Florida's Peace River frontier

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Florida's Peace River frontier
Brown, Canter
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, FL
University of Central Florida Press
University Presses of Florida distributor
Physical Description:
xviii, 483 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
History -- Peace River Valley (Fla.) ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (p. 431-452) and index.
Statement of Responsibility:
Canter Brown, Jr.

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University of Florida
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Resource Identifier:
22208124 ( OCLC )
90044257 ( LCCN )
0813010373 ( ISBN )
F317.P37 B76 1991 ( lcc )
975.9/57 ( ddc )

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Florida 's




Canter Brown, Jr.

University of
Central Florida Press

Copyright 1991 by the Board of Regents of the State of
Printed in the U.S.A. on acid-free paper oo
Third Printing 1993

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Brown, Canter.
Florida's Peace River Frontier / Canter Brown, Jr.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-8130-1037-3
1. Peace River Valley (Fla.)-History. I. Title.
F317.P37B76 1991 90-44257
975.9'57-dc20 CIP

With deepest appreciation
to my friend,
Kenneth John Nemeth

Ben Hill Griffin, Jr., a native and lifetime resident of the
Peace River Valley, was born on October 20, 1910, near
Fort Meade in the community of Tiger Bay, a town that
no longer exists. An alumnus of the University of Florida,
Mr. Griffin was a citrus grower, cattleman, businessman,
and philanthropist and served in the Florida House of
Representatives (1956-64) and State Senate (1964-68). A
defender of the Peace River, he spent much of his time on
his beloved Peace River Ranch between Wauchula and
Arcadia. He died on March 1, 1990, in Avon Park.
The publication of Florida's Peace River Frontier has been
assisted by a grant in memory of Ben Hill Griffin,
Jr., by Citrus and Chemical Bank of Polk County, where
he was formerly chairman of the board and majority


Preface xi
Prologue xvii

Part One: "The brand of Osceola and his warriors"
1. Early Migrations 3
"Tellaugue Chapcopopeau, a creek which enters the
ocean at a place called the Fishery"
2. Upheavals and Explorations 17
"In this remote situation"
3. Beginning of the Second Seminole War 34
"The water of the land is my blood"
4. Conclusion of the Second Seminole War 47
"A perfect grave yard"

Part Two: "The society of a frontier" (1842-1858)
5. The Frontier Moves to South Florida 63
"To play off a shabby trick"
6. The Army and the First Settlers 75
"The crack of the rifle will be heard"
7. Permanent Settlement 91
"The country was absolutely new"
8. The Third Seminole War 106
"A veritable clap of thunder from a clear sky"

viii Contents

Part Three: "Wild enthusiasm swept like vengeance over the
whole country" (1858-1877)

9. Between the Wars 123
"They were simply pouring into South Florida"
10. Prelude to Fort Sumter 136
"There is but little apprehension of danger"
1id Civil War in the River Valley 155
"The times hear is vary squally"
12. Republicans in Power 176
"The passions & prejudices of the people"
'13/ Cattle and Reconstruction Politics 195
"As fair as any vote ever held in the world"
14. Communities on the Frontier 215
"Peas Creek could be made navigable to Fort Meade"

Part Four: "Progress that our people did not dream of"

15. The Problem of Violence 239
"We have to kill men to recruit our graveyards"
16. Isolation and the Need for Transportation 255
"We need something to cheer us up"
17. The Miracle of Railroads 272
"Improvements have gone up and on like magic"
18. Politics of Redemption 292
"A great deal of political strife among us"
19. Phosphate and Freezes 312
"It is at best a serious disaster"
20. At the End of the Century 326
"When can I expect you?"
21. The Legacy of the Nineteenth Century 343
"A little better than it used to be"


1. Soldiers of the Patriot War 349
2. Selected Residents of Old Columbia, Hamilton, and
Alachua Counties (c. 1830-1832) 351

Contents ix

3. Selected Members of the Columbia Volunteers
(1835-1836) 353
4. Selected Members of Capt. William B. North's Company,
Florida Volunteers (1838-1839) 354
5. Selected Residents of Columbia and Hamilton Counties
(1842-1843) 355
6. Armed Occupation Act Claims 356
7. Sparkman's and Parker's Volunteer Companies (1849) 358
8. Selected Enlistments, Second Florida Cavalry (U.S.)
(March-June 1864) 360
9. Partial Roster, F.A. Hendry's Independent Company,
Munnerlyn's Battalion (1864) 362
10. Capt. W.H. Cobb's Company (Company C), U.S.
Volunteers (1898) 363

Abbreviations 365
Notes 367
Bibliography 431
Index 453


HE HISTORY of the Peace River Valley of Florida in the nine-

teenth century is a tale of violence, passion, struggle, sac-
rifice, and determination. It was written with the lives and
deaths of Creeks and Seminoles who refused to surrender their
independence; of runaway slaves and fierce black warriors; of
white frontiersmen struggling to build a better world for them-
selves and their families; of men and women who supported the
Confederacy and their brothers and sisters who would not aban-
don the Union; of settlers from the defeated South and, later,
from the North and Midwest; and of freedmen and -women who
suffered to overcome the shackles of slavery, who farmed, who
built the railroads, and who toiled in the broiling heat of open-pit
phosphate mines. Some of those men and women bore famous
names; many are unknown to us. All, however, came together to
create a drama that had an impact upon generations of their de-
scendants, upon the state of Florida, and, in instances, upon the
history of the United States.
To understand what happened in the Peace River Valley and,
by extension, South Florida in the nineteenth century, it is
important to grasp that for most of that time the Peace River area
was a frontier as wild and woolly as any in the West. Little has


xii Preface

been written of Florida as a frontier, yet the legacy of those days
remains important in Florida's social, economic, and political
fabric. It is only reasonable to want to understand how the set-
tlement of that frontier occurred and whether that settlement
affected regional and national history, as well.
It is tempting to note, for example, the critical role of Peace
River political leaders and voters in the election of Republican
Rutherford B. Hayes to the presidency in 1876. But it is also true
that sparsely populated South Florida and the Peace River Valley
helped launch, in the nineteenth century, the careers of three
men who became governors of Florida-Ossian Hart, Henry L.
Mitchell, and Albert W. Gilchrist-and provided much of the
margin by which Democrats were able to "redeem" Florida from
Reconstruction Republicans and retain their control thereafter.
Pro-Union sentiments of many Civil War era residents of
western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and adjacent areas
are well documented. Less recognized is the sharp split among
the residents of the Peace River frontier which led in 1864 and
1865 to bloody personal confrontation between Union and Con-
federate troops raised from the area, a confrontation that affected
the Civil War by delaying and, for a time, stopping the flow of
desperately needed beef to the Confederate Army of Tennessee.
Although the Peace River was a scene of war and terrible vio-
lence during the nineteenth century, it also served as a haven for
Red Stick Creek, Seminole, and black warriors and their families
fleeing from the wrath of Andrew Jackson in the wake of the
First Seminole War. From those survivors came much of the
leadership of the Second Seminole War, the river valley serving in
particular as an early home for the two most famous of Florida's
warriors, Osceola and Billy Bowlegs.
Im a in Peace River history was the role, largely
ignored of black slaves an freedmen in the tamingof e
frontier. Deserving of attention aiso were te efforts of Recon-
Sstruction era Regulators to drive freedmen from the area and the
eventual settlements of large numbers of black men, women, and
children with the coming of the railroad and phosphate mines
late in the century.
These and numerous other facets of the history of the Peace
River Valley in the nineteenth century paint a rich, interesting,
and important story of life on America's southern frontier. This

Preface xiii

story never has been approached in a comprehensive manner, and
its telling will provide clues to understanding not only today's
Peace River but also significant events in the nineteenth-century
history of the state of Florida and of the United States.
This book examines only nineteenth-century Peace River his-
tory. My decision to limit the scope to that century was made for
a number of reasons. Foremost among them was that, as the
nineteenth century dawned, the Peace River area and most of the
rest of South Florida were uninhabited on any permanent basis.
As discussed in Part One, certain Indian tribes from the north-
particularly the "Alachua" Seminoles from North Florida and the
"Upper Creeks" from northern Alabama-used the area for sea-
sonal hunting, but the older South Florida inhabitants and tribes
for the most part had succumbed to the white race's diseases and
slave raids or else to their own internal and intertribal conflicts.
Additionally, a number of historians, most recently Janet Snyder
Matthews in her Edge of Wilderness, have explored the prehistory
and Spanish exploration of southwest Florida, and I did not feel I
could add to their work without further original research in
Spanish language primary sources, a task for which I neither was
prepared nor had sufficient time or resources.
Having decided upon the beginning of the nineteenth century
as the jumping-off point for this story, I then was forced to come
to grips with the question of where to end it. The history I
wanted to discover and relate was of the settlement of the Peace
River area, and the towns and institutions reflecting that process
were in place by 1900. The 1800s, which witnessed the closing of
the Florida frontier, seemed a logical and appropriate period for
treatment; accordingly, I set the end of that century as my point
of termination.
Some readers will notice that the text of this book contains far
more detail-particularly the identification of individuals and
families with events being described-than strictly is necessary
for the telling of the story. The inclusion of this material was
deliberate. Through four years of research and writing I came to
believe that the stories of individuals and families-especially
those families who became Peace River's first American pio-
neers-should not be submerged in painting a broad picture. I
have attempted to minimize disruption of the narrative by the
inclusion of much of this detail through the liberal use of appen-

xiv Preface

dixes and endnotes, and I hope that the detail remaining in the
text will lend itself to a more personal and interesting story.
Two subjects that properly could have been explored in detail
but are not are the day-to-day lives and the folklore of South
Florida pioneers. Since several authors have written extensively
on these fascinating topics, and in light of space limitations on
this book, I decided not to attempt their treatment here.
The Peace River went by many names in the nineteenth cen-
tury. To the Creek and Seminole Indians, the river was known as
the Talakchopco hatchee or "river of the long peas." To the
whites this Indian name translated as "Peas" or "Pease" Creek.
For centuries before the Creeks and Seminoles named the river,
however, it was designated in various languages on European
maps as the River of Peace, perhaps suggesting an early role as
boundary line or neutral zone-a role the river again briefly
assumed in the nineteenth century. By the mid-to-late 1800s, the
name Peace River had become commonplace and it remains so.
The question of the spelling of family names is fraught with
difficulty. With one major exception, I have adopted the most
common spellings used by individuals and families named. The
exception is the Whidden family, whose names have been recorded
in so many ways-even for the same individual-as to reduce to
confusion any attempt to sort them out. Accordingly, unless used
in a direct quotation, the name is spelled "Whidden." Incorrect
spellings and usages in direct quotations, similarly, have been left
as they appear in the original, and the use of [sic] has been
In good part the information appearing in this book is derived
from original source materials, and it could never have been com-
piled without the encouragement and assistance of numerous
individuals and institutions. Of paramount importance to me in
this regard were the insights and hard work of Katharine Emer-
son Brown of Atlanta and John Eugene Brown of Fort Meade. I
also am particularly indebted to Dr. Jerrell H. Shofner, chairman
of the Department of History of the University of Central Florida,
and to Dr. Samuel Proctor, professor of history at the University
of Florida, both of whom provided me with their gracious support
and encouragement.
Of the many individuals I have come to know in the process of
preparing this book, I am no more indebted to any than to Kyle S.

Preface xv

VanLandingham. It is also appropriate to note the contributions
of a number of persons who, over the decades of the past half cen-
tury, have worked quietly and often without recognition to pre-
serve and identify historical information related to the Peace
River Valley. While asking pardon for names that should have
been mentioned but inadvertently are not, I would extend thanks
for the work of Edward T. Keenan, Albert DeVane, Park DeVane,
Tom Brown, Elisabeth S. Brown, Walter Crutchfield, Louise K.
Frisbie, Glenn Hooker, George Lane, Jr., Richard M. Livingston,
Vernon Peeples, Spessard Stone, and Charles C. Rushing.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Dorothy Dodd for her friend-
ship, the loan of her research notes, and her assistance in tracking
down information which allowed me a greater insight into sev-
eral pivotal events. Likewise, I am thankful for the friendship
and assistance of LaCona Raines Padgett, Kathleen M. Greer,
Hazel Bowman, and June Beadle of the Polk County Historical
and Genealogical Library and Tissie Watson of the Manatee
County Historical Records Library. I cannot fail to mention the
contributions of my friends Stephen Prine, Kenneth J. Nemeth,
Alexander F. Freeman, Pat Freeman, Douglas H. Morford, Cherry
L. Emerson, and Arthur Wacaster, each of whom assisted in the
research for this book or in the preparation and review of the
Other persons who were of particular help to me were: Win-
nifred T. Brown; Vernice Williams; Lewis G. Schmidt; David J.
Coles and Delbra McGriff of the Florida State Archives; Barbara
Mattick, Beverly P. Byrd, and Mary Ann Cleveland of the Florida
Collection of the State Library of Florida; Richard A. Shrader and
John White of the Southern Historical Collection of the Univer-
sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Joe A. Akerman, Jr., of
the North Florida Junior College. In addition, I am indebted to
Krista K. Theiler and Ed Powell for their work in copying and
enhancing many of the photographs used in this volume; to Ted
Starr for the original maps he created, which add significantly to
my narrative; and to the staffs of the Strozier Library of the
Florida State University; the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida His-
tory of the University of Florida; the St. Augustine Historical
Society Research Library; the Library of Congress; the National
Archives; the Pennsylvania Historical Society; the U. S. Army
Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks; the United States

xvi Preface

Military Academy Library; the Bowdoin College Library; the
Oswego, New York, Public Library; the New York Public Library;
the South Caroliniana Library of the University of South Caro-
lina; the Georgia State Archives; the University of Georgia Li-
brary; the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and
Art; the Stetson University Library; the University of North
Florida Library; the interlibrary loan office of the St. Johns
County Public Library; and last, but certainly not least, the Uni-
versity Presses of Florida.
Each individual and institution I have named contributed to
this book and assisted me greatly in telling the story of the his-
tory of the Peace River Valley in the nineteenth century. Respon-
sibility for the interpretation of events and for errors of fact is
mine alone.


HE PEACE RIVER originates in Lake Hamilton, one of the

many beautiful lakes that dot the heart of interior penin-
sular Florida in northern Polk County, although some of
its waters can be traced as far to the north and northwest as the
great reservoir of the Green Swamp-an area skirted by millions
of vacationers driving along Interstate 4 between Tampa and
Orlando. Just to the east of the river's source and paralleling its
course through Polk County is Florida's natural spine, the chain
of high sandy hills known as "The Ridge," which marked in
ancient times all of peninsular Florida remaining above the sea.
From Lake Hamilton the narrow stream of Peace River today
is channeled by drainage canals first to the south and then to the
west where, just to the north of Polk's county seat of Bartow, it
joins Saddle Creek, an outlet of Lake Hancock two miles to the
north. From the junction, the river plunges southward again past
Bartow and the town of Fort Meade. Three miles below Fort
Meade the stream, continuing its southward course, is combined
with the waters of Bowlegs Creek, which rises to the east on the
Ridge, near Lake Buffum.
At Bowling Green, a little less than 40 miles along its course,
the river enters Hardee County as well as the beginnings of the


xviii Prologue

low South Florida prairie through which it will pass for most of
its remaining journey to the sea. For half of the distance through
Hardee's 21-mile width, the river continues its southward flow,
edging in its progress the county seat of Wauchula. At Zolfo
Springs, however, its course bows to the southwest, then turns to
the south before bowing again, this time to the southeast and a
junction with Charlie Apopka Creek at a point just to the north of
the DeSoto County line. The enlarged river then carries its
waters7h he southwest and, on an ever more twisting and
turning course, passes Arcadia and Fort Ogden, strengthened
along the way by the discharges of Joshua and Horse creeks.
Three miles below Fort Ogden the widening stream enters Char-
lotte County and begins a slow turn to the west, which carries it
beyond Punta Gorda to its meeting with the sea at Charlotte
Harbor on Florida's southwest Gulf of Mexico coast. On a straight
line Peace River's length totals only about 110 miles, but its often
serpentine course doubles that distance.
For much of its length, Peace River passes through a portion of
Florida still rural, and even remote, late in the twentieth century.
In its upper reaches the land is scarred by huge open pit phos-
phate mines, while farther to the south cattle still graze on the
prairies through which it flows. No great metropolises line the
river's banks and no commerce passes along its waters, but once,
less than two centuries ago, the Peace River witnessed events
that brought the dynamics of history into play in South Florida,
and the Peace River bent and molded those events into this story.

