Page images


A Choctaw whom Bossu met, having been baptized, and happening to have small success in his hunting just afterwards, conceived that his baptism had been a charm, and that he was bewitched. So going to Father Lefèvre, who had “converted” him, he indignantly told him that his “medicine” good for nothing, for that since he had received it he could kill no deer, and he told him to take off the enchantment. The compliant Jesuit, sure that the baptism had safely ticketed the red man's soul for heaven, readily pretended to go through a reversal of the forms of the sacrament; and the Indian, sure enough, shortly afterwards, killed a deer, to his great relief and satisfaction, and was never a whit the worse Christian.

The history of the French in the Southwest would be very incomplete without a sketch of the fortunes and influence of a family, who, for a quarter of a century, controlled the strong tribes of the Creeks, and their allies of the neighboring region, and by means of a mingled course of war and diplomacy, contrived to maintain the territory and independence of the tribes by balancing against each other the power of the Spaniards and of the United States. This is the family of McGillivray, the celebrated half-breed Creek chief; including beside himself, his father, Lachlan McGillivray, his sisters, Sophia and Jeannette, and his brother-in-law, the roving and adven



turous Frenchman Le Clerc Milfort, not to mention the celebrated chief Weatherford, of the next genera tion, the son of his half-sister Sehoy.

Lachlan McGillivray, the son of respectable Scotch parents, a youth of shrewd, roving and adventurous character, strong constitution and unfailing good temper and spirits, running away from home, had come to Charleston about the year 1735; and engag- . ing in the service of an Indian trader, speedily commenced business on his own account by exchanging a jack-knife which his employer gave him, with an Indian for some deer skins. From this insignificant beginning he rapidly developed an extensive and profitable business, and by skill, courage, and goodnature, and very probably also by means of some secret leanings towards the French, the ancient and faithful allies of the Scottish kingdom, his trading operations extended without interruption, even to the neighborhood of Fort Toulouse. Here he married a beautiful half-blood Indian girl, Sehoy Marchand, whose father, Captain Marchand, had been slain while commanding the fort, by his mutinous soldiers, in the famine in 1722, and whose mother was a full-blooded Creek of the family of the Wind, the aristocracy of the nation, and her Indian name, Sehoy, a hereditary one in the family from time immemorial. Her Lachlan McGillivray marries; settles himself in a trading post at Little Tallase, and here, about 1745, is born Alex

ander McGillivray, their eldest child ; his character, as Indian legends say, having been prefigured by his mother's dreams of great piles of manuscripts, ink and paper, and great heaps of books.

The trader, thus situated and connected, grows rich apace, and owns two valuable plantations and

, two stores. By the consent of his wife, to whom, according to Indian custom, the children belonged, he sends Alexander, now fourteen, to school at Charleston for some little time, and then perches him upon a counting-house stool at Savannah. But haggling and barter-trade are disgusting to him. Account-books are not the books for him; and neglecting his business, he was ever poring over histories and travels. By advice of friends, his father wisely accommodates this craving after knowledge, and placing him in charge of a clergyman of his own name-a Scotch Presbyterian it may be inferredhe falls with avidity to systematic study. In brief time the powerful and active intellect of the youth has mastered Latin and mastered Greek, and his attainments are fair in general literature; and now, as he ripens into early and ardent manhood, as if the civilized part of his nature being in some measure nurtured, the Indian in him had awakened, and was calling for wild woods and savage life; he leaves books and cities, mounts his horse, and hies back to the beautiful country of his people. the Creeks.




In a good time he arrives, for the Indians are vexed and perplexed by the lawless and brutal conduct of the Georgian frontiersmen-a race whose conduct towards the red men seems from the beginning, to have held a bad pre-eminence amongst the infinite wrongs inflicted on them by the whites; and already proud and confident in the precocious and powerful talents of the youth, they were looking with impatience to the time when he should be of age to assume that control of the affairs of his race, to which not only nature had ordained him, but his descent from the noble family of the Wind gave him a legitimate title, according to the rude Indian law of descents. With the easy confidence of born greatness, he takes his place; and so clear and strong is his immediate exhibition of administrative talent, that the British authorities, then occupying Florida, and seeking to secure in their interest the influence of the young Creek chief, compliment him with the rank and pay of a colonel in His Britannic Majesty's service. Bound to them by this early recognition and testimony of his value, as well as through his father, a staunch royalist, and actuated moreover by the continual and gratuitous injuries and insults put upon his nation by the coarse and lawless American backwoodsmen, he remains all his life faithfully attached to the English interest as against the United States.

McGillivray-this is about 1776—is holding a grand council of the Creek nation, at the great town of Coweta on the Chattahoochie. While the business of the asseinbly is in progress, there is introduced to him a certain young Frenchman, handsome, vivacious, accomplished, keenly intelligent. Himself French by the quarter blood, and in these other points so like, it is not singular that McGillivray was pleased with this new acquaintance; and Le Clerc Milfort-for this was he—on his part, with the singular especial proclivity towards savage life so marked in the French, enchanted with the beauty of the country, the plenteous hospitality and ease of the Indian life, the wide field for exciting adventure, the absolute freedom of the place and the time, and quite fascinated, moreover, by the splendor of the chieftain's intellect, was not long in accepting an invitation to become a permanent inmate of McGillivray's family; and during a period of twenty years these two remarkable men, in conjunction, managed in peace and war, the government of the Creeks. McGillivray was no coward, and together with Col. Tait, a British agent, had in person headed more than one expedition against the Whigs of Georgia, during the Revolutionary War. But his slender frame and weak health, his diplomatic and intellectual turn of mind, fitted him rather for the council and the cabinet, than for the field; while Milfort, daring and

« PreviousContinue »