Among all the famous Native American Indian chiefs, people today easily recognize names like Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Tecumseh, and Crazy Horse. However, unless you live in North Alabama or Central Tennessee, chances are you've never heard of Cherokee Chief Doublehead. Described as overbearing, hot-tempered, and haughty, he possessed possibly one of the strongest personalities of any man who lived at the time. Through sheer force of will, Chief Doublehead became the principal leader among the Cherokees. Refusing to cede the valuable hunting grounds to white intruders, he managed to confederate several tribes of Indians to wage war for twenty-five years. It has been said tha Doublehead killed more men than anyone who lived during that time period. Butch Walker has written an excellent biography on the great chief, which has been long overdue. Walker takes Doublehead from warrior to famous chief to shrewd businessman. Butch Walker has painstakingly researched all available material on the fierce Cherokee Chief Doublehead. This is a must-read for anyone interested in Native American history.
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Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief
Prior to the birth of Doublehead in 1744, the area of the Muscle Shoals of north Alabama was the ancestral hunting grounds of the Cherokee. By the 1770's, Doublehead with the assistance of his warriors would rule the area of the Great Bend with an iron fist for some 40 years. During the Chickamauga War beginning with the signing of the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals in 1775, he would fight the northern encroachment of white settlers from his stronghold in the southernmost portion of the Tennessee Valley shoals. Doublehead would become one of the most influential Chickamauga leaders with the tribes making up the Indian confederacy.
Doublehead was very independent from other Chickamauga leaders including the great war chief Dragging Canoe. He would make his own decisions in the isolation of the Muscle Shoals and had complete control of his war against the Cumberland settlements. He made his raids without asking for permission or guidance from other Chickamauga leaders. Doublehead was the last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief to cease hostilities and to live along the Muscle Shoals in the Great Bend of the Tennessee River of north Alabama.
Indian Tribes of the Chickamauga Confederacy
From the 1600's through the early 1800's, five American Indian tribes claimed the area of the Muscle Shoals which included the Yuchi (Euchean), Upper Creek (Muskogee), Shawnee (Algonquin), Chickasaw (Muskogee), and Lower Cherokee (Iroquois). Portions of all these Indian tribes including the Delaware (Algonquian) became a part of the Chickamauga Confederation that fought against the settlement of their hunting grounds in the Cumberland River Valley.
The tribes that made up the Chickamauga Confederacy consisted of the Yuchi, Delaware, Upper Creek, Shawnee, Chickasaw, and Lower Cherokee. Some members of all the tribes making up the confederacy would live in Doublehead's Town at the upstream end of the Muscle Shoals. Doublehead and his Chickamauga alliance would be the last Indian people to occupy and control this valuable piece of Tennessee River real estate. Even though there were previous conflicts among the Indian tribes that occupied the area of the Muscle Shoals, Doublehead would work with all of these tribes including the Chickasaw and form alliances with the remaining remnants in order to organize the strongest historic Indian confederacy to ever occupy the Tennessee Valley's Great Bend.
It would be the last twelve years of his life that Doublehead would become a peace seeking warrior. He made shady deals with government officials to his own personal benefit which caused a dislike of Doublehead by many of his fellow Cherokees. Prior to his death, Doublehead became a very wealthy businessman but would realize a widespread decline in his respect among the Upper Cherokees. The loss of his feared Chickamauga warrior status would embolden his own Cherokee people to carry out Doublehead's assassination, which would lead to another division of the tribe. In 1809, some 1200 of Doublehead's family and friends would leave the Cherokee tribe for lands west of the Mississippi River and would become known as the "Old Settlers or Cherokees West".
Many people in north Alabama are not familiar with one of the most historic tribes to inhabit our area; however, the Yuchi were here at the time DeSoto traveled through our part of the country in 1540. They consider themselves the "First People" and are some of the most pure traditionalists among Indian people. According to the Journal of Muscle Shoals History,"... the Cherokees were not the first Indians to live at the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River. This honor belongs to the mound builders, who were followed by the Euchees (Yuchi), a tribe having a unique language and no migration legend. They may have lived at the Shoals in pre-historic times. The Euchees were probably living at the Shoals when Desoto (1540) came through Alabama and were definitely there in 1700 when discovered by some traveling Canadians ... Shortly after they were discovered by the Canadians in 1700, the Euchees departed from the Shoals and moved to the mountainous regions of what is now East Tennessee" (Watts, 1973). Another contingent of Yuchi migrated south along Black Warriors' Path and settled near the mouth of Euchee Creek and the Chattahoochee River in present-day Russell County, Alabama.