Part One

"The brand of Osceola
and his warriors"

"Tellaugue Chapcopopeau, a creek
which enters the ocean at a
place called the Fishery"


Early Migrations

APART FROM SMALL SETTLEMENTS east and north of the St.
Johns River, the outposts of Spain's colonial empire, pen-
insular Florida at the dawn of the nineteenth century
belonged to the Indians, most of them relative newcomers them-
selves. A combination of disease, war, slave raiding, and volun-
tary departures had eliminated almost entirely the indigenous
tribes of the peninsula, and into the vacuum had come several
thousand Creek Indians, great numbers of whom were becoming
known as Seminoles. These early Floridians were concentrated
around the Alachua Prairie or Alachua Plain in what would
become Alachua County. There, under a succession of powerful
rulers, the Alachua Seminoles prospered while their vast herds of
cattle fattened on the surrounding prairie grasses.1
South Florida, the site of extensive earlier Indian civilizations,
was virtually uninhabited in the early 1800s but for the seasonal
presence of Spanish fishermen at fishing ranchos at Tampa Bay
and Charlotte Harbor. The exception was a cluster of Indian set-
tlements in or near the Big Hammock in what is today Hernando
County. Known after its principal town as Chocachatti, these set-
tlements had been founded in 1767 by Creek Indians from the
town of Eufala. These immigrants were known as Upper Creek, a


4 Florida's Peace River Frontier

collective label applied to Creeks whose homes lay along the Tal-
lapoosa, Coosa, and Alabama rivers in the present state of Ala-
bama. At Chocachatti and in small villages stretching southward
to Tampa Bay, their numbers supplemented by later arrivals,
these Upper Creeks thrived in the last three decades of the eigh-
teenth century.2
Also in South Florida for part of each year were numerous par-
ties of Creeks and Seminoles who, for decades and, possibly, gen-
erations prior to 1800, had journeyed to South Florida for the
November to March hunting season. They followed the ancient
trail from the north down to the falls of the Hillsborough River
and from there to the crossing of the Alafia River south of today's
Plant City, the scattering ground where hunting parties sepa-
rated into smaller expeditions. Those headed for the Myakka
range west of Peace River simply continued on their way. Those
determined to hunt farther south, down to the Caloosahatchee
River and below, turned to the east to the fords on Peace River or
what they knew as the Talakchopco hatchee, the River of the
Long Peas. Specifically, they forded the Peace River about fifteen
miles south of the lake they believed to be at the head of the river
where, by 1819, a permanent village was established. It took the
name of the river, Talakchopco.3
Traditionally, the annual Creek and Seminole hunting expedi-
tions centered around the hunt for deer, although bear, panther,
and other animals figured as well. Using the game for food during
the hunting season, the Indians would trade deerskins and other
products of their hunt for guns, clothing, whiskey, and similar
commodities. The hunts in South Florida were not always solely
for deerskins, however. From as early as 1708 come reported
incidents of slave raiding by Yemassee Indians of South Carolina
deep into South Florida, a traffic which seems to have been con-
tinued by the Creeks well into the century.4
By the 1790s the Creeks in South Florida and their cousins
from further north were so involved in the life and economy of
the peninsula that they wanted to regularize their trading rela-
tionships with Spanish Cuba. Previously content with exchanging
the rewards of their South Florida hunts through Charlotte Har-
bor's Cuban fishermen or St. Augustine middlemen, in 1793 the
Creeks dispatched a delegation to Havana to petition for the erec-
tion of a store convenient to their hunting grounds. The request

Early Migrations 5

Two Tallahassee Creek chiefs, allies of Peter McQueen, were arrested
with Alexander Arbuthnot, an Englishman, at St. Marks just prior to the
April 1818 battle at Bowlegs Town on the Suwannee River. In the after-
math of the battle, McQueen sought refuge at Peace River. Courtesy
Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State Archives.

specified that the store should be located at Pea Creek, described
as "down in the Point of Florida, where the Spaniards always
fish, and where the Indians take vessels to cross over to Havana."
Although the Creek request resulted in a Spanish exploratory
mission to the Tampa Bay area, no store appears to have been
built there or at Charlotte Harbor. The incident, however, clearly
illustrates a substantial Creek presence and interest in South
Florida from the 1790s. Since the Creeks understood the location
and importance of Peace River, which the Spanish explorers mis-
took for Tampa Bay, it also suggests a knowledge of the area on
their part far greater than that held by the officials of Spain and
her agents.5

The hunting towns at Talakchopco

A marked difference existed between Seminoles and Creeks
when it came to their pursuit of game on the South Florida
hunting grounds; by custom Creeks left their wives and children

6 Florida's Peace River Frontier

at home, while Seminoles seemed to prefer having their families
with them. The presence of these Seminole families on the hunt
no doubt prompted the establishment of seasonal villages on high
fertile land near the hunting grounds, since, for a good part of
each year, much of South Florida's low, flat land was under an
inch to a foot or more of water. Accordingly, when in 1799 Creek
Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins noted the existence of seven
"towns of the Simenolies," he noted among them "Tal-lau-gue
chapco pop-cau" and "Cull-oo-saw-hat-che." These towns must
have been located on the rivers which their names suggest,
Talakchopco and Caloosahatchee, and most logically would have
been sited near the great crossing places on each of them.6
The Peace River hunting towns occasionally served as refuges,
as well. A letter from Hawkins, dated in mid-January 1813, men-
tions that the leader of the Alachua Seminoles, King Payne,
recently had died, and his people were in turmoil as a result of
their conflict with Georgia and North Florida frontiersmen in
what has come to be known as the Patriot War [see appendix 1].
"I received from an Indian of note : the following informa-
tion," wrote Hawkins. "Paine is dead of his wounds [and]
the warring Indians have quit this settlement [Alachua], and
gone down to Tellaugue Chapcopopeau, a creek which enters the
ocean south of Moscheto river, at a place called the Fishery. Such
of their stock as they could command have been driven in that
direction, and the negroes [Seminole slaves] were going the same
way. The lands beyond the creek towards Florida point, were, for
a considerable distance, open savannas, with ponds; and, still
beyond the land, stony, to the point."7
Hawkins's letter preserves for us not only the name of the
town or area to which the Seminoles fled in 1812 but also a de-
scription of where it lay. The Moscheto (or Mosquito) River is
known to us as the Halifax, and by south of the Moscheto River
Hawkins meant below or farther down the peninsula. The creek
flowed into the place called the Fishery, which was Charlotte
Harbor, where for at least fifty years Cuban fishing ranchos had
been located. Tellaugue Chapcopopeau to the Seminoles meant
"the place where long peas are eaten." It was Hawkins's spelling
for Talakchopco River. The refugees had gone to Peace River and
their seasonal hunting towns.8
Where exactly were these seasonal towns located? The great

Early Migrations 7

ford of the Peace River lay at what is now Fort Meade. The banks
of the river from just below the site of Fort Meade northward to
the vicinity of Lake Hancock, with the banks of adjacent creeks,
constituted an area of rich and high hammock land prized by the
Indians for its agricultural potential and other natural resources.
Behind the banks for several miles in each direction lay what was
known as "2d rate pine land," land elevated above the adjacent
country, healthy and high in productivity. It was in this band of
country, about five or six miles in width and fifteen to twenty
miles long, that the Seminoles had located their hunting towns
and that other Indians and blacks before too many years passed
were to attempt to establish more permanent lives.9

Black plantations at Sarasota Bay

The years from 1812 to 1818 were a time of almost constant
turmoil for the Indians of Florida and their black slaves and
allies. In East Florida the Patriot War flamed on and off from July
1812 until May 1814, sending many Seminoles in flight-with
their slaves and cattle-to Peace River. During much of the same
period of time war also raged within the Creek Nation in Georgia
and Alabama, a conflict finding Upper Creeks, known as Red
Sticks, on one side and southern frontiersmen and their "Lower
Creek" Indian allies on the other. At the Battle of Horseshoe
Bend, Alabama, in March 1814, Tennessee militia general Andrew
Jackson, with the support of Lower Creeks and Cherokees under
the command of Chief William McIntosh, crushed the Red Sticks
and forced over a thousand of their number to seek refuge in
Spanish Florida.10
While the Patriot and Creek wars flared, so also did the War of
1812. Anxious to find support for their cause among Florida
Indians, two British agents, Col. Edward Nicolls and Capt. George
Woodbine, successfully recruited 3,000 refugee Red Stick Creeks,
blacks, and Seminoles. After a series of engagements, these
native forces were defeated decisively at the Battle of New Or-
leans on January 8, 1815, and again forced to retreat into Florida.
When Nicolls withdrew his British forces from the province the
following June, some of his black allies, concerned for their own
safety, sailed for Tampa Bay under the leadership of Captain

8 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Woodbine. At Sarasota Bay they established a substantial farming
community where for the time being they and their families could
live in peace and safety.1
Why was the Tampa Bay area selected for the black planta-
tions? Major advantages, certainly, were that the locale could be
supplied easily by sea from the Bahamas and that the bay
afforded ocean-going vessels a safe harbor. But perhaps most
importantly, the area already enjoyed a reputation as a haven for
blacks. At least as early as 1813, black refugees from the Alachua
Seminole towns had sought protection in the area. There were
several rich hammocks for farming near the bay, and access to
trade was available through contacts with the Cuban fishermen
at Charlotte Harbor and at Tampa Bay itself. In fact, by 1812
some of those fishermen were living at Sarasota Bay on the
Oyster River near where Woodbine located the black settlement.
Many of the black refugees, together with runaway slaves, no
doubt remained in the area in 1815, and from them Woodbine
could recruit laborers as well as supporters for future operations
he had planned for Florida.12
The black plantations at Sarasota prospered for several years
and in one form or another still were in operation as late as 1821.
They proved a magnet for runaway blacks and the memory of
their existence lingered. Pioneer Floridian John Lee Williams,
confusing Captain Woodbine with two other famous Britons who
became involved in the lives of Florida's Indians and blacks,
wrote of the plantations as they appeared in 1833: "Oyster river
at the south-east side of Tampa Bay, was explored by twenty
miles. A stream that enters the bay joining the entrance of
Oyster River, on the S.W., was ascended about six miles. .
The point between these two rivers is called Negro Point. The
famous Arbuthnot and Ambrister had at one time a plantation
here cultivated by two hundred blacks. The ruins of their cabins,
and domestic utensils are still seen on the old fields."13
Over the years additional black settlers were drawn to the
plantations at Sarasota. When, during the summer of 1816,
American and Creek troops destroyed Florida's other principal
settlement of runaway slaves, Negro Fort on the Apalachicola
River, it was said that most of the survivors fled to the east and,
by the end of the year, had located near Seminole settlements on
the Suwannee and in small villages reaching southward to Tampa

Early Migrations 9

Bay. Thus, after the settlement of Upper Creek Indians at Choca-
chatti and Cuban fishermen from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Har-
bor, black warriors, many of whom had served as British soldiers
during the War of 1812, became with their families the next year-
round residents of South Florida.14

The First Seminole War

The First Seminole War generally is considered to have begun
in November 1817, but for several years tensions along the
Florida-Georgia frontier had been heightened as parties of Geor-
gians crossed the border to raid Indian towns in Florida with
consequent counterraids by Seminoles into U.S. territory. Com-
plicating an already difficult situation, whites from the Georgia
frontier, many of whose descendants were to become pioneer
settlers of the Peace River Valley, also kidnapped free and other
blacks in Florida to sell in American territory.15
Once the First Seminole War did get under way, it did not take
Andrew Jackson long to conclude it. By April 6, 1818, the Amer-
ican general had forced the surrender of the Spanish garrison at
St. Marks. Jackson then turned his attention eastward toward
the Suwannee. On the way, a column of Creeks moving in sup-
port of the attack encountered an Indian encampment on the
Econfina River. Hearing the encampment to be that of the Red
Stick chief Peter McQueen and about two hundred of his war-
riors, Jackson's Creeks, again led by William McIntosh, attacked.
When the smoke had cleared, McIntosh discovered among his
captives a young boy of the Tallahassee tribe, Billy Powell, the
grandson of one of Peter McQueen's sisters. Peter McQueen
had escaped.16
Jackson's army reached the main Seminole encampment on the
Suwannee at sunset on April 16. The Indians, having received
warning of Jackson's approach, had disappeared into the woods to
the south and east along with Peter McQueen, his ally the Ock-
mulgee Creek chief Oponay, and their followers. Blacks from the
villages on the western bank of the river ferried their possessions
across the Suwannee while three hundred black warriors re-
mained to protect them. Pausing only briefly after his arrival,
Jackson ordered his troops to attack. The black warriors bought
just enough time for all to escape. One veteran of the entire cam-

10 Florida's Peace River Frontier

paign declared the fight "the severest brush that I was engaged
in during that campaign." The following day Jackson ordered his
Creek allies to cross the river in pursuit, but most Seminoles, Red
Sticks, and blacks escaped."
Old Hickory stayed but a short while on the Suwannee. He
destroyed all the black and Indian towns on the river, in the pro-
cess burning three hundred houses. When McIntosh and his
Lower Creek warriors left for home, Jackson sent with them
instructions to destroy Oponay's "town and all his warriors, and
to take possession of all his property of every description, so as
effectually to destroy him." That done, Jackson turned again to
the west and, with his capture of Spanish Pensacola, brought the
war to its conclusion.'8
The Red Sticks and Seminoles, with their black allies, had fled
into the Florida peninsula to escape the terror of Andrew Jackson.
So profound was the confusion and disruption in the aftermath of
the war that historian Kenneth W. Porter has described the
situation as "a muddy pool stirred violently with a stick." Four
years later one observer wrote that "many of the chiefs most
prominent in their depradations, fled away, and traversing the
Seminole nation, settled themselves about Tampa Bay, Charlotte
Harbor and their waters." Jackson's aide, Lt. James Gadsden,
writing the summer after the end of the war, noted of the Tampa
Bay area, "It is the last rallying spot of the disaffected negroes
and Indians and the only favorable point from whence a commu-
nication can be had with Spanish and European emissaries." He
suggested that Col. Edward Nicolls might still be involved in
Woodbine's plantation: "Nicholas it is reported has an establish-
ment in that neighborhood and the negroes and Indians driven
from Micosukey and Suwaney towns have directed their march
to that quarter.""9

Red Sticks at Talakchopco

Although the principal Seminole and black towns on the
Suwannee River were destroyed by Jackson's forces in April 1818,
their former inhabitants survived. Within only a year or two,
many were settled from 100 to 150 miles to the southeast of the
old Seminole town on that stream in the present-day counties of
Marion, Lake, Sumter, Hernando, and Pasco. By 1821 the Big

Early Migrations 11

Hammock area of Pasco and Hernando counties was described as
"the most numerous of the Seminole settlements" and the neigh-
borhood of Chocachatti, the nearest Indian town, as "the seat of
the Seminole Nation." In the vicinity of these settlements Semi-
nole slaves resided in their own communities where they special-
ized in farming while the Seminoles principally tended cattle. In
the old Seminole heartland in Alachua, a band of Mikasuki
Indians from villages north of Tallahassee settled under their
chief, John Hicks. Others of the Mikasuki bands, and some Red
Stick Creeks, already had resigned themselves to their defeat and
were headed back to their destroyed homes and farms in the area
between the Suwannee and the Apalachicola rivers.20
For many of Florida's other Indians and blacks, the situation
was more desperate. Presumably without possessions or substan-
tial quantities of supplies, more than a thousand of these refugees
faced starvation. Only deep in the peninsula could they find the
two essentials to their survival: game on the great South Florida
hunting grounds and relief by sea from their Spanish and British
allies. On the way to both of these objectives lay Tampa Bay and
the black plantations at Sarasota. So, as James Gadsden reported
to Andrew Jackson, the Indians and blacks "directed their march
to that quarter."
The first bands to start out down the peninsula would have
been those with the most reason for concern: the blacks facing
reenslavement and the personal followings of the two great fugi-
tive Creek chiefs still at large, Peter McQueen and Oponay. Their
immediate goal, just as James Gadsden had suggested, was Tampa
Bay and the black plantations, and there in October 1818 they
finally found relief in the form of an English trading vessel.
Within the next several weeks additional help arrived from the
Spanish at St. Augustine so that by the end of November they
could be described as "well supplied with ammunition and provi-
sions." Fed and armed, they could take the time to begin rebuild-
ing their homes and their lives.21
With the Seminoles occupying the best lands immediately to
the north and northeast of Tampa Bay, the refugees looked for
promising locations closer at hand. For the independent blacks
the most desirable areas were around Tampa Bay itself, particu-
larly near the magnet of the black plantations at Sarasota Bay.
For the fugitive Creeks, the matter was complicated by their

12 Florida's Peace River Frontier

The Peace River bridge at Fort Meade in the 1890s. This site was a his-
toric crossing point. To the north until 1836 lay the Indian town of
Talakchopco. Courtesy Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State
greater numbers. Some had remained at or returned to the vicin-
ity of the Suwannee River. One group of Red Sticks moved to the
west of Tampa Bay on the coast and founded Watermelon Town.
About thirty warriors with their women and children moved
twenty or so miles to the east of the bay and settled at Itchepuck-
esassa (the place of tobacco fields) near where Plant City stands
today. Many of the remainder, under Oponay and Peter McQueen,
moved with their black slaves to those abandoned Seminole
hunting towns on Peace River.22
Prior to the battle on the Suwannee Oponay had been known
as Chief of the Ockmulgee Towns of the Creek Nation. As early
as 1797 his tribe was located in southwest Georgia. Twenty years
later they remained in the same general location, well within the
boundaries of the territory ceded by the Creeks in 1814 in the
aftermath of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. In the late winter of
1817 Oponay, who also was named Ochacona Tustenatty, was
sent into Florida as a representative to the Seminoles on behalf of
the Creek chiefs remaining loyal to the United States. On that
visit, apparently, he was won over to the Red Stick cause. Late
the same year he again was serving as an intermediary but soon
was caught up in the aftermath of the First Seminole War. The

Early Migrations 13

only available description of him as an individual was written
about three years after his arrival at Peace River and shortly
before his death. He was said by a U.S. official at St. Augustine to
be "a very intelligent and interesting and perhaps honest Indian
Oponay selected for his settlement at Peace River a location
near Lake Hancock, north of present-day Bartow. Florida fron-
tiersman and Indian trader Horatio Dexter visited the chief's
plantations there in July of 1823, as apparently also did James
Gadsden in the following year. Dexter wrote that Oponay built
his home on a hill to the west and about sixty or seventy feet
above the level of the lake, "a comfortable two story house built
of plank & hewed timber" which resembled in all respects "the
residence of a substantial planter." Nearby, Dexter found "a
dairy house, Corn house, Stables, Sheds, etc. etc.," as well as "an
extensive peach orchard, & a considerable crop of Corn, Potatoes,
etc. etc." Oponay's slaves lived about two miles from the resi-
dence, on the other side of the lake and to the east of Saddle
Creek, amidst their master's corn and rice fields. Dexter felt the
plantation contained "more conveniences than that of any Indian
in the Nation."24
Peter McQueen not only was a Red Stick chief, he also was the
son of a Scotsman who had come to Georgia as a soldier with
James Oglethorpe in 1733 and who, by 1797, was the oldest white
man in the Creek Nation. Peter McQueen's mother was an Upper
Creek of the Tallahassee tribe. During the American Revolution
the Tallahassees had been very friendly with the future United
States, but experiences after the war so embittered them that, by
1799, the tribe constituted a center of opposition to American
interests within the Creek Nation. Peter McQueen, known to the
Creeks as Talmuches Hadjo and already a chief in 1799, enjoyed a
reputation as a sharp trader and a wealthy man, possessing valu-
able properties in stock and black slaves. Defeats in the wars of
the decade of the 1810s had stripped him of all or most of that
wealth, however, and his establishment at Peace River, as pre-
sumably also was the case with Oponay, depended on English
and Spanish generosity.25
The memory of the descendants of the Tallahassees remaining
in Florida in the early twentieth century, as preserved through
the efforts of the late Albert DeVane and others, was that after

14 Florida's Peace River Frontier

their defeat by Jackson in 1818, Peter McQueen and his band
"moved south to Peas River in the vicinity of Bartow and Home-
land." For confirmation, we need look only to Billy Powell, cap-
tured by William McIntosh on the Econfina River before the
battle on the Suwannee.26
Billy Powell, described as a "lad" at the time, was luckier than
many of the other ninety-six Indian women and children captured
from Peter McQueen's party on April 12, 1818. The quick thinking
of his grandmother, who was McQueen's sister, apparently won
release for Billy and others of the family by Andrew Jackson on a
promise to secure McQueen's surrender. The Indians headed at
once for the Okefenokee Swamp where they eventually learned
that McQueen was at "Peas Creek," and they departed to meet
him there. Billy was to live with his Tallahassee relatives, first at
Peace River and then at other locations in Florida, until he
emerged by another name as the most famous of Florida Indians,
Among the Seminole hunting towns on Peace River, which lay
in a five- or six-mile-wide belt of land centered on and running
down the river from Lake Hancock to below present-day Fort
Meade, Oponay occupied the land adjacent to Lake Hancock and
Saddle Creek. Necessarily, and just as the Tallahassees informed
Albert DeVane, Peter McQueen and his party occupied the area to
the south of Bartow. Quite likely their settlement included the
remains of Seminole lodges and other facilities located on the
west bank near the great ford of the river at Fort Meade. This
important strategic position would have allowed the Red Sticks to
control not only access to the hunting grounds to the south, but
communication and trade with the Cuban fishermen at Charlotte
Harbor, and the passage of representatives of Spain and England
through the harbor.28
And so, with the arrival of Oponay, Peter McQueen, and their
followers late in 1818 or early in 1819, the Peace River Valley
witnessed the beginnings of permanent and continuous settle-
ment in the nineteenth century.

