Saturday, September 5, 2009

THE INDIANS OF LAURENS COUNTY, GEORGIA

As the Pleistocene period ended nearly twelve thousand years ago, a new period in the history of America began. The Archaic period was marked by diversification of food-gathering, with less emphasis on hunting and more on smaller animals and the growing of crops. It was during the early part of the Archaic period that Indians first came to Laurens County. While they were generally known as "Creek" Indians, the Indians who occupied this area can not be so easily characterized. Over the years many different groups of Indians have lived in Laurens County. Among those groups are the Yuchi (Uchee), Hitchites, Muscogee, and Yamassee. Yuchi is sometimes pronounced "oo-chee" or "you-chee" and is the Muskogean Indian word for "seeing far away." Due to the migratory nature of the Indian, it is possible that other groups from hundreds of miles away may have lived or hunted in Laurens County.

By identifying projectile points, archaeologists are able to identify when sites were occupied. Points from the Paleoindian period of ten to twelve thousand years ago have been found in Laurens County. Although the concentration of the points are light, this area appears to be on the western limits of a macroband boundary centered near Columbia, South Carolina. A University of Georgia team of anthropologists found a spearhead from the era at the mounds at Fish Trap Cut.

A predominant period of occupation in Laurens County stretched from the Woodland period of 1000 B.C. to 700 A.D. to the Mississippian period which followed and lasted until the 1500's. The Woodland era brought in a period where the people were more adaptive to their environment. Village sites became more permanent. Social systems became more structured. The people of the Mississippian period are often characterized as the mound builders. The mounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon were constructed between 900 and 1200 A.D.

Laurens County has two documented archaeological sites, along with numerous other areas where projectile points and pottery pieces have been found. The most well known site is the twin mound site at Fish Trap Cut. The site is typical of a Mississippian site. The river at this point is 150 meters wide with a broad flood plain two miles in width, the largest section within 30 miles in either direction. The soil is Norfolk Sandy loam, a rare type of soil. The major period of occupation seems to be during the Mississippian period, with minor occupations during the early and late Archaic Periods and the Woodland Period. There are no signs of Middle Woodland Swift Creek occupation at the site. There are minor signs of a Lamar/Bell occupation on the northern edge of the site. Dr. Mark Williams concluded that the site may have been used as a camp for people who were migrating south toward the Spanish settlements on the Georgia Coast and Florida during the sixteenth century. The site may have been the political center of the chiefdoms of the lower Oconee Valley.

The lower mound on the southern end of the site is most likely a ceremonial mound. Recent probes have found very little evidence of any type of cultural material in the mound, which has a diameter of 100 feet at the top and 160 feet at its base. The mound is flat topped with an average height of three meters and is made of red clay with a thirty inch cover of sand. The upper mound was most likely the home of the chief and was probably built first. Today it stands in grove of hardwoods and is only two meters in height, but it appears moderately larger than the lower mound. Much more material has been found in the upper mound, which has a commanding view of the cut. An examination of river maps near the end of the 19th century indicate that the cut was actually the old river bed and not a totally man-made feature. It is possible that the cut was formed by connecting the riverbank with the upper end of an island in the middle of the river. After his examination of the site in 1994, Dr. Mark Williams of the University of Georgia determined that the mounds were built during a period from 1200 to 1350 A.D. It is most likely that the mounds were only inhabited for a period of 50 to 75 years at the most. The site would have normally been inhabited by 50 to 75 persons. Firewood, the only source of fuel for fires, was soon decimated for a radius of miles. The people would then move to another site while the vegetation at the old site regenerated.

The society was built around a "talwa" or "okli" or chiefdom. The chief was usually an elder member of the community and commanded the respect and honor of all. He served not only as leader, but as a judge and lawmaker. In order to keep the large number of people under control, these chiefs were afforded the status of a diety.

Investigations of the distances between mound sites along the Oconee River valley have revealed an interesting fact. Nearly all of the mound sites are almost exactly twenty eight miles apart. The mounds at Fish Trap Cut are 60 kilometers miles below the Shinholster Mound site. The mounds are also almost 60 kilometers above the legendary village site at the junction of the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers in lower Telfair County.

