Thle-Cath-Cha - The Broken Arrow
He was a man of two people - one white and one red. His mother’s people, the Lower Creek Indians, called him “Tustunnugee Hutke,” or “White Warrior.” His father’s people were Scottish Highlanders, who immigrated to Georgia during the state’s infancy. William McIntosh never abandoned either of his people, all the time struggling to maintain the precarious balance between the two nations during the first quarter of the 19th Century. It was his desire for peaceful coexistence that led to his death - an untimely and senseless death at the hands of his own bitterly divided people on April 30, 1825. This occasional visitor to Laurens County was one of the most important and influential Indian leaders in Georgia history.
William McIntosh, a son of a British officer during the American Revolution, was born in Wetumpka, an Indian village in eastern Alabama northwest of Columbus, Georgia. He was nurtured in the Indian ways of life by his mother, Senoya, and his Coweta Indian uncles. His father, William McIntosh, Sr., sided with King George during the War for American Independence. William and his half-brother Roley, son of their father’s second Indian wife, were put on board a ship bound for Scotland, where they would receive a formal education. William was interested in learning. Roley was somewhat less interested. The boys were spirited away from the ship by their Indian uncles. Their father, oblivious to their absence until the ship had sailed, continued on the voyage to his ancestral homeland. Discouraged by the way his sons were being raised, the elder McIntosh left his family and returned to McIntosh County on the southeast Georgia coast. William’s uncles taught him all of the things he needed to know about life. As he approached manhood, William was given leave to visit his father’s home. William made one final trip to the coast to attend his father’s funeral.
About two hundred years ago, William was chosen as Chief of the Coweta town, at the age of twenty five. He married Eliza Grierson, a woman of Scottish and Creek parents. The couple’s first son, Chilly, was born at their home on the Tallapoosa River. McIntosh, then Chief of all of the lower Creek towns, encouraged commerce with white merchants and traders. The Lower Creeks believed that their “mixed-blooded” leaders were best suited to deal with the leaders and the people of the United States. McIntosh stood more than six feet tall - a height which made him a near giant during his day. He was light skinned, but retained his Indian features of dark eyes and hair. He wore buck skin pants and a calico shirt. His headdress consisted of a turban with a single feather plume.
As tensions became more strained between Georgians and the Creeks (and even among the Creeks themselves), a war between England and the United States broke out in 1812. McIntosh was commissioned a major in the U.S. Army. He led a contingent of Indian warriors under the command of Generals John Floyd and John Coffee. McIntosh led his warriors in support of Gen. Andrew Jackson’s legendary victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. In near total disregard of the Indians who remained steadfastly loyal to the U.S. Army, Jackson negotiated a treaty. McIntosh believed the treaty took too much lands from the tribes who had supported Jackson.
In the years which followed the war, McIntosh and his family moved to a new home on the Chattahoochee River. It was during this time when McIntosh maintained a home near the springs on the west bank of the Oconee River. The springs, known later as Well Springs, is located south of Dublin in the Rock Springs Community. While he was visiting in Laurens County, he sent his son Chilly to school in Dublin.
Relationships between the Americans and the Seminoles flared up again in 1817. McIntosh was commissioned a brigadier general and was placed in command of thirteen hundred Creek warriors. They fought in several engagements with their mortal enemies, known as “The Redsticks.” After six years of fighting, McIntosh left the army, still torn by the strife between his two peoples. His uncle, Chief Howard, the leader of a friendly Cheehaw village, was killed by members of the Laurens County Dragoons under the leadership of Captains Obed Wright and Jacob Robinson.
McIntosh established a ferry across the Chattahoochee at Coweta. He was assisted by Joe Baillie. The Chief built a large tavern and inn at the famed mineral water springs in Monroe County, which became appropriately known as Indian Springs. As more and more of Georgia was being settled by white settlers, McIntosh became involved in negotiations between Creek and Georgia officials. A meeting was held at the McIntosh Inn at Indian Springs in 1821. Despite his deep-seated objections to the U.S. government’s treaty proposals, McIntosh reluctantly signed a treaty ceding more lands to Georgia.
In 1823, George M. Troup of Laurens County was elected governor of Georgia. Troup pushed for the removal of all Indian tribes from Georgia. Relationships with the Creeks became more tenuous. Various towns of the Creek Nation were at odds with each other. Troup, in an ironic quirk of fate, had an ally in his efforts to rid Georgia of the Creek and the Cherokee. Chief McIntosh’s father was a brother of Catherine McIntosh, the mother of Governor Troup, making the two leaders were first cousins.
While some have questioned the closeness of the cousins because of their strong efforts in support of their respective constituents, the two men consulted with each other on the matters of Indian lands. According to local legend, an accord was reached between the two leaders at McIntosh’s home at Well Springs. McIntosh stood firm in his belief that interaction with the white people would strengthen his tribes. Troup took an opposite view. His determination to remove the Indian tribes led to a war of words with President John Quincy Adams. President Adams eventually backed off of his demands for Troup to desist with his plans for Indian removal.
A second treaty between the United States and a council of Lower Creeks, led by McIntosh, was signed at Indian Springs in 1825. The new treaty provided for the ceding of all lands claimed by the Creeks in Georgia in exchange for a comparable amount of land in Arkansas. A bonus of addition land and cash was awarded to McIntosh for his role in convincing other chiefs to agree to the terms of the agreement. When the leaders of the Upper Creeks learned of the treaty, the outraged Creeks attacked Chief McIntosh in his home, setting his elaborate house on fire and stabbing and scalping the martyred leader.
It is said that his son Chilly, who went on to become the first School Superintendent of the Oklahoma Territory and a Confederate field officer, ran from the scene all the way to the capitol in Milledgeville to inform the state of the massacre.
Chief William McIntosh has been called a hero by some - a traitor by others. He was one of the most intriguing characters in our state’s history. His murder was condemned by both of his two peoples. Eventually the members of his family were pardoned by the tribal council. They left Georgia for the Indian territory of Oklahoma, where they followed in the footsteps of this once great Creek leader.