The Story of a Pioneer Woman Who Lived
Among The Creek Indians and Her Descendants
Compiled and edited by Michael L. Hogue, 2019
A Note: this biography was written by me and is sourced in detail below. Please do not copy and paste this article and publish it elsewhere without giving me proper credit for its creation. Thanks.
A Little about the Creeks…
To begin, I’d like to provide a little background information on the more ancient history of the Creek Indians. The ancestors of the Muscogee Creeks, as we know them today, were once part of the Mississippian mound cultures west of the mighty river about 3500 years ago, before moving east. Some of these ancestors started the Seminole tribe, and then moved back across the Mississippi into the areas now known as Alabama and Georgia. This, of course, is a very simplified version of their history.
First contact with the Europeans occurred during the explorations of Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto of Spain and others between 1513 and 1540. De Soto journeyed though what is now present-day Florida and Georgia, moving into Mississippi and Alabama where he brutalized many of the natives, until they fought back and crippled De Soto’s expedition. De Soto left the typical calling card of European explorers, namely that of diseases like smallpox, which devastated many tribes in the area.
The Creeks, managed to regroup and began establishing a confederation of their remaining tribes, although this group never really gelled until their removal to the Indian Territory in the 1830’s. Creeks eventually were divided into two different groups; the Upper Creeks, made up of many different sub-tribes including the Alabamas, Abeikas, and Tallapoosas, and the Lower Creeks made up of the Hitchiti, Ocmulgee, Yamasee and others. The Alabamas were divided into about seven different sub-tribes, one of which was the Okchais.
And Where they Lived…
The earliest known location of the Okchai town and tribe was on the west side of Coosa River about 14 miles above its junction with the Tallapoosa River. By 1738 some tribal members had moved to a branch of Kowaliga Creek, an affluent of the Tallapoosa, where their principal settlement seems to have been located. There was a distinct settlement of the tribe on a small affluent of Elkhatchee, a western branch of the Tallapoosa. If you want to check out this area, look at maps just southwest of Alexander City, AL, west of Martin Lake. Many of these older place names remain today.
Some members of the Okchai village grew tired of war with the Choctaw and the increasing involvement of the whites in their affairs and wanted a separate representation. The Okchai gave these members a square of ground to live upon and agreed to protect them. Later, after incorporation through marriage, these Alabama Creeks split again and formed the towns of Asilanabi, Okchaiutci, and Thlotlogulgua. Thlotlogulgua was commonly called the “Fish Ponds” by white traders in the area and was also known as Laloklaka.
Some common Creek terms from their Muskogean language are important to know for the rest of this story. Most of the Creek culture revolved around the talwa, or town. The leader, or chief of the talwa was known as micco. Important warriors were called tustunnuggee or, more modernly, tastanagi. Haujo, translates to “mad” or “mean”.
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The Story Begins…
With this bit of background information, let’s begin our story in earnest. First, we’ll look at the “discovery” of our Hannah Hale. Many renditions of Hannah’s story you read today are hybrids concocted out of romantic notions of what was going on in Revolutionary America. The facts are this: America was at war with England after the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776. Britain had been in America since first settling Jamestown in the colony of Virginia in 1607. For 170 years, the English had worked hard to establish relationships with the Native Americans and developed many allies in the process.
For example, Drury Roger’s Fort (also known as Well’s Fort) was located about 12 miles north of Fulsom Fort on a fork of the Ogeechee River in the area of present-day Taliaferro County, Georgia. In 1777, Efau Haujo, known to the whites as Mad Dog of Tuckabatchee, led a mixed group of Creek and Cherokee warriors to assist the British in repelling an attack by revolutionaries at the fort. There is little history of this fort in current records, and no ruin remains.
Other biographies have established that Hannah Hale, about age 13, was living amongst the Creek Indians near the Fish Ponds in 1778. Hannah’s parentage is unclear. Many believe she was a daughter of Samuel Hale and Elizabeth Hopkins, who were stationed at this outpost, and accept that as fact. I believe this is incorrect and that she was the child of another white settler (likely named Hale) and Native wife in the area who were seeking refuge at Fort Rodgers. A Cherokee DNA study found that some of Hannah’s descendants likely have Cherokee blood. Much of what we learn about Hannah comes from written observations of important government figures in the area, but they did not identify her parents.
