Milly Francis was born in 1802 or
1803 along the banks of the Alabama River, just below the head of the juncture
of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers. Her
parents were Josiah and Polly Francis, Creek Indians of both European and
American Indian descent. Between the
years of 1800 and 1811, Milly lived in a prosperous household and there was
relative peace between the Creeks and United States. Milly was fluent in multiple languages.
In 1812, traditionalist prophets called
for an end to accommodation with the United States. Milly’s father, joined the
movement as a prophet, destroyed his cabin, barns and livestock and returned to
a more traditional lifestyle. The family
then moved to the south side of the river about halfway between what is now
Selma and Montgomery. The settlement
became known as Ecanachaca or Holy Ground.
Warriors from surrounding areas
began to congregate at Holy Ground and it was there that the traditional war
symbol of the red club was raised by Josiah Francis. His followers became known as Red Sticks and
Holy Ground became the war capital. The war began as a civil war between
Creeks, but after violent confrontations at Burt Corn Springs and Fort Mims,
the United States entered the war against the Red Sticks. As American troops came closer to Holy Ground,
the women and children were evacuated. After
a defeat at Holy Ground, Francis joined his family in West Florida.
In 1818, Duncan McKrimmon, of
Milledgeville, Georgia, an American troop stationed in Milly’s area, became
lost in the forest after a fishing trip and was captured by the Red Sticks. As
the warriors prepared to execute him, Milly interceded on McKrimmon’s behalf and
the warriors spared his life. A few days
later, he was traded to the British for a goodly quantity of rum. The story of the rescue was publicized in the
Following her heroism in 1818, she
witnessed her father and suitor executed.
In 1819, she settled at Tuckabatchee where she began rebuilding her
life. She married an Indian warrior,
Cochan Hoboithley. They had eight
children, of which three survived to adulthood.
In 1836, she and her children were forced to join the trail of tears,
marching 20 miles a day on little food or water. Meanwhile, her husband was with a Creek
Regiment of Mounted Volunteers sent to Florida.
After fulfilling his military obligations, he started west to join his
family. He died at Pass Christian in
July of 1837 before he was able to rejoin his family.
While investigating frauds committed
against the Indians, Col. Ethan Allen Hitchcock sought out Milly to hear the
story of McKrimmon’s rescue from her own lips.
Moved by her story, and seeing the poverty to which she was subjected, he
petitioned the Secretary of War to have Congress approve a small pension for
Milly. A bill was passed and a pension
of $8 per month was approved. Congress
also approved that a medal be awarded to Milly in an expression of
gratitude. Milly died of consumption
just days before the money and medal arrived.
Milly exhibited strength and
perseverance in the face of war and removal, while ensuring the preservation of
her family and culture, and showed great strength in poverty while remaining
compassionate through adversity.