Alachua County has a long history of ancient Floridians living in the area. Tools, pottery, and arrowheads have been found that has dated back 10,000 years.
DeSoto's exhibition tells of the Timucuan village of Potano in the area of the Alachua Savannah, and there was also a Spanish mission in the area. The Rancho de la Chua was the largest Spanish cattle ranch in Florida during the 17th century. Cattle and horses were introduced into North America with the arrival of the Spanish in Florida.
The Seminole village of Hogtown was recorded as having a small number of Indian families in 1824. The Indians were driven out, and the American settlement of Hogtown was on the same site, but later renamed itself after one of the generals of the Second Seminole War, Gainesville, after General Edmund P. Gaines. By 1830 Newnansville became an important town to the northwest; also named after someone who came down to kill Seminoles, Daniel Newnan. (See next section on the "Patriot War" for more information on Newnan's campaign.) Newnansville faded away into history when Gainesville became an important town in the 1850's.
General Edmund P. Gaines
What has become known as the Battle of Black Point happened on December 18, 1835, and was the first battle of the Second Seminole War. Colonel John Warren of the Florida Militia was leading a detachment of the Spring Grove Guard to convoy a train of wagons south of Newnansville at Hogtown Prairie. On the 18th they went to scour Wacahouta and adjacent hammocks. Not wanting to be slowed down, the baggage was detached with an escort of 30 men. Soon after, 50 or 60 Indians ambushed the guard, killing 8 and wounding 6. The wagons were captured by the Indians, who looted them, broke them up, and burned them. One of the officers led a charge, but found himself with only a few men who followed, the rest fleeing to the settlement of Micanopy. All papers, orders, ammunition, cooking utensils and food, surgical instruments, and other supplies were lost. Although it is not certain who was leading the attack, credit is always given to Osceola.
This battle was long believed to be on the south side of Paynes Prairie. I believe that it happened elsewhere. The south side of Paynes Prairie was four miles north of where the military road ran, and the detachment would not be this far off the road. Also, Paynes Prairie was a shallow lake at that time, and the wagons would have to have gone around it. The road would not go through a lake. The lake drained in 1842 after an earthquake in the Caribbean changed the water level of the area. I have been to the site with local residents, an archaeologist, and local historians, where we believe that this battle happened. We have found wagon nails and porcelain ware dating between 1820-1840. Because of the need to protect the site, we are not disclosing the location.
On 20 December, Colonels Parish and Read led about 100 Middle Florida troops to recover the baggage. General and later Governor Richard Call in his report says that they went to the place of the previous ambush, and recovered what they could. Next they intended to go to the homestead of Mr. Hogan near Micanopy for camping and forage. As they approached the Hogan homestead, they discovered the house on fire, and Indians leaving it. The Seminoles retreated into a hammock with a pond. The command circled the pond, but at first saw no Indians. Flashes were seen of the Indians firing their guns, and considerable firing on both sides ensued. The skirmish lasted about one hour. The militia papers and cooking utensils were recaptured, but the ammunition and clothes were nowhere to be found. Four Indians were found dead, with all others escaped. Three soldiers were severely wounded and one killed. Captain Lancaster was shot in the neck while searching for Indians, but later recovered.
The Army during the Second Seminole War built in and around Alachua County many forts and supply depots. Forts in the county included Fort Clarke, Hogtown, Defiance, Harlee, Crane, Gilleland, Gillespie, Tarver, and Mills. (And a few others.)
According to John Opdyke in "Alachua County, A Sesquicentennial Tribute," on 23 May 1840, Seminoles attack Fort Crum and kill all but one. No other sources to confirm this attack, and it is not listed among the roster of regular Army soldiers killed during the war. Since the report is third-hand information, I believe that it was mistaken for the Battle of Bridgewater, which happened the same day. (See the Bloodiest Place in all of Florida Territory.)
In January 1841, Seminoles attack Fort Walker and kill several people. The Alachua area was one of the most dangerous places in the state during the Second Seminole War. More attacks and raids were conducted near Micanopy than around any other fort. Small raids and ambushes took a heavy toll on the soldier and civilian population.
Paynes Prairie during winter.
The Seminoles who lived at Paynes Prairie (also called the Alachua Savannah) area were originally Oconee Creek Indians who visited Florida during raids by Georgia's Governor Oglethorpe. When things got too crowded in Georgia, they moved down south and established the village of Lotchaway (Alachua) around 1740. Chief Cowkeeper was one of the early leaders of the town, and moved his village again, where it became the town of Cuscowilla, near modern day Micanopy. The English signed a treaty with "Cowkeeper of Lotchaway Town," and you can see it in almost perfect condition in the Creek Museum in Olkmulgee, Oklahoma.
