Published on March 9, 2011 by Aquarius
Mary Musgrove Bosomworth (1700-1765), some times called the “Empress of the Creek Nation,” played a vital role in the founding of Georgia in colonial America. The daughter of a Creek Indian mother and a white father, Mary (whose Creek name is Cousaponokeesa) was a shrewd negotiator and a successful trader. As an interpreter for James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia Colony, she helped maintain alliances between the Creek nation and the British at a time when British, French, and Spanish interests in the region were often in conflict.
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Mary Musgrove Bosomworth was born in 1700 at Coweta Town on the Ockmulgee River, in what later became part of the state of Georgia. She was born to the Creek Indian (Muscogean) tribe known as the Wind Clan. Her father was an English-born trader from South Carolina and her mother was a Creek princess, whose brother led an unsuccessful effort to force Europeans out of the region in 1715. Mary lived with her mother’s people until the age of ten when she was brought to South Carolina to spend some years with her father’s family. She was, in her own words, “there baptized, educated, and bred up in the principles of Christianity.” Mary returned to Coweta in 1715.
In the early eighteenth-century, the southeastern region of North America was home to several Native American tribes, including the Creek, Cherokee, and Seminole nations. The Creek were the dominant tribe of a loosely confederated group that numbered about 30,000. By this time, pre-colonial Georgia had also been settled by Spanish missionaries and French and English traders. Each nation hoped to exploit the resources of this rich territory. Gaining the support of the Creek nation was critical for this mission. In 1716, the British government commissioned Colonel Musgrove, a South Carolina official, to visit and establish a treaty of peace between the English and Creek Nation. The Colonel’s son, John, accompanied his father on the trip and there met Mary, who was about 16 years old. They married and set up a trading post on the Yamacraw Bluff overlooking the Savannah River. The young couple enjoyed a trading monopoly in the area. Both the Creeks and Charleston merchants used their services to facilitate trade.