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by C.T. Trowell

Between 500 and 1000 AD, Indians of the “Weeden Island Culture” occupied most of south Georgia and northwest Florida. Their population probably reached its peak around 700 AD. Charcoal from a Weeden Island village on Cowhouse Island was dated by carbon-14 analysis; a date of 995 AD was determined. Archaeological excavations at the McKeithan site on the upper Suwannee River by the University of Florida have provided a more complete record of the life and times of the Weeden Island people.


Potsherds dating to 1300 and 1650 AD, associated with the “Lamar Culture” of Georgia, have been found at several sites, including Cowhouse Island and Bugaboo Island, but only one “Irene Culture” potsherd from Georgia coastal Indians has been reported.

During the 1600s and early 1700s, the Spanish referred to the Okefenokee Swamp as "Laguna de Oconi" or Lake of the Oconi (an Indian tribe).  In the 1620s and 1630s, the Timucuan Indians built villages in Laguna de Oconi, and Spanish priests established missions at several of the villages.  One of these missions was San Lorenzo de Ibihica, believed to have been built on the eastern edge of the Okefenokee (near Kingfisher Landing).  The Timucuans were defiant of the Spanish authorities, so Spanish troops destroyed the village in 1656.  They took many of the Indians back as laborers, and pursued fleeing natives into the Laguna de Oconi to a village called Santiago de Ocone, a Timucuan mission, believed to have been located on Floyds Island, which the troops also destroyed.  Most of the remnants of the Timucuan tribe were killed by a British raid in the early 1700s (Col. Moore's Raid).  The remaining handful fled to Cuba.”

The Seminoles settled in a few areas of the Okefenokee between 1750 and 1840, but very little archaeological evidence has been found. These people used the Swamp as a refuge. During the 1830s most of the Indians in Georgia moved to Oklahoma, but some fled into the swamps of south Georgia and Florida. Following Dade’s Massacre in Florida in December 1835, terror and violence erupted into a war that lasted until 1842, and even flared up again briefly in the 1850s.

The Creek Indians usually avoided the Swamp, based on historical accounts and the lack of artifacts characteristic of their period. In 1818 they were forced to give up their claim to south Georgia. However, a few bands continued to live in north Florida, especially along the upper St. Marys River. These lands along the river during the late 1700s and early 1800s were subjected to regular raids by thieves, Indian and white, from Florida and Georgia. These little war lords, beyond the control of the Spanish and the British, forced the construction of several forts in the area. Traders Hill was the most important of these early military posts.


Terror reigned in the Okefenokee area between 1836 and 1840. Murders by Indians, settlers and troublemakers were common.

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