History Editor Leslie Barker Thomas Digs Deep Into Our Rich Cultural Past with This Ongoing Series About Our Native Ancestors
Christian Gottlieb Priber 1697-1744 is said to have been a German immigrant to the British Colonies, Georgia Territory in particular. Apparently, he was too liberal for his home country and was determined to develop a Utopian Commonwealth among the Native Americans in the Southern states. He supposedly had a legal degree, although many contend he had never completed it.
History says Priber came from Zittau Germany and if you look that information up, you’ll find he has an artist community and museum named for him. He wrote his dissertation concerning the Roman Law and Germany’s ignorance to this information. He ventured to America about 1735 and began immediately living with the Cherokee. It wasn’t long before they began calling him a “beloved man” of the tribe. He sought out the Cherokee because he felt they were the ideal people to help him realize dream of a Utopia.
Several writers said he was a missionary, some wrote he was a Jesuit priest; however history states he was Presbyterian, a legalist, and trader. Several historical authors contended he was a French Jesuit missionary.
Priber liked the idea that the Cherokee held all their lands in common and that they provided sanctuary for runaway slaves. This premise found no favor with the British and he found himself needing to surrender to the government in 1739. It took until 1743 to capture him on his way to New Orleans to free a slave. The allied Creeks had captured him and he was handed over to a British authority.
The British imprisoned Priber at Fort Frederica on coastal Georgia. James Oglethorpe, a British soldier credited as the founder and Governor of Georgia, wrote that he thought Priber “a very odd person indeed.” He suspected that Priber had been conspiring with the French and Spanish to overthrow the British. He had suspiciously traveled at great length through North and South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. It was reported he wanted to set up his “Kingdom of Paradise” in the county of Franklin in Tennessee.
His ideas about paradise were to mix the tribes, slaves, and anybody who wanted to join to do so. The basic idea being that there would be no marriage, you could have relations with any one you wanted, and the resulting children would be wards of the state. His central capital would be the Coosawattee faction of Cherokee located today at the confluence of Hwy 136 and Old 411.
Rumors had it that he had married a Cherokee, however records indicate he was married to a Christiane Hoffman, the daughter of a Georgia merchant and that they had five children. Many traders had two wives so this wouldn’t have been unusual at the time for him to also have a Cherokee wife. He had taught the Cherokee that the British had been cheating them in their trading. He was fluent in the languages of the tribes, German, French and Latin, but spoke in broken English.
Legend has it that he had a daughter named Creat Priber who was married to Chief Doublehead. Their baby had been taken up into the sky by a huge eagle, while they were in a field picking a harvest. Doublehead had felt this was the fault of the white intruders and promptly killed two men, wearing their scalps on his belt. He was then given the name of Doublehead. The story continues that Doublehead had several wives and because of the loss of the child he then killed Creat. Some writers contend that Creat was the granddaughter Chief Moytoy.
Priber died in prison while he was being held in confinement in 1744.
Grandma always said, “believe only half of what you see and none of what you read.”
That too is said to be a quote either by Edgar Allan Poe or Ben Franklin.
Leslie Barker Thomas is a resident of Ellijay and the President of the Gilmer County Historical Society; Former President, Georgia Chapter Trail of Tears Association and Board Member of the National Trail of Tears Association.
Visit the Gilmer County Historical Society
Historic Tabor House & Civil War Museum
138 Spring Street, Ellijay, Georgia 30540
706. 276. 1861.
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“When history is erased, people’s moral values are also erased.” –Ma Jian