Fowltown was one of the best known Lower Creek villages of the First Seminole War – which began 200 years ago this month – although its inhabitants had lived on Four Mile Creek near Bainbridge, Georgia, for less than two years.
This article is part of a continuing series that marks the 200th anniversary of the First Seminole War. To read more please visit Seminole War 200th.
The town first appeared in the 1790s when it was visited by Col. Benjamin Hawkins, the U.S. Agent for Indian Affairs in the Southeast. Part of the Hitchiti talwa, it was then located on Fowltown Creek, a tributary of Kinchefoonee Creek, in today’s Terrell County, Georgia. The people were prosperous and had extensive fields fenced with “worm” or split-rail fencing. They also grazed large herds of free-range cattle on the wiregrass that grew in the vast longleaf pine forests of Southwest Georgia.
The town had large flocks of chickens and was called Tutalosi Talofa (“Fowl Town”) for that reason. The people of the town were on good terms with their neighbors and expressed a desire to be friends with the whites of Georgia.
That attitude changed as the white frontier pushed deeper and deeper into Creek country. Kinchefoonee Creek is a tributary of the Flint River, which it joins at present-day Albany, Georgia. Fowltown’s location on one of the streams that feed the creek meant that it was one of the first important Lower Creek towns to be impacted by the westward expansion of Georgia. The cession of more than 1,000,000 acres in Florida to John Forbes & Company (primarily today’s Apalachicola National Forest) was also alarming as it meant that white settlement could be expected both east and south of the Flint River country.
This led the town’s chief, Neamathla (Eneah Emathla), to accept the teachings of the Prophet Josiah Francis (Hillis Hadjo) in 1813. Francis was the leader of the Red Sticks, a faction of the Upper Creeks that was so-named because they erected red war clubs in their towns.
The Fowltown warriors joined with parties of Miccosukee, Osoochee and Yuchi warriors on the Chattahoochee River and planned to head into Alabama to join with the Red Sticks ahead of their planned attack on the white-allied Creek town of Coweta. Warriors from the latter town surprised them at the Battle of Uchee Creek in the late fall of 1814, however, and defeated them before they could join with the Prophet’s main army.
Col. Hawkins then sent out word that if they refused to join with the Cowetas in their fight against the Red Sticks, the Tutalosis, Miccosukees, Oosoochees and Yuchis would be treated as enemies and destroyed. Neamathla was unwilling to fight against the Prophet and evacuated his town on Fowltown Creek.
When they next appear in the written record, Neamathla and his followers were living on the west side of the Chattahoochee River in what is now Jackson County, Florida. Their town site was on a rocky bluff that rises above the river off today’s Sylvia Drive north of Sneads.
The powerful Tocktethla town of Thomas Perryman stood across the river at what was later known as Fairchild’s Landing and it is likely that the Tutalosis picked their Florida site because of the protection that Perryman’s warriors offered. When Perryman’s town was abandoned following his death in 1815, Fowltown relocated across the river to its former site. The site is largely flooded by Lake Seminole today but was located in Seminole County, Georgia, off Fairchild Park.
In 1816, however, the U.S. military blew up the “Negro Fort” on the lower Apalachicola River, where 270 men, women and children were killed in a single instant. The explosion took with it gunpowder and other supplies that the British had left for the use of the local Native Americans prior to Great Britain’s evacuation from the region at the end of the War of 1812. Much of this supply had belonged to Fowltown.
Neamathla’s first action following the disaster was to instruct the people of Fowltown to pack their belongings. The village on the Chattahoochee lay between two U.S. forts and was exposed to the regular passage of military boats. It would be necessary for the Tutalosis to relocate once again.
The new site for Fowltown was Four Mile Creek, a swampy stream that flows into the Flint River about four miles south of present-day Bainbridge. The Lower Creek town of Oklafunee had stood at the mouth of the creek during the American Revolution but was abandoned in the years that followed. Its old fields were fallow and overgrown, but would be easier to clear and farm than the old growth forests that surrounded them. The swamp offered not just food, but a place of safety and security in the event of an attack. The higher ridges and hills that ringed what is today known as Fowltown Swamp were covered with wiregrass and longleaf pine and provided good grazing areas for free-roaming livestock.
The Tutalosi villagers reestablished themselves on the south side of the creek during the late summer and fall of 1816. They built cabins, corncribs and other structures there and stocked away as much of their corn crop from the “Old Fowltown” site on the Chattahoochee River as possible. The new village site was also much closer to Miccosukee and Tallahassee Talofa. These large villages could help with food for the winter and were also connected to the new site by direct roads which would allow quick reinforcement by hundreds of warriors in the event of an attack.
Learn more about Fowltown and the outbreak of the First Seminole War in the new book Fowltown: Neamathla, Tutalosi Talofa & the first battle of the Seminole Wars.
Learn more about the destruction of the “Negro Fort” on the Apalachicola River in this free documentary from Two Egg TV: