top of page
1793

Timeline

INDIAN WARS


  • Traders Hill Massacre of 1793

  • Racepond and the Indian Wars

  • Further Notes

  • Captain Beale's  Account

  • Letter from General Z. Taylor to the Governor of Florida

  • Wildes Massacre


TRADERS HILL INDIAN MASSACRES OF 1793

By Jack R. Mays, Charlton County, Ga. Historian


Traders Hill, on the banks of the Saint Marys River, is one of the nation’s oldest, and most historic communities. It existed as a center of commerce before the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Used by the Indians before the coming of the white man to the settlement, the Indians resented the white man’s encroachment on the river banks at Traders Hill.


Among its other attributes, the Okefenokee Swamp afforded protection, both for wildlife and for people. In 1792 it sheltered the Creek Indians from the white man. Often the Indians would come out of the great swamp, and attack white families who had settled nearby. Such an instance is described by Albert Hazen Wright in his book, “Our Georgia Frontiers”, published in 1945. At that period, the Okefenokee was spelled Okefinokee. Historic Traders Hill on the St Marys River was the focus of Wright’s story.


One fact learned from Wright’s book is the early recognition of Traders Hill as a community. Events depicted in Wright’s book occurred in 1793 in the settlement on the banks of the St. Marys River known as “Traders Hill”, a bustling river town which became Charlton County’s first seat of government in February 1854.


Wright’s research for one incident at Traders Hill was centered around the activities of James Seagrove, the U.S. Government’s Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern Department. Lake Seagrove in the Okefenokee, near the observation tower from Camp Cornelia, is named for him.


From late 1791 until 1796 Traders Hill, Coleraine and St. Marys were important centers for negotiations between the Indians and white man because of Seagrove’s visits there. Wright wrote: “The Spaniards had established a strong post on the St Marys, at a place called Newhope, twelve miles above Coleraine and four miles below Traders Hill.”


At the time of the Traders Hill incident, George Washington was the young nation’s president. Thomas Jefferson was his Secretary of State. Faced with growing Indian hostilities in the Northwest Territory, Congress passed the Militia Act which authorized the states to draft all able-bodied free white men between the ages of 18 and 45 into militia brigades.


Writing of the incident at Traders Hill, at that time a boisterous river settlement, Wright told of Indian Agent Seagrove’s attempt to get large quantities of grain from President George Washington for the Creek Indian nation in the south. Seagrove was attempting to make peace between these Indians and the white settlers of the southern region.


But, on March 17, 1793, Seagrove wrote two displeasing letters to the governor of Georgia, warning of immediate danger in the Traders Hill area.


Seagrove’s letter said, “Since I had the honor of writing you from Savannah, on the 3rd of January last, I have been on this frontier, where everything in my department appeared in perfect tranquility, and all my advices from the Creek nation promised a continuance of peace and friendship, until the 11th instant, when I received information from a friendly Indian, of a party of about thirty of the Lower Creeks being on our frontier, near Traders Hill, on the river St. Marys, and that, from what he could discover, they were bent on doing mischief.”


The letter went on to describe an event which took place on the night of March 11, 1793, when hostile Indians broke into the store of Robert Seagrove at Traders Hill, and killed John Fleming, Seagrove’s storekeeper and Daniel Moffitt, who was there attending to business. Another white man was missing.


They had robbed the store of over two thousand pounds sterling in goods. Seagrove was accosted by the Indian that had first told him of the murders. The friendly Indian told Seagrove that he had followed the murderers over thirty miles back to their nation and they had plenty of provisions and fast horses. Seagrove decided not to chase the Indians further.


Then information reached Seagrove that the Creek marauders had broken into homes at Burnt Fort and killed four people there on the Great Satilla. Seagrove gathered a posse of 23 men and proceeded to Burnt Fort.


There he found the bodies of three men and a girl, inhumanly butchered by the Indians. Seagrove and the men trailed the Indians for nearly 40 miles before giving up the chase. He had the bodies buried there and returned to Coleraine.


