Choctaw Towns in Newton County
by A. J. Brown with updates by Melvin Tingle
Adapted from an article by A. J. Brown (1832-1907) and originally published as Antiquities of Newton County in the Journal of Mississippi History, ca. 1902. Spelling and grammar have been maintained from the original.
The writer in undertaking to prepare a paper on the subject assigned to him at the Archaeological Conference held at Meridian in April, 1901, is aware that the points or objects of antiquarian interest in Newton county are not so varied or numerous as are those of many other counties in the State. But cherishing a warm attachment to this county, he well give such facts concerning its antiquities as may be considered worthy of preservation.
The first historic glimpse we have of Newton county is in the latter half of the eighteenth century. As Adair, Roman and other travelers and writers of that era confined their travels more to the regions immediately bordering on the Tombigbee, we have, in consequence, but slight records pertaining to the region now embraced in the modern county of Newton. These writers have left us more or less minute descriptions of the settlements, manners, and customs of the natives of the eastern part of Mississippi. As similar conditions prevailed among the natives immediately to the west, it would not be difficult to reconstruct aboriginal life as it existed in Newton county in the eighteenth century. The aborigines of Newton county lived in rude cabins, which stood in what may be termed straggling towns, with fields of Indian corn and patches of vegetables intervening. These so-called towns were connected by trails, which ran in as straight lines as the nature of the county would permit. These aborigines were not altogether a hunting people. They lived in fixed abodes and acquired much of their food by the cultivation of the soil. A people who subsisted entirely upon hunting could not have built the earthworks which are so numerous in the different parts of Mississippi, and of which not a few are found in Newton county.
The most ancient extant record of Newton county is Bernard Romans map of 1772. The writer will use in this connection the spelling of the manuscript list of Choctaw towns in the possession of Mr. H. S. Halbert, sent to him by Dr. A. S. Gatschet. The list on the reduced copy of Romans map in Dr. Rileys School History of Mississippi, page 16, contains some typographical slips.
Romans had misplaced the Choctaw towns in what is now the southern part of Neshoba, Newton and Jasper counties. Towns that are really in Newton county, by the county lines drawn by Dr .Gatschet in the copy of Romans map lying before the writer, are placed in Neshoba county. A similar statement can be made relative to some of the Jasper county towns, which, by Dr. Gatschets lines, are placed in Newton county. In truth, Romans has the portions of country now embraced in the southern part of Neshoba and all of Newton and Jasper counties so badly confused that the student must reconstruct the chorography of his map.
Immediately after the name of the first Choctaw town, Bishapa, which Romans gives in what is now Newton county, Dr. Gatschet has written the words illegible almost. These leave the form of the name in some doubt. As that town is placed to the south of West Mokalusa Town in Neshoba county and to the east of Chunky creek, it is almost certain that this town, the name of which is illegible almost, is almost certain that this is the town of Bissasha. It is not reasonable to suppose that Dr. Gatschet in copying the manuscript, mistook the old old-fashioned long s followed by the short s for the letter p? If such is the case, we should have Bishassa instead of Bishapa. This word so closely resembles the word Bissasha that there is little doubt that this was the Choctaw town of that name which stood on the west side of Little Rock creek in Newton county in Section 23, Township 8, range 12, east. This creek is not laid down on Romans map. Bissasha Town is now embraced in the plantation of Mr. Jones Taylor. Judging from the stone implements and other debris lying scattered over the site, the town covered an area of about ten acres, making it a rather small town, as Choctaw towns were generally built. The memory of Bissasha Town is still preserved in Choctaw tradition. Bissasha worn down from Bissa asha signifies Blackberries are there, or Blackberry Place. Within the memory of living men there was a wellworn trail that ran from Bissasha to a large artificial mound, situated about two miles distant on the east bank of Chunky creek. Investigation may possibly show that this was a burial mound and was made by the Bissasha people.
