History of the Ocmulgee Old Fields

Early History

After Hernando DeSoto's expedition in 1540, the territory which became Georgia was the "debatable land" - a buffer between the colonial territories claimed by the British, Spanish and French. Spain established a mission system in Florida and along the Georgia coast. England established a settlement in 1680 at what is today, Charleston, South Carolina. Little is known about events in Central Georgia until around 1690 when a British trading post was constructed near the ancient mounds on the Macon Plateau.

A number of Indian towns moved from the Chattahoochee to Ochesee Creek (the Ocmulgee River) to be near the trading post. These were referred to as the Ochesee Creek towns by the English, a term that was subsequently shortened to the Creeks and was applied to a confederation of several distinctive groups who banded together for their mutual benefit. The town thought to have been situated adjacent to the trading post was called Ocmulgee Town, a name that was later given to the river.

After the Revolutionary War, new waves of American settlers poured into Georgia. Invention of the cotton gin in 1793 greatly accelerated their desire for rich river bottomland.

In 1805, the Creeks gave up the lands between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers, but retained ownership of a 3 x 5 mile area called the Old Ocmulgee Fields Reserve which included the mounds on the Macon Plateau, the Lamar village and a number of other important historic and prehistoric sites.

The Removal

Most of the Creek Indians, who had always been excellent farmers, adapted quickly to a cotton-based economy. Nevertheless, those who coveted their lands saw them as obstacles to progress and pressed the federal government to remove all Indians to areas west of the Mississippi River. The United States offered the Creeks reservation lands in Indian Territory.

Two factions arose among the Creek People. Some continued to believe they should give up no more of their territory and were willing to fight; others thought the relocation was inevitable and wanted to take the government's offer of new lands where they could live peacefully. In 1825 Chief William McIntosh signed the Treaty of Indian Springs giving up the last Creek lands in Georgia, including the Old Ocmulgee Fields Reserve. For this act he was assassinated by some of his people. Although the treaty was declared illegal by the federal government, Georgia authorities disagreed and continued to press for removal. Less than a century after General Oglethorpe established the city of Savannah, the Creeks were forced out of the state. Some joined Seminole relatives in Florida; many moved to Alabama. Most resettled to the valley of the Arkansas River in what is now the state of Oklahoma.

The Old Fields Today

Today part of the Ocmulgee Old Fields is preserved within the boundaries of Ocmulgee National Monument. In 1934, 2,000 acres were authorized for the Monument, however, no federal money was appropriated to purchase the property. Efforts by local leaders raised sufficient funds to purchase several hundred acres in 1936. Through the years, other small parcels have been added until today the park encompasses 702 acreas. Most of the remainder of the Old Fields is still privately owned but relatively undeveloped. The Georgia Department of Transportation has proposed building a section of what is commonly referred to as the Fall Line Freeway, through the Old Fields.

The Bibb County Commission and the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce have launched a campaign to circumvent the will of the Muscogee People and those who care about Middle Georgia's cultural resources. A letter was sent to only selected members of the Chamber of Commercer (road opponents were excluded) encouraging them to write letters to their elected officials supporting the road.

 

More Information

A Call to Action

You can help preserve the Old Fields and its irreplacable cultural resources. Write to the Secretary of Interior and tell him there are reasonable and feasible alternatives to construction of this road through the Old Fields. Tell him that you oppose any attempt desicrate these sacred lands.

Bruce Babbitt
US Department of Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Write to your Congressman and Senators and tell them federal money should not be appropriated for construction of a road through the Ocmulgee Old Fields. Ask them to oppose any legislation that would exempt this project from the requirements of section 4(F) of the Department of Transportation Act. Section 4(F) requires that Georgia DOT demonstrate that there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the proposed route.

For addresses of your representatives in Washington, visit the Capweb.

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