The Forgotten Early History of Savannah – Part Two

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

The map above was completed in 1735 and accompanied the Creek Migration Legend to England.

Colonial Secretary Thomas Wake establishes an endowment to pay for two missionaries. Those funds would bring the Wesley brothers to America.

Although this series uses the term Creek Indians, despite what you read in a legion of books and references (including Wikipedia), it was never used in official documents during the early 1700’s. The ethnic label, Muskogee, did not appear until the late 1740s.  Georgia officials used the name of their tribal division such as Uchee, Palachicola, Coweta, Cusseta, Tallasee, Chickasaw, etc.  High King Chikili stated that they called themselves the Apalache.  The plural of Apalache is Apalachen . . . hence the original name of the Georgia Mountains – Appalachians.  The French called the Georgia Mountains, Les Montes Cohuitas, which became today the Cohutta Mountain Range.  Cohutta is NOT a Cherokee word.

In early 1734, James Oglethorpe invited Tamachichi and his immediate family to accompany him on a voyage to England. 21 While there, the Creeks were received warmly by King George II, the Georgia Board of Trustees, members of Parliament and the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Wake.

In late April 1734, the Creek delegation visited Lambeth Palace, the official home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 22 Tamachichi was invited by the archbishop to visit his massive library, which today contains books and artifacts going back to the 600s AD. Tamachichi was so impressed by these books that he asked Wake in a letter probably penned by Thomas Christie, to send teachers to Savannah so that the children in his village would be able to read these books just like Christians could.

Wake wrote a letter to Colonial Secretary Thomas Christie about this matter. 23 The letter was sent along on the ship carrying the Creek delegation and Oglethorpe back to Savannah.   Christie had been contributing to an endowment fund for the church.  Wake asked about the value of the endowment and inquired if it could be used to hire missionaries for the Creek Indians.  History was about to take an unexpected turn.

Conference with leaders of new Creek Confederacy

On returning to the Province of Georgia from England in early 1735 with the party of Creek Indians, led by Tamachichi (Tomochichi), James Edward Oglethorpe invited leaders of the new Koweta Confederacy, aka Creek Confederacy, to meet with colonial officials to negotiate a peace treaty. 24 Tamachichi traveled to Koweta, which at that time was on the Ocmulgee River in present day Macon, GA.  He had been expelled from the new reconstituted Creek Confederacy in 1717 by Emperor Brim.  Had he returned during Brim’s lifetime, he probably would have been executed.  However, this time Tamachichi was welcomed, because there was a new Principal Chief, Chikili, who hailed from Palachicola, where Tamachichi lived.

Tamachichi convinced the leadership at Koweta that the colonial government, led by James Oglethorpe, was very different than that of South Carolina.  He presented Oglethorpe as an honest man, who liked their people and could be trusted by their people.

Two weeks before the annual celebration on the Summer Solstice of the Muskogean New Year, aka the Green Corn Festival, a delegation of Creek leaders arrived in Savannah to meet James Oglethorpe and observe development of the town.  Principal Chief, Chikili, brought with him a gift for James Oglethorpe -a buffalo calfskin velum on which was the history of the Kaushete (Cusseta) a major division of the Upper Creeks.  25

The Creek Sacred Fire, used today, came originally from Orizaba

The velum described the origins of the Kaushete on the slopes of the Orizaba Volcano in Veracruz State, Mexico . . . their persecution by powerful Mesoamerican peoples . . . and their journey around the edge of the Gulf of Mexico until they reached southeastern Tennessee.  During a terrible drought, which probably was the one between 1585 and 1600, a band of the Kaushete followed the Little Tennessee River into the Smoky Mountains and lived a primitive existence.  Still not able to produce enough food, they migrated southward on the Great White Path, eventually massacring a large town on the side of a mountain (probably the Track Rock terraces since it was on the Great White Path).   They then traveled southward into the lower mountains of Georgia, where they were given sanctuary by the Apalache-te, if they promised to stop their warlike ways.

When the Alabama, Kaushete, Chickasaw and Apeke formed the original Creek Confederacy, they chose the Sacred Fire that originally was obtained by the ancestors of the Kaushete from the top of Orizaba Volcano as the source of their Sacred Fire. The coals of that fire were transported to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears and still exists today by the Muskogee-Creek, Chickasw and Semimole Peoples!

