The Life and Times of Mary Musgrove
Steven C. Hahn
"Every historian of the early South should recognize the name Mary Musgrove. She is highly visible in the documentary record, and many scholars have included her in their narratives of early Georgia. But something is still missing--Mary has never received an academically rigorous account of her life and times. Steven Hahn does just that in this smoothly written, exhaustively researched, and well-organized book."--Tyler Boulware, author of Deconstructing the Cherokee Nation
"A tour-de-force. Restores Musgrove to her original complexity, revealing a woman who both lived by and defied many colonial norms and continues to resist basic categorization in the present. A must-read for anyone interested in the colonial frontier."--Andrew K. Frank, editor of Creeks and Southerners: Biculturalism on the Early American Frontier
The story of Mary Musgrove (1700-1764), a Creek Indian-English woman struggling for success in colonial society, is an improbable one.
As a literate Christian, entrepreneur, and wife of an Anglican clergyman, Mary was one of a small number of "mixed blood" Indians to achieve a position of prominence among English colonists. Born to a Creek mother and an English father, Mary's bicultural heritage prepared her for an eventful adulthood spent in the rough and tumble world of Colonial Georgia Indian affairs.
Active in diplomacy, trade, and politics--affairs typically dominated by men--Mary worked as an interpreter between the Creek Indians and the colonists--although some argue that she did so for her own gains, altering translations to sway transactions in her favor. Widowed twice in the prime of her life, Mary and her successive husbands claimed vast tracts of land in Georgia (illegally, as British officials would have it) by virtue of her Indian heritage, thereby souring her relationship with the colony's governing officials and severely straining the colony's relationship with the Creek Indians.
Using Mary's life as a narrative thread, Steven Hahn explores the connected histories of the Creek Indians and the colonies of South Carolina and Georgia. He demonstrates how the fluidity of race and gender relations on the southern frontier eventually succumbed to more rigid hierarchies that supported the region's emerging plantation system.
Steven C. Hahn, associate professor of history at St. Olaf College, is the author of The Invention of the Creek Nation, 1670-1763.
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Finalist, George C. Rogers Jr. Award - 2012
Honorable Mention, Summersell Center Deep South Book Prize - 2014
"Offers an important treatment of a figure that has long been depicted one dimensionally…the author's depiction of the dance of mid-1700s' Indian English relations is brillant."
"A candid picture of the personal life of one of Georgia's earliest Indian traders and diplomats."
“An engaging and nuanced portrait of a complicated colonial life.”
--The Journal of American History
“As much about the development of southern social hierarchies as it is about an extraordinary cultural and political figure.”
--Women's Review of Books
“The author has cut through a muddy historical landscape to present a fully developed woman in a way that integrates his deep knowledge of Creek society with an appreciation of Georgia’s frontier world.”
--Georgia Historical Quarterly
“Sheds new light on a number of the formative events of Musgrove’s life. In so doing, he restores Musgrove’s important role in the development of the frontier exchange economy in eighteenth-century South Carolina and Georgia”
--The South Carolina Historical Magazine
“an excellent comprehensive account of this complicated woman and the world that she inhabited”
--The Journal of Southern History
“Hahn has meticulously told the story of a life largely lost to history. Musgrove was an exceptional individual with a fascinating life story, but her life also opens up questions about the changing nature of race and gender in the colonial Lower South.”
A beautifully written and well-researched biography...giv[ing] a more complete, and complex, portrait of a woman who played a pivotal role in colonial Georgia history.
--Georgia Library Quarterly