History of Florida Indians

Most of the tribes considered hitherto had had very intimate relations with the Creek Confederacy, the central object of our investigation. We now come to peoples who remained for the most part distinct from the Creeks, but whose history nevertheless occupies an important place in the background of this study – first, because they were near neighbors and had dealings with them, usually of a hostile character, for a long period, and, secondly, because their country was later the home of the Seminole, an important Creek offshoot which must presently receive consideration. These were the ancient inhabitants of Florida. I have already called attention to the distinction which existed between the Timucua of northern and central Florida and the south Florida tribes below Tampa Bay and Cape Canaveral, 1 and I will discuss the geographical distribution and subdivisions of each separately before proceeding to their history proper.

When we first become acquainted with the Timucua Indians through the medium of French explorers we find a great number of towns combined into groups under certain powerful chiefs. It is probable that all of these groups, like the “empire” of Powhatan, were by no means permanent, yet some of the tribes remained dominant throughout Timucua history and gave their names to missionary provinces. The French speak of about five of these associations or confederacies. That of Saturiwa, or that headed by Saturiwa — for it is uncertain whether the name belonged properly to a tribe or a chief — was on both sides of the lower St. Johns and seems to have included Cumberland Island. The Timucua proper, or Utina, centered about Santa Fe Lake, but extended eastward across the St. Johns. The Potano were apparently on the Alachua plains, but sometimes Potano province is made to reach eastward to the Atlantic, and to include the ”Fresh Water” province. Northwest of the Potano, and bordering on the Apalachee country, were the provinces of Onatheaqua and Hostaqua (or Yustaga).

In the Spanish period our information becomes more detailed, owing largely to the labors of the Franciscan missionaries. Utina, Potano, and Hostaqua or Yustaga, are still recognized as important provinces, but Onatheaqua has disappeared, and it is difficult to tell just what province corresponds to the old overlordship of Saturiwa. Yustaga is mentioned in one letter as though it were independent of and coordinate with Timucua. Tacatacuru, or Cumberland Island, is certainly independent. The mission field to the south is divided between San Juan del Puerto at the mouth of St. Johns River and St. Augustine. However, according to one account, Dofia Maria, chieftainess of Nombre de Dios de Florida, close to the latter place, was ruler over San Juan del Puerto, so that the territory governed by her may have been the old domain of Saturiwa. Inland from Tacatacuru, known to the Spaniards as San Pedro, were two independent Timucua provinces called Yui (Ibi, luy) and Icafi or Icafui. There is some confusion about this last, because the missionaries seem to speak of it as identical with Cascangue or Cascange, while this latter is often referred to as a Guale tribe, and it took part in the uprising of 1597. Probably we have to deal with two peoples, one Timucua, the other Guale, living close together.

South of St. Augustine was a group of towns classed together in what the Spaniards called the Fresh Water district, which seems to have been placed by some in the Potano province. It was long and narrow; Maiaca, the farthest town, was 8 leagues from Tocoy, the nearest. In the minds of some there was a doubt as to whether this last belonged properly to the province or not. Toward Cape Canaveral was a tribe called Siuruque, Curruque, or by some similar name. It is probably the Serropé mentioned by Laudonnière, although he places it on a large lake inland. By the large lake we must understand the lagoons back of Canaveral. Surruque may be classed provisionally as Timucua, though there is no certainty. Tocobaga was a province between Tampa Bay and Withlacoochee River, Ocale a province north of the Withlacoochee, and Acuera inland to the east of the latter. In De Soto’s time there seems to have been a town or province of considerable importance called Aguacaleyquen between the Santa Fe and the upper Suwanee.

