- Southeastern Native American Documents, 1730-1842
- Report of General John Coffee on the boundary line between the Creeks and Cherokees, 1829, Dec. 30, Florence, Alabama [to] John H. Eaton / Jo[h]n Coffee
- Coffee, John, 1772-1833
- Date of Original:
- Cherokee Indians--Land tenure
Creek Indians--Land tenure
Creek Indians--Government relations
Cherokee Indians--Government relations
- United States, Alabama, 32.75041, -86.75026
United States, Georgia, 32.75042, -83.50018
- This is a copy of a report dated December 30, 1829 from General John Coffee in Florence, Alabama to Secretary of War John H. Eaton regarding the boundary line between the Creek and Cherokee Nations in Georgia. Coffee's job was to ascertain, at Eaton's request, the true boundary line between those two Indian nations and the state of Georgia, and he details his travels and interviews with both Indians and white settlers about the true location of the boundary line. He mentions several documents given to him by Cherokee leader John Ross in support of the Cherokee claim about the boundary, including a copy of the Cherokee Phoenix that contained Ross's letter to Colonel Hugh Montgomery regarding Cherokee land claims. These enclosures do not survive with his report. Coffee goes on to express his opinion about where the line should be, asserting that Cherokees and Creeks had long shared common hunting grounds, that they had never seen fit to draw any boundary lines until 1821 when they drew a line from the Buzzard Roost (Georgia) to Wills Creek (Alabama), and that the Creeks had admitted giving certain lands over to the Cherokees long ago. The Cherokees had then settled those lands and had long been in possession of them. The state of Georgia's claims to those lands, Coffee concludes, have little evidence to support them.
Digital image and encoded transcription of an original manuscript, scanned, transcribed and encoded by the Digital Library of Georgia in 2001, as part of GALILEO, funded in part by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
- Local Identifier:
- Metadata URL:
- Digital Object URL:
- Bibliographic Citation (Cite As):
- Cite as: [title of item], Telamon Cuyler, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries, presented in the Digital Library of Georgia
- 12 pages/leaves
- Original Collection:
- Manuscript held by the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries, Telamon Cuyler, box 01, folder 46, document 02.
- Holding Institution:
- Hargrett Library
30 Decr [December] 1829 (Copy)
To the Hon [Honorable] John H Eaton
Secretary of War
Pursuant to your letter of instructions dated the
10th of October last directing me "to visit the Cherokee nation and ascertain the true boundary between the Creeks and the Cherokees as it existed formerly, from the best testimony that could be had." I entered on that service with as little delay as possible, after the receipt of your instructions; And have now the honor to report that I have succeeded in obtaining much information on that subject, and although both parties, to wit the state of Georgia claiming under the Creek title, of the one part, and the Cherokee nation of the other part, seem sanguine as to the preference of their respective claims each over the other, yet the evidence is not so clear as I could wish to establish either to the full extent claimed.
