Days Gone By - stories from the past

William Weatherford surrendered to save his people from starvation

Excerpts from the History of Coosa County, Alabama

Chapter One

By Rev. George E. Brewer

(transcribed from The Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 04, No. 01, Spring Issue 1942)

There were a number of Indian towns in and around Coosa County, but some are unknown to the writer. The following are the ones about which something is known. Tuskegee was on the east bank of the Coosa, in the fork of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers.

This town derived distinction by being visited so early as 1714 by Bienville, and as being the point where he built Fort Toulouse, the first permanent establishment of the whites in the interior of Alabama, from which point trade was so long established between the whites and Indians.

Fort Toulouse

Fort Toulouse

Several events took place here which increases the interest investing this historic spot. It was here, in 1722, that the garrison under Captain Marchand, the French commander of the fort, murdered him in a mutiny. Here he was buried. He married Sehoy, princess of the distinguished tribe of the Wind.

Their daughter, Sehoy, married Lochland McGillivray, a wealthy and intelligent Scotch trader, from which marriage was born Alexander McGillivray, the noted Indian chief of the Creeks.

An Indian Mound Near Fort Toulouse (Fort Jackson) four miles from Wetumpka, Alabama, on Coosa River

indian mound near fort toulouse

This place was visited by Bossu in 1759, who traveled much among the Indians, Spanish, and French, and is the author of “Bossu’s Travels.” He was sent from Mobile with recruits for Fort Toulouse. Chevalier D’Aubant was to have accompanied him, and to take command of the fort; but being sick could not come with him. Bossu came up the river by boats with his recruits, taking fifty days for the trip. When he reached the fort, D’Aubant had also arrived, reaching it by a horseback route. Bossu remained here some time visiting the surrounding country. He records a speech of a chief made at the fort to other chiefs as follows: “Young men and Warriors!

Do not disregard the Master of Life. The sky is blue—the sun is without spots—the weather is fair—the ground is white—everything is quiet on the face of the earth, and the blood of man ought not to be spilt upon it. We must beg the Master of Life to preserve it pure and spotless among the nations around us.”

The Creeks and Alabamas were a happy people

Bossu further says, according to Pickett: “The Creeks and Alabamas were a happy people. They lived with ease, had an abundance around them, and were at peace with the surrounding savages.”

In this connection Pickett also says of them: “They greeted him (Bossu) with friendly salutations, and offered him provisions, such as bread, roasted turkeys, Broiled venison, pancakes baked with nut oil, deer’s tongue, together with baskets full of eggs of fowls and turtles. The Great Spirit had blessed them with a magnificent river abounding in fish, with delicious and cool fountains gushing out of the foot of the hills, with rich lands that produced without cultivation, and with vast forests abounding with game of every description,”

D’Aubant’s wife became tired of the long separation from her husband

While Bossu was still at Fort Toulouse, D’Aubant’s wife becoming tired of the long separation from her husband, made her way from Mobile to the Fort. It lacked such comforts as were desired by her, so there was built a separate house for her, with a brick chimney. The remains of this chimney were to be seen until 1850.

D’Aubant’s wife was said to be a Russian princess, once the wife of a son of Peter the Great. The story is that the prince treated her so cruelly, that she feigned tobe dead, was buried, but soon taken friends who were in the plot, and was spirited away. She traveled in different parts of Europe, under assumed names. She came to America incognito, and finally reached Mobile. D’Aubant had known the princess in Europe, and recognizing her, was married to her. They both lived at this fort for some years.

While Chievalier D’Arnville was in command of this Fort a French soldier was killed by an Indian warrior. By agreement between the French and Indians, the killing of one was to be atoned for by the speedy execution of the one doing the killing. D’Arnville demanded this warrior of the chiefs They claimed to be unable to find him.

He arrested the mother of the murderer

D’Arnville then arrested the mother of the murderer, as the next of kin, and said her life was to expiate the deed of the son. The chiefs claimed as she had not done the deed, she ought not to suffer the penalty The commander reminded them of the agreement, and their own custom of taking the next of kin where there was a failure to get the principal. The woman was brought from the fort for execution. The relatives followed sadly, but praising the courage of the mother who marched forth so heroically to her fate But just as the execution was about to take place, the young warrior burst through the cane, gave himself up and saved his mother.

During Bossu’s visit there was a reception of the emperor from Cowetta with much pomp by the French and the assembled chiefs of the Creeks at Fort Toulouse. This array of visitors crossed the Tallapoosa at Red Bluff, which was then and has been until recent years a popular crossing place of this river, known to the whites for so long as “Grey’s” or “the lower Wetumpka ferry.”

Additional interest gathers about this town, for after the Battle of the Horse Shoe Bend, General Jackson marched from Ft. Williams, and rebuilt the old fort, giving it the name of Fort Jackson, and here made the treaty by which that part of Alabama west of the Coosa was ceeded to the United States, as has been related.

