Sunday, August 26, 2012

Christian Priber ~ Cherokees & Traders

The Melungeons, Christian Priber and the Traders

I hope you will follow the many links, I think you will find them fascinating.

Christian Priber left London in June of 1735 and by December was selling all of his worldly goods besides books, papers, pen and ink. He had a land grant along the Santee River in Amelia Twp., close to John Bunch and Mary Gibson, daughter of Hubbard Gibson. In 1731 when Gideon Gibson was called before Governor Johnson it was reported his intentions were to settle on the Santee River also.

The Cherokee Path headed for St. Matthews in Calhoun County. An old map of Amelia Township, later St. Matthews, shows the Cherokee Path running right through the middle of town. More Here


The above map shows the Cherokee Path running through Amelia Twp., and Saxe Gotha, where the Bunch, Gibsons, Cherokee Traders and Christian Priber lived. 

The map at this link shows where Daniel Gibson [yet unidentified] John Gibson, and his son Gilbert lived amongst the early South Carolina Cherokee traders.

Priber witnessed the will of Charles Russell, the Indian trader who was in charge of the old garrison on the Cherokee Trading path.  See this map  showing Patrick and Thomas Brown, also Cherokee traders, for location of the Fort/Garrison. This Cherokee path continued along until it met the famous Occaneechi Path. There is much more information on the path and old garrison found HERE

Within months Priber would be found in the Cherokee town of Tellico where he would spend the next years building his Utopia.

Is it possible the first mixed blood community was born at that Cherokee capital in 1736 at 
Christian Priber's 'Utopia - Kingdom of Paradise'?  It is to my knowledge the earliest documented 'tri racial' community.  Established in 1736 by Christian Priber it was a refugee town of not only Cherokee but remnant tribes, fugitive slaves, both African and Indian, 'disaffected' Germans, French and English, this community existed some seven or eight years before Priber was captured. 


Many histories describe Priber as a French 'Jesuit' but there is no doubt he was from Germany and that he was not a 'Jesuit.' He spoke French fluently and it seems logical that it was Christian Priber that gave the name Melungeons, a French word meaning 'mixture', to the Indian and African slaves, remnant Indians, Germans, etc., that joined his community. It was reported that he had 100 English traders belonging to his society. 

James Adair the Cherokee - Chickasaw trader and author who wrote "The history of the American Indians" in 1775 was an associate/friend/enemy. This same James Adair was the good friend of Gideon Gibson who's son John Gibson was married to Agnes Adair, daughter of James, in the 1760s. The history of James Adair, Gideon Gibson and John and Agnes Adair Gibson can be found HERE.

Vernon W. Crane wrote in "The Lost Utopia on the American Frontier."

After a few years of imprisonment, Priber died. The verdict upon his career has followed too closely the opinion of his enemy, Ludovick Grant: "Thus ended the famous Pryber .... a most Notorious Rogue & inniquitous fellow who if he had been permitted to have lived much longer in that Country would undoubtedly have drawn that nation over to the French Interest." More generous in his judgment was Adair, who likewise regarded Priber as a menace to English dominion in southern America, but who nevertheless affirmed that "he deserved a much better fate."
In 1743 he was arrested and jailed at Frederica -- it is said he married to a daughter of 'the Emporer' Moytoy and left at least one daughter who married to Doublehead. While this is entirely possible there is no evidence he left any children in America. It was reported in the early records by 'eyewitnesses to history' that he did take a Cherokee wife and we could certainly presume he left children by both his German and Indian wife.

Shortly after his arrest in 1743 a treaty was signed at Charleston with Chief Attacullaculla. The Cherokee agreed to trade only with the British, return runaway slaves and expel Non-English whites from their territory, the Cherokee would receive substantial amounts of guns, ammunition, and red paint. It was reported he died shortly after he was captured but some researchers believe he was released and went to live with his beloved Cherokee after Oglethorpe returned to England.

Nine years later the militia of North Carolina would report that while there were 'no Indians' in Bladen County there were living on Drowning Creek 'fifty mixt families' --

The Melungens - The legend of their history which they carefully preserve; ".........that they might be freed from the restraints and drawbacks imposed on them by any form of government. These people made themselves friendly with the Indians and freed, as they were from every kind of social government, they uprooted all conventional forms of society and lived in a delightful 'Utopia' of their own creation.  Is this merely coincidental this 'mixed race' community in East Tennessee who had came over the mountains, neighbors and possibly kin to James Adair, associated with the many Indian traders in Virginia from it's earliest times, report their legend as living in a 'Utopia' of their own creation?


A History of Georgia: From Its First Discovery by Europeans to the Adoption ...‎ - Page 164 by William Bacon Stevens - 1847

While Oglethorpe was thus engaged in Florida, a plot was discovered among the Indians, which threatened serious consequences to all the southern colonies. This was occasioned by the artful intrigues of a German Jesuit named Christian Priber, who was employed by the French to spy out the condition of the English provinces, and to seduce the Cherokees from their allegiance to the English. 
He went up into the nation in 1736, and conforming at once to all their manners and customs, made himself master of their language, and gradually insinuated into their minds a distrust of their allies, a love for the French, and such notions of independence and importance as made them fit to assert rights never before claimed, and which he knew would not be conceded; and upon this anticipated refusal, he based his scheme of bringing them to an open rupture with the English. 
Acting upon their vanity, he got up what in the eyes of the savages was a splendid coronation scene, in which he crowned the chief as king of the confederated towns, and bestowed upon the other head-men and warriors such pompous titles as flattered their pride and stimulated their ambition.
Priber was appointed royal secretary to the King of the Cherokees, and under this official title corresponded with the English Indian agents and the colonial governments. An attempt was made by South Carolina to secure him, and Colonel Fox was sent up as a commissioner to demand him of the Indian authorities; but he had so ingratiated himself with them that they refused, and with such a spirit and resentment that the commissioner was compelled to return without securing his prey. 
His ascendency over the nation was great. He used the Indians as the tools of his machinations, and they looked upon him with feelings of profound veneration, and professed subservience to his scheme of linking their interest to that of the French on the Mississippi and- the Gulf of Mexico. His plans, however, were defeated by his capture at the Tallipoose town, when within a day's journey of the French garrison, to which he was hastening.

This book was published in 1847, a year before the Knoxville paper reprinted the article on the Melungeons - their legend - their Utopia, from the Louisville paper. It is unknown when the Louisville journalist visited Newmans Ridge or when the Kentucky paper actually printed the story. Could this Louisville journalist been involved in the research of William Bacon Stevens, or is this just another mere coincidence? 

Read more about Priber
Verner F. Crane "The Lost Utopia on the American Frontier."
 Sewanee Review, XXVII  (1919)

Boston Evening Post 1763

1 comment:


  1. Hi – It’s good to read such interesting stuff on the Internet as I have been able to discover here.

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