In the summer of 2004 I was beginning to coordinate a project focused on Yuchi (Euchee) history during the period before removal to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). This effort centered on a conference panel and a planned edited book. To facilitate this effort I experimented for the first time with a blogging platform–a very unfamiliar technology to me at the time. The blog was called Yuchi History Notes and, as the title suggests, the aim was to collect short items of relevance to the development of work on Yuchi history. For purely practical reasons at the time (including changing jobs and moving to a new position at Indiana University) I had to set the blog part of the project aside and I took it offline, first making a PDF copy of the content for posterity and future reconstitution.
Happily, work on the edited book is nearing completion at long last. Among the most useful and generous contributions to the Yuchi History Notes came from Professor John T. Juricek, an eminent student of Southern Indian history and a professor at Emory University. Because his contribution will be cited in the forthcoming book, I need to get it back into the accessible record. Towards that end, it is offered here as the first reconstituted item in the Yuchi History Notes series. My thanks go to Professor Juricek for his steadfast commitment to the task of making sense of Yuchi history in its wider contexts.
[Originally published on Monday, June 21, 2004 as Yuchi History Notes #7]
First Georgia Reports of Yuchis, 1733
John T. Juricek
During the years I spent editing two volumes of documents focusing on 18th-century Creek Indians (Georgia Treaties, 1733-1763— hereafter GT, and Georgia and Florida Treaties, 1763-1776) I ran across numerous references to Yuchis among the Creeks. These references were mostly fragmentary so one at a time they did not tell much of a story. As they accumulated, however, it gradually became clear to me that the incorporation of Yuchis among the Creeks was not only never complete, whatever assimilation did occur was not quick or trouble free. At times Creeks and Yuchis killed each other and seemed on the verge of war.
Below I outline the first case of Creek-Yuchi friction that I noticed. One reason I point to this incident is that I’m afraid that I misinterpreted it. It’s less embarrassing to expose your own error than to have someone do
it for you.
Six weeks after his arrival at the site of Savannah, on March 12, 1733 James Oglethorpe wrote as follows to other Georgia Trustees back in London:
“There are in Georgia on this Side [of] the Mountains three considerable Nations of Indians, one called the Lower Creeks… making about 1000 Men able to bear arms… The other two Nations are the Uchees and the Upper Creeks the first consisting of 200, the latter of 1100 men. We agree so well with the Indians that the Creeks and Uchees have referred a Difference to me to determine which otherwise would occasion a War;…” (GT, pp. 11-12).
When the final sentence is compared with the preceding one, “the Creeks” in the last sentence appears to be a shortened form for “the Upper Creeks” in the previous sentence. The impression that the Yuchis were at odds with Upper Creeks was strengthened for me by a late June 1733 entry in Peter Gordon’s journal. Gordon reports that “the Chiefs of the Upper Creeks and Uchi nations” arrived together at Savannah “to enter in to a Treaty of Friendshipp with Mr. Oglethorp.” (GT, p. 18) Ahah! I knew it! The two groups of chiefs came to Oglethorpe for his help in making peace between them, and he did it. Accordingly, in the introduction to the chapter that included these documents, I wrote that on March 12 Oglethorpe reported “that the Upper Creeks and the Yuchis had asked him to mediate a quarrel between them.” (GT, p. 5)
I now believe that there is a much more likely interpretation. First, it is suspicious that the Upper Creek and Yuchi chiefs arrived together, not what one should expect of two nations on the brink of war, and the remainder of Gordon’s account seems to describe a genial meeting with no mention of previous trouble. Second, I had forgotten about an earlier entry in Gordon’s journal. On March 7 he wrote that Tomochichi, the local Lower Creek (Yamacraw) leader, had just said:
“… that with regard to one of his people, that hade been killed by the Uchis (another neighbouring nation of Indians) he would not take revenge without Mr. Oglethorps consent and approbation, (taking revenge is a terme they use, when they intend to declare warr).” (GT, p. 9)
Given this clear evidence of trouble between Lower Creeks and Yuchis, and lack of it between Upper Creeks and Yuchis (on this occasion), on March 12 Oglethorpe was almost certainly referring to the Lower Creek-Yuchi conflict that Gordon mentioned on March 7.
[Contributed via an email to Jason Jackson, dated 6/19/2004]
Among numerous other works, John T. Juricek is the author of Colonial Georgia and the Creeks : Anglo-Indian Diplomacy on the Southern Frontier, 1733-1763 (Gainesville: University Press of Florica, 2010).