Title image: "Colonization"

Chattahoochee Valley Libraries serves Georgia in Muscogee, Chattahoochee, Marion, and Stewart Counties on the seized territory of the Muscogee/Creek peoples. We owe our vitality to people that have lived on this land for countless generations, and we pay respect to their communities, both past, and present. While you navigate this exhibit, please take a moment to consider the many legacies of violence, displacement, migration, and settlement that have occurred on the lands we occupy. We commit to honoring this territory by uncovering and acknowledging such truths. 

This timeline puts the colonization of our area into perspective to show how long the Lower Creek Indigenous Peoples have lived on this land. Click the blue arrow on the right of the timeline for a detailed view featuring the time period related to colonization.

The Europeans saw the Muscogee people as having populations concentrated in two areas. Those living in the towns on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers were called "Upper Creeks," and those on the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers were called the "Lower Creeks." The naming distinction was purely geographical [1].

The Coweta people were regarded as leaders of the Lower Creek people and eventually the entire Creek Nation. As the Creek capital of Coweta drew traders and permanent settlers over the years, the frontier town of Columbus would come to be [2]. Eventually, the prospering town of Columbus would become a magnet for Lower Creek people looking for work or trade.

When the French General Lafayette toured the country in 1825, he made plans to visit Coweta and the Creek people. In this same year, the Indian Springs Treaty of 1825 would be signed by Chief McIntosh, leader of the Lower Creek peoples. The treaty gave away the last of the Creek lands in Georgia - what lay between the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. The Lower Creek people executed Chief McIntosh for treason for signing the Indian Springs Treaty [2]

In June of 1825, the Georgia General Assembly would sign Governor Troup’s Georgia Land Lottery Act. This act redistributed lands that had been taken from forcibly removed Creek peoples [2]. Over one million acres would eventually be redistributed, including in the Columbus area [3].  Shortly thereafter, the Indian Removal Act of 1826 would affect the Muscogee people for generations. 

“They would not be allowed to work or be hired by a white man; their hunting and fishing rights were taken away; their identity was taken away and their race was changed to “persons of color”; ceremonial rights of thanking God (Hesaketvmese) for water, fire and corn were taken away.” [4]

Image of a map of Alabama, Georgia, and Flordia. The map features the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. The map legend reads: ACF Reservoirs, ACF River Basin, Major ACF Rivers, State Boundaries, Study Area Watersheds ACF Ecroregions, Coastal Plains, Piedmont, Southern Blue Ridge. Various lakes and reservoirs locations are pointed to; Lake Lanier, West Point Lake, Lake Harding, Walter F. Georgia Reservoir, Lake Seminole, and Lake Blackshear. City locations are pointed to; Atlanta, Columbus, Albany, and Apalachicola.

Map depicting rivers in Georgia, showing reasoning behind location choice [5]

In the map legend ACF stands for "Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, and Flint".

In 1827, the Georgia Legislature laid out an act to create a trading town on the Chattahoochee River; this act also allowed the governor to appoint commissioners who would select the spot and approve 1,200 acres for the area, which was to be called Columbus. Over 1,000 people gathered for the sale of lots which began on July 10, 1828, and lasted for two weeks. Approximately three-quarters of the available lots were sold for over $130,000 total. All manner of people bought lots, from the very wealthy looking to establish a business to the working-class looking to provide labor. 

Columbus was established in its location for two main reasons: to strengthen Georgia's western border, and to establish a valuable trading town on a river with hydropower potential.

The town of Columbus was officially incorporated in December of 1828. By 1834, Columbus was a prosperous town, having banks, churches, stores, and regular mail delivery and steamboat services. A bridge was in construction across the Chattahoochee, the cotton mill industry was taking off, and the Creek Treaty of 1832 had just passed, meaning more settlers were establishing homes [6].

It is widely assumed that Columbus is named after Christopher Columbus; with its founders being inspired by the writings of Washington Irving, though no proper documentation could be found. Other sources reference Coloomas, a Creek town where Columbus now is, as the naming inspiration [7].

Great Temple & Lesser Temple mounds are the primary focus of this photo. They are vibrantly green with a blue sky and clouds in the background.

Great Temple and Lesser Temple Mounds from the Ocmulgee National Monument [8]

Today, the Muscogee (Creek) people are in the process of asserting the rights and responsibilities of a sovereign nation. At the Tribal Headquarters in Oklahoma, the National Council Offices and Judicial Offices are housed. There are also a number of annual events to showcase the Muscogee culture. The Mvskoke Art Market and the Mvskoke Creek Festival are two great examples. These events “celebrate not only our people, but our heritage and life”. The Muscogee people also have many national landmarks, and in Georgia the Ocmulgee National Monument is revered. Ocmulgee National Monument Superintendent Jim David would like to expand the Macon, Georgia park to almost 3,000 acres. “’The plateau here where the mounds are located this is where the leaders of the society lived, but the worker bees, the folks growing the corn, making the pottery, making the baskets, etc. They all lived down around the river in the flat land and that is what we are trying to preserve and protect,’ David said" [9].


[1]The Muscogee Nation. (2016). Muscogee (Creek) nation history. https://www.muscogeenation.com/culturehistory/. 

[2] Elliott, R. F., Vegotsky, A., Pavao-Zuckerman, B., Cummings, L. S., Puseman, K., & Cowie, S. (2005). Living in Columbus, Georgia 1828-1869: The lives of creeks, traders, enslaved African Americans, Mill operatives and others as told to archaeologists. City of Columbus, Georgia Department of Community and Economic Development.

[3]Young, M. (1961, January 1). Redskins, Ruffleshirts, and Rednecks: Indian Allotments in Alabama and Mississippi; 1830-1860. University of Oklahoma Press.

[4]Historical Overview of The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe. (n.d.). Historical overview of the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe. http://lowermuskogeetribe.com/historicaloverview.html

[5]Ignatius, A., & Jones, J. (2014). Small Reservoir Distribution, rate of construction, and uses in the upper and Middle Chattahoochee basins of the Georgia Piedmont, USA, 1950-2010. ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, 3(2), 460-480. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi3020460

[6]Whitehead, M. L., & Bogart, B. (1979). City of progress: A history of Columbus, Georgia. Cosco Press.

[7]Murphy, E. D. (1993). Columbus- Spanish or Indian? An Essay. Muscogiana: Journal of the Muscogee Genealogical Society, 4 (1&2), 1-7. https://archive.org/stream/Muscogiana412CSU/Muscogiana412CSU_djvu.txt

[8]Great Temple & Lesser Temple Mounds. [Photograph]. National Park Service. www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery-item.htm?pg=6831126&id=A604FFD6-1DD8-B71C-07785524560E5751&gid=A1B42347-1DD8-B71C-0736A9BED8D74E6F.

[9]Rutland, A. (2017, September 21) Ocmulgee National Monument working towards expansion. The Muscogee Nation. https://www.muscogeenation.com/ocmulgee-national-monument-working-toward-expansion/