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A History of Early  Washington County, Georgia Through the Langston Family: 1775 - 1835

Editorial Note: items painted in this color represent recent changes based on updated information.

Why am I here?  

For me this isn’t a metaphysical question; but a thoroughly modern one, of family and family origins.  My immediate family is scattered from Connecticut to Virginia, with siblings ranging in age from 61 to 44, engaged in vocations from Farrier to Professor to Mechanic.  How did we get here?

Lacking a family oral history, much of my genealogy research was spent rummaging through dry-as-dust books and microfilm, trying to unearth another long-buried item, hoping to squeeze one more fact out of the paper trail that remains of my long-dead ancestors’ lives.  With God’s grace, persistence and luck, I was rewarded with a broad chronology of my forebearers’ lives festooned with names, dates, begets, census enumerations, and tax references.  

Despite years of my best efforts, I found I’d assembled a canvas of facts as lifeless as the paper they laid upon; the essence of my ancestors’ lives eluded me.  

To breathe life into these scraps of paper, to make their lives live again, I found I needed to weave the forces of history that shaped their lives, into these facts.  It was then they blossomed, turned into actual people, plump with life.

By combining the remaining records of my ancestors’ lives with United States, Georgia, and Washington County history, I was able to piece together a broad history of the Langston family in early Washington County, Georgia.  I hope this history helps others better understand how these times influenced their ancestors’ lives.

My historical emphasis has been on the often overlooked side of history.  I found Washington County’s history compelling in conjunction with the Indian Nations, natural disasters, conflagrations, and wars that shadow its early history; I hope you do also.

Genealogy and history are but avocations of mine; I know I have only scratched the surface of these times.  While I’d like to have traced the Langston origins back into the mists of time, to the days of Charlemange, or Zoroaster, in truth our story is really an American one, and it’s here where I’ve concentrated my focus, beginning in Washington County, Georgia.  

At best, this an imperfect history, but I hope it aids those in search of their families who also lived in early Washington County.

Please feel free to contact me; I welcome all inquires, comments, and questions.

Chip Langston
Falls Church, VA

(Updated 3/14/99)

A History of Early Washington County, Georgia Through the Langston Family:
1775 - 1835

The Lack of Early Washington County Records

Few documents chronicling the early days of Washington County remain.  The standard genealogy sources from Washington County’s frontier days have been lost to the ages, destroyed by wars, fire, and bureaucratic efficiency.

Washington County’s records are available only from the end of the Civil War to the present.  In the 1850’s the Washington County Court House caught fire, incinerating the land, tax, and estate records from its inception in 1783.  Adding insult to injury Sherman’s troops, in their March To The Sea, burned the records from 1850 through 1864.  

Another genealogists staple, the United States Government Censuses, begins only with the 1820 Census for the State of Georgia.  During the War of 1812, British forces burned many United States records housed in Washington, D.C. including Georgia’s 1790, 1800, and 1810 censuses.

Another significant loss for Washington County was the destruction of all the early grave markers and their inscriptions.  These markers where pine crosses and were destroyed in forest fires through out the decades.  

Other Sources

Despite the paucity of county and federal records, there are Georgia State records and sources from neighboring counties that can provide information for researchers; references will be noted, as appropriate.  

Originally, Washington County  encompassed what are now Johnson, Emanuel, Toombs, Treutlen, Chandler, Montgomery Counties.  These were spun off by 1800 and Washington County took its current boundaries.  Some early records of significance can be found in these adjoining counties.

In 1802, two states, Alabama and Mississippi were carved out of what had been the western reaches of Georgia.  Researchers can often find information in these states if their ancestors migrated westward through the cotton belt.

Georgia’s Colonial Period

Colonial Georgia (1732 - 1775) laid claimed to a vast territory.  All lands from the Savannah River west to the Mississippi River were claimed by the Crown under the Royal Charter for Georgia; the Spanish settlement of Florida was its southern boundary, the English Colony of Carolina was its northern boundary.  

The Royal Charter ignored the fact that the territory was already inhabited by a loose confederation of Indian tribes that became known as the Creek and Cherokee Indian Nations; it had been their ancestral homelands for centuries.  

The founder of the Georgia Colony, James Olgelthorpe, could not ignore this when his boats sailed up the Savannah.  He negotiated with the Indian Nations and secured the banks of the Savannah River, west to the Ogeechee River, for the new Colony.  The Anglo settlements that developed along the river became Georgia’s original counties.  

The relationship between the Colony of Georgia and the Indian Nations turned antagonistic as aggressive Anglo settlers took Indian lands and competed for the same limited food sources and natural resources.  There were numerous bloody incidents between settlers and Indians during Georgia’s first forty years.  Treaties were renegotiated by the British but the slow steady encroachment of Anglo settlers continued.  

Ironically, one of the major stumbling blocks to attract new settlers to Colonial Georgia was its initial prohibition of slavery.  Carolinians and Virginians of money were reluctant to settle new territory without their slave work forces, thus in the colony repealed its slavery prohibition in the 1750’s, in part to increase settlement.

The Revolutionary War and the Beginning of Washington County

The relationship between the Indian nations and colonists had been strained to the point that by the start of the Revolutionary War the border between the two was under duress all the way from Canada to Georgia.

When the war began the Creek and Cherokee Nations of Georgia, and most of the Indian Nations along the entire north/south border, allied themselves with the British and actively waged war upon our fledgling nation.

The Indian Nations choose to support the British as they viewed them as the lesser of two evils.  While the colonial settlers incessantly claimed Indian lands, complaints to the British Crown at least brought attempts to rein in the colonists; whereas complaints to the Colonial Governments fell on deaf ears.  

Following the successful completion of the war for independence, the new State of Georgia demanded that the Creek and Cherokee Nations atone for their support of the British; the Creeks were forced to cede 3 million acres of their eastern lands.

In 1783, Georgia incorporated this land and formed five new counties.  Its new frontier was now Washington, Montgomery, Hancock, Greene and Jackson counties -- all named for Revolutionary War heroes.  The Georgia territory open for Anglo settlement now stretched to the Oconee River, effectively doubling the size of Georgia’s territory.

The new United States government was eager to settle Georgia in part to strengthen the frontier against the Spanish threat in Florida - Florida was still a Spanish possession.  For their service in the war, Georgia Revolutionary War Veterans were given 250 acre tracts, known as “Bounties,” in these new counties to provide the basis for a militia.  Some veterans settled their Bounties, others chose land speculation.

The State of Georgia was also eager to settle these new counties and the state provided free parcels of land, known as “Head Right Grants,” to those who wanted to settle the frontier.  

Bounty And Head Right Grants of the First Langstons In
Washington County

The earliest recorded Langstons in Washington County are Samuel and Benjamin.  Samuel was the 11th child of John Langston - commonly referred to as John III in Langston Genealogy - and his second wife Elizabeth Parson (Pearson, Person).  John III Langston was probably born in Nansemond County, Virginia in 1710.  He moved to Granville, North Carolina about 1745.  Shortly before the Revolutionary War he and almost all of his family moved to the Greenville, South Carolina area.  

Son Samuel appears to have moved to Georgia rather that South Carolina.  He obtained three Bounties from the State of Georgia in 1784 for his service in the Revolutionary War, serving in Georgia’s Revolutionary Militia.  This places Samuel in Georgia about 1776.

In ‘Georgia’s Roster of the Revolution: Knight’, it’s noted that Samuel Langston received ‘287 1/2 acres, Washington County, bounded N. Wm. Matthews, E. Altamaha river, S. Joshua Inman, W. vacant, survey 418.  June 6, 1784’ - this parcel would now be in Appling County.  Samuel also received two Bounties in Franklin County.