Villages were laid out with some forms of fortification ranging from light to heavy. Some villages used ditches and small earthworks while larger villages used wooden palisades. The center of the town was usually a plaza surrounded by public buildings and the dwellings of the townspeople. Dr. Williams and his team found evidence that a village was located between the mounds beginning around 100 B.C. The village was laid in a circular pattern about two to three hundred meters in diameter with at least eight houses. The pottery shards found here are those from the Deptford period. Deptford period pottery was predominant during the latter part of the early Woodland period. The village, 200 meters wide and 300 meters long, is the earliest known Woodland village site in Georgia.

The other site was examined in 1965 under a grant to a Georgia State College senior student. The site lies along the side of the Dudley sewage pond northeast of Dudley off Highway 338. The site may have been occupied during the Archaic period. Half of the site was destroyed during the construction of the dam. Pottery shards from the Stallings and Deptford periods were found there as well as from the relatively recent Brushed Ware period. The proximity to Turkey Creek is typical of village locations in the Laurens County area.

Numerous other sites have been associated with Indians in Laurens County. For years, projectile points and pottery have been found along the banks of Turkey and Rocky Creeks in western Laurens County. One of the most famous sites in the folklore of Laurens County is the village of Kitchee. Kitchee is said to have been located north of Dublin at the northern end of the Country Club Road. It is said that ancient trees with expanded rings stood as markers of the burial places of the Indian dead. Another site is located along the northern edge of Dublin. The major creek of Dublin is known as Hunger and Hardship Creek. Victor Davidson, Wilkinson County's premier historian, states that there is a tradition that a group of Indians once lived along the creek. A great drought occurred causing starvation and hardship. As the people were forced to move, they named the creek for their experiences along the creek. Could this village have been located at the lower end of Payne Place Subdivision where flint working sites have been found? Still another site lies below the Fish Trap Cut site on the Oconee. The area was known as Diamond Landing from the days in which timber was rafted down the river to the coast. Indian mounds are reported to have been found at the mouth of Turkey Creek and near Rock Springs.

Many of Laurens County's streams retain their Indian names. The Oconee River is named after a tribe of Creek Indians that lived in the area along the river. It has been said that Oconee is the Creek word for "the place of springs" or "the water eyes of the hills." A recent discovery of a study of the 19th century Hitchitee language reveals that Oconee is the Hitchitee word for "place of the skunk". The middle portion of the river was known to the Indians as "Ithlobee." The Creek word for creek is "hatchee." Turkey Creek, which rises in Twiggs County and flows through Wilkinson and Laurens Counties, is the anglicized name of the Indian word "Pennohachee". A branch of Turkey Creek which is known today as Palmetto Creek was formerly called "Taulohatchee" by the Creek Indians. The name of Ockwalkee Creek, which flows from southern Laurens County through Wheeler County to the Oconee River, is derived from the Creek words meaning "dirty water." The name of Stitchihatchee Creek, which is located in the Dexter area, is derived from the Creek words meaning "red man's creek" or possibly "crossing or fording creek." Another of the major creeks in western Laurens County is Rocky Creek. The Muskogee Indian name for Rocky Creek would have been Chattohachi - "chatto" for stone or rock and "hachi" for stream. One of the branches of Pughes Creek in eastern Laurens County is named Indian Branch. This is evidently a reference to some relationship between the Creek and the Indians who once lived along the creek.

Many of the old roads in Laurens County run along old Indian trails. Perhaps the most famous of the Indian trails is the Lower Uchee Trail. The Uchee Indians lived mainly in southwestern Georgia and southern Alabama. The Uchee (Yuchi) Indians used this trail as a trading path from Old Town on the Ogeechee River in upper Jefferson County to Uchee Town on the Chattahoochee River in Russell County, Alabama. From the Ogeechee River the trail connected with other trails leading to Uchee settlements along the Savannah River. The trail may have been opened as late as 1729 when the Uchee began removing to the Uchee town in Alabama. The Uchee Trail entered Laurens County from the northeast near the present U.S. Highway 319, feinting on Ben Hall Lake and crossing the river at Carr's Bluff, just a quarter of a mile down river from Blackshear's Ferry. From the bluff it ran west and north along what is now Blackshear's Ferry Road. At U.S. Highway 80 northwest of Dudley, the trail follows Georgia Highway 26 through Cochran and crosses the Ocmulgee River at Hawkinsville. On August 1, 1808, the Justices of the Inferior Court of Laurens County ordered that a road be cut from Blackshear's Landing to cross Turkey Creek and at Rocky Creek to cross at the Indian camp above where the path crosses. The road would then continue to Fishing Bluff on the Ocmulgee. From there it ran near Montezuma and on into Alabama. One old timer recounted that the road was named for Uchee Billy, who granted hunting lands to the white man and even helped lay out the road -- an act for which he was hanged by his people.

