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Georgia Indian Land Cessions

 Native American Nations | Indian Land Cessions in the United States                  

On the 9th of June, 1732, George II granted by charter to certain "trustees" the right to establish the colony of Georgia, including all the lands and territories from the most northerly stream of Savannah river along the seacoast to the southward unto the most southerly stream of Altamaha river, and westward. from the heads of said rivers in direct lines to the South sea, and all islands within 20 leagues of the coast.

During the first year of the colony's existence, Governor James Oglethorpe, who was placed in charge by the trustees, directed his attention to providing for the emigrants suitable homes at Savannah, Joseph's Town, Abercorn, and Old Ebenezer; the erection of a fort on Great Ogeechee river, and the concluding of treaties of amity and cession with the natives. "Having," according to one authority, "confirmed the colonists in their occupation of the right bank of the Savannah, and engaged the friendship of the venerable Indian chief Tomo-chi-chi, and the neighboring Lower Creeks and Uchees, he set out," etc.

On the 20th of May, 1733, at Savannah, Oglethorpe made a treaty with the headmen of the Lower Creeks, the summary of which, as given by Hugh McCall,1 is as follows:

When Oglethorpe came over from England he was not vested with full powers, consequently the ratification of the treaty was to be made in England. Soon after his arrival he sent runners to the different towns, and invited a convention of the kings and chiefs of the Creek nation, and entered into a treaty of amity and commerce with them, making a transfer of the whole nation and all their lands, and agreeing to live under and become the subjects of his majesty's government in. common with the white colonists of Georgia. It was further stipulated that a free and complete right and title, was granted to the trustees for all the lands between Savannah and Altamaha rivers, extending west to the extremity of the tide water, and including all the islands on the coast from Tybee to St Simons' inclusively, reserving to themselves the islands of Ossabaw, Sapeloe and St Catherines, for the purposes of hunting, bathing, and fishing also the tract of land lying between Pipe-maker's bluff and Pallychuckola creek, above Yamacraw bluff, now Savannah; which lands the Indians reserved to themselves for an encampment, when they came to visit their beloved friends at Savannah. This treat} was signed by Oglethorpe on the part of the king of England, and by Tomochichi and the other chiefs and headmen on the part of the Creek nation; it was transmitted to the trustees and formally ratified on the 18th of Octoher, 1733.

By this treaty the Indians also granted to the trustees all the lands on Savannah river as far as the Ogeechee, and all the lands along the seacoast as far as St John river and as high as the tide flowed. McCall says the grant extended to the Altamaha, but White is certainly correct in limiting it by the Ogeechee, as is shown by the treaty of 1739 mentioned below.

In March, 1736, Governor Oglethorpe wrote to the trustees that "King Tomo-Chachi and his nephew Tooanoghoni and the Beloved Man Umpechee," had agreed they should possess the island of St Simons but reserved St Catherine to themselves.

From a letter to Mr Causton, dated March 17, 1736, it would seem that the lands had been purchased as far northwest as Ebenezer creek, in what is now Effingham county. "You are to notice," he says, "that the Trustees' orders for preventing Peoples settling beyond the River Ebenezer be executed by the proper officer. The Indians having complained that some persons have settled over against Palachocola and some near the month of Ebenezer."

Another letter to the trustees, dated May 18, 1738, informs us of what the Indians had made complaint, and shows also Governor Oglethorpe's desire to keep faith with them. He says:

Some private men have taken great pains to incense the Indians against the Spaniards and against the Colony of Georgia particularly. Capt. Green who I am informed has advised the Uchee Indians to fall upon the Saltzburgers for settling upon their Lands, the occasion of which was an indiscreet action of one of the Saltzburgers who cleared and planted four acres of Land beyond the Ebenezer contrary to my orders and without my knowledge. They also turned their cattle over the River some of whom strayed away and eat the Uchees corn 20 miles above Ebenezer. But what next the Uchees more was that some of the Carolina people swam a great Herd of Cattle over Savannah and sent up Negroes and began a Plantation on the Georgia side not far from the Uchees Town. The Uchees instead of taking Green's advice and beginning Hostilities with us sent up their Ding and 20 Warriors with a Message of thanks to me for having ordered back the Cattle and sent away the Negroes which I did as soon as ever I arrived. They told me that my having done them justice before they asked it made them love me and not believe the stories that were told them against me and that therefore instead of beginning a War with the English they were come down to help me against the Spaniards and that if I wanted them they would bring down four score more of their warriors who should stay with me a whole year. You see how God baffles the attempts of wicked men.2

