Chief Tuscumbia became a legend at the Muscle Shoals. He was one of the few inhabitants of the area when the first white settlers arrived. His name in the Chickasaw language was “Tashka Ambi”, or “Tashkambi”,meaning “the warrior who kills.” It was the English, Scots and Irish who later changed the spelling to “Tuscumbia.”
Although he wore the title of Chief, he has never been listed among the principal chiefs of his people. One source in Mississippi referred to him as one of the priesthood, being labeled as “Chief
Rainmaker of the Chickasaw Tribe”.
Chief Tashka Ambi was a contemporary of other notable Indians who lived at the Muscle Shoals. Chickasaw Chief George Colbert...and Cherokee Chief as well as Chiefs Bigfoot and Glass who were at one time or another in the Colbert County area.
When the white people made their first contact, Chief Tuscumbia was living with a small group of his people at the Muscle Shoals. His brother Jack lived near what was to become Corinth, Mississippi.
Colonel James Robertson of Nashville led a raid in June 1787 to the mouth of Spring Creek. At that time he burned the Indian village known as Oka Kapassa and the French Trading Post that had thrived there for some time. Twenty-six Indians, three French traders, and a white woman were killed. Robertson had learned from the Chickasaws that the warriors from this village at the Muscle Shoals, mainly Creeks and Cherokees, were the ones responsible for the raids against the white settlers in Middle Tennessee. Chief Tashka Ambi was a young warrior at that time, it is doubtful he had any connections with the people at Oka Kapassa. However, one historian, in writing about this era at the Muscle Shoals, had this to say about Chief Tuscumbia:
“The settlements were continually being harassed by Indians from all quarters, but the Indians’ particular stronghold was the territory along the Tennessee River and to the South of Tennessee. One of the particularly spiteful chiefs was named Tuscumbia who lived at the great spring where the city of Tuscumbia is now located.”
It was about this time in the late 1780’s that Chief Tuscumbia married Im Mi, whose full name was Im Mi Ah Key. There was a strict rule among the Chickasaws that a brave had to go outside his home clan to find a wife. It is believed Tuscumbia found his bride in the eastern part of the nation. It was also not uncommon among the Chickasaws for a brave to have more than one wife at the same time, especially if there were a number of sisters in the bride’s family. Im Mi apparently had no sisters therefore, from all accounts; she remained Chief Tuscumbia’s only wife as long as he lived.
Sometime after 1822, Chief Tuscumbia and his wife, Im Mi, moved back to his old home some nine miles South of the present city of Corinth, near the Danville community. Here Chief Tuscumbia built a small cabin on land that adjoined his brother Jack’s property. The Chief spent the remaining years of his life as a farmer; it was said, using a primitive plow drawn behind a pinto pony. Chief Tuscumbia died about the year 1834. A grave was dug under the couch, inside the house, where he had died. They washed his body, anointed his head with oil, painted his face red, and dressed him in his best clothes. The body was placed in a sitting position facing west, and his personal effects, including his gun, ammunition, pipe, tobacco and a supply of corn, were placed alongside the body in the grave. The mourning for the chief involved extinguishing the fire in his house, removing all ashes, and starting a new fire. His widow, Im Mi, according to Chickasaw tradition, wept over his grave just before sunup and sundown for a month.In December 1836, a neighbor, Ruffin Coleman, bought Im Mi’s land for $820; she had been granted this farm by the Treaty of 1834. In 1838 Im Mi and her children were forced to follow the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma with the other Chickasaws.
Chief Tuscumbia’s grave near Danville, Mississippi, was only a short distance from the Tuscumbia River that bears his name.
In 1838, Im Mi’s old homeplace was sold again, this time to Hesekiah Balch Mitchell, for the price of $2,000. Mitchell built his home, which became known as “The White House” on the high ground where he and his son, Lyman, had earlier attended the funeral of Chief Tuscumbia. Not wishing to build over the old chief, he removed Tuscumbia’s body to another location, and in the passing of time, the exact site of the second grave has been lost.
But the name of Tuscumbia will not soon be forgotten, for there is a river in Mississippi, and a city and a mountain in Alabama named for him. They speak softly of the noble warrior who lived among these lands before the white man came to take it from a proud people known as the Chickasaws.
Cited from the Historical Truth 101 Blog.