The following is a practically complete list of Florida missions and Timucua provinces, tribes, towns, and chiefs, so far as they have been revealed to us by the early writers:

Harrisse has shown that the peninsula of Florida was almost certainly discovered and mapped with an approximation to accuracy late in the fifteenth or early in the sixteenth century, a dozen years at least before the supposed discovery by Ponce de Leon in 1512 or 1513. 2 Still, if Florida does not owe her entry into European history to the last-mentioned navigator, she unquestionably does her name, which afterwards displaced all previous appellations. Ponce de Leon ranged the coasts seemingly for many miles, on both the eastern and western sides, and then returned to Porto Rico, where he had outfitted. In 1521 he undertook a second expedition, coasting the western side of the peninsula and making a landing, perhaps in Apalachee Bay, as suggested by Harrisse. 3 Here, however, he was defeated by the Indians and badly wounded. He returned to Cuba to be cured, but soon died. Meantime, in 1519, Francisco de Garay sent an expedition into the Gulf of Mexico, which traced the northern coast of the Gulf from Florida to the River Panuco. In 1524 Verrazano is supposed to have followed the coast of North America from Florida northward. All of these navigators simply touched upon the shores of the peninsula. We now come to expeditions which penetrated some distance into the interior. The first of these was led by the unfortunate Narvaez, who landed in Florida April 11, 1528, probably at or near Tampa Bay. From there the Spaniards marched inland, meeting very few Indians and apparently only one or two Indian villages. They crossed two rivers, which we may surmise to have been the Withlacoochee and Suwanee, and finally came to the country of the Apalachee. No tribal names are mentioned in the territory traversed before reaching these people; merely the name of a chief, Dulchanchellin, whose village seems to have been in that province which the De Soto narratives call Ocale. 4 What happened to the Spaniards among the Apalachee has been related in giving the history of the Apalachee Indian tribe. 5

The expedition of De Soto reached Tampa Bay May 25, 1539. On Tuesday, July 15, it set out from the town of Oçita, or Ucita, which was evidently near the head of the bay, passed through the territory of M0c0ç0, and then through a number of places which seem to have been under a chief named Urriparacogi. Afterwards the explorers crossed the Withlacoochee River and came into the province of Ocale, and from there, leaving the province of Acuera to one side, reached the important province of Potano on or near the Alachua plains. Then they passed northward through Potano, crossed another river, perhaps the Santa Fe, and came into still another important province known as Aguacalecuen, or Caliquen. It is uncertain whether the places entered by them, beyond the capital of this province, all belonged to it or not. At any rate the next great chief mentioned was Uçachile, Uzachil, or Ossachile, a name which I have sought to identify with the later Osochi, and from his territory they traveled into the province of Apalachee northward of Ocilla River. 6 All of the people living in these places probably belonged to the great Timucua group. The De Soto chroniclers are of particular service in giving us an early picture of the tribes of this stock toward the western side of the peninsula, the later settlements all having been made from the east.

The next important chapter in the history of Florida is its settlement by French Huguenots. The first expedition sailed in February, 1562, under Jean Ribault, and sighted land on the east coast near where St. Augustine now stands. There Ribault opened communications with the natives, entered the River St. Johns, and afterwards sailed on up the coasts of Florida and Georgia until he arrived at what is now Broad River, South Carolina. There he established a small colony in the neighborhood of the present Beaufort and then returned to France. The party left by him succeeded very well for a time, but, becoming impatient at his long absence and despairing of his return, they finally built a small vessel in which a few of them at length reached France after incredible hardships. In 1564 three vessels were sent out from Havre under the command of Réné Goulaine de Laudonnière and came in sight of Florida at a point about 30 leagues south of the entrance to the River St. Johns, which had already been named by Ribault the River May. They opened communications with the Indians almost immediately, and after exploring the country in search of a suitable site for an establishment, finally picked out a place on the south bank of the St. Johns River and built a fort there, which they named Fort Caroline. This fort was occupied by the French from some time in July, 1564, to September 19, 1565, when it was captured by the Spaniards under Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and the brief French colonial period in Florida and Carolina was brought to an end. 7

During the time of their occupancy the Frenchmen explored the coimtry in all directions, and the accounts which they have left, supplemented by the drawings of Le Moyne, a member of the second expedition, give us more ethnological information regarding the ancient Floridians — outside the domain of language — than is preserved from the entire Spanish period. An expedition to avenge those Frenchmen who had been put to death by Menendez was under taken in the year 1567 by Dominique de Grourgues and was eminently successful, but the Spaniards remained in possession of the country and continued to occupy it, with one brief interruption, until 1821.

