Native American History of Jackson County, FL through 1800 AD
Jackson County is located in northwestern Florida. Its northern boundary is the Alabama line. Its eastern boundary is the Chattahoochee River and the southwestern tip of Georgia. To the west is Holmes County, FL and the south, is Calhoun County, FL. The Chipola River flows through the center of the county and flows southward into Washington County. Much of Jackson County is in its drainage basin. The Ecofina River begins in the southwestern corner of the county and also flows southward into Washington County.
The Gulf Coastal Plain stretching from Mobile, AL to Cedar Key, FL was known as Am-Ixchel by Native Americans, when first explored by the Spaniards in the 1500s. The word was written as Amichel in Castilian and means “Place of the Moon Goddess” in Chontal Maya. This evidence along with many surviving Itza and Chontal Maya place names in Georgia and the Southern Highlands, suggests that the sea-going Chontal Maya merchants were familiar with present day northwestern Florida.
Although most popular literature describes the aboriginal occupants of Jackson as being Muskogee-Creeks, these Native peoples were immigrants, who entered Florida along with other branches of the Creeks in the 1700s and early 1800s. Because of population and territorial losses among other Creek branches, the Muskogee-Creeks came to dominate a confederacy of Native provinces in the Lower Southeast in the late 1700s. The actual Muskogee-Creeks were indigenous to the Middle Chattahoochee River Basin, but their language was eventually adopted as the diplomatic language for the Creek Confederacy.
Many ethnic groups probably lived in Florida’s Gulf Coast Plain from time to time. The primary inhabitants of present day Jackson County, when the Spanish explored the region in the 1600, were the Apalachicola and the Chatot. The Apalachicolas were early members of the Creek Confederacy, but originally spoke a language that was mutually unintelligible with Muskogee. Apalachicola or Lower Creek was roughly a mixture of Itsati (Hitchiti,) Choctaw and Chontal Maya. The Chatot apparently spoke a dialect of Yama.
Geologists believe that Florida was once part of Africa. However, the ancient rocks that the Florida Panhandle shares with the northwest coast of Africa are buried over 10,000 feet beneath the surface. Above them are bands of sedimentary rocks created by the accumulation of sea life, sand and soils washed down from the Southern Highlands. No dinosaur fossils have been found in Florida because the region was under water until about 45 million years ago.
During the Pleistocene Epoch or Ice Age, the coast of the Florida Panhandle was as much as 100 miles south of its present location. Botanical evidence suggests that the climate was much more isothermal than today (less differences between seasons.)
The Holocene Epoch began around 10,000 years ago, as the glaciers in northern North America started to retreat. Around 8,000 years, ago the Gulf of Mexico began rising. By around 1,500 BC the shoreline was only about five feet lower in elevation than today. However, even at a five feet difference, the Florida Panhandle extended about 20 miles farther south than today. By that time, however, most of northwest Florida’s rivers and springs had formed in similar conditions to today. The shoreline stabilized around 1000 AD, but in recent decades the level of the Gulf of Mexico has begun to rise again.
Native American Cultural Periods
Archaeologists believe that humans have lived in Jackson County for at least 15,000 years, perhaps much longer. During the coldest periods of the Ice Age, the Gulf Coast region would have been one of the few areas of North America that could be comfortably inhabited by homo sapiens. Evidence of the earliest humans may be buried of accumulated soils or under the sea bed as much as 100 miles out from today’s shoreline. Nevertheless, the oldest known human remains found in the Southeast (roughly 10,000 years old) was discovered in the sediment under a cenote (sink hole) in Sarasota County, FL. They included a skull still containing brain matter.
Clovis and Folsom points, associated with Late Ice age big game hunters have been found in the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley. During the Ice Age, herds of giant mammals roamed the river bottom lands. The mastodons, saber tooth tigers, giant sloths and other massive mammals died out about 8,000 years ago. The ethnic identity of the Clovis Culture hunters is not known. They were long presumed to be American Indians from Siberia, but recent research by anthropologists have revealed many similarities with the big game hunters of Western Europe. An ice cap on the North Atlantic Ocean may have permitted early humans to move back and forth between continents by paddling, while gaining sustenance from hunting sea mammals and fishing. The big game hunters of both continents may have been a hybrid people with mixed Mongoloid-European physiologies.
Archaic Period (8,000 BC – 1000 BC)
After the climate warmed, animals and plants typical of today soon predominated in this region. Humans adapted to the changes and gradually became more sophisticated. They adopted seasonal migratory patterns that maximized access to food resources. The coastal areas were probably avoided during hurricane season. Archaic hunters probably moved to locations along the Gulf Coast and rivers during the winter, where they could eat fish and shellfish, if game was not plentiful.
During the late Archaic Period, several trade routes developed that interconnected the Gulf of Mexico, Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes. During this time, Native Americans began traveling long distances to trade and socialize. One of the most important trade routes in the Southeast paralleled the Chattahoochee River. Large canoes could carry cargos up to the shoals at present day Columbus, GA. Trails running parallel and perpendicular to the Chattahoochee served communities in the region. It connected the Gulf Coast to the Southern Highlands, and with the Midwest via an important trail that connected the headwaters of the Hiwassee and Chattahoochee Rivers near present day Helen in White County, Georgia. The Chipola River was navigable by canoes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Early Woodland Period (2000 BC – 500 BC)
The earliest known pottery in the Western Hemisphere was discovered on Stallings Island in the Savannah River near Augusta, GA. Earliest examples have been radiocarbon dated to about 2,500 BC. It was rather crude, being unrefined clay tempered with Spanish Moss. By about 2000 BC or earlier, pottery making had spread to the Lower Chattahoochee-Apalachicola Basin. The fabrication of pottery and soapstone bowls was not practical until Native Americans began occupying permanent villages where they could be stored.
The Chattahoochee River Valley was a location of some of the earliest permanent villages in North America. A sedentary lifestyle was made possible by abundant natural food sources such as large game, fish, freshwater mussels and the cultivation of gardens. Archaeologists have labeled the Early Woodland peoples of Northwest Florida as the Deptford Culture. The Deptford Culture extended over much of northern Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Deptford Culture villages were relatively small and dispersed. Some were permanent bases while others were seasonal hunting, fishing or gathering camps. There was probably much socialization among these villages because of the need to find spouses that were not closely related. Houses were round and built out of saplings, river cane and thatch.
The Early Woodland Period peoples of the region built numerous mounds, although few are visible today because the sandy soil of the Gulf Coastal Plain erodes quickly. Apparently, most of these mounds were primarily for burials, but may have also supported simple structures that were used for rituals or meetings. They were constructed accretionally. This means that the mounds grew in size over the generations by piling sand, soil and detritus from the village over recent burials.
Deptford Culture style pottery and artifacts were made in some parts of the Lower Southeast as late as 600 AD. This suggests to anthropologists that they were made by an aboriginal ethnic group that was gradually marginalized as Muskogean communities expanded in number and territory.
Middle Woodland Period (500 BC – 600 AD)
Archaeological evidence in the Chattahoochee River Valley suggests that the first Muskogean farmers entered northwestern Florida and western Georgia around 500 BC, after originally migrating from west-central Mexico via the Lower Mississippi. However, northwest Florida was probably was already occupied by people related to the Ciboney of Cuba. Anthropologists currently believe that the Ciboney settled Cuba from Florida
It is quite likely that in 500 BC northwestern Florida contained people related to the Yuchi and Southern Siouans such as the Biloxi. There may have been other ethnic groups whose identities have been concealed by time. Agricultural technology, cultural traditions and DNA probably blended between these peoples. Modern “Creek” Indians may represent a genetic mix of several indigenous ethnic groups.
Around 500 BC, the Santa Rosa Culture began evolving in the Florida Panhandle. It is named after Santa Rosa Island in Santa Rosa County, FL. Early Santa Rosa Culture villages are characterized by permanent architecture, community spaces and evidence of trade contacts with other parts of eastern North America. In particular, archaeologists have discovered trade items associated with the Midwest, as Santa Rosa villages grew in size and sophistication.
