SOME CHICKASAW CHIEFS
AND PROMINENT MEN
By Harry Warren
Piamingo, more properly, Piaminco, also known
as the Mountain Leader, is one of the Chickasaw chiefs who are first mentioned
in the conferences of the representatives of his nation with the United
States. He was one of the bravest of a brave nation, and the warm
friend of the Americans, especially of General James Robertson and the
other early “stationers” on the Cumberland. Indeed, without the help
of the Chickasaws, the brave frontiersmen at and near the present city
of Nashville, then a wilderness, would have been extirpated by the Creeks
and Cherokees. Had these venturesome forerunners of the frail American
settlements lying further to the eastward not gained the goodwill and assistance
of Piamingo and his people, rich Spanish territory might never have fallen
under the Stars and Stripes, and history might have had a different story
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- Wolf's Friend
Wolf’s Friend, or Mooleshawskek, appears to
have been of a crafty disposition and fond of display, though a chief of
great influence. From the appearance of his Indian name, the writer leans
to the view that this chief was not a native Chickasaw, but an adopted
member of the tribe. Considerable light is thrown upon his character by
Captain Guion’s letter to the Secretary of war, dated “Fort Adams, Chickasaw
Bluff, October 22, 1797,” as given in Claiborne’s Mississippi, 185-6.
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The Colbert Brothers
Sometime in the 18th century one Colbert, a Scotch youth, appears to
have become identified with the Chickasaws. He became a notorious leader,
and Tennessee annals have a good deal to say, and that not of a complimentary
nature, of the Colbert gang. He left four sons: William, George,
Levi, and James. These four sons, of mixed white and red blood, became
chiefs and men of prominence among the Chickasaws.
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General William Colbert, or Chooshemataha,
was a military character of consequence. He fought for his own people
against the Creeks, and, it has been stated, assisted Andrew Jackson against
the same tribe. “Old Hickory” presented him with a
military coat, which the chief wore on important occasions until the
end of his days. He lived a few miles south of Tocshish. Tocshish
was south of where Pontotoc now is, and was put on old maps as “Mclntoshville.”’
In the summer of 1780 Gov. Thomas Jefferson
of Virginia, having sent instructions to place a post on the Mississippi
river, with cannon to fortify it, Col. Geo. Rogers Clark with some soldiers,
left Louisville and proceeded to the Iron Banks, at the mouth of the Mayfield
creek, five miles below the mouth of the Ohio. He there erected Fort
Jefferson. The Chickasaws at this time were the owners of the country west
of the Tennessee river, including the ground where Fort Jefferson was erected.
The Governor’s instructions to buy the site or get the Indians’ consent
was not complied with, and their resentment was aroused. They commenced
to maraud and to kill members of the families that had settled around the
fort. Mr. Music’s entire family, except himself, was killed.
A white man was taken prisoner and forced to
reveal the condition of the fort, etc. There were about thirty men
in the garrison, under Captain George. Many of these were sick.
They were reduced in supplies of food on account of those who had taken
refuge there, and the destruction of their crops near by, by the Indians.
“In this condition, and under the
lead of a Scotchman named Colbert, who had lived with and acquired a great
influence over these Indians, they appeared in force, several hundred strong,
and began a siege and attack upon the fort in the summer of 1781. After
resistance of five days the respective leaders, Colbert and George, met
under a flag of truce to try to agree on terms of capitulation, a summons
to surrender within an hour having been refused. Terms could not
be arranged, and the fighting was resumed. The issue was near at
hand, as a messenger had been dispatched to Kaskaskia for aid. A
desperate night assault was made by the Indians in force.
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"When they had advanced in short range and
in close order, Captain George Owens, who commanded one of the block-houses,
had the swivels loaded with rifle and musket balls, and fired them into
the crowded ranks. The fire was very destructive and the slaughter
excessive. The enemy, repulsed and disheatened, fell back to their
"Soon after, Colonel Clark arrived with a relief
force and the Chickasaw army gave up the siege. This fort was some time
after abandoned, from its isolated position, and the difficulty of supplying
so remote a garrison. The evacuation was the signal for peace, which
was tacitly accepted by the Indians and faithfully observed by both parties
[Z. F. Smith's Hist. Ky, 160-1]
George Colbert, or Tootemastubbe, was perhaps
the most prepossessing of the Colbert brothers in appearance and manners.
He was opposed to innovation, and an enemy to education, missions and whiskey.
He lived on Wolf creek four miles south of Booneville. Shullachie,
or Salechie, was the name of his wife. She lived where Tupelo now is.
He had two sons, Pit-man and George, and one daughter, Vicy. He “was
illiterate but had some influence and stood tolerably fair; talked
very common English. His son, Pitman, had a very fair education.”
George Colbert himself moved to the West.
Win. Henry Gates is authority for the following statement:
“My father, William Gates, went to McNairy county, Tenn., and
bought the running gear for two six-horse wagons, sold them to Colbert,
and the latter moved to the nation in them.”
Edwin G. Thomas says:
“In 1836 I attended the land sales at Pontotoc. The first night
in the nation I stayed at Saleechie (or Shullechie) Colbert’s four miles
west of where Tupelo now stands. She was a woman well-fixed up, had a good
house, and gave good fare.”
The author of Cotton Gin Port and Gaines’ Trace,
in the Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, VII., 269
to be mistaken as to Selitia Colbert being “one of the wives of Levi Colbert.
In 1821 Alexander Dugger first became acquainted
with the Indians at Cotton Gin. George Colbert lived near Harrisburg,
in what is now Lee county, on a place afterward owned by Shannon. Pitman
Colbert lived with his father on the same place. They were very wealthy,
working 140 hands; had a large farm near Colbert’s Ferry in Alabama.
Vicy Colbert was an educated woman, and wealthy, as wealth was counted
in those days. She owned three sections of land, all of which Colonel
Doxey sold to Wm. Duncan for $13,000. She lived south of the old
Chickasaw King, though she lived for a while in the Cherry creek neighborhood.
She went west with the Indians.
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