George Mayfield (1779-1848) - Indian Interpreter and Scout of
By Phil Norfleet
MARYMAUD KILLEN CARTER'S ACCOUNT
I found Marymaud Killen Carter's account,
contained in her book "Fifteen Southern Families," concerning George Mayfield to
be particularly fascinating. George, a grandson of James Mayfield (d. 1780), was
kidnapped by Creek Indians on 10 March 1789 and held in the Creek Nation for
many years. In August 1997, I visited the TN State Library and Archives and
attempted to obtain copies of certain letters, cited by Mrs. Carter, purportedly
written by George's mother to various TN and United States officials concerning
obtaining the release of George from the Creeks. I was unsuccessful - the
librarian said that Mrs. Carter's description of the letters provided
insufficient reference data for them to be located in the TN archives. I
personally searched the published versions of the William Blount Papers and
Andrew Jackson Papers for any mention of George Mayfield, but could find none.
After his release, George Mayfield served as an interpreter to Andrew Jackson
during the Creek War (1813-1814); at the peace negotiations ending that war,
George was given 640 acres of land by the Creek chiefs. However, neither Jackson
nor the U. S. Government allowed him to take possession of the land. He later
filed several petitions with the United States Congress asking that he be
granted title to the land.
LOWELL NICHOLS CORRESPONDENCE
The following is an excerpt from an E-Mail I
received from Lowell Nichols on 20 December 1997, containing further information
and speculation about George Mayfield:
have a copy of the LInton, IN "Citizen" of 14 November 1914 which has a first
person interview with Nancy Helen MAYFIELD Tincher. She was 100 years old at the
time and in this article she recalls many of the facts of her lineage. She
remembers well her Great grandfather who was captured by the Indians and held
captive for 2 1/2 years (that would have been Elijah). She just might have meant
George who was her father. At 100 years old she appeared to be sharp but
then....She died at the age of 104. She states she was living at the time with
her nephew Joseph Marion GOODMAN who was my Great Grandfather. I remember him
well. He died during my 16th year and I drove my grandfathers car to the
I too have looked for the papers mentioned by Mary Maud Killen Carter and have
never been successful at any location.
Another interesting factor has come up from time to time. That being that
somewhere in this lineage is some Indian blood. One of the theories expressed is
that George was an Indian or at least part Indian. I do know that my Great
Grandmother Martha MAYFIELD who married Joseph Marion GOODMAN was an Indian. Her
father was Elijah MAYFIELD (son of George) and her mother was Virginia MAYFIELD.
Virginia was a sister to Lucinda MAYFIELD who was the mother of Joseph Marion
Yep, Martha and Joseph were first cousins. Still leave me out in the dark as to
where the Indian blood comes from. ...
LETTERS OF BENJAMIN HAWKINS
following quotations, concerning George Mayfield, are excerpts from two letters
of Benjamin Hawkins, who, in 1795, had been appointed by George Washington as
one of the three commissioners to the Creek Nation:
1st Letter - Dated 21 May 1797
lives on Mill Creek, 12 miles from Nashville; he married Mrs. Mayfield; her son
George Mayfield is with John O'Kelly on the Coosa, and has been for 7 or 8
years, and was taken prisoner when his father was killed. I rote [sic] a letter
of this date to Mrs. Lamons by her husband; on better information, he lives with
Procter, at Pocuntallehope.
2nd Letter - Dated 30 May 1798
I told the chiefs
[of the upper towns] a young man at Epucenau Tallauhassee, by the name of
Mayfield, must be ordered to visit his friends, and that the little girl at
Occhois, daughter of Mrs. Williams, must be delivered to me.
They answered Mayfield had been long at liberty to go where he pleased and that
he must go and see his friends.
RETURN TO WHITE SOCIETY
In the year
1800, George Mayfield returned to the Nashville area, married and commenced life
as a farmer in Williamson County.
THE CREEK WAR
Creek War of 1813-1814, George Mayfield served as an interpreter for the
commander of the American forces, Andrew Jackson. At the conclusion of the war,
during the treaty negotiations which took place at Fort Jackson in 1814, George
was given 640 acres (one section or square mile) of land by the Creek Chiefs.
Unfortunately for him, the U. S. Government would not allow the gift.
Accordingly, George made several petitions to Congress requesting that he be
allowed to take title to the 640 acre reservaton.
