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Alexander McGillivray, Emperor of the Creek Nation

Alexander McGillvray, Emperor of the Creek Nation

Alexander McGillivray (1750-1793)

Many great historical chiefs are celebrated in Native American popular culture. The most commonly remembered names include Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Red Cloud, Tecumseh and Chief Joseph. Along with these belongs the 18th century Muscogee Creek chief Alexander McGillivray, a great man who is not as commonly spoken about, but is just as significant to both Native American and United State history as those formerly mentioned.

Alexander McGillivray was the principle chief of the Creek Nation near the end of the 18th century. He was the son of Sehoy Marchand, a French-Creek woman from the powerful Wind Clan. His father was the prominent Scottish trader Lachlan McGillivray who immigrated to Creek country in 1736 from Dunmaglass, Scotland, and spent the majority of his time in Little Tallassee and Otciabofa which was also called Hickory Ground [1] on the Coosa River. This is where Lachlan met Sehoy.

Lachlan secured lands amongst the Creek people near the ruins of the French Fort Toulouse close by Little Tallassee. There, he planted a garden and built a plantation house, naming it the “Apple Grove.” In time Lachlan became a wealthy trader, entrenched and well respected among the Indians.

When Alexander was a young man his father sent him to Charleston, S.C. to be educated in the British tradition. After returning to his home on the Coosa River, Alexander was honored as a chief on the Creek National Council and given the name Hopue-hethlee-Mekko or “Good-Child King.” Shortly thereafter he was commissioned a colonel in the British army and installed as the English Agent to the Indians. He donned the uniform of a British officer, with the headdress of a Creek chief, complete with the white feathers of his rank and led a faction of Creek warriors in the Battle of Pensacola.

Before long, Alexander rose to prominence, becoming the principle chief of the Creek Nation. Being a fan of European history, he preferred to use the term emperor, though his actual power in the nation was severely limited and somewhat tenuous. He was a frequent visitor to and property-owner in Pensacola, FL, negotiating treaties with the Spanish who were the dominant European power in the region. He led Spanish funded attacks on American frontier settlements in Georgia. After the American Revolution, McGillivray was invited to Virginia where he received a paid Generalship from George Washington in the United States army.

          

An eager capitalist, Alexander McGillivray was also an investor and silent partner in Panton, Leslie and Company who opened a trading post on McGillivray’s property, the first brick and mortar building established in Pensacola, FL. His first wife was Vicey Cornells who bore him two daughters: Peggy and Lizzie. His second wife was Elise Moniac, the sister of the Choctaw chief Red Shoes and they had three children: Margaret, Alleck and Elizabeth.

As a native statesman, McGillivray worked tirelessly throughout his career to create a Creek Nation recognizable and respected by European nations, but still distinctly Creek, distinctly “Indian.” Much like his Cherokee neighbors he succeeded, at least until 1830, when the Indian Removal Act was signed into law by Andrew Jackson, robbing the people of their lands.

In January 1793 McGillivray traveled to Pensacola for a business meeting with William Panton. On the trip he developed a fever and never recovered. On February 17, 1793 at eleven o’clock at night, in the home of William Panton, Alexander McGillivray died. He was buried in the garden of Panton’s house in Pensacola, laid to rest with full Masonic honors [2]. Alexander McGillivray was such a loved and respected leader that he was mourned throughout the lands. His obituary ran in London in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

Feb. 17. At Pensacola, Mr. McGillivray, a Creek chief, very much lamented by those who knew him best. There happened to be that time at Pensacola a numerous band of Creeks, who watched his illness with the most marked anxiety, and when his death was announced to them, and while they followed him to the grave, it is impossible for words to describe the loud screams of real woe which they vented in their unaffected grief. He was, by his father’s side a Scotchman, of the respectable family of Drummaglass, in Invernesshire. The vigor of his mind overcame the disadvantages of an education had in the wilds of America, and he was well acquainted with all the most useful European sciences. In the latter part of his life he composed, with great care, the history of several classes of the original inhabitants of America; and this he intended to present to Professor Robertson, for publication in the next edition of his History. The European and the American writer are no more; and the MMS of the latter, it is feared, have perished, for the Indians adhere to their custom of destroying whatever inanimate objects a dead friend most delighted in. It is only since Mr. McGillivray had influence amongst them, that they have suffered the slaves of a deceased master to live.”[3]

[1] Hickory Ground; a very special town and meeting place within upper Creek Country. Creek; Ocē vpofv, also called Little Tallassee.