Around 100 BC, the inhabitants of present day Jackson County began showing increasing cultural influence from the Swift Creek Culture, which originated in Georgia. Jackson County was particularly affected by this influence because it was just across the Chattahoochee River from the emerging Kolomoki ceremonial town site. The Santa Rosa-Swift Creek Culture people built permanent towns with horseshoe shaped plazas for playing ball games, near the Chattahoochee and Chipola Rivers.
Anthropologist outside the Southeast often link the Swift Creek Culture with the Hopewell Culture because of the similarity in chronology. However, the Hopewell Culture in Ohio was clearly obsessed with death and contained very few, if any, permanent villages. The architecture of the two cultural zones was very different. Santa Rosa-Swift Creek earthworks were often earthen pyramids oriented to the solar azimuth. The Santa Rosa-Swift Creek peoples became increasingly dependent on agriculture and therefore generally located their villages and towns in fertile river bottomlands.
Swift Creek Style pottery is considered some of the most beautiful ever made in North America. The Swift Creek People were also known for their finely crafted copper tools, weapons and ornaments. They built both ellipsoid shaped accretional mounds and some large pyramidal mounds for temples. The pyramidal mounds differed little in shape and function from what was being built in Mexico at the time.
Around 250 AD, the Santa Rosa-Swift Creek Culture villages in Jackson County began evolving into the Weeden Island Culture. Weeden Island villages and ceremonial towns continued many Swift Creek traditions, but there were distinct changes in the pottery that seem to reflect Caribbean influences. Weeden Island sculptures created hollow human figures, while this was rarely, if ever, done by Swift Creek ceramicists.
The Swift Creek Culture collapsed in Georgia’s Coastal Plain around 600 AD. Virtually, all villages below the Fall Line suddenly disappeared, but some Swift Creek villages in the mountains continued to be occupied to as late as 1000 AD. The sudden depopulation near navigable waters suggests attacks by sea craft from the Atlantic Ocean, but to date, no evidence of specific foreign invaders have been discovered by archaeologists.
Late Woodland & Transitional Period
The Northwest Florida Weeden Island Culture villages declined in population after 600 AD, started declining around 750 AD, but were not completely abandoned to until around 900 AD. Significant declines in population seem to have coincided with the rise of a very advanced culture near Lake Okeechobee, Florida.
The period when Weeden Island Culture disappeared and the Lake Okeechobee Culture (Belle Glade III) rose, is now known to have been a time of drought in Yucatan. Most of the large Maya cities were abandoned by this time. The Long Calendar dates were no longer inscribed on stelae. This drought may have caused Maya commoners to flee northward into the Southeastern United States, where conditions were less hostile.
By 700 AD, the many permanent towns around Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida practiced all of the cultural traits, except large scale cultivation of corn that 350 years later were to appear at Cahokia, IL. The Native peoples of the Lake Okeechobee region even built large mounds and ceremonial pools in the shape of ceremonial scepters that were later used by the elite at such famous town sites as Cahokia, Moundville, AL, Ocmulgee Mounds, GA and Etowah Mounds, GA. It is quite likely that traders or raiders from Lake Okeechobee reached northwest Florida at the same time that the Weeden Island Culture was expiring. There may be a connection.
Early Hierarchical Period (900 AD – 1150 AD)
All of the cultural traits, including large scale cultivation of corn, beans and squash that were associated with the “Mississippian Culture,” appeared on the Lower Chattahoochee River and at the Ocmulgee site at Macon, GA around 900 AD. “Mississippian” style houses and mounds were not constructed at Cahokia until around 1050 AD. Therefore, the generic term “hierarchal” is a more accurate description of the cultural changes that appeared in northwest Florida around 900 AD. They obviously were introduced by peoples from the south, not the Mississippi River Basin.
