Contact, Colonization and Conflict

The arrival of European explorers in the 1500s marked the beginning of a new era in regional history. For much of the next three centuries, the Chattahoochee Valley would be at the center of a struggle between European colonial powers who each claimed a portion of the Southeast. Each attempted to negotiate military and trade alliances with the area’s American Indian inhabitants to achieve their goals, sparking remarkable levels of trade, diplomacy, and cultural exchange.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Chattahoochee Valley was at the center of a national clash of cultures. American settlers desired the rich lands of the Creeks (Muscogee), who used millions of acres to hunt and farm large community-owned fields. The federal government encouraged Creeks to abandon their traditional lifestyle to start small farms. White settlers hoped this change would provide more open land. In the first years of the 19th century, decades of mounting tension erupted into war.

Fort Mitchell, located south of present-day Phenix City and named for Georgia governor David B. Mitchell, was originally constructed in 1813 as a supply base for Georgia militia during the Creek War of 1813-14. The fort later served as a trading post, the U.S. Indian Agency, and a mustering point for troops during the Second Creek War and the Civil War.


  • Trade beads
    ca. 1690
    Columbus Museum Archaeology Collection

    These beads were found near the site of Fort Apalachicola, an important 17th-century Spanish fort near present-day Phenix City.

  • Tin cup
    Columbus Museum Archaeology Collection

    This drinking cup found at the site of Fort Mitchell still bears the name of its owner, W. Orrill.

  • Spanish cabassette
    ca. 1600
    Museum purchase 1992.12

    This Spanish steel helmet, called a cabassette, is the type worn by earliest European explorers of the Chattahoochee Valley region. Click here for more information

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