The Indians of North Florida

The Ayers Family: Catawba Migration to Florida

The Ayers Family

During the French and Indian War, the Catawba Indians in South Carolina began adopting the English Military titles of “General, Colonel, Captain” etc to describe their tribal leaders and social ranks within the tribe. Many Catawba were already adopting English alongside their Catawba names. Some of these military titles became proper names eventually, for some individuals. In records of the French and Indian War was the name of “Colonel Ayers”, he is recorded as the leader of a group of 27 Catawba warriors on an expedition against Fort Duquesne. Ayers became Chief of the Catawba after the death of King Hagler in 1763. In 1764 Chief “General Ayers” secured a treaty for the Catawba people that allotted them reservation lands totaling 144,000 acres in present day counties of Lancaster, York, and Chester, South Carolina.

In the 1750’s there were recorded a total of 6 Catawba towns, including Newtown, Peedee, Carrow (or Saraw) Sugar Town, Nuestee, and Nawsaw. Catawba Indian agent Hutchison wrote in 1782:

“…A number of Indians had it in view to go and live among the Cherokee, who had offered them land, and proposed to aid them in building houses, but the aged among them were averse to removal… At the time I am speaking of these men (General Scott, General Ayers, and General Harris) were old, and would not consent to remove.”

The enlistment records of Captain Thomas Drennan’s Unit of Catawba Indians in the Revolutionary War, 1783 shows:

-William “Billy” Williams                -Jacob Scott  -Billy Scott                     

                          -John Eayrs (Ayers)

-James Eayrs (Ayers)       -Jacob Eayrs (Ayers)-Little Stephens                 

The Revolutionary War Catawba Indian service list (no officer voucher) in 1784 shows:

          -Jacob Scott                                  -Jacob Eayers 

-John Scott            -Little Stephens                  -William “Billy” Williams

             -Billy Scott                                     -Mosy Ayres  

-Colonel John Eayres                                         -William Billy Eayres

In 1826, the Catawba Nation occupied only two villages, Newtown on the York County side of the Catawba River, and Turkey Head on the Lancaster side. On June 16, 1826 General Jacob Ayres, Chief of the Catawba’s (he succeeded General Jacob Scott as such) signed a lease for 208 acres of the Catawba Reservation lands lying north of the Old Trading Road. Those who signed the writ, in addition to the General, were Colonel Lewis Canty, Captain John Ayres, Major Thomas Brown, and Lieutenant Jessie Ayres.

In 1837, Catawba Chief General William Harris signed a lease for some of the last remaining Catawba Reservation lands over to a white settler. The headmen who co-signed for this lease were Major Sam Scott, Captain Edward Ayers, and lieutenant Lewis Stevens. (Captain John Ayers had already moved to north Florida at this time, there being little room left on the Catawba reservation. He served under Stephens Richards as a “friendly Indian” from 1837 to 1845, scouting against hostile Creek and Seminole Indians resisting the federal government’s efforts to resettle them west of the Mississippi River in the Indian Territory.)

 On March 13 1840 at Nations Ford on the Catawba River, the Leaders of the Catawba signed a treaty that ceded their South Carolina reservation lands that remained in exchange for money to buy lands in Haywood County, North Carolina, among the Cherokee. This treaty was signed by James Kegg, John Joe, Philip Kegg, Allen Harris, David Harris, William George, and Samuel Scott. Captain John Ayers was not a party to this treaty as he was serving with Stephen Richards in Florida against the Seminoles.

Soon after the treaty was signed, the Catawba began moving to the lands they were trying to purchase in North Carolina, but on arriving they found that North Carolina refused their purchase of land. Finding themselves in a difficult situation, they began to contemplate removing to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi. Throughout the many years since contact with the colonists, and then the Americans, individuals Catawba and small groups had been leaving the reservation for the west, and south, seeking opportunity in other areas.

In February of1847, after receiving news that the Chickasaw Nation would accept them, thirty Catawba sent a petition to the Commissioner on Indian Affairs entitled “A Petition of Catawba Indians of North Carolina Desiring Assistance to Remove to the West”.  Signatories to this petition were:



-John Scott                 -Rosa Ayres        -Lewis Stevens          -Samuel Scott

        -Thomas Stevens             -Mary Ayres

-Margaret Ayres           -Sally Ayres             -Julia Ann Ayres


On October 4, 1848 the landless North Carolina Catawba’s wrote a letter this time to President James Polk, requesting formal assistance in removing to Indian Territory with the Chickasaw. Signing this letter to the president were:

-Lewis Stevens,                 -John Scott              -Thomas Stevens

               -Jimmy Ayres                        -Mary Ayres

-Margaret Ayres            -Betsy Ayres                     -Esther Scott

                   -Rosa Ayres                     - Harriet Stevens

Receiving no financial assistance from this endeavor, they returned to South Carolina and purchased 800 acres in their original county, Some of those who had left did not return to South Carolina though. In 1872, a congressman from Georgia petitioned the Indian Office for assistance in removing 84 Catawba residing in Granvilee County, Georgia.