Seagrove then called on the Governor to establish a fort at Burnt Fort, Coleraine and at Traders Hill for the protection of the settlers. He enclosed an affidavit from Robert Brown, describing the murders at Traders Hill. Seagrove said that one of the Indians involved in the Traders Hill murders had been captured, and that he prevented the captors from killing the Indian and had him in custody.


The affidavits described the events at Traders Hill. A group of men were at Seagrove’s store at Traders Hill, when asked by the storekeeper, John Fleming, to join him in a drink. As they were consuming their drink, three Indians stepped into the store, offering for sale three or four deer skins.


Fleming bought the deerskins, and paid the Indians their money. Then a gun was fired from outside the store by another Indian, striking Moffitt and killing him instantly. Moffitt was standing beside the store counter when the fatal shot was fired.


John Galphin and Robert Brown ran out the front door attempting to head off further gunfire, but the Indians had fled into the surrounding woods. Galphin and Brown returned into the store and began talking with the storekeeper, John Fleming.


Suddenly, three Indians burst into the front door of the store again. Galphin and Brown ran into the woods and hid. The Indians then gave their war whoop and began murdering the storekeeper Fleming with their hunting knives.


Brown and Galphin remained hidden in the woods for over three hours while the Indians plundered through the store and abused two small children of Mrs. Ann Gray, who were in a room adjoining the store.


When the Indians had left, Brown and Galphin entered the store and saw the bodies of Moffitt and Fleming and comforted the small children. Then they found Mrs. Gray, beaten, abused and tied, but still alive.


Brown then swam the St. Marys River into Florida and went to the home of a Mr. Fitch and succeeded in getting him to accompany them back to the store at Traders Hill to view the damage and to seek help.


Brown’s affidavit was witnessed by Seagrove, Thomas King, J.P. and Elihu Hubbard, J.P.

Later, during the years of the Indian War in the 1830s, Traders Hill became known as Fort Alert. It retained this name until after General Charles Floyd and his Georgia Militia men chased the Indians from the Okefenokee and into the Florida Everglades. When the Indians were chased from the Okefenokee the Indian uprisings near Traders Hill, Burnt Fort and Coleraine, ended and white settlers came into the area in increasing numbers.


The documentation of the Indians at Traders Hill indicates that the small community on the St. Marys has been a part of the nation’s history since its beginning.


RACEPOND AND THE INDIAN WARS

Excerpt from "Queen of the Okefenokee," by Lois Barefoot Mays and Richard 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 (later called Fort Alert and 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 shots 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."


FURTHER NOTES ON THE INDIAN WARS

”Ga. Forts" in Ga, in Georgia Magazine, Dec 1967, p 22-24 - 

A map with this article shows the line of forts on the eastern edge of Swamp with Fort Mudge being close to the Upper Cowhouse”)


Fort Mudge, Fort Alert, Kettle Creek, Fort Comfort, Fort Floyd

1836 - 1842


The Georgia Militia/U.S. Army/ Gen. Charles R. Floyd fought against the Indians.


Centerville and Traders’ Hill were the two main trading centers.


Camp Comfort to Fort Mudge, distance 12 miles.

Ft. Dearborn between Ft. Norton and Fort Mudge at what must be Race Pond (1921) was named from Major Dearborn.{FN}


{FOOTNOTE:} OUR GEORGIA-FLORIDA FRONTIER. THE OKEFINOKEE SWAMP, ITS HISTORY AND CARTOGRAPHY, Part Six, by Albert Hazen Wright. Page 46



Fort White, Fort Walker, Fort Peyton, Newmansville, Fort Heileman, Camp Wilds, Geo, and Ft. Harlee. The first infantry is divided among the posts at Pilatka, St. Augustine, Picolata, Fort Harlee, Fort Heileman and Trader’s Hill, Geo. Five companies of the second infantry are at Fort White, Charles Ferry, Fort Moniac and Camp Gillmer, Geo.

(Draw anew map of the forts.)



CAPTAIN BEALE'S ACCOUNT OF THE DIFFICULTIES ENCOUNTERED IN PURSUIT OF THE INDIANS.


