Jan. 8 marks the 200th anniversary of this area becoming a part of the United States.
On July 4, we celebrate the founding of our nation. Although Georgia was the 13th colony, representatives from the state were not at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776. In an interesting historic footnote, the three Georgia signers — Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton — signed the Declaration of Independence on Aug. 2.
At that time, Georgia was a sliver of what it is today. More than half of it belonged to two Native American tribes, the Cherokee and the Muscogee, or Creek.
Going back to the founding of Savannah in 1733, James Oglethorpe acquired land from the Creek, for a colony, which he named in honor of King George II. By 1776, the colony stretched along the coast and south of the border with South Carolina.
The day we should celebrate — though parading through the streets, shooting off fireworks and grilling may not be the best way to recognize it — is Jan. 8.
On that day in 1821, a Lower Creek chief named William McIntosh signed a treaty with the United States at his tavern in Indian Springs, It called for selling to the U.S. 4.3 million acres of land that included the village of Standing Peachtree and all of what is today Atlanta (including Buckhead) and Sandy Springs.
The U.S. paid the Creek $200,000, and McIntosh received $40,000 for his role.
In reality, the Creek felt the land was worthless. It was not densely populated, and trappers and natives had hunted the deer in the area to near-extinction.
The treaty was controversial. McIntosh was one of several Muskogee chiefs and couldn’t sign a treaty without approval from the others. Two geographic territories made up the nation, with the Lower Creek spread throughout Georgia and the Upper Creek in Alabama.
The Lower Creek, in general, supported McIntosh’s decision to sell the land, while the treaty angered the Upper Creek.
The two factions formed the National Creek Council, which included all the chiefs. Those leaders, including McIntosh, made it punishable by death to sell Creek land to the United States without its consent after the first Treaty of Indian Springs.
McIntosh signed the second treaty of Indian Springs in 1825, selling the remaining Creek territory in Georgia to the United States. For this offense, the council sentenced McIntosh to death. It also declared the treaty illegal, to no avail.
The leaders sent at least 150 warriors, who lived on the now-sold land, to McIntosh’s plantation on the Chattahoochee River in Carroll County. They set his home on fire. McIntosh was wounded by gunfire and pulled by some of the men out to his porch, where one stabbed him in the heart and other warriors killed him with a hail of gunfire.
While McIntosh’s betrayal gave us the land beneath our feet, he acted under pressure from the governor of Georgia at the time, George Troup. If there was one man to credit for what is today Georgia, other than William McIntosh, it is Troup, who was relentless in his drive for the state’s expansion.
On Jan. 8, I hope you’ll take a moment, perhaps a solemn moment, and raise a glass in recognition of the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Indian Springs — when one man signed a document giving much of what is today Georgia to the U.S.
It is a date we should recognize every year, but this year — 2021 — is significant.