Benjamin Hawkins' writings 1


I have just a few pages of the journal and will pick up where I can.

We join Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins as, late in 1796, he visits the Creeks and records his observations of the folks he meets and their lifestyles ...

...Sturgeon, trout, perch, rock, red horse, the trout here is also called the chub. The Euffaulee is settled nearly 20 miles, the lands rich. 11/2 miles below the flat lands terminate, there the hills commence, and continue 2 miles, one small creek and 2 branches intersect. From these hills, there are two high bluffs, from whence there is an extensive view of the town, the river above and below the extensive flat lands on the opposite shore, and a range of hills to the N. W. At the termination of these hills is a small branch, and the flat lands commence and spread for one mile on the side of the branch. 140 yds. from the river is a house of the wife of George Cornell. Below 300 yards is the habitation of Alex Cornell, and from this down the river is settled with Indian families. 23/4 miles below, Caleebe Hatchie empties into the river, it has its source near 20 miles to the east, it is 15 feet over.

The town of Tuckabatchee stands on the right bank of the river, in the bend, the town house opposite the Euffaulee. The number of gun men 16. They have lately begun to settle out in villages for the advantage of wood and raising stock.

Some few have stocks of cattle, they hold them high, being accustomed to sell fowls, bacon and beef at Pensacola, at an extravagant price, they ask at home the same, making no allowance for the expense of carriage or between the war and peace price of provisions.

Friday, 16. [1796]

I amused myself this day in riding thro' the neighboring woods, visiting and conversing with the Indians. The lands every where covered with acorns and hickory nuts. Some of the women who saw and knew me at St. Mary's immediately recollected me, they expressed pleasure at seeing me among them, and at the same time said they were poor, and had not good things to give, their food being so different from what they saw at the table of the commissioners of the U. States. They were apprehensive I would find uncomfortable living among them. They sent me a present of bean bread and dumplins, some oil of hickory nuts, pleasant to the taste, and some milk of the same nuts.

The process is simple, they pick up the nuts, dry them, pound them with a mortar, fan them, to free the kernels as much as possible from the shells. They then apply water, mix up the mass with their hands, and work it something like the bakers neading their bread, as the oil rises they separate it from the remains which is the milk.

I had some oil and beans, the oil was not inferior to Florence oil. It was new, they find a difficulty in preserving it from becoming rancid.

Saturday, 17.

I repeat my visits to some of the Indians, and to view what remained yet to be seen in my neighbourhood. I examined into the state of commerce as carried on by George Cornell, the half-breed. His stock of trade is almost 1,000 dollars annually.

Old Mrs. Cornell and her family hearing of my being in town, they came to see me, this old lady is the mother of the man who was unfortunately killed at Colerain, by the scout, as he went there bearing a flag with a message to the President of the U. States.

The old lady expressed much satisfaction at seeing me, assured me of her friendship for the white people, being her own blood as well as the red, and her personal regard for me, for my attentions to her at Colerain.

Sunday, 18 Dec.

I sat out this day on a visit to the towns down the river. Mr. Richard Bailey had called to see me, and promised to accompany me. I directed the agent here, Mr. Cornell, to attend me. I went down the river on the left bank, passing 5 separate Indian settlements, under fork fences, good against cattle only, the lands level and of good quality, the growth hard shelled hickory nut, oak, black oak, scrub, and some few white, not large. I crossed Caloobe Creek and enter the town of Autossee, pass through the town, the gun men all from home, the buildings bordering on the river, the whole fenced with small poles, the first on forks, the other two on stakes, fit only to keep out cattle. X a small creek, the growth cypress. Here I was showed as a curiosity an oak on the side of the creek which had been struck with lightening, it penetrated the tree about 5 feet from the ground, went through and out two feet lower on the opposite side, entered the earth and plowed it up for some distance a foot deep, the tree remains with marks on both sides, and not otherwise injured. I continue on to the house of Mr. Bailey, in all 5 miles. Here I met a welcome reception, and here I remained for the knight. Mr. Bailey is a good farmer, has many conveniences about, with his lands fenced, stable, garden, lots for his stock, some thriving trees, and a small nursery to plant out. His stock of horses, cattle and hogs numerous; the lands where he lives rich, tho' the growth of timber is small. He informs me the product is 50 bushels of corn to the acre. He has an Indian woman, and 5 children, and as many grand children. His wife is of the Otalla family. She is neat, cleanly, provident and economical, as careful of her family concerns as a white woman.