The town and village sites, founded around 900 AD, in or near present day Jackson County, initially had very similar pottery and architecture to that of Ocmulgee. They probably were founded by the same ethnic group. The pottery was similar to the Plain Style Redware produced by Maya commoners that is endemic around the edges of Maya cities. The architecture was almost identical to that built by the illiterate Chontal Maya along the coast of Tabasco State in Mexico. The Chontal Maya only built earthen mounds and were illiterate during the Classic Maya Period that ended around 900 AD.
Florida archaeologists generically label all of the hierarchal towns in northwestern Florida as the Fort Walton Culture, after a mound at Fort Walton Beach, FL. Their labeling of this culture is primarily based on pottery, since most Muskogean provinces in the Southeast cultivated corns, bean and squash on a large scale, built mounds and evidenced hierarchal societies.
Architectural historians, however, have identified four distinct cultural zones where there were extensive contrasts in architecture and town planning. These were the Pensacola-Perdido Bay Area, the Choctawhatchee River Basin, the Chattahoochee-Apalachicola River Basin and the Red Clay Hills-Fort Walton Region. These four zones, interestingly enough, correspond to four separate ethnic groups who were present when the Spanish first explored the region.
Along the Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola River System there were three cultural phases in which architecture and cultural traditions were significantly different. The populations of these three phases, or at least their elites, may have been different ethnic groups. This basin was occupied by the Apalachicola when the Spanish arrived on the scene.
In the Choctawhatchee River Basin, eastward to the west bank Chipola River in Jackson County, the mounds are smaller and similar to those found concurrently on the coast of Georgia. This region was occupied by the Chatot when the Spanish arrived.
Middle Hierarchal Period (1150 AD – 1300 AD)
At the same time that Arawak village sites first appeared in northeastern Florida, Ocmulgee and many Muskogean mound sites in northeastern Florida were abandoned. By 1200 AD several town sites on the lower Chattahoochee River were temporarily abandoned, while others began evolving cultural traits more like those of northwestern Alabama, or even later proto-Creek towns. In the mid-1700s there were still some Arawak towns in central Alabama. In 1901, a Taino (Puerto Rican Arawak) stella was found near Atlanta, GA at a hilltop shrine overlooking the Chattahoochee River, Obviously, the Arawaks initially penetrated deep into traditional Muskogean territory, and probably caused the collapse of some provinces.
New towns appeared on the Lower Chattahoochee-Apalachicola River that had different architectural traditions than those of Ocmulgee. In particular, many towns built large, five-sided mounds as their principal temple. Practically, all the pentagonal mounds in the United States are found in Georgia, or within fifty miles of the state’s boundaries. These mounds seem to be directly ancestral to the Itsati (Hitchiti) branch of the Creek Indians.
Late Hierarchal Period (1300 AD – 1539)
There was another wave of burned temples and/or town abandonments in the Chattahoochee Basin in the period between 1250 AD and 1300s AD. These seem linked to a war between indigenous Muskogeans and those migrating eastward from the Mississippi Basin. Much of the central Mississippi Basin was abandoned during this era. After 1300 AD, few, if any, pentagonal mounds were initiated. Mounds built thereafter tended to be rounded on the edges to the point that many had oval footprints.
Whereas the principal temple mounds of the Chattahoochee Basin and much of Georgia in the Early and Middle Hierarchal Periods faced the location of sunset on the Winter Solstice, southwest, Late Hierarchal temple mounds in the Chattahoochee-Apalachicola Basin were aligned to the sunset on the Summer Solstice. The principal mounds of the Late Hierarchal Period in the Red Clay Hills area of Florida faced south, as did the Tamatli mounds of southeastern Georgia and western North Carolina.
The architectural evidence suggests that during the Late Hierarchal Period ethnic groups were located in the same regions, when encountered by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. These were the Pensacola around Pensacola and Perdido Bays; the Chatot, along the Choctawhatchee River to the Chipola River; the Apalachicola along the Lower Chattahoochee and Apalachicola and Flint Rivers; and the Apalachee in the Red Clay Hills region southward to Fort Walton Beach.