A second trail roughly parallels the Uchee Trail. The road known as the Chicken Road, ran from Old Hartford, opposite Hawkinsville on the Ocmulgee, northeast through the Kewanee area and on into Dublin. Two basic theories exist as to the name of the road. According to some, the road was named for the use of the road as a market road from Dublin to Hartford, along which peddlers would exchange their goods for chickens. Another theory is that the name "Chicken Road " is an americanization of the Indian word "Chickasaw Road" or "Chickasaw Trail." In the 1730's, Royal Gov. Oglethorpe proposed that the area between the Oconee and the Ocmulgee be settled by friendly Chickasaw Indians to protect the colony of Georgia from attacks by the Yamassees and the Spanish. This suggestion of the Chicasaw connection dates back to the 19th century. The abundance of artifacts in the area along the road seems to be a good indication of the presence of Indians along the banks of western Turkey and Rocky Creeks.

The major east-west road running through colonial Laurens County is said to have been a trail from Indian Springs to Yammacraw (Savannah). This road roughly followed Georgia Highway 86, The Old Savannah Road, through East Dublin to the Oconee River. If the theory is true, the trail may have run from Dublin along the "Old Macon Road" to Macon and thence on to Indian Springs. A well traveled road in colonial times was known as the Milledgeville and Darien Road. The road entered southeastern Laurens County and ran along Georgia Highway 199 until it intersected with the road leading to the community of Condor on Georgia Highway 29. From that point, it ran northerly until it intersected with the river road running along the eastern ridge of the Oconee River Valley through Oconee, Georgia, and on into Milledgeville. This road may have followed an Indian trail.

The Indians of this area lived off the land. They were both farmers and hunters. The men hunted and furnished the heavy labor of home construction and mound building. The women performed the duties of gathering, cultivating, and cooking the food. The making of pottery and basketry was done primarily by the women. The adult Indians wore little clothing in the summer and used animal skins for warmth in the winter. The men made hunting trips during the winter seasons, often traveling as many as 300 miles away from camp.

The diet of the southeastern Indian consisted of both wild and domestic foods. The favorite meat was the white-tailed deer, which was captured by decoys or by setting fires. Other favorite meats were black bear, turkey, passenger pigeon, and waterfowl. Small game favorites included rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, and opossum. In this area, fish was a favorite food. Channel catfish as large as 100 pounds could be captured in the rivers and creeks by netting, spearing, or and placing a "V" - shaped wooden or rock trap in the water.

Wild fruits, berries, nuts, and vegetables were highly sought foods. Among the favorites were the persimmon, potato, huckleberry, chestnut, hickory nut, black walnut, and acorn. The fertile alluvial lands along the creeks and rivers were preferred by the farmers over the yellow and red clay lands. Corn, the predominant agricultural crop, was eaten in a variety of ways, including the favorite cracked hominy and cornbread. Other favorite crops were beans and squash. The Indian did not eat regular meals. They only ate when they were hungry.

The Indian walked from place to place. When the Europeans came to America in the 16th century, the southeastern Indian utilized the horse for transportation. When transportation over water was necessary, the Indian used a floatation device made from wood or plant material. For long trips, a log was fashioned into a canoe.

The recorded history of the Indian in North America begins with the coming of the Spanish Explorers. In early March of 1540, Hernando de Soto led an expedition from northwestern Florida in a northeasterly direction toward the Augusta area. For most of this century, historians have debated the true route of de Soto. It is generally accepted that his destination was Cofitachiqui near Silver Bluff on the Savannah River, which was located near present day Augusta. The route he took to Augusta has never been conclusively proved. There are two basic theories as to the route. One theory holds that De Soto crossed the Ocmulgee at Macon and then proceeded northeast to Augusta, crossing the Oconee along the Upper Uchee Trail in lower Baldwin County at Oconee Old Town.

