The Chickasaw Village Sources
The Village Location Keys
Remaining Village Locations
The Decades and the Villages
Slide Show -
Current Village Locations
Two sources provide keys to unlocking the Chickasaw villages' locations, James Adair and the 1832 Chickasaw Cession survey notes.
The most definitive description of the Chickasaw villages is that of James Adair. Adair's (Adair 1775 352-353) description follows . . .
The Chikkasah in the year 1720, had four large contiguous settlements, which lay nearly in the form of three parts of a square, only that the eastern side was five miles shorter than the western, with the open part toward the Choktah. One was called Yaneka, about a mile wide, and six miles long, at the distance of twelve miles from their present towns. Another was ten computed miles long, at the like distance from their present settlements, and from one to two miles broad. The towns were called Shatara, Chookheereso, Hykehah, Tuskawillao, and Phalacheho. The other square was single, began three miles from their present place of residence, and ran four miles in length, and one mile in breadth. This was called Chookka Pharaah, or "the long house." It was more populace than their whole nation contains at present. The remains of this once formidable people make up the northern angle of that broken square. They now scarcely consist of four hundred and fifty warriors, and are settled three miles westward from the deep creek, in a clear tract of rich land, about three miles square, running afterward about five miles toward the N.W. where the old fields are usually a mile broad. The superior number of their enemies forced them to take into this narrow circle, for social defense; and to build their towns, on commanding ground, at such a convenient distance from one another, as to have their enemies, when attacked, between to fires.
Note that Adair locates the 1720 Chickasaw villages with respect to their ‘present settlements’ (towns) but his ‘present settlements’ date to as late as 1766, the last year he resided with them. The ‘present settlements’ of 1766 will be discussed later; however, with some faith we may locate Adair's ‘present settlements’ at the location concluded in 1980 (Cook 3), which later historic sources referred to as Old Town. Figure 1 provides an interpretative location of Adair's description of the 1720 villages' location and the ‘present settlements’. Note that the ‘Present Settlements’ on Figure 1 lie south and west of Town Creek and north of King's Creek.
The interpretive figures/maps that are used in this paper, like Figure 1, have a common fixed base - the location of prominent area creeks. These interpretive figures were produced by appending six 7.5 minute USGS quadrangle (quad) maps (Sherman 1980, Bissell 1979, Southeast Pontotoc 1979, Verona 1979, Shannon 1979, Troy SE 1979 and Tupelo 1992) using DeLorem 3-D TopoQuad software. The relatively contemporary creek locations were digitized from the quad maps and transferred to AutoCAD 2000 software. Features typically attributed on quad maps such as roads, airports, parks, churches, cemeteries and buildings were specifically omitted from these figures; however, by way of reference, downtown Tupelo is located just north of the Town Creek and Kings Creek confluence. Map features such as the village areas on Figure 1 were digitized based on physical surveys taking Chickasaw pottery locations as the first priority and cultural artifacts secondly.
Figure 1 locates the village areas (shaded) described by Adair and assigns names to several. These village areas for the most part lie on the southwestern side of Town, Coonewah and Chiwapa creeks with village areas extending from the flood plain edge to beyond the ridge lines. Note that the village lengths drawn match those described by Adair. Several of Adair's villages were located using section and quarter section descriptions in 1980-Chookka Pharaah (Cook 6, 10); Yaneka (Cook 5); and Shatara (Tchichatala) (Cook 10). These locations are consistent with Figure 1. Other locations shown on Figure 1 will be discussed later.
The value of Adair's description is not only the village names and locations but also their areal extent. This is important for the years leading up to and immediately following 1720, as we shall see. For instance, Adair's 5 villages on Coonewah Creek spanned ten miles or roughly two miles per village, if uniformly distributed. Yaneka was six miles long. The significance of the village lengths is that the Chickasaw in 1720 did not live in compact towns, rather their houses strung along the ridges for the most part, although there are areas much denser in occupation and others not as dense. Adair's description of 1720 occurred when the villages were not very dense. The pressures of their enemies would soon force the Chickasaw to become dense and nucleate.