As was the case with most of South Florida, the Peace River
Valley was devoid of a permanent population at the dawn of the
nineteenth century. The fords of the river, particularly the one at
modern Fort Meade, were utilized extensively by hunting parties

Early Migrations 15


Boundaries according to the Swift map of 1829
...........Current county boundaries
..:.w.. Outline of hammocks and swamps
Roads or trails
X Battlefields
White establishments
A Indian or Negro towns

Boundaries of the Indian reservation, about 1829. Drawn by Ted Starr,
adapted from Mark F. Boyd, "The Seminole War: Its Background and
Onset," Florida Historical Quarterly 30 (July 1951).

16 Florida's Peace River Frontier

of Creek and Seminole Indians bound for or returning from the
hunting grounds of South Florida and, by 1800, seasonal camps
or hunting towns had been established by Seminoles and their
black slaves on the high fertile banks of the river near those
fords. In the wake of the Patriot War of 1812-14, those hunting
towns became refuges for Seminoles driven by Georgia fron-
tiersmen from the area of the Alachua Prairie and, half a decade
later, hosted the remnants of the Red Stick Creek alliance defeated
time after time by Andrew Jackson and his Creek ally, William
McIntosh. The arrival of those Red Stick Creeks and their black
slaves at the river represented the beginnings of permanent set-
tlement of the Peace River Valley in the nineteenth century.

"In this remote situation "


Upheavals and Explorations

WHILE THE second decade of the nineteenth century saw
the beginnings of permanent settlement in the Peace
River Valley, the nature of that settlement radically
altered in the 1820s. The black and Red Stick Creek haven proved
far less safe than they had supposed it to be, and by the end of
the decade others would come to dominate the river's fording
places and fields and white men would have begun to expose its

The destruction of the black plantations
On February 22, 1819, almost coincidental with the arrival of
Oponay and Peter McQueen at Peace River, the Kingdom of
Spain agreed to transfer Florida to the United States pursuant to
the Adams-Onis Treaty. Although transfer of possession did not
occur for more than two years, what had been a relatively safe
Spanish refuge for the fugitive blacks and Creeks overnight
became a potential U.S. stalking ground. News of the treaty
would have reached the Tampa, Sarasota, and Peace River areas
quickly, given the opportunity for communication with the Span-


18 Florida's Peace River Frontier

ish through Charlotte Harbor and the British through the black
plantations at Sarasota Bay.'
It appears that, once word of the Adams-Onis Treaty reached
South Florida, the Creeks wasted little time in appealing to the
Spanish government at Havana. During 1819 five parties of
South Florida Indians, including at least seventy-eight Indians
from the area of Tampa, visited Havana. If the Indians were in
Havana on what might be termed diplomatic missions, it seems
they found little satisfaction there because, by late September, a
delegation of fugitive Red Sticks was in Nassau. Displaying doc-
uments of support issued to them by the British in 1815 and
pleading for supplies, they told of being "driven from their
homes, and hunted as Wild Deer." Stating their own numbers as
about two thousand, the Red Sticks spoke of the Cowetas, the
Lower Creek tribe of which William McIntosh was chief, as their
greatest enemies, "who having made terms with the Americans
are set on by them to harrass and annihilate [them]." Their pleas,
as well as a request to appeal to higher authorities, fell on deaf
ears. The Indians continued their efforts. In the following year,
1820, four more groups of South Florida Indians were in Havana,
this time consisting of at least six chiefs and 120 Indians from
"Tampa." Although the trips provided a fine opportunity for
trade, there is no indication of other positive results from them,
and time was running out.2
Two years to the day after the original agreement for the
transfer of Florida was reached, the United States and Spain
exchanged ratifications of the treaty, although actual transfer of
possession was delayed for five months, until July 1821. Events in
the interim would destroy the black presence in South Florida
and dramatically affect life and settlement in the Peace River
On the face of things the blacks and Indians of Florida should
have been delighted with the Adams-Onis Treaty because one of
its provisions specifically guaranteed their protection: "The in-
habitants [of Florida] shall be admitted to the enjoy-
ment of all privileges, rights and immunities of the citizens of the
United States." "You have nothing to fear," Spanish officials in
Havana must have told the Indian delegations of 1819 and 1820.
"You will be American citizens!" Those would-be American citi-
zens knew better from their own experiences with Britain's half-

Upheavals and Explorations 19

hearted attempts to protect them after the War of 1812. Any
remaining doubt must have been dispelled when they learned
that their most bitter American enemy had been appointed to rule
over them. On January 24, 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy
Adams offered the governorship of Florida to Andrew Jackson.4
Because South Florida's Indians and blacks had reason to
doubt the guarantees of the Adams-Onis Treaty did not mean
that others would be able to ignore them. While Andrew Jackson
had been able to stymie implementation of a similar guarantee
after the War of 1812, the situation then had been quite different
from that of Florida in 1821. In 1815 Jackson had been a great
national hero following the Battle of New Orleans and, to a large
degree, was operating in an area remote from public attention. In
1821 public attention was focused on the Florida cession and
Jackson's personal star shone less brightly. Consequently, anyone
desiring to pursue action against the blacks and Indians of South
Florida-at least anyone desiring to do so without the endorse-
ment of the U.S. Government-was well advised to take action
during the period of inevitable confusion after the ratifications
were exchanged and before Florida actually came under the U.S.
As early as October 1818, David Mitchell, Benjamin Hawkins's
successor as Creek Indian agent, had intrigued with loyal Creek
chiefs to send William McIntosh and his Cowetas to capture and
bring away all the fugitive blacks in Florida. Two years later the
idea still was alive. Late in December 1820, commissioners nego-
tiating with the Creeks insisted that the blacks be taken and
returned from Florida. The resulting treaty, that of Indian
Springs, contained specific provisions guaranteeing a payment by
the federal government to any Creek returning a runaway black
to Georgia.5
By April 1821 Andrew Jackson had begun to ready himself to
assume the governorship and, right from the beginning, his
thoughts were of Peter McQueen, the fugitive Red Stick Creeks,
and the blacks at Tampa Bay. On April 2 he wrote the secretary
of state strongly intimating that removal of the fugitives from
Florida was essential. On May 1 Jackson's letter was answered
by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who ordered the soon-to-be
governor to take no immediate steps against the Indians or the

20 Florida's Peace River Frontier


*,! r .^v s

- I.I
-"~~~ \ Y :

\. r r. v,. \

,N o. ^ ....... .

L/ a i it' -"
Sf 4 1= r sf i ^ 4 P-

Detail from an official Army map of the Seminole Indian Reservation
showing the Peace River and Tampa Bay areas, about 1827. Courtesy
National Archives.

In Florida the Indians were desperate for information on Amer-
seeking authority for the removal of Red Sticks and blacks, a
A -^ './^.' ;" \ $ ..... ",.

Detail from an official Army map of the Seminole Indian Reservation
showing the Peace River and Tampa Bay areas, about 1827. Courtesy
National Archives.

In Florida the Indians were desperate for information on Amer-
ican intentions--and Jackson's. While the future governor was
seeking authority for the removal of Red Sticks and blacks, a
delegation of Seminole and, possibly, Creek chiefs was escorted to
St. Augustine by Horatio Dexter to confer with the Spanish gov-
ernor. On May 24, fifty-four "principal Indians" of Florida met in
council with Dexter and his partner, Edward M. Wanton, and
were advised to assert their rights with the president. Mean-


Upheavals and Explorations 21

while, to the north, others were preparing to assert themselves in
a far different manner.7
As Andrew Jackson awaited a reply from Washington to his
request for instruction, "some men of influence and fortune"
decided to take the matter of South Florida's blacks into their
own hands. In late April they hired Charles Miller, a half-blood
Creek chief associated with William McIntosh, and William Weath-
erford, a former Red Stick leader befriended by Andrew Jackson
after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, to put an end to the black col-
onies in Florida and return their inhabitants to slavery. Miller,
Weatherford, and other chiefs organized a regiment of two hun-
dred Coweta warriors, and, about the time Jackson was told not
to take action against the refugee Creeks and blacks, the Cowetas
descended into still-Spanish Florida. As the raiding party ad-
vanced down the old route from the north into the South Florida
hunting grounds, the Seminoles and Creeks living in its path,
particularly those north of Tampa near Chocachatti and the Big
Hammock, fled in terror.8
Arriving at Tampa Bay early in June 1821, the Cowetas pro-
ceeded to destroy all black settlements they could find and to
kidnap their former residents. Not even vessels in the bay were
safe; one ship believed by the Cowetas to be owned by the Red
Sticks' old friend, Col. Edward Nicolls, was boarded and a black
taken from it. At the black plantations on Sarasota Bay the
raiders "surprised and captured about 300 of them, plundered
their plantations, [and] set on fire all their houses." With blacks
and Indians fleeing from them "in great consternation," the
Cowetas on June 17 plundered the Cuban fishing ranchos at
Charlotte Harbor. Then, herding their hundreds of captive blacks,
as well as cattle stolen from the Creeks and Seminoles, the
raiders finally returned to Coweta in early August.9
The charred remains of the homes and fields of the settlements
at Tampa and Sarasota bays were still smoldering when, on June
14, 1821, Andrew Jackson entered Florida peacefully for the first
time. While the Cowetas slowly made their way back into Georgia
and Alabama, the future president awaited the formal transfer of
the territory at Pensacola. The ceremonies ultimately were per-
formed in that town on July 17 and, on the same day, four
hundred miles to the east at St. Augustine, word was dispatched
to the U.S. government and the country about the savage slave

22 Florida's Peace River Frontier

raid deep into South Florida. Receiving the news from a small
group of Seminoles whom he described as "a wretched, miserable
Set," one official added in a letter to Secretary of War Calhoun,
"the commander of the party [of Cowetas] had sent them infor-
mation that in a short time he should return and drive all the
Indians off."'1
Word of the slave raid touched off a round of fervid denials of
involvement in official Washington, resulting in orders from the
secretary of war to Creek agent John Crowell forbidding any
repeat of the incident. "It is understood from information from
Florida," wrote John Calhoun, "that another expedition of the
kind is contemplated. Should that be the fact, you will inform the
chiefs that as the Country [Florida] belongs to the United States,
the President will view any attempt of the sort with the most
marked disapprobation, and will hold the Creek nation respon-
sible for the consequences." While the controversy swirled, Gov-
ernor Jackson spent his time at Pensacola organizing a govern-
ment, arguing with the former Spanish governor over the question
of public records, and denouncing Peter McQueen while demand-
ing the removal of the Red Stick Creeks from Florida."

Aftermath of the Coweta raid

"The terror thus spread along the Western Coast of East
Florida," an observer of the Coweta raid wrote several months
after the event, "broke all the establishments of both blacks and
whites, who fled in great consternation." He added that "the
blacks principally, thought they could not save their lives but by
abandoning the country."12
The disruptions of the Coweta raid and of the subsequent
transfer of Florida to the United States by no means were limited
to the blacks of South Florida.13 To the north of Tampa Bay,
communities of Seminoles and Red Sticks from the Suwannee
down to the Big Hammock had been displaced out of fear of the
raiders' return. Feeding on those fears, unscrupulous whites
spread rumors among the Indians that the United States intended
to take their slaves and other property at ridiculously low prices.
The Seminole settlements in the Big Hammock, including Choca-
chatti, particularly were affected. What had been "the seat of the
Seminole Nation" in early 1821 contained only twenty inhabited

Upheavals and Explorations 23

houses two years later. Seminole blacks were described as being
"in the greatest poverty" and the Seminoles themselves as "now
dispersed in small squads and single families over the country: a
few still inhabit the small villages between the Alachua and
Tampa bay."14
The possible return of the Cowetas and the arrival of the
Americans posed a particularly severe dilemma for the Red Stick
Creeks in South Florida. Under the impression that they would
be allowed for a time to live in peace if they returned to their old
homes west of the Suwannee many, including members of Peter
McQueen's Peace River band, returned to the Panhandle. Others
"dispersed themselves in the woods or retired to remote situa-
tions." These Indians, no doubt, soon were engaged in raids for
food up into South Georgia. As early as July 1821 they stole a
quantity of hogs and cattle near the St. Marys River and were
themselves attacked on their return by Seminoles anxious for
peace with the whites. Possibly the same group again visited the
St. Marys area the following spring when Israel Barber, William
Gibbons, and Joseph Tillis-all the fathers of future South Florida
pioneers-reported substantial losses of cattle to the Indians.'5
The Peace River settlements of Oponay and Peter McQueen, as
well as the Red Stick village at Itchepuckesassa (today, Plant
City), appear to have escaped entirely the destruction of the
Cowetas.16 Shortly afterwards, however, Itchepuckesassa fell on
hard times due to problems, possibly from flooding, with raising
cattle in the Alafia River country. By the summer of 1823 the vil-
lage was deserted, although its houses still were standing and
beautiful peach and "Pride of India" trees were flourishing. The
residents moved to Chocachatti, Lake Tohopekaliga, and an "ex-
tensive settlement" fifteen miles to the north named after its
chief, Tomakitchky.17
On Peace River the situation was quite different. Bolstered by
an increased work force of refugees from the Tampa Bay settle-
ments and possibly by aid from the British, the Peace River
towns-at least Oponay's plantation-flourished. Just as at Itche-
puckesassa, cattle were being raised at Peace River, perhaps on
Hooker's Prairie to the west of Talakchopco or on the Kissimmee
range to the east. The prosperity of the settlements, however,
depended as much or more on agriculture supported by black
slave labor. On Oponay's fields around the southern borders of

24 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Lake Hancock the blacks worked an extensive peach orchard and
produced crops of corn, potatoes, rice, and other products. By
early 1822 Oponay was visiting St. Augustine to sell one hundred
head of cattle and to arrange for the purchase of seed corn. Later
the same year the Ockmulgee chief dispatched his rice crop to the

James Gadsden (1788-1858) was a prot6g6 of Andrew Jackson. In 1824,
six years after this portrait was done, he surveyed the bounds of Flor-
ida's Indian nation, exploring, in the process, much of the Peace River
valley. Courtesy Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State Archives.

Upheavals and Explorations 25

East Florida capital by pack horses.18 When Oponay died in May
1823, his home and personal buildings were destroyed according
to Creek custom. Despite that loss, when Oponay's son left for
his new home west of the Suwannee, he drove off "300 head of
cattle, about 100 head of horses, principally packed with rice,
merchandise & specie, the latter to the amount of 7000 dollars."19
Peter McQueen, in his late fifties or early sixties, was reported
still alive in the fall of 1821 by his old friend, the chief Nea-
mathla. The Red Stick leader may even have been one of the
chiefs who made a return visit to Nassau in the wake of the
Coweta raid; if so, he must have returned more brokenhearted
than when he left as the chiefs were imprisoned for a time by
British authorities and then sent back into Florida exile. The
shipmasters providing their involuntary transportation were
ordered never to bring them to the Bahamas again.20
A man who knew Peter McQueen well reported that he died
"on a little barren island on the Atlantic side of Cape Florida."
This could well have occurred on that return trip from Nassau in
1821 when McQueen, heavily burdened with the loss of his for-
tune and the pain of his defeats, knew that his allies had aban-
doned him forever. It is possible that he lived a few years longer.
In September 1823 Neamathla mentioned that a "Tullis Hajo"
(which may have been another spelling of McQueen's Creek
name, Talmuches Hadjo) had a town on the "west side of Cape
Florida, on the seacoast." In either case, Peter McQueen's life and
presence in the Peace River Valley ceased not long after the
Coweta raid and, upon his death, even his widow left their South
Florida exile and returned to home and remarriage in the Creek
Nation. McQueen's legacy, that of a great warrior who never
would surrender, would be honored by many of Florida's sur-
viving Tallahassees throughout their lifetimes. It would help pro-
long the Seminole wars until 1858, and it would result in a
Tallahassee presence in the Peace River Valley until almost the
beginning of the twentieth century.21

The return of the Seminoles

Peter McQueen's settlement at Talakchopco may have begun
to lose population even before the transfer of Florida to American
ownership. Andrew Jackson believed members of McQueen's band

26 Florida's Peace River Frontier

were making settlements at Miccosukee and on the Suwannee as
early as April 1821. Although some evidence suggests members of
McQueen's Tallahassee following remained at Peace River until
1832, many appear to have moved further to the north shortly
after McQueen's death or, as the memory of the Tallahassees had
it, "after 1823." By 1827 the Red Sticks occupied the Big Ham-
mock area of Hernando and Pasco counties, more or less aban-
doned by the Seminoles in the wake of the Coweta raid, as well as
the old Upper Creek town of Chocachatti. In the meantime, just
as the Tallahassees replaced Seminoles in the Big Hammock,
some very important Seminoles replaced the Tallahassees at
Talakchopco. One of them was the young Billy Bowlegs.22
The name of Billy Bowlegs's father is uncertain. By Seminole
and Creek custom inheritance descended through the mother,
and Bowlegs's mother, Buckra Woman, was a member of the
most powerful of Seminole families. Not only was she a member
of the important snake clan; she also was a descendant of Cow-
keeper, the Oconee Creek chief recognized as "Founder of the
Seminole Nation." Clarifying the situation somewhat, one mil-
itary officer who knew Bowlegs well explained, "His mother was
the sister of King Payne and old [King] Bowlegs," both of whom
were head chiefs of the Seminoles during the 1810s.23
In early 1822, Indian Agent Bell noted the presence near Long
Swamp, east of the Seminole concentrations at the Big Ham-
mock, of a town called Bucker Woman's Town. When Horatio
Dexter visited Oponay's settlement near Lake Hancock in July
1823, he encountered to his surprise "a part of the late Payne's
family" who recently had left "their fields & settlements near the
sea coast in consequence of the rise of the Water."24 With the
additional aim of avoiding "the frequent incursions of the Cowe-
tas," the party had determined to settle at Peace River "in this
remote situation," as Dexter put it.25
Given Dexter's comments, it is clear that a group of King
Payne's relatives moved to Peace River at about the time of Opo-
nay's death. If this party was the Buckra Woman's it would have
been particularly sensitive to the Coweta threat because she was
involved heavily in the cattle business and, like other members of
the Cowkeeper line, must have owned considerable numbers of
black slaves. The "remote situation" of Peace River offered her
protection for both and was well known to the Seminoles from

Upheavals and Explorations 27

their hunting trips prior to 1813. Additionally, the grazing lands
to the east and west of the river, which had helped make Oponay
wealthy and which were to become famous later in the century,
were ideal for the Seminoles' cattle interests.26
Within only a few years after their arrival at Peace River, at
least a portion of the Seminole party at Oponay's, including the
young Billy Bowlegs, moved to a new village on Hatchee Thlokko
or Big Creek, which enters Peace River from the east three miles
south of present-day Fort Meade and which, since at least the
early 1850s, has been known as "Bowlegs Creek."27 The exact
date of the move is unknown, but a map dating to early 1825 is
the first to show a village on the site. The reason for the move
also is unclear. A partial answer might lie in the proximity of the
new village to the cattle ranges of the Kissimmee River Valley
and to the market for beef at Charlotte Harbor's Cuban fishing
ranchos. Not later than 1833 an active cattle trade was carried on
at the site, and at least one herd was driven down the east side of
the river to the falls of the Caloosahatchee and on to Punta
After the arrival of the Seminoles, it may be that the Indians
and blacks living at Peace River, having cattle to herd and fields
to tend, were among the most fortunate of Florida's natives in the
1820s, for almost everywhere in the territory dislocation and
starvation were facts of life. At Peace River, life appears to have
been lived quietly. From a population high of around 500 in July
1823, the total number of residents seems to have dropped to
around 100 to 150 within the next year, possibly as a result of the
removal of many of the Tallahassees to the Big Hammock area.
Until the early 1830s there is little evidence that the population
at the river settlements varied significantly from that of 1824.
Except for the occasional mention of a patrol sent from Fort
Brooke at Tampa Bay, usually in connection with runaway slaves,
the inhabitants of the river valley barely received notice in the
official records. Exceptions primarily concerned exploration.29

Early explorations

Although by 1821 many Creeks, Seminoles, and blacks had
detailed knowledge of South Florida and its hunting grounds,
Florida's new owners, the Americans, knew little of the new land

28 Florida's Peace River Frontier

but rumor. As one South Florida historian put it, "interior
Southwestern Florida was an unexplored wilderness." During
the first four years of American exploration, expeditions were led
primarily by government agents to accomplish particular goals.
The first such expedition was the exception.30
Anxious to take advantage of the vast tracts of land available
in Florida, a group of Philadelphia investors organized themselves
in 1821 as the East Florida Coffee Land Association. To coordi-
nate their efforts and to select appropriate lands in Florida, the
association employed a Frenchman and former West Indian coffee
grower named Peter Stephen Chazotte. Charged with exploring
South Florida, Chazotte was directed to set out immediately
"accompanied by six labouring men and five volunteers, including
a surveyor and doctor."31
Employing the sloop Hunter, Chazotte's expedition arrived at
St. Augustine by July 19, 1821. Within a month of their arrival,
the members of the party were at Cape Florida where they
encountered black and Indian refugees from the Coweta raid at
Tampa Bay. Rounding the cape, the expedition explored the
Florida Keys and then followed the Gulf Coast north to Charlotte
Harbor. They went up the Caloosahatchee River for forty-five
miles, at which point Indians told the party of the great lake to
the east named Mayaco. Charlotte Harbor and its keys and
fishing ranchos, including at least the mouth of Peace River, were
mapped. Moving further up the coast the party explored and
charted the ruined black plantations at Sarasota Bay as well as
the Manatee River.32
By September the Chazotte party had explored Tampa Bay,
noted its four rivers, and mapped its waters and keys. Turning
back at Tampa Bay, the expedition retraced its steps down the
Gulf coast, along the keys, and up the Atlantic seaboard, arriving
at Philadelphia in mid-November. Based upon Chazotte's explora-
tions, the East Florida Coffee Land Association petitioned Con-
gress for the purchase at a nominal price of the island of Key
Largo. The request was denied in relatively short order, and the
brief life of the East Florida Coffee Land Association came to an
Within two years after Chazotte's departure from South Flor-
ida, another American explorer, Horatio Dexter, entered the area
in July 1823. In the two years following the raising of the Amer-

Upheavals and Explorations 29

ican flag over Spanish Florida, the government determined that
all Florida Indians must be concentrated in the peninsula. To
facilitate that policy, a council of Indian chiefs was called for
early September 1823 at Moultrie Creek near St. Augustine.
Horatio Dexter was designated to notify the Seminoles and Creeks
already living in the peninsula of the council and to explore the
area with an eye as to where a reservation sufficient to support
the Indians might be located.34
Setting out in late June, Dexter proceeded into the peninsula
from his home at Volusia on the St. Johns River and toured
Indian and black settlements from there to the Gulf coast. Faced
with flooding upon his arrival at the Alafia River, however, he
turned to the east and Oponay's plantation where, he understood,
a boat was kept. Dexter found no boat at Oponay's, but he did
find about five hundred Indians and blacks as well as the ruins of
Oponay's plantation house.35 Stymied in his attempts to pene-
trate farther to the south, Dexter skirted the lower shore of Lake
Hancock (which he attempted to name Lake Simmons after his
friend Dr. William H. Simmons) and returned homeward to the
east of the lake. Once home, he wrote a detailed report of his trip
which is the only source for many of the facts available on Peace
River in the early 1820s. He also left a map, the first detailed,
though highly inaccurate, map of interior central Florida and the
headwaters of Peace River [see p. 30].36
As planned, the Indian council was held near St. Augustine in
early September 1823 and resulted in the adoption of a Treaty of
Moultrie Creek which established, based in part on Dexter's
report, an Indian reservation in interior central and southern
Florida. The Indians' refusal to accept land south of Charlotte
Harbor and the Americans' desire to cut off all communications
and trade between the Indians and Cuba through the fishing ran-
chos at the bay placed the entire reservation north of Charlotte
Harbor, encompassing most of the Peace River Valley.37
In early December 1823 James Gadsden, Andrew Jackson's
former aide, set out overland from St. Augustine to mark and
map the limits of the new reservation. By January 18, 1824, he
had arrived at Tampa Bay where he was joined four days later by
a detachment of troops from Pensacola under the command of Lt.
Col. George M. Brooke. There, he established a site for a fort on
the Hillsborough and named it Fort Brooke. During the ensuing

30 Florida's Peace River Frontier

The earliest known map of the Peace River area, drawn in 1823 by
explorer and trader Horatio S. Dexter. While it contains many inaccura-
cies, it is an important document in the history of peninsular Florida.
Courtesy National Archives.

months Gadsden plunged into the interior of the country, sur-
veying the western line of the reserve and visiting the Indian
towns at the headwaters of Peace River. By February 20, at Char-
lotte Harbor, he entered the land of prairies to the east of Peace

Upheavals and Explorations 31

River and attempted to mark the eastern boundary of the reserve
as he returned to the north.38
Commissioner Gadsden issued a report of his survey and find-
ings in mid-June 1824 and described the new reservation: "The
Hammocks of best character, and of greatest extent are to be
found at Okahumky-Negro settlements at Withlacouchy Creek
& Pelacklekaha-Checuchatty-near the sources of Hillsborough
river-and on Peace Creek & its tributaries-In addition to these
hammocks, the banks of Pear [Peace] Creek, from its source in a
large pond for 15 miles south, furnishes a body of 2nd rate pine
land elevated and productive-There are two Indian villages in
this district of pines, the condition of which are favorable evi-
dences of the productiveness of the soil and healthiness of the
country-The settlements will necessarily be confined to the
above districts." Accompanying Gadsden's report was a map of
the Indian reservation and adjacent areas. The location of Opo-
nay's former plantation house at Lake Hancock, Indian towns
near present-day Bartow and Fort Meade, and Bowlegs, Charlie
Apopka, and Joshua creeks, though unnamed, are shown in
somewhat simplified form. With the exception of those men-
tioned, Gadsden found no other Indian settlements on the river in
James Gadsden's failure to provide U.S. officials at Tampa or
the Indian agency with much significant information concerning
the Indian settlements near Tampa Bay resulted in a second 1824
visit to the Peace River towns. Indian agent Gad Humphreys and
a small military patrol under Lt. Jeremiah Yancey in June made a
circuit of all the settlements within a fifty-mile radius of Fort
Brooke, including the "Tolok-Chupco or Pease Creek Settle-
ments." At Peace River, the party found the two Indian set-
tlements noted by Gadsden, containing about fifteen families.
Thirty blacks still were living at the site of Oponay's old planta-
tion. Most of the Indians and blacks were sick with fevers, and
Lt. Yancey was critical of the area. "In our whole route which we
were ten days performing, I can safely say that I did not see Two
hundred acres of good land." Agent Humphreys disagreed, how-
ever, and several years later wrote, "I cannot but consider the
region extending along the gulf from Tampa Bay eastward and
southward, superior in many respects to any other part of our
country with which I am acquainted."40

32 Florida's Peace River Frontier

While the upper reaches of Peace River were becoming familiar
to the officials at Fort Brooke, the lower reaches of the river and
surrounding countryside were still only vaguely known. This
problem was alleviated somewhat in February 1825 when Maj.
Isaac Clark was ordered to chain and mark a road from Fort
Brooke to Charlotte Harbor. Moving to the southeast, Clark
arrived at Charlotte Harbor near the mouth of Peace River.
Finding that his party could not cross the river, Clark traveled
upstream some "sixty miles" where he found a ford "about three
miles below the junction of the two branches." There he crossed
and returned to Charlotte Harbor after failing, due to swamps
and high waters, to penetrate the country more than twelve miles
to the east of the river. Clark's final report recommended a route
for the road which included a ferry across Peace River thirty-four
miles above Charlotte Harbor. The difficulties of the route were
too great given the resources at hand, however, and the project
was abandoned.41
Information collected from these early explorers and from
patrols sent out from Fort Brooke permitted the compilation of a
more detailed map of the Peace River area. One example, appar-
ently dating from early 1825, shows an established path or
roadway from Fort Brooke to Oponay's where it intersected a
north-south route from the Oklawaha River to the Indian town
at present-day Fort Meade. At that point the route crossed Peace
River at the ancient ford and ran down the east side of the river
to Charlotte Harbor and beyond. For the first time, an Indian vil-
lage is shown on Bowlegs Creek. This map was refined further
over the next year or two until the creation, probably in 1827, of a
more detailed map of the reservation. The later map clearly illus-
trates the routes shown previously and pinpoints the locations of
the settlements connected with Oponay, the Indian town just
south of Bartow, the villages at and just north of Fort Meade, and
the village on Bowlegs Creek. At that date and for the remainder
of the decade, Peace River retained a permanent population, but
the limits of settlement remained in the area from Lake Hancock
to Bowlegs Creek.42

The 1820s began for Peace River's Indian and black residents
on a note of alarm. Their safe haven in Spanish territory was
snatched away by the cession of Florida to the United States, and

Upheavals and Explorations 33

the nearby black plantations at Sarasota Bay were destroyed in a
savage raid by the Red Sticks' old enemies, the Coweta Creeks. In
the wake of the Coweta raid and the deaths of Oponay and Peter
McQueen, the Red Sticks drifted to new homes farther north. In
their places Seminoles, displaced by fears of the Cowetas, returned
to their old Peace River hunting towns to farm and graze their
cattle in safety on the vast ranges to the east and west.

"The water of the land is my blood"


Beginning of the

Second Seminole War

W WHILE THE INDIAN AND BLACK population of the Peace River
Valley stabilized in the early and mid-1820s, American
settlers poured into the frontier areas of North Florida
and began seeping down the southern peninsula. As their num-
bers grew, they pressured the U.S. government for a final resolu-
tion of the problem of Florida's natives, their demands aggravated
by incidents between whites and starving Indians brought on by
the theft of cattle. As tensions heightened, war became a more
distinct possibility.

The beginnings of American settlement
The flow of American settlers, many of them known as Crack-
ers, into the Florida peninsula in the 1820s and early 1830s was
most dramatically evidenced in the large area bordered on the
east by the St. Johns River and on the south by the Indian reser-
vation; that is, in the areas of present-day Baker, Columbia, Ham-
ilton, Suwannee, Union, Bradford, and Alachua counties [see ap-
pendix 2].1 Closer to the Peace River settlements, however, white
newcomers also began to make their presence felt. Levi Collar, a
soldier of the Patriot War, arrived with his family at Tampa Bay


Beginning of the Second Seminole War 35

as early as 1824 and, within five years, had moved further inland
to Six Mile Creek. In 1829 the Reverend Daniel Simmons, a Bap-
tist missionary, settled fifteen miles east of Tampa at what be-
came known as Simmons Hammock. The previous year saw the
opening of Tampa's first civilian store with the arrival of William
Saunders, who became the village's first postmaster in 1831. Of
many of the earliest settlers in the area Col. George M. Brooke
had feelings none too charitable. In the fall of 1828 he noted,
"The chief and may be said, the only object of those settlers is to
dispose of whisky to the troops and Indians which they have and
continue to do, to the great annoyance of the command and injury
to the Soldiers & Indians." Whatever Colonel Brooke's concerns
and whatever problems for the future were posed by the settlers,
one fact was certain-white settlement of South Florida had
The very first white American settler at Tampa was neither a
Cracker veteran of the Patriot War nor a whisky trader. Robert
Hackley was the son of a New York lawyer, Richard Hackley, who
had purchased in 1822 a grant made by the king of Spain about
the time the treaty ceding Florida to the United States was
signed. Although the Alagon Grant ultimately was found invalid
by the U.S. Supreme Court, Hackley was convinced he owned
most of central and southern Florida including Tampa Bay, Char-
lotte Harbor, and the Peace River Valley.3
In the summer of 1832, Hackley, in association with George W.
Murray and associates of New York, sponsored an expedition to
further explore the Charlotte Harbor area. On September 10 they
entered the mouth of Peace River which they mistakenly called
the Macaco. After five days the party reached a point most likely
in present-day Hardee County. Indians they encountered told
them that the head springs of the river were "distant three days
journey" and that around those springs were "some hundreds of
Among the Hackley-Murray party was P.B. Prior, who in
March of the following year travelled overland from Tampa Bay
to buy cattle at Peace River from an Indian named Seweky. After
a three-day journey with Seweky as guide, Prior reached the river
at present-day Fort Meade. Crossing the stream at the ancient
ford, the cattle buyer proceeded to Seweky's town, named Tobasa
or Wahoo, two miles up Bowlegs Creek from its junction with the

36 Florida's Peace River Frontier

river. The following day Seweky and Prior, aided by Indian and
black cowmen, hunted the cattle which the American had sought
to buy. Shortly thereafter, Prior left Seweky's with eight steers
and two cows with calves and began the first recorded cattle
drive down the east side of the river. For more than ten days the
cattle were led to the southeast, then around the headwaters of
and over Fisheating Creek. They were swum across the Caloosa-
hatchee near the future site of Fort Thompson and finally reached
their goal at Punta Rassa by paralleling the Caloosahatchee to the
south. Because of Prior's connections with Hackley and Murray
and the direction of his drive, it seems likely the cattle he pur-
chased were destined for the use of a small colony the men had
established on Sanibel Island.5

The Pease Creek Tallahassees

As P.B. Prior recorded in his journal, new Indian settlements
were appearing south of Bowlegs Creek. The first, he noted, was
eight miles south-southeast of the town on Bowlegs Creek and,
being "just built," was without a name. Eighteen miles farther
down was "a small Indian settlement" where Prior was able to
purchase a "sorrel horse" for his Indian drovers. About eleven
miles to the north of the crossing of Fisheating Creek another
"small Indian town" was noted, and three miles further on the
party encountered the camp of two runaway blacks. The Hackley-
Murray expedition of the previous year also had noticed isolated
Indian settlements on Peace River and had received reports of
"some hundreds of Indians" on the river's headwaters. Those In-
dians and others located near the headwaters of the Caloosa-
hatchee reportedly were raising two or three crops of corn each
The Hackley-Murray and Prior reports clearly indicate the
presence on Peace River and further to the south of substantially
increased numbers of Indians during the early 1830s. Who were
these Indians and how did they come to settle in the Peace River
By the early 1830s, pressure from white settlers had prompted
the U.S. government to renew its efforts for the final removal of
Indians and blacks from Florida. Andrew Jackson again turned to
his old protg& and Florida hand, James Gadsden, who in very

Beginning of the Second Seminole War 37

Osceola in January 1838, shortly before his death. Painted from life by
George Catlin at Fort Moultrie, S.C. Original in the National Portrait
Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy Florida Photographic Col-
lection, Florida State Archives.

questionable circumstances arranged for the conclusion of the
treaties of Paynes Landing and Fort Gibson calling for removal
of the Creeks, Seminoles, Mikasukis, and blacks to the west. The
treaties were promptly disavowed by many of the most promi-
nent Indian and black leaders.
Faced with a United States determined to force their removal,
some Indian leaders must have looked for an opportunity to slip

38 Florida's Peace River Frontier

away from the attention of the whites to prepare for whatever
the future held. To some extent that opportunity was provided
when U.S. troops were withdrawn from Fort Brooke at Tampa
Bay in the summer of 1832 and when, shortly thereafter, the In-
dian agent left the territory.7
One who opted to slip away in those early years of the 1830s
was Holata Micco, chief of one of the larger Tallahassee bands.8
He first comes to attention, at least under that title or name, in
September 1823, when he was described as chief of the town of
Wachitokha, east of the Suwannee River toward the Santa Fe.
Less than a month later an article in the St. Augustine news-
paper included him in a group of important chiefs who had made
"considerable advances in civilization." In May 1826 he was one
of seven chiefs who visited Washington and New York City to
urge the secretary of war and the president to extend the bound-
aries of the Indian reservation. Their talk to the secretary of war
suggested that Holata Micco and his band then were living in
or near the Big Swamp just to the east of the Indian Agency at
Fort King (Ocala).9
Holata Micco was visited near the Big Swamp in the summer
of 1829 by a young circuit-riding Methodist preacher. The Rever-
end Isaac Boring, seeking permission to preach to the Tallahas-
sees, spoke with Holata Micco (whose name he spelled Olacklim-
ica) on July 22. Of the Tallahassee chief Boring recorded: "He said
that he had nothing against my preaching to his people, and that
he would like to hear preaching himself. He said that he could not
do any thing toward giving me liberty to preach to the Indians;
until the chiefs were assembled together; this he said would take
place on next Friday. He also said that he would then name my
request and do his best to get the chiefs willing to grant it. I am
much pleased with this chief and think that if all the chiefs of the
Nation were like him, it would not be long before these savages
would hear the Gospel of Christ." As was the case with so many
of Holata Micco's actions expressing a peaceful or accommodating
intention toward whites, his promise to the circuit rider came to
nothing. The young Methodist never preached to the Talla-
Shortly after his encounter with the Reverend Boring, Holata
Micco and his band may have moved a few miles farther south to
the neighborhood of the Withlacoochee River. Certainly by the

Beginning of the Second Seminole War 39

summer of 1832 the population of the Peace River Valley was in-
creasing with reports of "some hundreds of Indians" near the
river's headwaters, and settlements, however isolated, beginning
to grow south of Bowlegs Creek. By 1836 it could be noted that
the main river settlement of Talakchopco (Fort Meade), located at
and to the north of the ancient ford of the river, had grown into
an "extensive town" containing, with a nearby village, perhaps
as many as three hundred log houses. The Indians fueling this
growth were the Pease Creek Tallahassees, and their chief was
Holata Micco.11
Little is known about the Pease Creek Tallahassees apart from
the names of several of the towns in which they lived and of sev-
eral of the warriors who lived in them. By the early 1830s, Mi-
natti, the village at or just to the south of present-day Bartow,
may have included the blacks settled near Lake Hancock since
Oponay's time. Living there or just to the north on Lake Hancock
was Eneha Micco, while the subchief at Minatti was Emathloche
(Emathla chee). Perhaps also at Minatti or the colony at Lake

"An Indian Town, Residence of a Chief" drawn by J.F. Gray in 1836 may
depict the Peace River town of Talakchopco as it looked prior to its de-
struction. Gray was a South Carolina volunteer in the Second Seminole
War. Courtesy Library of Congress.

