Barnard Shipp.

The history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 online

. (page 69 of 75)
Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 69 of 75)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

their ears, and had other Indian females to wait upon them. When the fat
cacique presented these to Cortes, he said: " Tecle (sir), these seven women
are intended for your chief ofl^icers, and this, my niece, who herself holds do-
minion over a country and people, I have destined for you."

W'hen Columbus arrived on the Mosquito Coast the Indians presented him
with two girls. Indian chiefs presented one of their wives to their guests.
But were this wife to cohabit with another man without her husband's consent, it


was considered a great offence, and subjected her to severe penalties. Some
Indian tribes did not regard the familiarity of the two sexes, provided the woman
had no children ; but when once man-ied changeful amours ceased, and fidelity-
took their place.

When Ojeda had entered the Gulf of Maracaibo, the Indians sent, in their
canoes, sixteen young girls to the ships, distributing four on board of each,
either as a peace-offering or as a token of amity and confidence.

It thus appears that this custom was prevalent to a great extent among the
American Indians. J r ~- * , r, t,

Note (21), page 375.

Indian Hospitality. — " On our arrival at the trading house our chief was
visited by the head-men of the town,t when instantly the White King's arrival
in town was announced ; a messenger had before been sent in to prepare a
feast, the king and his retinue having killed several bears. A fire was now
kindled in the area of the public square ; the royal standard was displayed,
and the drum beat to give notice to the town of the royal feast. The ribs and
choice pieces of the three great fat bears already well barbecued or broiled,
were brought to the banqueting house in the square, with hot bread, and
honeyed water for drink. When the feast was over in the square (where only
the chiefs and warriors were admitted, with the white people) the chief-priest,
attended by slaves, came with baskets and carried off the remainder of the
victuals, and which was distributed among the families of the town. The
king then withdrew, repairing to the council house in the square, whither the
chiefs and warriors, old and young, and such of the whites as choose, repaired
also ; the king, war-chief, and several ancient chiefs and warriors, were seated
on the royal cabins (benches) ; the rest of the head men and warriors, old
and young, sat on the cabins on the right hand of the king's ; the cabins or
seats on the left, and on the same elevation, are always assigned for the white
people, Indians of other towns, and such of their own people as choose to

Our chief, with the rest of the white people in town, took their seats accord-
ing to order ; tobacco and pipes were brought ; the calumet was lighted and
smoked, circulating according to the usual forms and ceremony ; and afterwards
black drink concluded the feast. The king conversed, drank cassine, and as-
sociated familiarly with his people and with us.

After the public entertainment was over the young people began their musio

* Taken from the Travels of Williani Bartram in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee,
and Alabama, in the years 1773 to 1778. As De Soto travelled through all these
States, except Tennessee, he probably travelled among the same Indians, or Indians
as advanced towards oivilization as they were. So from this account the reader may
form a correct idea of the' manners and customs of the Indians ; their dvfellings, pub-
lic squares, and council houses, and just aa they probably were at the time of De Soto.

t Talahasochte in Florida.


and dancing in tte square, whither the young of both sexes repaired, as well
as the old and middle aged ; this frolic continued all night. . . .

Early in the morning our chief invited me with him on a visit to the town,
to take a final leave of the White King. We were graciously received and
treated with the utmost civility and hospitality ; there was a noble entertain-
ment and repast provided against our arrival, consisting of bears' ribs, venison,
varieties of fish, roasted turkeys (which they call the white man's dishj, hot
corn cakes, and a very agreeable cooling sort of jelly, which they call conte ;
this is made from the root of the China briar.

Soon after entering the forests we were met in the path by a small company
of Indians, smiling and beckoning to us long before we joined them. This
was a family of Talahasoehte who had been out on a hunt, and were returning
home loaded with barbecued meat, hides, and honey. Their company con-
sisted of the man, his wife and children, well mounted on fine horses, with a
number of pack-horses. The man presently ofiered us a fawu's-skin of honey,
which we gladly accepted, and at parting I presented him with some fish-
hooks, sewing needles, etc. . . . We parted and before night rejoined
our companions at the Long Pond.

