Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Incident at William Parker's Place: Conclusion

NoteRelationships, such as grandmother, 2nd great, etc., are expressed from the perspective of the grandchildren of Willis Edgar and Carrie (known as) Mae (Merritt) Musgrove.


Andrew Jackson began his Second Annual message to congress in 1830:
"It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation."
For our 3rd great grandparents, Short-Arm Bill and Betsy Parker, that  'happy consummation' looked like an Indian attack on their plantation home. 

United States Department of the Interior 1911 
advertisement offering Indian Land for Sale
On May 28, 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress. It authorized the president to negotiate with Indian tribes in the Southern United States for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for their ancestral homelands. 

It promised this land would be owned by the Indians forever. 

In his 1830 speech, Jackson continued,

"The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves."
The removal was not 'speedy'. Native Americans, forced off their lands and travelling to Florida, tangled with pioneers throughout Georgia in the late summer of 1836. The skirmish at the Parker house was a minor scuffle in the larger "Battle of Brushy Creek", itself only one of many conflicts in Georgia at the time. 

In his two page paper, "The Creek War of 1836 on the Chattahoochee River", author Christopher Kimball reports on the start of the combat, its major battles and a few dozen minor conflicts. About our family's ordeal, under minor engagements, he writes;
10 July 1836 - Battle of Brushy Creek. Georgia militia pursues and attacks Creeks retreating into Florida.  At the beginning of the battle, the Indians have the advantage; but with the arrival of more troops, they are forced to retreat and disappear into the swamp.  The Creeks left in such a hurry that many babies were found abandoned and dead. 
The same day there is a skirmish on the Alapaha River in Georgia.
That skirmish on the Alapaha River is the incident at the Parker's.

But back to the start of the troubles. He writes;
In May 1836, tensions between the Creek Indians and white settlers flared up into war. It was no secret that the Seminoles to the south were fighting (removal). 
The rumor was that the Seminoles had defeated the United States in Florida. (The U.S. had no substantial victory against the Seminoles until 1837.)    
Creek warriors crossed the Chattahoochee River from Alabama and attacked the town of Roanoke, Georgia. The citizens of Georgia were caught unprepared. 
Thousands of citizens from the countryside fled to the larger cities of Lumpkin or Columbus, Georgia.   
Georgia Governor William Schley allowed local counties to muster militia forces."
About the effectiveness of these forces the author writes;
Most efforts to find and capture Creeks by local militia forces proved unsuccessful. The swamps and dense forests proved difficult for the militia to penetrate, and any village had ample warning to flee.
However, 
..peaceful bands of Creeks...were not safe from local bands of militia, who were described as drunken and not willing to honestly earn a hard day's work. 
There is more than one instance; mostly stories handed down by local families, of militia soldiers killing defenseless Indians taken under prisoner.
He shares this story:
On 23 May 1837, the local militia captured a group of 12 Indians on Alaqua Creek (Walton County). Only one was a warrior, and the rest were women and children.  The militia soldiers shot and killed all their prisoners and mutilated the bodies. The soldiers explained that the Indians had tried to escape.  
There was no clear justification of the massacre, and never any formal investigation into the incident, even though it was condemned by local citizens as barbaric. All the evidence indicated that the event was cold blooded murder.

In the end, it didn't matter. Shortly after the incident at our grandparent Parker's house the Cherokee Nation was moved west on its' "Trail of Tears". And, because of the removal of thousands of Native Americans, the sign in front of the courthouse tells our family's story, "The Last Indian Fight in Berrien County."

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