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Levi Colbert - Itawamba Mingo/Minco

     Levi Colbert, or Itawamba Mingo, more properly Itawamba Minco, was the most celebrated of the brothers.  He “was a very influential man, and was looked up to by both Red and White, as the most intelligent chief among the Chickasaws.  He talked very broken English, and had no book learning whatever, but was an advocate of good schools.  His sons were all educated;  Martin had a fine education.”  He was a merchant.

     As to how the great chief acquired his name of “Itawamba Mingo,” the following from Mr. Stephen Daggett to Mr. Newman Cayce of Fulton, Mississippi, as given the writer in manuscript by the latter, may be of interest:

“In the spring of 1827 then being nearly years of age I purchased a ·stock of goods at Mobile to send to Cotton Gin Port, to trade with the Chickasaw Indians.  I arrived at the place of my destination on the 20th of May of that year.  Soon after my arrival I became acquainted with Levi Colbert, one of the leading men, and the chief councilor of the nation—an uncommon, natural man, without education, of French descent —could speak a little French, and tolerable English. 

[Levi Colbert may have had French blood in his veins through his father, but Miss Nellie Bynum, a descendant of George Colbert, Levi’s brother, told Cyrus Harris, who reported the same to the writer in writing that George Colbert, her ancestor, was of Scotch descent. Levi may have learned a little French from intercourse with the French of Mobile.]

"I soon learned he had the Chichasaw name of Itta-wam-ba, and, when spoken of by the Chickasaws in a respectful manner, ‘Te-wam-ba Mingo.’ I endeavored at the earliest period to learn the origin and definition of the name.

“From Dr. Gideon Lincecum, of Monroe county, who spoke the Chickasaw language quite fluently, and who was well acquainted with the Colbert family, I learned that it was a custom with the Chickasaws and Choctaws when any of their number performed a meritorious act for the good of the nation, a council was called, the circumstances of the act were related, and if approved of, he was seated on the ground in a circle formed by chiefs and warriors, a wreath placed on his head and a new name given to him.  Dr. Lincecum informed me that when Levi Colbert was a young man, some Indians of other tribes intended to take the country inhabited by the Chickasaws from them, for their own benefit. The time fixed to subdue the Chickasaws was in the fall of the year, when the warriors were absent on their annual hunt.

“Young Colbert received news of their intention and that they were even on the advance. He immediately gathered as many of the young men of the nation as he could—of those that were at home, who armed themselves as well as they could, went forward to meet their enemies, surprised, routed, killed and wounded more than his little force numbered. 

[Colbert hastily collected the old men and boys of the tribe, and ambuscaded the Creeks so successfully that not one of them escaped. This battle was fought on a small stream which afterwards received the name of Yahnub-by.” See James Gordon’s “Centennial Address” in Pontotoc Folio. Yah-nub-by (Yanabee), variously spelled by the whites is in Lee county.
Daggett to Cayce, as given by the latter in writing to the author.]

"For this brave and successful act of Levi Colbert, after the return of the warriors from their hunt, a council of the nation was called, the circumstances of the success were related, a ‘new name’ and a crown or wreath were decided to be awarded him. Instead of setting him flat upon the ground (as had heretofore been their custom), young Colbert was furnished with a small stool or bench on which to sit. A wreath or crown was then placed upon his head, and the ‘new name’ of ‘Itte-wamba Mingo’ or ‘Bench Chief’ was given him. ‘Itte’ in the Chickasaw is ‘wood,’ and alluded to the bench on which he was sitting. I afterwards inquired further of the above statement, and from all I could learn, I think the foregoing circumstances are correct.”

     Levi Colbert had several sons:  “Martin, Charles, Alex, Adam, Lemuel, Daugherty, Ebijah, ‘Commodore and Lewis,” and several daughters:  “Charity, Mariah, Phalishta and Asa.”

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James Colbert - Major Colbert

     James Colbert, who was also called “Major Colbert,” a younger of the brothers, resided several miles to the south of Colbert’s Ferry.  He was estimable and quite civilized.  He had a “pretty good education, but used broken English.  His children were not as well educated as old Levi’s children. He had three sons: Joseph, James and Samuel. His daughters were: Tennessee, Molcy [maybe Moley], Susan, Betcy and Matilda.  Tennessee was the grandmother of Miss Nellie Bynum. The old Colberts died rich in slaves.”

     The Colbert brothers were “all men of good sense and good principles.”

     One of the Colberts lived near Horn Lake.  He had three wives,—one a full-blood Indian; the other two were sisters, and their family name was Allen.  He, like his other kinsmen, was very wealthy.

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Copyright 2001 - All Rights Reserved
Ellen Pack