The Spanish conquest of Florida — both civil and spiritual — starting from St. Augustine, proceeded slowly in all directions. The Indians were at first hostile, for no nation secured the attachment of the natives so quickly as the French; but as the French refugees were gradually weeded out from among the Indians and the latter became used to their new neighbors the opposition died down. A letter dated 1568 states that there had recently been a massacre of Spaniards at Tocobaga. In 1576 or 1577 Pedro de Andrada was sent at the head of 80 soldiers to support Autina (Utina) against Saturiwa, Nocoroco, Potano, and other chiefs. 8 In 1583 Governor Pedro Menendez Marques writes that all of the Indians in the interior, as well as on the coast, had come to see him and yield their obedience. He declares that the Indians were being converted rapidly. 9

In 1584 war broke out again with the Potano and Captain Andrada, who had been sent against the tribe as before, was killed along with 19 of his men. 8 In retaliation a body of troops under Gutierrez de Miranda, alcaide of Santa Elena, was sent against these people, many were killed, and they were driven from their town. 10 In 1585 there was considerable mortality among the Indians. 10 These events do not seem to have interfered with the conversion of the natives, however, which contemporary documents speak of as proceeding very rapidly. The work was assisted particularly by two native leaders, Doña Maria, chieftainess of a town within two gunshots of St. Augustine, and Don Juan, chief of the island of Tacatacuru or San Pedro, the present Cumberland Island. The former, whose husband was a Spaniard, was of material assistance, receiving and entertaining those Indians who came to St. Augustine from a distance. A letter written, or rather dictated, to the King of Spain by her, is preserved in the Spanish archives. Don Juan is the chief who, although a Timucua, desired to be made mico mayor of the province of Guale. 11 This chief was of great assistance in driving back the rebellious inhabitants of Guale in 1597. 12 In the eastern Timucua districts alone, including Nombre de Dios, San Pedro, San Antonio, and the Fresh Water district to the south, there were said to be more than 1,500 Christian Indians in 1597. They came from all quarters, however, to be baptized. 8

About the time of the Guale outbreak trouble arose with a tribe in the neighborhood of Cape Canaveral, whose name is spelled Curruque, Surruque, Zorruque, Horruque, Surreche, and in various other ways. According to some of the missionaries the governor made an unprovoked attack upon this tribe, but he himself says that these people had killed a Spaniard named Juan Ramirez de Contreras and two Indian interpreters, besides several persons who had been shipwrecked among them. At any rate he sent a force which fell suddenly upon a town of this province where he believed the chief to be living and 60 persons were killed and 54 taken prisoner. It is said in one account that Ais Indians were among those slain, and this province and Ais are certainly frequently spoken of together, yet it is probable that they belonged to different linguistic groups and were associated only geographically as also in their manner of living. 13 Don Juan, the chief of San Pedro and intimate friend of the Spaniards, died June 16, 1600. He was succeeded by his niece (his sister’s daughter), in accordance with the custom of the country. 13 During the same year, or shortly before, the Indian town of San Sebastian, which lay on an arm of the sea back of St. Augustine, was overwhelmed by an unusual high water and many of its inhabitants drowned. 13 In 1601 the Potano Indians asked to be allowed to return to their town which they had vacated in the war of 1584. 8 In 1602 valuable letters from the missionaries Fray Baltazar Lopez, who was stationed at San Pedro, and Fray Francisco de Pareja, at San Juan del Puerto, at the mouth of the St. Johns River, give us minute information regarding the mission stations within their districts and the number of Christianized Indians in each. In the former there were 8 settlements and nearly 800 Christians. In the latter Pareja mentions 10 settlements and about 500 Christians, “big and little.”