Although folk story that Pensacola means “long haired people” in Choctaw, it does not. It is a Lower Creek (Apalachicola) word meaning “Live Oak People” – inferring that these coastal peoples ate Live Oak acorns for the bulk of their carbohydrate nutrition, like the Wahale (Guale) of coastal Georgia. Their lifestyle was heavily reliant on fishing and coastal hunting. Less is known about the Chatot, but they supposedly were closely related to Pensacola. They also, may have relied on hunting and gathering for nutrition, but did build low mounds on the Choctawhatchee and Chipola Rivers. Apalachicola means “Torchbearer People” in their language. Apalachee means “torch bearer” in Itsati (Hitchiti) while “cola” is a suffix used for an ethnic group in the Florida Panhandle. It is derived from the Yama (Mobilian) word okla (archaic = okala) for people or ethnic group.
The Florida Apalachees did not actually call themselves Apalachees. De Soto gave them that name, based on a village he visited, named Apalachin. However, the leaders of this people told de Soto that a people, named the Apalachee, lived in the mountains of present day Georgia and North Carolina, where gold was abundant. The real Apalachee were visited by a French Huguenot expedition in 1562. The French enjoyed good relations with the Mountain Apalachee and named the Appalachian Mountains after them. The Mountain Apalachee spoke Itsati (Hitchiti.) It is possible that the Apalachicola were a branch of the real Apalachee that picked up some Choctaw
Spanish exploration and missions (1539 AD – 1705 AD)
The Kingdom of Spain claimed all of the Chattahoochee River Basin, including Jackson County, from 1513 until 1745. This claim was based on Narvaez Expedition (1538,) the Hernando de Soto Expedition (1539,), the Tristan de Luna Expedition, the Juan Pardo Expedition (1567,) and a surveying expedition authorized by Governor Don Benito Ruiz de Salazar Vallecilla of the Province of La Florida around 1647. The surveying and gold prospecting expedition followed the Chattahoochee River to its source at Unicoi Gap. The Governor then established a trading post in the vicinity of the Chattahoochee headwaters.
In 1645 Governor of La Florida led an attack on numerous Apalachicola towns along the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers because they had refused to allow missionaries in their territory. Apalachicola and Muskogee towns as far north as present day Columbus were burned. Those Apalachicola nearest the Spanish, fled to present day northwestern Georgia, where they established towns on the Etowah and Oothlooga Rivers. Oothlooga is an Apalachicola word. The remaining Apalachicola towns allied themselves with the Muskogees. This was the beginning of the Creek Confederacy, and the also, the beginning of the end of the Spanish Empire’s presence in the Southeast.
In 1675 the Spanish established four missions among the Chatot. They were probably located in present day Jackson and Holmes Counties, although some sources locate them in Apalachee territory, fifty miles to the east. Some Apalachicola villages eventually accepted visits by missionaries, but the ethnic group as whole stayed extremely hostile to the Spanish.
In 1678, British traders from the new colony at Charleston established trade relations with the Apalachicola living on the Lower Chattahoochee Basin. They immediately supplied the Apalachicola with firearms and munitions. Within a short time, the Apalachicola became expert marksmen.
In 1702 an army composed of Apalachicolas and Chickasaws living along the Flint River, killed or capture ¾ of a Spanish army that planned to cross what is now Georgia, and destroy Charleston. The Native Americans created a “dummy” camp near the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint. They then surrounded the Spanish army immediately after in charged into the dummy camp.
In 1705 an army composed of Apalachicolas, Muskogees and some Carolina militiamen, virtually wiped out the Spanish mission system in northwest Florida. The army also burned all homes and haciendas owned by ethnic Spaniards, then carried back over 3,000 Christian Apalachees to be sold as slaves at the markets in Charleston.
End of Spanish occupation 1705 – 1763
After 1705 the emerging Muskogee Confederacy increasingly controlled the hinterlands of the Florida Panhandle to the point that the Spanish garrison was isolated in Pensacola. Creek bands hunted and settled there. At the close of the Yamasee War in 1717, many Muskogean towns in eastern Georgia relocated to the Lower Chattahoochee River. By necessity, the isolated Spanish community and their new Muskogean neighbors developed better relations. However, the Spanish no longer tried to forcibly convert the Muskogeans to Catholicism.
