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,
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.