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Mary Musgrove, Queen of the Creeks
About North Georgia


by Richard E. Irby, Jr.

Mary Musgrove was born "Cousaponakeesa", in 1700, at Coweta Town on the Ockmulgee River. She was the daughter of a white South Carolina trader and an Indian princess. Mary's mother was a sister of the illustrious "old Brim or Bream," Emperor of the Creeks.

Mary was taken to Ponpon, South Carolina about 1710 and in her own words "there baptized, educated, and bred up in the principles of Christianity." Mary returned to Coweta in 1715 after the Yamasees revolt was put down.

Colonel John Musgrove was commissioned by the Governor of South Carolina in 1716 to visit the Creek Nation and effect a treaty of peace. John Musgrove accompanied his father, fell madly in love with Mary and immediately married her.

Mary and John established a trading post at Yamacraw Bluff in 1732 and Savannah was founded on this site a year later. The Yamacraws were less than pleased with the founding of Savannah much less Georgia. The ink was not yet dry on the treaty establishing the Savannah River as the limit of white expansion to the south and west.

Mary and John essentially had a trading monopoly as whites were forbidden to settle in this area and both the Indians and Charleston merchants used their services to facilitate trade.

The arrival of Oglethorpe and the settlement of Georgia presented an unprecedented opportunity for Mary to advance her fortunes both socially and financially. She basked in the limelight and assumed the position of an important person both with the Indians and the colonists.

John Musgrove served as interpreter for John Wesley and Tomo-Chichi. John Wesley was a frequent visitor to Mary's plantation on the Savannah. Mary owned the fairest and broadest acres in Georgia and supplied the struggling colonists with meat, bread & liquor.

Mary put the traders and Indian couriers in her employ at the disposal of Oglethorpe. Mary also established a trading post called Mount Venture on the south side of the Altamaha River one hundred and fifty miles above its mouth in order to keep an eye on the Indians and the Spanish.

John Musgrove died about 1734 and Mary promptly married John's indentured servant Jacob Matthews. Public opinion of Jacob was mixed. In the words of William Stephens:

"On his Master's Death he found Means to get into the Saddle in his Stead, fitly qualified to verify the old Proverb of a Beggar on Horseback; soon learning to dress in gay Cloaths, which intitled him to be a Companion with other fine Folks of those Days, . . . . He was flattered to believe himself a Man of great Significance, and told, that he would be to blame not to exert himself, and let the World know what his Power was with the Indians; wherefore he might expect the Trust would have a singular Regard to that, and be careful to oblige him in all he should expect. Thus prepared, what may we not expect from him? To pass over many of his late Exploits a few of which I have touch'd on in some of my preceding Notes; he seems now to be grown ripe for exemplifying to what Uses he means to employ that Influence he thinks he has over those neighboring Indians, who by half Dozens or more at a Time, have daily of late been flocking about his House in Town, where they continually get drunk with Rum, and go roaring and yelling about the Streets, as well at Nights as Days, to the Terror of some, but the Disturbance and common Annoyance of everybody."

However, a neighbor, Robert Williams later testified:

"I was an Inhabitant in this Province and lived at the next Plantation to Mr. Jacob Mathews on the River Savannah . . . he had cleared and planted a large Tract of Land with English Wheat, Indian Corn, Pease, and Potatoes; and very believe he had a larger Crop than any Planter raised by the Labour of White Hands within the said County And I further declare that I have often heard the said Mathews say, that he never received from the Trustees, or Persons in Power at Savannah on their Behalf, Any Bounty or Reward for the said produce. . . ."

Apparently Jacob worked hard but he also set himself up as the leader of the malcontents in Georgia and chief critic of the authorities to the annoyance of William Stephens.

Stephens declared in his Journal for 1740 that it was useless "to foul more Paper in tracing Jacob Matthews through his notorious Debauches; and after his spending whole Nights in that Way, reeling home by the Light of the Morning, with his Banditti about him."

Jacob Matthews died on May 8, 1742 and Mary third and last husband, the renegade Anglican minister, Thomas Bosomworth was even more worthless than Jacob. Mary married Thomas about three years after Jacob's death.

Thomas had come to Georgia to make his fortune in 1741 as a clerk to William Stephens. Stephens recommended Thomas as Register of Savannah but the Trustees had already filled the position. Stephens then promised him the Recordership when it fell vacant. The Trustees, however, appointed him Secretary to the Indian Affairs. This position was not important enough for Thomas so he determined to be a warrior and went to Frederica to help Oglethorpe destroy the Spanish.