These friars also speak of several other provinces which they visited or where there were Christians, including Ybi with 5 towns and more than 1,000 Indians, Cascangui or Ycafui with 7 or 8 towns and 700-800 Indians, Timucua with 1,500 Indians, Potano with 5 towns and where as many as 1,100 Indians were being catechised, and the Fresh Water province where were said to be six or more towns of Christian Indians, besides the Mayaca Indians, who had not been visited by monks. 8 Pareja is the well-known author of Timucua catechisms and manuals and a grammar of the language. A letter from a third friar written the same month states that there were about 200 Christians in the Fresh Water towns and in Mayaca perhaps 100 more to be baptized. 8 Governor Canço estimates about 1,200 Christians in the four visitas of San Pedro, San Antonio, San Juan, and Nombre de Dios. 8 Pedro Ruiz seems to have been the missionary at San Pedro in 1604. 8 In 1606 these various missions, along with those in the province of Guale, were visited by the Bishop of Cuba, who confirmed 2,075 Indians and 370 Spaniards. 8 Letters of Alonso de Peñaranda and Francisco Pareja, of November 20, 1607, complain of attacks made by wild Indians on those who had been Christianized. They state that between November, 1606, and October, 1607, 1,000 Indians had been Christianized, and that in all there were over 6,000 Christian Indians. 8 In 1608 Governor Ibarra claims that 4,000 Indians had been converted in a year and a half and that 1,000 more were under instruction by the missionaries. He says that the church in San Pedro was as big as that in St. Augustine; that it had cost the Indians more than 300 ducats, and had they not worked on it themselves it would have cost them more than 2,000 ducats. 8 In 1609 the chief of Timucua (Utina) with his heir and the leading men of his tribe were baptized in St. Augustine; and later we are told that 28 Timucua and Apalachee chiefs begged for baptism. 13 A letter from the missionaries dated January 17, 1617, informs us, however, that in the preceding four years more than half of the Indians had died of pestilence. Yet they claim 8,000 Christianized Indians still living. 13 It is stated that many missionaries died of the pest in 1649 and 1650; yet in the latter year there were 70 in Florida. 13 It is not said whether this pestilence extended to the natives. The number and names of the Timucua missions existing in the years 1655 and 1680 have already been given. 14

In the year 1656 a rebellion broke out among the Timucua and lasted eight months, even spreading to the Apalachee. Governor Robelledo says that it was directed against the friars, but the letter of a missionary lays the blame upon the governor himself, because he had tried to compel the Indians to bring corn on their backs into St. Augustine. The leader of this revolt is said to have been the chief of St. Martin, evidently the town known as San Martin de Ayaocuto, and was participated in by 10 others, including the chiefs of Santa Fe de Toloco, San Francisco de Potano, San Pedro y San Pablo de Puturiba, Santa Elena de Machaba, San Francisco de Chuaquin, Santa Cruz de Tarixica, San Matheo de Tolapatafi, San Juan del Puerto, and San Juan de Guacara. The Sergeant Major Adrian de Cañiçares was sent to the disturbed area by Governor Robelledo with 60 infantry, the rebellion was put down, and 11 Indians garroted. 13 This appears to have been the only uprising of any consequence in which the Timucua Indians were involved. A letter from Capt. Juan Francisco de Florencia to the then governor of Florida, dated 1670, states that in November, 1659, he had been ordered to go to the provinces of Ustaqua and Timucua to people and rebuild the towns of San Francisco, Santa Fe, San Martin, and San Juan de Guacara, which had been depopulated because some natives had died in the pestilences they had had and others had gone to the forests (montes), ”because these places formed the passageway and means of communication to the said provinces from the presidio of St. Augustine.” 8 This depopulation was probably due immediately to the great rebellion.

In 1672 there is said to have been another great mortality among the Indians. 8 A memorial by Fray Alonso del Moral, dated September 24, 1676, states that there were then 70 places for missionaries but usually only about 40 to fill them; in 1681 the number of missionaries is given as 34. 8 The list of missions drawn up in 1680, while showing more in the Apalachee province and practically the same number in Guale, exhibits a distinct decrease among the Timucua missions and it is evident that some former Timucua missions are largely concerned with different peoples. In 1688 a letter was written to the then King of Spain, Charles II, by several Timucua chiefs, with the assistance, of course, of the missionaries. It was a companion letter to that sent by the Apalachee already mentioned. 15 It was signed by Don Francisco, chief of San Matheo; Don Pedro, chief of San Pedro; Don Ventura, chief of Asile; Don Diego, chief of Machaua; Gregorio, chief of San Juan de Guacara; and Francisco Martinez, residente in San Matheo. 16 These are given in the Spanish version. In the Timucua some of these and some parts of the letter do not appear. We may assume that the towns mentioned were the chief remaining towns of the Timucua. Utina, Potano, Acuera, and the Fresh Water district are not represented. In 1697 it is said that the missionary, Fray Luis Sanchez, was murdered in Maiaca, which is spoken of as a new conversion; and, although this mission bears a Timucua name, it is evident that it was then settled largely by Yamasee. 8

