The Indians of North Florida

Subtitle

Our History chapter 3

Chapter 3 “A Company of Friendly Indians”

The Florida Frontier

 

  The previous two chapters discussed the overall state of the remnant eastern-Siouan/Cheraw people in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s, and the racial climate they had to endure daily. In turning our attention to the history of the immigrant Cheraw-Catawba Indian community of northwest Florida, we must address their ancestral families, and their tribal origins. The majority of the family groups who migrated into Florida in the 1820’s, had previously maintained residence on the dwindling Catawba reservation lands in northwestern South Carolina. By the time of the Florida migration, the majority of the reservation lands had been leased to white farmers, and the Catawba were surviving economically by the collection of lease payments and pottery sales. The lack of land to live on, and the inability of the government of South Carolina to collect the white settlers’ lease payments, caused many Catawba families to migrate outside the Carolinas, many going south, others to the west.  The core of the Catawba families who settled into Florida bore the surnames of the major early Catawba families, Ayers, Brown, Scott & Stephens. Jacob Scott, Joseph Scott, & Absalom Scott were direct familial connections to the Catawba reservation, and Isham Scott (possibly a cousin to the former three) had connections to the Catawba-Siouan Indians on the Gingaskin land in Northampton, Virginia. Richard Jeffries, also a core member of the Florida Catawba, was the son of Silvia Scott and Andrew ‘Drury’ Jeffries (grandfather of Parker Jeffries mentioned later) who also had ties to the Catawba in Northampton. Jeffreys/Jeffries descendants have been identified as descendant of the Catawba tribe in many different places, and in different eras. By 1842 several members of the Jeffries family had migrated to Greene County, Ohio, where Parker Jeffries filed a Supreme Court case after he was denied the right to vote. The jury found

 

 that the plaintiff is of the Indian race, the illegitimate son of a white man and a woman of the Indian race, and that he has not more than one fourth of the Indian race in his veins.” 

 

 R.F. Dill, a Greene County, Ohio historian, published in 1881 a compilation of short biographies of leading Greene County residents. Here he mentioned

 

 James Jeffreys…son of Silas and Susan Jeffreys…Silas was a descendant of the Catawba Tribe of Indians.” And also mentioned Mason Jeffreys…son of Uriah and Caroline Jeffreys…Uriah was a descendant of the Tribe of Catawba Indians.”

 

Over ten years later, and hundreds of miles to the south, another document of Jeffreys Catawba descendancy arises. In 1881 Dr Joseph McDowell, of Fairmont, Georgia filed a petition with the U.S. Senate and the Indian Office asking for

 

Catawba Indians, and 81 in numberThe report stated thatWilliam Guy, of Granville, GA (sic NC), and Simon Jeffries, of Bellville, VA, Catawba Indians, served five years in the Army (Rev War) and were honorably discharged, and these people are their descendants.”

 

 The fact that Catawba families had migrated into northwest Florida is beyond doubt. In September, 1853, a band of 18 Indians, all of whom claimed to be Catawba, was reported by Brigadier General G.B. Hall as wandering near Stockton, Alabama (near present-day Atmore, Alabama). Their leader was named Taylor, and the band represented two families: Taylor and Houser. There were four men in the group; the rest were women and children. They said they came from northwest Florida, and were en route to Arkansas, but were stranded for lack of money and had been begging corn and potatoes in Alabama where residents were anxious to get rid of them. The fate of the Houser family remains unknown, but the Taylor family established a household among the Creeks in Atmore, Alabama.    

            When the Catawba families arrived, they were not the only Indians in the area; however, plans were already underway to clean the landscape of the Creek and Seminoles residing there. By the end of 1839 the final emigration of the Creek Indians living within the treaty reserves along the Apalachicola was complete, except for several bands of hostiles still hiding in swamps, and several communities of “White Stick” Friendly Creek allowed to stay according to the stipulations of the Treaty of Fort Jackson. However, treaty, tax, and census documents record the presence of another group of Indians living in the area of the Apalachicola River. These ‘other’ Indians were obviously considered different and separate from the Creeks. After leasing out all their land on the reservation, and possibly hoping to continue a tradition of military honor, a handful of Catawba families ventured into northwest Florida. After serving as “friendly Indian” scouts against the “hostile” Creeks and Seminoles, these mixed-blood Indian families settled down into quiet lives as farmers, stock keepers, and ferry operators, just as they had previously done in South Carolina.             

            The presence of Catawba Indian families in the Apalachicola River valley can be documented as far back as 1828, when Absalom Scott, Jacob Scott and his wife Polly Harmon, Richard Jeffers, John Jones, and Joseph Scott appear on Jackson County tax records. It does not appear that any Catawba were present prior to that time, as they are not mentioned in the Treaty of Moultrie Creek of 1823. It appears that even service as scouts in the militia would not guarantee complete safety; however, and in 1837 the families of Betsy Ayers and Sally Ayers were mistaken for hostile Indians and held at Dog Island by Lt. Berrian in preparation for removal to Indian Territory. The family members of Betsy and Sally were eventually adopted into citizenship in the Choctaw Nation along with several other Catawba families.