In 1763 Great Britain thoroughly defeated France and Spain in the Nine Years War. The British Navy had captured Havana. Spain traded all of Florida to get Havana back. Simultaneously, British officials moved Southeastern Native American groups around like pieces on a chess board in order to eliminate future hostilities between tribes or between European settlers and Native Americans. The relatively new Creek Confederacy was given most of the lands of France’s Native American allies in Alabama. The Cherokees lost most of the land in North Carolina and South Carolina as punishment for changing sides. They were pushed into Tennessee and north central Georgia. Although it has long been assumed that the Cherokees were given the Apalachicola’s territory in northwestern Georgia, British maps suggest that this region was reserved as intertribal hunting lands. Nevertheless, many Creek towns in South Carolina and northeast Georgia began moving down into southern Georgia and English Florida. They became the ancestors of the Seminole Indians.
Apparently, most Chatot left present day Jackson County around 1763 or soon thereafter. Initially, they settled near Pensacola, but eventually ended up in western Louisiana. The original Creek name of the Choctawhatchee River was probably, Chakato-hachi (=Chatot River,) but was misinterpreted by English-speaking settlers to be Choctawhatchee.
After the American Revolution
The Florida Panhandle reverted to Spanish ownership in the treaty ending the American Revolution. Spain had been an ally of United States. Strangely, France got almost nothing but the “last laugh” for its enormous contribution to the American Patriot’s victory. By this time, northwestern Florida was solidly under the occupation of the now-powerful Creek Confederacy. During the late 1700s, the Creeks even built a navy to patrol the coast of the Florida Panhandle. It was based in Creek towns along the Lower Chattahoochee-Apalachicola River.
As the Creek Confederacy lost more and more land in Georgia, many Creek towns moved down into Florida. They were predominantly Itsati-speaking towns, not Muskogees. The Creek towns that had entered earlier in the 1700s also were predominantly Itsati or Yuchi speakers. This linguistic difference set the stage for the schism that created separate Muskogee-Creek and Seminole tribes. The majority of people in the Florida today, who call themselves Muskogee, are actually descended from Eastern Creeks who spoke Itsati, Lower Creeks who originally spoke Apalachicola, or Yuchi, who spoke an entirely different language.
The Muskogee Confederacy had been formed at Ochese across the river from present day, Macon, GA in the late 1600s. After 1717 it moved to the Chattahoochee River south of present day Columbus, GA. However, by the late 1700s, the famous town was located on the Apalachicola River in what is now the southeastern tip of Jackson County. There was a heavy concentration of Creek towns in Jackson County, whose origins were from many different regions, including the North Carolina Mountains. It was this mixing of the many branches of the Creek Confederacy that blended into the modern day Creek Indians.
Native American History of Jackson County, FL: 1800 AD – Present
Spain ruled West Florida (which included Alabama below the 31st Parallel) until 1821. Several Creek towns and many mixed blood Creek families moved in this virtually uninhabited region after 1793, when the Creek Confederacy ceded all of its lands in eastern Georgia. Northwestern Florida was soon viewed as traditional Creek territory by white Americans, even though their presence was relative recent. Traditional Creek towns were concentrated along the Apalachicola River. The lands, west of Cipola River contains several Yuchi villages and the farmsteads of Native families, who had emigrated from the Carolinas.
During the second Spanish colonial period, it was quite common for the Creeks, Carolina Indians, Europeans and Africans to be neighbors. There was much intermarriage between ethnic groups. Most of the Natives did not have direct political ties with the Creek Confederacy, but also did not practice semi-traditional lifestyles like the Seminoles. However, they were often labeled Seminoles.
War of 1812
When the War of 1812 broke out, British agents working out of the Spanish town of Pensacola tried to persuade the Native Peoples of Florida and southern Alabama to become allies of Great Britain against the United States. The Jackson County Indians had no incentive to become belligerents. Their lifestyles differed little from those of white settlers, and most were part European anyway.