The destruction of the Timucua missions by the Creeks and English, along with those of the Apalachee and other Florida Indians, now followed rapidly, so rapidly that one writer declares the destruction of the provinces of Timucua, Apalachee, and Guale took place within four or five months. He places the event in the year 1704, which is only approximately correct. 10 A royal officer, Juan de Pueyo, writing November 10, 1707, says that the province of Florida was then being rapidly depopulated by the English and infidel Indians, who were extending their depredations southward of St. Augustine. He states that 32 settlements of Indians had been destroyed, a number almost as great as that of the missions. 10 It is possible that some Timucua had revolted along with the Guale Indians and the Yamasee, but probably not many did so. The following general account of the destruction of the missions, along with some information regarding the last Indian villages in Florida before the arrival of the Seminole, is contained in a letter by Governor Dionisio de la Vega, written August 27, 1728:

Up to the year 1703, when the English made their first invasion from Carolina assisted by the Indians in their interest into the provinces of Apalache and Guale, the Indians thereof lived in perfect peace and tranquility; and from time to time some infidel Indians would come and join them, desirous of pledging their obedience. But the said provinces having been destroyed by virtue of said invasions, and all the towns deserted and many of the Indians, converted as well as infidels, killed or made prisoners, while the majority of them revolted and joined the English, enjoying the freedom under which they were allowed to live. The few who then preferred to remain under the protection of the arms of Y. M., settled down upon other lands where they could consider themselves free and secured from the attacks of the revolted Indians and formed their huts and settlements under the name of towns, where they were assisted by the missionary fathers with that love and zeal which was required of them.

After the destruction of these provinces and their towns, war continued to rage between the converted and infidel Indians, the latter assisted and fomented by the English. All around their [i. e., the English] towns are settlements, where they have congregated a large number of Caribe Indians, allowing them those liberties to which they are accustomed, and in this manner they have succeeded in annihilating over four-fifths of the number of Indians who had sought refuge. The rest of them remaining in their settlements, the largest of which hardly had a population of sixty souls, males, females, children, and Indians all told. In each of those settlements resided a clergyman, this being indispensable owing to the diversity of languages, which requires their separate instruction in the doctrine, and in some of those settlements it was necessary to have two clergymen because of the population being composed of Indians of distinct nationalities.

In none of these settlements was it ever possible to have a church where the holy sacrament of the Eucharist could be offered, notwithstanding they were distant only seven, five, and three leagues from this city (St. Augustine); so great was the fear they had of the infidels, that for the slightest cause they would move from one place to another without ever having a permanent residence.

For this reason, and because the churches dedicated for mass to be said in them, were not decent, it was decided to administer the Viaticum to the sick Indians during the hour of its celebration only.

But seeing themselves every day more and more harassed by the infidel Indians, they sought refuge under the guns of the fort of this city, where they have formed their settlements, the farthest being within gunshot distance, the names of the said settlements or towns being Mores, Nombre de Dios, El Nuevo, Tolemato, La Costa, Palica, and Casapuyas. The first one was composed of twenty men, eighteen women, and ten children, and among them there were only one man and one woman infidels. The second was composed of eighteen men, fourteen women, and eight children, all Christians. The third one was composed of twenty-three men, twenty-two women, and twenty children, all Christians, except one of the men who was an infidel. The fourth one has no fixed number; sometimes it has thirty or forty, and at other times only four or six, owing to its inhabitants being fond of moving about, similar to those from the keys. The women who generally reside there are seven, and about twelve children, all [the latter] Christians. The men [of the last town] are mostly infidels, and of the women three. The fifth had fourteen men, ten women, of whom some are infidels, and possibly had about four or five children. Chiqueto, which is also called Nombre de Dios, had about fifteen men, and twenty women, all Christians, and finally Casapuyas had fourteen men, and as many women, of whom the majority were infidels, and was composed of two different nations. 10