First Session of the 22nd Congress, his claim was finally given a favorable
review by the House Committee on Public Lands. The Committee's letter, sent to
the House of Representatives, is quoted below:
Communicated to the House
of Representatives January 13, 1832
Mr. Clay, from the Committee on Public Lands who were instructed to "inquire
into the expediency of authorizing a patent to issue to George Mayfield for six
hundred and forty acres of land," reported:
That the said George Mayfield, in the year 1789, when he was about ten years of
age, was taken prisoner by a party of Creek Indians. His father and elder
brother were killed by the same party of Indians. He was adopted into an Indian
family and continued to reside with them in the nation till about the year 1800,
when he was prevailed upon to make a visit to his family and friends, residing
in Tennessee, where he was captured, but without any intention on his part to
abandon the Indians. He had during his captivity forgotten his own and acquired
the language of the Indians and had contracted a fondness for their mode of
life, but the influence of his friends and the stength of his returning
affections for his mother and brethren finally determined him to remain with
them. He soon regained some knowledge of his native tongue, has since married,
and is now the father of a large family of children.
By the death of his father and elder brother, George and a younger brother
inheirited a considerable real estate, but his early habits and education among
the Indians had taught him to place little value on a separate property in land
and his generous feelings toward his mother and sisters induced him to
relinquish to them his whole interest in his father's estate, except eighty
acres. Upon this small tract in the State of Tennessee, and near the spot where
his father and brother were murdered, he now resides.
When the disturbances commenced with the Creek Indians, during the late war, the
commanding general of the Tennessee troops at once thought of George Mayfield as
qualified to be of great service by his knowledgeof the enemy's country and
language. Expectation was not disappointed; throughout the Creek War he proved
himself a faithful and intrepid soldier, and performed the most perilous and
essential services as a guide, interpreter, and spy. He was wounded in the right
shoulder by a rifle ball in the battle of the Horse-shoe.
Such was the high estimation in which Mayfield was held by the Creeks generally,
that at the treaty of Fort Jackson, in the year 1814, notwithstanding the active
part he had taken in the war which had just terminated, the chiefs of the war
party, as well as those who had remained friendly to the whites, united in a
voluntary request that a reservation of six hundred and forty acres of land
should be secured to him in the treaty, as a testimony of their respect and
affection for him, contracted during his residence among them. That part of the
treaty which was intended to grant the reservation was not ratified, probably
because it embraced other reservations which were not sustained by services
equally meritorious or on any grounds of public policy. From the evidence before
them, the committee do not believe that the proposed reservation was the result
of any management or contrivance on the part of Mayfield, but are of the opinion
that it was the spontaneous offer of the chiefs of the nation, as well in
consideration of former attachments as of services rendered in facilitationg
negotiations for peace between their nation and the United States. Under this
view of the facts, the committee conclude that the claim is well-founded, and
accordingly ask leave to report a bill.
letter has been published in Volume 6, pages 346-347, of "American State Papers:
Land Grants and Claims (1789-1837)." George Mayfield's claim was finally
approved by both houses of Congress, on 30 January 1833, over a year after the
favorable report by the Committee on Public Lands was issued.
THE CREEK LAND GIFT AS DESCRIBED BY JAMES PARTON
Congressional Committee report, cited above, does not provide the full story
concerning the Creek land gift to George Mayfield, which occurred during the
treaty negotiations at Fort Jackson. Not only was George given one section of
land, but General Andrew Jackson, Colonel Benjamin Hawkins (the Creek Indian
Agent) and the other interpreter, Alexander Cornells, were also given land.
One of the principal biographers of Andrew Jackson, James Parton, in Volume I of
his "Life of Andrew Jackson" (published in 1861), at pages 549-560, tells us the
This treaty of Fort
Jackson, like every other event of Jackson's career, was subjected to
unrelenting criticism in later years, and thus a flood of light was poured upon
it which revealed many particulars, creditable to the commissioners, that might
otherwise have been forgotten The conditions imposed upon the helpless creeks
were apparently hard. ... Jackson demanded a prodigious cession of territory,
... nothing remained but for the Creeks to yield to the hard necessity of their
lot, and consent to sign the treaty. Before signing, however, another scene more
curious than the last occurred between the chiefs and the American officers--a
scene which, in later years, was made the basis of attacks both upon the
integrity and good sense of General Jackson. In the official minutes of the
treaty, attested by Colonel Hawkins, and afterwards presented to Congress, I
find the following account of this singular and interesting affair. On the
morning of the 8th of August, the chiefs assembled and sent a messenger to
request General Jackson and Colonel Hawkins to visit them, as they had something
particular to communicate. On the arrival of the commissioners, some further
conversation took place respecting boundaries, after which one of the Chiefs
addressed the General as follows:--
The points now about boundary are pretty well settled and we will sign it; but
before we do it and yield it up, we have something to say to you. ... We, the
Creek nation, give you three miles square of land to be chosen where you like,
from what we are going to give up. We wish you to take it where you like, and as
near us as you can; as, if we have need of you, you will be near, to aid and
advise us. We give you this in remembrance of the important services you have
done us, and as a token of the gratitude of the nation.
