Christian Priber of Edgefield County, South Carolina

We have seen that although there were occasional wrongs done by both whites and Indians, yet it is probable that there would have been no general war between the English settlers and the natives of the upper country had it not been for the intrigues of the French. At an early day the French had occupied the northern portions of the Continent; they had passed westward through the Great Lakes; had found the upper part of the Mississippi; had explored that river to its mouth; had founded the city of New Orleans; had built a chain of forts from its mouth to its upper waters, and now aspired to the occupation of the larger part of the Continent by hemming in the English and confining them to the slope on the Atlantic lying east of the Alleghany Mountains. To be successful in this grand scheme, it was necessary that they should foment discord and keep up an endless war between the English and the native Indians. In these efforts they were only too successful, though the ultimate result was loss to themselves, and the surrender, after many years of bloody and useless war, of all their northern possessions to the English. Louisiana, an immense tract of country, comprising their southern and western possessions, was purchased from the Emperor Napoleon by Mr. Jefferson in 1803.

One of the greatest, most artful, and most successful intriguers the French ever sent amongst the Cherokees was a man named Christian Priber, a German Jesuit in the service of France. He was sent amongst them as early as the year 1736, the year of the founding of Augusta. Although a man of great learning and intelligence; a Hebrew, Greek, and Latin scholar, yet he made himself, to all intents and purposes, an Indian. He married an Indian woman of great beauty and intelligence; painted himself as a son of the wilderness, and so completely identified himself with the natives that his most intimate friends could scarcely have distinguished him from the people with whom he lived. He entirely won their confidence and impressed their minds with feelings of hatred and contempt for the English, representing them as rapacious, greedy, and dishonest. Priber’s object seems to have been the founding of a great Indian Empire, composed of the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and other tribes. Had he lived it is problematical whether he could have succeeded or not, but his career was cut short by his captivity and death.

About the year 1741, business called him to Mobile, which was then a French town, near the head of navigation on the Tallapoosa, the English traders among the Creeks, suspecting the object of his journey, went in a body to the town of Tookahatchka, where he was lodging, and arrested him. They carried him to Frederica; delivered him to Gov. Oglethorpe, who put him in prison, where he soon afterwards died. But his influence did not die with him. He had filled the minds of the natives with distrust of the English, which never ceased to rankle in their hearts and always prevented a firm and settled peace. In the meantime, also, the use of rum had lowered and degraded their manhood, and the small-pox, carried up from Charlestown in a pack-horse train of goods, had further demoralized them by carrying off many in death, and disfiguring for life many of the survivors. All these evil influences combined produced a state of ill feeling in the nation, which was never entirely allayed, and finally culminated in the great war of 1760-61, at the conclusion of which the Cherokees parted with a large portion of their lands, and retired higher up the country, near and among the mountains.

This war is usually known as Grant’s war. Colonel Grant was a Scotchman, a colonel in the regular British service, and had general command of the forces engaged, the troops raised by the Province of South Carolina, as well as his own regiment, though the South Carolina regiment was under the immediate command of Col. Middleton.

In this war first appear the names of Andrew Pickens and of others of Ninety-Six District; and Francis Marion, of the low country, who served with distinction and found it a good training school for service in that great war which was to follow not many years thereafter. Andrew Pickens was a native of Pennsylvania, and had moved to Ninety-Six District only a few years before the outbreak of this war.

Source: Chapman, John Abney; History of Edgefield County from the earliest settlement to 1897; Newberry, S.C.: E. H. Aull, 1897.

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