Intruders on Indian lands

Intruders on Indian lands


The engine of conquest of the new world required a huge cadre of single men willing to encroach and settle on lands belonging to Indians or the Government. These miscreants were banished from civl areas and forced into being a buffer between the Indians and the Yoeman and Planter. The result was always that it caused Indians to cede more land, which would be controlled by the Planters and yoemaen and the miscreants were forced onto Indian land again.

Intruders on Indian lands

  • Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama

…The Creeks viewed these squatters as troublesome and wished the royal government would stop them from trespassing on their land. When the “crackers”, or “Virginians”, as the Creeks referred to them, ignored the boundary between Georgia and Indian territory, that had resulted from the 1763 Treaty of Augusta, they threatened the peace. The squatters despised the Indian and British policy of upholding Indian treaty rights (11).

This was echoed by Creek Agency head Benjamin Hawkins, who in 1796, visited many of the towns in the Creek nation. He admitted to many chiefs that organized theft by white intruders was becoming systematized:

What would most likely the soonest disturb this friendly disposition of the Indians? Intrusion on the hunting grounds and horse stealing….The latter was encouraged entirely by the whites in the nation, many of whom were more depraved than the savages, had all their vices without one of their virtues. The whites have reduced the stealing of horses to a system, their connections are extensive. Some in Cumberland, Georgia, Tennessee, and among the neighbouring tribes. This evil being now so deep-rooted that it would require much exertion and some severity to put an end to it (Hemperly, 1969: 210-211)...

As soon as new lands were opened in Georgia, squatters arrived to trespass on them. The Back-country was filling up with poor, landless drifters, like the ones described living along the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia or the Ninety-Six in South Carolina. Another important thing is that these crackers would not join local militia units and couldn’t be counted on to defend settlements. Hall points this out, placing the number of possible Indian enemies of Georgia, in 1773, at 10,050 and the state’s potential Milita at only 2,828 (13).

In describing early Talladega, Alabama, Vandiver (1954: 40), explains a distinction between the early whites in Creek country and the later squatters.

Many white men were here in 1800, adventurers, "Indian countrymen," who had married Indian women, and were mostly traders, speaking the language, wearing the dress and accepting the customs of the Indians...

But the squatters  were not the kind of people who would later become famous Indian Traders or interpreters. Unlike the McGirths, Linders and Burgesses, these bandits were not welcome in the Creek or Cherokee Nations and showed no compliance with British or American authority. They had no leaders and no compunction about trespassing on land owned by Indians or planters. They were Milfort’s “crackers”; the sum of nearly 200 years of emptying Europe’s prisons and a set of people with generations of disrespect for any type of authority. They were most responsible for the removal of the Indians, because they simply refused to stay out of Indian lands. In fact they hosted the runaway slaves and the criminals hiding from the law, making Indian country a complete nuisance to the yeoman farmer and the planter.

The fuel for this engine that was eating up the frontier was the law of Pre-emption, which, by 1807, allowed squatters to stay on government land (not Indian land as was usually the case) until it was sold, at which time they had to leave. The cycle of forcing Indian land into American hands worked thusly: As soon as land was snatched up by local planters and rented to the yeoman farmer, the landless were encouraged to move onto Indian lands where they would serve as a buffer between the landed and the Indians. Lawlessness would reign, causing regulators to arise, who would put it down in a most bloody way, overstepping their bounds and creating the type of society which now feared its own government. Government would finally step in and the Indian land would be annexed. The cycle was repeated everywhere on the frontier and would continue to be for another 100 years in the West. It all started with vagrants trespassing on land that belonged to someone else.

In 1791, Caleb Swan traveled through the Creek Nation and described the people and culture to Secretary of War Henry Knox. Swan’s report indicated the cycle of cultural destruction was already underway there:

the whites living among the Indians, with very few exceptions, are the most abandoned wretches that can be found perhaps this side of Botany Bay; traders; hirelings; pack-horse men; licenses; purchasers; but the Indians don't suffer them to cultivate much land (May 2, 1791)…

One way to control intruders was to require a pass from the State Government, or a license from the Indians. Thousands who passed through Georgia and Tennessee on their way to Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana are listed in books kept by the State Governors. This did not solve the problem, because the vagrants and squatters almost never had permission from anyone to do what they were doing.  In many cases Militia would find a group of licensed hands of local Indians side by side living with these unwanted intruders. This list from 1809, in Tennessee, indicates the problem: Some intruders were in Cherokee Country at the behest of Indians while others were squatting, and separating the two was not always easy.