On my arrival at the Cherokee agency on the
25 of November last, I was informed by the U [United] States Agent Col [Colonel] Montgomery, that neither the Gov [Governor] of Georgia
nor the Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation, had furnished him with any information on the subject, nor had either left any with him for me, except that he had in his Office a treaty of boundary entered into between the Creeks and Cherokees on the
11th of December 1821, a copy of which he furnished [added text: me ] with. I immediately dispatched a letter by express to the Govr [Governor] of Georgia, and also a letter to John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation informing them of my arrival at the agency, and requested them to furnish me with the evidence of their respective claims, intending in the mean time while waiting for a return answer to my letters to employ myself among the Cherokee emigrants [immigrants] who were then encamped near the agency to the amount of about 300 as I was informed in the hope that I could get some useful information from the old men of that party, some of whom had resided many years on the land now in dispute between the Cherokees and Georgia. I visited several of them but found them opposed to make any written statement. [added text: but some of them gave me verbal statements. ] I had waited until the tenth day after my arrival, and not having received any communication from the Chiefs of the nation, I determined to visit and examine the disputed country, and for that purpose I left the agency on the
4th of December, and travelled
the road towards Georgia, and to the Suwannee old town on the Chattahuchy river, which is the upper point on that river claimed by the state of Georgia, but previous to my reaching that place I met my express sent to the Executive of Georgia with his reply to my letter accompanied [deleted text: with ] by the testimony on which he rested the claim of his state, with the exception of three witnesses which had been mentioned to him as being material in support of his claim, they were Jack Right Sleepy man (a Cherokee Indian) and George W Freeman all living near the line of disputed territory, with his request that I would see them and take their testimony. I sent an express after Sleepy man, and he was gone from home and could not be found. I went myself to the house of George W Freeman and was informed by his family that he was gone to some of the adjoining counties in Georgia & would not be at home for several days. I then went to the house of Jack Right and found him at home and procured his evidence in two separate statements, upon oath. Having obtained the evidence on which the Execution of Georgia rested his claim it only remained for me to examine the country in dispute, and collect such testimony as I could
find in passing through the Country, on the part of the Cherokees, always charging the witness to be careful and make a fair and impartial statement and when a legal officer could be procured who was authorised [authorized] to administer an oath the witnesses were Sworn to the correctness of their statements. Then in pursuance of my plan I examined four white men on oath, to wit, John Rogers and William Matthews who lived on the west of Chattahuchy, and Daniel Glover and George G Weatherspoon on the east side of the river in the state of Georgia. I proceeded westwardly and down the Hightower river on the south east side, passing many of the old improvements, which have the appearance of having been long settled, by the Cherokees as I was informed. At the Old Hightower town, I crossed over the river & passed down in the forks of Hightower and Estanala rivers which form a junction which makes the Coosa river. here is the residence of John Ross the principal chief of the nation. On my passage through the Country I called on sundry old men who had been long residents in the nation, and procured their testimony. I met some old white men, travellers, citizens of Georgia, who also gave me some evidence, all of which was taken by myself
in the absence of both parties interested. At the residence of John Ross, the principal chief of the Cherokee nation, met me with a number of old men, both white men and Indians, who gave testimony on the subject of the disputed country; and in addition to the evidence thus furnished the principal chief John Ross, presented me with the
11th of November last, a newspaper containing his communication to Col [Colonel] Montgomery U [United] States Agent, and a number of extracts from Official documents respecting the boundary line and in support of his claim. He also furnished me with a copy of a treaty held by the state of Georgia with the chief of the Cherokee nation on the
31st of May 1783. Also the Copy of an agreement entered into between the chiefs of both nations at Fort Jackson on the
9th of August 1814. And also the Copy of a talk delivered by an deputation of Cherokee chiefs to Genl [General] Pickens & Col. [Colonel] Hawkins commissioners treating with the Creek Nation at Fort Wilkinson on the
8th of June 1802. All of which testimony I here with enclose to you together with the correspondence which has taken place on the occasion: and also a rough sketch of a map of the country sent me by his Excellency Gov [Governor]
Gilmore of Georgia, and also a rough map made by myself from observations made as I passed through the Country. Believing the map of Gov [Governor] Gilmore is not as perfect in some parts as the one I have made, though either will answer to explain to you more fully, the evidence, to lay it before you as you read it.
