On this date in 1792, William Augustus Bowles and his band of followers seized control of the Panton, Leslie & Company trading post on the Wakulla River.
William Augustus Bowles (ca. 1795)
William Augustus Bowles arrived in Florida as a British soldier during the Revolutionary War. He defected from Pensacola in about 1778 and sought refuge in the Creek Indian country. During his time among the Creeks, Bowles apparently married Mary Perryman, a daughter of Lower Creek headman William Perryman. Bowles used this union as the basis for his claim to exert political influence among the Creeks, later proclaiming himself “Director General of the Muskogee Nation.”
In 1783, Bowles left North America for the Bahamas. There, he solicited support for a plan to challenge the Indian trade monopoly exercised by Panton, Leslie & Company in Spanish Florida.
Detail from the Forbes Purchase Map (1817) showing the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers
In January 1792, Bowles and his adherents—made up of disaffected whites, runaway slaves and a few Seminoles—attacked the Panton, Leslie & Company trading post on the Wakulla River. Bowles briefly seized the store, shown on the map above as “Old Store,” located about four miles upriver from Fuerte San Marcos de Apalache, before walking into a trap set by the Spanish. The Spanish first sent Bowles to Cuba, and later imprisoned him in the Philippines. Little did the Spanish know it would not be the last time they would encounter William Augustus Bowles.
Eight years later, having escaped from the Philippines, Bowles again launched a plan against the Spanish and Panton, Leslie & Company, this time striking at Fuerte San Marcos de Apalache. In early 1800, he took control of the fort for several weeks before being ousted by Spanish reinforcements from Pensacola. Bowles evaded capture by Spanish authorities until 1802. In 1805, he died at Castillo Morro in Havana, Cuba.