Although one source reported that Samuel's will was recorded in the ‘Columbia County Will Book A, 1790 - 1793', Columbia County, and neighboring Richmond County, have no record of his will.   Samuel was also listed as a Tax Defaulter in Washington County in 1791 (my apologizes, I have to find my source of this facts).

The aforementioned Benjamin Langston obtained a Head Right Grant in Washington County in 1785 where he lived until his death about 1807.  He was noted as being in default on his Washington County taxes in 1791 (again, my apologizes for not noting my source).  To date, Benjamin’s pre-Georgia life remains uncovered.

Life and Justice in Early Washington County

Historians record the first settlers of Washington County, such as Samuel and Benjamin Langston, as hard-scrabble yeoman farmers.  Few had the means to own slaves.  Almost all the new settlers migrated from Virginia or the Carolinas.

Accounts of early Washington County detail it as fiercely frontier; the locals were often referred to as crackers.

Travelers to Washington County frequently mention the abundance of one-eyed men in the county.  Individuals determined the law and fist fights were commonplace to settle disagreements.  Fights often ended when one opponent popped an eyeball out of his adversary’s head, hence the abundance of one-eyed men.  

Justice in early Washington County was swift and brutal.  The accused often had a jury-of-his-peers show up at their cabin with a rope.  A brief trial ensued.  If the defendant was found guilty, a noose was hung over a strong pine bough and the guilty party hung.  

Travel through Georgia’s thick pine forests to frontier Washington County was perilous business.  Many accounts of the times report that travelers were often waylaid by road thieves and displaced Creek and Cherokee Indians.  

Creek raids on settlers were common through the early 1800’s as they rebelled against the terms of the treaty resultant from the Revolutionary War.  They waged a sporadic war against frontier settlers known as The Oconee War.

James Langston and Family On the Keg Creek

My first direct descendants in Washington County were James Langston, his wife Dorcas - maiden name unknown – and young sons Jabez and Jason. James was a grandchild of the aforementioned John III Langston and Samuel Langston would have been an uncle.

It appears that James decided to migrate to Washington County after his mother’s death.  She died between the 1790 and 1800 censuses - South Carolina’s early censuses survived the War of 1812.  James’s father, Jechonias Langston, died in 1788 and left James and his sister Mary, the family estate after his wife’s death.  James and Mary sold the estate.  James pocketed his profits and moved to the Georgia frontier.

James Langston and family trekked over 150 miles on horseback and feet with James driving the oxen cart that carried their possessions.  Undoubtedly, James drove the cart through the perilous Georgia pine forests with gun astride his lap.  Children of Jabez’s age often recalled these times as the highlight of their childhood’s; it was grand adventure sleeping under the stars with campfires ablaze, hunting game for the family.

They settled and cleared the 800 acre Keg Creek watershed which lies about halfway between Sandersville and Deep Step, Georgia.  The family arrived in Washington County sometime between 1794 and 1802 from Spartanburg, South Carolina; the exact year has been lost.  

As James was neither Revolutionary War Veteran nor Head Right Grant recipient he had to buy this property.  It would have been a sizable purchase as the Bounty and Head Right Grants were about 250 acres parcels; the Keg Creek Plantation was over three times the size.  Only 10 percent of the families in early Washington County were able to afford slaves and there are later references to the family owning at least two slaves, so it appears that James and his family were relatively affluent.  

Because of the chaos of the Land Grant system and its subsequent abuses, the State of Georgia implemented a lottery system to allocate the remaining lands appropriated from the Creek Nation.  The first surviving reference to James Langston in Washington County is the first Georgia lottery known as The 1805 Georgia Land Lottery; he and Benjamin applied for the lottery in Washington County.  Both drew blanks.  

Fortunately, the 1805 lottery recorded all entries and land recipients; unfortunately, the later lotteries record only the land recipients.  Some of the requirements for the 1805 Lottery were that an individual be a Georgia taxpayer from May 1802 - May 1803 and at least 21 years of age.  As James participated in this lottery, he and his family had to have been in Washington County by 1802.

