The real origin of Tallahassee’s name

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner

For almost two centuries, we were told that Tallahassee, Florida was originally a Muskogee-Creek town named, Talwa-hassi, which meant “Town-Old.” The “History of Tallahassee” in Wikipedia still states, “The name “Tallahassee” is a Muskogean language word, often translated as “old fields” or “old town”

I noticed that last year someone changed the etymology of Tallahassee anonymously in several Wikipedia articles on Tallahassee, but not all of them. Apparently, the Seminole Tribe of Florida gave a Creek dictionary to the FSU Department of Anthropology as a Christmas gift. Some professor eventually looked up “old” in the dictionary and discovered to his or her horror that the Muskogee word for “old” was leske. In fact, there was no word, hassi, in the dictionary. Oh the horror of it all.

The department’s linguist then scanned through the dictionary until he or she found a word similar to hassi. It’s vhasse . . . pronounced Äw : häj : shē. It means “rancid, spoiled or old” as in food or polluted water. It is not used when described the age of a tree or a town. Nevertheless, the linguist raced into Wikipedia and changed the daffy definition of Tallahassee to: “Tallahassee . place in Florida, U.S.A., 1799, originally Seminole Tallahassee, from Muskogee /talaha:ssi/, name of a tribal town, perhaps from /(i)talwa/ “tribal town” + /ahassi/ “old, rancid.” One Wikipedia article on Tallahassee uses the new daffy definition. The other article, quoted in the introduction, stuck to the old daffy definition.

And now for the rest of the story

The authors of the Dictionary of Creek-Muskogee, Jack B. Martin and Margaret Mauldin (professors at the University of Oklahoma) quickly determined that Tallahassee was NOT a Muskogee-Creek town. It was an Itsate (Hitchiti) town . . . the same language that my ancestors spoke. The Itsate word for town is the same as the Itza Maya and Totonac word for town, tula. They found several Itsate Creek town names in Georgia, with names the same or similar to Tallahassee, such as Tulahase, Tulahalse and Tulahiwalse. Confused as to what was going on, they left the etymology of Tallahassee as a “Hitchiti or Seminole Tribal town named Tulahasse.” They used the “Creek Tribal Town” approach to defining all the Creek towns with Maya names, because they could not translate the words with a Muskogee dictionary. That is not quite the whole story.

The answer to this riddle comes from 17th century French ethnologist, naturalist and historian, the Rev. Charles de Rochefort. He devoted ten chapters of his 1658 extremely popular book, lHistoire Naturelle et Morale des isles Antilles de l’Amérique, to the Native Americans of Georgia, Florida and western North Carolina. However, the focus of most of these chapters are the Apalache of Northeast Georgia.

De Rochefort stated that the Apalachee of Florida did not call themselves Apalachee or Apalache. The Spanish by mistake gave them the name of a tribe in Northeast Georgia. That is true. However, Florida academicians now state that someone by mistake placed the name of their Florida Apalache in the mountains of Georgia and that somehow became the name of the mountains where the fake Indian tribe lived. That is false. Apalachen is the plural of Apalache.

De Rochefort went on to say that the Georgia Apalache, who actually originated in Savannah, GA, but later moved northward, established many colonies along the Gulf Coast. They built towns where the Apalache elite lived. The large town in Tallahassee, Florida (the architectural rendering above) where the Apalache elite lived was names Tula-hiwalse, which means “Town of the Highlanders” in Itsate. The Georgia Apalache built a road to that town from the Smokey Mountains, interconnecting several major indigenous towns along the way. It was called the Nene-Hvtke-Rakko or Great White Path. That road is now US Hwy 120/Peachtree Road/Peachtree Street in North Georgia and I-75 in Middle Georgia, South Georgia and Florida.

De Rochefort stated that the commoners around Tula-hiwalse were immigrants from far to the south. Over time, their language mixed with the language of the elite and became mutually unintelligible to the Apalache in the Highlands, but they remained friends and trading partners. The Spanish said that the Florida Apalache wore grass skirts. I looked around in South America for a people, who wore grass skirts.

Ashanika dancers

Bingo! The Ashaninka of Peru are Southern Arawaks, who traditionally wore grass skirts. ALSO, the Towns County Indians of the Upper Hiwassee (Hiwalse) River Valley in Georgia have exceedingly high levels of Ashanika DNA markers. I am able to translate all of the Florida Apalachee village names (except the few which are Georgia Apalache words) with an Ashanika dictionary. Anihaica, where De Soto’s expedition spent the winter of 1539-1540, means “Strong or elite – Place of.”

Watch your finances!

Since March 2018, I have been subject to unending weirdness from the crazies on the Far Left and Far Right. Most of the activities seem to be focused on hurting my finances. The same thing happened between September 2000 and November 2001. The difference is that 20 years ago, I was a nobody, recently returned home to Georgia from Virginia, where I had been a somebody. Now, via my articles on the web or videos on Youtube, I can zap anybody who commits a crime against me, even if they have accepted Adolf Hitler as their Lard and Safeyer and wear a badge.

So . . . my advice to you out there in digital land is to be very conservative with your finances and be prepared . . . when it comes to maintaining a non-perishable food reserve and being able to survive off the grid. I am not a psychic, but am very experienced at discerning the motivations behind a sequence of events. In early August 2001, I told my sister not to fly to Atlanta on September 11, 2001 because there was going to be terrorism involving passenger jets.


      1. Come to think of it, you are absolutely right. Where I live was one of the first places to get hit by Covid. People, even teenagers, died here and no one knew what the disease was.


  1. Something “good” can happen too, that agents of hate cannot stop. Try as they might its the long game the haters cannot not win but they can stop being jealous of those that love and are loved that is what it is but they can turn it around some will before it is too late.

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