The Betrayal of William McIntosh

Did you know?

Depending on what area of the United States you live in, you’ll find various stories of what happened to the local Native Americans and how they were systematically driven from their lands.  In this case, we covered a man who served as a crucial part of a dark, twisted puzzle that eventually led to the downfall of the (then) Creek Nation.  His name was William McIntosh.  Before we get to his unbelievable death, let’s cover some of what he did.

It’s hard to paint the picture of McIntosh’s betrayal of the (then) Creek Nation without describing the state of that tribe.  After brutal battles and attacks, in a nutshell, the Creeks were divided.  Some history books and records indicate that they didn’t even speak the same language in certain cases, just to name some differences.  Soon, the Creeks would “learn the bitter lesson of a house divided.”

As we’ve covered before, Benjamin Hawkins did a lot of good work for the relationship between Native Americans and white settlers, and some of the Upper Tribe members remembered his good efforts.  After the War of 1812, certain treaties between the (then) Creeks and settlers began to put constraints on them and they began to lose their lands.  They turned to a “half breed” (white and Native)  chief after they lost their negotiation powers for these treaties.  His name was William McIntosh.  He was no Hawkins, however.

In 1825, after most Creek chiefs had boycotted the negotiation meetings, McIntosh was left as the “principle negotiator.”  This was after a long, brutal build up of tension and violence from both sides.  Nonetheless, William McIntosh negotiated a treaty on March 3rd, 1825 that called for the complete removal of all Creeks to go west of the Mississippi River.  The vacated land was left up for the lottery.

Of course, this was a massive betrayal to the Native Americans.  They begged and pleaded to at least “have their bones buried with their fathers.”  They said (after the fact) that McIntosh was not the voice of their people.   It was too late.  The Creek Nation would not take this lying down, McIntosh would pay with his life in what we’ve found to be one of the most gruesome executions we’ve ever read about in local history.

After the Council of the Creek Nation had decided on his assassination, they carried it out.  What did they do?  In single file, the “Upper Creeks” sent 170 warriors to the McIntosh reserve on the Chattahoochee River.  They allowed his family to leave the home, then they turned their eyes to William.  Each of them shot him at least once.  Afterwards, they “dragged his body to the yard” so his blood would “spill on the land that he betrayed.” 

Afterwards, he was scalped, and it was displayed in a local public square as a statement from the Creeks.  For several years, the removal of Native Americans from their lands would become the hottest topics of politics both locally and federally.  It influenced even presidential elections.  Eventually and sadly, we know how the story unfolds, and the rest is one of the true meanings of haunted history.

Hey!  We hope you enjoyed this story!  We found it in the book “A Land So Dedicated, The History of Houston County” in which you can find it for sale at the Perry Area Historical Museum and is also where the quotes came from.  Also, you’ll notice we said “then” before Creeks.  That’s because they are known as the Muscogee Nation now, and have dropped the Creek name.  This is a small part of your local history.  You never know what may have happened in your own front yard!

Courtesy of Boston Public Library via


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