In 1807, another land lottery was held by the State of Georgia.  Benjamin Langston, of Washington County, is noted as drawing a lot in Wilkinson County.

Earthquakes and Cotton in Washington County

With the advent of the cotton gin in Georgia in 1793, James Langston’s cash crop on the Keg Creek Plantation was cotton.  From 1793 to 1820 the cotton crop grew to dominate not only Washington County’s economy, but the entire State of Georgia.  Travelers from Augusta in Washington County were forever being pestered as to the price of cotton in Augusta where the crops where sold.

A sizable corn crop would have been grown by the family for food, both for their needs and farm animal fodder.  Numerous hogs and chickens, several cows and oxen, and a horse or two had free range of the plantation.

But a week before the Christmas of 1811, in the middle of the night, a mammoth earthquake centered 400 hundred miles away brought a new meaning to rough-and-tumble for Washington County residents.  Many were thrown from their beds by the vicious rolling of the ground.  Chimneys tumbled.  Windows as far away as New York City rattled.  Church bells rang in Charleston.  For the next two months, huge aftershocks permeated life not only in Washington County and but along the entire east coast.  

The quakes and aftershocks were centered in the town of New Madrid, Missouri.  During the nearly three months of quakes, blocks of earth tens of miles wide, rose and fell tens of feet.  During one of the crustal movements, the resultant ‘tsunami’ caused the Mississippi to flow north for a time.  After the quakes subsided, the course of the mighty Mississippi was changed forever at New Madrid.

The War of 1812; Georgia and the Creek Nation At War, Again

The residents of Washington County barely had a respite from the quakes before the U.S. declared war upon the British.  The effects of the War of 1812 determined Georgia’s expansion for next thirty years.

At the onset of The War of 1812, the State of Georgia erected numerous forts on their frontier to protect its settlers from Creek attacks; the frontier was now 60 miles west of Washington County, on the banks of the Ocmulgee River.  About half the Creek Nation in Georgia - they became known as the Red Sticks - allied themselves with the British.  The remainder of the Creek Nation - the White Sticks - allied themselves with the United States.  

The first year of the war brought minor skirmishes between the Red Stick and the United States forces.  But in August of 1813 the Red Stick Creeks, in a surprise attack on one of the forts, slaughtered 500 settlers and soldiers.  Accounts of the attack described disemboweling, fetuses torn out of women’s bodies and hung on tree branches, childrens’ heads splattered against the palisade, and cannibalism.  The British offered the Red Sticks a $5 bounty for American scalps, and many of the 500 had been scalped.  

President Madison ordered the Tennessee Militia, lead by future President Andrew Jackson, to Georgia to subdue the Red Sticks.  7,000 United States soldiers, with the aid of the White Stick Creeks, subdued the Red Sticks by the spring of 1814.  

After the Red Sticks were subdued by Jackson and the White Sticks, Jackson demanded that the Creek Nation cede 20 million acres (2/3rds of their lands!) to recompense for the Red Sticks aggression.  

The stories of Red Stick butchering of  settlers and soldiers galvanized white-American sentiment against any Indian Nation, and both ally and enemy nation received equal distrust and hatred.  Serious decisions began throughout the southern states,  at the federal level, to find a permanent solution to ‘the Indian problem’.  

For the next six years, the Creek Nation steadfastly refused to sign Jackson’s treaty.

Death on the Keg Creek Plantation

There are no remaining records that date the death of James Langston, but it would have been around the time of The War of 1812.  Some tranquil spot on the plantation was chosen for the grave site and Jabez, about 25 years old, pounded the pine cross into the ground at the head of his father’s grave, knowing full-well the survival of the plantation was now upon his young shoulders.  

The first mention of James’s estate is in the ‘Genealogical Abstracts From the Georgia Journal, 1809 - 1840’.  The Georgia Journal was the paper of Baldwin County, the county west of Washington County, and a valuable source for Washington County’s missing history.