On our return to camp in the evening, we were saluted by a party of young
Indian warriors, who had pitched their camp on a green eminence near the
lake, and at a small distance from our camp, under a little grove of oaks and
palms. This company consisted of seven young Seminoles, under the conduct
of a young prince or chief of Talahasoehte, a town southward in the isthmus.
They were all dressed and painted with singular elegance, and richly orna-
mented with silver plates and chains, etc. , and, after the Seminole mode, with
waving plumes of feathers on their crests. On our coming up to them, they
arose and shook hands ; we alighted and sat awhile with them at their cheerful
fire. . . .

Soon after joining our companions at camp, our neighbors, the prince and
his associates paid us a visit. We treated them with the best fare we had,
having till this time preserved some of our spirituous liquors. They left us
with perfect cordiality and cheerfulness, wishing us a good repose, and retired
to their own camp. Having a band of music with them, consisting of a drum,
flutes, and rattle-gourd, they entertained us during the night with their music,
vocal and instrumental.

After riding about four miles, mostly through fields and plantations, the soil
incredibly fertile, arrived at the town of Echoe,* consisting of many good
houses well inhabited. I passed through and continued three miles farther to
Nuoasse, and three miles more brought me to Whatoga. Riding through this
large town, the road carried me winding about through their little plantations
of corn, beans, etc., up to the council house, which was a very large dome or
rotunda, situated on the top of an ancient artificial mount,, and here my road
terminated. All before me and on every side, appeared little plantations of
corn, beans, etc., divided from each other by narrow strips or borders of grass,
which marked the bounds of each one's property, their habitation standing in
the midst. Finding no common highway to lead me through the town, I wiis

* On the head-waters of the Tennessee, in what was formerly the Cherokee country.


at a stand how to proceed farther, when observing an Indian man at the door
of his habitation, three or four hundred yards distance from me, beckoning
me to come to him, I ventured to ride through their lots, being careful to do
no injury to the young plants, the rising hopes of their labor and industry ;
crossing a little grassy vale, watered by a silver stream which gently undulated
through it ; and then ascended a green hill to the house, where I was cheer-
fully welcomed at the door, and led in by the chief, giving the care of my
horses to two handsome youths, his sons. During my continuance here, about
half an hour, I experienced the most perfect and agreeable hospitality con-
ferred on me by these happy people ; I mean happy in their dispositions, in
their apprehensions of rectitude with regard to our social and moral conduct.
O divine simplicity and truth, friendship without fallacy or guile, hospitality
disinterested, native, undefiled, unmodified by artificial refinements !

My venerable host gracefully and with an air of respect led me into an airy,
cool apartment, where, being seated on cabin "benches or sofas," his women
brought in a refreshing repast consisting of boiled venison, hot corn cakes, etc.,
with a pleasant cooling liquor made of hominy well boiled, mixed afterwards
with milk ; this is served up, either before or after eating, in a large bowl, with
a very large spoon or ladle to sup it with.

After partaking of this simple but healthy and liberal collation, and the
dishes cleared oft", tobacco and pipes were brought, and the chief filling one of
them, whose stem, about four feet long, was sheathed in a beautiful speckled
snake-skin and adorned with feathers and strings of wampum, lights it and
smokes a few whiffs, puffing the smoke first towards the sun, then to the four
cardinal points, and lastly over my breast, hands it towards me, which I cheer-
fully received from him and smoked.

After ordering my horse to the door, we went forth together, he on foot
and I leading my horse by the bridle, thus walking together near two miles,
we shook hands and parted, he returning home, and I continuing my journey
for Cowe.

We were received and entertained friendly by the Indians (of Cowe) ; the
chief of the village conducted us to a grand, airy pavilion in the centre of the
village. It was four square ; a range of pillars or posts on each side supported
a canopy composed of palmetto leaves woven or thatched together, which
shaded a level platform in the centre, that was ascended to from each side by
two steps or flights, each about twelve inches high, and seven or eight feet in
breadth, all covered with carpets or mats, curiously woven of split canes, dyed
of various colors. Here being seated or reclining ourselves after smoking
tobacco, baskets of choicest fruits were brought and set before us."* (Bartram.)

