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 http://www.amazon.com/.

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