In another letter, July 26, 1736, incidental mention is made of a cession of land by Opayhatchoo and his tribe. At this time the cessions he had obtained did not reach to the upper Altamaha, as he remarks: "The opposition from Carolina :forced me to give the Indians large presents to procure their confirmation of the cession of the Islands; and they have refused as yet to give leave to settle the inland parts up the Alatamaha."

On the 21st of August, 1739, another, treaty was entered into at Coweta with the Creeks, Cherokee, and Chickasaw. In this treaty the Indians declare:

that all the dominions, territories and lands between the Savannah and St. John's Rivers, including all the islands, and from the St John's River to the Apalachie Bay and thence to the mountains, do, y ancient right belong to the Creek Nation, and that they would not suffer either the Spaniards or any other people excepting the trustees of the Colony of Georgia, to settle their lands. They also acknowledge the grant which they formerly made to the Trustees of all the lands on Savannah River as far as the river Ogeechee, and all the lands along the seacoast as far as St John's River, and as high as the tide flowed, and all the islands, particularly St Simon's, Cumberland, and Amelia, ete.3

It would appear from these facts that the policy adopted by this colony at the outset in dealing with the Indians was a kind and just one. Moreover, it was correct in method, as the grants from Indians were not obtained by or on behalf of individuals, but by the properly constituted authority for and on behalf' of the "trustees," who were the proprietors of this colony. Happily for the welfare of the settlers, the active control had been placed in the hands of Oglethorpe, who was unquestionably one of the most just, kind, and truly worthy governors who ever ruled over an American colony. Yet, as history testifies, though strictly just and prompt to repair or amend an injury, he was watchful and prompt to resent an invasion of or trespass on the rights of the colonists, whether by the natives or by the whites from other settlements.

A letter to the trustees dated September 5, 1739, which refers to the treaty of 1739, above mentioned, gives some additional evidence of the just policy Oglethorpe had adopted in treating with the Indians:

I am just arrived at this Place from the Assembled Estates of the Creek Nation. They have very fully declared their rights to and possession of all the Land as far as the River Saint Johns and their Concession of the Sea Coast, Islands and other Lands to the Trustees, of which they have made a regular act. If I had not gone up the misunderstandings between them and the Carolina Traders fomented y our two neighboring Nations would probably have occasioned their beginning a war, which I believe might have been the result of this general meeting; but as their complaints were reasonable, I gave them satisfaction in all of them, and everything is entirely settled in peace. It is impossible to describe the joy they expressed at my arrival they met me forty miles in the woods and lay it Provisions on the roads in the woods.4

In 1757, or early in 1758, the following act was passed "to prevent private persons from purchasing lands from the Indians, and for preventing persons trading with them without license:"