His estate was administered by an Abner Rutherford and Mary Langston; Mary was probably his sister, who shared the family estate in Spartanburg.  As these two were appointed by the Court, James Langston possessed no will at the time of his death and his death was sudden.

Sadly, only several years later, The Georgia Journal records the application for administration of Jabez Langston’s estate in May 1816.  Abner Rutherford and Mary Langston were again appointed the administrators showing he had no time to draft a will before his death.

It’s probably no coincidence that Jabez Langston, in the prime of his short life, died during the year that became known as ‘1800 and froze ta death’.

Disaster Befalls Washington County and The United States

On April 12, 1815 a volcano in the Java Sea, later named Tamboro, in one titanic explosion blew 36 cubic miles (1.7 million tons!) of itself into the atmosphere.  Roughly 150 times more ash was thrown into the stratosphere than the eruption of the Mount St. Helens in the 1980’s; 15 times more volume than the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the 1990’s.  

The people of The United States knew not what caused the tragedy that befell them the year of 1816.  The massive dust cloud migrated around the globe and through out Europe and the eastern United States the year of 1816 produced no summer.  In New England, it snowed every month of the year.  Crop failures in the north were almost total, and widespread through out the south.  Warm spells, when planting took place, were followed by killing cold, freezing rain and frost which destroyed the tender seedlings.  

Bearing the weight of the plantation’s survival, Jabez himself succumbed to fatal pneumonia.

Stunning sunrises and sunsets are often mentioned of this year.  Hazy, milky, halos circled the moon.  But for the families of the United States, it was a disastrous time.  People had to eat; cattle, if they weren’t slaughtered, had to be fed.  Many families went into debt to buy food.

As a postscript to the horrible year of 1816, a group of writers in Switzerland banded together that summer to find comfort from the dismal weather.  They traded ideas, plots, and readings.  But most of all, they traded ghost stories.  Each sought to upstage the other and Mary Shelley, a member of this group, upstaged them all by writing her classic ‘Frankenstein’.

To many in Washington County it must have seemed that God wielded a heavy hand upon them.  Like bookends, the natural disasters of 1811 and 1816 capped the War of 1812.

The Fall of the Plantation

Jabez Langston was dead, and almost all of the crops failed.  Jason Langston, approaching his mid-twenties, took stewardship of the plantation.  The spectacular sunsets that English painter J.M.W. Turner recorded for posterity brought little comfort to Jason as he dug a grave next to their recently departed father.  He pounded the pine cross into the Georgia red clay.  The weight of the plantation now upon his shoulders in a year that brought few blessings.  

Dorcas would suffer as only a mother can know; she had lost her husband, and her first child.

Comparable to milking stools, plantations require three legs to stand: slaves, land, and money.  The ‘Genealogical Abstracts From the Georgia Journal’ recorded how quickly the Langston Plantation tumbled.  Abner Rutherford and Mary Langston continued to assist with Jabez’s estate.

In January of the 1817 ‘one Negro man’ - his name is not recorded - part of James’s and Jabez’s estates was sold.  It must have been out of dire necessity to sell one leg of the tripod; the sale generated needed cash.  Jason was now left as the sole male to farm the plantation.

Later in 1817, and for each of the next three years, the family sold off 200 acre parcels of the plantation.  Several of the sales were noted to satisfy creditors and judgments.  By 1820, only 128 acres remained in the family’s possession.

1820: The First Remaining Census of Georgia

In the 1820 United States Georgia Census there are two Langston families enumerated in Washington County: Dorcas and David.  David Langston was probably a son of Revolutionary War Veteran Timmothy Langston from Virginia.  Two of his brothers, John and Lazarus, also appear in Georgia during the early 1800’s; David had been in Georgia since the 1790’s.

