Chapter One


The Massacre at Payne’s Creek

From the DeVane collection


          State of Florida, County of Hillsborough - Personally appeared before me, Judge of Probate, in and for the county and state aforesaid, William McCullough, who having been duly sworn according to laws says that he was hired by Messrs. Kennedy and Darling on the third day of July, 1849 and arrived at their Indian Store on Peas Creek and remained there until it was burned by Indians on the 17th or 18th July 1849.


                On 17th July about noon Echo Emathia Chopka and three squaws came to the store bringing a large quantity of watermelons of which Capt. Payne purchased some nine or twelve, at the same time telling the Indians that he would have purchased them all but he did not think the melons would sell in New York to advantage.  The Indians also brought venison, sweet potatoes, skins and beeswax, all of which was purchased by Capt. Payne.


                Echo Emathia Chopka stated that he would be returning a pony he had recently purchased as not being such as he had ordered.  These Indians went away about 3 or 4 o’clock of the same day.  During the time they remained at the store they behaved well, in fact appeared more friendly than usual. 


                About half hour before sunset the same day, four other Indians came to the store, all men, without anything but their arms.  These men came to the store with a quick step carrying rifles on their shoulder, muzzle foremost, locks covered, and appeared more bold than usual.  Otherwise I did not observe anything uncommon in their conduct, except that they brought no trade with them, which was unusual.


                They told Capt. Payne they had a large pack of skins on the east side of Peas Creek and wanted his boat to get it across.  Payne told them that after supper he would assist them in getting the pack across.  The Indians then desired permission of Capt. Payne to stop in the store and were refused, Capt. Payne stating to them that Indians were never allowed to sleep in the store. 


                The Indians then went out of the store and Capt. Payne closed the store doors and windows, and he and Dempsey Whidden went out at the end of the store and sat talking with them until supper time.  It was now early twilight.


                We all sat down to supper, the Indians were sitting at the end of the store next to the eating room quietly smoking their pipes.  We had scarcely got seated at the supper table when they fired in at the door from the outside, one Indian standing on either side of the door and two in front, one behind the other.  By this shot Capt. Payne and Dempsey Whidden were killed, dead, and I received a bullet in my left shoulder.


                I was shocked for an instant but saw Payne spring up and fall back on the floor.  Whidden fell forward his face and hands resting on his plate.  I sprang to the door and shouted when the Indians gave back reloading their rifles.  My wife was closing the shutters of the windows but I told her our only chance was to leave the building.  My wife then took her child and started for the bridge which was about a quarter of a mile from the store. 


                Previously, however, to my wife’s starting I had taken down a loaded rifle that hung on the wall and had examined Capt. Payne and Dempsey Whidden and found they were both dead.  I followed my wife with the rifle.


                I had gone more than 30 yards from the store when the Indians again shot at me and missed.  At about 20 yards further on they fired another shot at me and missed.  At about half way from the store to the bridge my wife and child fell down and I had just got them up and started again when the Indians fired on me again, a ball passing through the flesh of my right thigh, the same ball passing through the leg of my wife near the knee, but no bones were broken.


                We then passed on across the bridge when we left the road and hid.  About two minutes after we had concealed ourselves, three Indians passed up the road running and in earnest conversation, apparently searching for us.  In a few minutes two of them returned and passed us in the direction of the store and the other I have never seen since but I suppose he intended to cut us off on the road.


                As soon as it was dark we took to the woods and on the following Friday about noon, without food and almost naked, we reached the settlement on the big Alafia a distance of 20 or 30 miles, having lost my way and wandered a good deal in the woods.


                On Wednesday morning I saw a bright light in the direction I supposed the store to be in.  I think the store was burned at that time.  About 3 o’clock Wednesday morning I heard the report of several guns.  Also while I lay concealed near the bridge after the two Indians had gone I heard the report of one gun.


                We lost everything we had and among other things some papers worth 100 dollars and my other property such as wearing apparel, bedding, furniture and farming utensils, building and crop both at the Indian store and at my place on the Alafia which I was compelled to abandon in consequence of my wounds in worth 300 dollars.  Only the assets at the Indian store has been destroyed which are valued at 200 dollars.  As far as I know the Indians have not disturbed my place on the Alafia but am not able to look after it.  I think the buildings of Messrs. Kennedy and Darling at the Indian station were worth 1500 dollars. I cannot say how much the goods were worth that were in the store when it was burned.  There were shelves on two sides of the storeroom which was about 22 ft. square and on the shelves which were pretty well filled there were five tiers of shelves.  There were rifles, brass kettles, beads, blankets, tinware, domestic goods of every description, powder, lead, flints, tobacco, knives, red broad cloth, spurs, bridles, bits, a saddle, looking glasses, files, a full chest of tools, Indian shawls, handkerchiefs, hoes and hatchets, grindstones, combs and binding, a large quantity of salt and whiskey, corn and provisions and a quantity of deer skins in hair, also bear skins in hair, moccasins, kitchen and mess furniture, a large canoe, etc.


                The store was complete, upper and lower floors of pitsaw lumber, chimney and floor to the kitchen.  I have also 19 hogs valued at $ 2.50 per hear at large on the south side of the Alafia.


(This article is reprinted from Bulletin Number Thirty Three.

Sebring Historical Society, July 1981. Pages 955-956.)



Fort Chocka-nickler


            In the late 1840’s, Kennedy & Darling, army sutlers from Fort Brooke, (Tampa) erected a store and trading post on the banks of Charlo-popka-hatchee-Chee (Seminole - meaning Little Trout-Eating Creek).  This store or trading post was run by Capt. George Payne and Dempsey Whidden.  On July 17, 1849, both were killed by the Seminoles and the building and contents were burned.


            About three months following the killing, the Army Engineers established a fort with a blockhouse on or very near the site of the burned store.  The engineers named the new fort Chocka-nickler (Seminole words meaning “burnt store”).  This fort was erected October 26th, 1849.  The creek on which the fort was erected was after this time called Payne’s Creek as it is known today.


            From the surveyor’s notes, the fort was located about a half mile north of the monument erected to Capt. Payne and Dempsey Whidden in Section 9  Township 33 South, Range 25 East, west of the section line between sections 9 and 10, about half a mile north of Payne’s Creek. The blockhouse was on Peace River on Section 15 on a line between sections 10 and 15, now the property of J. K. Albritton.  An old military map shows a bridge at this site.


            This fort being the first one established south of Fort Fraser (Bartow) and east of Fort Hammer on Manatee River, it became a very large and important headquarters in the prosecution of the Seminole War.   About one month later, Fort Meade, Fort Green and Fort Myacca were established, Fort Hartsuff one year later.


            Fort Chock-nickler later became known as Utica in the 1880’s, later taking the name Bowling Green.    


(This article is reprinted from DeVane’s Early Florida History, Vol. 2

Sebring Historical Society, September 1979.)