Benjamin Hawkins…an Eyewitness…
Benjamin Hawkins (15 Aug 1754 – 6 Jun 1816), was an American planter, statesman, and U.S. Indian agent. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a United States Senator from North Carolina, having grown up among the elite there. Appointed by George Washington as General Superintendent for Indian Affairs (1796–1816), he had responsibility for the Native American tribes south of the Ohio River, and was principal Indian agent to the Creek Indians, replacing James Seagrove. He kept detailed journals of his work with the native Americans and came in contact with Hannah and her family often.
On 18 Sep 1797, Hawkins noted that “Hannah Hale, taken from Ogeechee, near Rogers Fort, is within four miles of Isaac Thomas (a local white trader), now at the Fish Ponds. She is the wife of the Far Off, a head man of that town, and has 4 children, one boy and three girls; has a good stock of cattle; has purchased a negro boy; has plenty of corn, butter, and milk; and is industrious. I sent her harness, slay and shuttle, and cards; the order dated 18th September.” This comes from page 200 of his book “The Letters Of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1806”.
Let’s take a look at the man referred to as “Far Off”. On page 316 of the same book, Hawkins takes note of a man he calls “Hopoie of Thlotlogulgau (sic)”. I believe this man was Hannah’s husband and the same Far-Off Warrior mentioned later as Hopoie Tustunnuggee, or, the more modern translation of Hopoie Tastanagi. I’ll call him simply Hopoie for the rest of our story.
Far-Off Warrior…Is This The Right Guy?
If you dig around on enough public family trees like I have, you will find many different representations of the name of our Creek Indian ancestor. I won’t try to document them all, but you will find many variations like, Hoboyie Haujo, Micco Thlucco(meaning Little Prince), Bird Tail King, and Hopaiethle Haujo. Many of these names are just plain wrong, or, refer to completely different people entirely. Also, many believe that Hopoie Tastanagi’s father is the aforementioned Efau Haujo (Mad Dog), and tack Haujo on the end of Far-Off’s name as if it were a surname. I believe this is also incorrect. There is no evidence Far-Off and Mad Dog were related.
Many names, talwa to talwa, were so similar, in fact identical, that it makes it difficult to determine who was who! There were about 55 talwas in the Creek Federation, all using the same naming structure. It was difficult for any one individual to stand out on their own. For an example of the similarities of the names, please see Exhibit 1 below.
Inconsistencies and inaccuracies have developed over time and through embellished mythology; as I said, many websites out there are so old they haven’t been updated in years. People using Ancestry and My Heritage just copy and paste the stuff they find without verifying it, so it ends up seeming factual to the next person to copy it. I don’t expect everyone to think my version is 100% correct, either, but I think I’ve beat this issue with a stick long enough.
Another inconsistency is the date of Hopoie’s birth. I’ve seen it listed as 1731, 1742, 1748, and 1765, the same date as Hannah’s. To me, 1748 seems to be the best fit as far as the way it relates to many of the activities associated with him. Perhaps the earliest mention of Hopoie involves a meeting between the Creeks and representatives of the British government in the year 1766. The Principal Chief of the Creek Nation at that time was Big Mortar, then known as the Okchai King. At this meeting with British agents, Big Mortar mentioned a young warrior living in the Okchai village named Hopoie, around age 16, and that he had given him a small medal sent by previous British agents.
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Living Among The Creeks…
On May 27, 1798, Benjamin Hawkins recorded in his Journal: “Hopoie noted that John Shirley, a trader in that town, was a troublesome lying man, that he almost daily brought some report of murder or battles into the square which were not true, and that by this conduct he constantly disturbed the peace of the town.” The very next day, on May 29, the tribal council met and ordered that Shirley be banished. Efau Haujo spoke on behalf of all the Creeks to Government agents and declared that no families would again be permitted to pass through Creek lands. and that only “honest men of good characters who have business in the land or to pass through it may be permitted to pass.”
In 1799, Hawkins made plans to bring the Creek Indians closer to peace with whites as well as introduce them to a white form of government. Hawkins wanted to introduce modern farm implements such as the plow and the wheel. He also wanted to promote the raising of cattle, hogs and horses. This was done with good intentions and was received well among many of the villages. While traveling throughout the Creek nation, he met with Hannah Hale again, and made note of it for his book, “A Sketch of the Creek Country”.
