Hillis Hadjo or Hilis Hadsho: Creek Indian Chief
Creek Chief, born probably about 1770, and in Autauga town, was the son of David Francis a white trader and silversmith, who lived many years in Autauga Town, and made silver ornaments and implements for the Indians. The name of his mother is not known, and apart from his father, the only other fact recorded as to his family relationship is that he was a half-brother of Sam Moniac. Hillis Hadjo, properly spelled Hilis Hadsho, is the name of an official of the Creek busk; “hilis,” medicine, “hadsho,” crazy. Some corrupt spellings of the name are Hidlis Had- jo, Hillishago, Hillishager, etc. In his youth Josiah Francis learned the silversmith trade of his father. The first recorded public fact of his life is being created a prophet, which was about the latter part of 1812. It took Sukaboo, the great Shawnee prophet, ten days’ work to endow Francis with prophetic powers. When this was completed, Francis was considered the greatest prophet in the Creek Nation. He himself now assumed the role of prophet-maker. He made many prophets, among others, Jim Boy of Atossee. In June, 1813, just before the outbreak of the Creek War, General James Wilkinson of the United States Army, noted the presence of Francis, with a large number of followers, camped at or near the Holy Ground on the Alabama River, evidently making prepara- tions for a war of destruction upon the white and the half-breed Indian settlements in South Alabama. For the purpose of procur- ing ammunition for the oncoming war, early in July, Josiah Francis, commanding the Alabama, Peter McQueen at the head of the Tallassee warriors, and Jim as principal-war chief, commanding the Atossees, with many packhorses took up the line of march from the Holy Ground for Pensacola. They were successful in attaining their object, and on their return march, while encamped on Burnt Corn Creek, they were attacked, on July 2 7, by a body of Americans, under Colonel James Coller, and there was fought what is known as the battle of Burnt Corn. The victory was with the Creeks. This fact and the loss of American prestige in their defeat, no doubt, prompted the Creeks to begin the war on a larger scale. About the middle of Au- gust a great Creek council was held at the Holy Ground. After much debate and de- liberation, it was resolved by the council to divide the Creek forces into two divisions, and with each to make simultaneous at- tacks on Fort Mims and Fort Sinquefield. Hopie Tustenuggee commanded the larger division that was to assault Fort Mims, while Josiah Francis with one hundred and twenty- five warriors was to operate against Fort Sinquefield. On the night of August 30, Francis and his warriors camped in the Wolf’s Den, a large deep ravine three miles east of Fort Madison. Thence, the next day, they moved northward and massacred twelve members of the James and Kimball families, living on Bassett’s creek. The bodies of the dead were, the next day, brought to Fort Sinquefield for burial by a party sent out for that purpose. The day following, September 2, about eleven o’clock, a part of the people were out of the fort engaged in the burial, and a number of the women were at the spring, some engaged in washing, and others who had come there to bring buckets of water back to their families in the fort. The time was propitious for Francis and his warriors, who were advancing in a stooping position to cut off the burial party and the women at the spring. The Creeks were discovered in time, and all, with one exception, made their escape into the fort, upon which a furi- ous attack was made. After two hours’ fight- ing, Francis was repulsed with the loss of eleven warriors slain and many wounded. He then retreated across the Alabama River, where several of the wounded died. There is no record of Josiah Francis in other en- gagements of the Creek War. After the de- feat at the Horseshoe, he and Nehemathla Micco placed their people on the Catoma, not far above the Federal crossing. But they remained there a very short time, for Gen- eral Jackson writing from Fort Jackson on April 18, states “Hillishagee, their great prophet, has absconded.” Francis and his refugee people founded a town near Fort St. Marks, in Florida. Early in 1815 Col- onel Edward Nichols negotiated a treaty with the fugitive Creeks and the Seminoles. This treaty was an offensive and defensive alli- ance between the English government and the Indians, and through it the Creeks in Florida were led to believe that they would secure the restitution of the lands ceded by the treaty of Fort Jackson. Early in the summer following Nichols sailed for