Once upon a time, when the Earth was young and green, a proud Nation controlled what we now know as Newton County and the City of Covington. The land once belonged to the Creek Indian Nation, who had roamed the Georgia wilderness since 1400 A.D. In fact, the Creek Nation was so instrumental in the settlement of Georgia, that one could say the history of early Georgia is the history of the Creek. Join us as we explore their story.
The Creek Nation is a relatively young political entity, in historical terms. The Nation can trace its beginnings to as early as B.C. 900, when most tribes lived in centralized, mound building societies. You can still see these Mounds in Cartersville, Georgia. Suddenly, in 1400 A.D., for reasons still debated, some of these large chiefdoms collapsed and reorganized themselves into smaller chiefdoms spread about in Georgia's river valleys. They built a complex political alliance, which united native peoples from across the Southeast, including Muskogee, Alabama, and Hitchiti. By 1715, English newcomers from South Carolina were calling these allied peoples “Creeks.” The term was shorthand for “Indians living on Ochese Creek” near Macon, but traders began applying it to every native resident of the Deep South. They numbered about 10,000 at this time.
Soon after, the newly established Creek nation began peddling deerskins and slaves to the European settlers. By the 1750s, Creek Indians were exporting more than 60,000 skins each year, from the port of Savannah, Georgia. This booming economy held together a tentative alliance between the Europeans and the Natives until the deerskin trade collapsed due to a shrinking white-tailed deer population. The new state of Georgia consequently viewed Creeks as impediments to the expansion of plantation slavery rather than as partners in trade. Under pressure by Georgia, Creeks ceded their lands east of the Ocmulgee River in the Treaties of New York (1790), Fort Wilkinson (1802), and Washington (1805).
Then, tragedy. A civil war between the United States and the Creeks erupted in 1813. In a final battle in March 1814 at Horseshoe Bend in Alabama, General Andrew Jackson directed the killing of 800 Creeks Natives. The Red Stick War officially ended in August 1814 with the Treaty of Fort Jackson. In this agreement the Creeks were forced to cede 22 million acres, including a huge tract in southern Georgia.
Creeks were again dispossessed of their remaining land by the Treaty of Indian Springs (1825). Georgia agents bribed Creek leader William McIntosh to sign away all Creek territory in the state in return for plantation land along the Chattahoochee River. Creeks, who were already outraged by McIntosh's alliance with General Jackson during the Red Stick War, formally voted to put McIntosh to death for his treachery. The following year Creek representatives signed the Treaty of Washington, ceding their remaining Georgia land. The Nation would flee the South, to be relocated in the territory of Oklahoma.
Even though the general history of the Creek Nation, and the Native American collective, is one of tragedy and betrayal, the Creek’s must be commended in helping to establish Newton County. The Creeks developed a highly sophisticated trade route that crisscrossed Georgia. One of the most important was the route between Augusta, Georgia and the port city of Savannah, which passed directly through what is now Newton County. Because of the vast amount of wealth that passed through, settlers began creating farms and towns, even establishing a trading post called the Brick Store. Without these trails, Newton County would have remained undeveloped, but as we all know, Newton County was officially established in 1822. Covington owes our lives and our lands to the proud Creek Nation.