In the early part of the nineteenth century when the area of Lafayette County was being settled by the white man there were still a great many Chickasaw Indians in the area. Two different tribes were in the area. The Yocona River was the dividing point between the two tribes.
Some time in the early 1830s a drought had caused a reduction in the wild game that these Indians depended on for their main source of food. The drought was particularly bad in the area below the Yocona River. Due to this fact the chief of the tribe went to a local farmer by the name of Wolverton and requested that he go with him and some of his braves to the chief of the northern tribe, Toby Tubby. They wanted permission from the chief to hunt on his land and they were given his permission to do so.
Toby Tubby allowed them to hunt on his tribe’s land, but they could kill only fifty deer. When the braves from the lower tribe finished their hunt they found they had killed three more that the amount allotted by Toby Tubby. To show their honesty they took the extra three deer and gave them to the tribe above the Yocona River.
Toby Tubby, as related by Oxford-Lafayette County folklore and tradition, was the last Chickasaw chief in this area. His name has also been spelled as follows: Tobba-tubby, Toba Tubba, and Tobatubby. In the Chickasaw language Tubby means “chief” and Toby means “old” or “bent”. He was a prosperous land and slave owner. He also operated a ferry across the Tallahatchie River on the old stage road to Memphis. The road originally went through College Hill and across the river that is now under water with the damming of the river for Sardis Reservoir.
In 1835, as legend has it, the old chief sold several thousand acres of land and received government notes and gold for the sale. After this sale he was in a saloon in the town of Wyatt on the north side of the river. He proceeded to get drunk and got into a fight and was killed. He was then buried in a mound near his ferry across the Tallahatchie River.
The old chief had two wives that survived him. Their names were Tonakey and Shim a hokey. In the years after Mississippi’s settlement by Europeans, the Natchez Indians had assimilated with the Chickasaw. One of the traditions of the Natchez Indian was for the chief to be buried with their worldly possessions along with family members, members of the tribe or their slaves or servants. When Toby Tubby was buried he was buried, as tradition has it, with a great deal of gold that he had received from the sale of land he had owned. He had also planned to be buried with a slave, but this was thwarted by some of the local settlers.
Some years after his burial, it has been stated that his daughter or a female relative came down from Memphis to try to locate the buried treasure of Chief Toby Tubby. She came to the College Hill area to search for the burial mound. The land on which the burial mound was located was on a parcel that had been sold to Charles and William Dooley by F. M. Pettis. The Dooleys wrote a letter to the Oxford Eagle on September 1, 1895 concerning the buried treasure. The letter indicated that a woman, claiming to be an Indian and a descendent of the old Chief, asked permission to dig on their land for the treasure.
Mrs. Florence Dooley Tolson, of the College Hill community, related in an interview in 1972, that her mother had told the story to her children of the woman looking for Toby Tubby’s treasure. She related that it was during the harvest season and that the mysterious woman had hired men to dig at wages higher that those being given for farm work. It became difficult to get hands to do farm work because of the wages she was paying.
One day soon after she had started the dig for the treasure she disappeared without paying anyone their promised wages. According to local folklore, some men went out to the excavation site and found the imprint in the ground of boxes and kettles. There was no treasure to be found. Some local people believe the treasure is still buried in the mound and is waiting to be discovered. Others believe that with the back up from Sardis Dam that the mound is now under water.
An interesting sidelight to the legend is that William Faulkner used a similar theme in his short story “Red Leaves”. In Faulkner’s story the slave is killed and buried with the Chief not saved by the local town folk. Faulkner is said to have stated that he did not read history he listened to it being told.
Jack Lamar Mayfield is a fifth generation Oxonian, whose family came to Oxford shortly after the Chickasaw Cession of 1832, and he is the third generation of his family to graduate from the University of Mississippi. He is a former insurance company executive and history instructor at Marshall Academy in Holly Springs, South Panola High School in Batesvile and the Oxford campus of Northwest Community College.
In addition to his weekly blog in HottyToddy.com Oxford’s Olden Days, Mayfield is also the author of an Images of America series book titled Oxford and Ole Miss published in 2008 for the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation. The Foundation is responsible for restoring the post-Civil War home of famed Mississippi statesman, L.Q.C. Lamar and is now restoring the Burns Belfry, the first African American Church in Oxford.