They were missing for 280 years!
by Richard L. Thornton , Architect & City Planner
The beloved Christmas carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, would have never been composed, if the Creek Migration Legends had not been sent to King George II.
This article is the first episode of a very special series on The Americas Revealed. The series is derived from articles that I wrote in 2015 for my national column in the The Examiner. They describe fascinating details of British colonial history that have been left out of most American history texts. There was astonishing butterfly effect from the events in the summer of 1735 in the new Province of Georgia. They boomeranged to have an astonishing effect on world history.
For example, there would never have been a Methodist Church had not the Creek Migration Legends been recorded by Georgia’s Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, then given to Supervising Trustee James Edward Oglethorpe, who then dispatched them to King George II. Had there never been a Methodist Church, social reforms in England, such as the banning of slavery, would have come much later. Great Britain would have probably openly sided with the Confederacy during the American Civil War and most likely the English aristocracy would have been eradicated by a Marxist-style revolution. Remember that both Karl Marx and Frederick Engels lived the last three decades of their lives in England, where Das Kapital was published!
“The chances of rediscovering the original English translation of the Migration Legend of the Creek People are therefore almost as slim as those of recovering the lost books of Livy’s History.”
Albert Samuel Gatschet, 1881
Ethnologist – Smithsonian Institute
Staffs of HRH Prince Charles, the Episcopal Archdiocese of Atlanta and Archbishop of Canterbury played major roles in the discovery of priceless American Colonial documents, lost for 280 years.
From his first arrival in the British colonies in February 1733, Georgia Colonial Secretary Thomas Christie began seeking out leaders and intellectuals of the Creek Confederacy for interviews. He also accompanied Oglethorpe and a local mikko, Tamachichi, (Anglicized to Tomochichi) when they walked around the lands, which Oglethorpe had purchased for Savannah. Tamachichi talked extensively about the origins of his branch of the Creeks. They had sailed from Yucatan to Florida then eventually ended up in Georgia.
Christie quickly realized that each branch of the Creek Confederacy had its own migration legend. Most had formerly lived among advanced civilizations south of Georgia and Florida. The primary exception was the Uchee, who said that their ancestors had crossed the Atlantic and founded their first town where Savannah is today. Albert Gatschet never understood this fact. The correct title would be “Migration Legends of the Creek Peoples.”
On June 7, 1735 the leaders of the Creek Indian Confederacy traveled to the new colonial town of Savannah to meet with Governor James Edward Oglethorpe and leading citizens. The purpose was first to establish diplomatic and trade relations, but also to convince Oglethorpe that they were not primitive savages as they were viewed by most the British officials in older colonies to the north.
Their high king, Paracusa Chikili presented Oglethorpe with a bison vellum, on which was written in the Apalache-Creek writing system, the early history of the Kaushete-Creek people. The Kaushete became the leading branch of the Upper Creeks. Newspaper accounts of the writing system described it as being composed of “peculiar red and black characters, not pictures.” The text of the vellum was read by Chikili and translated into English by Kusaponakesa (Mary Musgrove), a Creek noblewoman married to a British colonist. Georgia colonial secretary, Thomas Christie, wrote down the final translation.
Oglethorpe immediately realized that he had witnessed something extraordinary. He wrote a letter to King George II stating that the Creek Indians were distinctly different from any other tribe ever encountered by the British in North America. He stated, “I am convinced that the Creek Indians are descended from a great civilization. They are equal in intelligence or greater so, to any Englishman and deserving of being treated as our equals in all matters.”
Oglethorpe directed Christie to place the bison calf vellum, his translation and the interviews with Creek leaders on the next ship headed to London. The ship departed on July 6, 1735. The documents created quite a stir in London and were given extensive coverage in the American Gazetteer newspaper. The vellum hung on the wall of the Colonial Office at Westminster for many decades. The location of the translation that brought meaning to the vellum was soon lost.
Throughout the 1800s, several delegations of prominent scholars from major American universities sailed across the Atlantic in vain search for the lost Migration Legend of the Creek People. By the time that archaeology was becoming a true profession in the United States, the Migration Legends had become almost forgotten . . . but not by the Creek People.
Life is indeed a box of chocolates
I began trying to find the lost original copy of the Migration Legends in 2003. Initially, I thought that the internet would make discovery of the lost documents rather straight forward. Internet research technology was not available to 18th, 19th and 20th century scholars. I quickly hit a brick wall. It was the policy of the UK National Archives not to respond to research questions from persons, who were not citizens of the United Kingdom or one of the Commonwealth countries. I also was unable to get a response from emails to the James Edward Oglethorpe Museum in Godalming, Surrey, England. I stopped searching after the “Mayas In Georgia Thang” blew up in 2012.
Then in mid-2013, I received a brief typed note from a guy named Clarence House in England. Apparently, he was someone important, maybe a member of the House of Lords, because the coat of arms of England was at the top of the note. He congratulated me on my hard work and determination in the discovery of the evidence that the Mayas came to Georgia. He closed by saying that if I need assistance in the future, there were British historians interested in the area of research I was focusing on.
I look up this man’s name in Wikipedia. Geez! Clarence House was the official residence of His Royal Highness, Prince Charles! Apparently, someone there, higher up in the pecking order, had either watched the premier of America Unearthed on the History Channel, or read my articles in the Examiner.
A few months later, I decided to write Prince Charles directly and ask for the assistance of his staff in finding the original copies of the Creek Migration Legends. After introducing myself, I suggested to the Prince that if he ever got tired of the Royal Business, he should consider being an architect or a full-time developer. The planned communities had he had developed in England are some of the most livable and beautiful in the world. That’s the truth, not flattery.
