When I was growing up, this was something we said all of the time. Given that many small farm streams were crossed without bridges, which worked find most of the time, a swollen stream would cause problems. Most of the ones on paved roads had bridges or culverts by that time, but not all of them and everyone still clearly knew what that saying meant – even if the threat wasn’t very real anymore. Well, at least we thought we did….but maybe not.
Did you know the saying “God willing and the Creek don’t rise” was in reference to the Creek Indians and not a body of water? We didn’t.
It turns out that the phrase was written by Benjamin Hawkins in the late 18th century. He was a politician and Indian agent. While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President of the U.S. to return to Washington. In his response, he was said to write, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.” Because he capitalized the word “Creek” it is deduced that he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe and not a body of water.
January 2021: Hat tip to Maria whonotes that the collection of Benjamin Hawkins’s letters has now been digitized and can be read at this link. A search for the word “rise” does not produce this phrase, so it appears that the body of water theory was correct after all.