During the 1700's, Euchee Indians moved into
the area and lived around Bruce Creek & Choctawhatchee Bay. Scottish
settlers moved into the area soon after and befriended the Euchees. Legend
says that the Euchee came from out west; their language is distinct and
not related to the Muskogee language group.
The Indians knew a lot about conservation,
and the settlers were eager to learn their ways. The Euchee taught them
how to use control burns, but not too much, so there would be many wild
berries and fruit to feed the animals. The farmers learned to grow their
crops in a way that would hold and conserve water. Hunting had its
importance also. When hunting deer, the tradition was to hunt during
certain times of the year, and not take the nursing doe with the young
ones. These people believed that they had to take care of the environment
and never be wasteful. These same practices are considered good
agricultural and forestry practices today.
The influential chief in the area was
Timpoochee Kinnard, or Sam Story. He was a great friend to Colonel Neill
McKinnon, the influential Scottish settler in the area. Sam Story's son
Jim Crow took McKinnon's daughter Harriet to be his wife. Story's Landing
on Bruce Creek is where the chief had his village. (Early 1800's.)
Soon the influx of more settlers
changed the peaceful coexistence of these people. New settlers who arrived
did not respect the Euchee conservation methods. These newcomers burned the
land, and hunted the deer out of season. Sam Story was horrified to hear of
a doe shot with her young ones while nursing. Story, a man of peace, finally
tired of all the conflict and decided to move his people far away from all
the bad and wasteful people.
Chief Sam Story notified his
Scottish friends that he was about to embark upon a journey to seek out a
new homeland for his people. In 1832 he put his son Jim Crow in charge of
the tribe, and left with five other warriors and one of his sons. Their
journey led to the East Coast of Florida, and then down into the Everglades.
It was a very long time until they returned, and the people had feared that
the chief had died. They returned saying that they found no land as pleasing
as the Choctawhatchee Bay area, but had made up their mind to move anyway.
Chief Sam Story was very ill because of the hardships of the journey.
Sam Story gathered up his
people. He was exhausted and very sick, but still prepared his tribe for the
move. When Jim Crow's wife Hattie and her infant son decided to stay with
their Scottish relatives, Sam made arrangements for them to be taken care of
by her white family. Sam died shortly after and was buried in the ground
with great honor and respect by white and red alike.
Jim Crow prepared the remaining
Euchee for their exodus. The tribe may have had as many as 500 people. They
organized canoes and sailboats and sailed until they were out of sight.
There is no written account of what ever happened to them, but it is said
that they settled in the Everglades. It is believed that they eventually
became part of the Seminoles. One large band under Euchee Billy lived at
Spring Garden in Volusia County.
Around the end of the 19th
century, the state of Florida decided to have an Indian representative from
Dade County to represent the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Although the Indians
didn't get a chance to have a voting member, they still sent a
representative. This delegate claimed to be the grandson of Sam Story, and
the son of Sleeping Fire, who was Sam's youngest son.
In the fall of 1835 and into
1836, the Second Creek War in Alabama reached down into this county as Creek
Indians raided plantations and homesteads in the area.
A Creek raiding party attacked
one homestead and killed all the family except the daughter, who was left
for dead. The next homestead they went to had heard about the attack, and
were prepared to defend themselves. The warriors could not overtake the
homestead and left.
A hunting party of local
settlers found signs of the Creek warriors in the area. The next morning
they were attacked, with three killed and two who escaped at a nearby
stream. A local militia force was formed and pursued the raiders. They
fought at what is now called Battle Creek, and captured or killed all the
Creek warriors including a few women and children. Those not killed were
Soon after another battle
between the local militia and Creek warriors took place at Battle Bay. This
skirmish lasted for several days with no advancements on either side.
Finally, the militia surrounded and captured the Creeks, and sent them to
Pensacola to be shipped west.
Before the skirmish at Battle
Bay, the Creeks controlled much of the county. The settlers believed that
the Creeks had trade and communication with the Seminoles further south.
After the war ended, there were
several Creek bands that remained in the area. One fierce warrior of large
stature was Old Joe, and his band would sometimes raid the local homesteads
for food and supplies. This came to an end when Old Joe was killed near St.
Andrew's Bay in 1849. (See Bay County.)
There is one amusing story from
the time of the Second Seminole War:
One of the local Scottish
families had a relative over for a visit. During supper that evening, they
were having a loud and happy conversation, but all in Gaelic, the native
language of Scotland. They were screaming with laughter as they were
mimicking the local Creek/Seminole dialect.
A passerby chanced to hear part
of their conversation. But, all he heard was screaming, and words he didn't
understand. To him, it sounded like the local family was being massacred by
Indians. He fled in panic and roused the local militia.
Very soon, the local militia
arrived and stormed the homestead. The family was very surprised to find an
armed militia suddenly on their property. The militia, expecting to find a
horrible sight of scalped homesteaders, was embarrassed to find a normal
dinner party instead.