A revealing saga detailing the economic, familial, and social bonds forged by Indian trader George Galphin in the early American South
A native of Ireland, George Galphin arrived in South Carolina in 1737 and quickly emerged as one of the most proficient deerskin traders in the South. This was due in large part to his marriage to Metawney, a Creek Indian woman from the town of Coweta, who incorporated Galphin into her family and clan, allowing him to establish one of the most profitable merchant companies in North America. As part of his trade operations, Galphin cemented connections with Indigenous and European peoples across the South, while simultaneously securing links to merchants and traders in the British Empire, continental Europe, and beyond.
In George Galphin’s Intimate Empire: The Creek Indians, Family, and Colonialism in Early America, Bryan C. Rindfleisch presents a complex narrative about eighteenth-century cross-cultural relationships. Reconstructing the multilayered bonds forged by Galphin and challenging scholarly understandings of life in the Native South, the American South more broadly, and the Atlantic World, Rindfleisch looks simultaneously at familial, cultural, political, geographical, and commercial ties—examining how eighteenth-century people organized their world, both mentally and physically. He demonstrates how Galphin’s importance emerged through the people with whom he bonded. At their most intimate, Galphin’s multilayered relationships revolved around the Creek, Anglo-French, and African children who comprised his North American family, as well as family and friends on the other side of the Atlantic.
Through extensive research in primary sources, Rindfleisch reconstructs an expansive imperial world that stretches across the American South and reaches into London and includes Indians, Europeans, and Africans who were intimately interconnected and mutually dependent. As a whole, George Galphin’s Intimate Empire provides critical insights into the intensely personal dimensions and cross-cultural contours of the eighteenth-century South and how empire-building and colonialism were, by their very nature, intimate and familial affairs.