The first white man to meet Georgia's native peoples was Dr. Henry Woodward, a surgeon and world traveler who had joined the English colonists sailing to the area that would become the Carolina colonies. In 1670, Woodward journeyed far inland to the Indian village of Cofitachequi, located between the lands of the Creeks and the Cherokees.
One of their neighboring tribes, the Westo Indians (also known as the Rickahocans or Chichimecos), had settled on the Savannah River in 1660, which became known as the Westobou River. As they were acting as a buffer against Spanish aggression, they were armed by the English with rifles. They used these weapons to capture Indian slaves throughout Georgia and the Carolinas, whom they traded to the colonists for more guns and ammunition.
Unfortunately for the Westos, once Carolina felt it could protect itself, the Westos were perceived as a threat to Charleston. The Goose Creek Men of Carolina secretly armed the Piqua and Hathawekela Shawnee Indians, who then wiped out the Westos in the Westo War of 1680.
The colonists first called these Indians the Showano (the French name for the Shawnee was Chouanon), then Savano and finally Savanna. The Savanna Indians established three villages on the Westobou River, which was then renamed the Savannah River. Their biggest settlement, Savanna Town (on Beech Island), was seven miles below Augusta at New Windsor. In 1695, Gov. Archdale wrote that the Savannas were good friends and useful neighbors of the English.
The Spanish had been busy converting many native tribes. One group, the Yamassee, lived in the Spanish mission of Amacarisse. The tribe's given name came from a misspelling of the mission's name. The Yamassee moved north, urged on by the Spaniards, and attacked the Savannas, driving them away from the Savannah River.
Mary Musgrove Bosomworth was Georgia’s own Indian Princess. Mary’s father was the English trader Edward Griffin, and her mother was the sister of Emperor Bream of the Creeks. She gave up her Indian name, Cousaponakeesa, when she was baptized in Pomponne, S.C.
In 1717, Mary married John Musgrove Jr., with whom she had two sons, Edward and James. She and her husband opened a trading post in 1723 on Yamacraw Bluff (where Savannah is located today) with the blessings of the Yamacraw Chief Tomochichi and South Carolina's governor, Robert Johnson, a year before Oglethorpe paddled up the river. Whites were forbidden to settle in this area; therefore, the Indians and Charleston merchants used John and Mary to conduct their business.
On Feb. 12, 1733, Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe, accompanied by Gov. William Bull of South Carolina, led a scouting party up the Savannah River in search of a site to establish Oglethorpe's new colony.
The group landed on a bluff along the river and was met by Chief Tomochichi. As neither man spoke the other's language, the chief sent for Mary, who spoke English well. With her help, the men arranged for the colony of Georgia, named after King George II, to be established overlooking the river. Oglethorpe immediately hired Mary as his emissary to the Creek Nation. She later convinced the Yamacraws to give Oglethorpe more land and the Choctaw and Lower Creek chiefs to deal with the Georgians instead of the Carolinians.
When her husband John died, Mary was left a very wealthy and powerful woman. She promptly married his indentured servant, Jacob Matthews, the commander of the ranger post near the trading post. They soon opened a second post on the Altamaha River at Mt. Venture, where she could keep an eye on Spanish incursions into Georgian territory.
After the colony of Georgia’s trustees gave the colony back to the king of England, both Thomas and Mary traveled to England to press their claims. Unsuccessful, they returned to Georgia, where the new governor, Henry Ellis, agreed that Mary should be given title to St. Catherines Island and money from the sale of Ossabaw and Sapelo islands if she relinquished all further claims against the government of Georgia. She lived in her mansion on the island until her death in 1765, when she was buried on her land.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at email@example.com.