Hawkins wrote, “She has labored under many difficulties; yet by her industry has acquired some property. She has one negro boy, a horse or two, sixty cattle, and some hogs. She has an orchard of peach and apple trees.” After furnishing her with a wheel, loom, and cards, Hawkins observed that Hannah had learned to spin and weave and had taught two of her daughters to spin. It was around this time that Hannah made her election at the national council to reside in the Creek nation.
It is apparent from Hawkins’ writings that Hopoie was not with Hannah and her children at this time. In fact, some believe that Hopoie had moved to the area of Tuskegee where he had a second family living. Creek Indian custom permitted a Creek husband to take more than one wife, granted that his first wife gave permission. It is more likely, however, that he was becoming more involved in the Muscogee Creek nation politics, and that kept him busy and on the road.
In 1802, Hawkins negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wilkinson between the Creeks and the U.S. Government which ceded land to the United States in return for cash payments. The signature page not only was signed by Hawkins, but by most of the “Kings, Chiefs, Head Men and Warriors of the Creek Nation, in council assembled”. Included on this page is the mark of Hopoie Tustunnuggee. Again, look at Exhibit 1 below and take note of the similar Creek names that signed the treaty.
In the next year, 1803, the Fish Ponds were visited by yet another white man attempting to trade with the Creeks there. His name was Simeon S. Strickland, from North Carolina. He met and married Hannah’s oldest daughter, Jennie, and moved with her to Wayne County, Mississippi soon after. Simeon and Jennie were two of the earliest settlers there, and would live there the rest of their lives, farming and raising 11 children. I am a descendant of this line.
Life was peaceful for Hannah and her remaining children for next few years. The politics and life in the talwa started to change in 1805 after yet another treaty was signed with the white man. I should I say, things began to decline quickly into what would become the Creek War.
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Life Was Nice and Simple, Then it Wasn’t…
Without going into much detail of the politics involved, many Creeks were becoming more and more frustrated with the whites being involved in their lives. In 1812, Tecumseh, the famous Shawnee chief traveled around the Creek nation (Tecumseh was part Creek) encouraging his Native American brothers and sisters to resist the white man’s ways. This inspired the creation of the Red Stick faction of the Creeks, led by William Weatherford (Chief Red Eagle) and Paddy Welsh, a violent war making group intent on turning the tide against anyone who opposed them, including Creeks, whites, or mixed bloods, known as Métis Creeks.
In August of 1813, Weatherford planned an attack on Ft. Mims (to be led by Welsh), a fairly new garrison built by the American army around a small family settlement belonging to Samuel Mims and his family. There were currently about 550 people living in the fort, a mixture of whites, blacks, Creeks, and Métis Creeks. Weatherford himself was a Métis Creek, as was Welsh; their fathers were Scotch-Irish. Although he hesitated for a bit on attacking his own cousins, he decided to go through with it.
By nightfall of 29 August 1813, between 700 and 1000 hostile Creek Indians, known as Red Sticks, had gathered within one mile of the Fort and had it surrounded. By the next morning, August 30th, the heat was stifling inside the garrison, while the Red Sticks waited in the shade of the surrounding trees. That morning, Welsh, who considered himself a prophet, performed a ceremony on four of his key warriors that was supposed to make them “bullet proof”. One of these warriors was Hopoie Tustunnuggee.
Just after noon, Hopoie and his three compatriots gave the battle cry and the Red Sticks stormed Fort Mims. Hopoie and two of the others, just after storming the main gate, were immediately cut down by defender’s bullets. By 5:00 PM, the battle was over, and the Red Sticks ran off, leaving their dead behind. In all over 200 Red Sticks were killed, along with about 250 settlers, including women and children. Many have higher death estimates than this. It was a horrible massacre, with the end result being the eventual surrender of the Creeks to Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee Militia at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on 27 March 1814. Please see Exhibit 2 below.
General Thomas Woodward, in his reminiscences of the time, discussed many of the dealings between the Creeks and the whites that led up to the Creek War. He suggested that William Weatherford was having a difficult time uniting his Creek Nation. He wrote, “But in all this he was overruled by the chiefs. Some of their names I will give you. The oldest and principal chief, the one looked upon as the General, was a Tuskegee, called Hopie Tustanugga, or Far-off-Warrior; he was killed at Fort Mims. The others were Peter McQueen, Jim Boy, or High-head Jim, Illes Harjo, or Josiah Francis, the new made Prophet, the Otisee chief, Nehemarthla Micco, Paddy Welch, Hossa Yohola, and Seekaboo, the Shawnee Prophet, and many others I could name.”