It now remains for me to give you my opinion of what should be the true line between the two nations formerly. In the first place I learn from the evidence as well as from the observations of persons generally who have long been acquainted in that country, that the two nations seemed to have kept a common hunting ground and range between them of something like fifty miles, a little more or less between their Villages of the two nations, with the exception of some straggling settlements of either nation within that common but their settlements on the Coosa [deleted text: river ] approached nearer together and widened out as it extended eastwardly : and there never had been any truly defined line between them until they made the line from Buzzards roost to Wills Creek in
1821 And I believe that line is run within the bounds of the open common between the two nations which I have spoken of, but I am of opinion that the eastern
end of that line was run below the center of the open common, but without pretending to offer an opinion as to the propriety or legality of that line I discover the Cherokees had previously set up their claim to run very far South of it, and yielded as they say a part of their country to get the line settled as they finally run it from Buzzard roost to Wills Creek. By the evidence offered on the part of Georgia, I can find no testimony that can possibly fix the line where they have run it, all the evidence in their support is hearsay of individuals, without pretending to give [added text: up the ] authority from whence they derived their information, except the statement of Gov [Governor] Mitchell giving the substance of a talk delivered to him by the Cherokee chief Sour mush by his interpreter Shoe boots, in
1818. there must be a mistake in that interpretation, for in
1816 the Cherokees laid their claim [added text: down ] to the ten Islands on Coosa and made a treaty with the U [United] States allowing their claim to that point, therefore it is not probable two years afterwards one of their principal chiefs would in open council, contradict what the nation had claimed and obtained, and it is charged that Shoe boots could not speak the English language so as to interpret the talk alledged [alleged] to him. see
the statement on oath of six persons on the back of Gov [Governor] Mitchells certificate who know Shoe boots and say that he could not speak English intelligably [intelligibly]
There is abundance of evidence shewing [showing] that the Cherokees were in possession of the South bank of Hightowa river fifty years ago at the old Hightowa town, and that they extended their settlements out from that town, as well down as up the river. Turkey town was settled 40 years ago, and the old red Creek Town upwards of forty years since, and various other villages and settlements were made and occupied on all the waters that run into the Hightowa and Coosa rivers above Turkey town 30 & forty years ago and have ever since been in the constant occupancy of the Cherokees without any evidence to shew [show] the Creeks ever set up any claim to any of the waters of those rivers above Turkey Town except the statement of 29 Creek chiefs and warriors given to me in
1816 in the absence of the Cherokees. By that statement they said many years since, and during the revolutionary war, they loaned the Cherokees land from their old line, the junction of Estanala & Hightowa down to Wills Creek, and that the Cherokees had lived on it ever
since and had not been reclaimed by the Creeks -- at that day I construed their statement, into an admittance on the part of the Creeks that the Cherokees had claim to the country as low as Wills Creek, and acting as a Commissioner for running out the lines of the Country ceded by the treaty of Fort Jackson in
1814. I run a line from Wills Creek, along an old Indian path to Gunters ferry on Tennessee river, as being the line between the two nations, that path was then called the Creek path, and is yet known by that name --
From the long and quick possession of the Cherokees to all the waters of Hightowa & Coosa rivers above Wills Creek and from all the evidence before me I am bound to believe their claim good to that much of the disputed territory, and from the same evidence I view their claim on the Chattahoochee good certainly as low down as the shallow ford
on that river. I would therefore make the line as follows. Beginning at the lower shallow ford on Chattahoochee, which is about 15 miles below the Suwanna old town, and run from thence westwardly in a direction to strike the ridge which divides the waters running into little river which is a branch of Hightowa, from those running into Sweet water Creek, which runs into Chattahoochee about two miles below Buzzard roost and running thence with said ridge westwardly leaving all the waters which runs into the Hightowa and Coosa rivers to the right, on the Cherokee lands, and all the waters that run southwardly into the Chattahoochee, and Tallapoosa rivers, to the left, in the Creek lands, until said ridge intersects the line which has been run and marked between the Creeks and Cherokees from Buzzard roost to Wills Creek thence with that line to the Coosa river
opposite the mouth of Wills Creek -- which said proposed line is represented on the rough map sent you, as made by myself.
I have the honor to be Sir, with great respect your Obd Sert. [Obedient Servant] signed,
[Signed] Jno. [John] Coffee
Genl. [General] Coffee's Report on the Cherokee & Creek Boundary line.