Those of you who were young in the 1960’s may have watched the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show on Saturday morning. Two recurring characters, Sherman and Mr. Peabody, would use their “Wayback Machine” to transport them to a distant time and place in history. Today we will utilize that same technology, step into the “Wayback Machine”, and relive some of the earliest recorded history of our area.
Captain John Stuart, a loyalist militia captain in the service of the King, was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern District (of the not yet United States) in 1761. This District included South Carolina, Georgia, and lands that later became Alabama and Florida. Being a good supervisor, Stuart delegated some of his responsibility and subsequently tapped another loyalist, Mr. David Taitt, to make a survey of Upper and Lower Creek Indian villages and trading posts, with the goal of fixing their locations for mapping, and currying favor with the native peoples. At this time Britain had plenty of enemies, Spain and France to name a couple, plus some of the colonies in the New World were becoming more and more of a challenge to keep in line. So having the indigenous population on its side would certainly be an advantage.
Mr. Taitt set out from Pensacola on January 30th, 1772. With several pack horses, an interpreter, and a very small entourage, he made his way northeastward. In short order Taitt was in Tuckabatchie, a fair size Upper Creek village just below present day Tallassee, Alabama. After spending many days there, on March 29th, 1772, he journeyed to Abicouchie. W. Stuart Harris’ book Dead Towns Of Alabama has the spelling of this village Abikakutchee, and places it in Talladega County near present day Sylacauga, about 5 miles east of the Coosa River. It’s doubtful Taitt took Hwy. 280 or 231 to get there, but apparently his horse and the Indian footpaths of the day served him well. The next day his journal reads that he travelled 30 miles SSE to Wakokays (or Wakokayi). If his compass direction is correct, it appears he is backtracking. Nevertheless, he says Wakokays is situated on a branch of a creek the Indians called Ponchishatchee. You know it better as Hatchet Creek. Taitt goes on to record “This Creek, which falls into the Coosa River about 18 miles South west of this, is about 60 feet broad in most places but not navigable, being full of Rocks and Shoals”. Anyone who has travelled up Hatchet to see the lilies or gone kayaking further up can attest to that.
Taitt’s next destination was Puckantallahassie or Pakan-Tallahassee. You may think we’re going to Florida, but no, we’re actually heading down Hatchet Creek toward the river. Taitt was delayed for a day because of heavy rain, but arrived on April 1st. This village, by his reckoning, is 14 miles southwest of Wakokays. He goes on in his journal to write the town is “on the west side of hatchet Creek”, and “is within four miles of Coosa River.” In Pakan-Tallahassee Taitt “was met at the Traders house by four Old men”, the rest having gone off to war against another tribe. Taitt decided to leave for the small village of Weoka, a twelve mile journey southeast by east. This pretty much jives with the location of the present day community by that name. For those not familiar with Coosa County, Weoka is roughly halfway between Rockford and Wetumpka, just east of Hwy. 231, and due east of the communities of Buyck and Titus. Taitt also added this: the road to Weoka was very good, except the first four miles being very hilly. Any of our readers from Areas 13 thru 16 (Pennamotley and south to the dam) would undoubtedly concur, the “hilly” part being a bit of an understatement.
We must marvel at Taitt’s dedication and energy to travel the distances he did, and admire his ability to mediate with the Indians. But before we raise him to the level of sainthood, be aware that during the not-too-distant War of Independence he maintained his allegiance to the King and kept the Creeks loyal to the British. At this point I should tell you that our journey back in time has been greatly aided by the lengthy and detailed journal that Mr. Taitt was directed to keep. If you are interested, this journal can be found in the public domain online under the title Travels In The American Colonies, published in 1916.
Leaving Taitt to his future, let’s return to Puckantallahassie or Pakan-Tallahassee. Taitt put this village four miles up Hatchet Creek from the Coosa River. Referring once again to Stuart Harris’ book Dead Towns of Alabama, we find a listing for Pakan Talahassi. There seems to be a bit of confusion here, as it describes the village as being on the south bank of Walnut Creek, but in Coosa County. Perhaps Mr. Harris got his counties, or creeks, mixed up.
A map by Baron De Crenay in 1733 reportedly shows Pakan-Tallahassee village on both sides of the Coosa River, near the confluence of Hatchet Creek. A French census of 1760 listed the town with a population of 50 warriors. Political correctness was obviously not in vogue back then. The village wasn’t a “for men only” club. Women, children and the elders also inhabited the village.
Many Indian villages moved from place to place, especially if destroyed by raids or floods, but they would often take their old village name with them. Without the benefit of a GPS or even a decent compass, it’s not surprising there would have been a discrepancy in locating the exact place where a village once stood. One thing is certain, though. Most, if not all, Creek Indian village sites that were near the Coosa River have probably been covered by the lake. At first you might think that many a nice arrowhead has been covered by water, and you’d be right. When I was much younger I listened attentively to anyone who talked of finding such artifacts, and they always seemed to be near rivers or streams. But the only place I ever did find arrowheads was on a hillside several miles outside of Gordo, AL, and it wasn’t close to water. The area was, however, rich in the type of stone the local Indians (Choctaws?) favored for making their projectile points. The quartz we have around the lake may have served the Creeks for the same purpose. If you have found any arrowheads at the lake, please share them with our readers. Send your photos to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we return to the present and step out of the “Wayback Machine”, I’ll leave you with this advice. As you walk around our beautiful lake, keep one eye open for snakes, and the other for arrowheads. You never know what you might find. The latter, I hope. See you on Ponchishatchee Creek!