40 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Hancock lived the great black chief, Harry, who was to play a ma-
jor role in events only a few years in the future.12
South of Minatti was the town of Tolopchopco (Talakchopco),
stretching from the ancient ford at Fort Meade for several miles
to the north. Presumably that town was the seat of the Pease
Creek Tallahassees, and there Holata Micco would have been
headquartered. Possibly there also lived his subchiefs, Mad Liz-
zard and Hac-to Hal-chee, as well as Holata Micco's brother,
Hath-la-po Ha-jo (the All-Conquering Warrior). Just a few miles to
the south, opposite Bowlegs Creek, was a third village, Chetuck-
ota, with its subchiefs, Ta Cosa Fiscico and Yaha Fiscico. In addi-
tion, Seweky's personal village on Bowlegs Creek was known as
Tobasa or Wahoo.13 To close out the list, the soon-to-be-famous
black chief, Gopher John, likewise was connected with the river
and was known to some as Pease Creek John.14
It was a former resident of the Peace River Valley, however,
who was about to focus attention again on the settlements there.
That man would ignite a firestorm which, very shortly, would
destroy those settlements completely.

The rise of Osceola

It is not known exactly when Osceola, who joined Peter
McQueen at Peace River in the aftermath of the First Seminole
War, first left the settlement at Talakchopco. It appears, though,
that by about 1832 he was living in or near the Big Swamp in the
neighborhood of Fort King. He in fact may have lived in the vil-
lage of Holata Micco because not long after his arrival he recog-
nized the Tallahassee leader as his chief. When Holata Micco left
the Big Swamp area, Osceola remained behind and may have
begun to represent the chief's interests to authorities at Fort
King and the Indian agency.'5
Osceola first comes to official attention in October 1833 when,
in the apparent absence of Holata Micco, he appeared as one of a
number of chiefs requesting permission to visit Washington and
discuss with the president the whole matter of Seminole emigra-
tion. Meanwhile Holata Micco at Peace River pursued a dual pol-
icy. While professing support for emigration, he established him-
self in a location remote from the prying eyes.of government
officers but close to sources of food and items for trade on the

Beginning of the Second Seminole War 41

South Florida hunting grounds, in the line of communication of
Seminoles and Creeks coming south for the winter hunt, and
near arms, ammunition and other trade goods available through
the Cuban fishing ranchos at Charlotte Harbor.16
Throughout 1834 pressure increased for the removal of the In-
dians from Florida. In the Tampa Bay area this desire became
particularly acute among settlers who had experienced a growing
number of cattle thefts since the Army had withdrawn from Fort
Brooke in the summer of 1832. By November 1834, twenty-six
Hillsborough County citizens, "aware of the dangerous and very
treacherous character of the Indians and the numerous threats
held out by them should the Government insist upon their re-
moval," petitioned for the return of the troops to Tampa. The re-
quest was granted before the end of the year."
Meanwhile, toward the end of October 1834 at a private coun-
cil of Indians, a "bold and dashing" Osceola, as yet only a sub-
chief, urged resistance to emigration. Meeting shortly thereafter
with Indian agent Wiley Thompson, Holata Micco, Osceola's
chief, flatly refused to go west, and other chiefs joined him in de-
nouncing the emigration treaties. Six months later another coun-
cil was held. During that meeting Osceola worked quietly in the
background urging resistance to any emigration. As one observer
put it, "His presence was felt without being seen." When called
upon publicly to explain his opposition to the treaties, Osceola
merely stated that his chief, Holata Micco, disapproved of them.
Another chief expressed his disapproval more eloquently, stating
that "the trees were his body; their branches as his limbs; and
the water of the land as his blood." Because of the opposition,
U.S. officials decided to delay any attempts at Indian removal un-
til January 1836 at the earliest.'8

The start of the Second Seminole War

For several months after the April 1835 council, relations be-
tween Indians and whites simmered. The heat of summer and
several incidents, including the murder of an express mail rider
near Fort Brooke on August 11, brought them to a boil. By the
end of summer Holata Micco, Osceola, and other Creeks, Semi-
noles, and blacks were actively preparing for war. One of their
first requirements was arms and ammunition. Either fortuitously

42 Florida's Peace River Frontier

or through the active collusion of Cubans at the fishing ranchos,
the government inspector at Charlotte Harbor was suspended in
late July. This paved the way for Spanish traders to enter the
bay, and by late in the year they were reported to be landing arms
and ammunition for the Indians. A second concern was protection
for Indian women and children, as well as for black slaves re-
sponsible for growing their food. As soon as the 1835 crops were
gathered, many Indians moved their families, cattle, and supplies
deep into the peninsula. When Osceola murdered one chief out-
spoken in favor of emigration, Charley Emathla, on November 26,
many of the Indians and blacks remaining in the north rendez-
voused at the Big Swamp and Long Swamp and then disap-
peared. Agent Thompson believed they had retreated "to the wild
region on the peninsula of Florida, in the neighborhood of what is
called the Everglades." Osceola's family was reported to be at
Peace River where others shortly would be concentrated as well.19
News of the murder of Charley Emathla stirred white Ameri-
cans, as well as Indians, to action. At Tampa settlers took refuge
at Fort Brooke from the depradations of a band of one hundred
Pease Creek warriors under the black war chief, Harry, who had
begun a campaign of plunder and arson in the vicinity. For their
own protection, about thirty of the refugees at Fort Brooke
formed a ranger company to patrol roads near the post, an action
reflecting accurately the weakness of the garrison.20
In the meantime, militia companies were being formed to the
north of the Indian reservation. On December 17, 1835, a battal-
ion of volunteers under the command of Col. John Warren, raised
principally in the area of Duval, Columbia, Hamilton, and Ala-
chua counties and including many men who would pioneer the
settlement of the Peace River Valley, was ordered to scour the
country southeast from Paynes Prairie. The following day the
battalion's baggage train, which had been detached from the
main force, was crossing to the south of the Alachua prairie near
Black Point when it was attacked and captured by Osceola.
Those members of the small guard party not killed in the attack
retreated until they encountered Maj. John McLemore, who at-
tempted to reengage the hostiles with the remainder of his com-
pany [see appendix 3]. Only a few of McLemore's men advanced
with him, however, and they were forced to retreat. Two days
later when the Indians were again discovered, Warren's entire

Beginning of the Second Seminole War 43

command attacked, and the fighting continued for almost an
hour. Eventually the Indians fled, and the militiamen were able
to recover some of their papers and cooking utensils. The ammu-
nition and stores remained the prize of Osceola.21
Thus passed the first two engagements of the Second Seminole
War. In both instances, citizen soldiers from the frontier areas to
the north of the Indian reservation clashed with Indian and black
warriors under the command of Osceola. Many of those white
settlers, or members of their families, had fought the Seminoles
more than twenty years earlier during the Patriot War and in
only a few more years would become pioneers of South Florida
and the Peace River Valley. On both sides this personal struggle,
begun so long ago, would become over the next twenty years even
more bitter and personal, and its scene would be the Peace River

The destruction of Talakchopco

Over the four months following the Battle of Black Point the
Seminole War accelerated. On December 28, Osceola and his
party attacked the Indian agency at Fort King and murdered
agent Wiley Thompson and others. Little more than fifty miles to
the south, the Seminole chiefs Micanopy and Alligator with 180
followers massacred a relief column under Maj. Francis L. Dade
on its way to Fort King. Three days thereafter the Indians struck
again. At a crossing of the Withlacoochee River, Osceola, wearing
a U.S. Army coat, led 220 Indians and 30 black warriors against
Gen. Duncan L. Clinch and about 750 men, 500 of whom were
Florida volunteers including those serving under Col. John War-
ren. After fighting for more than an hour Clinch was forced to
withdraw, and the Indians again were victorious.22
War and destruction raged throughout Florida for the next two
months, although no major engagement was fought. Then, on
February 27, 1836, the Indians and their black allies again at-
tacked on the Withlacoochee, their prey this time a column under
the command of Gen. Edmund P. Gaines. For over a week the In-
dians besieged Gaines's hastily fortified position. After Gaines
had begun negotiating with the Indians, relief arrived and the In-
dians and blacks retired into the woods.23
While the hostiles parleyed with General Gaines, the remainder

44 Florida's Peace River Frontier

of their women, children, and slaves moved to join the others who
had sought haven below Peace River and Lake Tohopekaliga. In
early April this information reached Gen. Winfield Scott, then
commanding in Florida, from a half-blood Spaniard captured near
Charlotte Harbor who confessed to having traded supplies to the
Indians. The Spaniard told Scott that the Indian women, chil-
dren, blacks, and plunder were concentrated at the head of Peace
River. On the condition that his life be spared, he offered to lead
the army there. He also may have suggested that Osceola was at
the river, prepared to make a desperate stand.24
Present when this news was received was James Gadsden who
proposed to General Scott that an expedition be sent to Peace
River to capture the Indian families and slaves and to destroy
their settlements. As the plan developed, five hundred mounted
South Carolina volunteers under Col. Robert H. Goodwyn were to
travel directly to the main Indian settlements on Peace River.
Simultaneously, Louisiana volunteers under Col. Persifor F. Smith
would ascend the river from Charlotte Harbor, destroy all settle-
ments found, and, ultimately, make a juncture with the South
As fine a plan as it was, Scott's scheme had certain major
flaws. Both the South Carolinians and the Louisianians were
nearing the end of their enlistments and were very tired. They
had been marching and, to some extent, fighting for several
months and were beset with food, forage, and medical problems.
Additionally, they were being asked to coordinate a simultaneous
movement of two columns over several hundred miles of un-
tracked wilderness, a task requiring close support of the U.S.
Navy as well as the army. It was too much to ask.26
Colonel Goodwyn immediately grasped the problems inherent
in his mission and approached General Scott with a request that
he and his men be excused. When that request was refused, the
South Carolinian attempted to execute his orders, but trouble
plagued him from the start. On the morning of April 14 Goodwyn
and his men left Fort Brooke for Peace River. Only a few miles
along the way Goodwyn's men mistook some campfire smoke for
Indians and poured a volley of fire into fellow South Carolina vol-
unteers. Compounding this disastrous start, the battalion's
horses, suffering from lack of forage, were unable to carry their
riders, and the mounted volunteers, leading the animals, were re-

Beginning of the Second Seminole War 45

quired to walk to Peace River carrying on their backs haversacks
loaded with eight days' provisions. By the time the column ar-
rived at Talakchopco (present-day Fort Meade) on April 16 the
Indians, blacks, and supplies were long gone. A frustrated and
impatient Goodwyn, surveying the site that had meant so much
in the past decades to Seminole and Red Stick refugees, ordered
Talakchopco burned. He then crossed the river where his men dis-
covered in the river swamp an Indian fort made of brush. The
South Carolinians quickly destroyed the fort and another "town
of considerable size" they chanced upon nearby. Without hesita-
tion, the exhausted troops then turned back to the west to rejoin
fellow South Carolinians at Fort Alabama on the Hillsborough
River. They arrived there after dark on April 18, four months
after the Battle of Black Point.27
On the same day, Persifor Smith and the Louisianians began
their ascent of Peace River. Setting out with half their force
marching by land and half traveling by water, the column made
only twelve miles before Smith decided it was impractical to pro-
ceed as planned. Offering anyone who wanted to turn back the
opportunity, Smith was left with 152 men. This remaining force
proceeded for two days, mainly using canoes, until it arrived at a
lovely spot that the volunteers named Live Oak Camp and where
they found the remains of a deserted village. Along the route, a
detachment under Capt. Hezekiah Thistle explored Horse Creek
for about eight miles into the interior. After a night's rest at Live
Oak Camp, the Louisianians left their boats and began a march
up the south side of the river. For two more days the troops
marched, occasionally seeing signs of former Indian settlements.
On April 21 they forded the river to the north bank and continued
their march. The following day, at a point that Smith figured was
fifty-two miles above Charlotte Harbor, the expedition ran out of
food and turned back to the south.28
By April 25, 1836, Colonel Smith and the Louisiana volunteers
were back at Tampa Bay awaiting transport home."9 At Peace
River they had fought no desperate Indians, destroyed no Indian
towns, and captured no black slaves. The one positive thing Per-
sifor Smith could claim was the discovery which many other
white Americans would make in the years to come. "The coun-
try," Smith reported, "seems favorable for the pasturage of

46 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Almost as an anticlimax, one final effect of the opening of the
Second Seminole War was realized in South Florida by the end of
April 1836-all troops were withdrawn from Charlotte Harbor
and about one hundred individuals connected with the fishing
ranchos were transported to Tampa Bay to begin their lives and
work anew. The great Cuban fishing ranchos, which had played
so prominent a role in the history of South Florida for the past
eighty years, were left deserted.31

During the first six years of the 1830s, the Peace River Valley
experienced a radical swing from substantial growth due to In-
dian immigration to the destruction of her oldest settlements by
U.S. military might. The growth during the early 1830s centered
around the return of the Tallahassee creeks, principally under
the chief Holata Micco, to the place that had offered them haven
after the First Seminole War. The destruction came in the early
days of a war brought about in great part by the actions and
leadership of the Red Stick, Billy Powell, who had been one of
those early refugees and who, by the 1830s, had grown to man-
hood as Osceola. The first serious encounters of that war pitted
Indian and black allies under leaders nurtured at Peace River
against white frontiersmen, many of whom had direct ties to the
violent Indian struggles of the Patriot War of 1812-1814. These
foes were to meet again and again in conflicts that would result
in the permanent settlement of the Peace River Valley. In April
1836, however, six years of war remained before the first steps
toward that settlement could be undertaken.

"A perfect grave yard"


Conclusion of the

Second Seminole War

THE SECOND SEMINOLE WAR began in December 1835 in great
part through the leadership of a Tallahassee warrior,
Osceola, who had found in his youth a home and haven on
Peace River. Within only a few months, however, Osceola's war
had visited fire and destruction upon the very Peace River town
that had welcomed him. In the end, the presence at Peace River of
Seminole, Tallahassee, and black warriors was obliterated, and in
their place appeared the roads and encampments of the U.S.