UPDATE: The old town of Bissasha is located in Township 8, Range 12, Section 24, south of Little Rock, Mississippi on two parcels of land belonging to David Watkins and Margaree Williams and running along Little Rock Creek.
Another town, represented on Romans map as being in what is now Neshoba county, is spelled Chanki. It was situated on the headwaters of Chunky creek, or Chunka Bogue, as written on the map. Chanki and Chunka are the same name and survive in the modern Chunky. This town, as in the case of Bissasha, must be assigned to its true location, not in Neshoba, but in Newton county. The modern village of Union occupies much of the ground embraced in this ancient Choctaw town. At the present day many of the old Choctaws, in speaking of Union, invariably call it Chunky, Chanki, according to Choctaw spelling and pronunciation.
UPDATE: This Choctaw town was located east of the present Town of Union where old Highway 15 crosses Highway 492. The old Union-to-Philadelphia Road follows the street now known as North Decatur Street. Due north 1 miles of the Old Highway 15Highway 492 intersection and east of this road and west of the current Lairds Hospital lay the Little Chunky Town A visitor to Lairds Hospital can look west across Highway 15 and see a ridge that was part of this town.
Another town which is misplaced on Romans map, Oka Kapassa must likewise be assigned to Newton county. It was the name of the town environing the present Pinkney Mill. It was called Oka Kapssa, meaning cold water, from a fine spring, which made the place a famous resort of the Indians. Pinkney Mill is located in section 23, township 8, range 11, east.
UPDATE: This Indian town was located on hills leading into the present site of Stampers Mill Pond. There are nine identified springs leading into this pond which produce cool, clear water. The location is on the east side of Stamper-Stratton Road.
A fourth town on Romans map, Oony was a village settlement south of Pinkney Mill. The writer can give no farther information about it.
UPDATE: This Indian town was located on property now owned by Sanders and Carroll Russell in Section 26, Township 8, Range 11 East. The old town was located on a watershed lake on this property. The term means where wild onions grow.
A fifth Indian town given by the same authority is unnamed on his map. But its situation clearly shows that it was the well known Choctaw town, called Chunky, which stood on the west bank of Chunky creek, about half a mile below the confluence of that creek with Talasha creek. It seems to have borne the name of Chanki Chitto, Big Chunky, to distinguish it from the other town of the same name at Union. Pierre Juzan, a noted French Indian countryman, lived in Chunky Town. It was the most southern Choctaw town that Tecumseh visited in the fall of 1811.
UPDATE: This was the most significant Indian town in Newton County and was located on the west side of Chunky Creek in Section 7, Township 6, Range 13 East. Current owners include Johnny and Minnie Burks.
A sixth place given by Romans was Coatraw. The name of the town is evidently very much mutilated or corrupted, as there is no r in the Choctaw language. The writer can suggest no amendment or interpretation, but from its situation of the map he is almost sure that Mount Moriah Presbyterian church, situated four miles southwest of the town of Newton, in section 17, township 5, range 11, east, occupies the site of this ancient town. A personal visit to this place, in company with Mr. H. S. Halbert, revealed some prehistoric earthworks, showing that it was the site of an ancient village. This was undoubtedly, therefore, the site of the ancient town of Coatraw, as given on Romans map. Upon the plateau on which Mount Moriah church stands, two mounds were found, about one hundred yards apart. The mound nearest to the church, now much abraded in consequence of a road which passes over its western base, is about eighty feet in diameter, and was probably about five feet high originally. The other mound, situated about seventy-five yards southeast of the church, is in a much better state of preservation. It is about eight feet in height, circular in form, has a flat summit, and is over a hundred feet in diameter. Near it can be seen a deep excavation, which was no doubt made by the builders in getting earth for its construction. As the land around these mounds is very fertile, it was no doubt used by the villagers for the purpose of farming or gardening. The area of land forming this plateau lies between two creeks, which in early days were well stocked with fish, furnishing an abundant supplement to the corn, peas, and other vegetables of the ancient villagers. In selecting this place for a village site the aborigines had an eye not only of the picturesque, but for the practical, as is shown by that fact that it was well watered and was a good hunting and fishing place, as well as a very fertile land for cultivation. Judging by the breadth and flatness of their summits, these mounds were intended either for burial purposes or for sites of the elevated houses of the chiefs, or, possibly, one at least, for the council house of the village. This inference is drawn from the writings of the early explorers, who have described the habits, customs, and buildings of the early Indians.