There is an evident mistake in the last paragraph quoted, but as it has 0ccurred in tho Spanish transcription and possibly was made by the author himself, it can not be entirely rectified here. The principal trouble is that, while the writer professes to give the population of the several towns in the order in which their names appear, one of them, Nombre de Dios, is second in the list of names and sixth in the statistical list. This leaves it uncertain whether the other names and figures correspond, especially since the word “fifth” in the translation has been substituted for ”sixth” in the original on the probable, but not necessarily correct, supposition that the writer had made a mistake. It is also possible that the Spanish text names six towns instead of seven. It runs as follows: ”meres nombre de Dios Tolemato el nuevo la costa Palica y Casapayas,” and it is impossible to say whether the name of the third is Tolemato or Tolemato el nuevo. I have assumed the former provisionally in order to make the seven towns which the statistics call for. In the English translation accompanying this text matters have been made worse by the entire omission of Mores, El Nuevo, and La Costa. Nevertheless, with the exception just noted, we have no reason to doubt the correctness of the town names given and the statistical information is borne out by a comparison with that on pages 105-106, although the number of the towns themselves does not precisely correspond.

Following the above, De la Vega adds the information regarding the Apalachee towns which I have quoted elsewhere. Then he continues:

The aforesaid was the condition of the religious settlements in the provinces subject to the jurisdiction of San Agustin de la Florida, whose churches were built of palmetto, both the walls and roof, except the one at Holomacos [Tolomato] , which was built of lumber board, and the one at Nombre de Dios, which was the best and contained the image of Our Lady of the Milk, the walls of which, through private donations of the faithful, had been built of stone and mortar, although the roof was of palmetto like the others. But a body of two hundred English having penetrated into that town on the aforesaid day, the twentieth of March [1728], together with as many Indians, they plundered and pillaged it and set the whole town on fire. They robbed the church and the convent and profaned the images, killing six and wounding eight Indians, a lieutenant and a soldier of infantry. They also took several prisoners with them and withdrew without further action. In view of this the governor had the church blown up by means of powder, withdrawing the Indians who had remained there to the shelter of the city, leaving only the town of Pocotabaco [Pocotalaco] under the protection of the guns of this fort. 10

As I have pointed out elsewhere, the Yamasee or Guale element was evidently predominant in these villages, and how many of them were occupied by Timucua we do not know, although that called ”Pueblo de Timucua” 17 probably contained most of them. A few may have emigrated to southern Florida and joined the Indians there, and a few were probably absorbed into the Yamasee. Those who retained their tribal identity withdrew to the Mosquito Lagoon and Halifax River, Volusia County, where Tomoka River keeps their name alive. Ultimately, even these must have been absorbed by the invading Seminole.

It is somewhat singular that during this period of intense missionary activity in northern Florida the Indians in the southern part of the peninsula had been left for the most part to their own devices. They would perhaps have been left entirely alone had it not been for the numerous shipwrecks on their coast and the necessity of protecting the lives and property of those cast away among them. Shortly after founding St. Augustine, Menendez visited the head chiefs of Calos and Tocobaga, the latter probably Timucua, however. 18 In 1566 we learn that the Takesta protected some Spaniards from the chief of Calos, 19 and in the legend on an early Spanish map it is stated that the Indians in that neighborhood had been converted by Pedro Menendez Marques. They afterwards abandoned their spiritual but retained their political allegiance. 10 During or just before 1570 there was war between the Spaniards and the people of Ais, for we read in an early manuscript that, in accordance with the terms of a treaty of peace made with Ais in 1570, 40 reales were given to the chief of Colomas [Ulumay], “a land of the Cacique of Ays,” and 80 to the chief of Rea in the same province. It is probable that the last name has been miscopied. 20 In 1597 Governor Mendez de Canço traveled from the head of the Florida Keys to St. Augustine. The chief of Ais met him with 15 canoes and more than 80 Indians. 8 In a letter written the year following Canço says that this chief had more Indians than any other between those two points. 21 The Ais are mentioned in connection with the Curruque expedition about the same time but they were only incidentally concerned in it. 22

