Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Searching for Econchattimico's Town

By Dale Cox

Lake Seminole – One of the most significant historic sites in Jackson County lay somewhere north of Sneads along the bank of the Chattahoochee River. Tocktoethla (“River Junction”) was the last Florida home of Econchattimico, the “Red Ground King” who once battled Andrew Jackson’s army for control of Florida and became one of the few Indian chiefs ever to win a major battle in the Federal court. The exact site of his final home has never been identified.

Econchattimico left his original home at Ekanchatte, a Lower Creek town that stood on the site of today’s Neal’s Landing for more than 50 years, after it was destroyed by Colonel William McIntosh and a large force of U.S. Creek Auxiliaries in 1818. After hiding for a time in the swamps of the upper Chipola River, where he kept large herds of livestock, the chief moved back to the Chattahoochee River and settled a new town about halfway between Neal’s Landing and Sneads. He lived there until 1838 when U.S. troops led by Zachary Taylor used muskets and bayonets to force the elderly chief and his people west to the Indian Nations in what is now Oklahoma.
Upon the departure of the chief and his followers, the cabins and fields of Tocktoethla were occupied by white settlers who dubbed their new community “Indian Town.” Located near the important riverboat landing of Port Jackson, “Indian Town” remained an identifiable settlement through the time of the War Between the States, but eventually faded from local memory.
Archaeologists searched for traces of Econchattimico’s settlements during the 1940s and again in 1979-1980. They found enough shattered pieces of Creek pottery to identify general areas of Indian presence, but never found the site of the chief’s primary town.
A comparison of Colonel James Gadsden’s original survey plat and notes of the chief’s reservation with George Houston’s 1843 survey plat and notes shows that “Indian Town” or Tocktoethla was originally located in about the center of the northern half of Section 28 of Township 5 North, Range 7 West in Jackson County. Both surveys show the actual settlement site.
The site was roughly three-quarters of a mile due east of today’s Arnold Landing at the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area north of Sneads. It was completely flooded by the completion of Lake Seminole during the 1950s and no trace of the original town location remains above water.
Some areas of the original reservation assigned to Econchattimico at the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823 do remain above water. In fact, a section of today’s River Road (Highway 271) passes through the old reservation from just south of its intersection with Butler Road north for about two miles. Some of the original fields farmed by Econchattimico and his people are still in use today.
Note: If you would like to learn more about Econchattimico and the other Native Americans of Jackson County, please consider purchasing my book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. It is available in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea (downtown on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant) or online at

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The "Red Ground" Trail was an important local pathway

By Dale Cox

Campbellton – Along the north side of State Highway 2 east of Campbellton, traces of an old road can be seen winding through the woods and leading down into the swamps of Forks of the Creek. Although few drivers on the modern highway realize it, the old road bed they pass each day is what remains of the “Red Ground” Trail, one of the oldest and most important pathways in Florida.

It is impossible to know the exact age of the trail, but it was used by Native Americans long before the first settlers appeared in Jackson County. The section paralleling State Highway 2 through northern Jackson County connected the Yuchi Indian village of Chiscatalofa (“Yuchi Town”) near today’s Neal’s Landing with another Yuchi town in what is now Walton County. Since both of these towns existed by 1674, the old trail was certainly in use by that date.

The earliest known description of the path was written in 1768 by Lieutenant Ph. Pittman, the Assistant Engineer of the British 15th Regiment. Assigned to the small British garrison at Fort St. Marks (today’s St. Marks, Florida), Pittman interviewed traders and others about trails and other features of the little known Florida interior. One of these was what would later become known as the “Red Ground” trail:

…From hence (i.e. the Choctawhatchee River) he must go to Chipouly going nearly east about twenty miles, the land is level being pine barren, and the road is very good quite to Ichiscafaloufa (Chiscatalofa) which is an Indian village situated on the west side of the N.W. branch of the river Apalachicola (i.e. the Chattahoochee) forty miles above the forks and twenty from Chapouly.

