Apalachee Indians


Apalachee. Meaning perhaps "people on the other side" (as in Hitchiti), or it may be cognate with Choctaw apelachi, "a helper."

These Indians belonged to the Muskhogean linguistic family, their closest connections having been apparently the Hitchiti and Alabama.

The Apalachee towns, with few exceptions, were compactly situated in the neighborhood of the present Florida capital, Tallahassee.

The Apalachee seem to appear first in history in the chronicles of the Narvaez expedition (Bandelier, 1905). The explorers spent nearly a month in an Apalachee town in the year 1528 but were subjected to constant attacks on the part of the warlike natives, who pursued them during their withdrawal to a coast town named Aute. In October 1539, De Soto arrived in the Apalachee province and remained there the next winter in spite of the unceasing hostility of the natives, who well maintained the reputation for prowess they had acquired 11 years before. Although the province is mentioned from time to time by the first French and Spanish colonists of Florida, it did not receive much attention until the tribes between it and St. Augustine had been pretty well missionized. In a letter written in 1607 we learn that the Apalachee had asked for missionaries and, although one paid a visit to them the next year, the need is reiterated at frequent intervals. It was not until 1633, however, that the work was actually begun. In that year two monks entered the country and the conversion proceeded very rapidly so that by 1647 there were seven churches and convents and eight of the principal chiefs had been baptized. In that year, however, a great rebellion took place. Three missionaries were killed and all of the churches with their sacred objects were destroyed. An expedition sent against the insurgents was repulsed, but shortly afterward the movement collapsed, apparently through a counterrevolution in the tribe itself. After this most of the Apalachee sought baptism and there was no further trouble between them and the Spaniards except for a brief sympathetic movement at the time of the Timucua uprising of 1656. The outstanding complaint on the part of the Indians was that some of them were regularly commandeered to work on the fortifications of St. Augustine. In 1702 a large Apalachee war party was severely defeated by Creek Indians assisted by some English traders, and in 1704 an expedition from South Carolina under Colonel Moore practically destroyed the nation. Moore claims to have carried away the people of three towns and the greater part of the population of four more and to have left but two towns and part of another. Most of these latter appear to have fled to Mobile, where, in 1705, they were granted land on which to settle. The Apalachee who had been carried off by Moore were established near New Windsor, S. C., but when the Yamasee War broke out they joined the hostile Indians and retired for a time to the Lower Creeks. Shortly afterward the English faction among the Lower Creeks became ascendant and the Apalachee returned to Florida, some remaining near their old country and others settling close to Pensacola to be near their relatives about Mobile. By 1718 another Apalachee settlement had been organized by the Spaniards near San Marcos de Apalache and close to their old country. In 1728 we hear of two small Apalachee towns in this neighborhood. Most of them gravitated finally to the neighborhood of Pensacola. In 1764, the year after all French and Spanish possessions east of the Mississippi passed into the hands of Great Britain, the Apalachee, along with several other tribes, migrated into Louisiana, now held by Spain, and settled on Red River, where they and the Taensa conjointly occupied a strip of land between Bayou d'Arro and Bayou Jean de Jean. Most of this land was sold in 1803 and the Apalachee, reduced to a small band, appear to have moved about in the same general region until they disappeared. They are now practically forgotten, though a few mixed-blood Apalachee are still said to be in existence. A few accompanied the Creeks to Oklahoma.

Mooney (1928) estimates 7,000 Apalachee Indians in 1650, a figure which seems to me to be ample. Governor Salazar's mission-by-mission estimate in 1675 yielded a total of 6,130, and a Spanish memorial dated 1676 gives them a population of 5,000. At the time of Moore's raid there appear to have been about 2,000. The South Carolina Census of 1715 gives 4 Apalachee villages, 275 men, and 638 souls. As the Mobile Apalachee were shortly afterward reduced to 100 men, the number of the entire tribe in 1715 must have been about 1,000. By 1758 they appear to have fallen to not much over 100, and in 1814 Sibley reported but 14 men in the Louisiana band, signifying a total of perhaps 50 (Sibley, 1832). Morse's estimate (1822) of 150 in 1817 is evidently considerably too high.