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Billy Powell aka Osceola

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1804-1838

Osceola was not born a chief nor was he ever so named by formal election. He was born in Georgia, near the Chattahoochee River, in the country of the Creeks, near Tuskogee, Alabama. His name means Black Drink Crier (Asi-YaHolo). His lineage is disputed, but biographers Hartley in 1973 and Wickman in 1991 both refer to Tom Woodward's lineage of Osceola. A Scot named James McQueen lived with the Creeks from 1716 till 1811 when he died at the age of 128. He had married a Tallassee woman and had many children, two of whom were Peter McQueen (great-Uncle and chief in his own right), and Ann. Ann married a half-breed named Copinger and had a daughter named Polly. Polly Copinger then married William Powell, a Scot trader and their son was named Billy, later known as Osceola. Osceola always maintained that he was full-blooded, but that was because his mother had told him that Creek and Seminole followed Matriarchal lineage.... the male did not count: " You are Muskogee because I am. I am because my mother is." In actuality, Osceola has Scottish lineage on both sides: McQueen on his Mothers and Powell on his fathers.  The male on the mother’s side is of the most influence and that was his great uncle Talmuches Hadjo aka Peter McQueen.

Elegant in dress, handsome of face, passionate in nature and giant of ego, Osceola masterminded successful battles against five baffled U.S. generals, murdered the United State's Indian agent, took punitive action against any who cooperated with the white man and stood as a national manifestation of the Seminoles' strong reputation for non-surrender. Osceola was not a chief with the heritage of a Micanopy or Jumper, but his skill as an orator and his bravado in conflict earned him great influence over Seminole war actions.

In 1832 some Seminole chiefs signed a treaty that called for them to move to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. Osceola and other young Seminoles opposed the move. In 1835 the Indian agent Wiley Thompson called a council at Fort Gibson. Some of the chiefs agreed to move. But Osceola rose and plunged his dagger through the new treaty. He said, "This is the only treaty I will make with the whites!" Osceola's capture, under a controversial flag of truce offered by Gen. Thomas Jessup, remains today one of the blackest marks in American military history. A larger-than-life character, Osceola is the subject of numerous myths; his 1838 death in a Charleston, S.C. prison was noted on front pages around the world. At the time of his death, Osceola was the most famous American Indian.