The early fur traders, colorful characters like Alexander Cummings, James Adair*, and Martin Chartier, lived among the Indians and became the crucial link between tribesmen, colonial governments, and international markets. They employed Indian hunters to supply them with beaver skins and deer pelts, which they then carried on pack trains to Charles Town or shipped down river to New Orleans. South Carolina merchants dominated the early Tennessee fur trade, export- ing more than 160,000 skins worth $250,000 in 1748 alone. The fur trade was profitable for the traders, but it wiped out much of Tennessee’s native animal life. The competition for the Indian trade sharpened Anglo-French rivalry, and the Indians were drawn into a global power struggle.
*James Adair journal details his life with the Chickasaw nation.
Information you might find informative
James Adair (c.1709–1783) was a native of County Antrim, Ireland, who went to North America and became a trader with the Native Americans of the Southeastern Woodlands.
From 1735 he resided there for 40 years and was almost entirely cut off from the outside world. From 1744 he resided chiefly among the Chickasaw. In 1751, Adair moved to Laurens County, South Carolina.
In the 1740s he led a British trade mission to the Eastern Choctaw tribe at the height of King George’s War in an effort to win this nation over from French influence. He dealt extensively with Chief Red Shoes, the leader of the pro-British faction of the Choctaw. This eventually erupted into a fierce civil war amongst the Choctaw that led to Red Shoes assassination in 1749. Adair went forward under the direction of James Glen, governor of South Carolina, but then vehemently blames him for the mission’s failure and the loss of his personal fortune.
In the 1760s he led a contingent of Chickasaw Warriors against the French in the French and Indian Wars which resulted in 1763 with most French territory east of the Mississippi being ceded over to the British colonies at the Treaty of Paris (1763).
His book was called The History of the American Indians . . . containing an Account of their Origin, Language, Manners, . . . and other Particulars, sufficient to render it A Complete Indian System . . . with A New Map of the Country.
“The next major stage of Tennessee prehistory lasted almost 2,000 years and is known as the Woodland period. During this era, Native people began to make containers and other objects out of clay. This craft is known as pottery. They also began to live in settled farming communities and to construct burial mounds. Wealth increased and Native society began to stratify, or divide, into different social classes. Native Americans in Tennessee made the transition from societies of hunters and gatherers to well-organized tribal, agricultural societies living in large, permanent towns. Pinson Mounds and Old Stone Fort were Woodland period sites. Pinson Mounds in Madison County was a ceremonial site with 17 mounds surrounded by an earth wall”