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The Next Generations Move On…
Hannah Hale’s other children, in addition to Jennie mentioned earlier, remained nearby until the Creek Removal. All were believed to be fathered by Hopoie. Another daughter, Mary “Polly” Hale, born 1786, is listed on the 1832 Creek Indian Census, living alone in Autauga Town. The third daughter’s history, born about 1789, is not fully known; she may have married a William Jones and stayed in the area. Hannah’s two sons, David (b. 1796) and Samuel (b. 1798), received land in Monroe County, Alabama in the Treaty of Fort Jackson, due to their being the sons of an important Creek head man. David would die in Pass Christian, Mississippi, en route to the Indian Territory. According to Hannah Hale’s FindAGrave memorial, Samuel survived the removal to the Indian Territory and raised his family there. Other family researchers believe Samuel died in Alabama in 1840. I have not done further research on him. All children would keep their mother’s last name of Hale.
Following the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814 between the Creek Indians and the United States government, Hannah Hale was approached by government officials asking her if she would like to return to the white settlements. When they found her, they must have been quite surprised to find a white lady living peacefully among the “savages”. Indeed, she was farming the land and raising cattle as so many Creeks had decided to do after Benjamin Hawkins came in and taught them the ways of modern agriculture. Hannah decided not to return to the white settlements and lived the remainder of her life peacefully among the Creeks. Hannah Hale is believed to have died sometime in 1816 in Autauga Town, Mississippi Territory.
On January 29, 1817, heirs of Hannah Hale made requests to the House of Representatives of the United States in the 14th Congressional session. These heirs were asking for an indemnity for losses in the Creek Wars. The request was passed by the Ways and Means Committee on March 3, 1817 but rejected by the Claims Committee in 1818. In 1828, Samuel and David Hale went before the Public Lands committee to receive confirmation of a title to the lands on which they resided. This title would be given to them for as long as they lived but would not pass to their heirs. The inability to pass land to children turned out to not really be much of a deal breaker; all Creeks were later forced from their Alabama land, less than ten years later.
One of Jennie Hale Strickland’s youngest children, Patience Jane, born in 1825 in Wayne County, MS, married John Hines Depriest there around 1844. They moved to the Indian Territory with some of their children in 1883, including my great grandfather (Patience’s grandson) Frank Depriest. Frank received his land grant in 1905 after registering with the Creek Nation in 1899. Patience also registered, but did so claiming 1/2 Creek blood, when in fact, she was only 1/4.
The Creek Nation Today…
Today, the Muscogee Creek Nation still survives, centered in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. It is the fourth largest tribe in America with 86,100 citizens. It is estimated that at one time, before European contact there were over 250,000 Creeks.
I have tried to keep the story of Hannah Hale simple. If you want to read more about Native American history, there are plenty of sources available, in addition to the ones I’ve listed here. I have done my best to clarify the events that have unfolded in the lives of Hannah and Hopoie. My version may not line up with others, but it is what I believe to be true, based on the evidence available.
The politics and events relating to Indian removal in the United States are both complicated and tragic; I feel it deserves our attention and understanding. Hopefully, we can keep this part of our history from repeating itself.
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“The Indians of the Southeastern United States“, John R. Swanton, Washington D.C., Gov’t. Printing Office, 1946
“History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography”, by Thomas McAdory Owen, S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1921
“Dead Towns Of Alabama”, W. Stuart Harris, University of Alabama Press, 1977
“A Sketch Of The Creek Country in the years 1798 and 1799”, by Benjamin Hawkins, New York, Kraus Reprint Co., 1971
“Woodward’s Reminiscences; A Personal Account of the Creek Nation in Georgia and Alabama”, by General Thomas S. Woodward, edited by J. J. Hooper, Published: Montgomery, Ala.; Barrett & Wimbish, Book and General Job Printers, 1859
“The War of 1812”, by Francis F. Beirne, published by E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. New York, 1949
“A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813–1814”, By Gregory A. Waselkov, University Alabama Press; First edition, 2009
“Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida”, by William Bartram, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1791
“Creek Resistance and Cultural Amalgamation during the Early Years of the American Republic”, by Kuzyszyn, Honors Papers 2008, Dept. of History, Rutgers University
“The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 17, 1 October 1794–31 March 1795”, ed. David R. Hoth and Carol S. Ebel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, pp. 391–402.
