George Washington Papers

Enclosure: Journal Extract about George Welbank’s Information, 13 August 1793


Journal Extract about George Welbank’s Information

August 13.1 Capt. Wellbank call’d to see the commissrs & dined with them. As he had lived among the Creek Indian & was conversant with the Cherokees we made inquiry into the causes of their present Dissatisfaction. His information was in substance as follows. That formerly the Creeks in general Council declared that they were willing to confirm to the United States the Lands ceded to them by Treaty as far as the north Fork of the Oconee but not to the South Fork.2 The Difference between a cession to one Fork & the other he says comprehends a tract of Country about 300 miles long by 70 to 30 miles broad according to the courses of the Rivers. That in June or July 1791 McGillivray wrote to general Knox informing him that the Creeks would not agree to relinquish their Lands Southward of the north Fork. Capt. Wellbank repeated the following as a Passage in McGillivrays Letter. “At our last meeting3 the articles of the Treaty were explain’d to the nations at large with Respect to the Apilachee or main South Branch of the Oconee it turnd out as I told you it would at New York.4 They will not agree to that but unanimously agree to the North Fork & hope Congress will require no more.” And then he goes on, said Wellbank to describe the Country between the two Forks mentioning the Qualities of the Land as well as its extent. He farther said that Thos. Gegg who is in the commission of the Peace5 but resides in the cherokee nation gave him a copy of the Letter which is said to have been transcribed from a South Carolina News Paper.6 The Dispute relative to the Lands lying between the two Forks of the oconee is assigned by Capt. Wellbank as the sole cause of the Creeks having refused to run the boundary line between them & the United States Wellbank farther inform’d that after the Treaty at new york when McGillivray was at new orleans the spanish governour blam’d the Creeks for giving up so much of their Country to the united states. McGillivray said the chiefs had done it. that the governour of New orleans sent among the Creeks Capt. Oliver a Frenchman [in] the Spanish Service who asked the chiefs why they had given away so much of their Land the chiefs laid the blame on McGillivray & he to excuse himself said that when the Treaty was made he was in an interior Part of an Enemy’s country & was compeld to give up the Land. That the gr. of New orleans told McGillivray he could not serve two masters he must therefore renounce the Spaniards or the united States; McGillivray then renounced the latter & was going to burn the Commission of Brigadier which he received from the President but the gr. told him that would be improper, if he meant to relinquish it he should return it inclosed in a Letter.7 These Facts Wellbank says are known to Richard Findleston a half breed of the Cherokee nation now living on Cumberland & was at New Orleans when McGillivray was there.8 Capt. Wellbank declared that Bowles had not arrived in the Creek Country to his Knowlege as had been reported but that he was really friendly to the united States.9 He inform’d us that the Spaniards had built a Fort of some strength at the Walnut Hills within the Territory of the United States. that when they began their work the Creeks were about to strike them supposing them to be Americans but on finding them to be Spaniards they permited them to proceed.10

Capt: Wellbank says the Cherokees object to the Treaty with Govr. Blount11 for the following Reasons

1st That one Line is stated to pass forty miles beyond Nashville when they agreed only for ten miles & that in the Interpretation they were told it was ten miles.

2d That the Govr promised them 2000 Dollars annually, that they demanded 3000 that the govr. said he had not authority to grant so much but would apply to Congress to allow the third thousand Dollars, when in fact the Treaty only stipulated the annual Payment of 1000 Dollars contrary to the Interpretation to them.

3. That they never agreed to the Road or to the navigation of the Tenessee as mentioned in the 5th Article.

4th That they did not agree to submit to Congress the Regulation of their Trade as mention’d in the 6th article.

5th That the Interpreters were bribed by govr. Blount in consequence of which Carey had fled the Country. Capt. Wellbank says that Thompson (who is an Indian) the other Interpreter stands his ground but has in Effect acknowleged the bribery. Thompson said his Fee was 80 guineas. He told some of his acquaintance that he expected to bring in the Value of two Negroes as he had so much due for private services. Wellbank says he charged Carey with Bribery. In Excuse he said he told Thompson that he did not interpret truly but Thompson checkd him saying hold your Tongue it is none of your Business I am a native of the Land Carey spoke this in the presence of Sir Jno: Nesbit & another gentleman of South Carolina.12 Capt. Wellbank thinks that the united states have not received Just Information of the Dispute with the Cherokees. All the Persons employed he says are Land Jobbers interested to misrepresent. He also says that as soon as govr Blount was appointed governour of that Territory genl Pickens told the Cherokees that a worse man for them could not have been appointed that he loved Land & would all theirs. Capt. Wellbank farther inform’d that three stations are erected in the Ch⟨ero⟩kee Country over the Line settled by Treaty. He particularly mention’d Major Craigs Station at nine mile Creek 20 or 30 miles from Knoxville.

