On July 17, 1849, while people were flocking to California for the gold rush, people in the interior of Florida were abandoning their homes in panic. Seminole/Miccosukee warriors attacked the settlement in Fort Pierce on July 12th. Five days later they raided and burned the Trading post on Paynes Creek.
You can visit the site at Paynes Creek State park and see the site of Fort Chokonikla that was built a few months later.
This started what is known as the "Panic of 1849" in Florida. Later Chief Billy Bowlegs met with Colonel Twiggs and negotiated a peace, and turned over the warriors who were guilty of killing the people in the store.
There have been a few articles written over the years, in Tequesta, and maybe also the Florida Historical Quarterly. Some of them have raised some interesting questions and speculations. We will probably never know the truth. One article speculated that Sam Jones was behind the upraising, that he thought it was a good time to strike back at the white man, but was surprised at the sudden military response, and backed down.
The same article looked at the identities of the attackers. Apparently there is conflicting stories of the identies, and the ones handed over were of a rival clan from Billy Bowlegs. It also seems strange that the attackers traveled about 100 miles in just five days in the middle of summer, when it is difficult to do so. But I don't think we will ever find out the answer.
On October 24th and 25th we will be having a living history festival and commemoration of the establishment of Fort Chokonikla at Paynes Creek State Park south of Polk County / Bartow. It is near the small community of Bowling Green off highway 17 in Hardee County. That is off the beaten track for those who stick to the interstate, but it has been one of the most enjoyable festivals I have done in the past two years. And many of the people participating and visiting the festival are from old families in the area, and related to the people involved in the Panic of 1849 and the Third Seminole War. About 10 miles down the road is the town of Fort Meade, and I can tell you about some Third Seminole War sites worth visiting in the area. (I mentioning them previously in this blog.)
Dang.. I let the date slip right past me.. nice blog Chris. There is an interesting aside to this story.. The attack happened at Col. William Russel's "plantation" where he had a little trading post. This was just north of today's City of Ft. Pierce, directly across from the Indian River Inlet, closed since the mid 1890's. His brother in law John Barker was visiting having come down from his homestead and trading post at "Barkers Bluff" a 2 1/2 acre Indian mound just south of the Sebastian River.
I have several versions that suggest that both were cheating the Indians which may have been the reason that "they" were selected for attack. Earlier in the day, the Indians had talked to Caleb Brayton and had played with and gave small gifts to the Russel children. Russel and Barker were conversing in the field when approached by the four renegade Indians. They shot both men, dropped their guns and began chase. Barker, apparently slowed by his wounds was caught and knifed to death. Russell, wounded in his arm ran for his life to the home of Captain Gattis where Brayton dressed his wound and they escaped onto the Gattis sailboat and pushed off into the river.
Much happened all at once, settlers fleeing with children and slaves to the ocean beach, Captain Gattis, Brayton and Russel collected some weapons and began to hunt for family and friends. That night, in the dark, William Russel, concerned about infection put some "antiseptic" on the wound. It turned out to be ink and had stained his arm black. Thinking it had gone septic, Russel DEMANDED that the arm be cut off.. despite objections from those around him, sooo, they cut it off..
Ft Capron was built nearly on top of the spot of the attack and was still there when the Third Seminole War began in 1855