Patriot Chiefs and Loyal Braves

S. Pony Hill



Chapter 4. “all of whom claim to be Catawbas”

The Florida Catawba



; General Jacob Scott became ‘Chief’ of the Catawba in South Carolina after the death of General New River in 1801. General Jacob Scott died in 1821 and General Jacob Ayers succeeded him until his own death on 14 July 1837. Ian Watson in his compilation entitled “Catawba Indian Genealogy” described the death of General Ayers in 1837 as “the end of a conservative era of Catawba tribal government.”, and indeed, 3 years later the Catawba relinquished their lands in South Carolina and scattered. The reality of this shift to a more progressive thinking leadership and the eventual self-termination of their reservation status and migration to North Carolina in 1840 may have an ethnic root instead of being the result of acculturation.


; Watson, Brown & McDowell clearly identify three of the Catawba surnames as being of Cheraw origin (George, Robbins, Harris)(1) and these families seemed to begin a push to dominate the Catawba leadership after the death of General Scott in 1821. The exodus of so many Catawba in the 1820’s could possibly represent a reaction to the overtaking of the political structure by the mixed-blood Christianized Cheraw.


Catawba Indians, members of the Harris family, South Carolina

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; The fact that a large number of Catawba left the reservation in the time-span 1790 to 1830 cannot be doubted. Revolutionary enlistments and petitions of Catawba showed the surnames Williams, Connar (or Conyer), Thompson, Simmons, Jones, Taylor, Cross, Cook, Bullen (or Bowlin), Kennedy, Kelley, Young & Dickson (2); surnames which do not appear after the 1820’s.


; The Scott family, described by Brown as “a large and prominent family” among the Catawba, supplied three men to the Revolutionary effort, Capt. Jacob Scott, Capt. John Scott, and Billey Scott. If these 3 males were the only Catawba males bearing the ‘Scott’ surname, then by population estimates the Scott family Catawba must have represented at least 3 households and 15 to 20 individuals, yet by 1849 only two Scott individuals remained connected to the Catawba (John Scott born 1826, and Sam Scott born 1799). (3) By 1853, John Scott was the only individual with that surname associated with the tribe, and the 1943 Catawba Tribal roll does not bear any Catawba with the Scott surname. (4)





Catawba Indian dancers at the 1913 Corn Exposition


; So, here’s the “million dollar” question, where did these Catawba go? In 1828 a group of mixed-blood Indians arrived in the area west of the Apalachicola River in northwest Florida. Of the 9 surnames present in that original migration (Ayers, Brown, Bunch, Harmon, Jeffries, Jones, Scott, Stephens, Williams) (5), a whopping 7 surnames have been identified as Catawba. (6) The ages of the eldest males in the Florida migration (Jacob Scott born 1797, Isham Scott born 1791, Absalom Scott born 1790) (7) matches the age group of the last remaining Scott elder attached to the Catawba in 1849 (Sam Scott born 1799). Given that the names Sam, George, Tom, John, and Jacob, which appeared with uncommon frequency among the Catawba, also appear with the same frequency among the Florida mixed-bloods; we must accept as fact that the Sam Scott at Catawba and Jacob, Isham and Absalom in Florida were related, most likely brothers and sons of the older Jacob Scott.


; The fact that Catawba migrated as far as Florida is without question. In Sept. 1853, a band of eighteen Indians, all of whom claimed to be Catawba, was reported wandering near Stockton, Alabama. Their leader was named Taylor, and the band represented two families: Taylor and Houser. There were four men in the group; the rest were women and children. They said they came from West Florida and were enroute to Arkansas, but were stranded for lack of money. (8) The Taylor family eventually settled among the mixed-blood Creeks living on reservation land near Stockton, but the Houser family disappeared from official view. It is amazing that the family of Richard Taylor appears in the mid-1800’s, all claiming to be Catawba Indians, as there had been no records of the Catawba Taylor family since the 1740’s when “War Captain Tom Taylor” was among them. (9) Documents such as this of the Taylor family and also the Jeffries/Jeffreys and Guy families are indicative that Catawba descended families migrated to many areas of the southeast with very little documentation, but have been discounted by academics because they did not bear such well-known Catawba surnames as Harris, Brown, Cantey, etc.


;  Surname recognition alone is not the only evidence that the Apalachicola mixed-bloods carried a Catawba identity. Their own words support this fact. On July 10th, 1861, Francis Hill, a white unmarried male,” was charged by the Calhoun County Court with “Fornication with one Eliza Scott a Mulatto woman.” This charge was not long-standing, however, as Francis petitioned and provided witnesses who were prepared to testify that,


        “Eliza Scott is not a Mulatto as named in the indictment but is an Indian of the

        Catawba tribe, her grandfather Jacob Scott being a headman of that tribe.”(11)


The testimony seemed sufficient to clear away the cloud of suspicion of negro ancestry, as seems apparent when Francis Hill, Isham Scott, and John ‘Capt. Jack’ Ayers were all allowed to enlist for Confederate service with McCallister’s Calhoun Rangers later in December. As almost an afterthought, the Fall Court filed away the fornication charge with a ‘not guilty’ finding.

(1);; Watson, 83; Brown 1966, 218, 249; McDowell 1955, 145)

(2);; Thomas Drennan’s company of Catawba Indians paylist of 1780; Petition of “the Chief and head men of Cataba Nation…” 24 Nov 1792, South Carolina Petitions, 1792, #26, South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

(3);; Massey, B.S. account of Catawba Indians 1849

(4);; Massey, B.S. Report to the Governor of South Carolina on the Catawba Indians, 1854; “Catawba Tribal Roll, 1 July 1943,” #11273-1959-077, part 1, Central Classified Files, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

(5);; Tax records of Jackson & Calhoun Counties, 1828, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1834, 1835, those individuals identified as “free persons of color” and “other free persons”.

(6);; Surnames Ayers, Brown, Scott, Stephens, and Williams identified on Rev. War. paylists and reservation land leases. Surname Bunch identified from reservation land leases. Surname Jeffries identified prior to 1900 as Catawba descendants from records of Jenffries/Jeffreys family members residing in Ohio.

(7);; 1850 census of Calhoun County, Ocheesee District, plantation of Capt. Stephen Richards.

(8);; Hall, General G.B. to Capt. I.C. Casey about certain Indians in his County, 12 Nov 1853, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Archives, Letters Received, Miscellaneous, 1853, A-172.

(9);; Brown, Douglas S., “The Catawba Indians”, The University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, 1966, page 220, 225-27.

(10)  10 July 1861, State of Florida V. Francis Hill, 1860-65 Calhoun Judicial Cases, Calhoun County Courthouse Archives Room 3rd Floor, Blountstown, Florida.




 Copyright ©2006 by Steven Pony Hill, all rights reserved.


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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.