Chief William McIntosh was born near Wetumpka, Georgia (now Alabama) in 1775. He was the son of William McIntosh, a Scotsman and Senoya (He-Na-Ha), a Creek Indian princess. The town of Senoia, Georgia was named after McIntosh's mother. His father's lineage goes back to colonial Georgia and included Lachlan MacIntosh a Revolutionary War general and George Troup a governor of Georgia in the 1820's. McIntosh became the principal chief of the Lower Creek Nation in the early 1800's. He was described as elegant, intelligent, and brave. He fought with General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama (1814). His service with the U. S. military merited him the rank of general. McIntosh's land holdings included property along the Chattahoochee River (Carroll and Coweta County), Indian Springs (Butts County), and along the Ocmulgee River (Butts County). The existing trail that ran between his properties and on into Alabama became known as the McIntosh Trail. Some historians think that the road named after him - from the Ocmulgee River to the Chattahoochee River and on to Alabama - was constructed hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Others state that Chief McIntosh's forces built the complete road. I believe that McIntosh, as per instructions from the president, improved an existing trail into a wagon road from his Reserve on the Ocmulgee to the point where it intersected the existing Seven Islands/Oakfuskee roads in Flovila, Georgia. From that intersection, McIntosh improved a section of an existing trail that ran between Charleston and the Chickasaw Nation in Mississippi, crossing western Georgia into Alabama. The trail across Georgia, estimated to be 118 miles long, became a well traveled route used by McIntosh, other Indian tribes, traders, and pioneer settlers. A newspaper reported, "Not long since 3 wagons have traveled this road, heavy loaded, and came through with the greatest of ease." McIntosh built stores, inns, and ferries along the road, and became a very wealthy man. We have found the location of several of these. A notice appearing in many issues (Feb. & Mar.1809) of the Georgia Express, a weekly newspaper published at Athens, Georgia, stated: "All persons who intend to travel through the Creek Nation must keep the Mail Path and must cross the Chattahoochee at Mr. McIntosh's Ferry by order of the Chiefs of Coweta. If they cross at any other place, the chiefs are determined that they will pay $1.00 a man and persons are placed at Coweta town to collect the money. Mr. McIntosh has well furnished with every necessary to accommodate the travelers at the river." The McIntosh Road was indeed the major east-west road leading westward from central Georgia to east central Alabama. The Georgia 1821 Land Lottery opened the portion of Georgia between the Ocmulgee and Flint River/Line Creek for settlement. This tract was ceded to the United States by the Creek Indian Nation led by William McIntosh on January 8, 1821, at the Treaty of Indian Springs. By an Act of the Georgia General Assembly on June 9, 1821, the state would dispose of and distribute the lands lately acquired by the United States for the use of Georgia. The lottery was held between November 11, 1821 and December 12, 1821. Americans moved westward. The Upper Creeks had been reluctant to sign the 1821 treaty but were convinced by McIntosh to do so as the whites would eventually take the land anyway. They later vowed not to sell anymore of their land and said, "We will die on our land and the world would see how much we loved it." On February 7, 1825 another large parcel was signed over at the Treaty of Indian Springs which the Upper Creeks rejected and refused to sign. They were highly displeased with McIntosh for the sale of this land, denounced him as a traitor, and vowed revenge. McIntosh also sold his 1000 acres at Indian Springs and his 640 acre tract on the Ocmulgee River. Opothleyoholo, a spokesman for the upper Creeks called McIntosh a "double-tongued devil" and warned him that "your own blood shall wash out the memory of this hated treaty". Chief McIntosh had signed his own death warrant. The "Red-Stick" faction of the Creek nation lived up to their threat. On April 30, 1825, at three in the morning about 170 warriors under the leadership of a brave called Menewa crept quietly up to McIntosh"s western most home in Carroll County and torched the house. One son, Chilly McIntosh, escaped through an open window and fled to Fayette County. Two of McIntosh's wives also escaped, but not before witnessing what happened to their husband and his