Baker County

Baker County is a small county on the Florida / Georgia border. Ocean Pond is in the Osceola National Forest, next to the Civil War Olustee Battlefield. Olustee is from the Creek word "Blackish Water", named after the blackish colored Ocean Pond. (Would a more correct variation be Okeelustee?)

The northern part of this county is part of the Okefenokee Swamp, which was an impenetrable hiding place for the Creeks and Seminoles. It remained so until the end of the Second Seminole War, where the Indians raided local plantations.

According to the Florida Militia muster rosters, from 22 June to 22 October 1836, a company of the 1st Regiment, 2nd Brigade of Florida Militia, under the command of Captain William B. North, conducted a search and destroy mission to search out Creeks and Seminoles in the Okefenokee Swamp area. Of their campaign they wrote, "This company was greatly distinguished for its services and exploits in seven brilliant affairs against the Creek Indians who were paddling down attempting to join the Seminoles. Killing a great many and taking prisoners on the frontier of Georgia along on the Florida and Georgia line in the country bordering on the Suwannee and St. Mary's called the Okefeenokee Swamp Bend." Not much else is known on what happened during these campaigns. (The militia force was from Columbia County.)

Fort Moniac on the St. Marys River was established in the Second Seminole War, named after David Moniac, a West Point graduate and Creek Indian who died at the Battle of Wahoo Swamp, November 21, 1836. He was related to families on both sides of the Fort Mims massacre near Mobile, and even a close relative to the Red Stick leader William Weatherford or Red Eagle. Moniac's wife is said to have been the cousin of Osceola. Fort Moniac was part of a chain of forts and military roads that surrounded the Okefenokee Swamp.

In 1838, a company of Army Dragoons went on a mission in the swamp searching for renegade Creeks and Seminoles, but didn't find a single Indian and ended in utter failure. Even Coacoochee is said to have used the area as a base of operations in 1838, after he participated in the Battle of Okeechobee a few months before. I would doubt that, because that is travelling pretty far in just a few months.

15 miles north of Sanderson is the Burned Blockhouse. This pioneer home was built in 1837, and has holes built into the walls to fire rifles from. It is listed in Florida's registry of historic sites as public, but I have not been able to check it out yet.

Union County

A couple of years ago I read a story about how the town of Lake Butler got it's name. It is described in the book: "1921-1971 History Union County, Florida; Celebrating 50th Anniversary of Union County, Florida, October 8-9-10, 1971," by the Lake Butler Woman's Club.

The book claims that around the time of the First Seminole War or shortly after, renegade Seminoles raided white settlements in southern Georgia and Northern Florida. One group of Indians encamped south of Lake Butler under Chief Bendoris was particularly a problem to the settlers. Captain Butler was sent from Georgia by andrew jackson and went through Lake City. (Which was an abandoned Indian village known as Alligator Town at that time. The town of Lake City didn't develop until years later.) A major battle was fought on the shores of Lake Butler between Chief Bendoris and Butler, and both were killed in the battle. The lake and town were named after the fallen Captain Butler.

There certainly should have a report of the battle written somewhere, especially at a time when international relations between the United States and Spain were very strained. The only mention of jackson's forces going east of the Suwannee River is when jackson's Indian allies chased the Seminoles into the Alachua area after the battle at Old Town in 1818. If there was a battle on Lake Butler, there certainly would have been other references, since this would have been a major event.

There is no record of a Captain Butler who died in North Florida around 1818 or 1819 among the list of officers serving in the U.S. Army, or Volunteer Soldiers who served from 1815 to 1858. As for an Indian chief named Bendoris, I have found no other references. Bendoris is not a normal Creek or Seminole name, and even sounds French.

Maybe the solution to the mystery of Lake Butler can be found in, "History of Alabama," by Albert James Pickett. This comprehensive and very detailed history is considered one of the best works of Alabama history since it was written about 100 years ago. Pages 618-621 describe the following:

Butler county in south central Alabama Territory was settled soon after the Creek War of 1813/14. One of the prominent settlers was Captain William Butler, a former member of the Georgia Legislature who fought in the Creek War, and commanded the local company of volunteer militia. Many of the other settlers were from Georgia as well. In March 1818 (the same time as the First Seminole War) Indian depredations in the area became very bad. On March 20, 1818, a party under Captain Butler were ambushed by Indians under Savannah Jack and his warriors. Three of the five in Butler's party were killed, including Butler himself, and the bodies were found horribly mutilated the next day.

These two stories have just too many similarities to make any historian suspicious: Both involve a Captain Butler from Georgia, who had served under jackson, and who was killed by Indians during the time of the First Seminole War while responding to reports of Indian attacks in the area. The Alabama story is documented, but the Lake Butler one is not.

How did the Alabama story become local folklore in Florida? Probably because some of the early residents of the Lake Butler area were themselves from Georgia. The Driggers family had served in the Creek War under the Georgia militia and later became one of the first families to settle Lake Butler. It is likely that they knew Butler and of his death. Maybe they passed on the story, which got confused as taking place in Florida.

The local residents of Lake Butler now admit that this is probably what happened. As with all history, there is a lot of folklore that has a basis in fact. Sometimes the false information is believe instead of what really happened.

A Second Seminole War outpost was established along the Santa Fe River, and there was a Spanish mission two miles from that site.

Other Second Seminole War Forts: Fort Ward on Olustee Creek & Fort Call near Dukes.

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