This transcribed story was written by a true pioneer of Chamber County, Alabama for the local newspaper.
REMINISCENCES OF THE EARLY DAYS IN CHAMBERS COUNTY
By E. G. Richards1
I promised in my last to write in my next article on what I considered caused the war between the Creek tribe of Indians and the United States in the State of Alabama in the year 1836. What caused said war is a question much more easily asked than answered. To answer correctly one must know something of the surroundings of that tribe of Indians.
Creek land was reduced to a narrow strip
They had been a large and warlike tribe and originally occupied a large territory. But by the results of
the war of 1815 their territory was reduced in boundary by the State of Georgia on the east, and to the eastern line of Pike and Montgomery counties, on the lower part of their territory and the Coosa River of the upper part of their territory on the West. This narrow strip of country constituted the Creek territory from 1815 to the time of said war.
Here these people were born. It was the land of their fathers. They had the attachments for the home of their birth that, history, both sacred and profane, teaches us is common to the human family. These people constituted no exception to that rule. The common Indian was unalterably opposed to removing to any other country or giving up their home here. But as the country, both in Alabama and Georgia, began to be settled in the Indian Territory the white people began in various ways to intrude on the Indians.
Hunting companies killed the deer and turkey
Large hunting companies went on their territory and killed up the deer and turkey which were their main supply of meat. Many settled among them so that by the Spring of 1832 it was plain to all intelligent Indians that the white people intended to have their lands. A council was held and a delegation of Chiefs was sent to Washington to see the President to see what could be done to prevent further intrusion by the whites.
While there on the 24th day of March 1832, a treaty was constituted between the United States and said Chiefs by which the latter deeded to the United States all their territory in Alabama. But knowing the strong opposition of the common Indian to removal, their Chiefs were careful to have it provided in said treaty that lands should be surveyed by the United States and each Indian, the head of a family, should have as a homestead a half section, 320 acres of land and the Chiefs a section, 640 acres.
The treaty further provided that each Indian might sell his reservation after location, if he desired to do so, or if he preferred to remain on it, after five years he should receive title thereto. This provision for a time was acceptable to the common Indians. But as soon as the lands were surveyed and while the agents of the government of the United States were locating the Indians on their respective reservations, companies were formed for the purpose of buying up said lands for speculation, and to aid them in their purchases.
Speculators bought up the land
Stores were established in nearly every neighborhood, where there was a settlement of Indians, with stocks of such goods as suited the Indians, including an ample supply of whiskey. These speculators commenced buying up the lands as fast as the Indians would sell them after location—the Indians knowing but little of the value of land.
Many of them sold for very small sums and that in some instances paid in whiskey and dry goods at large profits. While these proceedings were being had the Indians were becoming idle, and in the year 1835 they failed to cultivate their patches of corn as formerly and the Spring of 1836 found them without the means of subsistence.
They were on the point of starvation
The white people had settled among them and killed up the deer. Many of them had spent the money, or what they had got for their lands and they found themselves on the point of starvation. Land gone, money gone, and they were compelled soon to leave the home of their birth empty handed and to move to a strange land they had never seen, without hope of ever again seeing the land of their fathers, it is not strange that these things should have begotten in them a spirit of revenge. Their savage nature prompted them to such revenge. Their hatred was against the white man.
It was the white man that had gotten their lands and their money and was then compelling them to move from their native land. They did not discriminate between the speculator who had gotten their lands for a trifle and the settler who had paid the speculator a fair price for a home to live on, but when they reached the point of revenge, killed the first man they could.
Harper was surrounded by Indians
Harper was a quiet citizen but was in a neighborhood surrounded by Indians and was their first victim in this county. I have no thought there was any other than that feeling of revenge that caused the death of Harper and of other depredations committed by them in the counties of Russell, Macon, and Barbour. There was at no time any regular organized Indian army. Their Chiefs knew they were too weak to fight the United States and did not formally declare war against the United States. But they could not restrain the common Indian from committing depredations on the white people and their property in private. The trouble lasted only a few months. General Jessup, with a few United States Troops, were ordered to collect the Creek Indians at Tallassee in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, which he did in the early fall of 1836, and moved them to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.
I saw some weeping
This writer having professional business with some of their Chiefs, visited Tallassee while they were in camp. While there and passing among their camps, I had an opportunity to see with what reluctance they were leaving their native land. I saw some weeping and was informed by an interpreter it was because they had to leave the home of their birth and to move to a strange land. That caused me to think of the strong attachment that is common to men for the home of their birth. I thought of Joseph, who was sold by his brothers into bondage and there for a time badly treated, yet that did not cause him to forget the land of his birth. Nor did his great promotion afterward, to one of the first offices in the Egyptian government, estrange his feelings from the home of his fathers. But, so strong was his attachment to the land of his birth, that in his old age, with a prophetic eye he looked forward to the time when his kindred, who were then in bondage in Egypt, should return to the promised land, that he gave commandment that his body should be embalmed and his remains carried back to the land of his birth for burial.
Driven from the land of their birth
But here was a nation of people by a superior power driven from the land of their birth to a strange land that they had never seen, without any hope of ever returning to their native land. I think the ways of Providence are to us mysterious and past finding out. Many of those engaged in buying up Indian reservations made large fortunes in a short time. Most of these land speculators died some years ago. While but few of them lived to be old, most of them outlived their fortunes, and but few of them left their heirs wealthy.
The government of the United States carried out its treaty stipulations in removing said tribe of Indians to the Indian Territory where they are better off than had they remained in Alabama. While their former territory is occupied by the Caucasian race who are developing, not only the material resources of the country but are educating the masses and teaching the principles of Christianity throughout the land.-
- Alabama Historical Quarterly, Vol. 04, No. 03, Fall Issue 1942.
1HON. EVAN GOODWIN RICHARDS, author of a series of articles on Chambers County, published in the LaFayette Sun, during the year 1890, was a minister and lawyer. He was born August 26, 1807, at Northampton County, N. C., and died December 31, 1893, his last residence being LaFayette, Alabama. His father was a native of Wales, who settled in North Carolina in 1815 and removed to Madison County, Alabama. He went to the country schools of that County in 1830 and was licensed by the Methodist Church to preach. He located at LaFayette, that same year and was one of the chief promoters of the Opelika, Oxford and Guntersville Railroad, being its first President. He was also among the first to advocate the building of cotton factories in the South after the War Between the States. He was a Democrat and supported Stephen A. Douglas for the United States Presidency in 1860. Mr. Richards married Sarah Dickens Clark Webb, of Perry County, in 1835, and they were the parents of a large family of children.
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