General Jesup's Fort Dade Treaty
After the campaigns of April and May 1836, which included
the army descent upon Peace River and the burning of Talak-
chopco, the Second Seminole War settled for the rest of the year
into a series of relatively small engagements. Many of them
involved North Florida militiamen who themselves or through
their descendants were to pioneer the Peace River area. An
unusual instance took place beginning April 12 when a group of
fifty Florida volunteers from the command of Maj. John McLe-
more, head of the Columbia Volunteers, was besieged by approx-


48 Florida's Peace River Frontier

imately five hundred Indians near the mouth of the Withlacoochee
River for more than forty-eight days. Although most of the volun-
teers were rescued, the survivors declared that the regular army
had abandoned them, a portent of ill feelings to come.'
By early December 1836 the Florida war had a new com-
mander, Gen. Thomas Sidney Jesup. Upon taking command,
Jesup analyzed the disposition of the hostiles arrayed against
him. Osceola and bands of Tallahassees, Mikasukies, and blacks
reportedly were secreted near the Withlacoochee River, while the
Pease Creek Tallahassees and their leader Holata Micco had
returned to Peace River where they easily could monitor any
movement of troops to the east out of Fort Brooke and where
their black slaves could continue to grow and harvest desperately
needed food. Large concentrations of Seminoles and captured
blacks were said to be near Lake Tohopekaliga, however, and it
was in that direction that Jesup decided to make his move, de-
stroying in the opening months of 1837 numerous Indian settle-
ments and capturing hundreds of cattle, horses, and mules.2
Jesup's action brought the Seminole chiefs to the peace table. At
Fort Dade (Dade City) on March 6, 1837, several principal chiefs,
though not including Osceola or other Tallahassee chiefs, agreed
to cease hostilities and emigrate from Florida. By April 10 the
Indians were to withdraw south of the Hillsborough River where
they would be furnished provisions until transport could be
arranged for them.3
For three months after the Fort Dade agreement was signed,
Indians and blacks gathered for emigration, principally at two
large camps near Tampa. Not all Indians came quickly, however,
nor did they all gather at Tampa. Before Micanopy, the leading
Seminole chief, decided to come in, for instance, he held a council
at Peace River on April 2. The meeting must have been punctu-
ated with argument because, although Micanopy shortly moved
to one of the camps at Tampa, Holata Micco boldly entered Fort
Brooke on April 5 and announced to General Jesup's face that,
although he was for peace, he would not emigrate.4 A number of
Holata Micco's band had second thoughts, though, for on May 23
several of them appeared at Tampa with seventeen of their
slaves. Osceola and others, opting for a middle road, came in at
Fort Mellon (Sanford), explaining their appearance so far from

Conclusion of the Second Seminole War 49

the port of emigration as being required by the need to sell their
The euphoria surrounding General Jesup's peace came crashing
down on June 2, 1837. Eighty warriors, led by Coacoochee and
Alligator, swooped down on the camps at Tampa and led away
with them Micanopy and many of the others awaiting emigra-
tion. The entire party traveled almost due east across Peace River
to the Kissimmee, where the Indians concentrated in two large
camps, one of Mikasukies on the west side of the St. Johns River
two days march south from Fort Mellon, and one centered on
Micanopy and the Seminoles east of the Kissimmee. One band of
Tallahassees encamped northeast of Micanopy's men, and Mica-
nopy sent for Holata Micco and the other Pease Creek Tallahas-
sees to join him on the Kissimmee.6
At this effrontery Jesup and most Floridians were enraged.
"Our southeastern frontier is again to be desolated," the St. Au-
gustine Herald declared. "Many of the planters and small farmers
in Madison, Hamilton, Columbia, Alachua, and Mosqueto," it
concluded, "had returned to their homes, which they must now,
for the third time, abandon to the brand of Osceola and his war-
riors." Although military action on the general's part would have
to wait until the end of summer, immediately he took one step
which was to have long-term repercussions. On June 11 he
handed the Florida Cracker volunteers a license to steal. "There
is no obligation to spare the property of the Indians, they have
not spared that of the citizens," Jesup wrote. "Their negroes,
cattle and horses, as well as other property they possess, will
belong to the corps by which they are captured." For the first
time, the U.S. Army had turned Florida volunteers loose on the
Indians and blacks.7

Fort Fraser and the Battle of Okeechobee

Over the summer of 1837 General Jesup prepared to take his
revenge on the Indians for the escape of June 2, and by early
August he had pinpointed the Indian concentrations on the St.
Johns and Kissimmee rivers, as well as the presence of captured
and runaway blacks between the St. Johns and Kissimmee rivers
and of Indian blacks on the Kissimmee, Caloosahatchee, and

50 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Peace rivers. In addition, Jesup had learned that the settlements
on Peace River, Indian and black, had come to encompass the
entire river valley as far north as the present Polk-Hardee county
line. With this information, Jesup developed a comprehensive
plan for attack which relied, in great part, on the actions of two
columns: Col. Zachary Taylor would be sent from Tampa to the
Kissimmee River to seek out and destroy the hostiles there; and
Col. Persifor Smith, back again in Florida, would ascend the
Caloosahatchee to the falls and attack the Indians and blacks in
that quarter.8
One problem for Jesup and Taylor lay in locating the most
desirable route from Tampa to the Kissimmee. For this informa-
tion they turned to three captives held at the garrison at Fort
Brooke: the black chiefs Abraham and Murray and the Seminole
Billy Bowlegs.9 Before the information obtained from them could
be put to use, however, other and far more important prisoners
were taken. On October 20 in the vicinity of Six Mile Creek near
Fort Brooke a returning patrol stumbled across and captured
Holata Micco, one of his subchiefs, and a third warrior. The chief
of the Pease Creek Tallahassees was placed in irons pending
transportation to the west. The following day near St. Augustine
an ill and suffering Osceola, with seventy of his warriors, was
seized under a white flag of truce. Neither Osceola nor his chief,
Holata Micco, would fight another day in Florida.10
Flushed with the success of these captures, Jesup put his cam-
paign plans into effect. By mid-November Lt. Col. William S.
Foster was on the old path from Fort Brooke to Oponay's former
plantation with orders to construct a stockade and supply depot
on Peace River and a substantial bridge over the river itself.
Foster selected as the site for his stockade a slight elevation
dotted with live oaks just to the west of Saddle Creek at the point
where the creek flowed out of Lake Hancock. Over the creek he
constructed a bridge and causeway some three hundred feet long.
By the time Colonel Taylor and eighty wagonloads of supplies
reached the river on November 29, Foster's men had completed
their task and the new fort had been named in honor of Capt.
Upton S. Fraser, a victim of the Dade massacre."
Pausing at Fort Fraser only long enough to deposit his supplies
and reorganize his men and equipment, Taylor pushed on to the
east with the bulk of his army. At Buffalo Ford, near present-day

Conclusion of the Second Seminole War 51

Waverly, he constructed a four-hundred-foot bridge. From there
he proceeded to the Kissimmee where he arrived on December 3.12
Over the next several weeks Taylor's troops established their
camp on the Kissimmee, named Fort Gardner, and reconnoitered
the area to the south and southwest. By December 18 the colonel
had issued orders to move his force against the Indians and
blacks on Peace River. At the last minute, however, Taylor
changed his mind and ordered his men down the Kissimmee. On
Christmas Day, the soldiers met the Florida Indians in combat
near Lake Okeechobee. Twenty-six soldiers were killed and 112
wounded. The Indian allies lost 11 killed and 14 wounded. Because
the Indians left the field after fighting ceased, the Battle of Okee-
chobee has been called a U.S. victory. It was the last large
pitched battle of the Second Seminole War.13
Although Zachary Taylor had turned away from Peace River
on December 19, his campaign continued to have an impact there.
Late in December the colonel dispatched Maj. George W. Allen
and several mounted companies to rendezvous with Colonel Smith
on the Caloosahatchee River. Once that mission was accom-
plished, Allen turned north and, carefully investigating the area,
made his way by January 8, 1838, to Fort Fraser.14
That outpost was garrisoned, in part, by 140 Pennsylvania
volunteers commanded by Capt. Hezekiah L. Thistle, the same
Captain Thistle who had explored Horse Creek for Persifor Smith
in April 1836. Since their arrival at the river just before the
Battle of Okeechobee, Thistle's men had been engaged in road
and bridge building to the east and had scouted to within ten or
twelve miles of Alligator's camp near Lake Istokpoga. Among
their accomplishments was the construction of a bridge about
eight miles east of Fort Fraser. Permitting north-south travel
down the eastern side of the stream, this first bridge over Peace
River was known for decades as Thistle's Bridge.'5
From late December 1837 to late May 1838 Fort Fraser saw a
steady stream of wounded and sick soldiers and captured Indians,
horses, and cattle. By May 4, 1838, Zachary Taylor had returned
to the post and established about four miles to the west a head-
quarters which he designated Camp Walker. There and at Fort
Fraser were 325 Indians and 30 blacks awaiting emigration. After
a stay of about three weeks spent collecting the last of his cap-
tives, Taylor abandoned Camp Walker and returned to Fort

52 Florida's Peace River Frontier

The Seminole chief Alligator, who lived for a time before 1835 on the
Peace River, was believed by Army officials to be the brother of Billy
Bowlegs. Portrait by George Catlin is in the Smithsonian Institution.
Courtesy Florida Photographic Collection, Florida State Archives.

Brooke. Shortly thereafter Fort Fraser was closed, an action
which Taylor had recommended two months earlier with the
rationale that "Peas Creek in the opinion of the Medical Gen-
tlemen would be a perfect grave yard & that not ten men in a
hundred would survive in summer there."16

Conclusion of the Second Seminole War 53

A cordon of forts

On May 15, 1838, Thomas S. Jesup surrendered command of
the U.S. forces in Florida to Zachary Taylor. Jesup's contribution
to the war effort, through the use of aggressive military opera-
tions and seizures in defiance of flags of truce, had netted about
2,900 captives and an additional 100 Indians killed. When Taylor
brought in Alligator late in April, the two commanders had made
an almost clean sweep of the Seminole leadership. The Mikasu-
kies and Tallahassees fiercely continued to resist emigration,
however, and with the remaining Seminoles and a few renegade
Creeks they constituted a continuing menace to the white settlers
in Florida.17
Zachary Taylor was cut from a different bolt of cloth than his
predecessor in command. Having personally disapproved of the
policy of forcible removal, he adopted a much more pacific course
after Jesup's departure. Taylor felt the Indians should be driven
south of a line running from St. Augustine to Garey's Ferry on
the Oklawaha River and from there along the road from Fort
King (Ocala) to Tampa Bay. North of that line settlement was to
be encouraged by the placement of numerous centrally located
While Colonel Taylor awaited approval of his plans, isolated
Indian attacks aroused alarm and calls for protection from white
settlers, especially those in Alachua and Columbia counties.
Frontier settlers came more and more to believe that their protec-
tion lay with local militia companies, rather than with the reg-
ular army [see appendix 4]. Taylor, barely concealing his contempt
for the volunteers, refused to place any reliance upon them. The
Indians, to round out the equation, increasingly avoided contact
with the regular army and began to concentrate their assaults on
Cracker settlers and militia units.19
Taylor reacted to this situation by deciding to further separate
frontiersmen and Indians. Specifically, he determined that his
new line of demarcation across the peninsula should run from
New Smyrna to Fort Brooke, a considerable distance south of the
old. To anchor this line he ordered the creation of a road and line
of posts linking the two points. On January 7, 1839, Col. Alex-
ander Cummings, with three companies of artillery and two of
infantry, marched out of Fort Brooke toward the old Indian town

54 Florida's Peace River Frontier

of Itchepuckesassa (Plant City). There he constructed a fort 110
feet square with two blockhouses and two storehouses, which he
christened Fort Sullivan on January 23. A few days earlier Cum-
mings had instructed Maj. DeLafayette Wilcox to proceed in the
direction of Fort Maitland (Maitland) and to establish posts every
twenty or thirty miles along the way. Wilcox complied by estab-
lishing Fort Cummings (Lake Alfred) twenty miles to the east on
January 22 and Fort Davenport (Davenport) twenty miles farther
along shortly thereafter. The road to connect Fort Brooke with
Fort Davenport required the construction of five bridges and
numerous causeways.20
The road from Fort Brooke to Fort Davenport was not the only
one blazed early in 1839. On February 9 Col. William Davenport
was ordered to transfer his command by overland march from
Fort Davenport to the Caloosahatchee. The following day he left
for Fort Cummings to replenish his supplies. On the morning of
February 12 he set out on the thirteen-mile march south to Peace
River where he built a new bridge over Saddle Creek and rebuilt
Thistle's Bridge to the east. From February 14 to 19 the colonel
led his column south from Thistle's Bridge to the Caloosahatchee.
His route paralleled that of Captain Allen one year earlier to a
point near Lake Istokpoga, where he veered to the east around
the headwaters of Fisheating Creek, following the same Indian
trail used by P.B. Prior on his 1833 cattle drive. From Fisheating
Creek the column turned southwest until it arrived at Fort T.B.
Adams near the falls of the Caloosahatchee. The road that Daven-
port followed from Thistle's Bridge to the Caloosahatchee, to-
gether with the more direct route of Captain Allen, was the main
north-south route down the east side of Peace River for the
remainder of the nineteenth century. For twenty years it bore the
name Davenport's Road.21
Just as Zachary Taylor's plans were falling into place a new
variable, Gen. Alexander Macomb, entered the picture. Macomb
was the highest ranking general in the army and, on March 18,
1839, was ordered by the secretary of war to Florida with broad
discretion to do whatever was necessary to end the war. Sensing
the war was a no-win situation, Macomb called a peace confer-
ence. The main Indian representative to the conference was a
Seminole, Chitto Tustenuggee, whom the army held out to be the
recently elected principal chief of the Seminoles and Mikasukies

Conclusion of the Second Seminole War 55

and whom Indian agent John Casey later would describe as the
close relative or brother of Billy Bowlegs. By May 22 Macomb had
won an agreement from the Indians present to withdraw south of
Peace River within the next two months. At some time in the fall,
so the agreement stated, a great council was to be held on .the
river at which time further arrangements were to be made. In the
meantime, Chitto Tustenuggee asked that a store be established
for the Indians on Peace River.22
The peace promised by General Macomb's treaty did not endure
for long. In July a detachment of twenty-six men under Lt. Col.
William S. Harney was dispatched to the Caloosahatchee River to
open the promised trading store.23 Some 15 or 20 miles upstream,
Harney and his men were attacked on the night of July 23, 1839,
by a Seminole war party under the command of Micanopy's half-
brother, Chakaika, and including Chitto Tustenuggee's brother,
Billy Bowlegs. In the resulting carnage only fourteen men, includ-
ing Colonel Harney, escaped. The meaning of the attack was clear
-the remnants of the Cowkeeper dynasty, the most powerful of
Seminole families, had rejected peace bought at the price of

Armistead and Worth in the Peace River Valley

For the remaining months of Zachary Taylor's command in
Florida, war dragged on in a stalemate punctuated by frequent
atrocities. As public opinion outside the territory turned against
the war, members of the regular army became disenchanted and
Florida volunteers refused to serve away from their homes. Only
a month before Taylor received permission on April 21, 1840, to
leave his Florida command, future Confederate general Joseph E.
Johnston described the situation: "The state of military affairs in
that territory is disgusting in the extreme."25
To remedy the Florida debacle Gen. Walker Keith Armistead
was named by the secretary of war to replace Zachary Taylor.
Armistead's plan was to divide the Florida peninsula by an east-
west line running through Fort King (Ocala). In a reversal of Tay-
lor's opposition to the use of citizen volunteers, Armistead decided
to turn over the defense of the area north of his line to the Flo-
ridians and to concentrate his own forces to the south. By late
1840 his plan had been approved and transformed into action.26

56 Florida's Peace River Frontier

At the resumption of operations in mid-November 1840 Armi-
stead authorized the establishment of a post, afterwards named
Fort Armistead, on Sarasota Bay. The location was chosen to
facilitate operations against Seminoles and Mikasukies believed
to be living from Peace River south through the Big Cypress
Swamp to the Everglades. From Indians found near Charlotte
Harbor it was learned that several Peace River bands had fled
inland at the sight of the troops, including that of Hospetarke.27 A
delegation of Indians brought from the west attempted to open
negotiations, as did Armistead himself on a visit to Peace River
and Charlotte Harbor early in January 1841. Slowly a few Indians
did come in at Fort Armistead and, on March 20, Billy Bowlegs
arrived for a twelve-day chat. All the while, however, Hospetarke
refused to come in from his camp at Peace River.28
While these efforts continued at Sarasota and on the southern
reaches of Peace River, other events were taking place at the
northern end. Late in January 1841 Armistead dispatched Col.
William Jenkins Worth into the interior from Fort Brooke to
make contact with bands under Coacoochee and the Mikasuki
chief Arpeika (Sam Jones). Although Worth's efforts were frus-
trated by high water, he established a supply depot a mile west of
Fort Fraser, which he named Fort Carroll, and ordered the rees-
tablishment of Fort Cummings.29 At the newly reopened Fort
Cummings, one-half mile west of its former location, Worth met
in private conference with Coacoochee on March 5, 1841. In
return for a secret bribe of $4,000 and other considerations, Coa-
coochee agreed to emigrate with his people. By early April Fort
Cummings again was abandoned, although it served temporarily
that summer as a point for collecting the members of Coacoo-
chee's band. At Tampa early in August, Worth (by then com-
mander in Florida) reported possession of all the Indians "West of
Pease Creek, Ochechobee &c." East of Peace River was another
matter entirely. Many Indians still found refuge there, Hospe-
tarke prominent among them.30
On July 11, 1841, a detachment was posted on the southern
bank of Peace River about twenty miles from its mouth.31 The
post, Camp Ogden, was named for Edmund Augustus Ogden, the
assistant quartermaster at Fort Brooke. It was located near Hos-
petarke's village and was intended to serve both as an advance
position facing the Indians to the east and south and as a conven-

Conclusion of the Second Seminole War 57

ient spot for obtaining materials for canoes to be used in future
operations. Only six days after the camp was established a party
of Indians arrived there claiming protection. On their heels was a
war party from the south that fired on a wood-cutting detail near
the camp and killed one soldier. The Indians seeking protection
were saved and, later, taken to Tampa for emigration.32
In pursuit of Hospetarke, Colonel Worth arrived at Camp
Ogden on August 25. With the colonel was his new ally, Coa-
coochee, who had already arranged to meet Hospetarke at his vil-
lage near the camp. Before sunset that day Coacoochee had
returned with Hospetarke, and an indecisive council was held.
Worth's patience at that point appears to have been exhausted,
and on the following afternoon he lured the chief and his war-
riors on board the government vessel anchored in the river and
seized them. On October 12, 1841, Coacoochee and Hospetarke,
with their warriors, women, and children, were emigrated from
Tampa. The camp on Peace River already had been broken up.33

The end of the war

During the year following the seizure of Hospetarke at Camp
Ogden, the final act of the Second Seminole War was played out
in small incidents and engagements all over the territory of
Florida. Bit by bit the strength of the Indians was reduced as
their numbers grew smaller and their homes and fields were de-
stroyed. By February 1842 Colonel Worth estimated that only 301
Indians remained.34
Of Colonel Worth's 301 Indians, 60 Seminoles were believed to
be living along the Kissimmee River under the chief Assinwa.
Early in 1842 a force commanded by Maj. William G. Belknap,
guided by the now-friendly Alligator, was ordered to march north
from the Everglades to Lake Istokpoga to induce those holdouts to
emigrate. By February 18 Belknap was headquartered at Fort
Cummings, having repaired Thistle's Bridge where he estab-
lished a base camp designated Camp McCall in honor of his
fellow soldier and friend, George A. McCall. Early in March Belk-
nap finally arranged an interview with one of the chiefs of
Assinwa's band, Tustenuggee Chopco, who agreed to surrender
with 41 of his people on March 15. On that date, when the
Indians did not arrive at the prescribed point on Davenport's

58 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Road fifteen miles below Thistle's Bridge, Belknap pursued and
captured 27 of them. By March 22 the major, his men, and his
captives had withdrawn to Fort Brooke and, for the Peace River
Valley, the Second Seminole War was over.35
On August 5, 1842, Billy Bowlegs, the recognized chief of the
Florida Seminoles by that time, met in conference at Tampa with
Colonel Worth. At that meeting Bowlegs accepted Worth's offer of
peace and his condition that the Indians withdraw to the reserva-
tion south of the Peace River, first agreed to by General Macomb
in 1839. Although Bowlegs at first objected to the inclusion of the
few remaining Creeks and Tallahassees within the limits of the
reservation, their representatives approved the agreement at Ce-
dar Key on August 12. Two days later, August 14, 1842, William
Jenkins Worth declared the Second Seminole War at an end.36

1 .....