Eventually, the combination of British offers for support, along with the persuasive speeches of the Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, influenced a minority of Creek towns to rebel against the national government of the Creek Confederacy. Most of the insurgents were Upper Creeks from the hill country of northern Alabama. Initial battles were between these so-called Red Sticks and the pro-American majority of the Creek Confederacy. However, after the killing of virtually all the white and Indian inhabitants of Fort Mims, Alabama, the war spread to become one between the Red Sticks and the United States. The last phase of this bloody war occurred in the Choctawhatchee Basin.
First Seminole War
After the catastrophic defeat of the Red Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, surviving insurgents fled southward. A Red Stick Chief named Jackson led his town to the Choctawhatchee Basin. His town was accused of continued raids on white settlements. General Andrew Jackson also accused the Spanish of intentionally supplying him munitions to continue the Red Stick War. In 1814, Major Uriah Blue led a regiment into the future Jackson County to destroy the main town of Chief Jackson Red Stick Band.
Intermittent raids by paramilitary units among Creeks, Seminoles and whites continued along the Florida, Georgia-Alabama War after the official end of the Red Stick War in 1814. Like most Itsati (Hitchiti-Creeks) towns, the Miccosukee did not consider themselves to be Muskogee-Creeks.
Itsati towns continued to occupy some areas of southwest Georgia. In 1816 fighting broke out between the Miccosukee’s of southwest Georgia and American troops. They were led by Neamathla. The cause of this war was the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825. Without authority of the Creek National Council, a small group of minor Muskogee in Georgia gave away virtually all of Creek sovereign lands in Georgia, including the sacred site of Ocmulgee Old Fields. Most Itsati towns had been consistent American allies. This further strengthened their position of not being bound by treaties with the Creek Confederacy.
Fort Scott was established on the Lower Chattahoochee River (near present day Bainbridge) to guard the border with Florida. When Americans started farming Miccosukee lands east of the Flint River, their leaders ordered them to leave. A Miccosukee town was located 15 miles east of the fort. The refusal of the garrison’s commander to comply resulted in escalating guerilla warfare. The U.S. Army sent 250 men to attack Fowltown, the Miccosukee village. They were beaten off the first day, but succeeded in burning the settlement on the second day. The next week, the Itsati attacked a riverboat bringing supplies to Fort Scott, killing most of the crew and passengers.
An army under Andrew Jackson invaded Florida in 1818 and attacked Native American and African settle across the northern tier of the Spanish territory. A considerable portion of the fighting was in Jackson County. Peaceful farmsteads of Creeks, Itsati, Yuchi and Carolina families were attacked by paramilitary bands from Georgia. This provoked them to join the hostile Itsati and Creek towns. Much of the fighting in what was to become Jackson County was conducted by small bands in skirmishes.
This first Muskogean-American war is called the First Seminole War. However, the majority of Native American belligerents did not consider themselves “Creeks” or Seminoles. The large American army quickly crushed Native resistance. Survivors fled southward. They became allied with Muskogean towns that had been living in Florida for many decades. At the same time, the United States government labeled all belligerent Muskogeans in Florida during the war as being “Seminoles” regardless if they were Muskogees or Itsati’s.
In late 1818 or early 1819, at least five Creek tribal towns, friendly to the United States, relocated to present day Jackson County. Their leaders were Econchatimico, Mulatto King Patty Carr, William Blount and Yellow Hair. These Lower Creek towns were later formally recognized by reservations. However, the remainder of the county was opened to settlement by any American citizen in 1821.
Throughout this period, mixed-blood Native American families were common place in the region. Most all east of the Cipola River were of Creek ancestry. Those living west of the Cipola could be Creek, Yuchi or from one of the Carolina tribes. The lifestyles of the mixed-heritage farmsteaders were little different that Anglo-American settlers. Most, no longer had any association with the Creek Confederacy, even though they probably considered themselves to be American Indians.