On the opposite bank formerly stood the old town OHassee, a beautiful rich level plane surrounded with hills, to the north, it was formerly a canebrake, the river makes a curve round it to the south, so that a small fence on the hill side across would enclose it.

In the year 1766 there were in this town 43 gun men, there are now 80. The women industrious, and some few of the men. The whole of them uneasy on the score of their white neighbours keeping stock among them, so much so, that Mr. Bailey finds his not safe, but as the property of his wife and children. The course of the river here is west, the creeks which empty in on the left side take their rise to the south at the ridge dividing the Pinsausta waters from them, about 25 miles, it is nearly the same distance to Kongeau, continuing on the south. The lands rich to the source of the creeks, the growth of timber very large, and canebrakes on the ridges, which are none of them high. There are poplars of 4 and 5 feet through, large cherry trees and persimmon trees.

The stock is sometimes troubled with distemper; the mast hits every year, the whole country abounds with very troublesome flees and nats at some seasons.

I saw Mr. Bailey's 20 bee hives, he says they do well, and that there are wild bees in the country in every direction. They are extending themselves west, and some hunters informed him they had lately discovered some, the west of the Mississippi about 30 miles, that they had but recently arrived there, as the trees they feel had young comb only.

Mr. Bailey's two daughters are married to white men, they both spin cotton and the youngest Elizabeth Fletcher, can read and write and is very industrious. This whole family are remarkable for being healthy and cleanly. This may be owing to a custom continued by Mrs. Bailey, she and her family every morning winter or summer bathe in cold water.

I have been much pleased in my visit here as well as at Mr. Grierson's; it being demonstrated to me that the Indian women from there too, are capable of and willing to become instrumental in civilising the men. Mrs. Bailey shares in all the toils of her husband when there was a necessity for it, she attended the pack horses to market, swam rivers to facilitate the transportation of their goods, is careful of the interest of her family and resolute support of it. She presides at her table, which is always neat and well supplied with coffee or tea, butter of her own make, meat and well made bread.

His stock of cattle 200, horses 120, hogs 130 and 7 slaves. he is a native of England, served in Savannah, to the carpenter and joiner business has been 40 years in this country.

Monday the 19.

I sat out this day travelled down the river W. X Kehihatche in 11/4 mile, continued 11/2 farther X Ofeeckake, 20 feet over, this creek has its rise near Koenekuh, the main branch of Scambia. This creek has several forks, the lands good to their sources. We enter into the fields of the Hollewaulee, and continue on 2 miles. Just at the entrance of the fields. high red cliffs are to be seen to the north by the flat lands on the right of the river.

The town of Hollewaulee, is on the opposite bank of the river. Continue on still down the river in all 8 miles X Noocooschepoo. Here we enter the Toosahatcche & Colooswe fields, (the towns being on the opposite side) and continue four miles through them, and X a small creek Leecawsah, at the Colooswe, little village pritly situated on a rising ground to the left. Here commence large swamps, and between them and the river are some rich flat canebrake land, where these Indians cultivate their corn, pilae, and melons. Continue on 2 miles X a branch, rise a hill, where the remains of a circular mound on the left, the lands thin tho' level. To the right the descent 20 feet to the swamp land. From this bank arise several springs particularly one, a large one, half a mile farther, the Uchee village, a remnant of those settled on the Chattahoochee, half a mile farther pass a Shawnee village, they speak the language and retain the manners of their countrymen to the N. W. This town house differs from the Creek, it is an oblong square building 8 feet pitch roofed on the common mode of cabin building, the sides and roof covered with bark of pine. Continue on 2 miles X a small creek, at Mucclassau, continue on in all 18 miles X a creek 10 feet wide. 11/2 mile farther X another small creek and in half a mile arrive at the house of Charles Weatherford.