.. .
-""^~~ C- .ik
'.. '.
"*** ,.; _^ f ,.. .
, ,-- **., .. V ~

This drawing by James C. Buchanan is reported to be Fort Fraser,
erected just north of Bartow in 1837. From DeVane's Early Florida His-
tory, 2:163.

Conclusion of the Second Seminole War 59

The return of the Tallahassees

Fifteen months later the final band of hostiles gave themselves
up. In the best traditions of their fathers, the Red Stick Creeks,
this tiny band of Creeks and Tallahassees had held out until
November 1843. Numbering only about twenty warriors, they
slowly made their way south into the reservation. Their chief
was Halpatter Tustenuggee, and among the band were two broth-
ers, Cotsa Fixico Chopco and Echo Emathla Chopco, whose father
had died fighting Andrew Jackson in 1818. As boys, they had
moved with Peter McQueen to the refuge at Talakchopco,37 and in
years to come they again would live at Peace River with the other
members of their band. Many of them would fight and die there.

The Second Seminole War ended the first long chapter of life
on the River of Peace in the nineteenth century. The great Indian
cattle herds on the South Florida ranges had been decimated and
the few Indians allowed to remain pressed into the Everglades.
No longer a symbol of life and freedom in 1842, the river repre-
sented the line that separated white frontiersmen and surviving
Indians, nursing the pains and grudges of generations of conflict.

Part Two

"The society of a frontier"

"To play off a shabby trick"


The Frontier Moves

to South Florida

WHEN GEN. WILLIAM J. WORTH declared the end of the Second
Seminole War on August 14, 1842, the Peace River Valley
lay deserted. Particularly on the high fertile lands which
ran on both sides of the river from below present-day Fort Meade
to the vicinity of Oponay's old plantation north of abandoned Fort
Fraser, the Indian and black settlements that had dotted its
landscape lay in ruin, their former inhabitants killed, transported
to the west, or establishing more secure refuges further down the
peninsula. Over the next decade the vacuum created by the
forced departure of the Indians and their black allies attracted to
South .Flrida hundreds of families from the old North Florida
counties of Alachua, Columbia, andamiton. e influx of these
fa is into thear entually resulted in pressures for the
final removal of the Seminoles T, and Miasukies
rom Florida, which culminated in the outbreakand osecution
of the Third Seminole or Rilly Bowlegs war.

Along the Suwannee after the Seminole War
In April 1842, Alachua, Columbia, and Hamilton counties, the
home of scores of future Peace River settlers, lay in desolation


64 Florida's Peace River Frontier

from the Seminole War. Since December 1835 the lives of these
settlers had been disrupted and in many cases filled with terror
and tragedy. The experiences of those years left many fron-
tiersmen and their families unprepared to reassume their former
lives after peace was declared.
The seed of the frontiersmen's problem lay in an emergency
measure taken six years before in the opening days of the Second
Seminole War. In early 1836 the Congress had authorized the
issuance of rations from public stores to Florida inhabitants
driven from their homes by Indian depredations. The assistance
thus provided desperately was needed by many but, within nine-
teen months, abuses had forced the War Department to place
substantial restrictions on the program. Of particular importance
to the future, the new regulations barred assistance to the family
of any able-bodied man who refused to enter militia service or do
such other work as assigned to him.1
As might be imagined, the requirement of militia service for
rations spurred a widespread desire for soldiering, even when
unnecessary, on the part of Florida frontiersmen. That service
had its downside as well. "If mustered into service, each man
inevitably leaves his home unprotected," wrote one Seminole War
veteran. "While absent, solicitous for the safety of others, his
own dwelling may be fired and his family murdered," he added,
"[and] his farm, from which he draws his daily food, becomes a
barren waste, and the habits of industry, which have grown with
his growth, become enervated by pernicious example. Indolence is
as well rewarded as patient toil, his daily pay is as much when
spent in vice and slothfulness as when usefully engaged, and that
zeal which should stimulate him in his new vocation is weakened
by a consciousness, that, when executing his duty, he is liable to
the fate of a soldier, and knows, and feels too, that when snugly
in camp, participating in the revels of a militia force, he is free
from all danger." The disenchanted veteran concluded with the
sad comment, "The society of a frontier once thrown from its
axis, revolves in disorder until it is lost in ignorance, slothful-
ness, and vice."2
By mid-1841, after the families of North Florida militiamen
had enjoyed the benefits of army provisions for a great part of the
previous five years, the army adopted a new policy. Its purpose

The Frontier Moves to South Florida 65

was to minimize costs and to stablilize the frontier area by en-
couraging settlers to return to their farms or, in the case of
persons without farms or from outside Florida, to settle at new
locations on the frontier. Arms and ammunition were issued to
the settlers, along with monthly rations until such time as the
farms were reestablished and self-sufficient. For the duration of
the program, thirty-two groupings of settlements were supported,
including one on the Manatee River.3
The army did not intend to continue supplying rations indefi-
nitely and early in 1842 notified settlers that provisions would
not be issued after crops were harvested that summer. Six years
of dependence on the government for subsistence had turned
many settlers away from the idea of farm work, however, and
few North Floridians prepared for planting. An army officer
writing from the Columbia and Hamilton county area that spring
reported: "Many of these people are too idle and indolent to labor
for the means of subsistence; many live by hunting and fishing;
and hence the distress of these inhabitants, and their desire to
get into service for a maintenance. They are but little improved
beyond the Indians themselves."4
Faced with the threatened loss of government subsistence,
some Suwannee River area settlers did try to get back into gov-
ernment service. Throughout the late winter and early spring
reports were circulated of terrible Indian atrocities in Columbia
County, along with demands for the formation of new militia
companies. When these reports proved false, on June 6, 1842,
orders were issued specifying that no further subsistence would
be issued after August 31 [see appendix 5].5
At the same time North Florida settlers were being notified
that rations no longer would be available, a bill was introduced in
the Congress to authorize the grant of 160-acre parcels of Florida
land to settlers willing to live on and protect their homesteads.
This Armed Occupation Act, which was approved in final form
on August 4, 1842, permitted settlements from present-day Gaines-
ville south to Peace River and the Seminole reservation. A claim-
ant had to be eighteen and able to bear arms. The law required
him to make an actual settlement by August 4, 1843, to "erect
thereon a house fit for the habitation of man," to clear and culti-
vate at least five acres, and to reside on the land for five years.

66 Florida's Peace River Frontier

The act excluded persons owning 160 acres or more of land and
prohibited settlements within two miles of a fort or on any
coastal island.6
For many serious farmers and planters the provisions of the
Armed Occupation Act offered little incentive.7 The lands subject
to settlement in most cases were remote from markets for farm
products, and the 160-acre limitation on land ownership excluded
many large planters. For North Florida frontiersmen who had
turned away from farming and toward cattle for a livelihood,
however, the act offered possibilities.
Cattle had been an interest of North Floridians since the first
American settlements in the area. Before 1835, the broad uninhab-
ited expanses of Columbia, Hamilton, and Alachua counties, in
particular, offered a hospitable environment for cattle ranging.
The Second Seminole War tended to turn settlers away from
farming and to provide a substantial incentive for turning toward
cattle. Particularly important was Gen. Thomas S. Jesup's order
of June 11, 1837, which granted a license to Florida militiamen to
take from the Seminoles their "negroes, cattle and horses, as well
as other property they possess." Statistics are not available as to
the numbers of Indian cattle seized, but it may be assumed that
any number of Florida cattle holdings were begun or supple-
mented in that manner.8
By 1842, then, Florida frontiersmen increasingly were attracted
to cattle raising. At the same time, possibilities for that industry
in the Suwannee River area were declining as new settlers
pushed into the area determined to make a life based upon pro-
ducing cotton with slave labor. With this new population came a
different economic, social, and political life and a corresponding
drop in opportunity and influence on the part of many earlier
settlers. Many frontiersmen saw the Armed Occupation Act as a
godsend and moved south where lay immense open range lands
and storied herds of wild cattle. As the changes in North Florida's
economy and social life intensified in the 1840s, many of their
relatives, friends, and neighbors decided to join them.9
About thirteen hundred permits for settlement under the Armed
Occupation Act were issued during the one-year period beginning
August 4, 1842. While most of these settlements were substan-
tially north of the Peace River area, a considerable number were
just west of the river's headwaters, particularly in the area

The Frontier Moves to South Florida 67

stretching from Lake Thonotosassa to the site of the former
Indian town of Itchepuckesassa and nearby Fort Sullivan (Plant
City), then south to the Alafia River and west toward that river's
mouth [see appendix 6]. For settlers planning a life in the cattle
business, these sites were located ideally in relation to the Alafia
and Myakka ranges to the south and east.10
Two Armed Occupation Act settlers would play major roles in
the settlement of the Peace River Valley. Rigdon Brown, born
about 1790, had moved by the mid-1820s from Camden County,
Georgia, to Nassau County, Florida, where in March 1826 he was
appointed a justice of the peace. Before leaving Georgia he married
Joseph Howell's sister, Esther, and by 1824 the couple had two
sons: William, born about 1820 in Georgia; and Rigdon H., born in
Florida about 1824. In 1830 the family was living in that portion
of Alachua County soon to become Columbia County, and there
during the next five years Rigdon Brown plunged into politics. In
October 1835 he was elected to a seat on the Florida Territorial
Council. In his home precinct, where he lost only two votes,
Brown was supported by friends and neighbors including Jesse
Pennington, Burris Brewer, William Wiggins, William Pennington,
Maxfield Whidden, Willoughby Whidden, and Joseph Howell.
Choosing not to run for re-election in 1836 and 1837, Brown
unsuccessfully sought election in 1838 as a delegate to the Florida
Constitutional Convention and in 1839 attempted, also unsuc-
cessfully, to regain his seat on the council. In the latter effort he
enjoyed the support, in addition to that of the men mentioned
above, of John Green, Rabun Raulerson, Charles Scott, Charles
Whittemore, Jacob J. Blount, and others, all of whom soon were to
play active roles in the settlement of South Florida."
Politically frustrated at the close of the Seminole War and faced
with changing economic and political dynamics in Columbia
County, by December 1842 Rigdon Brown and his family had
moved their home and cattle to Itchepuckesassa where he had
selected an Armed Occupation Act homestead. Once in Hillsbor-
ough County, increasingly surrounded by his friends and former
supporters, Brown's political star again began to rise. By the
summer of 1848 he would become chairman of the combined
Democratic senatorial convention for Hillsborough, Hernando,
and Levy counties and, shortly thereafter, a true pioneer of the
Peace River Valley."2

68 Florida's Peace River Frontier

William Brinton Hooker (1800-
1871), a man of public and
business affairs, was South
Florida's "cattle king" before
the Civil War. Courtesy Kyle
S. VanLandingham.

A contemporary of Rigdon Brown's, James W. Whidden was
born in 1790, and, like Brown, grew to maturity in Camden
County, Georgia. He married Mary Altman in 1818 and moved in
December 1830 to Hamilton County, Florida. Thereafter, while
his brothers Maxfield and Willoughby continued their friendship
in Columbia County with Rigdon Brown, James appears to have
become associated with cattleman William B. Hooker. By late
1838 James was elected second lieutenant of North's company,
Florida Mounted Volunteers, a command which included Read-
ding, Riley, and Jacob J. Blount, as well as numerous other soon-
to-be South Florida pioneers. In February 1839 Whidden's daugh-
ter, Tempie, married Noel Rabun Raulerson on the Suwannee
River, and four years later another daughter, Mary Ann, married
William L. Campbell in Hamilton County. Shortly thereafter
Whidden moved his family to his Armed Occupation Act claim
north of the Alafia River. After five years Whidden would become
along with Rigdon Brown one of the first two white American
pioneers to establish homes in the Peace River Valley.13

Growth on the Hillsborough Countyfrontier

Because of its strategic location near the Peace River boundary
of the Seminole Nation, settlement in the area of Thonotosassa,
Itchepuckesassa, Fort Sullivan, and Alafia was deemed of partic-

The Frontier Moves to South Florida 69

ular importance to military leaders in Florida. Accordingly the
army, under the command of William J. Worth, offered incentives
to prospective settlers, including a guarantee of military protec-
tion. This guarantee resulted in almost fifty Armed Occupation
Act claims in the area. Once those settlements were established,
additional settlers began arriving in a slow, steady stream.14
Among the first of the new settlers was James W. Whidden's
son-in-law, Noel Rabun Raulerson, who, along with his brother
John B. Raulerson and in-laws John Thomas and William Wig-
gins, drove their cattle down from Columbia County to the Alafia
range in 1844. By May 1845 the families of these men were estab-
lished near Itchepuckesassa and were joined in that area by
Whidden's other son-in-law, William L. Campbell; Whidden's
brothers Maxfield and Willoughby, as well as Noah Whidden;
Maxfield Whidden's soon-to-be son-in-law, David J.W. Boney;
Rigdon Brown's son, William; William Wiggins's brother-in-law,
John Futch; and former Columbia countian Israel Green.15
During the next eleven months the families of Jesse Knight,
Joel Knight, Jacob Summerlin, Silas McClelland, Andrew McClel-
land, and Isaac Waters arrived, further enlarging the settlements
around Itchepuckesassa and south to the Alafia. Later in 1846
they were joined by the family of Henry M. Frier, perhaps moving
to be closer to his in-law John B. Raulerson. About the same time,
other new settlements included those of William Brewer, William
Hancock, Moses A. McClelland, John McClelland, Peter Platt,
Isham Deas, Richard D. Prine, William Weeks, William Brown's
brother-in-law, Charles H. Scott, Joseph and David Summerall,
and Thomas Summeralls.16
By 1848 the area available for settlement north of the Alafia
River in present-day eastern Hillsborough County was becoming
crowded by pioneer standards. This situation was further inten-
sified by a twenty-mile-wide strip of land immediately west of
Peace River and at least as far north as Charlie Apopka Creek
that since May 1845 had been reserved from settlement as a
buffer between white settlers and the Seminole Nation. While no
Americans had settled in this neutral zone as late as 1847, pres-
sures for movement to the east continued to grow as more
settlers and more cattle moved into Hillsborough County. By
October 1848 these newcomers included Benjamin Guy, Frederick
Varn, Daniel Gillett, John Underhill, William McCullough, John

70 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Green, Louis Lanier, William H. Willingham, Joseph Howell,
Aaron Whittemore, Rigdon H. Brown, and B.J. Newsome. All
these men, as well as the settlers already in place, had an interest
in cattle. To pursue that interest, they needed the vast expanses
of range land east of Peace River in the Seminole Nation.1

Growing tensions on the frontier

As Armed Occupation Act settlers combed Hillsborough County
in late 1842 and 1843 for suitable homesteads, the remaining
Florida Indians were attempting to reestablish their lives to the
east and south beyond Peace River. In late 1843 it was estimated
that only 300 remained in Florida and, of that number, perhaps
120 or 130 were Seminoles living near Lake Okeechobee and the
Caloosahatchee River under the chief Billy Bowlegs, who in the
late 1830s had assumed the title Holata Micco. Of the remaining
Indians perhaps 100 were Mikasukies under the chief Sam Jones
(Arpeika) living somewhat to the north in the vicinity of Lake
Istokpoga. A few Creeks and Tallahassees rounded out the total,
many of whom constituted the last party of Indians to enter the
reservation in the final days of 1843. This last group, under the
leadership of Halpatter Tustenuggee, also settled near Lake Is-
Even Gen. William J. Worth, Army commander in Florida, felt
called upon to compliment the Florida Indians on their behavior
following the peace. "These people have observed perfect faith,"
he reported in November 1843, "and strictly fulfilled their engage-
ments." He added, "Not an instance of rudeness towards the
whites has yet occurred." The Indians' peaceful disposition, how-
ever, did not prevent Worth two months later from secretly
ordering his commander at Tampa to attempt to seize Halpatter
Tustenuggee and his people and "at once dispatch them" to the
west. Nor had it prevented him in July 1843 from refusing the
Indians permission to shoot any of the "large numbers of wild
cattle" in their vicinity, an action which may suggest another of
the incentives General Worth held out to white settlers in Hills-
borough County.19
Throughout this period the Indians had freely visited Tampa
to trade and, in the process, engaged in frequent peaceful encoun-
ters with settlers. During the summer of 1843 General Worth had

The Frontier Moves to South Florida 71

appointed an official "Indian Trader" to reside at Tampa. The
trader, Thomas P. Kennedy, took over the Indian store from the
military disbursing agent at Fort Brooke on August 10. His spe-
cial qualification for the job was that he had served in St. Augus-
tine as "confidential clerk" to Gen. William J. Worth.20
However peaceful the Indians might be, General Worth never
lost sight of his real mission. As early as July 1843 he had stated,
"It is the desire of the Government, as soon as it can be done
without the risk of renewing difficulties, to remove them [the
Indians] West." This position was reenforced by the secretary of
war on January 20, 1844, and again the following October 18. In
the meantime, Worth began formulating a secret plan to effect
this goal, a plan which he "verbally" communicated to the secre-
tary of war in February 1844.21
The general's plan involved as a first step moving the Indian
store to the more remote (at least from prying eyes) location of
Charlotte Harbor, a move to which Billy Bowlegs assented in
March 1845. The following month Worth confided to one of his
subordinates that "besides the propriety of the thing itself a con-
venient and natural occasion will be afforded for slipping some
troops into that quarter." He intended, he went on, "if it be pos-
sible between this and Decr to play off a shabby trick upon these
The shabby trick Worth proposed was the kidnapping of Bow-
legs and other Indian leaders in an unguarded moment at the new
store. The plan progressed through the summer of 1845 and by
mid-September Thomas P. Kennedy had opened his Charlotte
Harbor establishment on the mainland just east and slightly
north of the northern tip of Pine Island. A rival and unlicensed
trader, William McCrea, soon alerted the Indians to Worth's plan,
however, and the plot collapsed.23
Just as his careful plot began unraveling, General Worth was
transferred from Florida to Texas in anticipation of the outbreak
of a war with Mexico. As late as December, though, some circles
in official Washington seemed to hold out hope that the plan
might be resurrected as suggested by the adjutant general's
December 1 comment to Fort Brooke's new commander. "Make
yourself acquainted with the train of affairs as left by General
Worth," he wrote, "and follow it out to the best of your ability."
When Worth's aide, John T. Sprague, finally was able to meet

