By WINSTON SKINNER
Billie Jane McIntosh’s ongoing interest in her Creek heritage has led to her third book – a biography of Chief William McIntosh, in whose honor Coweta County was named.
McIntosh has a particular insight into the family’s story, being the great-great-great-granddaughter of the half-Scots chief. Coweta County was named in his honor as chief of Coweta, a Creek town near the present site of Columbus.
“Chief William McIntosh, Mvskoke Creek Warrior” was published earlier this year by Light Technology Publishing.
McIntosh, who lives in Arizona, first delved into her family’s rich history for “Ah-Ko-Kee, American Sovereign” in 2002. That book told the story of Chief McIntosh’s oldest daughter, Jane, who was briefly married to the son of a Georgia governor and later became a trading post operator in what is now Oklahoma.
In 2008, a second book followed, “From Georgia Tragedy to Oklahoma Frontier – A Biography of Scots Creek Indian Chief Chilly McIntosh.” Chilly McIntosh, Chief McIntosh’s son, was a minister who preached to Indians of several tribes after making his way westward. It is from Chilly that Billie Jane McIntosh is descended.
Along the way, Billie Jane McIntosh visited Newnan, was the guest of honor at a luncheon in Senoia – which is named for Chief McIntosh’s mother, spoke about Chilly at a Meriwether County church and read to children at the library in Whitesburg. The author spent time at McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County, where the chief had a home and was killed. She also visited Fort Mitchell in Alabama, which also has McIntosh ties.
Then Billie Jane McIntosh connected with Matt Collins, who has been interested in seeing a film made about Chief William McIntosh’s life.
In 2014, Collins talked about why he ultimately turned the screenplay over to Billie Jane McIntosh.
“I wanted to write it, but – at the end of the day – I couldn’t feel like I could do it justice,” he said. “Billie Jane brought two things to the table – credibility and source materials.”
Collins talked about her wealth of knowledge and well-researched information – as well as her deep understanding of Creek culture and daily life.
That knowledge and understanding has brought Billie Jane McIntosh back where she started – looking intently at the life of Chief William McIntosh, who was killed by dissatisfied Creeks after their land was sold for white settlement.
“It was his life – Chief William McIntosh’s life – that first attracted me. That’s who everybody was doing family trees about,” Billie Jane McIntosh said last week.
“I thought, ‘He’s been written about.’ I didn’t think I’d ever really go there,” she reflected.
After the previous two books and the screenplay project, however, she changed her mind.
“I started thinking, ‘Why don’t I just go ahead and write a book about him and get that in the works?’” she remembered.
While Chief McIntosh has been the subject of several popular and scholarly books, his descendant had something new to offer. “I have several things that have not been written about much,” she said.
She noted that the original Treaty of Indian Springs, which the chief signed and for which he was killed, “was never actually used.” A second treaty was prepared that ultimately divided the former Creek lands and opened them to settlement.
In her latest book, McIntosh also went into detail about how many of those who were behind his death quickly changed their minds about him and his true intentions.
“He was killed because people really weren’t ready for it,” McIntosh said, noting that a year later, those who killed him accepted a settlement that offered the tribe less money than the chief had negotiated.
William McIntosh was pulled by many forces – his white relatives who were among Georgia’s most prominent and powerful citizens and his mother’s Creek family.
“I tried to think about how he would have been thinking. It was an extra tragedy. His life was so mixed up – all these voices coming from all sides,” McIntosh said.
“I became more admiring of him with the writing.”
“Chief William McIntosh: Mvskoke Creek Warrior” includes several appendices. Creek Nation laws related to the chief are included, and there are lists of property lost by members of the McIntosh family when McIntosh was murdered.
Several genealogical charts are also included.
In addition, Billie Jane McIntosh put together a chapter on the women in Chief McIntosh’s life, particularly his three wives, Eliza, Suzannah and Peggy. Eliza was the daughter of trader Robert Greison, for whom Greison Trail is named.
“It seems like there are lots of blank spaces in the story. People just don’t know anything about the women. Documents don’t say anything much about the women,” McIntosh said.
“They were extraordinary women,” she added. “They really were.”
McIntosh said the entry of Christian teaching led the Creeks to become monogamous, but she handled the polygamous nature of Creek life in the chief’s time in a matter-of-fact way.
“I tried not to make any judgements about the marital situation,” she said.
With the book about the chief – and the screenplay – behind her, Billie Jane McIntosh is looking for a new project.
She said she had to read about screenplays in order to take on that project. “I wasn’t attracted to that idea to begin with because I’d never written a screenplay,” she said.
With regard to a movie about the chief, she is letting Collins handle things. “I’ve left that really in his hands,” she said.
McIntosh, who holds a master’s degree from North Arizona University, is toying with the idea of a memoir. “I’ve got a lot of stories I could put in something like that,” she said.
She also might put together some poetry. “I like the idea of working with words and ideas,” she said. “I do think I need to get started on something.”