Whereas the safety, welfare, and preservation of this province of Georgia doth, in great measure depend on the maintaining a good correspondence between his majesty's subjects and the several nations of Indians in amity with tho said province: And whereas many inconveniences have arisen, front private persons claiming lands, included in the charter granted to the late honorable trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia by his present majesty, and since reinvested in the crown under pretense of certain purchases made of them from the Indians, which have given occasion for disputes with those people; for remedy whereof, and for preventing any differences or disputes with the Indians for the future, and also for preventing persons trading with them without license, Re it enacted, That from and after the fifteenth day of February, one thousand seven hundred and fifty-eight, if any person or persons, what so ever shall attempt to purchase or contract for, or cause to be purchased or contracted for, or shall take or accept of a grant or conveyance of any lands, or tracts of land, from any Indian, or body of Indians, upon any pretense whatsoever, (except for the use of the crown, and that by permission for this purpose first had and obtained from his majesty, his heirs or successors, or his or their governor or commander in chief of the said province for the time being), every Buell purchase, contract, grant, and conveyance, shall be, and is and are hereby declared to be null and void, to all intents and purposes whatsoever; and all and every person and persons so offending shall, for every such offence, forfeit the sum of one thousand pounds sterling money of Great Britain, the on half thereof to his majesty, his heirs and successors, for the use of the province, and the other half to him or them who shall sue for the same, by action of debt or information, in the general court of this province, in which no assign, protection, privilege, or wager of law, or more than one imparlance shall be allowed.5

In 1763, by a treaty held at Augusta, the boundary line between the settlements and the lands of the natives was fixed and afterward actually surveyed by De Brahm. The line as determined by this surveyor, whose field notes have been preserved,' as shown on the following page; as but few copies of these notes exist, they are given in full. It would appear from Governor Wright's "Report on the condition of the Province of Georgia," made to the Earl of Dartmouth in 1773, that the amount of land he obtained at this treaty was estimated at 2,116,298 acres, as he makes therein this statement:

Answer to the third Quere.
The extent of the Province along the front or Sea Coast from Savannah River to St. Mary's River is computed to be about on hundred 'Miles as the coast ]yes, but less in a direct line from Tybee Inlet. The distance back up Savannah River and from the head of St. Mary's River is as far as His Majesty's 'territories extend which it is impossible for me to determine, but the size and extent within the Boundary Lines settled with the Indians is as above and has been computed by His Majesty's Surveyor General to contain about 6,695,429 Acres as follows Vizr: Amount of bands ceded in the time of the Trustees to General Oglethorpe 1,152,000 Acres.

Additional Cession to me at the Congress in November 1763, 2,408,800 Acres.

Addition made by the extension of this Province from the River Alatamaha to the River St. Mary computed at 998,400 Acres.

Additional Cession 20,000 Acres in 1766.

Additional Cession at the Congress held at Augusta the third of June 1773-2,116,298 Acres.

In all within the Indian Boundary Line supposed to be 6,695,429 Acres.

This appears to refer to the territory obtained from the Indians. If so, it shows that some 10,460 square miles had been purchased previously to the date of the report, and that the policy of extinguishing the Indian title by a correct and legitimate method had been followed up to that time.

By the treaty at Augusta with the Creeks and Cherokee, in June 1773, the following boundary was agreed on:

Begin at the place where the Lower Creek path intersects the Ogeechee river, and along the main branch of said river to the source of the southernmost branch of said river and from thence along the ridge between the waters of Broad river and Oconee river up to the Buffalo Lick, and from thence in a straight line to the tree marked by the Cherokees near the head of a branch falling into the Oconee river, and from thence along the said ridge twenty miles above the line already run y the Cherokees, and from thence across to Savannah river by a line parallel with that formerly marked by them, and the Creeks by Saleachie and Taleachie and other head men of the Lower Creeks also cede from the present boundary line at Phinhotaway creek on the Altamaha river, up the said river to an island opposite to the mouth of Barber creek, and from thence across to Oguechee river opposite to the road about four miles above Buch head, where a canoe ferry used to be kept.

The above facts are sufficient to show that the policy of the colony in treating with the Indians in regard to their lands was just and equitable up to the time it became a state.


1 History of Georgia, vol. i, p. 37.
2 Georgia Historical society Collections, vol. in, pp. 35-36.
3 white, Historical Collections of Georgia (1555), p. 121.
4 Georgia Historical Society Collections. vol. III, p. 81.
5 Digest of the Laws of the state of Georgia from 1755 to 1799 (1800), p. 51.
6 In "History of the Province Georgia," by John Gerar William do Brahm. Copied November 10, 1894. V. H. Pa Arits.


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First annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-80

Indian Land Cessions in the United States

 

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