London, taking with him Francis and other Indians, Creeks and Seminoles. Nichols hoped that , his treaty would be ratified by the British Foreign Office, but it refused to receive him or even to listen to his proposals. While Colonel Nichols’ treaty was thus ignored by the English government, his friend Francis was treated with much distinction. He was created a colonel in the British army (colon- ial establishment), with a full uniform; was presented with a diamond-studded snuff box, a gold-mounted tomahawk, five hundred pounds in gold, and some jewels for his daughters. He was admitted to an inter- view with the Prince Regent which is thus described by a London journal: “The sound of trumpets announced the approach of the patriot Francis, who fought so gloriously in our cause in America during the late war. Being dressed in a most splendid suit of red and gold, and wearing a tomahawk set with gold gave him a highly imposing appear- ance.” Francis and the other Indians were sent back to Florida, in 1816, by the English government in a sloop of war. It would have been well for Francis had he been content with the honor and glory which he had now received from the English government, and had made peace with the Americans. But the old war spirit was too strong and the close of 1817 found him inciting the refugee Creeks and the Seminoles to war. About this time, an American soldier, named Dun- can McKrimmon, was captured by the In- dians near Fowl Town. He was taken by his captors to Francis’ town, delivered to the chief, who sentenced him to death by the fire torture, in retaliation tor the killing of four Indians by the Americans in their at- tack on Fowl Town. But McKimmon’s life was saved through the entreaties of Francis’ daughter, Malee. (This name is incorrectly given in some books as Milly. Malee is the Indian imperfect articulation of Mary, there being no r in the Choctaw “Muscogee dialects, 1 being used or substituted in its place.) In the following April, Francis and Nehemathla Micco were captured, and without the for- mality of a trial, General Jackson ordered both to be hanged. Nehemathla Micco was justly put to death on the charge of tortur- ing his prisoner, Lieutenant Scott, to death. But it may be questioned whether Francis ought to have been executed on the two charges brought against him, — complicity in the massacres during the Creek War, and for inciting the refugee Creeks to war. As to the first charge, Francis was no more guilty than other Creeks for massacres during the war and whom Gen. Jackson did not punish. As to the other charge, it may be said that he was not a party to the treaty of Fort Jackson, of August, IS 14, a treaty not recognized by the Creeks in Florida. Hence from his point of view he had the right to renew or con- tinue the struggle of the Creeks against the Americans in Florida. Francis is described by an officer of Jackson’s army as “a hand- some man, six feet high; would weigh one hundred and fifty pounds; of pleasing man- ners; conversed well in English and Spanish; humane in his disposition; by no means bar- barous — withal a model chief.” Accepting as true this favorable account of Francis’ char- acter, it may be inferred that, while he him- self was averse to needless barbarity in war, he was unable to control his warriors, as in the case of the Kimball-James Massacre and the killing of Mrs. Phillips at Fort Sinque- field. Francis was survived by his wife and several daughters. His wife was a half- blood, her name not recorded, and said to be a half-sister of William Weatherford. Of his daughters, the name of the youngest, Ma- lee, incorrectly given by some as Milly, has been preserved, and ever will be remembered for the romance, tragedy, and pathos con- nected with it. The story of this Alabama- born girl, her beauty, her accomplishments, her saving the life of McKrimmon, her grief over the execution of her father, her mar- riage to McKrimmon, her subsequent life, — – all surpass in interest the somewhat apocry- phal story of the Virginia-born Pocahontas.
References. — Aleck’s Romantic Passages in Southern History (1857), p. 271; Pickett’s His- tory of Alabama (Owen’s edition, 1900), pp. 514, 515, 521, 544; Woodward’s Reminiscenses of the Creek or Muscogee Indians, 1857, pp. 43, 53, 97; American State Papers, Indian Affairs, vol. i, pp. 850, 853; American State Papers, Military Affairs, vol. i, pp. 700, 745; Buell’s History of Jackson (1904), vol. ii, pp. 122- 125; Parton’s Life of Jackson (1861), vol. ii, pp. 395, 397, 415, 420, 431, 437, 455, 457; Halbert and Ball’s Creek War (1895), pp. 184, 185, 197, 198; Handbook of American Indians