The Creek War in West Florida, 1836-1840

(part II of II, of the 2nd Creek War)

by Christopher Kimball

Traditionally, Creeks have always lived and hunted in what is today northwest Florida. The area between Pensacola and the Apalachicola River has much non urbanized land, which was where the Creeks went after being chased out of Alabama and Georgia.

The white population looked upon most Indians with contempt. The white settlers wanted the Indians removed, and considered the Creeks incompatible with white communities. The whites believed that all the fires from the scattered Indian camps would burn down the forest and drive off game, even though there was no basis for this belief. Any stray cattle found by Indians were taken as food, and the cattle owners had no sympathy for the starving Indians.

The Second Creek War in Alabama reached down into Florida as Creek Indians raided plantations and homesteads in the panhandle area. In February & March 1837, Creek warriors were defeated at Hobdy's Bridge and along the Pea River in south Alabama, ending the hostilities in the Second Creek War.

On 28 February 1837, the Alberson family living on the Alabama-Florida border was murdered by Creeks escaping into Florida, and several other families missing in the area were believed dead.

One Creek raiding party attacked a homestead in Gadsden County and killed all the family except the daughter, who was left for dead. The next homestead they went to had heard about the attack, and was prepared to defend against the Creek warriors.  The warriors could not overtake the homestead and left.

Most refugee Creeks were trying to live in peace with the white settlers, and traded for much needed goods whenever possible. The settlers used this trade against the Indians to set a trap.  In one instance in April 1837, a family of Creeks came to purchase supplies at a lumber mill on the Blackwater River.  When captured, the father cut his throat rather then being taken prisoner, and passed his knife to his son to do the same. Both the mother and son were taken prisoner. The dead warrior was dragged in the river and tied to logs from the mill. Some local citizens complained about the incident, but nothing was done about it.  The local Creeks who found out what had happened were described as "hostile," and "very much exasperated."

On 23 April 1837, the Creek warriors got their revenge on a party of local citizens searching for Cattle. These settlers found signs of the Creek warriors in the area, and the next morning were attacked, with three settlers killed and two who escaped in a nearby stream.  A local militia force was formed and pursued the warriors.  They fought at what is now called Battle Creek on 29 April 1837, and captured or killed all the Creek warriors and a few women and children.  Those captured were shipped west.

Most efforts to find and capture Creeks by local militia forces proved unsuccessful. The swamps and dense forests proved difficult for the militia to penetrate, and any village had ample warning to flee.

The militia cornered some Creeks near the Choctawhatchee River on 19 May 1837. The skirmish that followed on Battle Bay killed many Indians as well as militia. This skirmish lasted for several days with no advancements on either side. Finally, the militia surrounded and captured the Creeks, and sent them to Pensacola to be shipped west. Before the skirmish at Battle Bay, the Creeks controlled much of Walton County.

There were many peaceful bands of Creeks in northwest Florida in the 1830's. But they were not safe from local bands of militia, who were described as drunken and not willing to honestly earn a hard day's work. There is more than one instance; mostly stories handed down by local families, of militia soldiers killing defenseless Indians taken under prisoner.

On 23 May 1837, the local militia captured a group of 12 Indians on Alaqua Creek (Walton County). Only one was a warrior, and the rest were women and children.  The militia soldiers shot and killed all their prisoners and mutilated the bodies. The soldiers explained that the Indians had tried to escape. There was no clear justification of the massacre, and never any formal investigation into the incident, even though it was condemned by local citizens as barbaric. All the evidence indicated that the event was cold blooded murder.

On 4 July 1837, the local militia under Colonel Brown of Jackson County again engaged a force of about 100 Creeks on the Shoal River. (Okaloosa County?) The Creeks were driven away, and the militia found a gold watch and several hundred dollars on the Indian's supplies that were left behind.

The same militia force once again battled Creeks on Alaqua Creek on 19 July 1837. The Indians were defeated again. The militia's constant pursuit of the Creeks stopped the attacks on local settlers and persuaded many Creek bands to emigrate west.  Other Creeks went further south and joined the Seminoles.

On 27 January 1838, Creeks raided a barge on the Choctawhatchee River. A visit by Governor Call in March to attempt to end the hostilities had no visible results.  Starvation more than anything else drove the Creeks out of the area, and most hostilities were over by that summer.

In 1840, there was a Mrs. Jones who visited the town of Econfina and befriended a group of Creeks or Seminoles. She brought them to her home near Blountstown and fed them dinner. Part of the dinner included peppered eggs. The spicy food probably did not set well with the Indian's digestive system, because they believed that Mrs. Jones had poisoned them. The Indians returned about 10 days later and killed Mrs. Jones. The local settlers were in an uproar over Mrs. Jones' death from her misunderstood act of hospitality.  There are other conflicting stories that say she was killed because of her husband's participation with the local militia.  Numerous raids and killings between settlers and Indians continued in 1840's.

