Georgia's Colonial History


Background Information

Tomochichi and his nephew, Toonahawi
Who was Tomochichi?
He was the chief of the Yamacraw Indians, which was part of the Creek Confederacy.
When did he live and die?
He lived in 1644 and died in 1739. He was 95 when he died and was close to becoming a century old.
What did Tomochichi in his life?
He gave James Oglethorpe permission to establish a settlement on Yamacraw Bluff, which became what we know today as Savannah. Tomochichi became Oglethorpe’s important ally Oglethorpe respected him so much that in 1734, he asked him to come back with him to Britain. While in London, Tomochichi met the King and Georgia Trustees. When he came back he later convinced the other local chiefs to welcome the colonists to the New World and trade with them honestly.

Early Life of Tomochichi

Map of Yamacraw Bluff
Little is known about the youth of this warrior and chieftain because of the absence of accurate documentation. About 1728, Tomochichi created his own tribe of the Yamacraws from an assortment of Creek and Yamasee Indians after the two nations disagreed over future relations with the English and the Spanish. His group, approximately two hundred people, settled on the bluffs of the Savannah River because the location was the resting place of his ancestors and had close proximity to English traders. When General James Oglethorpe and his fellow settlers reached the region in February 1733, they realized the need to negotiate fairly with the neighboring Indian tribes or risk the success of their enterprise. Tomochichi had had previous contact with English colonists, making him unafraid yet cautious. The aging warrior had several different options available, but he decided to receive the new arrivals and to give them permission to establish Savannah in order to take advantage of trading and diplomatic connections.

Accomplishments in Georgia

Tomochichi is meeting Oglethrope
During the first five years of English settlement, Tomochichi provided invaluable assistance to the new colony. One year after Oglethorpe's arrival, the Indian chief accompanied him back to England along with a small delegation of family and Lower Creek tribesmen. There, Tomochichi expertly fulfilled the position as mediator for his people during numerous meetings with important English dignitaries. He politely followed English mannerisms in his public appearances while pushing for recognition and realization of the demands of his people for education and fair trade. The same year, Tomochichi and Oglethorpe participated in an expedition to determine the southern boundaries of Georgia and helped mediate interactions with the Spanish. Tomochichi was unable to partake directly in Oglethorpe's negotiations; instead, he lay at home in his village fighting a serious illness.
Tomochichi died on October 5, 1739. His contributions to the colony of Georgia were celebrated with an English military funeral, and the grave site was commemorated with a marker of "a Pyramid of Stone" collected from the vicinity.  It was in this role that he provided his most lasting contributions, a role that both cultures accepted and applauded. The mound of stones honoring his final resting place in Savannah was removed in the early 1880s, and as a replacement, a large granite boulder with a decorative copper plate was installed southeast of the original structure with a dedication ceremony on April 21, 1899. The Georgia Historical Commission later placed a large marker in Savannah's Wright Square, which details the achievements of the Yamacraw chief.

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