John R. Swanton in his book, The Indians of the Southeastern United States, shows the Yuchi (Euchees) living along Elk River and the Tennessee River at the mussel shoals in the early 1700's. For some reason, part of the Yuchi migrated to the Hiwassee River in east Tennessee and the rest migrated south to the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama-Georgia border. After fighting the Cherokee in east Tennessee, many of these northern Yuchi also migrated south to the Chattahoochee River Valley; however, a few Yuchi remained in the Tennessee Valley maintaining friendly relations with Doublehead and the Lower Cherokee, who sought the alliance of all regional tribes.
According to Tom Hendrix's book, "If the Legends Fade", his great-great-grandmother was Yuchi, and she was born in the Tennessee Valley about the time Doublehead and his people were controlling the area. "Her name was Te-lah-nay, which means Woman with Dancing Eyes. She was born above the shoulder bone in the valley of the Tennessee River in the 1800's. Her tribe was the Yuchi, and she was my great-great-grandmother" (Hendrix, 2000). The shoulder bone Hendrix refers to is now under the backwaters of Wilson Lake about midway between Wheeler Dam and Wilson Dam on the Tennessee River. This shoulder bone is now an underwater island about four to five feet under the backwaters of present-day Wilson Dam, and lies slightly north of the middle of the river and just east of a line drawn from Gargis Hollow to Four Mile Creek. The underwater island is in the shape of a shoulder blade bone with the small end facing downstream.
Some of the Yuchi intermarried with the Cherokee and assisted Doublehead in establishing his domain and Indian alliance along the Big Bend. The Yuchi were considered the "First People" of the Muscle Shoals area of the Tennessee River. They were known as the children of the sun. As recorded by Terra Manasco in the book "Walking Sipsey" (1992), "It was the Uchee, who called themselves the Children of the Sun, who first used this site to Walk the Rainbow. Inducing themselves into a trance of blue-blackness formed by a series of sacred number patterns, a cord of white light would shoot out from their navels and arc out into the universe. It was upon this cord that they Walked the Rainbow and visited many worlds. The symbols carved on Kinlock's rocks are the magic symbols used in the trance as well as recreations of spirits encountered beyond the Rainbow." The Kinlock site was sacred to the Yuchi and Chickamauga and today is still considered sacred by those mixed Indian descendants that still call north Alabama home. The Kinlock Rock Shelter was part of Doublehead's territory located in the Warrior Mountains some 30 miles south of his home on the Muscle Shoals in present-day Lawrence County, Alabama.
Doublehead, as did Dragging Canoe, built alliances with surrounding tribes including the Delaware in efforts to stop white settlement on their sacred hunting grounds. Through intermarriage, the Delaware became members of Doublehead's extended family. Doublehead's third wife was a Delaware Indian probably from the northern part of Kentucky along the Ohio River. His Delaware wife was thought to be born about 1750 and they had two daughters named Corn Blossom who was born about 1770 and Kstieieah born about 1775. His marriage to the Delaware woman was an appropriate way to establish a friendly relationship with her people who controlled a great portion of the Ohio River Basin. The Delaware alliance with the Chickamauga was helpful to Doublehead in controlling the northern portion of Tennessee and Kentucky. The hunting areas from the Cumberland River to the Ohio River were assessable to all factions of the Chickamauga which included the Yuchi, Delaware, Shawnee, Upper Creek, and Lower Cherokee.
The Delaware, known as Leni Lenape meaning "Real People" or "Human Beings", originated around the Delaware River Basin, but they were forced westward by white encroachment into their homelands. By the 1750's, many of the Delaware were living in the Ohio River Valley. The Delaware were considered by some historians to be one of the oldest tribes in the northeastern United States, and the parent tribe of the Cherokee people who migrated from the north and settled in the mountainous Appalachian region of the Southeast. The Cherokee and Delaware had many cultural similarities.
