McIntosh descendant pens story about chief's son Chilly

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“From Georgia Tragedy To Oklahoma Frontier: A Biography of Scots Creek Indian Chief Chilly McIntosh” is Billie Jane McIntosh’s second foray into writing about her family.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER winston@newnan.com Editor's note: Coweta County is named in honor of Chief William McIntosh, the half Scots, half Creek leader of the Cowetas who signed the Treaty of Indian Springs in the early 1800s that ceded the land that is now west Georgia for development. Arizona writer Billie Jane McIntosh has written a book about Chilly McIntosh, son of Chief William McIntosh and her own great-great-grandfather.
"From Georgia Tragedy To Oklahoma Frontier: A Biography of Scots Creek Indian Chief Chilly McIntosh" is Billie Jane McIntosh's second foray into writing about her family. She visited Coweta County several years ago after her previous book, "Ah-Ko-Kee: American Sovereign," was published. That book was about Jane McIntosh Hawkins, Chilly's sister. "Actually, I think I wanted to write about him first -- a long time ago," she said. McIntosh chose to write about Jane Hawkins first -- in part because of the subject's gender. "I really didn't know how to go about writing from a man's perspective," she said. In researching her books, McIntosh has sought to get the real story -- often using documents that date to the era when her characters were living. Authenticity, she said, is vital. "I think that is really important. I've read so much about Native Americans. So much of it was over romanticized or made dramatic," she said. She said "a lot of false stuff" can be found in print when it comes to the Creeks and what happened to them 180 years ago. "I wanted to make it as honest as I could," she said of her book about her ancestor. Chilly McIntosh's life story has many different layers. In some circumstances, he was part of the white world of his time. In others, he was seen as Indian. He made a successful transition from life in Georgia to the Creeks' new home in Oklahoma. Chilly and his half brother, Daniel Newnan McIntosh, were both Confederate officers during the Civil War. Chilly McIntosh eventually became a Baptist minister -- preaching the gospel to members of several Indian tribes before his death in 1875. "I think he was a hero for all the things he did -- an unsung hero," she said. Telling his story required exploring "the fact that he was half Scots and half Native American and had that cultural problem to go through," Billie Jane McIntosh reflected. She recalled her own struggles in dealing with being part Indian as a girl, "which wasn't anything compared to what he had to go through." Even though McIntosh grew up occasionally visiting Creek relatives, she did not know about her famous ancestors until she was an adult. She recalled that many of her Native American relatives felt they had "nothing to prove" and did not dwell on the McIntosh heritage. Her father "never talked about things," she recalled. "I had to just pull it out of him." Also, while white historians have sometimes seen William McIntosh in a positive light, the leadership among the Creeks in the West has largely been held by descendants of the Upper Creeks, who opposed William McIntosh's efforts to achieve rapprochement with the white settlers and the federal government. One reason for "Georgia Tragedy" was "to show all the different events that went into how the tribe was moved" from Georgia to Oklahoma. Chilly McIntosh was a key player in that process. McIntosh's research took her to many places -- including the McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County and the Indian Spring Hotel in Butts County in Georgia. She also got to examine many documents dating to Chilly's time. A fascinating chapter in the book grew from Works Progress Administration interviews done with former slaves of the Creeks in Oklahoma. "Research is so much fun that way. You come across so many things that are interesting," the author said. Her research has left some tantalizing threads she could follow for another writing project. "There's a lot there to write about," she said. "I don't know yet if I'm going to write another book." McIntosh, a former resident of Flagstaff who has lived in Cottonwood, Ariz. for almost two years, said she also likes "to fool around with poetry" and might go in another direction with her writing in the future. --- Book Review: 'Georgia Tragedy' has much to offer By W. WINSTON SKINNER winston@newnan.com [In this book review/commentary, Times-Herald Assistant News Editor Winston Skinner reflects on Billie Jane McIntosh's previous visit to Senoia.] The local legend I have heard is that Chilly McIntosh escaped from his family's burning home at McIntosh Reserve on the fateful day in 1825 when his father was murdered. As the story goes, Chilly swam across the Chattahoochee and ran -- stopping for momentary shelter at the Luckie cabin which still stands at the little community of Buckeye in what is now western Coweta County. That was about all I knew about Chilly McIntosh -- beyond the barest genealogical facts -- until I read Billie Jane McIntosh's new book. "From Georgia Tragedy To Oklahoma Frontier: A Biography of Scots Creek Indian Chief Chilly McIntosh" (American History Imprints, paper, $18.95) is a great addition to our trove of knowledge about this family that played such a pivotal role in the history of western Georgia and -- in particular -- Coweta County. I thoroughly enjoyed Billie Jane McIntosh's previous book, "Ah-Ko-Kee: American Sovereign," which told the story of Chilly McIntosh's sister, Jane McIntosh Mitchell Hawkins. Jane Hawkins and Chilly McIntosh were both children of Chief William McIntosh, who was the son of a trader with Scots blood from the Georgia coast and an Indian princess from the Creeks' prominent Wind Clan. It was Chief William McIntosh who signed the Treaty of Indian Springs, which opened western Georgia to settlement, and he paid for that decision with his life. "Ah-Ko-Kee" is good, but the book about Chilly is better. Billie Jane McIntosh shows a broad range of writing skills in "Georgia Tragedy." Parts of the book read almost like a novel. Others reveal extensive, meticulous research. The story flows with Chilly's turbulent life -- from his childhood as the son of a prominent man both Indian and white, to young adulthood as a leader of the Creeks during their move from Georgia and settlement in Oklahoma and -- finally -- to his elder statesman status and his becoming a Baptist minister. Particularly fascinating is the section on slaves owned by the Creeks. Ms. McIntosh has ferreted out first person accounts of former slaves and their children that relate the unique -- and often positive -- relationships between the slave-holding Creeks who went West and the African-Americans who worked with and for them. "Georgia Tragedy" is also noteworthy for its extras. The author has included a fascinating section of family photographs and a family tree that starts in Scotland in 1137, passed through Chief William McIntosh and ends with the author. She also has included "The Laws of the Creek Nation" taken from a document written by Chilly McIntosh in 1825 -- shortly before the life he had known in Georgia imploded and disappeared. I hear there are plans afoot to bring Billie Jane McIntosh to this part of Georgia to autograph and talk about "Georgia Tragedy." The writer -- who is Chilly's great-great-granddaughter -- charmed Cowetans when she visited Senoia after her first book was published. As a skilled communicator and a direct descendant of Chief William McIntosh, she is able to share a unique viewpoint about the McIntosh family and their role in the history of Georgia and America.


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