Dr. John Swanton and others drew a different conclusion. Swanton believed De Soto took a more direct path to Cofitachiqui on the Savannah River. A direct line from Tallahassee to Augusta runs through Laurens County. Swanton theorized that De Soto traveled through Dougherty and Crisp counties and crossed the Ocmulgee in the Abbeville area. Then he turned north for a short distance up to Hawkinsville. From there, he followed a trail, later known as the Lower Uchee Trail, to Carr's Shoals on the Oconee River. Carr's Shoals is located a quarter of mile east of Blackshear's Ferry. The river at the shoals was filled with rocks and would have made an ideal crossing place. Swanton claims that the description of Carr's Shoals matches the description given by Rodrigo Ranjel, De Soto's secretary. Ranjel described the crossing as very rough but that thankfully, only a few pigs were lost. The weary Spanish spent the night on a hill not far from the river. Is this the hill which for the last two centuries has been known as Carr's Bluff? From Carr's Shoals, there he would have followed the trail on to Silver Bluff on the Savannah River.

On April 4, 1540, DeSoto and his men came to the Ocmulgee River. The name of the place was known to the Indians as Allapaha or Altamaha. The name "Altamaha" may be a derivative of "To Tama." Luys Hernandez De Biedma, one of DeSoto's men, recounted "that after traveling three days, we came to the Province of Allapaha. Here we found a river with a course not southwardly, like the rest we had passed, but eastwardly to the sea." If this account is to be believed, then the crossing of the Ocmulgee could only have been below Abbeville where the Ocmulgee turns from a southerly direction to an easterly direction.

Although its location is conjectural, many place the Indian province of Ocute in Laurens County. Ocute is the Hitchitee word for "place of the green frog." If Ocute was located within Laurens County, all signs of the province have been obliterated. DeSoto reached Ocute on the 10th of April. Upon reaching Ocute, DeSoto was met by nearly two thousand Indians carrying presents, including corn, turkeys, birds, and dogs. The Spaniards spent two days in Ocute. It is said that it was in Ocute that DeSoto astounded the people by pointing a cannon at a tree, and with two shots, cutting it down. Before leaving he presented the cannon to the chief, because it was too heavy to carry across the river.

The debate over DeSoto's route will never be settled. It seems likely that he would have followed the direct route, as shown on a map included in Arrendo's "Historical Proof of Spain's Title to Georgia." Then again he may have been guided by the trails leading to the well populated area of the Macon plateau. Another possibility is that he traveled over the Lower Uchee Trail and then turned north crossing the Oconee at Old Oconee Town, or Cofaqui, as it is sometimes called. In any event, it seems likely that DeSoto passed through or on the outer edges of what was once Laurens County.

After DeSoto's visit, more expeditions were made into the Georgia coastal plains. The Yamassee
village of Tama, or Altamaha, is said to have been at the forks of the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers in or near what was once the lower portion of Laurens County. In 1597, Fathers Pedro Fernandez Chozas and Francisco Velascola made an eight day horseback journey to the villages of Tama and Ocute with tales of the Diamond Mountain. On the return from Ocute to Tama, they were attacked and narrowly escaped with their scalps. Only a volley of gunfire saved the priests. According to a map of Spanish expeditions, Chozas and Velascola traveled from St. Catherine's Island on the Georgia coast and crossed the Oconee about ten miles below Dublin. From there, they traveled west for several miles before striking a trail supposedly taken by DeSoto a century earlier.

Five years later in 1602, Father Juan de Lara was sent out from St. Catherine's to investigate reports of survivors of previous expeditions in the Yamassee lands in the area between the Oconee and Ocmulgee. Throughout the 17th Century, the Spanish contemplated establishing a mission at Tama. A mission was established in 1680 but was shortly closed. De Lara's followed Chozas's trail to the Oconee but turned north along the western limits of Laurens County and moved north to the Wilkinson/Baldwin County area.

