Oglethorpe & Tomochichi: Savannah’s Bestest Buddies
James Oglethorpe is the founder of Georgia. A Briton born in Berlin, he made his name as a soldier and eventually became a member of Parliament, where he successfully lobbied for the creation of a 13th colony, foreseen as a buffer to protect the lucrative Carolina colonies from Spanish Florida.
Tomochichi and his nephew Toonahowie
Oglethorpe arrived in 1732 and got right to work establishing his new colony. First item of business: land. The smallish Yamacraw Tribe occupied the territory of present-day Savannah, but rather than the good ole slaughter-n-seize, Oglethorpe chose to negotiate for the territory’s purchase. He was an inherently fair person, and had soon built a close personal friendship with the natives’ leader, Chief Tomochichi.
Luckily for the paleskins, Tomochichi was unusually open to newcomers, eager to help out the fledgling colony and have his people educated in the British style. He aided negotiations with the mistrustful Creek tribe, and accompanied Oglethorpe on a trip to England, where he was a big hit as an ambassador for his people. A legend even states that Tomochichi is the originator of Savannah’s “to-go” cup tradition, as he always traveled with Indian firewater in a hand-carved wooden container. Okay fine, there’s no legend like that… but it would be cool if there were.
History regards both Oglethorpe, a philanthropist who tried to keep slavery out of Georgia, and Tomochichi in a positive light. Without this early Odd Couple, the fledgling town would have had a much harder go of it.