Ethnologists divide American Indians into groups called “stocks” on the basis of the language they spoke. The South Carolina Indians were generally divided into these principal stocks—the Iroquoian, the Siouan, the Muskhogean, the Yuchian, and the Algonkian. The Creek-Muskhogean nation occupied this lower portion of the state and included many weak tribes. Among them were some Edistos, although the majority of this tribe lived on Edisto Island, S.C. Other tribes were the Cusabo, Creeks, Saltkehatchies, and Coosas.
One of the earliest records of the South Carolina Indians is that of Juan Pardo, who in 1566 marched from Port Royal to the foot of the Appalachian mountains and stated that he found living along the route the Creeks of Muskhogean stock. In 1600 the Cusabo Indian population in South Carolina was believed to be over three thousand.
David Duncan Wallace, author of A Short History of South Carolina, 1520-1948, states:
South of the Congaree-Santee were a number of little Muskhogean tribes, a stock which extended beyond the Mississippi. . . . The tribes of the low country were numerous and small; those of the up country, few and generally large. Any exact location of many of them is impossible, for the ranges of the smaller ones were vague. An idea of the general location of many tribes may be derived from the streams bearing their names, but tribes frequently extended along only part of a river and sometimes shifted their residence to an entirely different region. War, pestilence, whiskey, and slave hunts nearly exterminated them before anyone thought enough of them to make a record. . . . West and southwest of Charleston were more than twenty of these little tribes referred to collectively as the Cusabees, or Cusabos, or Cusaboys, and among them were the Edistos. More powerful than their neighbors were the Coosas, living around the upper waters of the Coosawhatchie, Combahee, Ashepoo, Ashley, and around the mid-Edisto. Almost every river, creek and sea island in that region preserves the name of the Indians who presumably at one time lived upon it.
Map showing about where the three great families of Indians lived in South Carolina. Note the location of the tribes belonging to these families. (From the Simms History of South Carolina, by Mary C. Simms Oliphant, 1932.)
Except for a very few, all of the tribes of southeastern South Carolina are classed by Dr. John R. Swanton as “members of the Cusabo group, of Muskhogean stock.”
After the Yamessee Indians went on the warpath in 1715 threatening to destroy the Carolina colony, they were subdued and there was no large tribe of Indians left within the middle country. However, there were some remnants of red people who at times played a part in the affairs of the province. Some tribes had almost complete freedom in the settlements, being only under the control of the justices of the peace. The Cusabo population at that date was believed to have fallen to 535.
An account of Indian tribes written in 1724/5 by Captain Glover and his traders contains the “census” of the Lower and Upper Creeks. He gives the town of Taley Pooses or Middle province of Sogslars Hacheys as having a population of twenty men, twenty women, and twelve children. Another town he gives as Sogey Hacheys, with the same population, which might be a duplication. Both names appear to be the original of the word “Salkehatchie.”
On June 15, 1751, South Carolina Governor Glen wrote to Captain McPherson of the Indian Patrol that he had previously directed him to “range near Salcatchers and thereabouts, but he was now to take notice from hence forward that he had altered the point and thought it would be more for public service for him and the troop under his command to range across the country towards Orangeburgh and from thence to New Windsor and so down the north side of Savannah River.” The late Osborne Dempsey, a Bamberg resident, in 1932 picked up what was probably a valuable Indian relic in a field near Bamberg. It was a bronze or brass plate, closely resembling a present-day police badge, on which were engraved the words: “U.S. Indian Police.” This might have been lost at some time by one of Captain McPherson’s troop who ranged mainly between the Salkehatchie and Edisto to protect the settlers. In a list of Captain McPherson’s company in 1756 is the name of one George Rents, an early settler in the area.