I chose the river path that I might have a view of the Indian fields, their mode of culture and the quality of the lands. The first 4 miles were high and open sound low grounds, subject to inundations only in the seasons of floods which happen once in 15 or 16 years, the river is also subject to annual overflowings, but always in the winter season, generally in March; the next 8 miles is mostly canebrake land, very rich, much of it under cultivation, the corn planted in hills, not regular, about 5 feet from each other, and from 5 to 10 stalks in a hill, near every small division of corn they have a patch of beans stuck with cane. The margins on the river under cultivation is from one hundred to 200 yards wide, then the land becomes a rich swamp for 400 to 600 yards, this when reclaimed must be valuable for rice or corn, the river never subject to freshes in the spring or summer. I saw one conic mound in this low land 30 feet diameter, ten feet high, it stands near the river. The towns standing on the right bank of the river. The towns standing on the right bank of the river, there are at several places large peach trees, and a few summer huts to shelter the labourers in summer against rain, and the guards who watch the crops whilst it grows to protect it against every thing that may be injurious to it. Many of them move over their families, reside in the fields whilst the crop is growing and when it is made they gather the whole and move into town.

During this season, they show in a particular manner their hospitality, they all to all travelers, particularly white travelers and give them fruit, melons and food. If there is a necessity the women and children eat of the young corn before the husk, but the men do not.

Tuesday 20.

Mr. Weatherford showed me this morning some fine horses raised by him, on his plantations, they were blooded nearly full, 13 hands high, looked well, their feet somewhat too flat, owing to their being raised in flat swampy lands. The residence of this man is on a high bluff on the left bank of the Alabama one mile below the confluence of the Coosau and the Tallapoosa, it is the first bluff below, here are to be seen near his house 5 conic mounds of earth, the largest 30 yards diameter, 17 feet high, the others all small, about 30 feet diameter and 5 feet high.

It has for some time been a subject of enquiry when and for what purpose these mounds were raised, but here it explains itself as to the purpose. The Alabama is not more than 150 yards over at low water, the banks high, yet subject to be overflowed in the season of floods, which happen once in 20 to 25 years.

The last flood was in January last, the river rose at the house where I am 47 feet high, it spread itself over the adjoining country for many miles, and the general width of the river was below the junction 6 to 7 miles, every thing within that scope was compeled to retire from it to the trees on rising grounds or were destroyed. The margin of the river is low swamp and canebrake, the up lands stiff level, pine and oak very open.

There are some mounds which I saw 2 miles from the river in this flat open country, and here they were covered with the water, and all others known in the neighbourhood except the largest, and on this Mr. Weatherford secured such of his stock of horses and cattle as he could collect in time, the remainder were lost.

I observed in examining into this curious phenomenon that the first range of flat swamp lands extends one quarter of a mile, 15 feet from the water, then arise in steep bank, 15 feet, the land poor and flat for one mile, then another rise of 15 feet, and here and there a gradual rise to lands still higher.

This second flat which generally speaking is poor land has some very good land in small patches of 20 to one hundred acres. The growth generally small and on every place the hard shelled hickory nuts, mostly dwarfs.

