Prior to the birth of Doublehead in 1744, the area of the Muscle Shoals was the ancestral hunting grounds of the Cherokee. By the 1770’s, Doublehead with the assistance of his warriors would rule the area of the Great Bend with an iron fist for some 40 years. He would fight the northern encroachment of white settlers from his stronghold in the southernmost portion of the Tennessee Valley shoals and become the most influential Chickamauga leader in the Cherokee Nation. He was the last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief to cease hostilities while living along the Muscle Shoals in the Great Bend of the Tennessee River of north Alabama.
From the 1600’s through the early 1800’s, five American Indian tribes claimed the area of the Muscle Shoals which included the Yuchi (Euchean), Creek (Muskogee), Shawnee (Algonquin), Chickasaw (Muskogee), and Cherokee (Iroquois). Doublehead and his Chickamauga warriors would be the last Indians to occupy and control this valuable piece of Tennessee River real estate. Even though there were previous conflicts among the Indian tribes that occupied the area of the Muscle Shoals, Doublehead would work with all of these tribes and form alliances with the remaining remnants to organize the strongest Indian confederacy to ever occupy the Tennessee Valley’s Great Bend.
Raiding parties were organized in this bastion to fight the white settlers illegally invading their hunting grounds and homelands on the Cumberland and upper Tennessee River Valleys. At times as many as 700 Creeks, 300 Shawnees, and others would follow Doublehead on raiding parties. With the assistance of friendly Creeks, Cherokees, Shawnees, Yuchi, mixed-bloods, relatives, and friendly whites, Doublehead enforced his supreme control of the Great Bend and his followers were known as the Chickamaugans or “Ravagers of the Cumberlands”. In his days as a Chickamauga warrior, not one Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, or any other warrior would challenge Doublehead’s authority.
The vast salt licks along the Cumberland River created by many sulphur water springs attracted great herds of buffalo, deer, and other game. These licks were the favorite hunting grounds of Doublehead’s Chickamauga warriors and much blood was shed to save these sacred hunting areas from illegal white encroachment.
Around the early 1770’s, Doublehead moved to the head of Elk River Shoals on the south bank of the Tennessee River in present-day Lawrence County, Alabama. His village was called Doublehead’s Town and was at a river crossing known as Brown’s Ferry, which was located at the upstream end of the Muscle Shoals. He lived at the Brown’s Ferry site until 1802 when he moved to Shoal Town on the north side of the river near the mouth of Blue Water Creek in present-day Lauderdale County, Alabama. Shoal Town is located on Big Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River between Big Nance (Path Killer’s) Creek, Shoal Town Creek, and Blue Water Creek. He lived at Shoal Town from 1802 until his death on August 9, 1807. At Shoal Town, Doublehead had a large trading post or store that sold merchandise to the Chickasaws, Creeks, Shawnees, Cherokees, Yuchi, and white settlers leasing Doublehead’s Reserve.
Doublehead controlled the Carolina trade in the Big Bend and exerted his influence along the Tennessee River from Mississippi, through north Alabama, and into the middle of east Tennessee. The majority of the Carolina traders were Scots-Irish men who had Indian wives while among the Cherokee and Chickasaw. For Doublehead it was no different, since his first two daughters married the same half-blood George Colbert who was the son of a Scots-Irish trader. They lived at the Natchez Trace crossing of the Tennessee River where George ran the ferry. Doublehead’s second two daughters married a Scots-Irish trader by the name of Samuel Riley and they lived near South West Point. Samuel ran a ferry for Doublehead near his home close to the junction of the Clinch River and Tennessee River in east Tennessee.
This is an excerpt from the soon to be released book Doublehead: The Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief by Rickey Butch Walker. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the Cherokee or Indians in general.
Rickey Butch Walker is a north Alabama historian and specialist in Native American and Celtic history. Follow him on his blog at RickeyButchWalker.blogspot.com.