One other note about the 1720 villages, they were situated in the geomorphologic Selma chalk formation of the Upper Cretaceous where numerous overriding gray clays may be seen in weathered areas. Note that several of our sources who lived with or visited the Chickasaw (Adair 1775 358) addressed the visible eroded clays and their accompanying fossil shells. The clays, which served as the body and the shells as the temper of Chickasaw pottery or as whitewash for their houses (Adair 1775 413), have another significant feature - because of their tight structure, they retard the movement of water and thus the growth of trees. The trees, a wood source for their fires, were significant to life as was water. The wood and water resources were addressed by several of the sources, providing an insight into how the villages looked and how the Chickasaw lived.
The value of the 1832 Chickasaw Cession survey notes as a village location aid, particularly the noted "prairies" and "old fields", has been noted (Cook 2). (Note: the survey notes available for this effort were transcribed by Tupelo, Mississippi engineer/surveyor Leland B. Cook in the mid 1950s). Figure 2 indicates the prairie and old field noted areas for our study area. The surveyor field notes for this area were recorded by several crews in the field from 1832 to 1834. The crews surveyed townships on a square mile basis traversing each mile's section line south and east until the township was complete. Section corners were established and the crews noted vegetation and physical features such as creeks, swamps, roads, etc. Since the survey was noted along section lines, the "prairie" and "old field" features were connected usually following related contours. The surveyors also noted the "old fields" and occasionally noted "Indian old fields" when former occupation was apparent. . Again, the names of the creeks and their positions on Figure 2 are consistent with Figure 1.
Most of the survey notes have a summary note section following each section, where the section's vegetation was described. There the term "prairie" may also be found to describe the vegetation of the noted "old fields" and "prairies" as well. The common denominator of the "prairie" and "old field" vegetation notes is "timber scarce", something that would be expected from a previously occupied site. Other common vegetation notes within the "prairie" and "old fields" are the occurrences of "plums", "locusts", "bushes" and "grasses". The plums are an interesting observation as Nairne (Nairne 57) wrote "on the Top of these knolls live the Chicasaws, their houses . . . with their . . . plum trees about them".
An overlay of Figures 1 and 2 offers other perspectives of the 1720 villages and the ‘Present Settlements’. Note that the ‘Present Settlements’ of Figure 1 are included in 1832-34 survey noted prairie and old field areas. Also, note that several of the 1720 villages, notably Chookka Pharaah lies within the surveyor old field noted area. Other 1720 village areas along Coonewah and Chiwapa Creeks also were noted as prairies and/or old fields. It is interesting to observe that the 1832-34 described old fields and prairies provide footprints of the earlier villages.
Other features were recorded by the 1832-34 surveyors' that are relevant to the village locations. The surveyors noted when entering and leaving swamps and when they crossed roads, even providing road bearings on occasion. Figure 3 demonstrates the roads and paths that were recorded. Note that the roads were connected much as the as the prairies and old fields, interpreting between points located on section lines. However an early 15 minute Tupelo (USGS Tupelo 1923) quad map aided connectivity as some roads and paths remained in their noted location. The 1832-34 roads and paths probably existed since ancient times and an overlay of Figure 3 on Figure 1 shows how the paths looked in 1720. Note that two of the roads/paths on Figure 3 are labeled: Natchez Road and Cotton Gin/Bolivar Road. The Natchez Road is now known as the Natchez Trace and the observer will note that the current road is not in the location that it enjoyed in 1832/4.
Figure 4 combines the 1832-34 survey noted swamps and roads with the old fields and prairies. Nairne (Nairne 47, 50) in 1708 noted the large amount of beaver "multitudes of Beavor Dams" among the Chickasaw and suggested that the beaver trade (Crane Appendix 1) be resurrected. We may assume that the 1832/4 swamps existed due to the effort of the beaver and that the swamps looked similarly throughout the eighteenth and into the early nineteenth century. The swamps caused by the beaver were quite extensive and afforded the Chickasaw villages' protection, as will be discussed later.