Augt 14th Capt. Wellbank again dined with us. In the Course of Conversation he said that the Business which brought him to the northward was of a commercial Nature relative to the supplying the Indians with goods.13 That the Creeks were dissatisfied with the high Price of the goods they received from the Spaniards but they would soon obtain Relief for the Chiefs had petitioned the King of Great Britain to have them supplied by his subjects. That an act of Parliament had passed for the purpose &——a Port about seven miles westward of the mouth of Apelichicola River was to be the Place of Entry. That the House of Panton Leslie & Co: at the close of the war in 1783 obtain’d Permission from the King of Spain exclusively to supply the Indians with goods for the Space of ten years which would expire this Summer.14

Capt. Wellbank farther inform’d us that the bloody fellow & other Chiefs who went to Philadelphia to represent the grievances of their nation reported on their Return that the President or authority of the States promised Redress. That the nation waited six months & found none. The bloody Fellow then said Congress are Liars general washington is a Liar & governour Blount is a Liar.15

AD, in Beverley Randolph’s writing, DLC:GW. A second journal of Welbank’s information, in Timothy Pickering’s writing, is also in DLC:GW. The most significant differences between the two journals are described in notes below.

1Pickering’s journal gives the following background information before the 13 Aug. entry: “Captain Wellbank who arrived at the Miami Rapids with the Cherokees, went thence to Detroit, where Colo. England ordered the schooner Felicity to carry him to Fort Erie: Captain Wellbank requiring a passage, that he might see Governor Simcoe, with whom he had business, or for whom he had letters.

“Capt. Wellbank returned to Detroit in the Chippawa, and came down in her last Sunday, the 11th instant.”

2Pickering here adds, “He does not know what they would be willing to agree to now.

3In Pickering’s journal, this reads “last May meeting.”

4McGillivray was referring to the Treaty of New York, 7 Aug. 1790, for which see Proclamation, 14 Aug. 1790, n.5.

5The corresponding passage in Pickering’s journal states that Gegg “has now a Commission of the Peace from Govr Blount.” Pickering then adds “n. B. Thomas Gegg is the name of one of the Witnesses to Govr Blount’s Treaty with the Cherokees.”

6Here the Pickering journal adds, “He said the letter had some how or other been intercepted; and perhaps (or he believed) had never reached Genl Knox.” The quoted passage is a paraphrase of portions of a letter from Alexander McGillivray to Secretary of War Henry Knox of 1 June 1791 that was published in various newspapers with an 18 Aug., Charleston, S.C., dateline (see Massachusetts Spy: Or, The Worcester Gazette, 22 Sept. 1791). On 12 Sept. 1791 Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia) printed the following: “We are well assured, that the letter signed by Mr. M’Gillivray, and addressed to the ‘Hon. General Knox,’ which has recently appeared in several of the newspapers, was never received by that officer.”

7McGillivray and the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Francisco Luis Hector, Baron de Carondelet (c.1748–1807), signed a treaty at New Orleans on 6 July 1792 in which McGillivray renounced the 1790 Treaty of New York made with the United States. For reports of the activities of Pedro Olivier (c.1754–1805) among the Southern Indians, see ASP, Indian Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:296–97, 304–5, 308, 310. Olivier was an officer in the Louisiana Regiment from 1771 until his death, rising from cadet to captain (brevet lieutenant colonel).

8Pickering’s journal has two additional sentences at this point: “Capt. Wellbank describes McGillivray, as a debauched and mercenary man; and withal extremely timid. He died on the 17th or 18th of last February.” Richard Finnelson (Findleston) was a member of the Bird Tribe best known for his association with the Nickajack expedition (see ASP, Indian Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:288–91).

9The remaining information in this paragraph is absent from the Pickering journal. William Augustus Bowles (1763–1805), a Maryland Loyalist who organized several filibustering expeditions in Florida, was at this time in Spain, but the City Gazette & Daily Advertiser (Charleston) reported on 10 May that “six of the Creek towns, with a number of Cherokees, had declared war against the United States, and were actually marching under the command of Bowles and Galphin, to attack the frontiers,” and the report was widely circulated in other papers.

10Spain had constructed fortifications at the Walnut Hills site, now Vicksburg, Miss., by 1791. Fort Nogales was briefly occupied by the United States as Fort McHenry after the Spanish troops withdrew in accordance with the provisions of the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo.

11This refers to the Treaty of Holston, 2 July 1791 (Kappler, Indian Treaties description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends , 2:29–32).

12James Carey (Cery) accompanied the Cherokee delegation that visited Philadelphia from December 1791 to February 1792, and he was appointed an official interpreter at that time. He was an interpreter and assistant at Tellico Blockhouse in 1797 when William Blount wrote a letter to him that was used as evidence for Blount’s 1798 impeachment, and he remained an interpreter at least as late as 1813 (Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Being the Second Session of the Fifth Congress: Begun and Held at the City of Philadelphia, November 13, 1797 [Washington, 1820], 436–37; Kappler, Indian Treaties description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends , 2:181). Sir John Nisbet (c.1768–1827) took his title from the estate of Dean in Scotland but had an estate in Berkeley County, South Carolina. He married a daughter of South Carolina state senator William Alston in 1797.

13At this point the Pickering journal adds “That he wished for peace: but desired that justice might be done to the Indians.”

14For discussion of the concession given to Panton, Leslie & Company by Spain, see Arthur Preston Whitaker, The Spanish-American Frontier: 1783–1785; The Westward Movement and the Spanish Retreat in the Mississippi Valley (Gloucester, Mass., 1962), 39–46.

15Nenetooyah (Bloody Fellow), also known as Iskagua, was a signatory to the 1791 Treaty of Holston. For his visit to Philadelphia as part of a delegation of Cherokee chiefs in January 1792, see Henry Knox to GW, 17 Jan. 1792.

Index Entries