Santa Rosa Creek Tribe

Native American History

A History of Creeks in the Florida Panhandle

The first documented instance of Creeks in West Florida was in 1707.  Creeks allied with a contingent of British soldiers lead an attack on the Spanish Presidio de Santa Maria de Galvez.  It was the first site of Pensacola occupied by the Spanish during the First Spanish period from 1698 to 1719.

Later in 1759 a treaty was established with the Spanish delineating the Creek lands.  Boundary Line Creek off Escambia River north of present day UWF near Molino was the boundary between Creek lands and the Spanish controlled area.  Under the terms of the treaty, two Creek towns were allowed to be established in Spanish West Florida.  They were Chumuckla and Floridatown.

Due to deteriorating relations between the Spanish and the Creeks, in 1761 the Creeks attacked and destroyed the Escambe mission village near present day Molino.

During the last Spanish period the Panton-Leslie Trading Company was established in Pensacola to trade with the Creeks.  Deerskins were collected by the Creeks and brought to Pensacola to trade with the company for pots, pans, blankets, guns, ammo and various other trade goods.  Alexander McGillivray was a silent partner who was half Creek and half Scottish.  He played a significant role as a liaison between the Creeks and the Panton-Leslie Trading Company working for Spain.

Spanish Governor Vicente Folch writes in 1783 that six Creek families were already planting on the Escambia River, with 400 cattle between them all.  The Creeks were successfully engaging  in the commerce of the area.

The short-lived Creek War began with the Red Stick faction of Creeks in 1813 at Burnt Corn, AL just north of present day Brewton, AL and Fort Mims in present day Baldwin County, AL.  The war ended in 1814 with the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Al.  The Creeks were forced into the Treaty of Fort Jackson by Andrew Jackson.  The remaining Red Sticks fled to the supposed safety of Spanish West Florida where they lived along the Escambia River, Jay, Chumuckla and Floridatown areas.

In July of 1814 George Nixon lead American forces in a raid into Spanish West Florida.  He reported Creeks living in “the Indian town of Chumuckla” where they were growing around 130 acres of corn, beans, pumpkins, and other crops.  While American-allied Choctaws occupy the Creek town of Chumuckla, Nixon raids a Creek encampment near Floridatown of Escambia Bay.

Colonel Uriah Blue lead an American expedition in December of 1814 against remaining Creeks in Spanish West Florida.  He attacked the Creek villages and settlements at Chumuckla, Floridatown, and other areas across the panhandle.  Famous frontiersman Davy Crockett was on this expedition.  Crockett writes in his autobiography that at the village of “Chumuckly” he killed so many Indians it turned his stomach.

It was in April of 1818 when Major Youngs of the 8th US Infantry based in Fort Crawford at present day East Brewton, AL set out on the Escambia River for Pensacola.  His goal was to attack an encampment of Creek refugees on Bayou Texar in Pensacola.  During the day when the men were away from the camp, Major Youngs’ soldiers attacked the camp of women and children.  Some eight women and all the children were massacred.

May of 1818 Andrew Jackson captured Pensacola for a second time searching for hostile Creeks.  Three years later Spain would transfer the territory to the United States.  Thus, Florida became a US territory.

The Second Creek War broke out in 1836 in West Florida, Alabama and Georgia.  Creeks from Alabama and Georgia, refusing to be evacuated to the west, fled down into the Florida panhandles.  Attacks and skirmishes between American forces and Creeks were reported in what is now Santa Rosa County in Lumberton (present day Milton), East Bay, Blackwater Bay and Santa Rosa Sound.

Over the next decade there were various reports of run-ins with the Creeks and the settlers.  There were some attacks on the settlers.  Most involved theft of livestock as the Creeks, now in hiding, tried to survive.

In 1853 a law was passed in Florida making it “unlawful for an Indian or Indians to remain within the limits of this State, and any Indian or Indians that remain or may be found within the limits of this State shall be captured and sent West of the Mississippi provided; that the Indians and half breeds residing among the whites shall not be included in the provisions of this section.”  Ignoring the exemption provision of this statute many Floridians, both Indians and whites, thought that the intent of federal and state law was to make illegal for Indians to live in Florida.  This forced many of Indian blood to disguise their identities.  As best they could, they practiced “cultural survival on the run”.

In the mid 1900’s many Creeks living in Santa Rosa County begin assimilation into either white or black culture depending on the skin color.  They start taking on pioneer ways and gradually began hiding their Native American culture and ancestry for fear of being deported.

Archaeological excavations near Delaney Creek in Santa Rosa County, south of Chumuckla, provided evidence of Creek occupation at a colonial cabin site dated from the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s.  Creek-related pottery included Chattahoochee Brushed, Ocmulgee Fields Incised and Kasita Red-Filmed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Callaway, Colin G. The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

 Coker, William S., and Thomas D. Watson. Indian Traders of the Southeastern Spanish Borderlands: Panton, Leslie & Company and John Forbes & Company, 1783-1847. Pensacola: University of West Florida Press, 1986.

 Dysart, Jane E. “Another Road to Disappearance: Assimilation of Creek Indians in Pensacola, Florida, During the Nineteenth Century.” Florida Historical Quarterly 61 (July 1982): 37-48.

Ellisor, John Thaddeus. ‘The Second Creek War: The Unexplored Conflict.” Ph.D. dissertation. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1996.

Special thanks to Dr. Brian Rucker