The flood rises the highest in the Coosau, and some times so sudden as to drive a rappid current up the Tallapoosa for 8 miles. Up the river from Weatherford's, half a mile is a large sand beach, here I saw collecting in the evening the greatest collection of crows I ever saw, and on examining I was informed that they collected there every night, entertained each other with their croaking, took a drink at the edge of the river and then rose and roosted on the canes. In the morning half an hour before sun rise, they began to move in large flocks of many thousand together, first in spiral and then irregular, constantly croaking and ultimately in a direction down the river, out of sight and out of hearing. I left this bluff, and set out on a visit to Mrs. Durant, the oldest sister of Mr. McGillivray, she had eleven children, 8 are living; I found her poor, and dirty in a small hut, less clean and comfortable than any hut I have seen belonging to any Indian however poor. She is in possession of nearly eighty slaves, near 40 of them capable of doing work in or out doors. Yet from bad management they are a heavy burden to her and to themselves, they are all idle. She told me her poverty arose from want of tools for her labourers and some misunderstanding between her and Mr. Panton. He had refused to supply her with any thing. Her husband is a man of good figure, dull and stupid, a little mixed with African blood. She and her sister Mrs. Weatherford keep the command absolute of every thing from their husbands. She can spin and weave, and has her cloth made. The last year he lost her cotton by worms, she asked me for some tools and goods, and said they were ashamed to do so. The sister I am informed lives well in some taste, but expensively. Her negros do but little, and consume every thing in common with their mistress, who is a stranger to economy. She has been a trader for some time but is now out of credit with Mr. Panton. The lands near Mr. Durant are rich.

I crossed the river in a canoe, near this plantation turned down the river to the Tuskeegee, in the fork here formerly stood an old French fort Thoulouse, the flood of the last January flowed over this high ground, here I saw 5 iron cannon, the trunnions broke off; this is a beautiful high bluff, which overlooks the flat land in the fork and on the Tallapoosa, the Coosau, and the lands on its right bank, the river is near 200 yards over. I saw a few bunker beds and the cannon, the only remains of the French establishment. The town house stands near where the fort was, and the buildings, about 30, are compactly situated in the neighbourhood of it. Their fields for culture are the flat lands in the fork, the land where the town stands is level and poor, and continues so out for near a mile, the lands a whitish clay, the growths small pine, oak and dwarf hickory; the high bluff here is as high as at Weatherford's or somewhat higher, perhaps 40 feet, yet not high enough for a town, if it was the situation would be a beautiful one. I continued on up to the Coosau, 3 miles to the hickory ground, the lands poor all the way and level, passing the Little Oakchoies on the way, a neat compact little town. Most of the lands cultivated by these 2 towns lie on the right bank of the river; just above the hickory ground the falls commence, they can be passed with canoes, the lands to the right are broken and mountainous & gravelly, not rich, the rock at the falls very different from those at the Tallapoosa Falls, here it is ragged. Continue on 4 miles farther to the remains of the old Tallassu, formerly the residence of Mr. McGillivray and his son the general, here I saw some large apple trees, 10 of them planted by the former, and a stone chimney, the remains of a house built by the latter, I saw half mile below 8 or 10 apple trees planted by the general, which were thriving. The hickory ground is inhabited by those who formerly lived at the Tallassu, and the old town is a desert, half a mile from this is the residence of Daniel McGillivray, a trader, a native, a native of Scotland, formerly a trader among the Choctaws, but for 12 years a resident and trader among the Creeks, he has a Creek woman and a son 6 years old.. He has been a medling troublesome man, talkative and capable of misrepresentations among the Indians. He seemed much pleased at the notice I took of him, to visit him and converse freely with him, and offered his aid to co-operate with me, and his services by day or night. I told him I expected a like conduct from every man in the department. His woman was very attentive and did every thing she could to render my situation comfortable. Mr. McGillivray cultivates a small field with the plow, lying on the river. He informed me that when he applied to the Indians for permission to settle out of town they brought him to this spot, marked the front on the river and permitted him to call all his that he could clear and cultivate. The river here is 250 yards wide and shallow. The poor, broken, gravelly, long leaf pine land close to his house, about 300 yards from the river. At the falls below his house or 3/4 of a mile a creek empties in on the left large enough for a mill.

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