In 1605 an Ais Indian called Chico, or the Little Captain, evidently a subordinate chief, came to St. Augustine with 24 warriors to offer his services to Governor Ibarra, who, he had heard, was at war with the French and English. Complaint was made that the Indians of Nocoroco had bewitched the cousin of the grand chief of Ais. A messenger was sent to confer with the grand chief and promise was made that some young Spaniards would be sent to learn the Ais language. 8 In 1607 Governor Ibarra states that during Holy Week he had received visits from the chief of Santa Lucia, Don Luis, the Little Captain of Ais, Don Juan Gega, and others, ”who are the principal lords of the mouth of the Miguel Mora.” 10 This name was given to the opening between the Florida mainland and the keys on the eastern side. From a letter written the following year it appears that Don Luis, chief of the mouths of Miguel Mora, and the chief of Guega,[Jeaga] had been at war, and that the governor had made peace between them. 23 In 1609 the chief of Ais visited St. Augustine and several chiefs living on the southeast coast were baptized in that city. 23

In 1612 an expedition was sent to the southwest coast of Florida to punish the chiefs of Pooy and Tocopaca (Tocobaga) because they had attacked Christian Indians. This expedition also pushed on farther south until it came to the town of Calos, from which more than 60 canoes came out to meet it. The chief of Calos is said to have had more than 70 towns under him, not counting the very great number which paid him tribute because they feared him. 23 – The same year Indians came from beyond Calos asking for missionaries. 23 A missionary letter of 1618 states, however, that the Indians of Jeaga and Santa Lucia were “rebellious,” and Christianity seems not to have affected them permanently. 23 A decade later we hear that hostile English and Dutch vessels were using this territory, particularly that between the bar of Ais and Jeaga, as an anchorage ground. 23 In 1680 the clergy of Florida desired to enter upon the conversion of the natives of the southern part of the peninsula, and in consequence the governor of Florida, Don Pablo de Hita Salazar, sent an interpreter to reconnoiter that region. The latter entered several Calos towns, but was finally turned back by the natives, who feared that they should be held responsible by the chief of Calos if they allowed him to proceed to that place. He reported that the Calusa Indians dominated all others in that part of the peninsula and forced them to pay tribute to their chief, who was known as “No he querido” (“Not loved”). 23 A letter written in 1681 states that many Indians fleeing from Guale had settled in the towns of Calos. 23 Another effort to missionize the Calusa in 1697 also failed, but it is said that the Indians then living on Matacumbe Island were “Catholics.” 24

An intimate picture of the Indians of the southeastern coast is given by the Quaker Dickenson, who was cast away there with a party from Pennsylvania in 1699. 25 An attempt was made to “reduce” the Ais Indians to the Catholic faith in 1703, 26 but there is no evidence that any success was attained, and both they and the Calusa apparently remained unconverted to the very end of Spanish rule. Romans states that in 1763, the year when Florida passed from Spanish to British control, the last of the Calusa people, consisting of 80 families, crossed to Havana. 27 Not all of the Calusa left the country, however, and indeed the emigrants may have been Tekesta and other occupants of the eastem shore, who were always rather better inclined toward the Spanish Government than were the Calusa.

Until recently this fate of tho old Florida tribes was remembered by some of the oldest Creek Indians. 28 Possibly the Calusa may have emigrated in the year mentioned and returned with the return of the Spaniards 20 years later, but it is improbable that southern Florida was ever entirely abandoned. At any rate some of these people were in occupancy of the territory about Charlotte Harbor and the Caloosahatchie River in the period of the Seminole war. They took no part in this contest during its earlier stages. They made no treaties with the Americans and at no time agreed to remove to the west.