Chikili read the velum in one of the Creek languages.  No record survives of which Creek language that he used.  As Chikili read the velum, Kvsvponakesa (Mary Musgrove) translated his words into English and Colonial Secretary, Thomas Christie, recorded the words. 26 After this presentation, Oglethorpe and the Creek leaders discussed other issues that would formalize the relationship between the new colony and the Creek Confederacy.

The Creeks authorized Oglethorpe to build a fortified trading post at the falls of the Savannah River, where Augusta, GA is now located and to build a road to that trading post. 27 At the time, British land only extended about 25 miles inland.  It is not known whether James Oglethorpe originally requested to rebuild the fortified trading post at Ocmulgee Bottoms.  Perhaps both parties concluded that having a fortified British outpost in the heart of the Creek Confederacy might be a source of future conflict.

The Creek delegation met with prominent people of Savannah  that afternoon of June 7, 1735. 28 Chikili again read the buffalo calfskin to the leaders, while Mary Musgrove translated and Thomas Christie wrote down the minutes.  The discussions of military alliances and construction of a fortified trading post on the Fall Line were not discussed at this meeting.

The velum was then given to Supervising Trustee, James Oglethorpe.  Oglethorpe realized that he had in his possession extraordinary documents, which proved that at least one American Indian people were literate.  He directed Christie to polish his minutes from Chikili’s presentation and send both the minutes and the buffalo velum to England on the next available ship. 29 Christie wrote a cover letter for both the velum and its translation.  

Oglethorpe did not accompany the velum and letter on that ship, but sailed soon thereafter.  The authors of past essays about Georgia’s early history did not seem to be aware that Oglethorpe sailed to England in the summer of 1735.  Because they always copied each other, no one actually looked at the colonial archives.  We know this because of an article in a popular British magazine of the time. 30

“This Morning James Oglethorpe, Esq; accompanied by the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, Fellow of Lincoln College, the Rev. Mr. Charles Wesley, Student of Christ Church College, and the Rev. Mr. John Ingram of Queens College, Oxford, set out from Westminster to Gravesend, in order to embark for the Colony of Georgia – Two of the aforesaid Clergymen design, after a short stay at Savannah, to go amongst the Indian Nations bordering that Settlement, in order to bring them to the Knowledge of Christianity.”

Gentleman’s Magazine – October 14, 1735

That’s right.  Those are the John and Charles Wesley, who later founded the Methodist Societies . . . which after their deaths, would become the Methodist Church. In Part Three, we will tell you the true story of the Wesley Brothers in Georgia . . . not the fabricated ones that put halos on the two young men’s heads. 

Visitors to Etowah Mounds are never told that the soldiers of Etula carried shields, plus wore elaborately patterned cloth kilts and leather helmets with copper crests. Dozens of these copper crests have been found by archaeologists, but are never displayed to the public or discussed by archaeologists because it would make the people of Etula look like Mesoamericans! Note that the Oriziba warrior is wearing a beard and mustache. Chroniclers of the De Soto Expedition stated that Creek leaders wore beards and their warriors wore mustaches.

All references will be published at the end of this series.

4 Comments

  1. I Love your history lessons Richard. So much more interesting than what we were taught in school all through the years. If we had been educated properly history would have been much more interesting to learn for us all. The misinformation we were spoon fed has hidden the real truths that are out there. Luckily we have your amazing research to set us straight. I have come across pictures of some of the copper crests that have been found in this area. I am trying to remember where I saw them. I believe some are in the archive photos of TVA/WPA. I will try to track them down. I hated history as a kid, but now I am extremely fascinated by all that I have learned since I have been doing genealogy and searching for my heritage. Thanks In part to the many articles you have written over the years. It’s great when you can put together the puzzle pieces of the past for a better understanding of your ancestors and how their lives intertwine with the events of the past. Thanks and thanks again.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I totally agree, ScoutN! Tracing our ancestors and thinking of them in the actual historical times they lived through makes history come alive! Richard’s fresh way of presenting the stories he and his associates uncover also make history come alive – and here in the Southeast, that is saying a whole lot!

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Well, thank you sir. I come from a long line of Creek teachers, but never anticipated the role myself. It was kind of thrust on me, when the other 17 people, who started the People of One Fire stopped writing anything.

      Liked by 2 people

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