Dorcas Langston is enumerated as Head of Household in Washington County, Floyds District.  Tallied in the household are:

 (1) male 26 - 45
  (This would be Jason, 26 - 30 years old)

 (1) female 26 - 45
  (Jason’s wife Sarah)

 (1) females over 45

 (1) female slave over 45

 (1) person engaged in agriculture
  (Jason, cash crop of cotton)

At some point, probably close to the 1820 census, Jason had married a woman named Sarah.  No record of their marriage exists, but she is named in later censuses.  The female slave was probably kept by the family to help with household chores and perhaps to be a nanny for Jason and Sarah’s son born later in the year.  In a touching memorial, he was named Jabez, in memory of Jason’s older brother.

This census enumerated about 10,600 souls in Washington County; about 1/3 were black slaves.

Seeds for the Removal of the Creek Nation; More Lotteries

Since 1814, the Creek Nation had steadfastly refused to sign Jackson’s treaty, believing the terms unjust.  They argued that the White Stick’s assistance in subduing the Red Sticks was invaluable to Jackson’s success.  But by 1820 they had exhausted all their options and the Creek Nation reluctantly signed the treaty.  They moved onto their diminished lands.  

As a result, 20 million acres of land became available for eager settlers and Georgia held a land lottery in 1820 to disperse the lands.  Both Jason Langston and his mother Dorcas were lucky and won land in newly formed Irwin County.

Within a year the Creeks sold more of their lands to repay debts.  Their remaining lands proved too small to support their people and the Nation began to founder.  The once self- sufficient people became dependent upon the U.S. government for the necessities of food, blankets, and such.

Georgia held another land lottery in 1821 to disperse these lands; neither Dorcas nor Jason drew lots.  

By now both the state of Georgia and the federal government agreed that the Creeks needed to be removed from Georgia -- permanently.  Numerous strategies were discussed, but the seeds for their removal had already begun.  In 1817, former Governor of Georgia David Mitchell - a rabid anti-Indian - was appointed the Indian Agent to the Creeks and was charged with oversight and distribution of federal relief supplies.

The Langston Family Moves Out of Washington County

In February or March 1822 Dorcas Langston died, at some age over 45.  The ‘Genealogical Abstracts From the Georgia Journal’ record the events of her estate.  

Jason, about 30, applied to be the Administrator of her estate; he placed her grave next to James and Jabez.

By October of that year Abner Rutherford was noted as Administrator of her estate; he must have been a wonderful family friend as this was the third Langston estate he administered.  

Weary of the bitter memories of the Keg Creek Plantation Jason and Sarah and their toddler Jabez, moved in the intervening months.  Jason had buried his father, mother, and only brother on the plantation; under his stewardship the plantation shrank to a fraction of its original size.

About September 1823 ‘the real and personal estate of Dorcas Langston’ was sold off.  In April 1824 Dorcas’s remaining land, the 128 acres in Washington County and 490 acres in Irwin County were sold.

By mid-1824 the Langston family had moved out of Washington County.  Dorcas was still mistakenly listed in the 1825 Washington County Tax Digest as owing 36 cents tax on ‘490 acres of pine land’ in Irwin County, her winnings in the 1820 Land Lottery.  

As five generations before, Jason packed up and moved to the frontier, to start life anew 60 miles west.  Jason and family moved to the rich red clay farm lands on the banks of the Ocmulgee River near where the township of Macon was springing up upon the lands the Creeks had ceded only four years earlier.  

All that remains of the Langstons three decades of life in Washington County is some disparate records, and now this history.

Golden Coffin Nails

The last two sections of this history deal with Washington County in an indirect way.  We are past midstream in the history of the Creek and Cherokee Nations in Georgia and it would be an injustice if their story was not brought to its conclusion as it impacted the lives of many in Washington County.  The story of how they were forced to leave Georgia is compelling.

The Creek Nation was unable to support itself on its diminished lands and survived only through relief provided by U.S. Indian Agent David Mitchell.  He befriended a Creek named William McIntosh and put him on his payroll.  McIntosh proved to be easily bought.  

