The purpose of this page is to honor and acknowledge the indigenous peoples of the Tallahassee area prior to occupation by settlers from across the Atlantic.

*Native people, please add your voice to this page.  Oral histories are welcome and desired.*

This is the information available on Wikipedia:,_Florida 

"Tallahassee is situated within the Apalachee Province, home of the Apalachee, a Mississippian culture of agrarian people who farmed vast tracks of land. Their capital, Anhaica, was located within Tallahassee's city limits. The Apalachee were highly successful farmers and traders who resided in the Tallahassee Hills regionl   They had a reputation for wealth and power that was acknowledged by Indians throughout the peninsula.  Once they were missionized, their agricultural prowess earned their region a reputation as the breadbasket for Spanish St. Augustine.

The Apalchee were the most densely populated and politically complex of all the Florida Indians.  They were united in a single political unit, and governed by a paramount chief.  They traded in networks that extended hundreds of miles north to the Appalachian Mountains and beyond.  The bulk of the population, estimated to be 50,000 in the mid-1500s, lived in small farmsteads on fertile land between the Aucilla and Ochlockonee rivers, where they cultivated corn, beans, squashes, and other crops. Virtually everything we know about Florida's native people comes from documents left behind by Europeans  and from clues unearthed by archaeologist. The natives themselves left only a handfull of firsthand ccounts recorded by Europeans.  See also, History/Sports/ Football  and Lake Jackson Mounds.


"The name "Tallahassee" is a Muskogean Indian word often translated as "old fields", or "old town." This may stem from the Creek (later called Seminole) Indians that migrated into this region in the 18th century. The Apalachee's success as agriculturalists did not go unnoticed by the Spanish, who sent missionaries to the area throughout the 17th century. Several mission sites were established with the aim of procuring food and labor for the colony at St. Augustine. One of the most important mission sites, Mission San Luis de Apalachee, has been partially reconstructed as a state historic site in Tallahassee.  Within 250 years of European contact, Florida's native people were gone--victims of foreign disease to which they had no immuniity.  Warfare, slave raids, and dwindling birth rates contributed to their downfall.  A couple of hundred escaped, migrating to Louisiana or accompanying Spaniards to Cuba or Mexico.  A very small number are thought to have assimilated with Indians who moved into Florida from adjacent norther states.

"The Spanish missionaries were not the first Europeans to visit Tallahassee, however. The Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto spent the winter of 1538-1539 encamped at the Apalachee village of Anhaica, which he had taken by force. De Soto's brutal treatment of the natives was fiercely resisted, and by the following spring De Soto was eager to move on. The site of Anhaica, near present day Myers Park, was located by Florida archaeologist, B. Calvin Jones, in 1987. 

The missionaires not only preached Christianity to the Indians, they also taught European farming methods, cattle and hog raising, weaving, music, and to some, reading and writing.  The Spainards used  these enterprises to control isolated territories in attemps to meet their religious, military, and economic goals.  St. Augustine received most of the grain and fruit that was grown at the missions.  By 1650 there were 41 missions between St. Augustine and Tallahassee, with an approximate Native American population of 30,000.  Within twenty years the native population was in decline.  Warfare with Spain, diseases such as measles, smallpox and plague took their toll.  By 1675 perhaps as few as 13,000 Indians remained in the missions.  In the warfare to wipe out the missions, the british invaders spread death and destruction.  Many of the Christian natives wee impaled on stakes.  every cross-topped structure was burned.  The warring folks from the Carolinas killed 1,000 converts, forced 2,000 to flee, and then took 1,000 as slaves.  It became known as the largest slave raid ever in the South.

"The founding of Tallahassee was largely a matter of convenience. In 1821, Florida was ceded by Spain to the United States. A territorial government was established, but the impracticalities of alternately meeting in St. Augustine and Pensacola — the two largest cities in the territory at the time — led territorial governor William Pope Duval to appoint two commissioners to establish a more central meeting place.

"In October 1823, John Lee Williams of Pensacola and Dr. William Simmons of St. Augustine selected the former Indian settlement of Tallahassee (roughly midway between the two cities) as a suitable place. Their decision was also based on its location near a beautiful waterfall — now part of Cascades Park — and the old capital of the Apalachee chiefdom. In March of the following year it was formally proclaimed the capital. Florida did not become a state, however, until 1845 (Tebeau:122)." 

and more from 

"The History of Leon County, Florida is a varied history of human habitation extending from 12,000 years ago to present. This includes Paleoindians, the Apalachee, the Seminole Indians, the British, Spanish, and colonial Americans. 

Early human habitation

Florida's human occupation, as with that of America, are divided into Paleoindian, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian, and Protohistoric periods. Exceptions are the Protohistoric period, the others are often divided into Early, Middle and Late subperiods and further divided by the term "culture" within the subperiods.[2]

What is now Leon County was occupied by Paleoindians or Clovis culture 12,000 years ago (Upper Paleolithic period). These hunter-gatherer tribes lived in what is now Leon County near water sources where water was shared with animals which outlived many of the aforementioned predators. Animals such as Ancient bison, Mastodon, Ice Age camel, Giant ground sloth, Saber-toothed Tiger, Columbian Mammoth, Equus, Short-faced bear, and American lion would frequent these areas.

Archaic period

The Archaic cultures (10,000-2500 BC), are divided in to Early, Middle, and Late for the southeastern North America and can be described as having a more humid climate. Sea level rose rapidly and water tables and ecosystems looked much like that of today. Population increased and people began settling in smaller territorial areas. People began using forms of triangular-shaped projectile points and it is thought that Indians switched from hand held spears to spear throwers to more easily bring down game, which for the most part, were the same species as contemporary animals. The cumulative effects of these changes led to increased regionalization as native peoples began adapting to specific local resources. In the Apalachee region this period is also known as the Norwood culture.[3]

Woodland period

The Woodland period (2500 CE- is divided up fundamentally into the Deptford culture (2500 CE-100 A.D.), Swift Creek culture (100-300 CE), Santa Rosa-Swift Creek culture (100-300 CE), and Weeden Island culture (300-900 CE) cultures. It is characterized by and widespread use of pottery (and tempering agents) which began in the late Archaic period. Also, the increasing sophistication of pottery forms and decoration began. The increasing use of agriculture also meant that the nomadic nature of many of the tribes was supplanted by permanently occupied villages, although agricultural development did not really advance until the Mississippian period. Burial of the deceased in mounds with elaborate grave goods also began.[4][5]



Deptford Culture in Florida

Deptford culture

The Deptford culture (2500—1900 BCE) was the first existence of the Woodland tradition in Florida. Mainly a coastal occupation though some people located inland. Ceramics were decorated and stamped. Pottery no longer tempered with plant fibers is used in favor of clay or sand pastes. East of the Aucilla River, the Deptford culture people transition directly into the Fort Walton Culture. The 2001 Letchworth Auger Survey shows no activity at the Letchworth site in Jefferson County, Florida. Sites along the coastal areas are low in numbers where many more recent sites are inland which may be in part related to the rise in sea level that probably inundated many sites. It is estimated that sea level on the Gulf of Mexico coast of northern Florida had risen 2 m (6.5 ft) over the last 2000 years.[6]

 Swift Creek culture

The Swift Creek culture first appeared in south Georgia about 100 B.C. where it developed out of the Deptford culture and flourished at 200 A.D.-400 A.D. Villages were first established in significant numbers in the interior forest and river valleys of the eastern Panhandle, although Swift Creek sites can also be found along the coast. Ceramics were characterized by complicated stamped pottery and are commonly found in the Red Hills Region, as delineated by Cooke. These sites are especially prevalent in the river valley forest and other fertile locales. Gardening probably played a role in the Swift Creek economic system, although evidence supporting cultivation remains sparse. Bone and stone tools appear in greater numbers in their tool kits than during the previous Deptford period.

Weeden Island culture

The Weeden Island culture 400-1000 CE. The Weeden Island culture is believed to have emerged from the Hopewell culture-based Swift Creek cultural tradition of northwest Florida during the Middle Woodland Period (c. 200 - 500 CE) in the lower Chattahoochee-Apalachicola river drainage, persisting in some areas until the end of the Woodland period c. 1200 CE. Weeden Island sites have been found from Mobile Bay to south of Tampa Bay, extending as far north as lower-central Georgia.Concentrated around lakes Lake Miccosukee and Lake Iamonia. Adoption of maize agriculture. Pottery was Weeden Island plain ware and Swift Creek Complicated Stamped.


From 1100-1500, the Mississippian culture thrived. The Lake Jackson Mounds site, a Mississippian mound-building complex was extremely active. It is more accurately a site of the Leon-Jefferson Culture, an advanced society of the Fort Walton Culture. Lake Jackson Mounds are located on the southwest edge of Lake Jackson in Tallahassee now the Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park and had a large village and plaza. This site was one of the most magnificent ceremonial centers in the southeastern United States. The region’s red hills with extremely fertile red clay soils enabled these inhabitants to grow bountiful crops.

16th century

Spanish Rule

Hernando de Soto

Pánfilo de Narváez and his followers first passed south of Leon County in 1528. In 1539, Hernando de Soto stayed 5 months at the Apalachee Indian capitol of Anhaica bringing priests with him. The first Christmas in the New World was celebrated in the woods near the present capitol building. As more Spanish colonists arrived, they brought disease and fighting. This reduced the population of the Apalachee tribe who left the area for points west. In 1656, a Spanish deputy governor and his crew settled in the Apalachee town that they called Mission San Luis de Apalachee in west Tallahassee. With a population of more than 1400, the Spanish established one of several Franciscan missions there. While there, the Spaniards lived off the generosity of the Apalachee. At the same time, they tried to convert the Apalachee to the Catholic faith. See also the Hernando de Soto Trail of 1539.

British Rule

Beginning in 1700, the English looked upon Florida and its Spanish missions as getting too close to the English colonies. Raids began from South Carolina led by Governor James Moore and assisted on occasion Creek Indians raided and destroyed the Spanish mission chain, including San Luis in 1704.

Tens of thousands of Apalachee Indians were carried off into slavery by Governor Moore, never to be heard from again. The Apalachee had adapted Spanish culture so well that when San Luis was burned, one could not separate the Apalachee bodies apart from the Spanish. The English brought with them Yamassee Indian allies from South Carolina, but 10 years later the English chased them out, so the Yamassee moved to St. Augustine and allied themselves with the Spanish. By 1705 the raids were over and the Seminole Indians developed their "fowl towns," a name derived from the raising of chickens.

 18th century

 Second Spanish Rule

In 1795 what is now Leon County along with the rest of Florida fell back under the rule of Spain. Over the years there were attacks on Indian towns in Florida by settlers in Georgia and in return Indians attacked settlers in Georgia prompting the 1817-1818 campaign by the United States Army and Andrew Jackson known as the First Seminole War. In 1818, Jackson invaded the small village of Miccosukee in what is now northeastern Leon County. 

Second Seminole War

The Second Seminole War of 1835-1842 touched Leon County as it would most of Florida when family members and slaves of Green A. Chaires were massacred on his first plantation on Lake Lafayette. While the more significant battles and skirmishes took place in Central and South Florida, locally people in this region were on edge for most of the long, seven-year war.  There were many reports of Indian attacks and massacres.  Seminole warriors occasionally came from the woods, trails, and the swamps of North Florida to create panic.  Along with those incursions, unrest among the Creek in Georgia and Alabama added to the fear.  In the 1830s, our state was divided into three geographic areas.  Between the Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers was known as "Middle Florida".  Everythig east of the Suwannee was East Florida, and land west of the Apalachicola was West Florida.  Our entire population was about 34,000 and of that number there were about 16,000 black slaves scattered within the three areas.  There were only 4,000 Seminoles in the territory. How many were classified as warriors is unknown, but we do know that 800 blacks joined the Seminoles and fought against the whites.  Meanwhile, the United States forces were quite meager, iin that they had to cover 53 posts across the US and the frontier.  And, at that time military forces followed the European battle techniques, which could not compete with the Seminole hit-and-run tactics.