There is a man near
you, Colonel Hawkins; the same we give him, three miles square. ... We do this
as a token of the gratitude of the nation.
There is standing by you George Mayfield, a white man raised in our own land, a
good and true man, an interpreter. We give him one square mile of land near you,
that you may have an interpreter at hand if we need of you to talk with you.
Here is an old interpreter, thirty years in our service. Alexander Cornells, we
give him one mile square of land to sit down on, where he selects, near Colonel
Hawkins, that he may continue his usefulness to us.
To this address General Jackson replied, according to the official report, that
'he should accept this national mark of regard, if approved by the President,
and he (the president) might, if he would appropriate its value to aid in
clothing their naked women and children. He was well pleased they had noticed
their old friend, Colonel Hawkins, and his children born among them, and their
conduct on this head towards him and them was much to the credit of the nation.
...' On the day following, the instrument conveying the land was drawn up by an
interpreter, signed by the principal chiefs, and presented to General Jackson,
who received and preserved it. This instrument ... proceeded thus:--
First. Wishing to give a national mark of gratitude to Major General Andrew
Jackson ... we give and grant him, and his heirs for ever, three square miles of
Second. Our nation feel under obligations to Colonel Benjamin Hawkins, our
agent, and to Mrs. Lavinia Hawkins, his wife, ...we, as a token of gratitude,
give and grant to Colonel Hawkins, ... three square miles of land ...
Third. We give to
George Mayfield, an interpreter with General Jackson, a white man raised in our
land, one square mile of land, where he may select, as a mark of our respect for
his honesty and usefulness to us as an interpreter.
Fourth. We give and grant to Alexander Cornells, a half-breed, an old and
faithful interpreter, who has been long in the public service, one mile square
of land, at his option, to be located by him.
We finally request, that the government of the United States will ratify the
foregoing acts of national gratitude, and by suitable deeds of conveyance to
enable the parties to receive and hold the said lands, agreeable to our
intentions as herein expressed.
... The subject was brought before Congress in 1816, when Jackson was at the
zenith of the greatest popularity enjoyed by any citizen of the United States
since the days of General Washington. President Madison called attention to the
matter in a special message. ... said the President, ... I recommend to Congress
that provision be made for carrying into effect the wishes of the Indians.
Congress differed from the President, and the recommendation was never complied
CHILDREN AND LAND OF GEORGE MAYFIELD
five children. They are named in a Williamson County Court record, dated May
1857, as follows:
... George Mayfield
departed this life intestate in March 1848 leaving children: George A. J.
Mayfield, Robert C. Mayfield, Sutherland S. Mayfield, Peter P. Mayfield and
Elizabeth Ann Cameron, dec'd. who left a child, Mary Ann Cameron. Peter P.
Mayfield departed this life in July 1850 intestate, unmarried and without issue.
Sutherland s. Mayfield was appt. admr. of the estate. George Mayfield owned a
tract of land in Coahoma Co., Miss. containing 640 acres and is said to be fine
cotton land and very valuable. About 200 acres is cleared and has a cotton gin
and mill. The title of the land has been in litigation since 1849 or 1850 in the
Federal Court. _____ Wilkerson is in possession of the land. George Mayfield,
about 16 Aug. 1839 was the owner of two tracts of land; one in Davidson County
containing 160 acres on Mill Cr. and the other in Williamson Co. on Little
Harpeth containing 60 acres. He owned a life estate in a 77 acre tract of land
adjoining the 60 acre tract. ... George Mayfield had made partial arrangements
to go to Miss. to make a division of his estate among his children. ...
[Quote taken from "Miscellaneous Records Williamson County, Tennessee Volume 7"
(published 1987), abstracted by Louise Gillespie Lynch]
GEORGE MAYFIELD'S OBITUARY
obituary appearing in the "Western Weekly Review" of Williamson County TN,
George Mayfield died on 23 March 1848 in Yalobusha County, Mississippi. It
should be noted that Donald Cameron was the editor of said newspaper at that
time. George's daughter, Elizabeth Ann Mayfield had been the wife of Cameron
until her death on 18 February 1845.