Chapter 8. Like Other Good Indians
At the beginning of 1900 Lumber companies in Georgia, faced with a dwindling supply of hardwoods, turned their attention to northwest Florida. Huge supplies of timber were available and easily accessible for harvesting on both banks of the Apalachicola River. By 1910 such companies as Graves Brothers, Cypress Lumber, Chiploa Turpentine, Neal Timber, and Southern Hardwoods were busy installing large timber mills in both Liberty and Calhoun Counties. Many Lumbee Indians of Robeson County, North Carolina, who had left their homeland in the late 1800s for timber employment in Georgia, followed the industry down to Florida. The largest number of Lumbee families, including the Oxendines, Revels, and Jacobs, settled into Liberty County on the eastern side of the Apalachicola, and it is here that they came into close continuous contact with the Florida Catawba families. The combined effort of these two Indian groups to maintain gainful employment in timber resulted in the formation of a short-lived settlement in Liberty County known as Woods.
In order to understand the way the residents of Woods lived their daily lives, it is necessary to understand the Jim Crow attitudes of Georgia and Florida at that time. Malinda Maynor, in her excellent work entitled People and Place: Croatan Indians in Jim Crow Georgia, 1890-1920 published in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, gives a detailed study of a settlement of Lumbee Indians who migrated to Bulloch County, Georgia to work the timber in 1890. These Lumbee remained there until about 1920 when the industry moved south to Florida. On July 27, 1899 the Bulloch herald reported on the interest of their timber companies in the possibility of making good money in northwest Florida;
manufacturers were elated by what they saw in the way of turpentine and timber prospects in Florida and reported that they may invest some money down that way.
Many Lumbee from Bulloch followed the timber down to Liberty in the early part of the 1900s. Undoubtedly the same racial attitudes that these mixed-blood Indians faced in Goergia would also follow them down to Florida. One example of the conditions faced by the inhabitants of Woods is demonstrated by a 1901 article which appeared in the May 24, 1901 Statesboro News. This article made mention of a young boy who hade been murdered at a timber camp;
The boy was about sixteen years old, and it is said was a part Indian. And like other good Indians, he is now dead.
Family of Daniel Minton jr. and Hattie Tipton. Seated at right is Martha E. Hill,
daughter of Elizabeth Scott and Francis Hill. Woods, Florida circa 1920.
Even at its height, Woods was not quite large enough to be called a town. At its prime it consisted of about 14 homes, a one-room school, and a small merchandise store. According to the residency claims of individual birth and marriage records, the community became physically known as Woods sometime around 1915. By the beginning of World War Two, the physical landmark buildings had fallen out of use, and today have mostly fallen away and are surrounded by dense growth. The Liberty County Courthouse was the victim of repeated fires both before and after 1940, and the County was unable to maintain any historic records prior to WW2, which makes it hard to find documentary evidence of the daily relations of the Woods community with their surrounding white and black neighbors.
In addition to the Lumbee Indians in and around the Woods settlement, the Catawba mixed-bloods who lived here descended mainly from the Hill family who had migrated from the area of the Catawba reservation in Union County, South Carolina to Jackson County; Daniel Conyers and his wife Elizabeth Moses, who had migrated from Sumter County, South Carolina (Elizabeth was the daughter of F.J. Moses who signed a petition of descendants of David Scott in Sumter in 1830. Moses signature appeared just below that of John Nettles, a man identified as a headman of the Catawba. This petition identified that David Scott was reportedly of Catawba blood); Martha Emma Hill (the daughter of Francis Hill and Elizabeth Scott of Scotts Ferry) who had lived with her husband Daniel Minton in Decatur, Georgia, before moving down to Liberty; Mary Brown Kever, the wife of Frank Kever of France; and Mary Samantha Blanchard Dasher (the daughter of John Blanchard and Ellen Scott of Scotts Ferry), wife of Emmitt Dasher.
With the exhaustion of the hardwoods along the Apalachicola between 1930 and 1940, the majority of the Woods inhabitants spread out to individual homesteads in western Liberty and other surrounding Counties.
Essie Hill Bryant, daughter Louise Bryant
& son Billie Buck Bryant
Annie Bass Love and Louise Bryant Tipton. Woods, Florida circa 1970.
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Copyright ©2006 Steven Pony Hill, all rights reserved, and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same, without written permission of the author. It may be used in your family history or genealogy, for which purpose it was intended.