Settlements and Mig rations. f — About seventy or eighty miles above
the confluence of the Oakmulge and Ocone, the trading path from Augusta
to the Creek nation crosses these fine rivers, which are there forty miles apart.
On the east banks of the Oakmulge this trading road runs nearly two miles
through ancient Indian fields, which are called the Oakmulge fields ; they are

* This was also in the Cherokee country, on the head-waters of the Tennessee,
t Taken from William Sivrtmm'a Journal.


the rich lowlands of the river. On the heights of these low grounds are yet
visible monuments, or traces of an ancient town, such as artificial mounts or
terraces, squares, and banks encircling considerable areas. Their old fields
and planting land extended up and down the river fifteen or twenty miles from
this site.

If we are to give credit to the account the Creeks give of themselves, this
place is remarkable for being the first town or settlement where they sat down
(as they term it), or established themselves after their emigration from the
west beyond the Mississippi, their original native country. On this long jour-
ney they suffered great and innumerable difficulties, encountering and van-
quishing numerous and valiant tribes of Indians, who opposed and retarded
their march. Having crossed the river, still pushing eastward, they were
obliged to make a stand and fortify themselves in this place as their only re-
maining hope, being to the last degree persecuted and weakened by their sur-
rounding foes. Having formed for themselves this retreat, and driven off the
inhabitants, by degrees they recovered their spirits, and again faced their
enemies, when they came off victorious in a memorable and decisive battle.
They afterwards gradually subdued their surrounding enemies, and strength-
ened themselves by taking into confederacy the vanquished tribes.

And they say also that about this period the English were establishing the
colony of Carolina,* and the Creeks, understanding that they were a powerful
warlike people, sent deputies to Charleston, their capital, offering them their
friendship and alliance, which was accepted, and in consequence thereof a
treaty took place between them, which has remained inviolable to this day
[1774]. They never ceased war against the numerous and potent bands of
Indians who then surrounded and cramped the English plantations, as the
Savannas, Ogeeches, Wapoos, Santees, Yamasees, Utinas, Icosans, Paticos,
and others until they extirpated them. The Yamasees and their adherents
sheltered themselves under the power and protection of the Spaniards of East
Florida; they pursued them to the very gates of St. Augustine, and the
Spaniards refusing to deliver them up, these faithful and intrepid allies had
the courage to declare war against them, and incessantly persecuted them
until they entirely broke up and ruined their settlements, driving them before
them till at length they were obliged to retire within the walls of St. Augustine
and a few other fortified posts on the sea-coast.

Our encampment was fixed on the site of the old Ocone town, which, about
sixty years ago,t was evacuated by the Indians, who, finding .their situation
disagreeable from its vicinity to the white people, left it, moving upward into

* 1670. This was told to Bartram by a very old Indian chief; but it is worthy of notice
that even at the time of De Soto there were Indian tribes living, two of which now
exist, and one but lately extinct : the Chactas, Chicasas, and the Alabamas. Then
there are a number of Indian names of the time of Soto still existing in the original
Creek country, as Tasoaluoa, ApaIache,Cosa, Tallise, Ocali, etc., and which are probably
Muscogulge names; but some of the Cherokees or Creelcs of the Indian Territory will
be able to decide this. I would be obliged to any of them who would inform me on
this subject.

+ The last date, preceding, he gives in his "Journal" is April 22, 1776, therefore
about 171B, or 176 years after Soto passed through that country.


