Sunday, August 12, 2012

Who was William Colbert?

William Colbert

William Colbert was born in Chickasaw Nation about 1742; he was the eldest son of James Logan Colbert and an older brother of George Colbert.  He was also called "Chooshemataha", "Pyaheggo" and "Billy Colbert".   William Colbert was the friend, follower, and successor of Piomingo, Chief of the Chickasaw Nation.  He was a celebrated fighter and was an ally of the Americans not only against hostile Indians, but also when a struggle against Spain for the possession of the Mississippi Territory seemed imminent.

William married twice with his first marriage to a Creek woman known as Jessie "Wayther" Moniac in Chickasaw Nation before 1780.  Jessie was the daughter of the Creek Indian William Dixon “Dick” Jacob Moniac and Sehoy III, daughter of Creek Chief Tuckabatche.  Since Jessie Moniac Colbert was not listed on the 1818 Chickasaw Roll, she was either dead or no longer the wife of William Colbert.  Jesse was a sister to Elise Moniac who was the wife of Creek Chief Alexander McGillivray; therefore, William Colbert and Alexander McGillivray were brother-in-laws.  William’s second marriage was to Ishtanaha "Mimey" in Chickasaw Nation before 1824; she died after 1839 in Indian Territory.  She was baptized at the Monroe Mission in Pontotoc County, Mississippi on June 5, 1830.  She migrated from Mississippi to Indian Territory on board the steamboat Fox and arrived on November 21, 1837.

On one occasion, William feared that the Cherokees had killed Piomingo and all his party; therefore, William and George Colbert organized a party of Chickasaws on either side of the Tennessee River to cut off six canoes of Cherokees.  Levi Colbert asked William to wait until they could confirm that these Cherokees had actually killed Piomingo.  William Colbert tried to get the canoes to stop and come to shore.  The Cherokees disregarded his order and kept on their way; William considered they were guilty and chased the canoes down.  One canoe paddled to the shore and the Cherokee man jumped out and hid himself in bushes; William Colbert found the man, killed him, and took his scalp.

In June of 1794, George and William Colbert accompanied Piomingo to Philadelphia, where the chiefs received a certificate from President George Washington on July 21, 1794; the certificate guaranteed to the tribe all Chickasaw lands claimed by Piomingo at the Nashville Indian Conference that included all of western Kentucky, central and western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and northwestern Alabama. They also received a $3000.00 annuity for their aid to St. Clair in 1791.

 At the solicitation of President George Washington, Major General William Colbert, who succeeded Piomingo as the principal chief of the Chickasaw Nation, journeyed to the Ohio country and served under General Mad Anthony Wayne against the Indians of the Northwest.  On August 20, 1794, William Colbert led a contingent of Chickasaw warriors in support of General Anthony Wayne at the battle of Fallen Timbers, Ohio, against Little Turtle and the Northwestern Confederation of Indians.

In January 1795, William Colbert and a band of Chickasaw warriors took five Creek scalps on the Duck River in the Chickasaw country, perhaps in retaliation for raids by the Creeks against the Cumberland settlers and Chickasaw hunters during the previous four months. On January 13, 1795, William Colbert and a party of 100 Chickasaws that included his Creek wife Jessie Moniac Colbert and several of his children carried the scalps to General James Robertson at Nashville. 

Since William Colbert did not get guns and supplies from General James Robertson or Governor William Blount of Southwest Territory in his war against the Creeks, he left his wife Jessie Moniac Colbert in Knoxville, and rounded up Chiefs William McGillivray, John Brown, Piomingo, and interpreter Malcolm McGee and set out for Philadelphia.  The delegation received an audience with President George Washington on August 22, 1795, but again received no help or encouragement in the prosecution of a new war with the Creeks.

When the Creek war broke out in 1813, Major William Colbert quickly joined and served nine months in the third regiment of United States Infantry for service against the Creek enemies of the Chickasaw Nation.  William served five months in the regular infantry; he returned to the Chickasaw Nation and raised an independent force which he led against the hostile Creeks.  William pursued the Creeks from Pensacola almost to Apalachicola; he and the Chickasaws killed many Creeks and brought back eighty-five prisoners to Montgomery.  William completed his service with the United States Army at the end of the Creek Indian War.

On numerous occasions, William Colbert represented his people at Washington, DC, and in the very early days, was received by President GeorgeWashington, in Philadelphia.  William also made a trip with his half-brother George Colbert and Wolf’s Friend to meet with President John Adams in Philadelphia in 1798.  In June 1816, William headed a Chickasaw delegation to Washington, and in the treaty that followed he was made a Major General; he was granted an annuity of $100 for the rest of his life.

Half-blood William Mizle, a Chickasaw interpreter who married a daughter of Piomingo, wrote in his journal that to accommodate his trade, he stored whiskey at the great Holly Springs some miles south of Chickasaw Bluffs in Spring Hollow.  A traveler stated that he spent several days at the home of General William Colbert who lived near the Federal Agency located about two miles south of the present village of Old Houlka in Chickasaw County.  He stated that, “William Colbert was a great drinker and, having run out of whiskey, walked to Mizle's post at the holly springs and bought seven kegs of whiskey; Colbert then started home and, just after arriving there, drank the last of the seventh keg, having consumed three days upon the trip."

Major General William Colbert died May 30, 1824, in Tockshish, Pontotoc County, Mississippi at 81 years of age.  The best evidence of General William Colbert's death is found in some old Chickasaw Agency records.  One is a receipt from Ishtanaha (William’s second wife) to Chickasaw Agent Benjamin F. Smith for the pension of General Colbert.  The receipt is dated July 15, 1824, for $40 in full for the amount settled on my husband General William Colbert by the Government of the United States up to May 30, 1824, at which time he deceased.  Additionally, in Smith's Chickasaw Agency expenditure accounting on September 27, 1824, he list a payment to, "Ishtanaha Colbert for the Pension of General William Colbert."  Again in his accounts accepted by United States auditor William Stuart on December 4, 1824, Smith states that $40 was paid, "to the wife of General William Colbert in full to May 30, 1824."  His body was interred in Pontotoc City Cemetery, Pontotoc County, Mississippi.

Read more about this famous Chickasaw family in my latest book "Chickasaw Chief George Colbert: His Family and His Country."  The book is now available at and presently lists for $15.95; order your copy today, shipping is free with orders over $25.00.  You can also get the book for $19.95 at Warrior Mountains Trading Post in Wren, Coldwater Books in Tuscumbia, and Rattlesnake Saloon in Colbert County off highway 247.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Your dates are incorrect. The probability that a 70-75 year old dropped what he was doing to fight the Creeks in 1813 does not make sense. William was born no earlier than 1760 and George around 1764. This would make him around 45 or so around the time of the red stick rebellion.