The History of Murder Creek

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By Mike Simmons

The town of Brewton is located in Southern Alabama, southwest of Montgomery. Creeks in the south wander lazily through the countryside, and Murder Creek is no different. The only thing different about it is the name, of course.

Brewton, Alabama in the 1920s

The first thing that comes to mind is…”What is the history behind the strange name?” Is there a story behind it? Images of something terrible that may have happened come to mind. So, what is the story behind the name? Is it dark? Mysterious? Romantic?

Alexander McGillivray, a Scots-French-Indian, held the position of the highest Chief of the Creek Indians following the American Revolution. He was the main force behind the Creeks retaining their identity as a legitimate Native American tribe. He died at 34 years of age and is buried in downtown Pensacola, at the corner of Spring and Main Streets. Not only was he the chief of the Creeks, but he was also a Colonel in the American Army. McGillivray was a master diplomat, able to make progress with the British, and the Americans, all the while leading the Creeks.

Chief Alexander McGillivray

At the time, travel through the countryside was dangerous, and the best protection was permission from Chief McGillivray to travel through it. During the War, the Chief formed a friendship with Colonel Joseph Kirkland of South Carolina. In 1788 Kirkland and some others got permission from the Chief to travel south to Pensacola. For protection, the Chief provided them with a guide that would ensure their safety…maybe.

Map of Brewton, Alabama, and Murder Creek

As they traveled along the Aloochahatcha Creek, they encountered a party of men with pack horses passing in the opposite direction. The two parties exchanged pleasantries and, being late in the day, camped along the creek bank near each other. Kirkland wasn’t aware, but the other group was made up of criminals, including a Hillabee Indian named Istillicha (The Manslayer), a white man called The Cat, and a desperate black man named Bob.

Murder Creek

In the middle of the night, the criminals snuck up on the Kirkland party and murdered them, leaving the guide and two others alive. They stole the silver the men had, stole their firearms, and burned everything except their clothing. Then they made camp at the scene and slept the rest of the night.

When the escapees reached McGillivray, they reported what had happened. The Chief sent a force to capture the criminals. When Chief McGillivray’s men caught up to the group, The Cat was captured while the others escaped. The furious men dragged The Cat to the murder scene, dressed him in the dead men’s clothes, and hung him from a tree that was stained with the blood of the Kirkland party. As The Cat was hanging, he began writhing and kicking, so one of the search party, a Frenchman, shot him.

The horror that occurred on the bank of the Aloochahatcha Creek brought about the new name – Murder Creek.



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