SequcheeValley on IndianLand**,** 22 April 1809

Intruder                                                        Indian who hired him

  • Reuben Rogers                                           Cropper for Settler Terrapin

  • Harris K. Wylly                                           Cropper for Jno Rogers Senr

  • James Haney                                              Hired by Jno Rogers

  • Jeremiah Rogers Senr                                  Hirelings for Tarrepin

  • Jno Hamilton                                               Cropper for 8 Killer

  • Jacob Hamelton                                           Hireling for ditto

  • Jeremiah Alexander                                     Cropper for Salaisger(?) Junr

  • Wm. Burke                                                 Do for Jno Watts

  • John Carrson                                              Do for Jno Jolley

  • John Livingston                                           Do for Charles Rogers

  • Wm. Farmer                                               Do for Richard Benge

  • Andrew Farmer hireling                                for Do

  • Adam Stinson                                             Cropper for James Rogers

  • Wm. Steward                                             Do for Ezekiel Harlan

  • Thomas Johnson                                        Do. Tolantuskee

  • Robert O Niel                                             hierling for Do

*** with permits**

Without Permits

Andrew McWilliams,

Joel Wheeler,

Robert Walker,

Hercules Jones,

Davis Griffith,

Hines Griffith,

Thomas Woodcock,

Robert McGrew,

James Hogan,

Mr. Bassam,

Mr. Bassam,

Mr. Bell,

Thurmon Shelton,

James Robbinson,

Mr. Ellis,

Randal McCaniel

In North Georgia was the Wofford Settlement and in Tennessee were settlers over the new territory line by mistake. It caused Indian agent Return Meigs and later Benjamin Hawkins much grief to try to reduce these illegal settlements. The settlers refused and eventually lines had to be rerun to accommodate them.

The intruder problem annoyed the Creeks as well. In 1805, A Clark County, Georgia Militia Col. Sent this “return”, presumably, to the Governor listing trespassers against the 1802 Treaty of Fort Wilkinson:

A return of the Tresprs on the South Side of the appalacha on the Lands purch at A treaty of Forte Wilkonso in the 1802 and on the Lands beteen the Line astablisht by that Treaty and the okmulgay River --

__[Signed] Joseph Childers1 ****

[Signed] Richmon Shearly2
[Signed] Michel Childers-3
[Signed] Nathanuel Ward-4
[Signed] William Crane-5
[Signed] Isaac Bankston-6
[Signed] John Stagner-7
[Signed] John Dudleay-8
[Signed] Thomas Townsin-9
[Signed] William Maxwell10
[Signed] Abslam Still-11
[Signed] Isaac Han South 12 State

[Signed] Joseph Han South 13

[Signed] Francis Walls-14
[Signed] John Walls-15
[Signed] Ely Hulcay-16
[Signed] Joseph Philips-17
[Signed] John Magee-18
[Signed] Lewis Brantly-19
[Signed] Edwin Lambard20
[Signed] Grifen Morgin-21
[Signed] William Morgin-22
[Signed] William Lambard23
[Signed] William Lafton-24
[Signed] John Studars-25
[Signed] Finest Watley-26
[Signed] John Eads-27
[Signed] Henry Jones-28 -
[Signed] James Fant South State

[Signed] John Wooten-30 -
[Signed] John Dunn-31 -
[Signed] Charles Dunn32
[Signed] Eligay Lambard Se 33

[Signed] William Lambard Jun

[Signed] Bengamon Briges 35

[Signed] William Ellis 36

[Signed] Bengamon Conner-37
[Signed] Francis Person-38
[Signed] Wm [illegible] -39

We Do sartify  the above Return is a true Statement us this 5th march 1805

[Signed] Sam Braswell
[Signed] A Braswell

[Signed] Edwd Moore Colo of ClarkCounty Redgiment] June 27th 1805.

Between October 16, 1811 and March 16, 1812, 3,700 Whites traveled down the Federal Road to Mississippi (Ethridge, 2003: 220). Anyone could see the inevitability of Indian lands becoming overwhealmed by emigrants. The central portion of Alabama had become U.S. territory after 1814, and in a short time much of the land was inundated with intruders.

The white settlers in the county (Chambers) at that time were located mostly in the northern and eastern portions of the county, in such neighborhoods as where there were but few Indians. The white inhabitants were mostly from the State of Georgia, and were intruders on Indian territory (Richards, 1942: 418).

Before the land sales Huntsville was a straggling village of squatters, living on government land and in the rude log cabins (Taylor, 1930: 308)...

