Mary Musgrove Matthews Bosomworth (Coosaponakesee)

Mary Interpreting for General OglethorpeMary & Rev. Bosomworth Negotiate

Mary Interpreting For
General Oglethorpe &
Chief Tomochichi
Mary & Rev. Bosomworth
Negotiating With Province
President in Savannah

Drawings © Stories of Georgia, Joel Chandler Harris

Text By Beverly L. Pack

Mary Musgrove was a half-breed Yamacraw Indian of the Muscogean Tribe. Her Indian name was Coosaponakesee. Her father was a white trader and her mother a Yamacraw Indian. Mary's mother was a sister of Emperor Biem who had tried, in the terrible war in 1715, to drive the white man out of the southeast. She had been sent to South Carolina when she was ten years old to go to school. Mary could speak both Creek and English.

Mary was a tiny woman about five feet tall, wore her hair in two long braids with a band of beads across her forehead, and a feather stuck into the band. She married John Musgrove, a white trader who was the son of a South Carolina official. Mary and John's trading post was Mount Venture located on the Altamaha River.

On February 12, 1733 General James Edward Oglethorpe (founder of the colony of Georgia) sailed with four small boats down the coast and up the Savannah River to his new home. (Georgia was the first colony to be established in the 18th century.) When he landed at Yamacraw Bluff, he used Mary (who was about 33 years old at this time) as his interpreter for the first meeting with the Yamacraw Chief (or Mico), Tomochichi, an imposing man six feet tall and 90 years of age. (Tomochichi was very interested in Oglethorpe's gun, which he called a "fire stick'. He remained a fast friend to Oglethorpe until his death in 1739.) Since she regarded and believed in the white man strongly, she was very influential in convincing the Yamacraw Indians to support General Oglethorpe in the settling of Georgia. General Oglethorpe regarded Mary as a valuable interpreter and employed her for a yearly salary of one hundred pounds sterling, which in that day was equal to a great deal more than five hundred dollars. But, Mary earned all that was paid to her and more.

Not only did she interpret for General Oglethorpe, but she also aided in concluding treaties and aided in securing warriors from the Creek nation in the war that occurred between the colonists and the Spaniards who occupied Florida.

When Oglethorpe left Georgia in 1743 (1742 ?) he gave Mary a ring from his finger. After malaria claimed four of Mary's sons and her husband John, she married a man named Matthews, who also died. In 1744 she married Thomas Bosomworth, who was previously the chaplain to Oglethorpe's regiment. Reverend Bosomworth was a very shrewd individual. Up until her marriage to Bosomworth, Mary had never closed to labor for the good of the colony. After her marriage to Thomas, her conduct was such as to keep the whites in constant fear of massacre and extermination.

Bosomworth set about winning the Creek Indians to his devious ways. He convinced Malatche (brother of Mary) to have himself proclaimed as emperor of the Creek nation. Then he procured from the Creek emperor a deed of conveyance to he and Mary of the islands of Ossabaw, Sapelo, and St. Catherine. Thomas then convinced the Creek nation to proclaim Mary as the "Empress of Georgia." He used Mary's influence and previous rapport to his own good.

Mary, having won support of all the Indians, made instant demand for surrender of all the lands that had belonged to the Upper and Lower Creek Indians. In August 1749 while meeting in Savannah, Mary and Thomas were privately arrested due to debts Thomas owed in South Carolina for cattle. The Indian Chiefs and council president met on several occasions to negotiate the return of lands to the Indians. Bosomworth repented of his folly, wrote to the council president apologizing for his wanton conduct.

During this time Thomas continually fought to secure the money owed Mary for her services when she was working for General Oglethorpe. Around 1759 (1757 ?), Governor Ellis settled Mary's claims by giving her 450 pounds sterling for goods she had expended in the King's service. She was also allowed 1650 pounds sterling for her services as agent. In addition, she was given 2000 pounds sterling from the auction sale of Ossabaw and Sapelo. A grant of St. Catherine Island was also made to Mary Bosomworth for her many good deeds she did for the Colonists in her better days before her mind had been poisoned by Reverend Bosomworth. The Bosomworths lived there for the rest of their lives and are buried there.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Harris, Joel Chandler, Stories of Georgia; Spartanburg, SC; The Reprint Company, 1972 (originally printed 1896).

  • Mitchell, Peggy (aka Margaret Mitchell), Georgia's Empress and Women Soldiers, The Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine; Atlanta, GA; May 20, 1923, p. 15.

  • McCullar, Bernice, This Is Your Georgia; Montgomery, AL; Viewpoint Publications, 1968.

  • Georgia Journeys 1732-1754, by Sarah B. Gober Temple and Kenneth Coleman; Athens, GA; University of GA Press, 1961.

  • A History of Georgia, by Kenneth Coleman, ed.; Athens, GA; University of GA Press, 1977.

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