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Humorous story in early Alabama history – George S. Gaines & Chief Pushmataha

The following humorous incident has been transcribed from – Sketches of Alabama history by Joel Campbell Du Bose 1901

George Strother Gaines (1784-1873)

George Strother Gaines (1784-1873)
George Strother Gaines (1784-1873)

Captain James Gaines removed to Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1794, and there, his son, George Strother grew to manhood and entered into business as clerk in the store of John and Robert Allen. In 1804, he accepted an invitation from Joseph Chambers to take charge of the United States trading-house at Fort Stephens, on the Tombigbee River in Alabama. In his passage down the Cumberland, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers he saw much of the country, and became acquainted with many influential men of the Mississippi Territory.
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At Natchez he met the learned and cultivated Silas Dinsmore, the United States agent to the Choctaws. Colonel Dinsmore was preparing to meet the Indians at Fort Stephens for a treaty to effect the purchase of the lands between the widely separated Tombigbee and Natchez settlements, and thereby to remove obstructions to the mutual protection and interests of the settlements.

A protracted delay at New Orleans enabled Colonel Dinsmore to make numerous purchases necessary for successful business with the chiefs.

St. Stephens was reached in March, 1805. The Indians were there, according to agreement, but did not feel authorized to sell the lands desired by the United States. At Mount Dexter, near Macon, Mississippi, they met the next year and sold a narrow strip between the “settlements” —a strip much narrower than was expected by the United States commissioners.

At the St. Stephens treaty the big table in the house of the factor was weighted down with good things to eat and drink. Officers of the United States and the Indian chiefs, with their captains, sat around the table every day for dinner. This was one of the ways by which the commissioners and factors cultivated the friendship of the Indians. All guests on those occasions did their best to create good will.

There were present at the treaty three great chiefs—Mingo Homostubbee of the Northeastern Choctaws, Mingo Puckshennubbee of the Western, and Pushmataha of the Southeastern Choctaws.

Choctaw Chief Pushmataha

Choctaw Chief Pushmataha
Choctaw Chief Pushmataha

The Indians are a sober-looking people, but they love fun. The sparkle of wines, the cheer of feasts, and the wit and wisdom of boon spirits delighted them, and they contributed a large share to the intellectual jousts at the table. A young lieutenant of the United States army annoyed the old chief, Mingo Homostubbee, by numerous questions. His last question was :

” Who is considered the greatest warrior among you ? ”

According to Mr. George S. Gaines, who was present, the old chief answered:

” I was considered the greatest warrior, but found it was not the case when returning from a visit we paid President Washington in Philadelphia!”

” How did you make the discovery ?” inquired the lieutenant.

” The President sent us in a ship to New Orleans,” said the chief, and when we were at sea, entirely out of sight of land, a storm came upon us. The waves were so high they seemed almost to kiss the clouds, and the ship rolled about among them until I thought that we would never again see the beautiful hills and valleys, forests and streams of our beloved country and our bones would lie scattered on the bottom of the strange waters instead of resting peacefully with our departed relations. All this alarmed me. I found that I had not the firmness in danger and the utter fearlessness of death of a great warrior, and concluded to go down into the cabin to see how my friend Puckshennubbee was affected by this (to our party) new and strange danger. And what do you think he was doing?”

The description of the storm attracted the attention of every one at the table. The lieutenant eagerly asked,

“What was he doing?”

” Why,” said the old chief, with a very grave face, but a humorous twinkle of the eyes, ” Why, he was making love to an old squaw we took along to cook for us, and he seemed to be as unconcerned about the danger as if he were at home in his own cabin, sitting by the fire and listening to the songs of the wind among the trees.”

The roars of laughter that followed this denouement drowned Mingo Puckshennubbee’s indignant denial of it. Mr. Gaines said that Mingo Puckshennubbee was as remarkable for his modesty and simplicity as Mingo Homostubbee was for his wit and jollity.

When Colonel Dinsmore tried to run the northern boundary-line of the Mount Dexter cession, he was checked by the captain of the Tuskahoma Indian village, nor could he advance until Mr. Gaines and his brother, Captain Edmund Pendleton Gaines, visited and quieted the captain.

The section developed so rapidly that enlarged interests required division of labors, and the duties of Mr. Chambers were apportioned to three men. Mr. Gaines succeeded to the trading-house, with Thomas Malone as assistant, Thomas W. Maury, of Virginia, was appointed register of the land office, and Lemuel Henry was made receiver of public moneys.

Mr. Gaines was proud of his position, and used every means to become helpful in the civilization of the Indians. He eschewed politics, not because he felt indifferent, but because he construed his mission as a business man to be paramount to other interests.

Hunters poured into St. Stephens, and the business of the trading-house increased. The Creeks from the Black Warrior River and from beyond the Alabama River, the Choctaws, and even the Chickasaws came to trade. Mr. Gaines was careful to deal fairly with them all. If an article was damaged, he would point out the defect and reduce the price. The Indians respected him highly, trusted him fully, and learned from him lessons of business integrity.

 

SOURCES

1.Sketches of Alabama history  By Joel Campbell Du Bose 1901

 

 

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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3 comments

  1. […] a native of Virginia. In 1817, Frances came with his brother James G. Lyon to live with his uncle George Strother Gaines in Alabama. George S. Gaines was the Native American agent of the United States government in St. […]

  2. […] Different parties have written of Mrs. Crawley’s captivity and rescue. And they have quoted the writing of Col. George S Gaines. […]

  3. This story was also included in a 1908 public school textbook for schoolchildren. The copy I have is signed by a 9th grader.

    While the story is written somewhat differently, the punchline paragraph is included verbatim.

    The preface reads: This Alabama History has been prepared especially for use in the public schools. Its purpose is to give a fair impression of the growth of the State, and to make distinct the spirit that has animated the people in all the years of its history.

    The author hopes that its suggestiveness will help to stimulate the young people to intelligent patriotism and to ardent love for the history of Alabama.

    Joel Campbell DuBose
    Birmingham, Alabama,
    October 1, 1908

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