Indian and pioneer history hidden in plain sight
|Ed Lanham (left) and Don Wells explore sites along Line Creek in Coweta County, where mill dams were constructed in the early 1800s. Photo by Jerry Peterson|
By Don Wells
Understanding the history of the Creek Indian in Georgia is seldom a high priority in today’s world. We often pass right by a historical site and don’t even know it. However, if we study the names of the streams and rivers in Georgia, we find many of them have Creek Indian names. In fact, much of the Creek Indian history, as well as that of the pioneers who followed them, is in plain view.
The area south of Atlanta was Creek Indian Territory. For hundreds of years, the Creek Indian Confederacy, composed of Upper Creek Indians (mostly in Alabama) and Lower Creek Indians in Georgia, occupied these lands all the way south to Florida.
While their villages were located mainly along the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in Georgia and other rivers in Alabama, the Creek Indians traveled to all parts of these states to hunt and fish. Trails connected their villages to hunting and fishing grounds, and some of the major trails were used for trading with pioneer settlers in Colonial Georgia and along the eastern coastal plains of South Carolina.
Beginning in 1805 and continuing through 1827, pioneers and the United States government continued to push for more lands. The Creek Indians ceded their lands between the rivers; by 1827, they lost the last of their land between the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers. After that treaty was signed, they moved into Alabama.
As each section of Georgia land was relinquished, it was surveyed and distributed to citizens of the state via lottery. These surveys, while not always the most informative, in some cases provide information pertaining to the location of Indian trails and village sites.
Since 2007, the Mountain Stewards and its partners have used various resources to locate and map Indian trails and sites. More recently, our mapping team has been working in the area of middle Georgia. During the past few months, we located and visited several Indian village sites in Stewart and Chattahoochee counties and located old Indian trails in Coweta and Fayette counties.
The 1821 Treaty with the Creek Indians ceded the lands between the Ocmulgee and Flint rivers. Fayette County was formed from those lands and became the frontier between Georgia and the Creek Indians for six years. Line Creek, today’s boundary between Fayette and Coweta counties was considered the western branch of the Flint River.
William McIntosh, chief of the Lower Creek Indians, owned several properties before the Creek lands were ceded. He built a major trading trail from the Ocmulgee River to Alabama that ran through the lower part of Fayette County and into Coweta County. Branching off this main trail was another, smaller Creek Indian trail – later called King Road – that went southwest toward Columbus, Ga. This trail became a major wagon and stagecoach road during the mid-1800s. Sections of both these trails have been found and mapped to compare their physical locations to the locations extracted from old survey maps.
To the north of the main McIntosh Trail, going west from about where Peachtree City is today, was another trail called the Upper McIntosh Trail that crossed Line Creek and headed toward Bullsboro, Ga (now Newnan) and beyond.
It was near this trail-crossing point that Alexander Ware, a general in the Georgia militia, built two water-powered mills on the creek. He also built a store on the west side of the creek in Coweta County, which was formed in 1827. Alexander Ware’s store became a post office in frontier Georgia and a placename until the area was renamed Kedron in 1839.
The mapping team searched the east side of Line Creek from about Route 54 south for more than a mile. This land is now a nature area. Both mill sites were found, which consisted of rock dams built to raise the water level to power the mills. One of the main trails crossing the creek dating before 1800 was also found.
A search of the western side of Line Creek turned up Alexander Ware’s store (previously found by Ed Lanham and others) on the old trail, as well as the home site of John and Susanna Wynn, who settled in the area in 1841. After Ware died, the Wynns bought the store. The rock dams from the mill sites on the western side of Line Creek were also visited to confirm their existence.