the nation or Upper Creeks, and there built a town ; but that situation not suit-
ing their roving disposition, they grew sickly and tired of it, and resolved to
seek a habitation more agreeable to their minds. They all arose, directing
their emigration southeastward towards the sea-coast ; and, in the course of
their journey, observing the delightful appearance of the extensive plains of
Alachua, and the fertile hills environing it, they sat down and built a town on
the banks of a spacious and beautiful lake, at a small distance from the plains,
naming this new town Cuscowilla ; this situation pleased them, yet troubles
and afflictions found them out. This territory, belonging to the peninsula of
Florida, was then claimed by the Tomocas, Utinas, Caloosas, Yamasees, and
other remnant tribes of the ancient Floridians, and the more northern refugees,
driven away by the Carolinians, now in alliance and under the'protection of the
Spaniards, who assisting them, attacked the new settlement, and for many
years were very troublesome ; but the Alachuas or Oeones, being strengthened
by other emigi-ants, and fugitive bands from the Upper Creeks, with whom they
were confederated, and who gradually established other towns in this low coun-
try, stretching a line of settlements across the isthmus, extending from the Al-
tamaha to the bay of Apalache ; these uniting were at length able to face their
enemies, and even attack them in their own settlements ; and in the end, with
the assistance of the Upper Creeks, vanquished their enemies and destroyed
them, and then fell upon the Spanish settlements, which also they entirely
broke up. ...

The Uche town is situated in a vast plain, in the gradual ascent as we rise
from a narrow strip of low ground immediately bordering on the river " Chata
Uche;" it is the largest', most compact, and best situated Indian town I ever
saw ; the habitations are large and neatly built ; the walls of the houses are
constructed of a wooden frame, then lathed and plastered inside and out with a
reddish, well-tempered clay or mortar, which gives them the appearance of
red brick walls ; and these houses are neatly covered or roofed with cypress
bark, or shingles of that tree. The town appeared to be populous and thriving,
full of youth arid young children; I suppose the number of inhabitants, . men,
women, and children, might amount to one thousand or fifteen hundred ; as it
is said they are able to muster five hundred wan-iors. Their own national lan-
guage is altogether or radically different from the Creek or Muscogulge tongue,
and is called the Savanna or Savannuca tongue. I was told by the traders it was
the same with, or a dialect of, the Shawanese. They are in confedei-acy with
the Creeks, but do not mix with them ; and, on account of their numbers and
strength, are of importance enough to excite and draw upon them the jealousy
of the whole Muscogulge confederacy, and are usually at variance, yet are wise
enough to unite against a common enemy, to support the interest and glory of
the general Creek confederacy.

After a little refreshment' at this beautiful town, we repacked and setoff
aofaia for the Apalaohucla town, where we arrived after riding over a level
plain, consisting of ancient Indian plantations, a beautiful landscape diversified
with groves and lawns.

This is esteemed the mother town or capital of the Creek or Muscogulge con-
federacy, sacred to peace ; no captives are put to death, or human blood spilt
here. And when a general peace is proposed, deputies from all the towns in


the confederacy assemble at this capital, in order to deliberate upon a subject
of so high importance for the prosperity of the commonwealth.

And on the contrary, the great Cowetta town, about twelve miles higher up
this river, is called the bloody town, where the micos, chiefs, and warriors
assemble when a general war is proposed ; and here captives and state male-
factors are put to death.

The time of my continuance here, which was about a week, was employed
in excursions around this settlement. One day the chief trader of Apalachucla
obliged me with his company on a walk of about a mile and a half down the
river, to view the ruins and a site of the ancient Apalachucla ; it had been situ-
ated on a peninsula formed by a doubling of the river, and indeed appears to
have been a very famous capital by the artificial mounds or terraces ; and a very
populous settlement, from its extent and expansive old fields, stretching beyond
the scope of the sight, along the low grounds of the, river. We viewed the
mound or terrace on which formerly stood their town-house or rotunda, and
a public square ; and a little behind these, on a level height or natural steep
above the low grounds, is a vast artificial terrace or four-square mound, now
seven or eight feet higher than the common surface of the ground ; in front of
one square or side of this mound adjoins a very extensive oblong square yard
or artificial level plain, sunk a little below the common surface, and surrounded
with a bank or narrow terrace, formed with the earth thrown out of this yard
at the time of its formation ; the Creeks, or present inhabitants, have a tra-
dition that this was the work of the ancients many ages prior to their arrival
and possessing this country.

This old town was evacuated about twenty years ago [about 1 756] by the
general consent of the inhabitants, on account of .its unhealthy situation, owing
to the frequent inundations of the river over the low grounds ; and, moreover,
they grew timorous and dejected, apprehending themselves to be haunted and
possessed with vengeful spirits on account of human blood that had been un-
deservedly spilt in this old town ; having been repeatedly warned by appari-
tions and dreams to leave it.