Thomas soon tired of camp life and had an "Ambition of being an Author" and of writing essays on religion. According to Stephens, "his sprightly Temper, added to a little Share of classical Learning, makes him soar" high. He wrote a long and meaningless discourse, on the "Glory & Lustre" of charity, to the Trustees in 1742 attempting to show that the Bethesda Orphans Asylum was being perverted. Thomas also wrote Lyricks but took umbrage at the accusation of having "Ambitions to be an Author." He wrote the Trustees, "I am sorry to find that my good intentions are so far perverted as to be imputed to an Ambition of appearing as an Author."

Thomas next felt a call to preach and went to England for Holy Orders in March 1743. He was appointed minister to Georgia for a term of three years on July 4th and returned to Georgia on December 2nd. He soon tired of preaching and Mary. He returned to England in 1745 without notice or providing for the church in Savannah declaring that he would not return. The Trustees ignored the complaints he attempted to bring to their attention so he decided to again become a warrior and go against the Rebels in the North but was back in Georgia in early 1746.

He was, however, no longer the minister. One report was that he cast "aside his Sacredotals"; but another had it that the Trustees had torn them from him. His successor, the Reverend Mr. Zouberbuhler, discovered that Thomas had stripped the parsonage of all furniture and he was forced to live in an unfurnished house for some time.

Thomas lost no time in developing a new scheme. He and Mary set up a trading post at the Forks (the confluence of the Ockmulgee and Oconee Rivers). Thomas openly brought six slaves to the Forks.

Mary and Thomas secured a grant of St. Catherine, Sapelo, and Ossaba Islands from the Creeks in addition to a tract of land lying between Savannah and Pipe maker's Creek. Chief Malatchee entered into this agreement on the "4th day of ye (1) Windy Moon called ye month of January by ye English" in 1747 in return for promises of cloth, ammunition, and cattle.

Mary & Thomas contacted Heron, the new commander of the regiment at Frederica, and raised in him fears of an Indian uprising and also promised him a share of any loot they could wring out of Georgia or the British government.

Heron formally recognized Malatchee as supreme King of the Creeks, collected a load of documents setting forth Mary's claims and sent them to the Trustees in London by Abraham Bosomworth.

Thomas purchased vast herds of cattle on credit in South Carolina and turned them loose on St. Catherine Island. Mary and Thomas then pressed Mary's claims in order to secure working capital. Thomas even drew drafts against the expected settlement.

Mary and Thomas came to Savannah on July 24, 1749, accompanied by Malatchee and two other chiefs. Malatchee announced that he was "the present and only reigning Emperor" and that all Creeks were his loyal followers. Malatchee also announced that 200 more chiefs and their warriors would be in Savannah within eight days.

The President and Council's first concern was to secure an interpreter as they were not convinced that Mary could serve as an unbiased interpreter. Mary stirred the pot by upbraiding Stephens for lack of hostility. She pointed out that the Indians always entertained visitors with the best they had and that Malatchee had been in town for six days and had not yet been invited to Tea much less a State Dinner. The Council invited the Indians to dine on July 28th. This dinner quieted the Indians for a while but by August they were again becoming restless. The vanguard of the Indian invaders were now approaching Savannah and the Council were becoming concerned.(2)

The council sent two horses laden with food to the women & children encamped near Fort Argyle. The Indians knew that the Georgia Regiment had been disbanded and they came down the river, "Firing their Guns all the way in menacing and insulting Manner." on the night of August 9th. Terror ran rampant in the streets of Savannah.

The council invited the chiefs to dinner on the 10th of August. Mary and the Council then began a game for the Indians support or lack thereof. The chiefs were wined & dined. Captain Noble Jones gathered about 170 militiamen and horsemen from the surrounding area. Noble Jones invited the Indians to lay down their arms. The Indians discharged their weapons. The militia considered this to be a salute and fired their weapons. A procession into town was then organized. The militia headed the parade. Thomas followed in his Canonical Habit along with Mary, Adam (his brother), Malatchee, and the rest according to their Custom to the Parade. Abraham Bosomworth & Mary were arrested temporally.

Malatchee played his role to the hilt. He continually suggested that they "Spend the Evening with the Beloved Men in Mirth." That is in the tavern. The farce wound down on the 19th after several more "Evenings with the Beloved Men in Mirth." Savannah's "reign of terror" was over. The Indians asked for food and boats home.

Mary resorted to the courts in London. She settled her claims for £2,100 and clear title to St. Catherine Island in June 1760. Mary died in 1763 and is buried on St. Catherine Island.

More on the Creek

1. The Colonial Records of the State of Georgia
(Atlanta 1914) compiled by Allen D. Chandler and L.L. Knight
2. Charles C. Jones, History of Georgia (Boston ,1883)
3. W.B. Stevens, History of Georgia (New York, 1847)
4. Stephens Journal

Biographies of famous, not so famous and infamous people from the North Georgia area or who had an effect on North Georgia
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