UPDATE: Mt. Moriah Presbyterian Church still stands on a small mound in part of this Indian town. Two miles west of this site on the 1832 survey maps of Newton County in Section 32, Township 5, Range 10 East, and west of Highway 505 on land belonging to Ronnie Nicholson and Clinton Glover is a well-defined Indian town whose name has escaped historical accounts.
A seventh place, given by Romans, was Tallaw. This is Tala Town, one of the sub-divisions of the Six Towns Choctaws. Tala means Palmetto. The name still exists in Tarlow creek. Tala Town embraced all the territory lying between Tarlow creek and Bogue Felammie, both creeks are tributaries of Pottoc Chitto. Tala Town was a thickly settled community and nearly all its people emigrated in the second and third emigrations in 1832 and 1833.
UPDATE: This town is located along the railroad in Section 31, Township 6, Range 12 East. There is still a large Indian mound in this area.
This closes Romans list of Choctaw towns in Newton county. There were unquestionably many other towns in the county, but those given above seem to have been the only ones given to Romans by his Indian informants. According to the view of the writer, Romans line of travel led through no part of Newton county.
As a supplement to Romans list of places, two other Choctaw towns that once existed in Newton county will now be given. The first is Oka Hullo, Beloved water, which was a large scattering town, standing partly in Newton and partly in Neshoba county. The part in Neshoba was in section 33, township 9, range 12, east. The part in Newton was in section 3, township 8, range 12, east. There was a trail that led from this town easterly to Mokalusha Town in Neshoba county, and westerly to a town in Newton county called Okhata Talaia, Spreading pond, which was situated in the southwest quarter of section 11, township 7, range 10, east. This pond is now embraced by Mr. J. A. Thomass farm.
In the center of this town, which stood for the most part upon a high table land, was a pond of water, several acres in area, which was a great resort for wild water fowl. From this pond the town received its name. The pond was drained in the early 40s. The last chief of Okhata Talaia, before it passed out of Choctaw possession, was named Hankha, which means Wild goose. Some of his descendants live in the vicinity.
UPDATE: This Indian town is located northeast of Conehatta on Highway 489 and near the intersection of Highway 489 with the Decatur-Conehatta Road. This property is currently owned by the Mississippi Band of Choctaws Indians and contains a grocery store and recreational field.
The trail that led from Okha Hullo to Okhata Talaia continued to course somewhat southwesternly, running through some Indian settlements in Scott county and thence to the Choctaw town of Chisha foka, among the post oaks, which stood upon the site of the present city of Jackson. From Jackson, tradition says, the trail ran to the present site of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. The Jackson road from DeKalb to Jackson was based upon this old Indian trail.
The Choctaws of Okla Hullo were very much averse to emigrating west and wished to avail themselves of the privileges of the fourteenth article of the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, but failed to secure these privileges in consequence of the fraudulent actions of Col. Ward, the Choctaw agent. There was so much dissatisfaction among them at one time during Governor Runnels administration, that the white settlers in the vicinity became quite uneasytheir uneasiness, no doubt, being utterly groundless. To ally their apprehensions, the settlers sent a messenger to Governor Runnels in Jackson, informing him of the situation. The Governor came to the place, and on his arrival a council was held in the town. The Governor made a very conciliatory talk to the Indians, and the noted Little Leader, it is said, acting as his interpreter. In consequence of the Governors talk, a better feeling began at once to prevail among the Indians, and there was no further complaint on the part of the whites.