Becoming part of the United States – 1821
Throughout much of the period of the Seminole War negotiations had occurred in spurts between the United States and Spain concerning Florida. Spain could not afford to defend the province. It had practically no Hispanic population and the number of Native American and Anglo-American immigrants increased yearly. The blatant invasions of Florida by Andrew Jackson’s army and others irritated the Spanish, but there was nothing that they could do. Florida was untenable. The treaty between the United States and Spain, ceding Florida to Spain, was ratified in 1821.
The relatively large percentage of mixed-heritage families in the region between the Choctawhatchee and Apalachicola River saw the change in sovereignty as an opportunity to create a county-reserve for meztisos. Any head of household, who could prove that they were living in the region between 1818 and 1821 automatically received a square mile (640 acre) tract fee simple. However, they were quickly outnumbered by a flood of new settlers, primarily from Georgia and the Carolinas, but also from other states. In 1822 Jackson County became the second county in Florida. It continued to have many residents of mixed Native American heritage, but they never were the majority.
In the Treaty of Moultrie Creek signed in 1823 between the United States and Seminole Alliance, the reserves of friendly Creek towns were formalized. Neamathla’s Miccosukee town was allowed to remain on east side of the Apalachicola River, despite its defense of territory being the start of the First Seminole War. Other Creek and Seminole towns that had been hostile to the United States were dispatched to a four million acre reservation in the center of Florida that had no coastal frontiers accessible by Spanish or Cuban traders.
Later wars and the Indian Removal
There were two more Creek Wars and two more Seminole Wars. The Creek wars were relatively short events and of limited geographical scale. There were some attacks along the Chattahoochee River by Creeks, who resented their land being taken in Georgia. However, the battles did not evolve large numbers of combatants or victims. The later Seminole Wars involved fighting over much of the Florida Peninsula, but very little combat, if any, took place in Jackson County. Being located on the Apalachicola River, the county was adjacent to a major transportation corridor for supply American troops in Florida. Wartime activities accelerated growth near the Chattahoochee.
The ultimate result of the six Muskogean wars in Florida was that many peaceful Native Americans were forced out of the Florida Panhandle. While there was originally much tolerance and intermarriage between the races within Florida, the bad feelings of these wars caused the new white majority to abuse and disfranchise Native Americans and Free Blacks.
By 1838 all of the Creek towns in Georgia and Alabama had been relocated to the Indian Territory. Many thousands of mixed-heritage Creeks remained in Georgia and Florida, but they were living on privately owned tracts of land and were theoretically citizens of their states. Those Friendly Creeks, who remained on the Jackson County reserves were increasingly isolated and abused as the white population grew. They were restricted to the reservations. In 1838 they finally agreed to relocate to the Indian Territory at the government’s expense within five years.
In 1843, Jackson County’s reserve Indians were escorted by Federal troops to steamboats that would take them most of the way to the Creek Nation. Almost immediately, squatters and speculators occupied the reserves. Many people of at least some Native American ancestry continued to live in northwestern Florida, but for the first century after the closure of the reserves, most lived in poverty as second class citizens.
An interesting footnote to history is that simultaneous with the voluntary of removal of Creeks from Jackson County; federal troops were utilized to forcibly remove several hundred Creeks from the Altamaha River Basin in southeastern Georgia. They were Itsati (Hitchiti) Creeks, who did not feel bound by treaties made by Muskogee-Creek leaders. Georgia had signed treaties allow Creeks and Cherokees to remain in the state as citizens, but throughout the Antebellum Era, pogroms in Georgia intermittently evicted Creek families, who were escorted by militiamen to the Alabama or Florida lines. It is likely that several of the evicted mixed-heritage families ended up in Jackson County. However, the 1843 expedition was the last use of federal troops to forcibly remove Southeastern Native Americans.
Contemporary Native Americans
Descendents of Jackson County’s early 19th century Native American settlers remain in the region. Known as the Jackson County Creeks, they do not have a state or federal recognized tribe, but several are members of state-recognized tribes. In 21st the old stigmas against the Creek Indians are mostly gone. Jackson County families with Creeks in their heritage proudly announce it to the world.