While most won’t recognize the Creek name Coosaponakeesa, the name Mary Musgrove (ca. 1700 – ca. 1763) may spark recognition. The daughter of a Creek mother and English father, Mary Musgrove proved instrumental in maintaining peace and fair trade between the Creek nation and the new Georgia colony. She married John Musgrove in 1717 and quickly established a trading post. She attracted the attention of General James Oglethorpe and served as his main interpreter from 1733 to 1743. Musgrove married three times, all the while increasing her business acumen and sharpening her diplomatic skills. The marriage to her last husband, a Christian missionary named Thomas Bosomworth,elevated Musgrove to a social status heretofore unreached by someone of Creek descent.
Musgrove is also known for her battle to keep Ossabaw Island, Sapelo Island, and St. Catherine’s island, granted to Musgrove and Bosomworth by the Lower Creek chief Malatchi. The British Crown insisted that a nation could only grant land to another nation, not an individual. After a protracted legal battle, Musgrove compromised by relinquishing all land holdings except St. Catherine’s Island, where she died some years after 1763.
Adapted from New Georgia Encyclopedia article on Mary Musgrove
Rodney M. Baine, “Myths of Mary Musgrove,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 76 (Summer 1992).
Doris Fisher, ” Mary Musgrove: Creek Englishwoman,” (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1990).
Michele Gillespie, “The Sexual Politics of Race and Gender: Mary Musgrove and the Georgia Trustees,” in The Devil’s Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, ed. Catherine Clinton and Michele Gillespie (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Michael D. Green, “Mary Musgrove: Creating a New World,” in Sifters: Native American Women’s Lives, ed. Theda Perdue (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
From the GHS Collection:
Main Collection: The grandparents of Cousaponakeesa (the most important woman ever born in Georgia) / by Charles Cotton Harrold, F289 .M8970; Negotiating for Georgia: British-Creek Relations in the Trustee Era, 1733-1752 / Julie Anne Sweet, E99.C9 S94 2005
Manuscript: Demeré Family Bible, 1733, undated, MS 1702; Henry Ellis instructions, 1759, MS 77; Lorene Townsend Howard collection on Sapelo Island (Ga.), 1823-1999, MS 1681; Marmaduke Hamilton and Dolores Boisfeuillet Floyd papers, 1562-1970, MS 1308; Saint Catherines Island (Ga.) property records and maps, 1784-1943, MS 1696