History of Santa Rosa County, A King's County

by M. Luther King. Used with permission.

Who? (Aborigines - Very Important People)

We know very little of the aboriginal people of the Santa Rosa County area. They, the "Indians," seem to have had very few fixed abodes in this area. However, we do know that from the area of the headwaters of the streams arising within the "Triangle" they made seasonal migrations down those streams to obtain the fish and shellfish which were so easy to obtain near the Gulf Coast. Mounds of shells, within the area of Santa Rosa County, containing some artifacts - some pottery shards, some arrowheads, some pipes, and some other such material makes pretty convincing evidence of those seasonal migrations for fish and shellfish.

The lands around the head of the Conecuh River and just beyond was the fixed home of some of the more advanced tribes of Muscogee Creeks, and it is easy to surmise, aided by the bits of evidence that we do have, that these seasonal migrations followed the trail or road that has since become famous and is still marked where it crosses the towns that grew up along its route.

There are those who advance the theory that white men used this trail from their very first travel about this county. Those theories include those that tell us of that one who would have kept the rendezvous with Hernando de Soto, as well as those who explored for Don Tristan de Luna, and those who planted the first colony - one in the chain of "buffer" forts to separate the Spanish from the French and English claims.

Specific information concerning these aborigines of Santa Rosa County is of course scarce, but there are certain bits of information that can be pieced together. For the specific information that we have, we are indebted to Alex Hrdlicka, whose studies concern the anthropology of the aborigines of Florida.

The Timuquans, the earliest of the "Indians" in Florida, had largely disappeared before Florida became very well known to white men. They were succeeded by these others: in the Indian River area were found the Ais. Related to the Ais (perhaps really a part of the Ais Nation) were the Ulamay on the Banana River, the Gueata on the St. Lucie, and the Perucho on the headwaters of the St. Johns River. Lower down on the East Coast of Florida were the Tequesta who occupies what is now sometimes termed the "Gold Coast" and on down the Florida Keys to the point there was an intermingling with the Carribean "Indians."

Inland near Lake Okeechobee were the Mayaimi tribes. Slightly farther north on the East coast but South of the Ais country were two rather small tribes - the Jobe (in the area of Hobe Sound) and the St. Lucie. On the west coast were found the Calusas.

The Timuquan country was oft-times called Guale. Immediately west of the Timuquans were the Apalachee groups followed in turn as we moved westward by the Chatot, the Apalachicolo, the Sawokli, and the Pancocolas (Pensacolas).

The West Florida "Indians" were largely agrarian in economic practice (agriculture and grazing) and perhaps it was well that they were. For had they been as savage and warlike as the more nomadic tribes of the West then the conquest of our country might have been slowed or even stayed for a considerable length of time.

It has been said that these so-called civilized tribes were the remnants of "Indians" driven out of Mexico. If so, they were likely the remnants of a people who had over the centuries developed a civilization as high as that of many of the white nationalities. This foregoing being taken as true, they were likely of Eurasian origin anyway. Their God and many of their forms of worship were not different in any great detail from that of other people who worshipped the God whom the Israelites called Jehovah (and whom these people called Yahweh).

The Lower Creeks, who occupied this immediate territory here, had many traditions and legends handed down within their tribe, which included a message from their God to his people, when they came here to make this their home - it is reprinted here largely in the same arrangement in which I have heard it for many years:

"This is Kan-yok-sah.

Here there will be no winter; only the trees and flowers will know when the seasons change, and so long as you rule and keep my laws so it will remain.

Live here in peace, my children.

I shall live in this land with you always.

And one day I shall send my son who shall be a mighty warrior among you.

The white ones will come riding the great white birds and will persecute you and rob you and attempt to drive you from your fertile fields and hunting grounds.

But my son shall give you strength and courage and you must listen to his wisdom, for he will be very wise, and kind, and gentle."

Against this background of a gentle agrarian philosophy flanked by the seeming Judaistic religious belief of these simple children of the woods and fields came one after another of the people of Europe - a people of a different philosophy. When we come to analyze the actions of those Europeans in the light of present-day measures of liberty, justice, and equality - democracy, we might conclude that the exhibitions of civilization and enlightenment were on the side of these "denizens of the forest, field, and stream."

Some of the most interesting stories that we know are the stories of some of the individuals who were called "Indians" by those who came from the nations of Europe. It is time we gave some thought to the lives and living of some of these individuals - two somewhat contrasting of such stories will be included later within this treatise.

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One can but surmise, as others have done, about names, dates, and places in early history of Milton and Santa Rosa County. There are those who have surmised that Narvaez (Panfilo de Narvaez) discovered Santa Maria de Galvez (bay) and the penetrating points and peninsulas about October, 1528. There is than the usual evidence that they sailed within this bay and landed on of the peninsulas and points projecting into this bay. It is extremely doubtful that he used the name Pensacola, but for the territory in general he probably used the term used by the "Indians" themselves Puerta de Anchusi (Ochusee).