At the time of their leaving this old town, like the ruin and dispersion of
the ancient Babel, the inhabitants separated from each other, forming separate
bands under the conduct or auspices of the chief of each family or tribe. The
greatest number, however, chose to sit down and build the present new Apala-
chucla town, upon a high bank of the river, above the inundations. The other
bands pursued different routes as their inclination led them, ssttling villages
lower down the river ; some continued their migrations towards the sea-coast,
seeking their kindred and countrymen amongst the Lower Creeks in East Florida,
■where they settled themselves. My intelligent friend, the trader of Apala-
chucla, having from a long residence among these Indians acquired an exten-
sive knowledge of their customs and afiairs, I inquired of him what were his
sentiments with respect to their wandering, unsettled disposition, their so fre-
quently breaking up their old towns and settling new ones, etc. His answers
and opinions were : the necessity they were under of having fresh or new strong
land for their plantations, and new, convenient, and extensive range or hunt-
ing grounds, which unavoidably forces them into contentions and wars with
their confederates and neighboring tribes; to avoid which they had rather


move and seek a plentiful and peaceable retreat, even at a distance, than eon-
tend with friends and relatives, or embroil themselves in destructive wars with
their neighbors, when either can be avoided with so little inconvenience.
With regard to the Muscogulges, the first object in order to- obtain these con-
veniences was the destruction of the Yamasees, who held possession of Florida,
and were in close alliance with the Spaniards, their declared and most invete-
rate enemy, which they at length fully accomplished ; and by this conquest
they gained a vast and invaluable territory, comprehending a delightful region,
and most plentiful country for their favorite game, bear and deer. But not
yet satisfied, having already so far conquered the powerful Cherokees as in a,
manner to force them to alliance, and compelled the warlike Chicasaws to sue
for peace and alliance with them, they then grew arrogant and insatiable, and
turned their covetous looks towards the potent and intrepid Chactaws, the only
enemy they had to fear, meaning to break them up and possess themselves of
that extensive, fruitful, and delightful country, and make it a part of their vast
empire. But the Chactaws, a powerful, hardy, subtle, and intrepid race, esti-
mated at twenty thousand warriors, are likely to afford sufficient exercise for
the proud and restless spirits of the Muscogulges, at least for some years to
come ; and they appear to be so equally matched with the Chactaws, that it
seems doubtful which of these powerful nations will rise victorious.

July 13, 1776, we left the Apalachucla town, and three days' journey brought
us to Talisse, a town on the Talapoosa River, the northeast great branch of the
Alabama or Mobile River; having passed over a vast, level, plain country of
expansive savannas and groves, cane swamps, and open pine forests, watered
by innumerable rivulets and brooks tributary to the Apalachucla and Mobile.

We now altered our course, turning to the left hand, southerly, and descend-
ing near the river banks, continually in sight of Indian plantations and com-
mons adjacent to their towns ; passed by Otasse, an ancient, famous Musco-
gulge town. The next settlement we came to was Coolome. . . . Here
are very extensive, old fields, the abandoned plantations and commons of the
old town, on the east side of the river ; but the settlement is rernoved, and the
new town now stands on the opposite shore, in a charming, fruitful plain, under
an elevated ridge of hills. . . . The plain is narrow where the town is
built ; their houses are neat, commodious buildings, a wooden frame with plas-
tered walls, and roofed with cypress bark or shingles ; every habitation consists
of four oblong square houses, of one story, of the same form and dimensions,
and so situated as to form an exact square, encompassing an area or court-yard
of about a quarter of an acre of ground, leaving an entrance into it at each
corner. Here is a beautiful new square in the centre of the new town. . . .
The Talapoosa River is here three hundred yards over, and about fifteen or
twenty feet deep ; the water is very clear, agreeable to the taste, esteemed
salubrious, and runs with a steady, active current.*

* From Talisse to Coolome, Eartram had trnvellfd over the same route thai De
Soto, two hundred and thirty-six years before, had followed. The order of the towns

Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 69 of 75)