by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Our first Native American cavalrymen . . . the Bohurons have been erased from the history books.
The Bohurons were the descendants of white mercenaries, hired by the King of Apalache in Northeast Georgia, to patrol his southern frontier near the Fall Line in order to keep Spanish explorers and soldiers out. Around 1600, they are described in the colonial archives of St. Augustine as a mysterious body of 100 white horsemen, constantly riding along the southern edge of the Georgia Piedmont, who killed any Spaniard, who tries to travel north of the Creek town of Tama.
Survivors of Fort Caroline were allowed to settle in Apalache by its high king during the winter of 1566, with the condition that they take Native American wives. They founded the town of Melilot, which appears on European maps until the 1690s. At this time, according to 17th century French historian, Charles de Rochefort, the king’s vassal provinces stretched from southwestern Virginia to southwestern Georgia.
I have a copy of a letter, written to De Rochefort in French, from Edward Davis, a director of Melilot, which was dated January 6, 1660. It describes a forgotten European colony that longs for direct commercial contact with Europe. That would occur a decade later with the founding of Charleston . . . but would also open a pandora’s box of pathogens, for which the colonists had lost immunity.
This policy was continued throughout the 1600s for Jewish and Protestant refugees from the Old World, who wished to settle in his realm. Many became gold or gem miners. He wanted their technology and commerce, but also their loyalty. He dispersed the refugees amongst its towns. This probably explains the presence of the ruins of Late Medieval style houses at several terrace complexes in North Georgia.
Within a generation or so there was a large number of mixed-blood people in Apalache, which gave the kingdom a technological edge on the battlefield and in the diplomatic conference. However, tight political control of that original vast area had withered after the Paracusa (High King) had converted to Protestant Christianity in the 1570s. Finally, the catastrophic Smallpox Plague of 1696, plus the Native America slave raids dispatched from Virginia and coastal Carolina, caused the kingdom to suddenly disappear . . . leaving only its name to the Appalachian Mountains. Apalachen is the plural of Apalache in the Creek languages.
At the time of contact with English settlers from South Carolina, the Bohurons lived in the Blue Ridge Foothills, immediately south of the Nacoochee Valley – between the headwaters of the Oconee River and the Chattahoochee River. Their province composed present day (southern) White, Banks, Madison and (northern) Hall Counties. Chickasaw villages occupied the same region, but they were allies and both members of the Creek Confederacy.
The meaning of Bohuron
Bohuron is NOT a Native American word. Would you believe that it is a Ladino (Spanish Sephardic) word, derived directly from Arabic and Turkish, via North Africa? It means “nobility” or “nobles.” Essentially, it is the equivalent of the English word, knight.
The Bohurons were the only known Native American tribe, east of the Mississippi River, to fight almost exclusively as cavalry or mounted rifles. They were expert horsemen and “cowboys.” They raised large herds of livestock rather than devoting much time to cultivating riverine farmlands. The livestock were traded to other Creek tribes and white settlers for grains and vegetables.
The Bohurons seemed to have played a major role in the catastrophic defeat of the entire Cherokee Nation by the Coweta Creeks in the autumn of 1754. It seems implausible that the soldiers from a single Creek town on the Chattahoochee River, where Columbus is today, could defeat the entire tribe, but this actually happened and was recorded in the archives of the British provinces of Georgia and South Carolina. British officials were terrified because Great Britain was at war with France and the Cherokees had promised to send warriors . . . whereas the Creeks and Chickasaws had stated that they would only fight their French friends, if they invaded their territories.
All the historic markers, books and Chamber of Commerce brochures, which describe a great victory by the Cherokees, where they captured all of northern Georgia, are pure hogwash. It never happened and there was never any Battle of Taliwa. In fact, in the surrender treaty that the Cherokees signed in December 1754, the ceded back to the Creeks all lands that they had occupied since 1715 . . . including a section of North Carolina! The Cherokees were secretly given the northwest and north-central Georgia Mountains in a secret 1784 treaty, because officials of the new state feared having Creeks on all three sides of their territory. Nevertheless, Creek territory extended as far north as Yonah Mountain in a narrow corridor until 1817. Students are never told this.
The Cherokee villages on their southern border, which in the past had warned the Cherokees of Creek, Choctaw or Chickasaw invaders, were erased so quickly in the fall of 1754 that they didn’t have time to send out runners to warn other Cherokee bands. Coweta’s army was deep inside North Carolina before any Cherokees knew they were there. All Cherokee villages, south of the Snowbird Mountains were burned. Thirty-two Cherokee chiefs were executed. This evidence of a Creek “blitzkrieg” strongly suggest that Coweta’s infantry was supported by expert cavalrymen. The Bohurons had long been hostile to the Cherokees, so that is plausible.
Immediately north of the Bohurons until the 1720s, were the Apalache. Soque and Itsate, who were mentioned in the chronicles of the de Soto and de Laundonniére Expeditions. By the mid-to-late 1700s, the Apalache were living on the Apalachee River in Gwinnett, Walton, Morgan and Putnam Counties – while the Bohuron were in the same location. After the American Revolution, both tribes completely assimilated into the Creek Confederacy when they moved westward.
In the late 1700s, some of the Bohurons relocated to southern Georgia and Florida, where they taught their horse-riding and cowboy skills to the Seminole Alliance villages. At the time, Seminoles were still considered a branch of the Creek Confederacy. Other Bohurons established the town of Buzzard Roost, across the Chattahoochee River from the new location of Tuckabatchee. Tuckabatchee had left Alabama at the onset of the American Revolution because like the Bohurons, it was an ally of the American Patriots.