To this same bay, Santa Maria de Galvez, came Maldonado with a succor fleet for Soto in October, 1540, but no settlement was made nor was one intended at that time.

Some nearly twenty years later Don Tristan de Luna was commissioned by His Majesty Charles V of Spain to organize an expedition for which he, Charles V, had been petitioned by the Viceroy of Mexico and Bishop of Cuba. Their purposes were set forth for the expedition:

  • 1) to secure gold for the Emperor's treasury,
  • 2) to extend the Emperor's dominions, and
  • 3) to enlarge the membership and dominion of the Church (the Roman Catholic Church).

Likewise on August 14, 1559 de Luna cast anchor somewhere within these waters Bahia Santa Maria de Galvez. We believe that he actually anchored within what is now known as Bahia Santa Maria de Galvez, since there is such very strong evidence that he did so. We find, too, that he landed and followed a "ridge route" to the northward crossing en route the trail that had been followed by Soto some several years earlier. This would point somewhat emphatically to the fact that he used what the local settlers referred to as "The Three-Notch Trail" (not to be confused with the more widely known "Three Notch Road" in Mississippi) since it would be the only fairly logical route to follow, being the only ridge route with a minimum of streams to cross - all of the other known early trails lacked this feature or had other disadvantages. It has been well established too that de Luna had aboard some of his ships some cattle which he left en route and which became the nucleus of the later great cattle industry of this area.

De Luna's settlement failed because, mainly the greed of his followers would not let them work nor think of anything except gold; secondly, a great hurricane nearly destroyed his fleet and spoiled much of his supplies; thirdly, some of his contemporaries near to the Spanish court did not want him to be successful and thereby gain favor of the Imperial Court perhaps to their hurt, and finally, because of dissensions among his leaders.

Nonetheless, to this area must go the distinction for the first white settlement in the continental United States. Here was heard for almost three years the regular call to prayers, morning and evening, of the faithful who followed the fortunes of de Luna.

The destruction of de Luna's first colony as well as the blotting out of his hopes for further success was succeeded by a long period of quiet in this area, which was not to be broken before 1693 when Don Andre de Pes visited here. How far up the bay he came, what his purpose could have been in coming, or even how long he stayed, we do not know. However, he marks his visit by calling the whole area Santa Maria de Galvez.

Three years later, in 1696, Don Andre d' Arriola made a settlement at the mouth of the bay. It could not have been rated very high as a colony for it was peopled largely by the convicts from the other Spanish Colonies of the New World.

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It was often evident that Spain did not think very much of her Florida. It seemed to be that only when other nations cast their covetous eyes on Florida, this peninsula of sunshine and youth fountains, that the Spanish "dog in the manger" attitude was so evident. France, who based her claims to Florida on the discoveries and explorations of La Salle, began casting her eyes in this direction. It was not just chance, but rather a determined effort to offset rumors of France's determination to establish a colony on the Gulf, that decreed that Don Andres d' Arriola, for Spain, would reach Santa Maria de Galvez in 1696, three years before Lemoine de lberville (and his brothers Bienville and Sauville) in 1699. Had this order of arrival been reversed there is little doubt but that the line separating Florida from Louisiana would have been east of Perdido. As it was, since separate members of the same House of Bourbon ruled both Spain and France, a seemingly amicable agreement was reached making the Perdido River, the dividing line between French-Louisiana and Span ish-F lorida. For many years the two colonies lived at peace side-by-side and although there had been much amity and friendship between Spanish-Florida and French-Louisiana, that period like all other amicable periods, in which European nations have been principal actors, came to an abrupt end. Two French vessels brought to the French colony on April 13, 1719, the news that there had been a state of war existing between France and Spain since December of 1718. Therefore in May of 1719 the French in surprise attack captured Pensacola. It is to be understood here that the capture of the principal city carried with it the entire territory -West Florida. Also it is well to note here that the handing back and forth that went on where West Florida was concerned seemed to tend to make it sort of "fair-game" for a good many raids that were to follow of which much has been said on the one side or the other and of which more will be said here in other places.

Finally, in the same year the French by a combined land and sea attack, with the help of Canadian Colonial troops, recaptured and burned Pensacola. Five months later, February 17, 1720 by the terms of a final treaty of peace, Pensacola was presumed to be restored to the Spaniards, but it was not until January 1723 that the actual restoration was made - what there was left to restore.

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The towns of de Luna and d' Arriola successively disappeared. Governor Metamoras had begun a settlement on Santa Rosa Island. That idea was followed in the new settlement or resettlement of the Spanish. Accordingly Pensacola in 1743 is pictured as being on the island.

Tragedy struck this ill-omened city again in 1754 when a terrible hurricane destroyed most of the property and forced the people to move again, this time across the bay to approximately the present site of downtown Pensacola.

This we should remember though, throughout it all, had been the same town. It had moved, here or there, seeking a permanent location until then, in 1754, it finally found the most desirable, the most satisfactory place. To each of these locations, in turn, it had brought something of the old, until even today there is a truly cosmopolitan spirit in the old, yet new, city.

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