72 Florida's Peace River Frontier

with the chiefs at Kennedy's Trading Store on January 8, 1846,
Billy Bowlegs and Sam Jones proved they had learned their lesson
well. They bluntly informed Sprague that, thereafter, they would
meet with officials only inside the Indian reservation and only
when accompanied by not more than six soldiers with three
tents. There would be no opportunity to kidnap the leaders of
Florida's Indians.24
At the time of General Worth's transfer, forces began to build
on the frontier to force the removal of Indians from what was by
then the state of Florida. As early as September 1845 unfounded
rumors of Indian depredations were reported and circulated. Sim-
ilar rumors recurred throughout the next several years and, at
times, tensions ran high. John T. Sprague commented on the
Indian situation early in 1847: "Their ears are open to every idle
tale insidiously told them by vagrant whites infesting the coast
and frontier, who without any thing to lose, hope to create a con-
flict in which they can become participants in the gain resulting
from an influx of public money."25
In June 1846 Thomas P. Kennedy unsuccessfully sought per-
mission to abandon the trading store at Charlotte Harbor due to
Indian attitudes that he described as "anything but friendly."26
After an unpleasant incident at William Hancock's farm near
Tampa in the summer of 1847, the highly suspicious Indians even
had the Indian messenger sent to them by the commander at Fort
Brooke put to death. Three months later Kennedy again wanted
to withdraw from Charlotte Harbor, sensing an outbreak on the
horizon. A later examination revealed that the cook at the Indian
store had "outraged the feelings of the Indians" with his conduct
toward an Indian woman. When the store clerk, Mr. Tyson, fled
in terror with most of the trading goods, the Indians protected
the store until Kennedy's return. Tyson was less fortunate.
During his flight his boat capsized in Charlotte Harbor, the trade
goods were lost, and his feet were lacerated on an oyster bar.27
Throughout most of the period from 1845 to 1848 Indians con-
tinued to visit Tampa in small groups. There on August 27, 1848,
one of the saddest episodes of the failure of law and justice for the
Florida Indian occurred. Two Mikasukies, one of them a nephew
of Sam Jones, were "wantonly" beaten by a citizen named McCord.
Military authorities filed complaints on behalf of the Indians,
whose conduct was described as "soberly and orderly," with the

The Frontier Moves to South Florida 73

Noel Rabun Raulerson (1820-
1910) lived near modern Bar-
tow in 1850. His family was
among the first three Amer- "
ican families to settle in the "
Peace River Valley. Courtesy
Charles C. Rushing.

local justice of the peace, Simon Turman. In Turman's court the
next day McCord appeared and "grossly insulted the court and
the parties in attendance." For contempt of court McCord was
fined three dollars. For assault and battery on the Indians he was
assessed no penalty at all.28

The close of the Second Seminole War in 1842 found many
Florida frontier settlers, particularly in the area of Alachua,
Columbia, and Hamilton counties, unable or unwilling to return
to the life of a North Florida farmer. More and more of these men
were attracted to the cattle industry, but economic and social
changes in North Florida posed problems for them in pursuing
that livelihood. Many saw the Armed Occupation Act, passed in
August 1842, as a possible solution and moved farther south.
Almost fifty of these men and their families settled in the area
between Tampa and the headwaters of Peace River. Over the
next six years they, and their relations, friends, and neighbors
who followed, built a new life based upon cattle. By 1848 their
grazing lands had been pushed east almost to Peace River and the
Seminole reservation, and their areas of settlement had begun to
grow crowded.
As these settlers were pioneering in Hillsborough County, Gen.

74 Florida's Peace River Frontier

William J. Worth secretly plotted to end Florida's Indian question
by kidnapping the leaders of the Seminole and Mikasuki nations.
This plan called for the establishment of a trading store at Char-
lotte Harbor where the Indians would be entrapped. Although the
store was built, the general's plan collapsed when word of it was
passed to the Indians by a rival trader. Thereafter, relations with
the Florida Indians tended to be difficult, the Indians now wary
of white intentions. The desire of some Floridians to force Indian
removal increased tensions, by late 1848, incidents were occur-
ring which easily could have led to hostilities. These forces
finally would clash in 1849, and the history of South Florida and
the Peace River Valley would be altered forever.

"The crack of the rifle
will be heard"


The Army and the

First Settlers

AS WOULD BE THE CASE time and again for the remainder of
the nineteenth century, in September 1848 natural forces
changed the Peace River Valley. A devastating hurricane
along the South Florida frontier caused frontier settlers to con-
sider the advantages of new homes and range lands near or in the
Seminole Nation and prompted the removal of the Indian store
from Charlotte Harbor to a site near modern Bowling Green. A
fatal encounter between renegade Indians and white traders at
that store resulted in a near-war and, shortly thereafter, in the
construction of roads, bridges, and military posts in the Peace
River area and the withdrawal of most Indians far to the south.

The hurricane of 1848
On Saturday and Sunday nights, September 23 and 24, 1848,
the Gulf horizon from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor pulsed
with a deep phosphorescent glow. On Sunday a "sultry" atmo-
sphere gave way to heavy rain and winds of increasing strength.
Early the next morning the winds shifted, first to the south and
then to the southwest, and built to an almost unbelievable inten-
sity. Amidst a torrential downpour and whipped by hurricane


76 Florida's Peace River Frontier

winds, monstrous waves crashed ashore through most of the day.
By noon water levels had risen by fifteen feet, and there they
stayed for hours. When the waves and waters finally receded late
in the afternoon, grim survivors pondered the aftermath of "the
most terrible gale ever known."'
The hurricane of 1848 sowed a path of destruction through
central and southern Florida. At Manatee (Bradenton) homes
were flattened, fields inundated, and citizens drowned. From as
far east as the settlement of Tallahassees near Lake Istokpoga
came reports of "the hurricane sweeping everything before
it." At Thomas P. Kennedy's isolated trading post at Charlotte
Harbor "the buildings were badly damaged," and the sloop, Vir-
ginia, with nine passengers was crashed upon the shore, the only
trace of her passengers the lifeless body of a young woman and a
mutilated arm. At Tampa, with its concentration of people and
property, destruction was evident at every hand. Fort Brooke, in
particular, was a shambles. Officers' quarters were swept away
by the waves, as were the wharves along the Hillsborough River.
On the post most of the public buildings were a total loss.2
Immediately upon receiving reports of the destruction of Fort
Brooke, the War Department ordered a board of officers to pro-
ceed to Charlotte Harbor "and there make a careful examina-
tion for the site of a new post within the limits assigned for
the temporary residence of the Seminoles, in place of Fort Brooke."
Some citizens of Tampa, having a direct financial stake in the
army's presence and the economic vitality of the town, were
aghast. By the first week of November these men, led by Thomas
P. Kennedy and his partner John Darling, had conceived a plan by
which the fort would be saved for Tampa and its business saved
for themselves. This goal was to be achieved by moving the dam-
aged Indian store from Charlotte Harbor to a site on Peace River
to the east of Tampa. The Indian agency would be moved from
Tampa to the site of the new store, and Fort Brooke would con-
tinue to serve as a supply depot and garrison point. Their first
choice as a site for the new store was at "Peas Creek old field,"
the remains of the Indian town of Talakchopco at and to the
north of present-day Fort Meade.3
Kennedy and Darling faced problems with their plans. In addi-
tion to the opposition of Indian agent John C. Casey, their pro-
posed location for the Indian store and agency was far to the

The Army and the First Settlers 77

north and west of the Indian settlements, particularly those of
the friendlier Seminoles under Billy Bowlegs who lived on the
Caloosahatchee River about thirty-five miles from the old store at
Charlotte Harbor. Closer to the proposed site were the less
numerous and more hostile Mikasukies and Tallahassees near
Lake Istokpoga. Relations between these more hostile Indians and
the Seminoles were so poor that in the summer of 1848 the
Indians divided their territory, Bowlegs and the Seminoles there-
after controlling the area south of the old trading store and Sam
Jones and the Mikasukies controlling the area to the north.4
During November and December 1848 the board of officers
appointed to select a site for the new post toured Charlotte
Harbor and Peace River up to the site of old Camp Ogden. They
concluded that the new post should be established on Useppa
Island, a decision in which Billy Bowlegs and Sam Jones con-
curred. Recognizing the continuing pressures for removal of the
Indians from Florida, the board also recommended the reserva-
tion of land for a future military post on Peace River due east of
Tampa. In doing so they stated that "a strong post will be
required there whenever the removal of the Indians shall be
determined on, whether by peaceable means or by force."5
In fact, pressures for just such a removal were building to a
fever pitch. Responding to frontier settlers anxious for expanded
range and farm lands and to business and land interests gener-
ally, the Florida legislature in January 1849 made it a state crime
for Indians to leave the reservation for any purpose. At the same
time the Congress was requested to mandate the "speedy removal
of the Indians of Florida." Sensing the trend of events the clerk at
Kennedy's Charlotte Harbor, George Payne, wrote, "That they
have to go before long by fair or foul means is certain but I almost
think that the crack of the rifle will be heard before that desirable
event takes place." Attempting to reassure a friend, Payne added,
"I do not consider myself in any immediate danger though."6
A decision about removing Fort Brooke to Useppa Island was
not long in coming. On February 8, 1849, Gen. George Mercer
Brooke, founder of Fort Brooke in 1824 and commander of the
Fifth Military Department at New Orleans in 1849, handed Ken-
nedy, Darling, and their associates a major victory. "It appears to
me," concluded Brooke, "that the new fort should be somewhere
on Pease Creek & some distance from its mouth." Concerning the

78 Florida's Peace River Frontier

.to t, .ot.ida of at. Inictpt for 1?

andi have yott then and there this writ.
J A. D. i and A D Z ye ft of American Independence

--,-.. .. .. .i ) -^ ",

Oscen Tustenuggee, known among early Peace River settlers as the
fiercest and most determined of South Florida's Indian leaders. As indi-
cated by this warrant, he was suspected of the murders at Chokonikla in
1849. He was killed in the aftermath of the attack on the Tillis place near
Fort Meade in June 1856. Courtesy Florida Photographic Collection,
Florida State Archives.

fort named in his honor Brooke added that "the Depot for the
new work if established, as suggested, might still remain at Fort
Brooke." Two days later Brooke's decision was approved by Maj.
Gen. Edmund P. Gaines who added as a postscript, "Let us make
an effort to prepare these miserable Indians for their removal to
the west, the sooner the better."7

The beginnings of settlement

Word of General Brooke's decision appears to have been ex-
pected at Tampa for, by the first week of February, Indian agent
Casey already had made arrangements to accompany John Darling
on a visit to Peace River to select an appropriate location for the
new store and Indian agency. Illness prevented Casey from making
the trip, however, and Darling proceeded without him. Within
two weeks Darling had returned to Tampa and urged that per-

The Army and the First Settlers 79

mission be granted to build the store and agency at Hatse Lotka,
a creek flowing into Peace River some eight or ten miles south of
the ruins of the town of Talakchopco. On March 2 Maj. W.W.
Morris, commanding at Fort Brooke, granted that permission to
Kennedy and Darling.8
News of, Kennedy and Darling's victory and the promise of a
store on Peace River was taken in Hillsborough County as a sign
that the Peace River frontier was about to be opened up, in spite
of the president's twenty-mile-wide neutral zone west of the river
that continued to bar the presence of American settlers. By April
1849 this attitude officially was recognized when the Hillsbor-
ough County Commission approved the construction of two pub-
lic roads to the river.9 William B. Hooker, Joseph Howell, and
John Parker were appointed as commissioners to lay out a road
from Tampa to the site of Fort Carroll near Fort Fraser. William
B. Hooker, Louis Lanier, and James W. Whidden were to lay out a
second road from Lanier's home on the Alafia River directly to
the new Indian store on Peace River. These two roads ran
straight to the new homes of the first two American settlers in
the Peace River Valley.10
Both James W. Whidden and Rigdon Brown probably were
settled in the valley by April 1849 when roads to their homes
were authorized, but historical sources do not confirm Brown's
presence until November 27, 1849, when Lieutenant George G.
Meade visited his settlement three miles northwest of present-
day Bartow. More than eight months earlier, however, John
Casey had visited "Jimmy Whidden's" settlement on Whidden
Creek six miles north of the new Indian store and had com-
mented in his diary about the "pretty girl," Whidden's daughter
Leacy, and "healthy looking boys & children" he found there."
As in the case of Rigdon Brown, James W. Whidden's move to
the Peace River Valley resulted from a number of factors. Popula-
tion growth in frontier Hillsborough County and the ever increas-
ing need for expanded grazing lands were creating substantial
pressures for movement eastward by late 1848. In August of that
same year the period of residency required of Armed Occupation
Act settlers had expired, allowing claimants such as Brown and
Whidden to obtain title to their lands while permitting them to
move away from their claims without penalty. Less than two
months later, the hurricane decimated the settlements along the

80 Florida's Peace River Frontier

Hillsborough frontier, a further reason to relocate. Kennedy and
Darling's efforts to locate on Peace River proved the final incen-
tive. Whidden probably moved shortly after January 1, 1849,
when he is recorded as having sold his cattle, "50 Head More or
Less," to Jacob Summerlin.12
Whidden and Brown were accompanied by their families and,
in the case of Brown, by at least two slaves.13 Of these first black
settlers of the river valley during this era the name of only one,
18-year-old Harriet, is known with certainty. It is likely, though,
that the 18-year-old male slave who accompanied her was the
same William Brown who remained as a freedman for several
years in Polk County following the close of the Civil War. These
black pioneers gave birth to two children, apparently one each in
1849 and 1850, who almost certainly were the first children born
in the Peace River Valley in this era. Rounding out the list of
these first settlers, Rigdon Brown also may have been accom-
panied by his son, William Brown, his daughter-in-law, Sabra
Scott Brown, and their two children, Jane and William. They
were living next door to Rigdon by November 1850 at the latest.14

Murder at the Indian store

As the settlements of Whidden and Brown began to take form,
Kennedy and Darling's clerk, George Payne, busied himself with
preparations for moving the Indian store. By April 1849 he had
"broke up" the Charlotte Harbor store and loaded its goods into
boats for the trip north. On that slow voyage up Peace River,
Payne was fascinated by the game and fish he encountered, not to
mention the skeleton of a mastodon he discovered exposed on the
river bank about half way into the trip. Charmed by the river, he
arrived at the new store before April 15, although he remained
only briefly before walking to Tampa and a meeting there with
Indian agent Casey.15
Awaiting Payne on the south side of the creek soon to bear his
name was the beginning of "a fine large log building" which, he
thought, "when furnished will be very convenient." The new
store had two floors, each about twenty-two feet square, and was
built of "pit-saw" lumber. It was furnished with a fireplace and
chimney as well as a detached kitchen connected to the main
building by a "floor." The store was supplemented with several

The Army and the First Settlers 81

outbuildings for storage. A wharf was constructed along the
creek and a narrow, wooden bridge was built to span it.16
In late May 1849 Indian agent Casey, urgently hoping to meet
with Billy Bowlegs to discuss emigration, paid a visit to the new
Indian store, his second visit to the site." By that time Indians
regularly were visiting the store and, during Casey's five-day
stay, brought in three hundred deerskins and forty pounds of wax
to trade. Casey noted in his diary for May 25, "Every Indian
coming in receives a present of a quart of whisky = issued across
the river." The following day he wrote that "Nelkup Hajo with
his brother Fuso Hajo chee Indian boy a young man-rifle
shooting-whisky & Indians-bad-yelling all night." Frustrated
when Bowlegs failed to.arrive, Casey held an interview with the
Tallahassee chief, Cotsa Fixico Chopco, and then, leaving a sick
George Payne at the store, departed for Tampa.18
George Payne had recovered from his "rhumatism" sufficiently
by late June to make another trip to Tampa. His ability to leave
the store suggests that Dempsey Whidden, James W. Whidden's
twenty-one-year-old son, already had been employed there as an
assistant. On July 3 the staff was increased when William McCul-
lough, an Alafia farmer, was employed as an assistant, and his

William McCullough (1821- 9
90) and Nancy Whidden Mc-
Cullough (1830-1908) were
both wounded in the renegade
attack at Chokonikla in 1849.
William fought in the Second
and Third Seminole wars and
was a lieutenant in the 2d
Florida Cavalry (Union). Cour-
tesy Colleen Uhl.

82 Florida's Peace River Frontier

wife, Nancy, Dempsey Whidden's sister, was taken on as cook
and cleaning woman. The McCulloughs brought to the store with
them their infant daughter, Elisabeth.9
As this staff was being assembled Indian agent Casey con-
tinued to seek an interview with Billy Bowlegs. Having failed to
accomplish the meeting at the new store in late May, he set out
by boat from Tampa on June 30 for the mouth of Peace River.
There on July 6 he encountered a small party of Indians who
agreed to take a message to the Seminole chief. The next morning
he left Peace River for the Caloosahatchee and the hoped-for
interview but, again, Bowlegs declined to appear. It was July 21
before Casey returned to Tampa, and awaiting him was shocking
news from the Indian store.20
On the morning of Tuesday, July 17, four Indians, who four
days previously had participated in a rogue attack upon a settle-
ment four miles north of Fort Pierce, chanced upon the Talla-
hassee chief Echo Emathla Chopco, known to history as Chipco,
on his way with a small party to trade at the Indian store.21 At
that time of year, the approximately one hundred miles west of
Fort Pierce consisted mostly of flooded prairies and swamps, and
the presence of the four Indians so near Peace River would be dif-
ficult to understand save for one fact. At the Indian store they
could obtain the whiskey that Florida law prohibited them from
obtaining anywhere else-whiskey for celebration and, perhaps,
whiskey to brace them for the inevitable aftermath of their attack
at Fort Pierce. The encounter with Chipco offered the renegades
an opportunity to safely scout the area of the store, and they
enlisted the Tallahassee chief to accomplish that for them.22
Chipco and the three women of his party arrived at the Indian
store about noon, bringing for trade melons, venison, sweet pota-
toes, deerskins, and beeswax. They remained for almost four
hours and, as William McCullough later stated, "they appeared
more friendly than usual." Chipco certainly reported the presence
of "a large quantity" of whiskey, with only three men to guard it,
to the four fugitive Indians, who proceeded to the store, expecting
to be offered a quart of whiskey each, as was the custom. They
encountered a different situation.23
George Payne hated whiskey with a vengeance and had accepted
his job with Kennedy and Darling only after a promising partner-
ship broke up in disagreement over its sale. "No pecuniary

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