By the time of Pittman’s report, Chiscatalofa had been abandoned by its original inhabitants and was occupied by the Ekanachatte or “Red Ground” band of Lower Creeks. The old name soon faded away and by the time of the American Revolution, the town was known as Ekanachatte.
A British military force crossed the Red Ground Trail on its way from Pensacola to St. Augustine in 1778, reporting that it was part of a much longer path dubbed the “Pensacola-St. Augustine Road.” In fact, the old road trace near Campbellton is an important landmark of the American Revolution. It was used by British forces from 1778 until the end of the war to move troops and supplies back and forth between Pensacola and St. Augustine.

The Red Ground Trail remained an important pathway through the early settlement days of Jackson County. The first communities in the county were established on Spring Creek just north of Campbellton and on the old Ekanachatte site at Neal’s Landing. The trail provided an important means of communication between these two groups of early settlers.

Although it no longer holds significance as a route connecting Pensacola and St. Augustine, the general route of the trail is still in use today as State Highway 2.

Note: To learn more about local history, please consider my books on Jackson County. They include The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, and Two Egg, Florida. The books are available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Mission to a Jackson County Indian Village in 1771

By Dale Cox

Although they would side with the British during the American Revolution, the Native Americans of Jackson County did not immediately like the English when they took control of Florida in 1763. This was clearly demonstrated in 1771 when a party of warriors from Tomatley, a town located near present-day Sneads, attacked an English settlement in what is now southern Mississippi.

Two people were killed and several slaves - a man, a woman and their children - were carried away as prisoners. The slaves were also Native Americans and were taken back to Tomatley by their captors. John Stuart, the British agent for Indian affairs, dispatched a letter to the principal chiefs of the Lower Creeks on January 20, 1772, asking for the return of the surviving prisoners:

A Party of the Tomautley People some time ago carried away a Family of Indians Slaves, who belong to a planter on Pascagaula River, the Man they Killed or Burnt, the Woman is still among them. (Y)ou have no right to keep this Woman and Children. They were poor defenceless Slaves, could not be your Enemies being brought from a Country far to the Westward of the Mississippi, where you never go to War. I wish to Know if you the Chiefs of the Nation suffer such proceedings. There is no honor in taking and Killing a poor Slave the property of your Friends. I hope you will send your Talk that the Woman and Children may be restored to their Master.

Stuart sent his assistant David Taitt to carry the message to the Lower Creek chiefs. Taitt traveled to the primary Creek towns but was unable to obtain a response to Stuart’s demand. Accordingly, he decided to visit Tomatley in person.

He purchased a canoe for this purpose, but this plan greatly alarmed the chiefs of the Lower Creek towns and they pleaded with him not to attempt the journey. In his words, they “desired me not to go down the River in a Canoe as they alledged there was some dangerous Whirlpools in the river which they said would sink the Canoe.”

The chiefs undoubtedly were concerned that the Tomatley warriors would kill Taitt and they continued to present reasons why he should not make his journey. Finally they agreed to send two head warriors to Tomatley, but insisted that Taitt not go in person, “alledging the danger of the River and badness of the people there.”

On May 4, 1772, Taitt gave the two emissaries a letter to James Burgess, the trader at Tomatley, asking for his assistance in freeing the slaves as well as a white woman that was reported to be living in the village. He identified his messengers by name as Chimhuchi and Topahatkee. On the same day he sent a message back to Stuart relaying new information he had obtained about the attacks and the status of the prisoners:

…The Eufalla people say that they have done no wrong as the house they burnt was on their own land but this I shall talk to them about…I intended to come down the River to Tamatley and had prepared a Canoe for that purpose by permission of the Indians here, since they have raised many objections aledging that there is several dangerous whirlpools in the rivers and the people there are a set of runagadoes from every Town in the Nation…I shall send two head men from this Town to Tomatley for the two Slaves which are alive, although the Boy is sold to a Trader there, the Man and Girl they murdered at the place where they took them.

The trader referenced in Taitt’s letter was John Mealy, who lived and operated at trading post at Ocheesee Bluff.

The emissaries sent down the river by Taitt met with success and returned to the upriver towns on May 22nd. They brought with them the slave woman captured on the Pascagoula, but the young boy purchased by John Mealy had already been sent to the populated areas of Georgia. The white woman that Taitt also hoped to retrieve, however, refused to come. She had married a warrior in Tomatley and fled into the woods rather than return with the two messengers.

Note: This article is excerpted from the book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. It is available in Jackson County at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at