From the late 1700s, until 1838, the Bohurons at Buzzard Roost frequently raided the new Cherokee farms and villages in Northwest Georgia. They sold the stolen livestock to white settlers at a discount. The State of Georgia did nothing to stop these raids, because it wanted the Cherokees out of Georgia. They were considered to be squatters, who were supposed to have been in Georgia for no more than ten years, after which the Federal government had promised to move them to Alabama.
Surviving names of the Bohurons
The Early History of Jackson County, Georgia by Gustavus Wilson provided the names of several Buhuron leaders and their wives or daughters. Several of the names are clearly Portuguese or Spanish. The principal chief was Amercedes (Portuguese.) One sub-chief’s name was Juanico (Portuguese or Basque.) One woman’s name was Elena (Hispanic.) The other Buhuron names mentioned included typical French, Dutch, Basque, Hebrew and English names such as Nyxster, Radoarta, Arharra, Shulamuzaw, Lapsidali (woman,) Banna (woman,) Elancydine (woman,) and Eltrovadine (woman.) Trova is a Spanish word, but this may be coincidental.
The personal names that seemed to come closest to the words above are from the histories of the ancient Etruscans and Carthaginians. Could they have belonged to one of the obscure 15+ regional languages that modern Spanish replaced during the past 200 years?
Many of the “Creek” words, once spoken in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee are incomprehensible to Oklahoma Creeks, but understood by Florida Seminoles.
This two-century old history book contains much more information about the Creek Indians in northeast Georgia than about the Buhurans, but many of the Creek personal names or place names cannot be translated by either Itsate (Hitchiti,) Koasati or Mvskoke dictionaries. One of the Creek leaders had a pure Chickasaw name. However, a large percentage of the words were untranslatable. This leads me to believe that there are some “lost” Creek languages.
There are many Georgia and South Carolina Creek words (and traditions) that would be incomprehensible to Oklahoma Muscogee-Creeks. For example, Itsate (Hitchiti) uses “pa,” “po” or “pas” like the Itza Mayas do . . . everywhere that Mvskoke use “fa.” The Itsate and Totonac word for town is tula whereas it is tvlwv in Muskokee. A village is a talula in Itsate, while it is a tvlvfa in Mvskokee. House is chiki in Itstate, Totonac and Itza Maya, but chuko/choko in Mvskoke, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Alabama. Choko is the word for “warm” in Itza Maya.
You get the gist. When someone like me, who knows a modicum of Eastern Creek, Totonac and Maya, has no clue what a Eastern Creek word means . . . and can’t find it in a Creek dictionary . . . you know that there are major gaps in the history books.
Tamakoa or Thumagoa: For example, the name of the “Creek” town, which later became the county seat of Jackson County, Jefferson, was Thumugoa. Thumugoa is the phonetic Anglicization of Tamakoa. René de Laundonniére, (French Huguenot colonist 1562-1565) wrote that the Tamakoa or Thumugoa lived upstream a bit on the Altamaha River from Fort Caroline. No one ever said that Fort Caroline was in Jacksonville, Florida or that the Fountain of Youth was in St. Augustine, until a New York real estate speculator, newly arrived to Florida, wrote those “facts” in a book, he wrote to attract tourists and settlers to his lands near those two towns. Sea-going ships could not even enter the mouth of the St. Johns River until 1860!
The Thamugoa were arch-enemies of several tribes on the Georgia coast. They worshiped the South American sun god, Ahoya, and their high king used the Coastal Peruvian title of Parakusa. That’s the actual name of the “conehead” people in Peru. The Spanish word for them, Timucoa, is what they are now called. The Spanish called all the Indians in northeast Florida and lower-southeast Georgia, Timucua. Jefferson, GA is 221 miles upstream from where the Thumagoa lived in 1565. Nere, Nara and Narulin were names of Thumagoa gals living in Jackson County, GA. I have no clue which language produced those names!
Nodoroc: There is a “mud” volcano in Barrow County, GA about 12 miles southwest of the former “Creek” town of Thumagoa. Until a massive earthquake occurred in the New Madrid Fault in 1813, Nodoroc belched black smoke. Its mud was so acidic that an animal that fell in the pit would be dissolved within a day.
Creek Indians living nearby, told white settlers that Nodoroc was the Creek word for “the gateway to hell.” Unfortunately, there is no similarity between “nodoroc” and the known Creek words for either gateway or hell. What language was this word derived from? Would you believe that it is Dutch? Nodoroc is Late Medieval Duets (Dutch) for “Swamp – Smoke.”
Ramoja: This was the name for the Green Corn Festival used by the indigenous Apalache Creeks in northeast Georgia. I cannot find any language that translates that word. The newly arrived Tallasee Creeks used the word “posketaw” for the Green Corn Festival. We know that one!
Many of the Creek personal or place names mentioned in Wilson’s book, would be untranslatable to a Muskogee Creek, but understandable to an Eastern (or Itsate) Creek. For example, a Creek chief, named Enomako, came down from the mountains to meet with the Talassee. The Eno were originally a Creek tribe near Charleston, SC. Mako is the Itsate and Maya word for chief. It is equivalent to mekko in Mvskole. Yet today, in official anthropological and historical texts, the Muskogee word for the Eno. . . Enotah . . . is labeled “An ancient Cherokee word, whose meaning has been lost.” LOL
We know that these people, who used such words such as Nodoroc and Ramoja, were a branch of the Creeks, however. They also had many personal and place names, which one could find in Ireland, Spain, Navarre, southern France, Alabama or Oklahoma. Just who composed the other part of their ancestry remains an unsolved mystery.
The truth is out there somewhere!