Comparatively unnoticed, they remained in their old haunts, carrying on a considerable commerce with Havana, and looking to that city as their trading point. Williams describes their condition in the first half of the nineteenth century as follows:

The inhabitants of several large settlements around the Caximba Inlet, the heads of the Hujelos, St. Mary’s, and other southern streams, never appeared at the agency to draw annuities, but lived by cultivating their fields, hunting, trading at the Spanish ranchos, bartering skins, mocking birds, and pet squirrels, for guns, ammunition and clothing, and sometimes assisting in the fisheries. This race of Indians would have remained peaceable to this day had not an order been issued from the agency requiring them all to remove. They never agreed to remove, either personally or by their representatives; and they were easily excited to fight rather than leave the homes of their ancestors. Their knowledge of the country and their long connection with the Spanish traders and fishermen afforded perfect facilities for supplying the Seminoles with arms and munitions of war, and those facilities are at this time improved to our great injury. 29

They were first seriously disturbed when the Seminole, hard pressed in their seats near the center of the State, moved southward into the Everglades. There they intrenched themselves and induced the Calusa, or “Spanish Indians,” as they are called in the documents of the time, to take up arms in their interest. In 1839 Colonel Harney had gone to Charlotte Harbor to establish a trading post for the Indians, when his camp, consisting of 30 men, was attacked by 250 Indians and 18 were killed. 30 In retaliation for this injury Colonel Harney fell upon the Spanish Indians, under their chief Chekika, July 23, 1839, killed Chekika and hung six of his followers. 31 The next year Doctor Perrine, a botanist living on Indian Key, who was devoting himself to the culture of tropical plants, was killed by Chekika’s band. This happened on the 7th of May, 1840. 30 Other depredations were also committed by them. If they are the Florida “Choctaw,” as I have supposed, we can trace them down to 1847 when “four Choctaw warriors” are enumerated in the peninsula. 32 In 1850 seventy-six more Seminole were sent west, 32 but we do not know whether the remnant in question was among them or remained in its ancient home. The latter would be the more likely supposition, but the reverse is indicated by an old Seminole Indian in Oklahoma, who declared that he knew of these Florida Choctaw, asserting that one youth descended from them is still living among the Seminole of Oklahoma. He added that when the Seminole reached Fort Smith during their removal west the Choctaw who were with them wanted to remain with the Choctaw who had emigrated from Mississippi, but the Indian agent would not allow it. He knew nothing regarding the origin of this band of Choctaw, but thought they had emigrated to Florida from Mississippi about the time when the other Seminole settled there.Citations:

  1. See pp 27-31.[]
  2. Harrisse, Disc, of N. A., pp. 77-109, 142-153.[]
  3. Harrisse, Disc, of N. A., p. 152.[]
  4. Bandolier, Journal of Cabeza de Vaca, pp. 9-23; Oviedo, Hist. Gen., III, pp. 579-581; Doc. Ined., xiv, pp. 269-271[]
  5. See pp. 112-115[]
  6. Bourne, Narr. of De Soto, I, pp. 21-46; II, pp. 4-6, 51-71[]
  7. Laudonnière, Hist. Not. de La Floride; Le Moyne, Narrative.[]
  8. Lowery, MSS.[][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
  9. Brooks and Lowery, MSS.[]
  10. Brooks, MSS.[][][][][][][][]
  11. Brooks and Lowery, MSS. See p. 84.[]
  12. See p. 87.[]
  13. Lowery and Brooks, MSS.[][][][][][][]
  14. See p. 322.[]
  15. See. pp. 12, 120.[]
  16. Gatschet In Proc. Am. Phil. Soc., XVIII, pp. 495-497.[]
  17. See p. 105.[]
  18. Lowery, Span. Settl., II, pp. 228-243, 277-280; Barcia, Florida, pp. 94-98, 125-129.[]
  19. Barcia, Florida, p. 124.[]
  20. Copy of MS. in Ayer Coll., Newberry Library.[]
  21. 47[]
  22. See pp. 336-337.[]
  23. Lowery. MSS.[][][][][][][][]
  24. Barcia, Florida, p. 316.[]
  25. See pages 92-93, 389 et seq.[]
  26. Barcia, Florida, p. 322.[]
  27. Romans, Concise Nat. Hist. Fla., p. 29.[]
  28. See p. 188.[]
  29. John Lee Williams, The Territory of Florida, 1837, p. 242.[]
  30. Fairbanks, Hist. of Florida, p. 191.[][]
  31. Fairbanks, Hist. of Florida, p. 194. But Fairbanks dates the event too late.[]
  32. French, Hist. Colis. La., 1875, p. 170.[][]


Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

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