The Yamassee Indians during the early European era inhabited the lands between the Oconee and Savannah Rivers. Little is known of them. They were described as flat footed and very dark skinned and bearing some distant relation to the lower Creek or Muscogee Indians. They allied themselves with the English in South Carolina, fighting the Spanish at the urging of the South Carolinians. The Yamassee moved further south in Georgia and by 1685 were living in the area just south of Laurens County. The Yamassee moved north again in 1685. They were so mistreated by the South Carolinians, they joined in a confederation with the Creeks, Choctaws, Catawbas, and Apalachees. By 1715, the newly formed confederation launched an attack on South Carolina known as the Yamassee War. The English prevailed in 1717. The Yamassees were swept away from Georgia. The area between the Oconee and Ocmulgee, which may have been shared by the Yamassee and the Uchee was uninhabited for many years. The Yamassees continued to venture into this area, attacking Smallwood's trading post at the forks of Altamaha in 1727.

Another group of Indians, known to some as the Oconee, lived in the area around Oconee Town at the lower edge of Baldwin County. They may have been of the Hitchitee stock or merely Yamassees living along the Oconee River. The tribe is mentioned by Pareja, a Spanish missionary, in 1602 and again by Ibarra, Governor of Florida, in 1608.

By 1685, many of the lower Creeks moved away from the Chattahoochee back to the middle Ocmulgee and Oconee River Valleys. The Spanish were insisting on a monopolistic trading relationship with the Lower Creeks or Muscogees. The Lower Creeks moved back to this area to trade with the more friendly English out of South Carolina. The Spanish attempted to move back into the area in 1690 with an outpost in Coweta on the Chattahoochee River. An army headed by seven Spaniards led a force of four hundred Indians against the Oconee tribe at Oconee Old Town in 1695. This was supposedly in retaliation for an attack on the Spanish supported Indians in southern Georgia. Several English trading posts were established along the trail from Augusta to Macon, including a post on the Oconee River. The Indians along the Oconee left this area after the Yamassee War and moved to the Chattahoochee River Valley.

From the removal of the Indians in 1717 through the American Revolution, Laurens County was a hunting ground for the Lower Creek Indians. Relationships between Georgians and the Creeks were once again strained during the Revolution. Some Tories fled eastern Georgia and lived along the Oconee River. They formed an alliance with Alexander McGillivray, son of Lachlan McGillivray and an Indian woman. McGillivray bore a deep hatred for the Georgians. McGillivray was constantly launching attacks on the white settlers along the eastern banks of the Oconee River. These attacks occurred in Washington County, a portion of which later became part of Laurens County. By some accounts the Seminole Indians owned a good portion of the lands in western Laurens County during this time.

In the late 1780s, Captain Kemp of Washington County sent John Galphin, son of trader George Galphin and an Indian woman, along the Lower Uchee Trail which ran through present day Laurens County. Galphin met a party of Indians headed toward Washington County. He reversed his course and raced back to Washington County to warn the settlers of an impending attack. Galphin became a bitter enemy of the Washington countians because he felt they were ungrateful for his saving their lives. (Indian Affairs, Vol. 1, p. 36) McGillivray won an important diplomatic victory at Rock Landing in 1789. From then, McGillivray's power began to wane. His people and the American government could no longer trust him.

In 1792, the clouds of war once again came into this area. While negotiations were pending at Rock Landing, attacks continued along the eastern banks of the Oconee. Indian agent Seagrove went from village to village asking for the return of stolen animals. In July, Captain Benjamin Harrison had six horses stolen from him by Uchee Indians. Harrison lived at Carr's Bluff, across from the present day Country Club. Settlers in what would become eastern Laurens County stepped up their defenses. An old Indian trail leading along the eastern edge of the river was used for border patrols. This may have been the Milledgeville-Darien Road. The settlers petitioned the Georgia governor for ammunition and forts. The State built an outpost called Fort Telfair at Carr's Bluff on the Oconee River in 1793. The people built their own forts arming their families and even their slaves. On April 18, 1793, the Indians raided the home of William Pugh near Carr's Bluff. Pugh was the son of Col. Francis Pugh for whom Pughes Creek in eastern Laurens County is named. Pugh was killed and scalped in the attack. Four horses were taken and one slave was captured. The situation eased when the Oconee's waters rose, creating a natural barrier to an attack.