In 1853 a band of 18 Catawba were reported wandering near Stockton Alabama having traveled there from north Florida. Some Catawba actually made it to Indian Territory, because in 1853 13 Catawba were adopted into citizenship by the Choctaw National Council. The Catawba adopted were:

            -Betsy Ayers               -Julian Ayers                    - Mary Ayers

                        -Saphronia Ayers                     -Sally Ayers


When the Civil War erupted many Catawba fought for the confederacy. Enlisting in the 17th South Carolina Infantry Regiment were the following Catawba men:

-Jefferson F Ayers                    -John Scott

                        - William Canty                       -Alexander Timms

The name of John Ayrs appears on the 1830 census of Greenville District, South Carolina. In 1849 the Catawba Roll lists the following Catawba residing in Greenville district:


-Franklin Canty age 23-John Scott age 23-John Brown age 12

-David Harris age 40-Billy Brown age 20

2 male children under age 10


-Polly Ayers age 35              -Betsy Mush age 18             -Elizabeth Canty age 23

               -Patsy George age 30             -Jane Ayers age 18

-Esther Brown age 28               -Jinny Joe age 43

           -Polly Redhead age 40                      -Mary George age 18

-Betsy Hart age 26               -Peggy Canty age 20

6 female children under age 10

In 1854 the Catawba Roll shows:

-Jefferson Ayers age 14        -John Scott age 28             -Polly Ayers age 40

Some Records we have relating to Catawba families who migrated to Florida and became part of the Cheraw Indians of North Florida Tribe are a grave marker at Whitfield Cemetery that reads;

Captain John Ayers…born 1791… Seminole Wars

No members of the Ayers family appear on Jackson County tax records prior to 1838, as they were still in the Catawba Nation. In 1840 on page 190 of the Jackson County census the name of William Aires appears.

The name of John Ayrs (age 59…Blacksmith…born 1791 in South Carolina) along with his wife “Arilla” (age 34…born 1816 in Georgia) appear on the 1850 census of Ocheesee District in Calhoun County Florida alongside of William “billy” Williams, Ishmael Ayres, Joseph Scott, Mary Scott, Jacob Scott, Absolom Scott, Alexander Stephens( married to Mary Ann Scott), Franise “Frank” Hill (Married to Elizabeth Scott). These two being the same couple who would be prosecuted in 1862 in Calhoun County court, Frank Hill would be charged with “Fornication with a Mulatto”, the case being dismissed once it was found that Elizabeth Scott was not a “Mulatto” under the meaning of Mulatto in the law of the time (being one quarter or more Negro).

The name Aurelia (Arilla) Ayers (age 44…born 1816 in Georgia) appears on page 111 of the Ocheesee district, Calhoun County Florida census alongside James Stephens, Alitha (Ayers) Cutts, and William Ayers (born 1819 in South Carolina). Arilla Ayers oldest child, John Ayers Jr. is listed as born in Florida in 1838. Members of the Scott and Hill families, as well as Ishmael Ayers, appear in Calhoun County at Scotts Ferry, (a bit further down the Apalachicola River valley on a small feeder waterway called the Chipola River near the junction of the two waterways), by 1860.

Florida Civil War Confederate Service Records of the Ayers family:

Ayers, John-born 1839 Florida; married Seania Burnam on 9-11-1862;died 12-16-1862 in Liberty County; enlisted in the 4th Infantry on 5-10-1861 in Jackson County; absent on furlough since 2-27-1862

Ayers, Asa-born 1-9-1846 in Calhoun County; married Sarah Francis Richards on 8-19-1886; died 2-6-1906. Claimed to have served in the 10th Infantry Company F, but not found on rolls of unit (so far)

Ayers, David S.- born 1840 Florida; served in Calhoun Rangers prior to enlisting in the 5th Florida Infantry  Company H in 1862 at Rico’s Bluff. Mortally wounded 7-2-1863 at Gettysburg.

Ayers, John W. Jr.- born 1837 in Florida; served in Calhoun Rangers prior enlisting in the 5th Florida Infantry Company H in 1862 at Rico’s Bluff. Wounded in the foot  in June 1864, deserted to the Union forces inNovember 1864. His father was John Ayers Sr. a descendent stated that John Ayers Sr. died at Rock Bluff, Florida in Liberty County, Florida. He was known as “Captain John” and served in the Seminole War as a scout.

Ayers, Solomon- born in Florida in 1840;served in the Calhoun Rangers prior to enlisting in the 5th Florida Infantry Company H in 1862 at Rico’s Bluff. Died of typhoid 2-9-1863 at Florida Hospital.

Ayers, Thomas- born 1840 in Blountstown in Calhoun County; married Emily Marshall on 3-31-1889; served in Calhoun Rangers prior to enlisting in the 5th Florida Infantry  Company H in 1862 at Rico’s Bluff. He was captured 4-6-1865 at Farmville Virginia and released on Oath of Loyalty 6-24-1865 at Newport News, Virginia. Described as 5’10” with grey eyes, fair skin, and light hair.