One James White reportedly settled at the location (Cahaba) in 1816 and for a time it was called "White's Bluff." The second white settler in the vicinity is said to have been Lorenzo Roberts. Both were probably squatters (Hobbs, 1969: 156, quoting Edgefield in Dallas Gazette, February 24, 1854)…

During the years 1810, 1811 and 1812, General Hampton gave the squatters, through this county (Limestone), on Indian lands, much trouble and loss, by sending squads of Soldiers through the country to burn and destroy their patches of corn, vegetables, fences, etc.; in some instances burning their huts and cabins. The squatters, in turn, gave him much trouble, in various ways; to-wit: in secreting the stock, horses, cows, and other property, run out of Madison county, into this, then Indian sections, to evade impressment, the paying of debts etc., etc (Malone, 1867: 2)…

The Idea that Indian land would be used by squatters as a place to hide booty from robberies and land pirating was not confined to Alabama. Col. Return Meigs, responsible for running squatters out of Limestone County, Alabama Territory, also had problems in Tennessee. Citizens of that State pleaded with him to remove intruders from Cherokee lands who were plundering the countryside:

We the citizenry of Franklin County beg leave to represent that lately a band of Thieves has been discovered who when at their respective places of residence are found to be Interspers'd among the People of Franklin, Warran & Madison Counties and a considerable proportion of Them Residing on the Indian Land who have founded places of Deposit for Stolen goods. It has been clearly discovered by the confession of some of the parties and by a great Quantity of Stolen goods being found on the IndianLand that theft & There only they make their places of Deposite.  By means of which their business is Very much facilitated. There has been found of the Stolen goods 12 Horse Loads. the number of thieves is Said to Exceed one hundred all Connected by the Usual ties that bind such Characters -- as our Country Is Very much Infested and Our property Very Unsafe by Reason of these Nefarious Characters We beg that you will Interfere and Use Such means or procure Such force as you may think necessary to Remove all persons who Contrary to Law has Settled on the Cherokee Land which we believe will be one of the most Effective means to remove those pests by which our Country is Infested (May 7, 1814: Wallis Estile et al. to Col. Meigs)…

This was also happening in South Georgia where large groups of men were trespassing onto Creek lands:

Tatnall Decr. [December] 28th 1816

Sir; His Excellency D. B. Mitchell

I take leave to inform your Excellency that this Frontier is ogmenting fast, with vagrants, their is many new Settlements made on the Indian land Since the 1st of November, and the evil Continues the settlers have no visible means to subsist. the alternative of Course must be theft It intirely escapd me; when with you last to ask for the appointment of State agent that I might have removed those Vagrant Intruders; I now Request that appointment for I am well convinced that if Something decisive is not done the Frontier Setlers will Suffer more than they wou'd from a Hord of Savages that negro thief Williams is who made his escape from the Sheriff of this county Sum time past is now in Tatnall Jail, what Course will be pursued as Regards his detention. I am at a loss to Conjecture he Williams, denies the Jurisdiction of our Courts, to try him as the theft was Committed in Florida it is a pity that the United States and the Spanish Government Cou'd not make Sum arrangement, to punish those offenders against the laws. think that if their is not Sum measure adopted that Considerable bloodshed will be the final Result; as Vagrants from all parts of the Union are flocking to Floriday, or the IndianLand. I submit the ways to your Excellency, the means you are in possession off .

I pray your Excellency to accept the Homage of my Consideration

M. Hardin

However, The State of Georgia was winning the battle against intruders on Creek Indian lands. After the 1st Seminole war, Governor Troup sought to negotiate the removal of the Creek Indians altogether. From 1816-1821 more land was ceded and counties like Gwinnet and Dekalb as well as many others were formed, leaving only a strip on the western border of the State in Creek Indian hands. William McIntosh and several minor chiefs signed away that strip in 1824 at the Treaty of Indian Springs and was immediately murdered by Menawa and other Creeks. The Creek were paid some $400,000 to emigrate west of the Mississippi and counties like Carroll and Muscogee sprung up in 1827. The Creeks were no longer in Georgia.

In 1817, Hugh Montgomery, later an Indian agent for the State of Georgia, was paid 16 dollars for a journey down the Chattahoochee River to what is now Hall, Gwinnett, and Fulton counties. This was freshly ceded Indian land full of white intruders and Montgomery’s job was to notify them they had to report to authorities. He mentions seeing persons listed in a deposition concerning intruding, whom he reported to governor William Rabun, saying he had advised them to return to Georgia to face inquiries. He begins:

3rd July 1817 Sir

I have just Returned from the Frontiers & have Down to give you the names of the white persons (heads of Familys) who I find living on the Indian lands adjasent to this County Let it be Remembered that I did not vissit the South west Side of the County, I had no expectation before I set out that any person had Settled over the appalatchee, when I got to the Hog mountain I learnt that the persons named in the Deposition sent to you were all in that Quarter & that they had been all advised to Return before the Depositions were forwarded to you & had Refused. I had a Right to believe that the names of all were sent you, I was also informed that most of them had either moved in or were about to Remove with the exception of a John Camp& a few others.