In the summer of 1793, armies were being raised all over Georgia to protect against further raids. Benjamin Harrison, a resident of the Carr's Bluff area, bore the brunt of these constant attacks of horse-taking and killing of livestock. Harrison once said "that there should never be a peace with the Indians whilst his name was Ben Harrison for he was able to raise men enough to kill half the Indians that might come to any treaty." Benjamin Harrison is said to have been described as a frontier character with a patch over an eye and a piece of his nose missing. Harrison reported to the Governor that he had 160 Montgomery County men under his command. Harrison, a captain of the local militia, called his men together for a mission to retrieve some of his stolen horses. The company moved along the Lower Uchee Trail until they reached the home of the Uchee King, who promised Harrison that the horses would be returned.
At another time, Harrison's men overtook a group of Indians taking three of their guns. Timothy Barnard, the husband of a Uchee woman, convinced Harrison to return the guns, and the matter was temporarily resolved.

By October of 1793, Harrison's ire had once again been raised by the Indians. Captain Nicholas Curry's Company of Washington County Militia was stationed at Capt. Harrison's. Captain Harrison's company and other companies under the command of Major Brenton set out from Carr's Bluff in defiance of General Jared Irwin. Their destination was a Chehaw village on the Flint River. Their objective was to capture any runaway slaves and stolen property. They found the village defended by 16 males and four slaves. The rest of the men were in Florida hunting for game. A skirmish ensued with two Georgians and three Indians being killed.

Georgia Governor George Matthews set out to take a first hand look at the situation on the 380 mile long frontier in the mid winter of 1794. Matthews realized that Georgia's frontier was vunerable to Indian attacks. His tour ranged from the Tugalo River in northeast Georgia to Carr's Bluff. Matthews ordered a series of forts to be placed at intervals along the Altamaha and Oconee Rivers. A fort or station was constructed at Berryhill's Bluff in Montgomery, now Treutlen County. The soldiers at Berryhill's bluff held the extreme right flank of the Georgia Militia and were responsible for the area up to Carr's Bluff until a station could be built there. The area above Carr's Bluff was the most exposed area to attack. Matthews requested that a troop of horse cavalry be assigned to guard the northern end of the Oconee. President Washington sent two hundred horse soldiers to help Guard the frontier. Fifty of those soldiers were stationed along the east side of the Oconee from Berryhill's Bluff northward to Carr's Bluff, where the fort was completed by August, 1794. The area to the north was without any soldiers until the governor got word of an impending attack. The estimated strength of men at each fort probably ranged from 50 to 100 men.

In early May of 1794, Indian agent Seagrove invited the Lower Creeks and Uchees to return to their hunting grounds along the Oconee River while treaty negotiations continued. That same month, Georgia's war hero, General Elijah Clarke, was about to embark upon an attack on the Spanish at Saint Augustine. Clarke and his men were supported by the French government. The expedition left from the upper Oconee area down an old Indian trail along the western side of the Oconee River. The men camped at Carr's Bluff on their route to Florida. Before he could invade, Clarke was convinced by the federal government to call off the attack.

Elijah Clarke returned through Laurens County to his home base in northern Wilkinson County. There he set up The Trans-Oconee Republic - a country of his own. The area covered most of western Laurens County. Clarke established a series of forts along the perimeter, including one on the Laurens-Wilkinson line near Turkey Creek. Clarke made peace with the Creeks and rented the land. The massacres along the Oconee virtually stopped. Georgia's governor insisted that Clarke remove his men from Indian lands, but he appreciated the fact that there was no fighting for the moment. George Washington had other ideas. He demanded that Clarke be removed. The Georgia militia reluctantly marched against Clarke who finally refused to fight his former comrades and left the Oconee area. Georgia officials began to lay off the former Republic into districts. The division was done in anticipation of the eminent acquisition from the Creeks and to prevent settlers from crossing the river. All of the land from the junction of the Oconee and the Ocmulgee up to Carr's Bluff comprised the first district. The area immediately to the north comprised the second district.

The year 1795 was a critical year in relations with the Indians ,which had until then been called the Oconee Wars. In February, John Watts and his company of seventeen men were at Heissey Bluff, two miles above Carr's Bluff on the Oconee. Some of the men started down the river in two canoes. The first canoe was fired upon for nearly fifteen minutes. Joseph Blackshear and the men in the second canoe heard the gunfire and quickly moved ashore. The next day Watts led a party to the scene of the incident. There he found a decapitated William Laster, who had his intestines and private parts cut out. Israel Smith's bullett-riddled body was found skinned like an animal.

