Articles

A MUSCOGEE IRON PIPE

 

After the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex collapsed, the natives in a portion of the territory that would become the Southeast of the United States of America, began establishing a large governmental complex that came to be known as the Muscogee Confederacy.  This was an alliance of many non-related tribal units into a substantial association which thrived from maybe AD 1450 until the 1830’s.  Even though it was created from various bands of indigenous people, the Muscogee coalition was largely considered to be Creek Indians.  It was divided into the so-called Upper Creeks which were headquartered along the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers in Alabama and the Lower Creeks who were led by the inhabitants of towns along the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers in Georgia.  By the end of the sixteenth century AD, these aborigines were most likely peaceful and prosperous in their river-side villages throughout the Southeast.  And at some point in time, maybe in the mid to late seventeen hundreds, in a Creek village named Talisi, a European/American or maybe even an Indian blacksmith possibly forged this unique Muscogee iron pipe.

 

The Muscogee or Creeks had four mother-towns where the area rulers lived and where the confederacy laws were enacted. Those towns were called Kasihta, Coweta, Chickasaw and Abihka.  Located adjacent to Talahatchee Creek and near the Coosa River, Abihka and Talisi were possibly one and the same or a least very close geographically to each other.  Talisi was also in the proximity of the famous Creek town called Tuckabatchee, which was the birth place of the mixed-race native who was born in 1804 and named Billy Powell.  He later re-named himself, after moving to Florida, as Osceola, and became a major Seminole war chieftain.  Talisi was supposedly visited by the army of Hernando de Soto in AD 1540, as they trekked through the area in their search for gold.  Even though it is believed that these Spaniards traded many goods with the Indians during that period, there is no information available to show the exchange of iron smoking pipes in barter for animal skins and food.

 

So why was there an iron pipe found in the area of the ancient town called Talisi?  Iron is a rather strange material for a smoking pipe.  These tobacco use devices were normally made of clay or soft stone and occasionally of brass or pewter– not iron, which would become very hot if held in the hand after loading with tobacco and lit on fire.  And there are few records that could be found related to any smoking pipes being made of such a ferrous compound.  This 1 5/8 inches tall pipe has a reasonably large bowl which should indicate it was made at a later time when tobacco was plentiful – definitely not the earlier duration of the Hernando de Soto visit.  So was it made in Europe or maybe in an eastern North American city occupied by Europeans?  Or was it forged in the major Franco-Indian trading town named Kaskaskia in southern Illinois and then traded into Alabama?  Or was it made at the French bastion called Fort Toulouse, which was located near Talisi?  Or maybe it was indeed fabricated by a local blacksmith living and working at the Creek village.  And when was it made?  Probably AD 1540 is early for a pipe of this style.  And the end of the Muscogee village life in AD 1830, during the great Indian removal, was maybe too late.  So, based on where found along with the dimensions and style, a guess could be made that this smoking apparatus was indeed made at Talisi, by a local iron worker, with a manufacture time between 1750 and 1800.  This is indicated by the overall size and shape which is almost identical to the white kaolin trade pipes that were common during that time period, as shown on the attached photo.  That, of course, is only an estimate based on the overall pipe design and the known history of the region.  But as is typical in the hobby of collecting Indian artifacts, estimates are common.  But not at all common are such artifacts as this very rare Muscogee iron pipe.

 

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