair?


    Hey Richard,
    I found another article about a group of Russian scientist working on a language link between a group of Siberian natives called the Ket and the Na-Dene languages in North America. They are also looking for a DNA link,but like you have stated in previous articles that is difficult because of inter-marriage etc. There are several folks in POOF that study the language/DNA links between the old and new worlds that may be interested in reading this article.
    This is the link below to the article
    Thanks again Richard!

    • That is really interesting Wayne. I have always wondered if the Na-Dene Peoples are late arrivals to the Americas . . . coming after the Land Bridge was covered in water.



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