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Life and Times of Mary Musgrove

Steven C Hahn

Publication Year: 2012

The story of Mary Musgrove (1700-1764), a Creek Indian-English woman struggling for success in colonial society, is an improbable one.

As a literate Christian, entrepreneur, and wife of an Anglican clergyman, Mary was one of a small number of "mixed blood" Indians to achieve a position of prominence among English colonists. Born to a Creek mother and an English father, Mary's bicultural heritage prepared her for an eventful adulthood spent in the rough and tumble world of Colonial Georgia Indian affairs.

Active in diplomacy, trade, and politics--affairs typically dominated by men--Mary worked as an interpreter between the Creek Indians and the colonists--although some argue that she did so for her own gains, altering translations to sway transactions in her favor. Widowed twice in the prime of her life, Mary and her successive husbands claimed vast tracts of land in Georgia (illegally, as British officials would have it) by virtue of her Indian heritage, thereby souring her relationship with the colony's governing officials and severely straining the colony's relationship with the Creek Indians.

Using Mary's life as a narrative thread, Steven Hahn explores the connected histories of the Creek Indians and the colonies of South Carolina and Georgia. He demonstrates how the fluidity of race and gender relations on the southern frontier eventually succumbed to more rigid hierarchies that supported the region's emerging plantation system.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Dedication Page

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p. v

Table of Contents

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p. vii

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Introduction: Unearthing Mary Musgrove

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pp. 1-8

On the banks of the Savannah River there was once an inconspicuous patch of earth that jealously guarded many secrets of the past. Located four miles upstream from the Georgia city of that name, this tranquil place merely a decade ago was covered with jungle-thick brush interspersed...

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1. Creek Beginnings

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pp. 9-30

How it came to pass that Mary could claim such a beginning is something of a story in itself. The infant girl who would one day become Mary Musgrove first drew breath in the Creek Indian town of Coweta, and like most Indians she was...

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2. The Reeducation of Mary Griffin

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pp. 31-54

Penned many years after the events it relates, the above epigraph is all that remains in Mary’s own words of her assumption of a new life in South Carolina. In fact, this passage constitutes the only direct evidence relating to her obscure childhood. Given its brevity, it might appear that...

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3. Mary Musgrove: Between Creek Nation and Colleton County

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pp. 55-80

Piecing together the details of Mary Musgrove’s life before her arrival in Georgia is a complicated task that has left many a researcher (this one included) scratching his head. No two writers, it seems, are in agreement as to when Mary wed her first husband, John Musgrove, how...

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4. Mrs. Musgrove of Georgia

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pp. 81-112

When Mary and John moved to Yamacraw Bluff in 1732 they had good reason to be optimistic about their future. For one thing, their economic prospects looked favorable; in addition to the land they still held in South Carolina, they owned a considerable number of livestock, and...

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5. Mary Mathewes, Malcontent

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pp. 113-148

To pu t it in plain terms, Mary’s short but eventful marriage to Jacob Mathewes ended much as it began: in controversy. Mary and Jacob’s decision to take their wedding vows outside the colony was one of the many insubordinate acts that provoked Rev. John Wesley into fleeing the colony...

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6. Mary Bosomworth

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pp. 149-173

Of the many colorful characters to appear on colonial Georgia’s stage, perhaps none was more loathed than the Reverend Thomas Bosomworth. His critics—and there were many—thought him greedy to an extent unbecoming in any person, much less a man of the cloth. Some mocked his...

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7. Coosaponakeesa

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pp. 174-202

By 1748 the paper war between the Bosomworths and Georgia authorities was well under way. The confrontation would turn physical, or nearly so, when in 1749 Mary and Thomas descended upon Savannah to wrest from the government some Indian presents that she believed were...

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8. “Your Memorialist”

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pp. 203-231

Judged in relation to Governor Glen’s instructions, or perhaps in relation to any standard, the Bosomworth agency to the Creeks was an unqualified success. Acorn Whistler was dead, peace between the Creeks and Cherokees was imminent, and Governor Glen appeared satisfied...

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Conclusion: Remembering Mary Musgrove

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pp. 232-236

While Mary’s death elicited no comment from her contemporaries, it is perhaps fitting that the infamous Georgia land case outlived even her. Isaac Levy, still smarting from losing his share of the disputed lands, continued to petition British authorities for a decade following Mary...

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pp. 237-238

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the many institutions and people who helped make this book possible. Of the institutions, the National Endowment for the Humanities honored me with a “We the People” summer stipend, which provided valuable financial support while I was...


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pp. 239-262


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pp. 263-276


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pp. 277-284

E-ISBN-13: 9780813042633
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813042213
Print-ISBN-10: 0813042216

Page Count: 284
Illustrations: 10 b&w photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 816041309
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Life and Times of Mary Musgrove

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Subject Headings

  • Musgrove, Mary, 1700-1765.
  • Indians of North America -- Mixed descent -- Georgia -- Biography.
  • Creek Indians -- Biography.
  • Women -- Georgia -- Biography.
  • Land settlement -- Georgia.
  • Creek Indians -- Mixed descent.
  • Georgia -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
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