In 1780 a group of Delaware hunting south of the Cumberland River were met by a party of men from Fort Nashborough. The men noted that the group of Delaware was moving south into Alabama as seen in the following:
In the latter part of January some of the men in pursuit of game through the woods were surprised to find traces of a party of Indians. These they were able to identify by the moccasin prints and also because the toes of the tracks turned inward, a characteristic of the savage foot. Following on apace the hunters found them encamped on a branch of Mill Creek in Davidson County, a few miles south of the Bluff. The stream mentioned has since been called Indian Creek because of this incident. The whites returned at once to the Bluff (Fort Nashborough), and a delegation was sent down from the settlement to seek an interview, and discover if possible whether the intruders were only friendly visitors or on mischief bent. The whites had no interpreter, but after "heap much talk," combined with a variety of sign making it was found that they were of the Delaware tribe. Probably ignorant of the advent of the settlers they had journeyed hundreds of miles from their home in New Jersey for a quiet hunt in the reservation. Having been already for some time in the Caney Fork country, which at that time abounded in game, they remained only a few days near the settlement, after which they quietly took their leave going south into Alabama (Albright, 1909). This particular group of Delaware was moving into the area of the Tennessee River controlled by Doublehead.
The different factions of the Chickamauga made raids that overlapped into the territories of each tribe making up the confederacy. Doublehead and his war parties made raids into Delaware territory against white settlers on the Rolling Fork section of the Salt River Basin in northern Kentucky and even assisted the Delaware in their fight against white encroachment into the Ohio River Valley. Even though the Delaware were not documented inhabitants of the Muscle Shoals area of the Tennessee River Valley, they also considered the Cumberland River Valley their hunting grounds. The Delaware were documented taking part in raids on the Cumberland settlements within the territory claimed by the Lower Cherokee. During some of the Cumberland raids, the Delaware faction of the Chickamauga was particularly brutal by cutting up some of their victims and scattering the remains in the yard around their log cabins. Some of the Delaware warriors would take the heads of victims as war trophies. These were some of the same brutal tactics used by Doublehead and his warriors.
Dragging Canoe, in his speech to the delegation after the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals in 1775, mentions the Delaware as a vanishing people being destroyed by the encroaching white settlers. At this time, he said the Delaware tribe was only a remnant of its once great nation. Eventually the Delaware were defeated in 1794 by General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, where over 100 Cherokee warriors fought with the Delaware but lost to the superior American forces. By June of the same year of this defeat, Doublehead signed a peace agreement known as the "Treaty of Philadelphia" with President George Washington. Doublehead probably saw the handwriting on the wall and knew that his days were numbered if he did not make the change from war to peace.
The Delaware had tried to stop further white settlement of their new Ohio lands in order to protect their homes and save their people from destruction. They were not successful and many were later forced on to the lands of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. In the middle 1790's, the Delaware appeared to abandon the Chickamauga and were not particularly noted as taking part in raids on the Cumberland settlements. The Delaware became more involved in saving their people and homes along the Ohio River Basin.
The Creeks befriended Chickamauga Chief Doublehead and became one of his strongest allies. They fought to the bitter end and were eventually defeated by General Andrew Jackson in March 1814. The Creeks utilized the friendly territory Doublehead controlled at the Muscle Shoals and followed him as their leader on many raids. Their hunting and raiding parties passed east of their enemy, the unfriendly Chickasaw stronghold of the upper Tombigbee River towns. The Creeks assisted Doublehead in establishing villages along the Great Bend of the Tennessee River and many times accompanied him on raiding parties into the Cumberland settlements. At times as many as 700 Creek warriors would follow Doublehead on the warpath. With the assistance of friendly Creeks, Lower Cherokees, Shawnees, Yuchi, Delaware, mixed-bloods, relatives, and friendly whites, Doublehead enforced his supreme control of the Great Bend and his followers were known as the Chickamauga. In his days as a Chickamauga warrior, not one Cherokee, Creek, or any other warrior would challenge Doublehead's authority.
The boundary line between the Creeks and Cherokees remained in question for many years with the Creeks denying that a boundary existed in the Muscle Shoals area of the Tennessee River; however, as seen in the following by Phil Hawkins, Jr., the Creeks wanted to unite the tribes into a confederacy. Also, Hawkins identifies Shoal Town where Doublehead and Katagiskee had a large settlement that extended a mile and half southward from the river along Shoal Town Creek.
In 1802, at the treaty of Fort Wilkinson, it was agreed between the parties that the line was from the High Shoals on Apalatche, the old path (High Town Path), leaving Stone Mountain to the Creeks, to the shallow ford on the Chattahoochee.