Benjamin Harrison continued to be plagued by Indian forays onto his property. In early September, five Indians came to his home with guns and war-like instruments in hand. They asked for rum. Harrison stated that he had none. The Indians insisted that must have some rum. Harrison finally convinced the men that he did not have any. The Indians left and Harrison thought nothing more of the matter. The next day Harrison was riding through his cornfield on his way to his boat yard. He spotted four Indians taking corn without his leave.

On October 28, 1795, an event occurred in Laurens County which nearly plunged Georgia and the United States into a war with the Creek Nation. A small group of Indians had crossed the Oconee River and were visiting friends in a home near Carr's Bluff. Benjamin Harrison, along with Mr. Vessels and their men, attacked the Indians, killing seventeen of them. The dead, which included 1 Creek, 4 Lower Creeks, and 12 Uchees, were thrown into the river. The next morning, the Uchees rode along the Uchee Trail leading to bluff. They planned a retaliatory strike at dawn. The Uchees surrounded Harrison's home. To their dismay, Capt. Harrison was gone. They moved to east attacking Bush's Fort. Bush was a stepbrother of future General David Blackshear and lived in the area south of Ben Hall Lake ,along the newly created Washington/ Montgomery County line. They captured the fort and killed one man. The horses were taken, and the cattle were killed.

The Chiefs protested the killings to the Georgia government. The legislature passed a resolution regretting the incident. Harrison and his men were arrested for murder. That same year David Blackshear, Joseph Blackshear, William Bush, Jr., John Bush, and other citizens of Montgomery and Washington counties were indicted for hacking five Uchee Indians to death. The attack occurred at Harrison's boat landing on the Oconee. Blackshear defended his actions as punishment for beating up one man, behaving badly, and demanding rum. While the negotiations for the Treaty of Colerain were pending, many of the hostilities ceased. However, Isaac Vansant had his brains blown away and was scalped at Bush's Fort in Laurens County in 1796. By the spring of 1797, the Indians were becoming impatient with the failure to bring Harrison and his men to trial. They attacked Long Bluff a few miles above Carr's Bluff, killed a Mr. Brown and injured his wife. The Indian leading the party had a son killed by Harrison at the massacre at Carr's Bluff. In one of the last attacks in this area in February of 1798, William Allen was killed near Long Bluff.

By the end of the century, most of the hostilities had ceased. Gen. David Blackshear complained of the small thefts being committed by Indians in the late spring of 1799. No harm was done, but he thought the Indians were too insulant and mischievous. He found the remains of a bar-be-qued pig at a camp site. Blackshear was aggravated that the Indians were killing any animal they could find on his side of the river and that he had done all in his power to stop them without laying his hands upon them. In one of the final clashes with the Indian people, two white citizens of Montgomery County crossed the Oconee River and took two horses belonging to Indians. Gov. James Jackson wrote to Gen. David Blackshear who had command of this area. One of these may have been ol' Benjamin Harrison. Jackson gave orders to Blackshear directing him to arrest the offenders and not to resort to violence in the absence of any provocation. Jackson reiterated the law against any Indians remaining on Georgia soil without permission. The governor promised to back General Blackshear in any actions he might take.

Georgia renewed its efforts to obtain the land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers from the Indians. All of the lands below Rock Landing near Milledgeville were claimed by Seminoles in Florida. It was said that they were the rightful owners because they were the descendants of those who once occupied Oconee Old Town. The government negotiators pushed to obtain a treaty before massive movements of settlers across the river could take place.

Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins, Andrew Pickens, and General James Wilkinson acted as commissioners to sign the Treaty of Fort Wilkinson in May, 1802. The treaty was signed ceding the land from the Oconee to the Ocmulgee. In May of 1803, the details of the sale were agreed upon, and the new county of Wilkinson could now be settled. After nearly eleven thousand years of Indian occupation, all of the lands of Laurens County were no longer under the ownership of the American Indian.

