James Oglethorpe had an idea: he wanted to reform the debtor’s prison system in England by establishing a new colony in America called Georgia. The only problem was that the current residents of the ‘new land’ were members of the Yamacraw tribe and he did not speak their language. Luckily he met Mary Musgrove who not only could translate, but gave him invaluable advice that helped both Oglethorp and the Yamacraw people.
Georgia History - Biography of James Oglethorpe - History of Muskogee and Creek people - History of Georgia colony
Georgia Geography - Map of American Colonies in 1730 - Map of Savanna River
“All in Translation” Study Topics - Political challenges between English colonies and Spanish (Florida) - Why Oglethorpe was unique as anti-slavery - A look at prison reform initiatives
Topics for Reflection
From a Child Development Perspective:
In this story, your child might learn that:
Great action begins with a small idea. Feed your ideas. Water them. Even if you are not sure they will take root, listen to them. This is what James Edward Oglethorpe did when he had a flash of idea about prison reform. He knew there were a great many challenges to overcome to give prisoners a chance by treating them with more kindness and in giving them more opportunities. He knew that they needed to be treated with more kindness if they were to learn how to treat others with more kindness. He watered his idea and it grew!
Kindness is infectious! If we repeatedly treat others with kindness, even those who have not learned how to be kind themselves, eventually kindness wins. If we treat others with a lack of consideration, then they will often respond with a lack of consideration. This was the problem that many people faced who went to prison when they tried to reenter society. In prison they were treated badly, and they learned how to treat other people badly. Upon release, they were in worse shape than when they had entered prison in the first place.
It is essential that we feel that our lives are filled with purpose. Oglethorpe knew that it was not productive to put debtors in prison, but rather to teach them how to be productive members of society. On some level, most individuals want to be good and they want to be positive contributors to the society even if it might not seem like it. This was Oglethorpe’s idea to send the prisoners to the country to become farmers.
Life will unfold in a way that clears the path for what is meant to be! Oglethorpe’s idea remained an idea until three strokes of luck came his way that brought his idea into fruition and made it a reality. He couldn't have done any of this by himself nor could he have controlled the outcome. There were invisible forces at work, a series of coincidences that could also have been considered magic.
Making change requires not just a good idea, but also a lot of muscle! Oglethorpe first had to gather and convince farmers that his idea was a good one. Then he had to submit a proposal for the colony of Georgia in America that debtors would begin as indentured servants. He had to research what crops the farmers should grow on their plantation. And he had to negotiate with the Yamacraw tribes.
Very often in life we are given the skills and the experiences that we need in order to do our good work in the world. Mary Musgrove learned English from her father and she learned how to read to look on men's faces to gauge what they were looking for. Her mother taught her the history of her people and how to trade with Europeans. And she gained experience in trading from her husband, John Musgrove. It was the perfect combination of skills in her that Oglethorpe needed!
The best plans are those that help everybody involved! When Oglethorpe told Mary about his idea she told him that Tomochichi, the chief of the Yamacraw people, was in a position that might be helpful to him, but also that he might be able to help Tomochichi as well! Oglethorpe wasn't initially excited about a mutual exchange, but in the end they worked together to lift each other up!
We often forge our closest relationships when we work together. James Oglethorpe and Mary Musgrove would never had befriended each other as they did, had it not been for their mutual commitment to work!
Over the years the two of them became close friends as well as business associates. They helped each other through the ups and downs of life. She and Tomochichi accompanied him to a few visits to England and she was very impressive to King George. When Mary’s husband John died of yellow fever, James was there to console her and he was there when she met and married her second husband Jacob Mathews. Mary helped him organize the British and Creek forces to quell a Spanish invasion of Georgia - and then she was a principal diplomat with the Carolinas who was consistently putting pressure on Georgia to accept slavery.
About the Authors
David Sewell McCann
David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.
Meredith has been working with adults and children of all ages for the past 25 years as a Waldorf Teacher and Educational Consultant. She received a B.A. with a focus on child development and child psychology from the University of Michigan, in 1984, an M.A. Ed from Washington University in 1987, and her Waldorf Teaching Certificate from the Lehrerausbildung (Teacher Training) in Nurnberg, Germany in 1989. She was certified as a Living Inquiries Facilitator in 2014, and she completed her formal teaching certification with The Enneagram Institute in 2014. Her work in the classroom and with individuals and groups is designed to help people of all ages to drop self-limiting beliefs to live a more joyful and compassionate life.