Myers Park Neighborhood
(and surrounding areas)
PREHISTORY AND EARLY HISTORY:
The Tallahassee area was long a place of habitation for Native Americans and the Myers Park area was no exception. The natural beauty of the small waterfall at the Cascades (destroyed long ago by use as an early town dump), the large springs still in Myers Park, the high hilltop for many years called Houston's Hill, were all major attractions... and the area was also apparently a crossroads of transit, the route now known as Lafayette Street having been the "Old Spanish Trail" and before that a trail of the Native Americans.
The first Europeans known to have arrived in the area were among the earliest to arrive in North America. The Hernando deSoto expedition (illustration from Florida State Archives) passed through Tallahassee in 1539. DeSoto's soldiers drove the Apalachee inhabitants from the village of Anhaica, and although the Apalachees tried to take their village back and did succeed in burning part of it, deSoto camped there, using the Apalachees' houses and stored provisions throughout that Winter, while the natives lived as best they could in the woods. DeSoto's camp was on the hilltop by the house of former Florida Governor John W. Martin (served 1924-1929) off of Lafayette Street just to the east of what is now the Myers Park city park. Archeological research did not find the limits of Anhaica, but it was a large village of two hundred or more houses, and apparently at one time or another it extended at least from the vicinity of Apalachee Parkway into the Capital Country Country Club.
About 1633 the Apalachee residents of Anhaica were moved by the Spanish, ostensibly for reasons of "security", a few miles to the west... to Inihaica, the San Luis de Talimali Mission site near the intersection of present day West Tennessee Street and Ocala Road. The area thus vacated was subsequently resettled by Yamasees (also spelled Yamassees). Another mission, the Franciscan Order's Mission La Purificacion de Tama came to be established at the former site of Anhaica, and was described as surrounded by a "heathen village," by Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderon, Bishop of Cuba, in a report to Queen Mariana of Spain. Calderon founded the mission on 27 January 1675, during a visit to Florida. The La Purificacion de Tama mission was not named on a 1680 list of missions; however a mission called Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria de la Tama was on that list, and that is presumed to be a different name for the same place.
The Yamasees were members of the larger grouping that the Europeans came to call "the Creek Confederacy", i.e., they were Creeks in a larger sense of the word, although there was a subgroup within the confederacy which was known specifically as the Creek tribe. The Yamasees spoke Muskogee (or Muscogee), the language of the Creeks. The Apalachees spoke Hichiti (also known as Hitchiti) which is related also to the language of the Choctaw. The Apalachicolas who lived immediately west of the Apalachees also spoke Hichiti. The Yamasees and Apalachees relocated great distances several times during the colonial period due to involvement in conflicts between Spanish and British colonists. Descendents of these and other Native American tribes, and runaway and captured slaves, through time amalgamated to form the grouping that has come to be known as Seminoles in Florida. The name Seminole is thought to have come from the Spanish word cimerrones, or translated variously as "free people" or "runaways", within the Creeks there was also some distinction of those who moved south into Florida, and the U.S. Government found it convenient to label the Native Americans living in Florida with a distinct name... giving rise to perhaps a sharper distinctiveness than really existed at the time. Today there is still a distinction in languages within the Seminoles... with the Miccosukees speaking Hichiti which the Muskogee speakers regard as a dialect of Muskogee. That distinction has manifested itself within the past half-century by creation of two separate tribal entities, the Seminole Tribe of Florida (1957) and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida (1962). "A few dozen Florida Indians who are not enrolled in either Tribe exist as organized "Independent" Seminoles not formally recognized by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). They continue to formally protest any government intervention into their lives and maintain an open land claim for much of the state of Florida with the federal government." (Seminole Tribe of Florida official web site).
In 1702 James Moore, who was the proprietary governor of the English colony of South Carolina from 1700 to 1703, destroyed as much as he could of the Spanish occupied areas of Florida along the Atlantic coast. He laid seige to St. Augustine and destroyed the Indian villages and missions in that area, and attempted but failed to take the fortified city. In 1704 Moore led a second expedition of British settlers and Creeks which destroyed both of the Spanish missions in Tallahassee, and others in North Florida. Some of the Spaniards captured by the Moore expedition were tortured to death and over a thousand of the captured inhabitants of Anhaica, Inihaica, and other parts of Spanish Florida were carried away to Charles Towne as captives, thus ending the inhabited existence of Anhaica and Inihaica. Many of the captives were runaway slaves or were otherwise enslaved by the British, and some of these slaves were apparently sold around the Carribean. Those who somehow escaped capture scattered, leaving the lands that they had cultivated to later be called by the Seminoles "Tallahassee"... meaning Old Town, or Old Fields... depending on the translator. After that raid, the British settled a large group of Apalachees near the present site of Augusta, Georgia, and some of the captive Yamasees were settled for awhile in British South Carolina. The alignment of Apalachees and Yamasees with the British and both of these settlements ended, however, with the Yamasee War (1715-1716), during and after which the remaining Apalachees and Yamasees scattered still further..
The remains of the missions and native towns that had existed in this area were still quite evident even after Tallahassee became established as the capitol of the U.S. Territory of Florida in 1824. An 1825 newspaper article stated that: "on the hill about half a mile southeast of the capital are to be seen the greatest proof of a denser population. On this hill are to be seen streets or roads, running at nearly right angles, at such distance to demonstrate the former existence of a pretty large town. The shade trees of the former inhabitants still remain, and are generally of live oak, and near which may be discovered grape arbors of more or less regularity."
NOTE: This page is undergoing a process of constant and extensive revision as I consult more source materials. - Richard White, 17 October 2000
ALSO NOTE: Unlike the Cherokee language since Sequoya, Muskogee and Hichiti are written languages only in the English alphabet and though I gave two spellings for a number of words, there are likely to be as many spellings as there conceivable ways to render the applicable sounds... that is to say, more than two.
Sources: Historical and Architectural Survey of the Country Club Estates Neighborhood Tallahassee, Florida, written by Sharyn M. E. Thompson and published by the Florida Secretary of State, Historic Tallahassee Preservation Board, Tallahassee, Spring 1986; Hernando de Soto Among the Apalachee: The Archeology of the First Winter Encampment, written by Charles R. Ewen and John H. Hann and published by the University of Florida Press, Gainesville, 1998; The Yamasee War (web site), Doris B. Fisher, Clayton College and State University; Northwest Florida Place Names of Indian Origin, Richard S. Milner, Yanasochee: Parthenon AR, 2000; John R. Swanton The Indian Tribes of North America (extract from); The Seminole Tribe of Florida A Brief History.
The early history of European activities in the Southeast is a little-known saga of exploitation of the natives and warfare against them. The scope and span of it is incredible. The timetable in this web page on The English Conquest of Georgia gives a concise overview.
This page was created on 5 December 1999.
Most recent revision 26 May 2001.