property. Chief McIntosh held the warriors at bay with four guns he had in the house until he could no longer stand the heat from the fire. It was then that he was forced to exit into a spray of bullets from the marauding band. He was instantly killed, dragged out in the yard and scalped (beheaded according to one son's account). A friend, and a son-in-law Samuel Hawkins, were also killed. The plantation was then ravaged, the livestock killed and all buildings burned. The warriors left as quickly as they had come, taking the scalp of McIntosh with them as a trophy. He was buried at the site. McIntosh's remaining family, including the two wives and two sons, refuged to General Alexander Ware's home in Fayette County. Ware's home and property was on the eastern side of Line Creek, near the border of Georgia and the Creek Nation, in the vicinity of present day Peachtree City. With them came 120-150 other Creek Indians who feared for their lives. In a letter dated May 3, 1825, to Governor Troup, the wives poured out their anguish and pleaded for food and assistance for themselves, their children, and the other indigent Indians at Ware's plantation. It was signed "Peggy and Susannah McIntosh." For whatever reason, Governor Troup, a first cousin of the slain chief, offered meager aide. General Ware and friendly whites did what they could for the refugees. Ware reported to Troup, "The road is covered with refugees, and upwards of four hundred warriors of hostile party are feasting on McIntosh's cattle and would be marching toward the settlement of whites in three days. I will prepare for an invasion of perhaps as many as four thousand warriors. Whites, who have lived among Creeks a long time and know them, are sending their families out of the Creek Nation." Near General Ware's home, in fear of a Creek up-rising, Fort Troup was constructed to protect the settlers and friendly Indians, but the attack ever came. The Creeks were eventually herded up and marched west on the Creek "Trail of Tears". By 1827 the Lower Creek had been completely removed from the state under provisions of the Treaty of Indian Springs. Alabama was next to finish the forced removal process. Prior to his being exiled to the west, Creek Chief Eufaula addressed the Alabama Legislature at the State Capitol in Tuscaloosa: "In these lands of Alabama, which have belonged to my forefathers and where their bones lie buried, I see that the Indian fires are going out. Soon they will be cold . . . I leave the graves of my fathers, for the Indian fires are almost gone." When the power of the Creek Nation was broken, it was logical and inevitable that alternate routes would develop and that, in the "Old Southwest" (Georgia and Alabama), the Creek Indians and McIntosh's Road would become ghosts together. Both were bonded in history, leaving the land to new pioneers moving over other roads. And yes, the settlers came into the former land of the Creek Nation. As William Faulkner said, "They came in battered wagons and on muleback and even on foot, with flintlock rifles and dogs and children and homemade whiskey stills and Protestant psalm books. They came from the Atlantic seaboard and before that, from England and the Scottish and Welsh Marches, as some of the names would indicate. They brought no slaves and no Phyfe and Chippendale highboys; indeed, what they did bring most of them could (and did) carry in their hands. They took up land and built one-and two-room cabins and never painted them, and married and produced children and added other rooms one by one to the original cabins and did not paint them either." Many stayed but the frontier restlessness eventually caught up with others. In large letters, they marked "G.T.T." on their cabin doors - meaning "Gone to Texas." Such was life in the old Southwest. Today, even though many current day roads follow the original trail, very little remains of McIntosh's Road. Development, King Cotton, Mother Nature, and Father Time have seen to that. Wearing my frontier garb, I have walked most of the segments that can still be seen. As I walked through the undeveloped forest, I imagined the power of the bear and buffalo, interacting with free-roaming tribes, marching along side Davy Crockett with Andrew Jackson's troops, and filling my spirit to the brim. Despite the enormous tragedy and the fate of America's free-living people, it was one of the most romantic periods in the history of America's migration that took place in the living southwest - one hundred and eighty years ago.
E. J. Lanham Historical Exploration All rights reserved 2007