Eventually Mitchell drew up a new treaty that ceded all the remaining Creek lands to the State of Georgia.  He granted McIntosh plenipotentiary rights for the Creek Nation.

In a stunning betrayal of his Nation, for a small sum of money in 1825, McIntosh signed the treaty for the Creek Nation.  When the Creek elders learned of his treachery, McIntosh was dragged from his cabin and executed.  

Georgia and the U.S. had their excuse.  By the time the Creek elders learned of the treaty, it was a fait accompli; momentum for their removal from Georgia gathered with each passing day.

The drive to remove the Creeks festered for next four years as state and federal officials urged them to move west, over the Mississippi.  

But in 1829 everything changed.  Gold was discovered on the lands of the Cherokee Nation which occupied the northwest corner of Georgia and part of Tennessee.  The nation had its first gold rush and Georgia was overtaken with gold fever; gold became the nails in the coffin for all the Indian Nations in the southeastern U.S..

The State of Georgia moved quickly to purloin the Cherokee lands.  The state legislature passed numerous illegal laws that hog-tied the Cherokees: Cherokees were officially forbidden to mine gold; barred from testifying against any white person in court; and tribal leaders were prohibited barred from gathering, except to cede land.  As a final measure, the Cherokee Nation was striped of their sovereign nation status.

The Cherokees were aghast; they had seen what had happened to their neighbors the Creeks.  They quickly brought legal proceedings against the State of Georgia and pursued appeals to the United States Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court ruled that Georgia had no right to dissolve their sovereign Nation status.  But Andrew Jackson, now the President, arrogantly said ‘(the court) has rendered (their) decision: now lets see (them) enforce it!’  He ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In 1831 and 1832, while the Cherokee Nation still occupied their land, the State of Georgia held two more land lotteries, The Gold Lotteries, to distributed the lands of the Cherokees.  Many in Washington County received title to these lands.

By the mid-1830’s, Indian issues throughout the southeast came to a head.  In 1835 a united front composed of the States of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and the United States Government decreed that all of the Indian Nations in the southeast must move, forever, west of the Mississippi.  

A most appalling and hateful chapter in American history began in 1836; the Creeks of Georgia, the Cherokees of Tennessee and Georgia, the Seminoles of Florida, the Choctaw of Alabama, and the Chickasaw of Tennessee were forced to move off their ancestral homelands to new lands west of the Mississippi.  The forced migration quickly became known as The Trail of Tears.

The Trail of Tears

In 1836, President Jackson ordered the Creeks of Georgia to leave.  Late in the year 15,000 Creeks were rounded up by United States Troops and forced west, wrangled as cattle.  They marched through the winter snows and freezing rains, some nearly naked, many manacled.  The old, the weak, the sick, the newborns, anyone unable to walk was left by the side of the trail to die.  

An estimated 8,000 Creeks died that winter on The Trail of Tears; only 7,000 made it to their new homeland.  Of these, 3,500 died within the first year of resettlement: disease, suicide, alcoholism, and starvation were rampant.

The next year President Jackson ordered the Cherokee Nation of Georgia and Tennessee onto The Trail of Tears.  They faired slightly better, only 4,000 Cherokees died on the trail.  

The Seminoles, the Choctaws, and the Chickasaw all were removed from the south eastern states.  A century later, Adolf Hitler, admiring Andrew Jackson’s technique of forced removal and resettlement, perfected it in his pogroms of the European Jews and carried it to a monstrous conclusion with his extermination camps.

One Civil War Veteran, recalling his experiences on The Trail Of Tears said, “I’ve seen men shot to pieces and slaughtered by the thousands, this was the cruelest work I ever knew.”

With the Creeks and Cherokees gone, the last barrier to full white settlement of Georgia was removed: many Washington County families quickly moved onto the former Creek and Cherokee lands.  Georgia took its current boundaries.

All Rights Reserved By Chip Langston