About a month later, I received an email from Dr. Grahame Davies, Assistant Private Secretary to HRH Prince Charles. Dr. Davies stated that Prince Charles has asked him to help me. Holy Cow! I provide Dr. Davies with background on early Georgia colonial history and the history of the search for the Lost Migration Legends. He said that he would see what he could find out, but could not make any promises since the documents went missing so long ago.
About three months later, I received another email from Dr. Davies. The velum displaying the Creek writing system had hung on the wall of the Georgia Office at Westminster, until the end of the Revolution. It possibly was stored by the UK National Archives or may have been given back to James Oglethorpe. King George II forwarded Thomas Christie’s papers to William Wake, Archbishop of Canterbury, with instructions to create a Holy Bible in the Creek language . . . preferably also in the Creek writing system.
Archbishop Wake’s staff found it impossible to equate the characters on the bison velum to Roman letters, so first set about creating a Creek dictionary in Roman letters. Wake died in January 1737. Even the dictionary had not been completed by that time. The archbishop, who followed him, was not interested in sponsoring missionary efforts among the American Indian tribes, so the project came to a halt.
I immediately hit another roadblock. No one at Lambeth Palace or the Lambeth Palace Library would respond to my letters and emails about the Lost Migration Legends. Eventually, I stumbled upon a list of documents that had been posted online by the architecture firm, supervising the renovation of the Lambeth Palace Library. The list contained the descriptions of boxes that had been removed from the Library Archives then temporarily stored and catalogued at the UK National Archives. On that list was a wooden crate “containing archives from the Colony of Georgia about the Creek Indians.” The crate was dated 1735. Bingo!
I went back to the Lambeth Palace Library website. There was a notice that the staff would be incommunicado until March 1, 2015 due to the renovations currently being made. After March 1st, still no one would respond to my emails. I then decided to call the diocese offices of the Anglican Church, which are in Loganville, GA. I explained that I was trying to find someone, who could persuade the staff at Lambeth to “answer the phone.” The staff was very friendly, but explained that they were not on friendly terms with either the Church of England or the Episcopal Church in the United States.
I then called the Episcopal Diocese Office in Atlanta. Initially, the person I talked to said that they had no direct ties with Lambeth Palace. However, another member of the staff called me back to tell me that she knew someone, who had worked at Lambeth Palace until recently. He now was employed by the Diocese. I called the man. He was very interested in my research project. He said that he knew someone, who could get the Lambeth Palace Library to answer my emails. The next morning, in my AOL Inbox was a letter from the Chief Archivist for Lambeth Palace Library. She apologized for not answering my emails and affirmed that the Creek Migration Legends still existed. Attached were the application forms for retrieving the documents. She had waived the application fee because the staff had been so rude and because I represented a non-profit organization.
On April 29, 2015, I received an email stating that they had found the box and that all documents were in good condition, considering their age. She said that the cost of having the documents photographed with a special high-resolution camera, which didn’t damage the velum was extensive, but someone who preferred to be anonymous was going to pay for the top archival photographer in the UK to do the work. The photographer was an internationally famous and busy man so it would take about a month to get the documents digitized. My bet is that HRH Prince Charles picked up the tab.
On June 1, 2015, I became the first person from what is now the United States, to see these documents since July 6, 1735. I also became the first Native American other than Mary Musgrove to see these documents. Two conditions were included in the agreement for someone else to pay for the photography. I could never sell the photographs of the photographs and I would only make copies available to educational institutions and Creek tribes.
No one is interested!
Once I had the digital files of the Creek Migration Legends in my computer, I began transcribing the cursive writing to printed form. After that process was completed, I immediately sent out a notice that transcripts of the original Creek Migration Legends were available to all anthropology departments in Southeastern Universities. Only three departments responded. All three told me that they didn’t want to get involved in the “Maya Thing.” Since I received no responses from either the University of Oklahoma and the Georgia Historical Society, I called them directly. Fortunately, the student answering the University of Oklahoma Anthropology Department was Creek. She was ecstatic and immediately transferred me to their Creek Language Department.
The professor, who answered the phone of the Creek Language Department asked me to email a sample copy of the transcription of the documents. I did. She quickly emailed back, only these words: “Who did this translation. It is all wrong!” I wrote back, “Mary Musgrove . . . the actual writing is by Georgia Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie.” The professor wrote back, “Never heard of her. Is she a citizen of the Muscogee-Creek Nation?” I wrote back, “No, she was a member of the Creek Confederacy and a close relative of Emperor Brim. She was one of the most famous Native American women in Colonial America.” I never heard back from the University of Oklahoma.
The call to the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah went even worse. I was transferred to a man, who was obviously annoyed. He told me that the original copies of the Creek Migration Legends have not existed for a long, long time and that he was a busy man. He hung up on me as I was trying to explain that I had actually found the original copies.
The only organization that requested a copy of the transcript of the Creek Migration Legends was the Muscogee-Creek National Council. They then thanked me graciously for my hard work.
As a last gasp measure, I got permission from Lambath Palace to call the Library of Congress to offer it digital copies of these precious documents, since the Georgia Historical Society hung up the phone on me. After being switched from phone to phone during what seemed like an eternity, a woman came on the phone to tell me that it was the policy of the Library of Congress not to accept supposed historical documents from the general public. They would only accept documents that had been authenticated and donated by a major, accredited educational institution.
So today, I am the sole keeper in the Americas of the original Creek Migration Legends. They are kept is a safe, fireproof container. I fellow jest can’t get no respect, when is he is telling the truth.