Washington County

Early Spanish described the local Indians hunting buffalo in the area. Many tribes conducted their hunts from this area between the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee. This area was probably a major trade route, and had been so since ancient times. One tribe the Spanish met, the Chatot, was probably related to the ancient Indians who built a complex mound culture in the area.

During the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson came into the area. There was much fighting between Jackson's forces under Major Uriah Blue and the local villages of Creeks and Seminoles. In 1818, Jackson repeated his march of destroying Indian villages in the area.

After the Creeks were defeated in Alabama in 1836, they separated into small groups and moved into the Florida Panhandle. Although the Second Creek War was declared over in 1836, raids by the Creeks on local settlers continued well into the late 1840's. They were not organized into large war parties like in the past, but small bands that would use effective guerrilla tactics. The raiding parties were never large enough for the local militia to effectively find and stop them. Finally, starvation and hardship convinced the Indians to move west more than any other reason.

There were many local bands of Creeks who moved into northwest Florida that really wanted to live in peace. But they were not safe from local bands of militia, who were described as drunken and not willing to earn a hard, honest days work. There are more than one instance, mostly only stories handed down by local families and not written down, of militia soldiers killing defenseless Creek Indians taken prisoner.

On May 23, 1837 the local militia captured a group of 12 Indians on Alaqua Creek (Walton County). Only one was a warrior, and the rest were women and children. While being held prisoner, the militia soldiers shot and killed them all and mutilated the bodies. The soldiers explained that the Indians had tried to escape. There was no clear justification of the massacre, and never any formal investigation into the incident, even though it was condemned by local citizens as barbaric.

On July 7, 1837 there was a skirmish between Creek Indians and the local militia on the Shoal River. (Okaloosa County.)

One tale in the local area is that in 1840, Mrs. Jones from Econfina befriended a group of Seminoles. She brought them to her home for dinner that included peppered eggs. The spicy food probably did not set well with the Seminole digestive system, because they believed that Mrs. Jones had tried to poison them. The Indians returned about 10 days later and killed Mrs. Jones. The local settlers were in an uproar over Mrs. Jone's death from her misunderstood act of hospitality.

From recent information from one of the readers, it turns out that it may have been different. The local militia leader Stephen Richards had rounded up some Indians and stopped here on the way to Blountstown with his prisoners. Some of the prisoners escaped and later returned, and killed Mrs. Jones because she had aided Richards. (Thank you to Steven Pony Hill.)

After Colonel Worth declared the Second Seminole War over, hostilities did not cease. Two weeks after the war was declared over, Creeks killed the Perkins family near Orange Hill (Washington County) and disappeared. The wounded Perkin's son was the only survivor. The local militia searched for the Indians, but found no sign of them. It is now believed that the Indians hid around the caves and sinkholes in the area.

The death of the Perkins family put the local citizens in an uproar. A local militia unit was organized and ready to kill any Creeks they found. The citizens asked the state to fund the militia, but the state refused since the war was officially over. This didn't stop the militia from killing an Indian warrior found on the Chipola River, with his wife hanging herself in suicide on a nearby oak tree.

After 28 November 1842, the local militia was still searching for Indians in the area and still wanting revenge for the Perkins killing. A village was found on Wrights Creek (Holmes County) and taken totally by surprise; the Indians probably believing that the war and hostilities were over. The militia killed 22 Indians, taking no prisoners. There is no written record of the incident, probably to prevent any inquiry of the local militia. (Even the state would have considered this action illegal.)

Finally on January 9, 1843 a band of Creeks under Chief Pascoffer surrendered at St. Marks and were sent out west. Hard times, killings by the local militia, and starvation had forced them to give up all hope and made them surrender.

Falling Waters State Park

This interesting park has a long history of Native Floridians living in the area. Since ancient times, Native Floridians mined the clay and rock at Falling Waters State Park for paint and dyes. A 7,500-year-old spear point was found in the park, and mammoth was hunted here at the end of the ice age. In 1776, a tribe of Coosa Indians is recorded as living and farming in this area. The most interesting thing to see at this park is a waterfall. It drops down into a 100-ft. sinkhole and disappears at the bottom. We still do not know where the water travels from the hole. There are many spectacular sinkholes nearby. An early legend of Falling Waters State Park is of a spectacular sulfur fire.

During the early days of the Spanish, probably around the mid-1600's, a group of Spanish explorers and missionaries were exploring the area of the Apalachicola River. They met a group of Indians hunting on the western bank who told of a great fire like none that had ever been seen before. The Spaniards convinced the Indians to take them to this place, even though the Indians were reluctant and believed it to be evil and inhabited with bad spirits.

After about three days travel, they came near the area. The description fits very well the area around Falling Waters State Park, with many sinkholes and rolling hills in the area. The Indians stayed back, but the Spanish pressed on. They even passed through a great cloud with noxious gas, and were sick for a week afterwards.

The fire the Spanish found was spectacular and unlike anything that they had seen before. Vents and chasms would open up in the ground, spewing fire and gas. Red, burning liquid bubbled up, and burning rocks were thrown out from the middle of the burning chasms. The fire burned for days when the Spanish were in the area. Sometimes when the fire looked like it was going out, it would erupt again.

More recently, sulfur was mined in the area. In the early part of the 20th century, a pipeline was drilled near the waterfall at Falling Waters to search for oil. Natural gas was found, but no oil. The combination of sulfur and natural gas can create a very volatile mixture. It seems that there was an event like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah right here in Florida.


Other Travel Tips: