The meanng of the name Yuchi is unknown, but perhaps, as suggested by Speck (1909), from a native word meaning "those far away," or "at a distance," though it is also possible that it is a variant of Ochesee or Oeese, which was applied by the Hitchiti and their allies to Indians speaking languages different from their own. Also called:
Ani'-Yu'tsl, Cherokee name.
The Yuchi constituted a linguistic stock, the Uchean, distinct from all others, though structurally their speech bears a certain resemblance to the languages of the Muskhogean and Siouan families.
The earliest known location of the Yuchi was in eastern Tennessee, perhaps near Manchester, but some of them extended still farther east, while others were as far west as Muscle Shoals. On archeological grounds Prof. T. M. N. Lewis believes that one main center of the Yuchi was on the Hiwassee River. We find settlements laid down on the maps as far north as the Green River in Kentucky. In later times, a part settled in west Florida, near the present Eucheeanna, and another part on Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers in Georgia.
The Yuchi probably did not enter South Carolina until after the year 1661. The Westo, whom most consider to have been a part of them, were driven away by the Shawnee in 1681, but there was a band of Yuchi higher up the Savannah River which did not move until 1716, and later another body settled between Silver Bluff and Ebenezer Creek in South Carolina. Hawkins says that they had villages at Ponpon and Saltkechers, but that is all the evidence we have of settlements so far east, and these probably belonged to the Yamassee. In 1729, the Yuchi began to move west to join the Creeks and by 1751 completed the evacuation.
There appear to have been three principal bands in historic times: one on the Tennessee River, one in west Florida, and one on the Savannah River, but only a suggestion of native band names has survived. Recently Wagner has heard of at least three subdivisional names, including the Tsoyaha, or "Sun People" and the Root People.
Most of their settlements are given the name of the tribe, Yuchi, or one of its synonyms. In early times they occupied a town in eastern Tennessee called by the Cherokee Tsistu'yi(, "Rabbit place," on the north bank of Hiwassee River at the entrance of Chestua Creek in Polk County, TN, and at one time also that of Hiwassee, or Euphasee, at the Savannah Ford of Hiwassee River.
The Savannah River band had villages at Mount Pleasant, probably in Screven County, GA, near the mouth of Brier Creek, two miles below Silver Bluff on Savannah River in Barnwell County; and one on Ogeechee River bearing the name of that stream, though that was itself perhaps one form of the name Yuchi. Hawkins (1848) mentions former villages at Ponpon and Saltketchers in South Carolina, but these probably belonged to the Yamasee.
The following Yuchi settlements were established after the tribe united with the Lower Creeks:
Arkansaw River, in Oklahoma.
The chroniclers of Hernando De Soto's expedition in 1540 mention the Yuchi under the name Chisca, at one or more points in what is now Tennessee.
In 1567, Boyano, an officer under Juan Pardo, had two desperate encounters with these Indians somewhere in the highlands of Tennessee or North Carolina, and, according to his own story, destroyed great numbers of them.
In 1670, Lederer heard of people called Rickohockans living in the mountains who may have been Yuchi, and two white men sent from Virginia by Abraham Wood visited a Yuchi town on a head stream of the Tennessee in 1674.
About this time also, English explorers and settlers in South Carolina were told of a warlike tribe called Westo (probably a division of Yuchi) who had struck terror into all of the coast Indians, and hostilities later broke out between them and the colonists. At this juncture, however, a band of Shawnee made war upon the Westo and drove them from the Savannah.
For a time they seem to have given themselves up to a roving life, and some of them went so far inland that they encountered La Salle and settled near Fort St. Louis, near present-day Utica, IL.
Later some were located among the Creeks on Ocmulgee River, and they removed with them to the Chattahoochee in 1715. Another band of Yuchi came to live on Savannah River about 20 miles above Augusta, probably after the expulsion of the Westo. They were often called Hogologe.
After the Yamassee War, in 1716, they also moved to the Chattahoochee River but for a time occupied a town distinct from that of the other Yuchi. It was probably this band which settled near the Shawnee on Tallapoosa River and finally united with them.
Still later occurred a third influx of Yuchi who occupied the Savannah River between Silver Bluff and Ebenezer Creek in present-day Georgia.
In 1729, a Kasihta chief named Captain Ellick married three Yuchi women and persuaded some of the Yuchi Indians to move over among the Lower Creeks, but Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia guaranteed them their rights to their old land until after 1740, and the final removal did not, in fact, take place until 1751.
A still earlier invasion of southern territories by Yuchi is noted by one of the governors of Florida in a letter dated 1639. These invaders proved a constant source of annoyance to the Spaniards. Finally they established themselves in west Florida not far from the Choctawhatchee River, where they were attacked by an allied Spanish and Apalachee expedition in 1677 and suffered severely.
They continued to live in the same region, however, until some time before 1761 when they moved to the Upper Creeks and settled near the Tukabahchee. Eucheeanna in Walton County, FL seems to preserve their name.
A certain number of Yuchi remained in the neighborhood of the Tennessee River, and at one time they were about Muscle Shoals. They also occupied a town in the Cherokee country, called by the latter tribe Tsistu'yl, and Hiwassee at Savannah Ford.
In 1714, the former was cut off by the Cherokee in revenge for the murder of a member of their tribe, instigated by two English traders. Later tradition affirms that the surviving Yuchi fled to Florida, but many of them certainly remained in the Cherokee country for a long time afterward, and probably eventually migrated west with their hosts.
A small band of Yuchi joined the Seminole just before the outbreak of the Seminole War. They appeared first in west Florida, near the Mikasuki but later had a town at Spring Garden in Volusia County, FL. Their presence is indicated down to the end of the war in the Peninsula, when they appear to have gone west, probably reuniting with the remainder of the tribe.
The Yuchi who stayed with the Creeks accompanied them west and settled in one body in the northwestern part of the old Creek Nation, in Creek County, OK.
For the year 1650, Mooney makes an estimate of 1,500 for the Yuchi in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, but this does not include the "Westo," for whom, with the Stono, he allows 1,600.
The colonial census of 1715 gives two Yuchi towns with 130 men and 400 souls, but this probably takes into consideration only one band out of three or four.
In 1730, the band still on the Tennessee River was supposed to contain about 150 men.
In 1760, 50 men are reported in the Lower Creek town and 15 in one among the Upper Creeks.
In 1777 Bartram, estimated the number of Yuchi warriors in the lower town at 500 and their total population as between 1,000 and,1,500.
In 1792, Marbury reports 300 men, or a population of over 1,000, and Hawkins in 1799 says the Lower Creek Yuchi claimed 250 men.
According to the census of 1832-33, there were 1,139 in two towns known to have been occupied by Indians of this connection.
In 1909, Speck stated that the whole number of Yuchi could "hardly exceed five hundred," but the official report for 1910 gives only 78.
That, however, must have been an underestimate as the census of 1930 reported 216.
Owing to the number of Yuchi bands, their frequent changes in location, and the various terms applied to them, an exact estimate of their numbers at any period is very difficult.
In the first half of the sixteenth century they may well have numbered more than 5,000.
The Yuchi have attained an altogether false reputation as the supposed aborigines of the Gulf Coast region. They were also noted for the uniqueness of their language among the Southeastern tongues.
The name is preserved in Euchee, a post hamlet of Meigs County, TN; Eucheeanna, a post village of Walton County, FL; Euchee (or Uchee) Creek, Russell County, AL; Uchee, a post station of Russell County, AL; Uchee Creek, Columbia County, GA; and an island in Savannah River near its mouth.