1124: Mary Musgrove

Helped Found the Colony of Georgia (Now the State of Georgia in the United States of America)

Born: c.1700, Coweta, Creek Nation (Present-day Georgia, United States of America)

Died: c.1763, St. Catherines Island, Colony of Georgia (Present-day St. Catherines Island, Georgia, United States of America)

Also Known As: Coosaponakeesa

Mary’s father was an English trader, and her mother was a member of the Creek Native American tribe. Because of her dual heritage, Mary was able to facilitate talks between the two peoples, as well as working as a successful trader and interpreter.

Mary spent the first years of her life living among her mother’s people in the Muscogee Creek Nation, but when she was about seven years old, Mary’s father took her and her brother to South Carolina, where Mary leaned English and changed her name from her Creek name, listed above, to the English name Mary.

In 1717, Mary married an English trader and they had three children, though all of them died soon after their births. Mary and her husband set up a trading post where they worked together. Mary took on additional work as an interpreter.

From 1733 to 1743, Mary worked as an interpreter for General James Oglethorpe, one of the founding charter members of the Georgia Colony. After two years with Oglethorpe, Mary’s husband died, buts he continued her work with the general. Around this same time, Mary was instrumental in helping found the city of Savannah in Georgia.

At the time of her husband’s death, he owned several hundred acres of land in both South Carolina and Georgia, as well as various other assets. The laws of the colonies at the time stated that a widow could only lay claim to her husband’s lands until her eldest son became old enough to inherit the lands. Because all of Mary’s children were dead, she married again in 1737, most likely because her new husband would be able to keep her lands for her.

The reason why historians believe this was why she married again? Mary’s new husband was one of her indentured servants and was a good many years younger than her. This was no love match, but it did the trick.

That is, until hubby #2 died in 1742. Once again Mary was at risk of losing everything, which now included a new trading post she had started with her second husband. Mary married for a third time, this time to a reverend. Hubby #3 ensured Mary rose through the ranks of Georgian society (something unheard of for a Native American before Mary), and together they traveled to various native communities working as mediators between the natives and the English settlers.

After a few years, the Creek nation bestowed land grants to three islands to Mary. The Georgian officials refused to allow Mary ownership of the grants, and a lengthy legal battle ensued, during which time Mary even sailed to England in order to state her case before the Board of Trade. This was after she and two hundred Creek supporters marched to Savannah in order to state her right to ownership of the islands. Eventually an agreement was settled upon. If Mary gave up her claim to two of the islands, she would be given ownership of the third as well as a tidy monetary sum.

Mary worked as a mediator between the two peoples for the rest of her life. Sadly, no paintings or likenesses of Mary survive to present-day. In 2002, she was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement.