Flows North " A History of Putnam County by Brian Michaels
Archaeological studies indicate that Indians occupied the area of pres-
ent-day Palatka at least as long as 4,000 years ago (some say at least
10,000 years), and it has been estimated that there were in Florida at the
time of Columbus' voyages more than one hundred thousand native Indi-
ans By 1720, interior Florida was virtually deserted. Two centuries of
enslavement, warfare, and diseases brought by Europeans who had built
up immunity had virtually wiped out the original native tnbes. Even mea-
sles and the common cold were deadly to these people and no living
descendants of the group are known today.
At least sixty-seven Indian mounds of the type described by the Bar-
trams and used for burial and ceremonial purposes were located within
Putnam County. One was located where Palatka now stands, one at "the
Devil's elbow" in the river near the city, another just north of the
eight in the vicinity of East Palatka. Skeletons and artifacts recovered
from these and similar sites have opened to the archaeologist many
formerly obscured by the passing centuries, and increasingly sophisticat-
ed equipment and techniques will undoubtedly unlock additional secrets
and lead to the location of additional mounds. It has already been
however, that unlike the "hunters and gatherers," of south Florida, the
aboriginal inhabitants of north Florida were farmers. The Apalachee_
Timucua (of which there were at least fourteen tribes), Tocobaga, and
other, smaller, tribes in the northern part of the state cultivated
squash, and beans to supplement the wild plants and animals which com-
prised most of their fare. But though they were farmers, they were
vegetarians. Native deer, turtles, wild turkey, and fish provided a nourish-
The aboriginal Florida Indians also grew tobacco. Indeed, the only
ing result of the short-lived French colony at Fort Caroline appears to
have been the introduction of tobacco to both France and England. Sir
after his attempt to aid the starving French, returned to
England with a packet of the leaf, which he described as follows: "The Flo-
have a kind of herb dried, who with a cane and an earthen cup on
the end, with fire doe suck through the cane the smoke thereof, which
smoke satisfieth their hunger."
When the Spanish finally removed from Florida to Cuba in 1763, taking
the last few remaining northern and some of the southern Indians with
them, much of northern Florida was once again virtually uninhabited, vis-
ited for a time only by Creek raiders and hunting parties and Spanish
Before long, however, the area saw an influx of Creeks and other tribes
from Georgia and Alabama into the areas of Tallahassee and Alachua
County. One tribe, the Oconee, had split about 1750, with some moving
south into Florida near the present town ofMicanopy in Alachua County.
There they became known as the Seminoles.
The Seminoles were so successful, growing corn and grazing hundreds
of head of cattle on what is now known as Payne's Prairie south of the
present location of the City of Gainesville,that they were joined by related
groups. Their numbers and prosperity increased dramatically. Their
business and even personal relations with the whites were generally
friendly, despite their penchant for raiding other Indian groups as
away as Mississippi.
By 1820, the original group of settlers in the Micanopy area had become
only one of a large number of groups stretching as far south as Tampa
Bay, up and down the length of the St. Johns, along the Suwannee River,
near Tallahassee, and along the Apalachicola.
By 1823, two years after Florida became part of the American territory,
the Seminoles had, by and large, agreed to move to a large tract in
ter of the state near Lake Okeechobee but not including either the Gulf
shore or the St. Johns. Whites were to stay out of the area, and the
agreed not to harbor runaway slaves. As such things usually go, neither
side kept its agreement, and by 1835, the unbearable tension would
tably find release in war.
At the time of De Brahm's survey (1764-72), however,
was enjoying peace, quiet, and relative solitude, and the Seminoles
even more agreeably disposed toward the British than they had been
toward the Spanish for a time, at least.
So the Spanish were gone; the Indians were peaceful; North Florida