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How Racepond Got Its Name

Excerpt from "Queen of the Okefenokee"

By Lois Barefoot Mays

In the spring of 1838, the government acted to protect the settlers by building a ring of forts around the Okefenokee, staffed by local militia units and U.S. Army troops. Fort Henderson (now called Traders Hill) was built on the banks of the St. Mary's River, and was the most important of these early military outposts. Most of the other forts were smaller blockhouses, constructed of thick wooden walls with slits for shooting rifles. The forts became a refuge for the settlers when they were under attack, and served as a staging ground for the soldiers as they pursued the Indians, The two largest forts, located at Traders Hill and Fargo, housed several hundred soldiers.

Fort Mudge was a small, temporary installation, built near the entrance to Cowhouse Island.  Due to the growing number of brutal massacres, scalpings and other atrocities, the government dispatched seven additional soldiers from the US Army Dragoons to join the militia men at Fort Mudge...

The summer of 1837 was a season of brutal attacks on the settlers.  Just before dawn on a Sunday morning in July, only three miles from the nearest fort, the family of Maxey Wildes was attacked at their homestead, and nine family members were brutally murdered.  Reports of the atrocities quickly made their way to the Georgia capitol in Milledgeville, where the gruesome tales shocked the state's leaders.  Within days of the terrible incident, Governor Gilmer dispatched five additional companies of militia, and placed them under the command of Colonel Hilliard, of Ware County.

On uneventful days when there wasn't much else to do, the men entertained themselves and exercised their horses with races. They created an impromptu race track along the edge of a nearby cypress pond, and horse racing became their favorite pastime. The air was often filled with the sounds of hoof beats and the shouts of soldiers cheering their horses across the finish line. The site became known as "Race Pond."

In August, 1938, there was another bloody attack on a wagon train traveling near Fort Mudge.

"The Indians killed one and wounded two US Dragoons ... thirteen miles from Centerville. These dragoons formed an escort to a wagon train returning empty to Traders Hill. Nearly all the mules ... were killed in the harness ... the number of Indians was fifty or sixty."

Soon afterward, however, the attacks subsided.  Major Gustavus Loomis, Commander of Federal Troops, Fort Henderson reported: 

"September 21, 1838

Major Hilliard has been encamped near Fort Mudge ... scouting and making excursions in every direction, endeavoring with zeal, diligence and ability to discover the foe, but cannot find any fresh signs."

By the end of December, 1838, it was apparent that the Seminoles had abandoned their hideouts in the Okefenokee and moved south into Florida. With the threat of attack over, the militia unit was released."

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