—Creek Heritage Trail —
Coweta served as a critical place of interaction between Creeks and Europeans throughout
the colonial era. Situated at the intersection of regional trading routes and the claims
of expanding Spanish, English and French colonial empires, it became a location for
international diplomacy as early as the seventeenth century. Colonial officials believed they could solidify their claims to the region by forming profitable trade as well as military alliances with the Creeks. The Creeks early on sought to turn this situation to their advantage by playing one group off the other to secure the best terms of trade and preserve their sovereignty. This unofficial policy of neutrality resulted in Coweta becoming a central place for a variety of international negotiations.
Owing to Coweta's position of importance among Lower Creek towns, European colonial representatives frequently visited the town throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Perhaps the most celebrated visit by European dignitaries to Coweta took place in the summer of 1739, when James Oglethorpe arrived at the village to obtain the blessings of the Creeks to establish the colony of Georgia. His visit culminated in the signing of the Treaty
of Coweta, by which the Creeks formally ceded land to Georgia and allied themselves with the British.
traded extensively with the Creeks, trade became the key factor in diplomatic
relationships. Europeans brought manufactured goods such as weapons, clothing, fabrics, jewelry cooking ware, and tools in addition to foodstuffs like salt, sugar, coffee, and liquor. Creeks paid for these goods with a number of products including cattle, hogs, herbs, hickory oil, and corn but the predominant form of payment was deerskins. Prepared skins were sent to Europe by the traders where they were made into a wide range of products including clothing, gloves, and book bindings.
After establishing themselves on the Atlantic coast of Florida by the late 1500s, the Spanish began to move steadily westward and northward in the 1600s. By the early 1680s, they had even built a fort near what is now Phenix City and were in regular communication with Coweta. The English, after establishing a presence at Charleston in 1670, began to move southward and westward into the Southern backcountry at about the same time. Traders from Charleston are known
to have been visiting Coweta by the 1680s if not earlier. The French, last to enter the Chattahoochee Valley's colonial scene, set up on the Gulf Coast in 1699. Their representatives were in communication with residents of the Valley, including those at Coweta, by the 1720s.
Left middle: Depiction of
Oglethorpe visiting with the Creeks
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Left bottom: 1.) These trade items on display at the Columbus Museum were discovered through archaeological investigations. From left to right: Trade beads, hatchet, knife blades,
hoe, buckles, French flintlock pistol, British sword hilt.
Courtesy of the Columbus Museum.
2.) Reproduction trade goods on display at the Columbus Museum.
Courtesy of the Columbus Museum
Right middle: A monument commemorating Woodward's important role in establishing trade connections between South Carolina and southern Native American groups stands at The Arsenal in
Beaufort, South Carolina.
Courtesy of Alex Marsh
Right middle bottom: Reenactors depicting Spanish soldiers in uniforms similar to those worn at the time of Fort Apalachicola's construction.
Courtesy of Carlos Matteo
Right insert: The arrival of a colorful character named Henry Woodward in 1685 first placed Coweta at the center of international economic and political intrigue. Woodward, an English trader from the Charleston area, visited the Chattahoochee Valley and soon secured a friendly economic relationship with the Creek towns near Coweta. When Spanish authorities in Florida who claimed the region, learned of his efforts, they immediately sent a military force of soldiers and Apalachee warriors to arrest the Englishman. Although they failed to capture him, perhaps because the Creeks notified him of their approach, the Spanish eventually ordered the burning of
Coweta and several other Creek towns as a warning not to trade with the English. Determined to follow their own course, however, the Creeks continued to trade with them. Preferring the relative abundance, variety and high quality of English trade goods to the meager offerings of the undersupplied Spanish traders and desiring to not be caught in the crossfire between European rivals, many Creeks in the Chattahoochee Valley soon decided to leave the area and move closer to the English on the Atlantic coast. Exactly how many towns and what portions of them made the move will perhaps never be known, but most historians of the period agree that some large-level eastward movement occurred around 1690 that would not be reversed for twenty-five years.