After Colonel Worth declared the Second Seminole War over in August 1842, hostilities still did not cease. Two weeks after the war was declared over, Creeks killed the Perkins family near Orange Hill (Washington County) and disappeared. The wounded Perkins' son was the only survivor. The local militia searched for the Indians, but found no sign of them. It is believed that the Indians hid around the caves and sinkholes in the area.

The death of the Perkins family put the local citizens on alert.  The local militia was organized again and out for Indian blood.  The citizens asked the state to fund the militia, but the state refused since the war was declared over.  This didn't stop the militia from killing an Indian warrior found on the Chipola River, with his wife hanging herself in suicide on a nearby oak tree.  Most likely, these indians had nothing to do with the death of the Perkins family.

After 28 November 1842, the local militia was still searching for Indians in the area. (Still wanting revenge for the Perkins killing.)  A village was found on Wrights Creek (Holmes County) and taken totally by surprise.  (The Indians probably believing that the war and hostilities were over.)  The militia killed 22 Indians, taking no prisoners. This was considered a massacre, even by the local white settlers. There is no written record of the incident, probably to prevent any inquiry of the militia.  (Even the state would have considered this action illegal.)

On 9 January 1843, a band of Creeks under Chief Pascoffer surrendered at St. Marks and was sent out west.  Hard times, killings by the local militia, and starvation had forced them to give up all hope and surrender.

There were still reports of Creeks raiding the area of the panhandle even into the 1850's.  But were they Indians, or opportunistic individuals who were robbing innocent people?  Any attempt to find or capture the perpetrators proved futile. Eventually, the Creek Indians in the area were forced to assimilate into either white or black society. Since they had to hide their Indian heritage, much of their culture was slowly lost as well.

There was one local chief known as Old Joe, who continued to attack settlers in the St. Joseph Bay area.  On 8 January 1844, a ship landed on Phillips Inlet (Bay County) for repairs.  Joe's warriors befriended the crew with food, but killed several when they were lured away from the ship onto the mainland.  Old Joe was killed in a fight in 1849 with a local settler on a deserted road near St. Andrew's Bay; fighting over a bolt of calico cloth that the settler was carrying.  After a long hard struggle, the settler got a lucky thrust with his pocked knife and disemboweled Joe.  Accounts differ if Joe was buried here or left on the ground where he died.  One story is that his skeleton was finally collected and put on display in a museum at the University of Dublin, Ireland.

Sources (to both parts I & II):

Avant, David A., Jr.
1985, Illustrated Index, J. Randall Stanley's History of Gadsden County, L'Avant Studios, Tallahassee, Florida.

Carswell, E.W.
1986, Holmsteading, The History of Holmes County, Florida, Rose Printing Company, Tallahassee.

Carswell, E.W.
1991, Washington, Florida's Twelfth County, Rose Printing Company, Tallahassee.

Clark, Agnew Hilsman
History of Stewart County Georgia, Volume II, with Family Histories Edited Annotated and Indexed by Agnew Hilsman Clark and Marean Moncrief Clark, Waycross, Georgia.

Flanigan, James C.
1943, History of Gwinnett County, Georgia, Volume I, Tyler & Company, Hapeville, Georgia.

Florida Department of Military Affairs
Special Archives Publication Number 149, State Arsenal, St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine, Florida.

General James Jackson Chapter, D.A.R.
1942, History of Lowndes County, Georgia, 1825-1941, Valdosta, Georgia

Hutchison, Ira A.
Some Who Passed This Way, (No publication page. History of Bay County and St. Andrew area.)

Huxford, Folks
1948, The History of Brooks County, Georgia, Hannah Clarke Chapter, D.A.R., Quitman, Georgia.

Knight, Lucian Lamar
1913, Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials and Legends, The Byrd Printing Company, Atlanta, Georgia

McKinnon, John L.
1968, The History of Walton County, Kallman Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida.

Pickett, Albert James
1988, History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi from the Earliest Period, the Reprint Company Publishers, Spartanburg, S.C.

Rucker, Brian R.
West Florida's Creek Indian Crisis of 1837, Florida Historical Quarterly, LXIX (Jan. 1991), 315-334.

Suarez, Annette McDonald; and Williford, William Bailey
1982, A Source Book on the Early History of Cuthbert and Randolph County, Georgia, Cherokee Publishing Company, Atlanta, Georgia

Walker, Anne Kendrick
1941, Backtracking in Barbour County, A Narrative of the Last Alabama Frontier, The Dietz Press, Richmond, Virginia.

Worsley, Etta Blanchard
1951, Columbus on the Chattahoochee, Columbus Office Supply Company, Columbus, Georgia.



 

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(c) 1998, 2002 Chris Kimball