In 1773, English botanist William Bartram visited the Seminole town of Cuscowilla (also referred to as Taskawilla, Tuskawilla, etc...) and wrote much about his visit. These Seminoles had many European trade goods, and the town is described as having vegetable gardens and many head of cattle. (The cattle were descended from the original Spanish stock left behind in the area.) Their houses were log cabins, with some having plastered walls with frescos inside. These Seminoles were very friendly to visitors and treated Bartram very hospitable. This very organized and advanced society would go through some violent changes starting with the War of 1812.
Cowkeeper was friendly with the English, but hated the Spanish. He had caused much trouble with the Spanish and their Yamassee Indian allies around St. Augustine. On his deathbed, he mentioned how he had pledged to kill 100 Spaniards, and had his successor pledge to continue since he was 14 short of his goal. Bartram also recorded that Cowkeeper had Yamassee slaves.
Paynes Prairie State Preserve is named after King Payne, the Seminole chief who succeeded Cowkeeper as chief of the Alachua Seminoles. On September 27, 1812, King Payne with his brother Bowlegs battled against Newnan's forces from South Carolina and Georgia. Payne was injured and died a few months later, and Newnan's force was badly defeated. It was reported that Payne was killed in battle, but it is said that he attended a council a few months later.
King Payne was in favor of negotiating peace with the Americans, but died shortly after the battle with Newnan. Paynes' brother Bowlegs took over the leadership of the Alachua Seminoles, and was against removal or negotiation with the United States. One thing that Bowlegs did was to move the town to the southwest.
After Bowlegs' death a few years later, King Payne's nephew became chief. He also died shortly after, and Payne's younger nephew Micanopy became chief. Micanopy was one of the major chiefs during the Second Seminole War. The nephew of Micanopy was Billy Bowlegs, who was the famous leader of the Third Seminole War. Micanopy's sister married King Philip (Emathla), and Philip's son was Coacoochee or Wildcat. This is what had been called the Seminole Royal Family.
Cuscowilla was also where the Micanopy had his town for many years. Around 1824, the town of Micanopy was established, and was where the first Indian agency was established for the Seminoles by the Florida territorial government. The agency was moved to Fort King in 1827 when the federal government insisted that they were the ones that should negotiate with the Seminoles, not the state. The Seminoles were forced to move further south at the same time. Fort Micanopy was one of the major forts until the end of the Second Seminole War.
Fort Defiance is often confused with Fort Micanopy, but was actually further away from the town, built on the plantation of Gad Humphreys' within a few hundred yards of his house, which would place it just over the county line in modern-day Marion County.
Paynes Prairie has a museum in the park that is well worth the visit. The exhibits start with the prehistoric Floridians that lived in the area for thousands of years. There is also much about the Alachua Seminoles, including items of clothing and other artifacts.
Micanopy Historical Society Museum:
In the town of Micanopy, at the old Thrasher warehouse. Some items on display about the 2nd Seminole War, as well as later in history. Only open on weekends. Since it is a former barn, the air temperature inside is about the same as the outside, so it is best to visit during a cooler month. This town is well worth the visit to see the old scenic buildings.
San Felasco Hammock State Preserve:
Although a nice, quiet nature preserve today, there was some violent action here all during the Second Seminole War. The Seminoles used the hammock as a base for attacks, and raided army posts and settlers that came near. Even late near the end of the war, there were a lot of reports of skirmishes and killings in the area.
Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville:
The old museum had been moved and now has a new facility further south on the UF campus. A new exhibit has opened (October 2002) about the people of south Florida, with some of the spectacular Calusa artifacts on display. One of the great features here is the life-sized depictions of the Caluse in daily life. You can walk through a village on a mangrove island, or in a Calusa council house while the chief is conducting to affairs of state. Also on display are some Seminole aritifacts and videos of the living Seminole people telling their story.
This museum is well worth the visit, and one of the best displays in Florida on the native people.
Matheson Museum, Gainesville:
I have not yet visited it, but it is said to contain exhibits on the Timucuan and later Seminoles that lived in this area.
Click here for more information on the Patriot War. Much of it happened in Alachua County.
Click here for more information on the Bloodiest Place in all of Florida Territory and Hickory Sink.
Return to the Chapter IV contents page.
Return to the main page.
© 1998, 2002 Chris Kimball
Note: None of this material can be reproduced without written permission from the author.