This document, found among records related to Fatio v. Dewees (1838), represents an enclosure originally submitted by H. Lee IV to Florida territorial judge Augustus Brevoort Woodward in September 1824. Lee sought Woodward’s assistance in securing claim to property purchased by his father, General Henry Lee, from Thomas Brown in 1817. Lee’s letter, and the other accompanying documents, can be viewed here.
On March 1, 1783, several “Kings and Warriors” representing Upper Creek, Lower Creek and Seminole towns affixed their names and family marks to a document granting British Indian Agent Thomas Brown substantial territory west of St. Augustine, Florida. The Indian delegation honored their “father and friend” for leading them into battle against the Americans with a grant of land extending from the Amajura River, now known as the Withlacoochee, to the St. Johns River.
In 1774, Thomas Brown came to North America from England to establish a plantation in the Georgia backcountry. Brown quickly became embroiled in rising tensions between loyalists and rebels leading up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. In one instance, a rebel mob attacked and severely beat him. Brown recovered from his injuries and went on to lead a mounted patrol, known as the King’s Rangers, in raids against the Americans along the southern frontier. During his campaigns, Brown gained the support and assistance of several Creek and Seminole Indian leaders. They provided warriors to fight the mutual enemy, the Americans, and in return the Englishmen Brown kept their towns well-armed and provisioned.
As the war neared its end in 1783, Brown and his men retreated to Florida. Sometime prior to March 1, a delegation representing Creek and Seminole towns visited St. Augustine and met with Thomas Brown and other British officials. The land grant above resulted from this meeting. The document seen here is a copy of the original. They copy was made on June 20, 1820, while Thomas Brown lived on St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean.
All British citizens left Florida by November 1785, including Thomas Brown. Before he left, Brown proved instrumental in securing the monopoly of the firm Panton, Leslie & Company, which retained control of the Indian trade when Florida transferred from England to Spain in 1783. Brown settled first in the Bahamas, and later on St. Vincent Island. He remained a wealthy planter, land owner and influential politician until his death in 1825.
This document contains rare illustrations of southeastern Indian clan symbols. Many southeastern Native Americans practiced a form of social organization based on matrilineal clans, wherein they traced their lineages through their mothers’ families and were born into the same clan as their mothers. The matrilineal clan system shaped daily life. Older clan members transmitted specialized knowledge to the younger generations. Young boys learned to hunt from their mother’s brothers (and other maternal uncles) as they shared the same clan, instead of from their fathers who belonged to separate clans. For southeastern Indians, the term father carried respect, but not obedience in the manner familiar to Europeans; this was the context in which Englishman Thomas Brown was referred to as “father” by the Creeks and Seminoles. Likewise, women passed down knowledge about plants, agriculture and female-specific rituals only within their own clan. Europeans struggled to understand this method of social organization, primarily because it often clashed with their own patriarchal worldview.
The symbols on this document represent several different clans. Some can be identified from their resemblance to known animals—such as alligator and bird—while others cannot. Clan names referred to mythical ancestors and often took the form of animals, plants and forces of nature. Dozens of clans existed among the Creeks and Seminoles at the time this document was created. Also included on the document are titles belonging to leading men from Creek and Seminole towns. High ranking men carried a war or diplomatic title and identified themselves with a town. For example Tallassee Mico, was a Mico, or leading man, from the town of Tallassee. Because of the inclusion of clan symbols alongside town affiliations and titles, this document raises questions about tribal and national identity in the Revolutionary Era.
The expansion of settlers and plantation slavery into Creek and Seminole lands prompted a series of wars between the Americans and the southeastern tribes. The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) was the longest and costliest American Indian war in United States history. At the end of the Third Seminole War in 1858, only about 200 Seminoles remained on the Florida peninsula; roughly the same number of Creeks remained in southern Alabama after the Second Creek War of 1836. Their descendants today make up the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The United States government removed the vast majority of southeastern American Indians to the territory west of the Mississippi River in the decades before the Civil War.
A Grant of Indian Territory from the Upper Creek Indians and also The Lower Creeks & Seminolies to Colonel Thomas Browne Superintendent of Indian affairs for the Southern District of North America.
We The Undersigned Kings & Warriors of the Upper & Lower Creek Nations and Seminolies assembled in Congress and herein aforementioned vix Apoi Mico, Efa Hadjou, Mico chateo, Apoi hadjou, Capatooka hadjou, Mickinee lackoo, Philotougi, Wacca puchajou, Tomapee hadjou, Tavanna hadjou, Tallassee mico, Slasso[?] chapco, Virginia hadjou, Coosa mico, Chipee mico, Witumkee mico, Cussita mico, Euchee mico, Savanna mico, Tomo Chigi mico
In consideration of the regard and esteem we have for our father and friend Colonel Browne who on various occasions has successfully led our Kings & Warriors to battle against the common enemy the Virginians and as the Giver of Breath has been pleased to endow him with the qualities of a warrior in a superior degree to any of our nations; We therefore the Kings, Chiefs & Warriors having chosen our father & friend our chief king & head Warrior with the war title of the Great Eagle as a mark of our regard & affection for him and to enable him to support his rank & station have given and by these presents do give to him & his children forever the Land on the Westernside of East Florida bounded on the North by the river Amajura, the East by the St. Johns river and the Islands therein including the same and on the South by the Point River on the West by the sea with the Islands on the Coast including to have & hold the same forever.
In Testimony whereof we have set our Names & family Marks
Signed in the presence of us Pat Tonyn Governor & Gen.
St. Augustine March 1, 1783
I do surely swear that the foregoing is a faithful copy taken from the original Grant lodged amongst the records of my department & of which there are copies lodged in the Secretarys office of the province of East Florida and also of the Surveyor Generals Office & the Registers office
Thomas Browne Superintendent and General of the late Southern Indian department of North America
Sworn before me [?] Governors Commissioner [?] of St. Vincents
Sworn before me the Senior Assistant Justice of His Majesty South of Kings [?] [?] [?] of Saint Vincent this 28th day June 1820