History of Santa Rosa County, A King's County

by M. Luther King. Used with permission.



It would seem at times to one that if there has been anything that changed more often than the location of Pensacola it has been her nationality. We have noted that she has been Spanish, French, (each more than once) and then - British (also more than once). We have previously noted that Pensacola became settled in a permanent location in 1754. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, trouble would be felt in the British, French, and Spanish colonies in the Americas.

A war known by various names reached an active stage in America in 1756. This war involved Indians, French, Spanish, British, and colonial fighting forces and involved them in many and widespread bloody encounters. When it had been ended in 1763 much of America had again changed hands. Chief, in our interest, among those places that had changed hands was Pensacola and Northwest Florida.

On October 7, 1763, by Royal proclamation, certain boundaries were set forth for the recently acquired territory. The territory was divided into East Florida which embraced the peninsula north to the 310 parallel and westward to the Apalachicola River and West Florida which embraced all that territory north to the 310 parallel and westward to the Mississippi. Pensacola became the established capital of this vast territory. Too, at about this time by Royal proclamation the northern boundary was pushed to 320 28'. So not only Mobile but Natchez was brought into the province of West Florida.

In February 1764 Commodore George Johnstone of the Royal Navy became British governor of West Florida. He was successful in attracting quite a tide of settlers into West Florida. Governor Johnstone was, and proved himself, more Scotch than British. General Boquet, General Gage, and others of the British besides Johnstone left their marks on Pensacola.

Not the least among those who made their mark on this territory was Governor Peter Chester, that inimitable governor of Pensacola and West Florida. We, here, are especially interested in the administration of Governor Chester because the stability of his government attracted to the province some of the great businessmen of the time. Not the least among these (and one in which we are especially interested) was William Panton of Panton, Leslie and Company. This company was a Scotch house, a great

Panton, Leslie and Company

company of its day, with headquarters at Glasgow and London and branches in the West Indies, at Mobile, at St. Augustine, and at Pensacola. It was the Pensacola house that became the nerve center for the whole firm, and it was here that William Panton made his home.

It was also here that Panton carried on the "Old World" type intrique with the Indians in which the French- Scotch Indian-Chief Alexander McGillivray was a willing partner. They schemed together to bring the Indian trade to Pensacola. Their pack trains reached from Pensacola to the Tennessee Valley - over which route were to travel many who made their indelible imprint upon the history of Milton and Santa Rosa. Over this route, the ridge route east of the Escambia - Conecuh system, to the Hickory Ground, Little Tallassee, Huntsville, and Nashville were to pass not only McGillivray and his brothers-in-law, Durant and Milfort, but John Hunt, one of "Old Hickory's" followers whose name appears so many times in the early transactions of Santa Rosa County.

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