George Colbert, also known as Tootemastubbe (c. 1764–1839), was a Native American leader of the Chickasaw people in the early 19th century. He commanded 350 Chickasaw auxiliary troops, whom he had recruited, as a militia captain under Andrew Jackson during the Creek War of 1813-1814. Later he joined the US Army under Jackson for the remainder of the War of 1812.
At the time of Indian Removal, when he had succeeded his late brother Levi Colbert as chief, he was a planter who owned significant land and more than 150 slaves in Mississippi, and a ferry in northwestern Alabama.
Early life and education
The second of six mixed-race sons of James Logan Colbert, a North Carolinian settler of Scots descent and his second wife Minta Hoye, a Chickasaw, George Colbert was born in present-day Alabama about 1764. As a youth he began to rise in prominence in the Chickasaw nation, as he gained status from his mother's clan as well as his actions. The Chickasaw had a matrilineal kinship system, in which children were considered born into their mother's clan; positions of hereditary leadership were passed through the mother's line.
Colbert was said to serve with American troops under Arthur St. Clair in 1791 and Anthony Wayne in 1794 during the Northwest Indian Wars. During the Creek Wars, he recruited 350 Chickasaw warriors and assisted Andrew Jackson against the Red Sticks, and later during more of the War of 1812.
By the early 1800s, George Colbert established Colbert's ferry near Cherokee, Alabama. It was a significant crossing of the Tennessee River along the Natchez Trace, an important trade route. Colbert was able to accumulate land and became an influential planter; he also raised livestock and was a trader. He owned an estimated 150 enslaved Africans as labor on his plantation.
He and his brothers Levi and James were among the primary negotiators of treaties between his people and the United States government in the early 19th century. The Chickasaw ended up ceding much of their land to the United States in an attempt to preserve peace after repeated conflicts with settlers. The Colberts received several valuable tracts for their service.
In the late 1830s, Colbert was serving as chief of the Chickasaw, following his brother Levi Colbert. Together with most of his fellow Chickasaw, by 1839 he removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) with his family, taking 150 slaves with him, under the Indian Removal Act. In the 1850s, his nephews Winston and Holmes Colbert helped develop the constitution and government organization of the Chickasaw in Oklahoma after removal.
Marriage and family
Colbert married three times, and fathered a total of six sons and two daughters. Their family tradition says that Colbert did not want one of his daughters, Nancy Colbert, to have to move to Oklahoma with removal. He married Nancy Colbert to a white man named Hezekiah Tharp so she could stay in present-day Alabama. Nancy and Hezekiah lived and raised their family in the Camp Smith area or what is currently known as Littleville, Alabama.
- Colbert County, Alabama was named after him and his brother Levi.
- George's Cave, near Colbert's Spring (named after Levi), was named after George Colbert.
- Pate, James P., "George Colbert," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (accessed November 3, 2009).
- Owen, Thomas McAdory; Owen, Marie (1921). History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 302.
- Owen, Thomas McAdory; Owen, Marie (1921). History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 235.
- Arrell M. Gibson, The Chickasaws (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971).
- Don Martini, Who Was Who Among the Southern Indians: A Genealogical Notebook (Falkner, Miss.: N.p., 1997).
- "Colbert, George", Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture