Days Gone By - stories from the past

This historic Native American site is still surrounded in controversy today

[This historic site is still surrounded by controversy as can be seen by the film at the end of the article. Most of the statements in this article have been transcribed directly from sources written before 1921.]

“Another Indian town in the limits of Coosa, located in the flat in the southern part of Wetumpka, was Hickory Ground. It was here, in 1745, that the Scot trader, Lachland McGillivray, married the Indian princess Sehoy, daughter of Captain Marchant After his marriage to her, he did business both here and at Little Tallassee, and accumulated quite a fortune.”

Upper Muscogee Creek tribal town

“Hickory Ground is also known as Otciapofa, and is a historic Upper Muscogee Creek tribal town. It is now located in Elmore County, Alabama. In the Muscogee language, it is known as Oce Vpofa. It is best known for serving as the last capital of the National Council of the Creek Nation, prior to the tribe being moved to the Indian Territory in the 1830s. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 10, 1980. It is a former village with a ceremonial ground, burial grounds, and refuse sites.”

William Bartram

William Bartram

The site was documented during historic times by Naturalist, William Bartram,  in the 1760s and Benjamin Hawkins in 1799.

Benjamin Hawkins

Benjamin Hawkins - Creek Indian agent
Benjamin Hawkins – Creek Indian agent


The site was documented during historic times by Naturalist, William Bartram,  in the 1760s and Benjamin Hawkins in 1799.

The town was home to several thousand Muscogee. During the Creek War, the inhabitants who were not fighting in the war were confined at nearby Fort Jackson. After the end of the war, they were allowed to resettle the site and remained there until 1832, when they were forcibly removed to the Indian Territory.

Colonel Tait, a handsome, courteous, and popular English officer of the British army, was stationed here for a time in 1778, to keep favor with the Creeks, and hold them in alliance with the British during the Revolutionary War.

Mrs. Dwight urged them to cross the river

In 1781, a party of Americans from about Natchez, Mississippi, numbering about one hundred men, women, and children, led by Colonel Hutchins, came to Hickory Ground. They sympathized with the British and were in danger about Natchez because the opposers of British rule had obtained the ascendancy there. They were trying to make their way to Savannah, Georgia.

They had wandered at times much out of the way. When they had reached the vicinity of where Birmingham now stands, they became afraid to venture among the Cherokee Indians, and turning from the mountains southeasterly, made their way toward Hickory Ground. One of the party was a Mrs. Dwight, who on at least two occasions during their trip, had proved herself quite a heroine. They came to the Coosa River about twenty miles above Hickory Ground and hesitated about what to do.

Mrs. Dwight urged upon them to cross the river and pursue their way, and leading herself, they crossed partly by fording and partly by swimming. When they came to the town McGillivray was away. The Indians took them for a party of Georgians, who were hated by them, and so threatened to destroy them. The party begged earnestly for mercy and disclaimed being Georgians, telling their story of escape from, Natchez, and their efforts to reach the English at Savannah.

Coosa River near Wetumpka, Alabama

Coosa river near Wetumpka

“The Indians, intent on their destruction, would have accomplished it but for a ruse practiced by a smart Negro body servant of McGillivray, named Paro, who was present. The Indians told the party they would not believe their story unless they ”could make the paper talk,” that is, by a written statement. The Negro, Paro, learned their story. He could speak English while the Indians could not. Getting some paper from one of the Hutchins party, he pretended to read from it the story of their flight, how they had suffered, and were then badly bruised up and worn out, and were only trying to get among their own people.

When they heard the paper talk corroborating what had been said, the Indians gladly received them, fed them, and cared for them until, rested and refreshed, they were permitted again to go on their way.”

Colonel Willett was on a secret errand to Hickory Ground

“In April, 1790, Colonel Willett, representing the United States, visited Hickory Ground. He was sent by President George Washington from New York on a secret errand to McGillivray for the purpose of securing a visit from him to New York, in the hope of inducing him to form a treaty with the United States on behalf of his people. Willett moved cautiously and with tact arranged for a meeting with McGillivray.

He came from New York to Charleston, and then worked his way on through the settlements and wilderness, until he met McGillivray at Graison’s a white man, ten miles from Fish Pond town. They stayed all night at Graison’s, and came the next day to Fish Pond, where the Indians honored him with a national dance. From there they came to Hickory Ground, one of McGillivray’s residences. From here Willett visited several Indian towns, and the ruins of old Fort Toulouse. His mission was successful in getting McGillivray to New York, where a favorable treaty was made between the government and Creeks through him.”

Site rediscovered in 1968

The site was rediscovered in 1968 by archaeologist David Chase of Auburn University. The rediscovery was not made public until much later when plans to build apartments on the site were announced. In August 1980, the property was granted to the Poarch Band. It was placed under a 20 year easement that limited development of the property. The site became part of the Poarch Band’s reservation lands in 1984, when they became a federally recognized tribe.

Through the efforts of the Alabama Historical Commission and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the site was acquired in early 1980 through matching funds of $165,000 from the United States Department of the Interior and tax break incentives for the previous owner. Excavations in 1988 and 1991 found evidence of occupation at the site during five distinct cultural periods, ranging from the Early Archaic (8000–6000 B.C.) to the historic Muscogee occupation.

The members of Otciapofa tribal town formed part of the Muscogee Creek Confederacy in Alabama, prior to their forced removal to Indian Territory during the 1830s. After resettling in Indian Territory, the members of Hickory Ground established another town of that name near Henryetta, Oklahoma. Chitto Harjo belonged to new Hickory Ground, where the Crazy Snake Uprising of 1901 was launched.

Controversy continues to surround the site today

Following the expiration of the 20-year easement, the Poarch built a Native American bingo hall at the site from 2001–02, which required the excavation of the bingo hall site and exhumation of Muscogee graves found there. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma called construction at the site “deplorable” and claimed that many burials were disturbed during the initial building phase. This commercial development of the site for a bingo hall was also opposed by other tribes, from both inside and outside the state; the Alabama Historical Commission; Alabama’s delegation in the House of Representatives, which introduced legislation in a failed attempt to stop it; and roughly 50 Poarch members, who wrote letters to the Alabama Historical Commission.

The July 2012 announcement of a $246 million expansion to create a 20-story hotel and casino at the site, caused a further outcry from the Muscogee Creek Nation and the threat of legal action. The Poarch denied that the historic site itself was affected by their development, stating in a news release that it was “protected land that is not part of a casino expansion.”

The dispute over the development of Hickory Ground is part of a wider disagreement between the Poarch Band and the Oklahoma Muscogee; some in the Oklahoma tribe view themselves as ‘traditionalists’ and see the Poarch Band, who stayed behind in Alabama when the rest of the Muscogee were removed during the Trail of Tears, as being “questionable Indians”

Lawsuits regarding construction on the site continue,  but a multi-story hotel is currently in construction as of 2013 on the site.


  1. History of Coosa County, Alabama Chapter One By Rev. George E. Brewer
  2. Wikipedia

Read more stories of Native American relationships in Alabama in the books

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation:: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 4)

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Removal: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 7)


ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Removal: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 7) (Kindle Edition)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

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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 All her books can be purchased at 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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