Emperor Brim


Emperor Brim (d. 1733) was a noted mico, or chief, of the Lower Creek town of Coweta, which was located along the border of present-day Alabama and Georgia, near Columbus, Georgia. His personal prestige garnered him great respect among the Creeks and attracted the interest of European colonial leaders seeking an influential supporter in their pursuit of Indian alliances. He was instrumental in negotiating the Coweta Resolution in 1718, by which the Creeks established a policy of neutrality among the European powers of Great Britain, France, and Spain. Neutrality became a hallmark of Creek political strategy until 1763, when Great Britain became the sole European power in the region after the Seven Years' War, and after 1783, when Spain regained control of the Floridas in the wake of the American War for Independence.

Brim's date of birth is unknown. He was the brother of Chigelli and the father of twin sons Essabo and Malatchi, all of whom were Lower Creek leaders. Mary Musgrove, a Creek-English woman who played an important role in the early colony of Georgia, claimed him as a maternal relation. He rose to power as head war chief of Coweta in the early eighteenth century and was designated "emperor" by the British and "great cacique" by the Spaniards. During this volatile period, the British, French, and Spaniards, driven by their historical rivalries and quests for empire in North America, vied for the allegiance of the southeastern Indian groups. These groups in turn contended with their own rivalries as well as with the pressures of European intrusion into their territories. Tensions were high especially along the Carolina-Indian frontier, where a history of oppressive trading practices on the part of the British fomented resentment among the local Yamasee Indians. In April of 1712, the Yamasees launched a devastating attack on traders and border settlements in South Carolina, beginning the long struggle that came to be known as the Yamasee War.

The French and British accused Emperor Brim of directing the Yamasee attack on South Carolina, while Brim, for his part, took the opportunity in the chaos of the beginning of the war to organize raids against the Carolinians and Cherokees. The war took its toll on both Indians and British, and as it progressed, Yamasee refugees fled to Spanish Florida. In 1716, encouraged by rumors that Brim would be amenable to an alliance with Spain, Spanish lieutenant Diego Peña traveled to Coweta to secure Brim's allegiance. Brim pledged loyalty to Spain but not to the exclusion of his relationships with Great Britain and France. Meanwhile, in 1717, the Creeks made peace with the British and permitted the French to build Fort Toulouse at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers, near present-day Wetumpka, Alabama.

In March 1718, representatives of the three imperial powers convened at Coweta, and Emperor Brim, in council with many Lower and Upper Creek leaders, crafted the Coweta Resolution and settled into the policy of neutrality that the Creeks perfected in subsequent decades. That year, the Spaniards built the presidio of San Marcos at Apalachee, near present-day Tallahassee, Florida, and by 1721, the British had built Fort King George at the mouth of the Altamaha River in present-day south Georgia. As the three European imperial powers entrenched themselves on the Creek frontiers, the Creek strategy of neutrality allowed them to exploit their rivalries, holding the balance of power among them while securing lucrative trading relationships and maintaining control of Creek territory. It was a successful strategy that served the Creeks well throughout the eighteenth century.

Additional Resources 

Crane, Verner W. The Southern Frontier, 1670-1732. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981.

Hahn, Steven C. The Invention of the Creek Nation, 1670-1763. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.

Juricek, John T., ed. Georgia Treaties, 1733-1763. Vol. 11 of Early American Indian Documents: Treaties and Laws, 1607-1789, edited by Alden T. Vaughan. Bethesda, Md.: University Publications of America, 1989.

Oatis, Steven J. A Colonial Complex: South Carolina's Frontiers in the Era of the Yamasee War, 1680-1730. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.

Ramsey, William L. The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.

Melissa A. Stock
Emory University


Published February 10, 2009
Last updated July 7, 2009