[2] It is believed that Alexander McGillivray was the first Mason in the State of Alabama. Some researchers claim that A.M.’s remains were shipped to Scotland and buried on his father Lachlan’s land.

[3] Gentleman’s Magazine, Printed under the caption: Marriages and Deaths of considerable Persons,” August, 1793, Vol. LXIII, London, p. 767


JJ Smith, the Balladeer

I naturally met JJ Smith at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola a couple years back.  Kilted in the tartan of the Lamont clan, JJ runs a show that is not just a folk music performance but a bit comedic shtick as well.  His crowd-interactions make for some of the evening’s high points.

JJ’s style stands out from the majority of the singers I’ve met on the Irish pub tour in several ways.  To begin with, his personalized renditions of the classics reveal significant blues, and American country music influences, which bring the Celtic style home to the American South.  Live, JJ makes use of a lot of bass runs on his guitar which often helps to add a subtlety and a sense of motion outside of the songs’ basic chord structures.

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JJ hails from Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, Scotland, but has resided in St. Petersburg, Florida for the past several years.  While in the States, he has steadily toured the southeast and managed to produce two album releases: Druid Roots Going Home, and his solo album JJ The Balladeer.  They’re both great and very distinct from each other.

         

Druid Roots was a trio JJ was a part of, a rather eclectic mix of folksy styles.  The album projects a heavy Celtic theme with very noticeable elements of East-Indian drumming, country-western music, and a hint of rock and roll.   My favorite track is Stonehaven Waltz, a traditional sounding Celtic ballad, but the whole album is worth the listen.

The Balladeer contains 15 tracks of excellently produced Celtic ballads.  JJ’s resounding baritone voice coupled with the full and sometimes booming open strings of his guitar create layers of richness within each song.  The songs are mostly mellow, somewhat nostalgic pieces.  The highlights include Galway Shawl (my personal favorite); a cover of the classic U2 hit I Still Haven’t Found what I’m looking For; and Whiskey on a Sunday.


Larry Kernagis: Nashville’s Chief Leprechaun

Larry Kernagis is distinguished as the Chief Leprechaun of the Nashville based Celtic band cleverly named Def Leprechaun.  With a full repertoire of classic Irish folk and drinking songs, Larry also tours as a solo act.  I was fortunate enough to meet Larry at McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida during this summer.

As a skilled performer, Larry’s rich personality shines through his stage show.  He’s friendly and personable, and interacts with the crowd brilliantly, accepting requests or limericks from the audience, bringing them into the show rather than keeping them as simple observers. I’ve even been fortunate enough to sit in with him on a couple different occasions.

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Moody View author Jay Moody with Larry Kernagis at McGuire’s Irish Pub

Since many newcomers to the Irish music scene may not be familiar with the well known or regionally adapted responses to the classic ballads, Larry often takes a moment to bring them up to speed, making the evening a truly interactive experience. He also brings with him a set of “The Viking Pirate Captain’s DL Songbooks,” with the lyrics to over 100 of the world’s favorite Irish pub songs for use by the audience.
                 

Larry is fluent on both banjo and guitar, switching between the two instruments frequently throughout the night, adding to the diversity of his style.  He plays to his crowd, and as the night progresses Larry might incorporate other well known American classics in the spirit of Jimmy Buffet and Elvis Presley, but he otherwise keeps the set tight with Irish tunes.

Larry Kernagis is originally from Chicago, but relocated to Nashville, Tennessee where he formed his band Def Leprechaun.  His performances make for an evening of ruckus and revelry.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to think of him not only as a great performer, but as a friend.

Don’t miss Larry Kernagis, whether he is in Pensacola, Nashville, or Las Vegas.  If you’re a little Irish or even just a fan, you’ll love Larry’s show.

Check out Larry’s band Def Leprechaun at their website here!