William Weatherford, “Red Eagle,” surrenders to Andrew Jackson at the end of the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814William_Weatherford

Here it was that William Weatherford, one of the noblest and bravest of the Creek warriors, surrendered himself so heroically, as related by Pickett, after having been the leading spirit among the Indians in the war of 1813 and 1814. I will give the story as Pickett relates it, tho some have questioned the correctness of the narrative as given by him.

Pickett was on the ground, a resident near by, not many years after the event. He knew personally those who were parties in the event, and used much pains in trying to gather the facts.

Here is his account of it:

“Finding most of his warriors dead, their towns destroyed, their supplies wasted, and the women and children starving, and wandering homeless, he resolved to appear personally at the American camp. Mounting the splendid gray stud that had carried him so nobly, and for so long in the chase, and along the war-path, he started for the encampment.

When within a few miles he saw a fine deer which he killed, and tied behind his saddle. He reloaded his rifle with the intention of killing Big Warrior, if occasion required. When he came to the outpost he inquired for Jackson’s whereabouts.

Weatherford surrendered

The soldier replied to him rudely, but an old man pointed out the General’s marque. Weatherford rode up to the entrance where the Big Warrior was sitting, who exclaimed: ‘Ah! Bill Weatherford, have we got you at least?’ Weatherford fixed his keen eyes upon him, and said in determined tones: “You traitor, if you give me any insolence, I will blow a ball through your coward heart.’ General Jackson came running out of his marque, with Hawkins, and in a furious way exclaimed:

” ‘How dare you, sir, ride up to my tent after having murdered the women and children at Fort Mims ?”

“Weatherford said: ‘General Jackson, I am not afraid of you. I fear no man for I am a Creek warrior. I have nothing to request in behalf of myself; you may kill me if you desire. But I come to beg you for the women and “children of the war party, who are now starving in the woods. Their fields and cribs have been destroyed by your people, who have driven them to the woods without an ear of corn. I hope you will send out parties who will safely conduct them here, in order that they may be fed. I exerted myself in vain to prevent the massacre of the women and children at Fort Mims. I am now done fighting. The Red Sticks are nearly all killed. If I could fight you any longer I would most heartily do so. Send for the women and children. They never did you any harm. But kill me if the white people want it done.”

“When he had finished a crowd had gathered around and cried out: ‘Kill him ! Kill him ! Kill him !’

“General Jackson commanded silence, and said: ‘Any man who would kill as brave a man as this would rob the dead.’

“He then invited Weatherford to alight, and drank. a glass of brandy with him, and entered into a cheerful conversation with the brave warrior in his own marque, and extended his hospitality. Weatherford gave Jackson the deer, and the two soldiers became good friends. Weatherford took no further part in the war except to aid in restoring peace.” (Pickett, pages 513-14-15)

When the fort was built by Bienville he had eight cannon mounted on it. When the fort was abandoned, these pieces were spiked, mutilated, and left on the ruins. Some of these old pieces were carried to Montgomery, one to Wetumpka, and one to Rockford, and were used for firing salutes on the 4th of July and other occasions.

Cannon from Fort Toulouse

Cannon from Fort Toulouse

Once in Montgomery, at the celebration of the election of John Quincy Adams as president Ebenezer Pond was firing the salute when the piece burst, and came near killing Pond. The remains of one is now at the capitol The ones at Wetumpka and Rockford were both burst in firing salutes.

It will be seen that this fort on the border of the Coosa has been rich in historic incidents surpassed by no other in the interior of the State.

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  1. I have explored the area between the rivers hallowed ground.

  2. I really enjoy these Alabama history articles.

    1. Thank you, i’m glad you enjoy them.

  3. William Weatherford Red Eagle married into the Lomax family, my husband’s Great Great Grandmother, ‘ Matilda Moniac Lomax’s Sister married Red Eagle. Enjoy your history articles of Alabama..

  4. This Is Why I Love History

  5. I love reading everything Donna Causey writes. I have learned so much more than I have in my 69 years of being a Alabama resident. This one hits home with William Weatherford. My Father’s McCollough family has linked me to one of the Weatherfords. I am a descendent of Fort Mims ( Adcock and Weatherford) , been there many times for the annual celebrations. I was born in Alexander City, and grew up around Horseshoe Bend. Until I researched my family did I discover the connections to Al History. Donna Causey is the icing on the cake.

  6. A man can’t starve for lack of food in the Tensa Delta of Mobile Alabama.

    Besides the story shows William Weatherford bringing a deer to Jackson on account of Jackson starving with his own men and reduced to eating acorns.

    Read the whole story.

    1. That’s a dang cannon

    2. A French cannon from Ft. Toulouse.

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