He then includes a long list of names of white intruders living on Indian lands  from Suwanee Old Town, down past Stone Mountain to the Standing Peachtree and perhaps Buzzard's Roost on the river. He has informed some of them that they are subject to inquiries in the State of Georgia and some have indicated they will take care of the problem. Most indicated they will ignore the government.

I then turned up the North west side of the County & the following are the persons I find on the Indian Lands in that Quarter together with the  Relative Situations in which they live viz between the Stone Mountain& Chatahoochee River, are Silas McGrady, John Steen, & James Steen Senr.& Clanton Steenin the Settlement Called  Raferses Settlement& on both sides of Chatahoochee are James Steen Junr.  John Rogers, John Difoor, a man by the name of Bill, two men by the name of  Bagwell, John Woodall William Woodall Thomas Woodall, & another Woodall given name not known, & Tabitha Harper a widow Parker Collens, Jonathan Gray, & William Harden above the mouth of Suwanee are William Garner Warren Young John Tidwell, & Austin Dobbs, at & near the mouth of Big Creek are John  Mires Thomas Dasset, John Dasset, Obediah Light, James Smith & Robert Smith Junr., at & near the mouth of the Flowery Branch are Bud Mullins, Robert Smith Senr, & Thomson McGuire at & near the Ferry are John Lessly, Danl May,  Caleb Mosely, Benjn  Murry, John Gathard, John Wilson& Hugh Wilson, on Flat creek are Simon Strickland, Sion Strickland Irvin Strickland, Lazeras Strickland, Lewis Crow, Sion Crow, & Richard Litteral, and near the Chestetee are Freeman Averbee Danl. Short, Noah Langly, John Martin, & Jese Martin & at and above the Shallowford are William Staker, William Baity, a man by the name Mason, an other by the name of Hainsan other by the name of Hawkins, & John Wagoner, James Abercrombi a Senr James Abercrombi a Junr Benjm Morris, Henry Morris, John Diffy, Henry Barton, Holly Barton, Widow & George Davis. I did not see all of them, but the greater part of those that I did, promised to Come in, Some few will, Say about one in ten, the ballance will not.

Now Montgomery changes the tone of his letter, he begins commenting on the whole idea of white intruders and Indians living together and the morality thereof:

…there are a great many Shifts which those people make to get settling on those Lands Some Rent of Indians or Mixed Bloods others Settle Down on Such place as pleases them & get Some stroling Vagabond Indian to live or Stay with them, they Call themselves his Croppers, he is to hunt & they Cultivate the Ground, they find him a Gun & amunition  they have the meat & he the Skins, but it often so turns out that he has two Haggskins  for one Dearskin, & this accounts for the Frontier people loosing so many of their Haggs  as they do -- others (if possible) More Lax in their Morrels & Still Less Delicate in their taste will Kiss a Squaw for the privallage of their Land & Range, he then becomes a Landlord he has his Croppers, Tenants, & Hirelings &c. thus a whole Settlement Claim under him, and what seems more abominable then all is that others give their Daughters to the Indian fellows for the privallage of Living in their Country themselves, of this Last & and worst Class are John Tidwell & Noah Langly the Former has given four of his Daughters to Indian fellows for Wives & the Latter two thus a Motly Race are propigating  fast verry fast on the Chatahoochee & its waters –

I Should like to know how far the Individual Indians have a Right to Rent or Lease Lands, my own impressions are that Indians have not a principle tittle to any Lands, that theirs is a mere occupant claim, that they are tenants at the will of the Government, the Treaty Reserves the Lands to them for their Hunting grounds, it prohibits all Citizens of the U. S, or other persons from Settling on them with out permits from the Agent of Indian affairs, those people have no permits they are not Indians altho Some of them try to look & act like them, & it seems that to get foothold in the Nation by any of their ways which I have Described has all the effect of taking the Indian Black Drink, it makes them inimical to every person who Does not  ware a Long hunting Shirt & mockisins or a Match Coat & Smell like Tainted Dearskins  & I think I am warranted in saying that If the Comrs. fail of success in the present Treaty it will be in not intirely to the Clamours of those fellows Seconded by a few of the Mixed Bloods, the spurious product of those Disgracefull & unnatural Matches.

_I am Sir very Respectfully your Obt Humbl Servnt  H Montgomery (TCC 453)  _

** (from History of the Pony Club...**


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