|Panton, Leslie and Company, established in 1783 and
headquartered in Pensacola from 1785-1830, was the Sears and Roebuck of its day, dealing
in a variety of goods and servicing over a large geographical area. The company had
trading posts scattered as far north as Memphis (then known as Chickasaw Bluffs) and as
far west as New Orleans, including posts at Mobile and at several locations in Florida,
the Bahamas, and in the Caribbean.
Panton and John Leslie were merchants from Scotland who emigrated to Georgia. When the
American Revolution heated up, theybeing Loyalistsrelocated to St. Augustine
in British East Florida. Accompanying them were other Scots including Thomas Forbes,
William Alexander, and Charles McLatchy. They were all experienced merchants involved in
the Indian trade, and together they formed Panton, Leslie and Company (known as John
Forbes and Company after 1805).
By the time the Company received its license in 1783, British
East Florida had again become Spanish East Florida, and in 1784 we find John and Thomas
Forbes, William Alexander, and William Panton joining other loyalists in the Bahamas. In
1785, however, William Panton and John Forbes relocated again to Pensacola and established
the Companys headquarters there.
By 1795 the company had a monopoly on the Indian trade from
present day Memphis to St. Augustine, possibly due to the fact that one of their Pensacola
stockholders (or partners according to one source) was Alexander McGillivray, chief of the
Creeks. They also traded with the Seminoles, Upper and Lower Creeks, Chickasaws, Choctaws,
Cherokees, and other Indian tribes. Even though under Spanish domination, many of these
tribes preferred British goods, and the Panton-Leslie Scots were favored traders. As a
result, by the late 1700s, the Company had annual business activities that exceeded
In 1795, when the northern boundary for the Floridas moved up
to the 31st parallel, Natchez and St. Stephens in Alabama became part of the United
States, making it harder for the Company to collect money owed to it by those residing in
that area, especially the Indians. However, through negotiations between the Company and
the U.S. Government, arrangements were made for such debts to be paid through the transfer
of property rights. As a result, Panton-Leslie was able to acquire, at one time, over
three million acres of land.