DeSoto County Chickasaw Indians
Retyped by Tim Harrison, Genealogical Society of DeSoto County
(The following is a retyping of Chapter VI from the W.P.A. history of DeSoto County, completed in 1936. A copy is located at the First Regional Library, Hernando, MS).
Major and Minor Tribes
The major Indian tribe which inhabited DeSoto County was the Chickasaw, and this splendid clan is worthy of the praise given them in the following words of Albert James Pickett:
The Chickasaws have never been conquered. They could not be defeated by DeSoto with his Spanish army in 1541; by Bienville with his French army and Souther Indians, in 1736; by D'Artaguette with his French army and northern Indians; by the Marquis De Vaudreuil with his French troops and Choctaws, in 1732; nor by the Creeks, Cherokees, Kickapoos, Shawnees, nor Choctaws, who continually waged war against them. No, they were bravest of the brave; and even when they had migrated to the territory of Arkansas not many years ago, they soon subdued some tribes who attacked them in that quarter.
Customs and Characteristics
Many writers have expressed surprise at the wonderful achievements of the Chickasaws in their contests for supremacy with other Indian tribes of larger numbers, and with the French at many different times. Their success may have been due, in great measure, to the fact that they put into practice the aphorism, "in unity there is strength."
While the primitive Chickasaws were deeply religious people, we have seen that probably they were less superstitious than any other tribe of Indians. When they went to battle, it was with that religious fervor and zeal which often counts for so much in winning a war.
Bertram says: "They are honest, liberal and hospitable to strangers; considerate, loving and affectionate to their wives and relations, and fond of their children; frugal, temperate, persevering, charitable and forebearing. It might be observed that the moral character of the Chickasaw women was above reproach and they were regarded highly by the men. It was their purpose to keep the Chickasaw blood 100% pure."
James M. Malone says: "The Chickasaws are very warlike; they are fierce, and have a high opinion of themselves. They seem to be the remains of a populous nation whose warlike disposition prompted them to invade several nations, which they have indeed destroyed, but not without diminishing their own numbers by those expeditions.
"What induces me to believe that this nation was formerly very considerable, is that the nations who border upon them, and whom I have just mentioned, speak the Chickasaw language, though somewhat corrupted, and those who speak it bost, value themselves upon it."
Origin of the Two Tribes
H.B. Cushman, in his "History of the Choctaw, Chickasaws, and Natchez Indians" says:
That in 1820 aged Choctaws related to the missionaries that their ancestors, in a remote period, lived far to the West and moved to the East because they were oppressed by a more powerful people.
The nation started forth, after much deliberation and discussion, under the leadership of two brothers, Chocta and Chickasa, both equally renowned for their bravery and wisdom. The tribe was guided in its wanderings by a pole which they erected each night at their camp, and which was seen leaning to the east each morning by the wandering Indians, until the Mississippi River was reached.
Again, they set up the pole; once more, it pointed eastward. Ever faithful to their belief, the wanderers constructed canoes and rafts, by which, in a few weeks, they were able to cross the river. They continued their pilgrimage until Nanih Naiya was reached; here the pole remained upright and here they erected a large mound.
There are several versions as to the manner in which the Chickasaws reached their home in what is now North Mississippi. All agree, however, that the Chickasaws belonged to the Muskhogean family of Indians, the name being variably spelled as Muscogee, Muskogee, Muskhegies, Muscogulges, etc. History seems to point to Mexico as the former home of the Muskhogeans.
James Adair has written: "The Chickasaws and the Choctaws were the descendants of a people called Chickamacams, who were the first inhabitants of the Mexican empire, and at an ancient period wandered eastward and cross the Mississippi River with 10,000 warriors."
James H. Malone sums up facts concerning their origin in these words: "I think it may be safely concluded that the Chickasaws, Choctaws, and in fact the entire Muskhogean family, in remote times, came to the country now comprising the Gulf States, and reaching the Atlantic Ocean, from the far west; and, in all probability, from what is now the Mexican Republic, and more remotely from Asia."
"The ancient manner of Chickasaw courtship was not very taxing upon the sensitiveness of the bashful, prospective groom; when he wished to make known to any young lady of his tribe the emotions of his heart in regard to her, he had but to send a small bundle of clothing carefully tied up in a large cotton handkerchief (similar to a medium-sized table cloth), by his mother or sister, to the girl he desired to make his wife. This token of love was immediately possessed by the mother of the bride and kept for a few days before proffering it to her daughter; if accepted when presented, it was a bona fide acknowledgment on her part of her willingness to accept him as her husband; if otherwise, the disappointed and disconsolate swain found consolation in the fact that he had the privilege of presenting another bundle of clothes wrapped in similar manner, to some other forest beauty. When he had found favor, the elated lover painted his face in conformity to the latest and most approved style, donned his best suit, and with fluttering heart, sought the home of his betrothed. She met him a few rods from the door, and proudly and heroically escorted him into the house where they, themselves, in the presence of friends and relatives, performed the marriage ceremony. The man presented the woman with a ham of venison or a part of some other edible animal of the chase; she, at the same time, presented him with an ear of corn or sack of potatoes, all of which betokened that the man would provide the household with meat and the woman would supply the bread. Thus, they were made man and wife."