"From Everglade to Canon with the Second Dragoons"

Our Georgia-Florida Frontier


“August, 1838.

The swamp was of immense extent, more difficult of access than any previously mentioned, and had, up to this time, never been penetrated by a white man. ... Finding a fresh Indian trail, he soon discovered that it could not be followed mounted, as his horse mired the first step taken. Dismounting his men, he entered the swamp. The heat soon became so oppressive as almost to impede respiration. It seemed like a spot where the breath of heaven was forbidden to enter, while the rays of the sun poured down, as through a convex glass, upon the aching heads of the party. After following the trail for about four miles, on a surface that continually trembled under foot and at last became entirely obliterated, the ground gave way, the soldiers frequently sinking to the waist in black mud. ... Convinced ... of the impracticability of continuing the route, Captain Beall directed a counter-march, and once more gained the “open” where the grateful shade of the pine trees and the pure breezes from the north were hardly sufficient to revive the failing energies of his half-poisoned command.”

{ From Everglade to Canon with the Second Dragoons. 1836-1875, Theo. F. Rodenbough, quoted in:


“Our Georgia-Florida Frontier: Part VI: The Seminoles: Seminole Wars to 1838”, Albert Hazen Wright, 1945}



Letter from General Z. Taylor to the Governor of Florida:

Headquarters

Army of the South

Suwanee River

Camp Gilmer

Ware County, Georgia

July 14, 1838


In consequence of a number of Indians having taken refuge in the Okefenokee Swamp, I have located one company of dragoons and one infantry at this point, and shall establish one company of infantry midway between this and Trader’s Hill and one of the dragoons on the opposite side of this, in the neighborhood of Waresboro.


This force, I flatter myself, in addition of militia just organized along the line between Georgia and Florida, near the Okefenokee will afford ample protection to the exposed inhabitants around and near the same. Should this not be the case, such additional companies of militia as may be necessary will be called into service from the State of Georgia. {FN}


{FOOTNOTE: Our Georgia-Florida Frontier: Part VI, The Seminoles: Seminole Wars to 1838. Albert Hazen Wright}




The Wildes Massacre

1838


At the break of day on a Sunday morning in July, a terrible massacre occurred at the homestead of Maxey M. Wildes. It was just a few miles from Fort Mudge, less than three miles away from the Kettle Creek Fort. The massacre was reported in a letter to the Editor of the Jacksonville Courier, of August 9, 1838:


Camp Wilds, Geo.

July 22

"Forty-five miles northwest of Centerville, on Sunday morning, a man came full speed into camp, with the cry of Indians. I asked where. He said about five miles off; that he had just removed a family, who heard the report of guns and screams of people. We were in our saddles in a few moments, and under full speed to the spot where the alarm originated, and O. God! Of all the scenes I ever saw, or wish to see, the most shocking presented itself. On reaching the ground, a man, wife and four children of his own, and two of his sisters, had fallen by the Indians. Three children of the six were alive when we reached the spot; one, about three years old, had been shot through the abdomen, and lay asleep on the dead mother, another about ten rods from the mother. But O, horrid to tell, I found a young lady of eighteen shot in two places ... and yet she alive, and had her senses perfectly. This was the most trying time I had ever seen. I gave her cold water, which she wished much, and remained with her as long as I could, till obliged to go in search of Indians. We left a guard to protect them, and administer to them all that they could, but all expired in less than twenty minutes after we left.”


"–The Indians scattered in all directions, and it was some time before we could find the trail; we followed them about twenty-five miles, and until further pursuit could not be had, having then gone into the Okefenoke as far as white men could well go. We left our horses, and waded to our hips in mud for two miles, which was as much as we could stand. We returned that night, found all buried, eight in number in one grave. We returned to camp, now Camp Wilds, that being the name of the murdered family.”


Only four out of the thirteen people at the Wildes homestead survived to tell the terrible tale. Col. Hilliard reported that there were about fifty Indians in the raiding party.[i]



from DeBrahm's Report
bottom of page