 

 

 

1833 Tax Book of Jackson County Florida

those taxed as “free persons of color”

 

Beady…………....taxed $3.00….owned no land

Betsy………….....taxed $3.00….owned no land

Ireland, Samuel….taxed $3.00…..owned no land

Jones, John……….taxed $3.00….owned no land

Scott, Jacob………taxed $3.00………....80 acres

Scott, Absalom……taxed $3.00…………20 acres

Scott, Olive………..taxed $3.00…..owned no land

Scott, Penny…….....taxed $3.00….owned no land

Scott, Luranny……..taxed $3.00….owned no land

Ward, Terressa……..taxed $3.00….owned no land

 

 

 

1834 Tax Book of Jackson County Florida

those taxed as “free persons of color”

 

Brooks, Martin…………....taxed $.25

Jeffers, Richard………….....taxed $.25

Jones, John…………..…….taxed $.25

Maseleno, Joe…………..…taxed $,25

Scott, Jacob…………..……taxed $.25

Scott, Absalom………….…taxed $.25

Scott, Joseph……………....taxed $.25

 

      

 

            In the September 1823 treaty of Moultrie Creek, a special provision was added by the Chiefs present which read

 

“…one mile square, at the Ocheesee Bluffs, embracing Stephen Richards’ fields of said bluff, be conveyed, in simple, to said Stephen Richards.”

 

 Richards, of North Carolina, was homesteading in Calhoun County prior to 1820, and was serving as an interpreter for U.S. Indian Agent Gad Humphreys. Richards continued his work as interpreter in the May 1832 treaty of Payne’s Landing. On October 15, 1837, “Captain” Stephen Richards was empowered by the West Florida Militia to form and outfit a mounted company of Indians for service against hostile Creeks and Seminoles.

Most of the recruits for this Company were Creek Indians from the newly created Apalachicola reservations, yet there are many persons appearing on the Company roll that bore English names and were from such areas as North Carolina and Virginia.

 

Captain Stephen Richards’ Company of Friendly Indians – Mounted Florida Militia

Enlisted 1837 at Walker’s Town, Jackson County, Florida

  Amotto                              Tom Fobby                                 Madison                              Sledge

  J.H. Bison                         Fo-load-ree                                 Moses Manning                 Sumpkai

  Black Billy                        Friday                                         John Mealey                       Tailor

  Black John                         Anthony Garshaw                      John Newcommer              Te-pikie

  Bob                                    William Gay                               Nit-ti-e                               Tomma

  Samuel Bray                      J.D. Gill                                      No-co-ceola                       Old Tommy

  William Brown                  William Goodrum                      Oak-kos-kee                       To-  or Captain Billy

  Martin Caseboury              Hawkins                                     George Perryman                Colonel Toney

  Gilbert Chermichael           Heischa                                      Thomas Perryman              To-tour  or Capt. Billy

  Davy Chopka                      Jake                                            Ponna                                 Towny

  Johny Chopka                     Jimmy                                        James Richards Sr.             Charles Walker

  Cosi-es-a-hola                     Spanish John                             James Richards Jr.              Jim Walker

  Davy                                   Josee                                           John Richards                    John Walker

  Big Davy                             Peter Leonard                            John G. Richards                Wilsie

  U-lousa or Davy                  Lewy (killed 16 Apr. 1838)      Stephen Richards                Jackson Wood

  Eat-cot-to                            Loceo-tie                                    W. Riley                             Silas Wood

  R.B. Evans                          Chebon Louc                              Samsey                              Isaac Yellowhair

  James E. Fairley                  Samse Succo                              James Sessions

  Mr. Fobby                           Chebon Lusta                             William Simmon(s)

                                                                                                                                           

The names of William Brown, R.B. Evans, James E. Farley, and John Newcommer are particularly interesting. Later censuses would later identify these individuals as being born in either South Carolina or Virginia, and James Farley was identified as “Indian” after he later moved to Georgia. A “Captain Newcomer” signed a 1753 letter along with the famous Catawba King Hagler, and Indian Trader John Evans was mentioned as having a

 half-breed son among the Catawba Nation” in 1733.  

            When the Creek Indians agreed to emigrate in 1838 and 1839, Captain Stephen Richards lost the majority of his Indian recruits; however, it is apparent that there were Indians still residing in the area that Richards could rely on for support. A military report from 1844 (5 years after the last band of Creeks had immigrated to Indian Territory) reveals that, not only were roving groups of hostile Creeks still a real threat, but that there still remained in the area a group of Indians from whom Richards could recruit:

 

              “Captain Stephen Richards and a company of friendly Indians dispatched to search for renegade Indians that attacked passengers of Henry A. Nunes’ barge at Phillips’ Inlet.”

 

            Even though the Catawba were willing to shed the blood of their own race to protect their white benefactors, this proved to not guarantee their own personal protection, even from the very people they had tried to protect. Joseph Scott had been living in the area of Calhoun County since at least 1834, when he first appears on tax books as a ‘free male of color’. The household of Joe Scott was the only home headed by a free person of color documented on the 1840 census of Calhoun County where he was listed as between 51 and 60 years of age. It appears that Joe was a respected and well-known leader of his people then, but still even that position and title was not enough to save his life. In 1846, Old Chief Joe, a well-known Indian Chief..” was stabbed in the head by a white man in an altercation over a roll of calico cloth. Chief Joe’s son (probably the younger Joe Scott who appears on the 1850 census) was present and witnessed his father fall. According to the 1846 newspaper account, Old Chief Joe called out to his son Thwatka which is most certainly a variant or mispronunciation of the Siouan phrase Thwalka, which translates to “he has killed me.” The area that Old Chief Joe was killed appears on an 1842 map of north-west Florida as “Dead Lakes”, the name of this area of lakes and swamps is undoubtedly a reference to the numerous dead cypress trees that naturally fill the lakes and streams of this area. Cheraw families continued to live in this area. 

  The violent death of the beloved Chief Joe obviously sent ripples of fear through the local Catawba families and they seem to have temporarily abandoned their habits of wandering the area hunting and fishing. On the 1850 Federal census the Catawba are recorded as living in a tightly grouped settlement on the Ocheesee district (north-west area of Calhoun County) property of their white benefactor, Captain Richards. This fear was not long standing, however, and the Catawba gradually returned to their custom of having hunting and fishing camps. The families of Thomas Ayers, Susan Smith, James Martin and Malachi Scott are recorded as doing just that on the 1880 census of southern Calhoun County. As stated earlier, the 1850 Federal census shows the Ayers, Brown, Scott, Quinn, Stephens, and Hill Catawba families settled on the Richards’ property at the Ocheesee Bluffs near the Apalachicola River. This was also near the Gregory House and Hotel, a popular stopping point at Ocheesee Landing for river traffic. In 1848 (nine years after the Creeks had emigrated) a Frenchman visiting the Gregory House sketched and painted a group of Indians and Native structures he titled Indian Village on the Apalachicola.”

  

 

1850 Federal Census of Calhoun County  - 5th Division

household               name:                            age    sex      race                    occupation:                         born in:

 

    56                     Ayers,Ishmael                   46      m                                                                             SC

                                “  “  ,Abigail                  50       f                                                                              SC

                                “  “ ,James                      22      m                                                                            GA

                                “  “ ,Thomas                   14      m                                                                             SC

                                “  “ ,John                         13     m                                                                             GA

                                “  “ ,Solomon                  11     m                                                                             GA

                                “  “ ,Ishmael                     8      m                                                                             GA

 

    57                      Hall, David S.                   23      m                                                                            ALA

                                “   , Rebeck                     22      f                                                                              GA

                                “   , Susan                        7        f                                                                             ALA

                                “   , Amlin                       6        m                                                                            ALA

                                “   , Thomas                     1       m                                                                             FL

 

    58                        Scott, Joseph                   38      m       M                                                                 GA

                                “    “, Mary                      35      f         M                                                                GA

                                Gray, Michal                   34      m                                                                           Ireland

 

    59                        Quinn, Joseph                 30      m       M                                                                 SC

                                Jones, Eliza                     28      f         M                                                                GA

                                “      “, Susan                    5       f         M                                                                 FL

                                “      “, Delila                    1       f         M                                                                 FL

 

    60                        Stafford, Joseph              33      m                                                                           VA

                                “          “, Mary                22      f                                                                             ALA

 

    61                       Stafford, William             53      m                                                                           GA

 

    62                       Scott, Mary                      30      f        M                                                                 GA

                               “     “, John                       20      m      M                                                                 FL

 

    63                       Scott, Jacob                      53      m                                      Smith                           SC

                               “      “, Appa                     45       f                                                                           SC

                               “      “, James                    16       m                                                                         GA

                               “      “, Nancy                    14       f                                                                          GA

                               “      “, Luzinia                  12       f                                                                          GA

                               “      “, Lewis W.               10      m                                                                         GA

                               “      “, Jacob                      9       m                                                                          ALA

                               “      “, Henrietta                8        f                                                                           ALA

                               “      “, Susanna                  7        f                                                                           ALA

                               “      “, Lewisain                6         f                                                                           ALA

                               “      “, Malvin                   1         m                                                                          FL

 

     64                      Scott, Isham                      69       m        M                                                              NC

                               “     “, Millia                     46        f         M                                                               SC

 

   

1850 Federal Census of Calhoun County (cont)

 

      65                       Loftis, Paskel                           45        m                                                                 Tenn

                                 Jones, Olive                             46         f             M                                                  GA

                                 Jones, Lark                              24         m           M                                                   FL

                                 Jones, Elizar Ann                     5          f             M                                                   FL

                                 Jones, Thomas                         2           m           M                                                   FL

 

      66                       Scott, Abslom                          60         m           M                                                   NC

                                 “     “, Gillatia                          38         f                                                                    NC

                                 “     “, Jacob                             17         m           M                                                    FL

                                 “     “, Amanda                         14         f            M                                                    FL

                                 “     “, Mary Ann                      11         f            M                                                   GA

                                 “     “, John T.                           9          m           M                                                   GA

                                 “     “, Samuel                           5          m           M                                                    FL

                                 “     “, Henry                             2          m           M                                                    FL

                                 Stevens, Alexander                  20        m           M                                                     FL

 

      67                       Butts, James                             26         m                                                                 ALA

                                 Jones, Mary Ann                      20         f            M                                                   GA

 

      68                       Hill, Francis A.                        38          m                                                                ALA

                                 “   “, Dicy                                 28          f                                                                  SC

                                 “   “, Marthey                            6           f                                                                 GA

                                 “   “, Ann                                   2           f                                                                 FL

 

      69                       Scott, Jacob                              38          m           M                                                 GA

                                 “     “, Lewrania                        76          f            M                                                  NC

                                 “     “, John M.                          16          m           M                                                  FL

 

      70                       Castleberry, Sarah Ann            23           f                                                                GA

                                 Brown, Emaline                        7            f                                                                FL

                                 Castleberry, Lewranny            11/12       f                                                                FL

 

  Just across the Apalachicola River, in then far southern Gadsden County, another portion of the Catawba had settled temporarily on the Forbes Purchase lands. Documented on this census was a repeat of William Stafford’s household, Henry Mainer, Tom Scott who had married Sarah Larkins, Frances Larkins, and William “Billie” Scott:

 

1850 Federal Census of Gadsden County – Southern District

 

     618                     Stafford, William                    58      m                                    Farmer                         SC

                                “          “, Mary                        52      f                                                                          SC

                                “          “, Frances                    26      f                                                                          SC

                                “          “, William                   20       m                                   overseer                       FL

                                “          “, John                         14      m                                                                        FL

                                “          “, Ann                          10      f                                                                         FL

 

     619                     Maner, Henry                          28      m                                   Farmer                         SC

                                “       “, Sarah                           27      f                                                                         SC

                                “       “, Martin                          3       m                                                                     TEXAS

 

     620                     Scott, Thomas                          22      m                                  Farmer                         SC

                                “      “, Sarah                            17       f                                                                        FL

 

     621                     Larkins, Frances                      38       f                                                                       NC

                                 “        “, William                     19       m                                 Farmer                         NC

 

     622                      Scott, William                         24       m                                 Farmer                        SC

                                 “     “, Martha                          17       f                                                                      SC

                                 “     “, John                              15       m                                                                    SC

                                 “     “, Henry                           9/12    m                                                                     FL

 

 

An interesting event occurred just seven years after the recording of this census. In 1857 James Butts (head of household number 67) was called before the Jackson County Court to answer to charges of “Adultery & fornication with a free mulatto”. Butts challenged the charge based on the fact that the female he had been co-habitating with did not fit the legal definition of a ‘mulatto’. Several white witnesses were called including Captain Stephen Richards and John Chason, and the Judge dismissed the charge.  The awarding of military service land grants in the mid-1850’s resulted in a split of the original Ocheesee Bluffs Catawba settlement. Jacob Scott chose 160 acres at the site where old Joe Scott had lived in southern Calhoun County on the Chipola River. Here Jacob constructed a ferry service and mill. This settlement became known as “Scott’s Ferry”, as it is still known today.

Absalom Scott lived briefly at Scott’s Ferry until a close friend, John Chason, acting as Absalom’s land agent, was able to secure him an 80 acre tract in south-western Jackson County at the headwaters of the Chipola. The Ayers family would chose land in mid-western Calhoun County near the banks of the Chipola at a site near present-day Clarksville. Having less Indian blood than the other immigrant Catawba families, The Ayers’ did not maintain an identifiable separate community and continued to out-marry with local white families. Although they did not continue to be identified as part of the Cheraw-Catawba community, the more socially adept members of the Ayers family did speak out for them on several occasions, and many of the Ayers descendants still speak with pride about their Indian ancestors.