In 1795, The new United States had signed the Pinckney Treaty with Spain, which gave America the rights of navigation on the Mississippi River and required that the northern boundary of Florida be set at the 31st parallel. In 1796, Washington chose Andrew Ellicott as head surveyor and by may, 1798, they were near Mobile placing markers for metes and bounds. In 1799, the party approached the Chattahoochee River portion of the survey, where Seminoles began to harass and rob them.
An early indication of Seminole resistance to the advancing tide of white settlers in Florida was furnished by the hostile activities of bands of "bandetti" among the tribe who effectively halted the commission near the confluence of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in 1799. The journals, diaries, and correspondence of those connected with the southern frontier at that time clearly indicate the emergence of the Seminoles as a major threat to white settlement (Holmes, 1966: 312).
Elicott found the going very rough: Mosquitoes, rain, heat and humidity were taking its toll. On top of that the depredations of the Seminoles and Eufaulas were jeopardizing the mission:
After arriving at this place, and finding the disposition of the Uphales, and Seminoles, I had serious thoughts of relinquishing a further prosecution of the business on account of the expense which would necessarily be incurred, by the delays owing to so great a number of our horses being stolen by the Indians, and the probability of losing the greater part of the remainder between this, and St. Mary's, which event would effectually put an end to our operations, and reduce us to the necessity of carrying our apparatus and baggage on our backs to some settlement in Georgia (317)…
….The lower towns, and Seminoles, are perhaps a set of the most unprincipled villains in existance, while partaking of hospitality, they will secret and carry off every article of value which they can lay their hands on belonging to their entertainer (318).
Ellicott and his party entered the Apalachicola river from the gulf and proceeded north by boat, hiring canoes to beat the rapid current and began surveying. Each day he would stop at a different Indian Town and avail them of canoes, guides and hospitality.
...Only with difficulty can Your Excellency form an idea of how disagreeable and unfortunate our situation is. We are camped next to an Indian village, and below it is another one. Our camp, our tents, are continually filled with Indians, who are not only not desirable guests, but who are the most skillful and subtle thieves that I have ever seen. Not only have they robbed us of a large number of our horses, but they have also pillaged many articles from the tents. They take as much as they can carry when they come to see us if we do not watch them carefully. Moreover, we are forced to give daily supplies to a considerable number. Presently we have ninety among us (320)...
William Augustus Bowles and his Creek Nation were barely in the background as these incidents of hostility arose for Endicott. Bowles was fighting the Spanish, the Americans and even wished to supplant the trading house of Panton and Leslie. Creek Agent Benjamin Hawkins sought to discuss these matters with William Panton on several occasions, as Bowles was a mutual enemy.
…Just after they had finished their observations there and had fixed the day for their movement to the source of St. Marys they were visited by twenty mischief makers from Talasee, who created a momentary alarm. This banditti aided by some Semanoles stole fourteen horses and plundered a vessel of property of the value of 3 or 400 dolls. I met them on the night of their arrival in the vicinity of our camp with the armed force under command of Capt. Boyer, rebuked them for their improper conduct and ordered them to return home and to conduct themselves agreeable to the voice of their nation. They for a short time seemed obstinately bent on mischief but determined as soon as they discovered we possessed the means and were determined to punish them. . . .
The next day I sent out some chiefs for the stolen horses and they [-----] the hole and brought a message from this Banditti; that they should return home, that what they had done did not [two words torn from mss] with themselves, that they had been out for, that the greatest part of the mischief done was by Indians in our neighborhood and that they had taken but two horses which they returned. I advised Mr. Ellicott with his unwieldy accumulation of baggage to go round by water, and for Major Minor to go through with their escort by land (327, 328)...
Once the boundary was drawn, Ellicott began his journey downstream to the gulf and eventually Pensacola. It was pointed out by many including Timothy Bernard, one of Hawkins deputy agents, that he would probably be accosted and robbed on his way there. Now the party had an Indian escort from the friendlier Creeks, but a group of plunderers were following the group as it headed towards its final Florida destination. When one of Ellicott’s horses was stolen within site of the camp he ordered all stock inside the camp, only to realize 8 or 10 were already missing (334). A schooner ordered by Ellicott had been plundered the night before, the crews clothes stolen off their backs by marauding Indians.
Ellicott, upon finishing the boundary survey wrote of his experiences, which chronicles the depredations of the Creeks and Seminoles on his party. He concluded:
The Southern Creeks, commonly called Seminoles, with the Tallesees and some individuals in the Upper Towns are certainly hostile towards the U.S. and nothing but the firm language of our Executive will prevent a war with them if encouraged by M.r Bowles. - But I am far from being certain what part he will act (340).
The Indians followed the party to Pensacola where they kept up the hostilities as the surveyors Lay behind the walls of the Fort near the Panton store. Ellicott would blame much of this on the Spanish, whose escort, Major Minor, he deemed incompetent. He also pointed out the Indians the Spanish said were Seminoles were in many cases Tallesee from the Upper Creek Towns. Bowles hold over the Upper Towns and the Seminole would end with his capture in 1804, but the hostility toward America and the Duplicity of the British would make the banditti on the Georgia – Florida border busy as beavers.
1966 Holmes, Jack D.L., The Southern Boundary Commission, the Chattahoochee River, and the Florida Seminoles, The Florida Historical Quarterly Vol. 44 No. 4, Florida Historical Society: St. Augustine.
(from: History of the Pony Club, unpublished)