Mounds, Location and Present Condition
The largest mound in DeSoto County, five miles northwest of Walls, is the one on which the home of Dick Cheatham is built. It is approximately 7 feet high with a gradual slope toward the road; three others are located along the levee, several miles west of the above mentioned one; one of these is about 20 feet in diameter and 12 feet high, and presents the appearance of having been excavated. It is 100 yards from a negro church, on the Howard plantation, and at its base is a negro graveyard. About one-fourth mile from this mound are two others, 18 and 15 feet high; a base of about 14 feet; there are others elsewhere, varying in size from 5 to 7 feet.
Mrs. Addie Brown of Eudora, on November 2, 1935, related the following facts on Indian mounds and relics of DeSoto County:
In 1903, Mr. and Mrs. Brown moved to Blyth, which is now known as Lake Cormorant, (the name having been changed in 1905 in honor of the lake), a quarter of a mile northeast of the town.
Mrs. Brown said that about one mile north of Lake Cormorant, the Y & M.V. Railroad cut through a large Indian mound, and in 1905, Mr. Brown, with Dr. Brooks of Memphis, made excavations into it. Among their finds were several small dolls, varying in size from three to five inches, seemingly made of red clay, with distinct carved features. There were, also, a number of broken pieces of Indian ware, and one unbroken pot, molded of clay and carved in flowers. This pot would hold about one quart. Quite a number of arrow-heads and fragments of skeletons were found, and one tomahawk, which was made of bronze-colored flint; Mrs. Brown sold this tomahawk to a boy in Memphis who was collecting Indian relics. She still has an assortment of arrow-heads. Dr. Brooks carried the other things to Memphis.
Just above the place where the railroad cut the mound, the lake divides; one branch goes out toward the Bass plantation and is known as Norfolk, for which Norfolk Landing, on the Mississippi River, takes its name. The other branch goes to the east, and near it another Indian mound was found. Mr. Brown and Mr. Henley dug about 15 feet into it, but all they found were human skeletons and square iron nails.
Four miles west of the village of Walls and in sight of the levee is a large cemetery from which much pottery and artifacts have been taken. Many bones, flakes, potsherd, skulls and bones have been found one and one-half feet beneath the surface.
Five miles south of Walls and one mile north-east of Lake Cormorant are some five or six mounds from which pottery and pipes have been found.
When the Electric light-pole was set at the corner of O'Dell Sander's store the men had only dug a short distance when they began to bring out potsherds, bones, and pipes.
John Crawford, a Cherokee Indian, had an exhibition of Indian relics at the court house on June 23, 1904. These relics were found in an Indian mound near Lake Cormorant. Crowfoot, who came from Tallequah, Indian Territory, spent several months excavating these relics and most of them he sent to the Smithsonian Institute at Washington.
These curiosities consisted chiefly of pots, vases, bowls, tomahawks, and arrow heads. The relics were taken from the Indian graveyard, and Crowfoot claimed that he had a chart on which this graveyard was marked. By the aid of this chart he found the graves of the Indians, and, using a probe, he located the skeleton of an Indian. Digging into the ground he found the relics around the head of the skeleton, placed there according to the Indian custom of burying all valuables with the body of the person who owned them during life.
Nearly all of the skeletons dug up are in a good state of preservation.
Mussacunna - and "Legend of the Singing Winds"
A most interesting legend is woven around the powerful and influential Indian Chief, Mussacunna, of the tribe of the Chickasaws in the days of long ago. Although he has passed on to his "Happy Hunting Ground," the beautiful creek which bears his name murmurs and ripples along its banks as of old and sings a requiem to the soul of this departed warrior. The legend and facts as given by Mrs. R.P. Cook of Hernando are as follows:
Mussacunna was considered rich in worldly possessions and great was his name as a hunter and warrior. His domain was in DeSoto County and today in the records file at the court house in Hernando are many transfers of land made by him to the earliest white settlers.
Mussacunna Creek that runs southwest from near Hernando and into Coldwater River was named after the chief. On a fertile piece of land adjoining this creek about three miles southwest of Hernando Mussacunna raised his best Indian corn and the spot is well known to citizens near here today as Mussacunna's corn land.
Mussacunna was descended from a long line of famous red men and there is no doubt that he was a giant among the other Indians. Records of his handwriting and business deals shows him to have been a well educated man. He owned thousands of acres of rich land between Hernando and Coldwater River and ruled his tribe with an iron hand.
At one time there was a post office south of here called Mussacunna.
With the coming of the white man, Mussacunna saw the beginning of the end for the Chickasaw nation and the setting sun for the red man. No more tribal feasts were held and the tom-toms beat no more.
With his business ability he traded and bargained with the 'pale face.' He disposed of most of his original tract of land and settled down on a small homestead to await the summons to the happy hunting ground. There he died and was buried near the banks of the stream that bears his name.
The Indian name, Mussacunna, is said to mean 'singing winds.' On still summer nights the singing winds that sway the branches of the cypress and willows along the banks of Mussacunna and possibly his ghost returns from his happy hunting grounds to roam once more over his possessions of long ago.
Bertram, William, "Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida."
Cushman, H.B. "History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Natchez Indians."
Malone, James H. "The Chickasaw Nation."
Pickett, Albert James "History of Alabama and Incidentaly of Georgia and Mississippi."
Mrs. Mae Westerman, Hernando, Mississippi.
Mrs. Adie Brown, Eudora, Mississippi.
The Times Promoter, June 24, 1904.
Mrs. R.P. Cook, Hernando, Mississippi.
The Times-Promoter, June 24, 1904.
DeSoto County Coordinator: Tim Harrison
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