By December of 1835, the years of distust, border raids, and removal policies errupted in to several battles around the Payne's Prarie region.  The Seminoles attacked and eliminated US Army Maj. F. Dade's relief column, and an Indian agent, W.Thompson and six other men were killed near Fort King.  More defeats for the US continued, along with the burning of several plantations. Locals here in Tallahassee fortified parts of town.  On the  corner of what is today Park Ave. and Adams St., the First Presbyterian Church was an offical wartime refuge.  Vertical rifle slits were cut into the brickwork of the church.  These ports are now below ground but can be seen from inside what is now the church basement.  There was also a large cleared area around the church which provided an open field of fire for defenders.

Park Avenue, at that time, was known as "400 Foot Boulevard" because of this open area.  The cleared area provided visual information as to any possible Indian incursion.  Because of this open area, the church was saved during the huge Tallahassee fire of 1843.

Outlying areas were susceptible to attack.  One family , of Green Hill Chaires, was attacked and almost totally wiped out by Indian raids.  Other similar attacks were frequent. Early in the month of July, trains, express-men, travelers, plantations, were assailed, attacked and people fled, leaving everything behind.  The Army was ordered north to help eliminate the menace, even crossing the swamp we know today as Tate's Hell.  They found few Indians, and nothing they did satisfied the citizens of the territory.

Little by little, the removal began, and strengthened.  By 1843, a total of 3,800 Indians had been shipped west from Florida.  The war was declared over, but, as we FSU fans know, the Seminoles never surrended and were never conquered. Attacks continued, along with ambushes, and the desire by political figures to remove all of the Indians, led to the Third Seminole War.

APALCHEES THEN AND NOW, from Mission San Luis' Newsletter LA PLUMA, Jan- June, 2012 issue

Here, on the second highest hillside in present day Tallahassee-just three miles from our modern capitol- an incredible story unfolds.  Back in the 17th centurey, San Luis was Spanish Florida's western capital and home to more than 1,400 Apalachees and Spaniards.  Along with St. Augustine, it was the largest and most important of the more than 100 missions across Florida that predated the California missions by more than 150 years.

This is a story of two cultures-very different yet joined in the struggle to survive and thrive on the Spanish colonial frontier.  It is a story fraught with intrigue, scandal, warfare, martyrdom, destruction, and, yes, ultimately survival and resurrection.  It is an important story in the cultural heritage of Florida, though not so well known as it deserves.

By July 31 in 1704, the English militia and their Indian allies had marched from Carolina to very near San Luis.  Rather than allow the fort to be captured, the Spanish and Apalachee villagers burned all the buildings and fled.  A few Apalachees traveled with Spanish families to St. Augustine.  About 800 Apalachees fled west to Mobile, a French village where they settled for a time.  Sixty years later about 80 Apalacchee settlers moved west into Louisiana and all but disappeared from the pages of American history. 

The Mobile Apalachees had survived a 1704 yellow fever epidemic.  In 1803, American settlers in the Louisiana Territory burned Apalachee cabins and crops, stealing their land.  In 1835 the Louisiana Apalachees fled to swampy bayous and remote hill country, hiding from white settlers and plantation owners.  In the early 1900s, racist Klansmen with dogs hunted down Indians and clubbed them to death.  The Apalachees hid their Native Florida heritage in fear and despair.

Then in 1996, Mission San Luis archaeology staff received an astounding telephone call.  On the line was Gilmer Bennett, Chief of the Louisiana Apalachee.  Historians had long thought all native peoples from Florida were dead.  However, about 300 Apalachee descendents-today the only known descendents of Florida's original inhabaitants-have survived though not without considerable troubles.

At the 300 year anniversary of Mission San Luis' destruction, Chief Bennett said ," I could stand here and tell you about all the hardships we have endured over the past 300 years.  This would do no good.  We, the Apalchee, have always tried to be people of good character, and walk with the Great Spirit to preserve our land, water, air, and nature that God has trusted to us."




This page is under construction...native peoples, please add your oral histories here.