Three final chapters of the Indians and their relationships with Laurens County were yet to be written. As the United States and the British Empire once again became involved in a war, the southeastern Indians were drawn into the conflict. The British convinced some of the Indians along Georgia's western borders to fight with them against the American government. Suddenly, the western limits of Laurens County were subject to Indian attacks. The State of Georgia raised dozens of regiments to protect the border regions. Forts were established along the Oconee River. General David Blackshear of Laurens County was given command of the 2nd Brigade of the Fifth Division. The men from Laurens County were stationed in forts in Telfair and Pulaski Counties. Georgia Militia fought along side Federal troops and Creek Indians in driving the British out of the southeastern United States.

In 1818, conflicts with the Creeks once again arose. Capt. Obed Wright and Captain Robinson led a force of men against the Felemna and Hopaunee towns. A troop of 46 men was formed by the men of Laurens County. "The Laurens Light Dragoons" were commanded by Capt. Jacob Robinson, with Charles S. Guyton and John Underwood serving as lieutenants. An attack was made on the Cheehaw Indians in southwest Georgia. The Cheehaw attempted to surrender but were decimated as Captain Obed Wright pressed the attack. The attack angered the entire country because of the Cheehaw's friendly relationship with General Andrew Jackson.

Two of the most prominent leaders in Georgia's relationship with the Creek Indians had ties to Laurens County. Georgia Governor George M. Troup was a resident of Laurens County. Troup had previously served in the Congress and the Senate before moving to Laurens County about the year 1818. Troup was elected Governor in 1823 and served for four years. Troup was bent on removing the Indians from all of Georgia's land. He was a first cousin of William McIntosh, Chief of the Lower Creek Indians. Troup used his influence with McIntosh to affect the removal of the Creeks from Georgia. Chief McIntosh and chiefs of other tribes met with government officials at Indian Springs in February, 1825. A treaty was signed. The Indians had given up all of their land in Georgia. In the process of removal, Troup nearly entered a state of war with the United States by refusing to comply with the demands of President John Quincy Adams to stop any attempts to remove the Indians.

William McIntosh was the son of William McIntosh of Darien and a Coweta woman, Senoia Henneha. McIntosh learned the language and customs of both of his parents. He was known to have worn tartans and plaids of his paternal family along with the clothing of his maternal ancestors. McIntosh allied himself with the American army during the War of 1812 and fought alongside the army against other Indian tribes. T.F. Sawyer of Hutchinson, Kansas (grandson of the founder of Dublin, Jonathan Sawyer) wrote of McIntosh in a letter in 1904. Sawyer tells of his father, who lived in Dublin in the first two decades of the 19th century. He states that " Chilly McIntosh, son of the Chief, played and romped about the present site of Dublin and up and down the Oconee River, about 80 or 90 years ago, with Sawyer's father, the son of Jonathan. They were also classmates." Among the legends of Laurens County's history is the reservation of Chief McIntosh at Well Springs. The springs are located on the west bank of the Oconee River a few miles below the Valdosta Plantation of Governor Troup. Chilly McIntosh, son of the Chief, attended school while his father was visiting at the springs. He later became the first school superintendent of Oklahoma. The Upper Creeks retaliated against McIntosh for his part in the sale of Indian lands in Georgia. On May 30, 1825, he was murdered in his home on the Chattahoochee River. Chilly McIntosh escaped and made his way to the capital in Milledgeville to inform the government of the fate of his father.

The final events in the history of Laurens County with the Indian people occurred in 1836. The Seminole Indians, elements of whom may have descended from the Indians of this area, began an uprising under the leadership of Osceola. Governor William Schley ordered the formation of militia companies to protect against the threat of an invasion. Gen. Eli Warren, head of the militia in Laurens County, organized several companies of men. The Dublin Volunteers were organized on February 8, 1836, with George M. Troup, Jr. in command. Newman McBain, 1st Lt., Thomas N. Guyton, 2nd Lt., and Edward J. Blackshear, Ensign, rounded out the cadre of officers. The federal and state forces under the command of Gen. Winfield Scott easily defeated the Seminoles and effectively put an end to the conflicts in the southeastern United States.

Thus ended the era of the Indian in Laurens County. The generations of eleven thousand years were gone, never to return. It was a time of simple life. It was a time when generations were taught to remember those who came before them. They were a people who built their lives around their family and traditions - persevering for over a hundred lifetimes.

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    1. I found your writing well written and concise. I enjoyed the read very much.

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