At least as late as 1956, a simple stone marker stood near the confluence of the Choctawhatchee River and Bruce Creek, inscribed with the words “Sam Story, Cheif [sic] of the Euchees 1832.” The Euchees (or Yuchis) are not well documented in history, but some segment or segments of the tribe appear to have arrived in the Florida Panhandle by the end of the 18th century. John L. McKinnon’s History of Walton County, originally published in 1911, provides the most detailed account of the Euchee Indians and Sam Story available. It’s based on information the author learned from his father, who was one of the original pioneers of Walton County and may have met Sam Story.
According to McKinnon, Walton County’s first European settlers were Scotsmen who originally emigrated to North Carolina around 1810. In 1820, one of these settlers, Neill McLendon, set out for Pensacola along with his extended family and a few friends. Florida was on its way to becoming U.S. territory, and the group intended to make a new start.
After reaching Bluff Springs, Neill McLendon made several trips into Pensacola, where he traded with the remaining Spanish merchants and discussed options for settling in the area. The Spaniards implored McLendon to wait a few weeks for a local Indian chief, Sam Story, to arrive on one of his regular trading trips. They believed he would show McLendon the Euchee Valley, which was reputed to be fine land for settlement.
Indeed, according to the legend, Sam Story did arrive, and invited McLendon to visit his headquarters on the south bank of Bruce Creek, across from what was later called Eucheeanna. When he reached the Euchee Valley, the Scotsman was delighted with what he found, and quickly summoned the rest of his party. He also dispatched a message back to his friends in North Carolina, explaining that he had found an excellent place for settlement. Colonel John McKinnon, John Newton, and a host of relatives and other settlers came down and joined McLendon and established the town of Eucheeanna across Bruce Creek from Sam Story’s headquarters. In today’s geography, this works out to be about 10-15 miles southeast of Defuniak Springs.
Big changes were on the way as these events developed. Florida became a United States territory in 1821, and Walton County was established in 1824. As Eucheeanna and the surrounding settlement grew, the area’s natural resources were increasingly taxed. Sam Story and and others in his tribe began thinking of moving elsewhere in Florida. According to McKinnon, the chief and a group of scouts traveled as far as the Everglades searching for a new home. After a journey of six months the party returned, exhausted and discouraged. Sam Story, weakened by the voyage and his age, died a short time afterward. McKinnon says the Scotsmen buried the chief along the banks of the Choctawhatchee and erected a marker of heart pine, saying simply “Sam Story – Chief of the Euchees.” It was replaced at some point with the stone marker seen above.
As for the rest of Sam Story’s tribe, the Euchees, they are believed to have moved eastward and southward to what is now Volusia County, where they settled and later became involved with the Seminoles. Two of the chiefs, Euchee Billy and his brother Euchee Jack, were captured in 1837 by the United States Army during the Second Seminole War.
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