The Vagabond received a letter earlier this week from Eddie Lanham of Georgia. He writes:
“Don Wells with Mountain Stewards in Jasper, Ga., and I are writing a document and route mapping the 1790 Treaty of New York. We have run into a mapping issue from Rome, Ga., to the Hillibee area of current Alabama. We think that Col. Willett, who was appointed by George Washington to bring the Creek leaders to New York, may have traveled through your area on his way into the Nation.
“In 1790, Willett traveled from New York by boat to Charleston, then by land to Gen. Pickens plantation near current Clemson, S.C. From there [he traveled] west through north Georgia and the Pine Log northeast of Cartersville. From Pine Log to Hihotee (Etowah), I first thought that Willett went to the Etowah village at Cartersville but soon learned that the tribe did not move to that location until after the 1793 battle at Rome. So I came to the conclusion that Willett traveled from Pine Log to the Rome area. Now we are attempting to find which roads/trails Willett would have taken from Rome to the Hillibee Nation. Could you help?”
From Willett’s records and journal. (He had a very hard time translating and spelling):
“27th. After breakfasting with Mr. Hughes, crossed the river Hitower in a canoe, and swam the horses. I commenced a new line of march. Mr. Cary in front, next the Jobberson, then myself, then my bow horse, and the Young Corn and John. Traveled twenty-five miles : took a wrong track : had no small difficulty in crossing the woods, through a tract of broken land, to find the right path : lost about five miles. The day and evening pleasant. I was exceedingly distressed with a pain in my stomach. Most of the land bad; considerably stony and hilly.
“28th. Had my breakfast, and was mounted by six o’clock in the morning. Crossed this day the Pumkin Posk mountains, which lie about twenty-five miles from Hitower. They are about three miles across, considerably steep, and part of the way difficult to pass. Made a halt from twelve to two o’clock, then went on until near sunset. Traveled this day thirty-five miles, and encamped at a small running brook. The land passed over in the forenoon, bad ; that in the afternoon, good. Crossed one sharp hill in the afternoon. The rest of the way easy, though something hilly. The day pleasant.
“29th. Frost last night. It was some time before the horses were found, but, by steady traveling, made out thirty-five miles. The lands in general good: hills and dales. Most of the hills appear good for wheat; a few very stony, and a few barren. The timber, chesnut, oak, hickory, ash, poplar, with some maple and beach; very little under-brush: the path in general easy. Passed two handsome brooks, one about twenty, and the other ten yards wide, within a quarter of a mile of each other. All these waters must enter the Cousa[sic] River: they have hard bottoms, and are easy to ford. I observed a large ridge of mountains to the southward.
“Friday, April 30th. Proceeded to the first Creek settlement, about twelve miles from which I encamped. From thence I went to a Mr. Scott’s, three miles further on, where I met with a hospitable reception. Mr. Scott is a European; has been a trader in this nation for many years, and has considerable property. Here I learnt that Colonel M’Gillivray [sic] was at the Oak Fusky, (now underwater) an Indian town, about thirty miles distant, and that he was expected at a Mr. Grierson’s, who is likewise a trader, living at the Killebees, eight miles from Mr. Scott’s. Mr. Scott accompanied me to Mr. Grierson’s, and at six o’clock, p. m. I had the satisfaction of seeing Colonel M’Gillivray [sic] arrive at that place. After delivering him my introductory letter, I had some conversation with him; and after a good supper, and most kind entertainment, I went to bed, happy in being under the same roof with the man I have traveled thus far to see. Colonel M’Gillivray [sic] appears to be a man of an open, candid, generous mind, with a good judgment, and very tenacious memory. The land I passed over this morning, little better than barren; within the settlement of the Killebees it is good: the day was pleasant. The course [sic] from Hitower to the Killebees, about s.w.”
A letter of response from The Vagabond is as follows:
“What you presented to me is very similar to my research on the de Soto route in Georgia and Alabama. The de Soto expedition route has accurately been determined by Georgia anthropologist Charles Hudson until he reaches the village of I-ti-ba/I-ta-wa (Etowah). I do not understand why he is not aware of the 1793 re-settlement of the Cherokees from Rome to the Carterville area. From everything I have seen, early Etowah was always at Rome. The Etowah Chiefdom mounds were abandoned right at 1500 C.E., some 40 years before de Soto arrived in the area, and was not even a village then or have a population. The chroniclers of de Soto never mentioned any mounds in their description of I-ti-ba/I-ta-wa. Without going to any details, archaeological evident does not support de Soto being at the Etowah mounds but rather historical documents has always supports I-ti-ba/I-ta-wa being at Rome, Ga., until 1793.
“The de Soto route and Col. Willett’s route are si-milar in that they follow the general area and sometimes used the same trail. Based on archaeological evident and the chronicles, de Soto stayed very close to the south bank of the Coosa. Willett went more southward and inland until he reaches what is now Ohatchee, where both de Soto and Willett used the Creek Path southward. De Soto went on through Ta-li-se (Tallassee) and Willett to the Hillibees.
“We know that Willett did not follow the Coosa River or use the Hightown Path but crossed Hightower Creek in a canoe and went southwest (Willett stated Hillabee was southwest of Etowah) toward the mountains. The Hightown Path is a big Indian trade route from Charleston, S.C. to today’s Memphis, Tenn.
“Looking at topographical maps, there is an east-west mountain chain about 25 miles south of Hightower (Etowah). The question from here is, did Willett go to the Hillabees on the east or the west side of the Talladega Mountain? The answer is in his descriptions of the land, his southwest headings and the fact that he mentions two brooks that empty into the Coosa.
Willett crossed Pumkin Posk Mountain (there is a Pumpkin Pile Creek located in the mountains on the route). The mountain chain in Georgia is called Dugdown Mountain and in Alabama it is called Dugger Mountain. The old Indian trail goes into a gap toward today’s Borden Springs, Ala. By the way, the old road is paralleled to the Chief Ladiga bicycle trail and old railroad.
“After crossing the mountain, this old Indian trail continues through Piedmont, then Jacksonville, Alexandria and Ohatchee, where it turns southward on the old Creek Path. (The Creek Path was an old Indian Trail that went from Pensacola to the Ohio Valley.)
“From this point, Willett continued southward on the Creek Path through Talladega, Winterboro and near Sylacauga (if not Sylacauga) The 20-yard creek is named Talladega Creek and the 10-yard creek is named Town Creek. Both creeks empty into the Coosa.
“Where exactly Willett camped on the 29th I am not certain, but he went 12 miles to the first Creek settlement he had seen and three more miles to Mr. [Thomas] Scott’s place.
From his description, OakFusky (now underwater) was 30 miles away (which checks out) and Grierson is eight miles away. I speculate that the Scott place is located to the west of Griersons (also known as Grayson).
“You are correct in saying Griersons is about one mile north of Pickneyville, Ala.
“This is pretty much 100 percent certain, as all this with the miles add up. Why the party did not take the east side of the Talladaga Mountains, we do not know. It may be possible the roads were not good and there were much more hills to climb through the Georgia Dugdown mountain range.