“Understanding The Creek War And Redstick Nativism, 1812-1815”,
By Sheri M. Shuck-Hall, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History
Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA, 2010
“Frontier in Flames: The Creek War and the Mississippi Territory”, by Mike Bunn and Clay Williams, essay for the Mississippi Historical Society, 2012
Research by Evelyn Park Blalock. Read her bio of Hopoie at FindAGrave here:
Emmett Shows (this link still works, but I ran into some questionable pop-ups and ads there, so beware):
Muscogee Creek Nation:
Chris Clark: http://www.angelfire.com/ak/chrisclarksgenealogy/FAROFF.html
Exhibit 1 – Treaty of Fort Wilkinson, 1802 Signature Page (Edited for clarity)
In testimony whereof, the commissioners plenipotentiary of the United States, and the kings, chiefs, head men, and warriors, of the Creek nation, have hereunto subscribed their names and affixed their seals, at the camp of the commissioners of the United States, near fort Wilkinson, on the Oconee river, this sixteenth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and two, and of the independence of the United States the twenty-sixth.
James Wilkinson, (L.S.) Benjamin Hawkins, (L.S.) Andrew Pickens, (L.S.)
Efau Haujo Tustunnuggee Thlucco Hopoie Micco Hopoie Olohtau
Tallessee Micco Tussekia Micco Micco Thlucco Tuskenehau Chapco
Chouwacke le Micco Toosce hatche Micco Hopoie Yauholo Hoithlewau le Micco
Efau Haujo of Cooloome Cussetuh Youholo Wewocau Tustunnuggee
Nehomahte Tustunnuggee Tustunu Haujo Hopoie Tustunnuggee
Talchischau Micco Yaufkee Emautla Haujo Coosaudee Tustunnuggee
Nenehomohtau Tustunnuggee Micco Isfaunau Tustunnuggee Efaulau Tustunnuggee
Tustunnuc Hoithlepoyuh Ishopei Tustunnuggee Cowetuh Tustunnuggee
Hopoithle Haujo Wocsee Haujo Uctijutchee Tustunnuggee Okelesau Hutkee
Pahose Micco Micke Emautlau Hoithlepoyau Haujo Cussetuh Haujo
Ochesee Tustunnuggee Toosehatchee Haujo Isfaune Haujo Hopoithle Hopoie
Olohtuh emautlau Timothy Barnard Alexander Cornells Joseph Islands
Interpreters: Alexander Macomb, Jr. secretary to the commission, William R. Boote, captain Second Regiment Infantry, T. Blackburn, lieutenant commanding Company G, John B. Barnes, lieutenant U.S. Army, Wm. Hill, Asst. C.D., Olohtau Haujo, Tulmass Haujo, Auttossee Emautlaw
Exhibit 2 – List of Red Stick Warriors (taken from the website of the Fort Mims Restoration Association @ fortmims.org
Red Stick Creek Warriors
Of the 700-1000 Creek Warriors who attacked Fort Mims, it is thought that a large number may have died, up to 200 or more. Only the following names are known:
Coolajer – “Light Maker”- Creek leader -(s)
Cyrus(Moniac) – Negro Slave who joined the Redsticks -(s)
Efa Tastanagi – “Dog Warrior”- Creek from Atasi – (s)
Hopoie Tastanagi – “Far-Off Warrior”- Creek leader from Taskigi (Tuskegee), Killed inside Fort Mims
Otee Emathla – “Jumper”- Creek -(s)
Nahomahteeathle Hopoie – “Foremost man in danger in time of battle” – Creek from Jim Boy’s Town – (s)
Old Interpreter (James Walsh*)- Creek-Irish – (s)
Russell____*, son of Hoithlewaule, Creek-English – (s)
Sonata – “Jim Boy” – Creek -(s)
Seekaboo*- Prophet, kin to Tecumseh, Shawnee-Creek-English – (s)
William Steadham*- Redstick Creek, son of John Steadham – (s)
Paddy Walsh*- Redstick Creek Prophet from Tawasa, wounded – (s)
William Weatherford*- “Hopnicafutsahia”, Creek-English Redstick Creek Leader, from Tensaw, later known as “Red Eagle – (s)
Chief of Wewocau – Creek, led first warriors into battle – (s)
(s)- survived attack
* – Métis Creek