The Vagabond – The 1784 Indian Massacre in Rainbow City Part 4


  The Chickasaw Indian Nation was located in Northwest Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Jerry felt he needed to check to see what Indians were located in what had become Etowah County. Of course, the Cherokee Nation was the best known, and he had some knowledge of that.

The Creek Indians claimed a part of this area. Jerry also learned that in the time frame of the l780’s, there were four main tribes in what would become Alabama: the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, and Choctaw.

He found nothing to indicate their exact locations except the Cherokee were in the northeastern part of the state, the Creek were in the southern and central part of Alabama, the Choctaw were in Southwest Alabama, and what was left was the Chickasaw.

Jerry did find that there was a place known as Chickasaw Old Fields lying on the North side of the Tennessee River, and that this was the area they had first settled in Alabama.

By this time, Jerry had obtained a computer. Through searches, he found the different treaties that the United States had made with the Indians. The first being what is known as the Hopewell Treaty with the Chickasaw in 1785-1786. This was the first treaty of the United States with the southern tribes of Indians.

Jerry thought, “Now that is strange, there is a massacre in the summer of 1784, in an area where John Gunter and John Brown are listed as Chickasaw traders on the Coosa River.”

From Chickasaw history, Jerry learned that a group of the Chickasaw had moved east during 1723 at the invitation of South Carolina and settled on the Savannah River near Augusta, Ga. The group remained there until 1783, when the lands were confiscated for their support of the British during the American Revolution.

Jerry also found that the Charleston trade with the southern Indians was located on the Savannah River near Augusta, Ga., and it was during that time (1750) that John Vann (born in 1700, in Nansemond County, Va.) made a report in which he stated, “I enclose to your Lordship the Journal of a Chickasaw trader addressed to Jerome Courtonne, by which you will perceive the state of things in the nation and what good service those people have performed against the Savannah Document relating to South Carolina.”

There was another report in 1750 which stated, “There is a new generation of traders, John Brown, pack horseman on the Savannah factory payroll, working with the firm of James Courtonne, Brown and Courtonne, who had teamed up as trade partners with John Gunter. A note says that John Brown and John Gunter came to the Great Bend (Tennessee River) about the same time and that John Brown went to Creek Path or Brown’s Valley, and Gunter married Ghegaheli, a daughter of Chief Bushyhead. Gunter gave her the Christian name of Catherine, and they established their home in Gunter’s Valley. 

Of the older John Brown’s character, Daniel Pepper wrote Gov. William Henry Lyttleton, from Ockchoy, upper Creeks in 1756, “I have known Brown from a boy, he is a sober and careful man, has distinguished himself bravely in the war with the Chickasaw, against their enemies, and has conduct and courage sufficient in their way.”

In another letter from Pepper to Gov. Lyttleton, Pepper spoke of John Brown as “being a half breed by a Cherokee woman.” Pepper requested that John Brown be given a commission as captain and command over a company of Chickasaw at The Breed Camp.

In 1760, John Brown was a commander of the Chickasaw at The Breed Camp and was now called Captain. However, there is another John Brown, and every indication is that he was the son of the older John Brown. It appears that both of the John Brown’s and John Gunter were well established with the Chickasaw at The Breed Camp.

Another Chickasaw band containing about eighty warriors was colonized in the Creek Nation near the head of the Coosa River, probably to guard British pack trains bound for the western trade. With the British peace in 1756, most dispersed bands returned to the Chickasaw Nation, although some were returning as late 1786, and a few Chickasaw stragglers were reported in South Carolina and Georgia in 1795.

Another important demographic alteration occurring in the Chickasaw Nation was a mixing of Indian bloodlines, produced by absorbing neighboring tribes into the main tribal population and offset losses caused by the extended wars with the French and their Indian mercenaries. The Chickasaw had absorbed a large number of Natchez following the French attempt to exterminate that tribe. 

The growing mixed-blood community in the Chickasaw Nation had far-reaching effects on the tribe’s economic, social, and political life. An example of this was the mixed-blood family established by James Logan Colbert, a Scotsman, who in 1729 began a 40-year residence in the Chickasaw Nation. Colbert married three Chickasaw women who bore him many children as they lived in what became Northwest Alabama. 

Following the British takeover of West Florida in 1763, there was a rush of immigrants from the British Isles and the American seaboard colonies to the lower Mississippi Valley and Gulf of Mexico.

In 1778, Governor Peter Chester urged the West Florida Provincial Assembly to inflict the severest legal penalties on persons settling in the Chickasaw Nation and other Indian lands reserved by the 1763 proclamation. He also pressed for a completion of the survey and marking of the Chickasaw Nation.

Another serious problem facing the Chickasaws in the post-1763 period was the mounting abuse by traders. Soon after 1763, the number of traders in the Chickasaw Nation increased in less than a year, from 30 to over 100, and there occurred an increase in their influence. This generated widespread resentment, and the tribal council threatened to expel them.

In 1756, an old Natchez leader and chief by the name of Chinnabbee was born, about 1720, of the Natchez Indians located in the Mississippi river Delta, near Natchez, Miss.

Chinnabbee had evacuated the traditional homeland after a protracted war with the French. An Indian of the pure blood, he led his people to the Chickasaw Nation in what is now northern Mississippi. They remained there for several years under the leadership of Chinnabbee.

Chinnabbee then led about 400 survivors of the Natchez and headed east to the area of the Coosa River in central Alabama in what are now St. Clair, Calhoun, Talladega and Etowah counties. They established villages and led a sheltered life among the upper Creeks. He built a fort and established a village near the Coosa River, which was known as The Breed Camp.

The old chief had several sons, Selocta (born in 1782), Fixico, Matthew and Coffee, and a daughter, Haw, and other daughters who married white men. One was named Quarrels and another Proctor. Chinnabbee’s sister, Mary Stiggins, married William Weatherford, and their son, George Stiggins, was a very good friend to the Creeks.

Other villages were established, and they too became known as Breed Camps. Many other villages were established in the area south of the Big Bend of the Tennessee and along both sides of the Coosa River. The Breeds were often times referred to as Chickasaw and were considered a part of the tribe.

According to Jerry’s father’s version of the massacre at Old Harmony Cemetery in Rainbow City, the group who made the attack lived in what is known as the “flat woods.” Since World War II, the area is known as the Old Camp Sibert area in both St. Clair and Etowah counties.

In 1785-1786, the Federal government began to hold treaties with the different tribes, and 10 January 1786, the Treaty of Hopewell was completed

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