This agreement was in presence of the commissioners of the United States and witnessed by General Pickens and Colonel Hawkins. On the 10th October, 1809, a letter was sent from the Cherokees to the Creeks and received in February in the public square at Tookaubatche, stating the line agreed upon at Fort Wilkinson, and that all the waters of Etowah down to the ten islands below Turkey Town these lands were given up to the Cherokees at a talk at Chestoe in presence of the Little Prince, and Tustunnuggee Thlucco Chulioah, of Turkeystown, was the interpreter.
In August, 1814, at the treaty of Fort Jackson, the Creeks and Cherokees were invited to settle their claims, and Colonel Meigs was engaged for three or four days in aiding them to do so. The result was they could not agree, but would at some convenient period agree. This was signed by General Jackson, Colonel Hawkins, and Colonel Meigs.
At the convention with the Creeks, in September, 1815, the Cherokees manifested a sincere desire to settle their boundaries with the Creeks, but the latter first declined and then refused. Tustunnuggee Thlucco, being asked where their boundary was west of Coosa, said there never was any boundary fixed and known as such between the parties, and after making Tennessee the boundary from tradition, and that the Cherokees obtained leave of them to cross it, the policy of the Creeks receiving all destroyed red people in their confederacy, the Cherokees were permitted to come over and settle as low down on the west of Coosa as Hauluthee Hatchee, from thence on the west side of Coosa on all its waters to its source. He has never heard, and he has examined all his people who can have any knowledge on the subject, that the Cherokees had any pretensions lower down Coosa on that side. He does not believe, and he has never heard, there was any boundary agreed upon between them. Being asked by Colonel Hawkins his opinion where the boundary should be, he says it should go up Hauluthee Hatchee, passing a level of good land between two mountains, to the head of Itchan Hatchee, and down the same to Tennessee, about 8 or 9 miles above Nickajack.
In the year 1793 the Cherokees had a settlement at the Muscle Shoals (Shoal Town on Big Muscle Shoals), Doublehead and Katagiskee were the chiefs, and the Creeks had a small settlement above the Creek path on Tennessee. The Cherokee settlement extended southwardly from the shoal probably a mile and a half (Shoal Town). The principal temporary agent for Indian affairs south of the Ohio was early instructed in 1777 to ascertain the boundary line of the four nations, and instructions were given accordingly by him to Mr. Dinsmore and Mr. Mitchell to aid in doing it. Several attempts were made, but all proved abortive, owing to the policy of the Creeks, which was to unite the four nations in one confederacy and the national affairs of all to be in a convention to be held annually among the Creeks, where the speaker for the Creeks should preside.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Doublehead"
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Table of Contents
Indian Tribes of the Chickamauga Confederacy, 1,
DOUBLEHEAD'S FAMILY TREE, 19,
Family History-Doublehead's Cherokee Ancestry, 19,
Doublehead's Family Genealogy, 38,
CHICKAMAUGA WAR, 59,
Dragging Canoe-First Chickamauga Chief, 59,
Doublehead-Last Chickamauga Chief, 68,
Doublehead's War, 76,
Doublehead's Hostilities End, 140,
POLITICAL LEADER, 142,
Attack at Coyatee, 142,
Doublehead's Presidential Meeting, 146,
DOUBLEHEAD'S ASSOCIATES, 154,
Black Fox, 154,
John Melton, 160,
John D. Chisholm, 169,
Return Jonathan Meigs, 173,
DOUBLEHEAD: BUSINESSMAN, 178,
Farming Interests, 178,
Business Interests, 180,
DOUBLEHEAD: DEVELOPMENT, ROADS, AND LAND, 185,
Roads and Land, 185,
Doublehead's Gifts, 190,
LANDS LEASED BY DOUBLEHEAD, 198,
Lease Issues, 198,
Leased Lands, 204,
DOUBLEHEAD CONSPIRACY, 214,
Letters Seeking Meigs' Support, 214,
Letters Complaining of John Rogers, 215,
DEATH OF DOUBLEHEAD, 220,
Assassination Accounts, 220,
Caleb Starr Version 1838, 222,
General Sam Dale Version 1860, 223,
Cherokee Tragedy Version 1970, 225,
Major Ridge Assassination, 228,
Letters of Doublehead's Death, 230,
DOUBLEHEAD'S ESTATE, 235,
Catherine Spencer's Version of Estate, 235,
Bird Tail Doublehead's Version of Estate, 239,
Caleb Starr's Version of Estate, 242,
Division of Doublehead's Estate, 242,