Baker Block Museum
Corner Route 189 and Hwy 4. Baker, Florida
Admission is FREE. We are open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM and the 3rd Saturday of the month. Come in and view our vast collection of artifacts. Enjoy our Exhibits. Research local history, heritage and culture in our reference library. Picnic in the Park. Enjoy.
Located in Baker, Florida, the Baker Block Museum was completed and opened to the public in July 1996. The building was once the old General Store built in 1908 and is located where cattle once were penned awaiting shipment by rail to market. After the property was purchased by the Association, work began on restoring the old store as our Museum, which now houses many artifacts from the local area such as old turpentine stills and Native American items. Photo below is the way the building looked before the current mural was painted on the east side.
The town of Baker was established in 1907 along a well used migration trail from North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. It was named in honor of Reverend R.G. Baker, the father-in-law of J.D.C. Newton. Before that, the community was known as Cobb. Early settlers gained their livelihood from cattle raising, sheep herding, logging, and naval stores operations (turpentine industry and it's associated products).As Baker grew it boasted cotton gins, a bank, drug store, lady's store, doctor's office, mercantile (now the Museum), hotel, post office, turpentine still and the Shaw blueberry farm, which was at the time, the world's largest. The beautiful mural painted on the side of the building after its restoration represents much of the area's history; it was hand painted by Mr. Larry Demmers. It is in need of restoration.
Tribal Language Groups.
The map and tribal names shown below are located at website http://www.native-languages.org/florida.htm
You will also find information regarding the formation of the Seminoles. This site states that, "Seminoles were not originally a single tribe but an alliance of Northern Florida and South Georgia natives who banded together in the 1700s."
Not all researchers agree on the history and tribal grounds of early Native Americans in Florida so read information on this issue from several sources to gain a deeper understanding of the issues. Tribal groups particular to our local area include: Euchee, Chickasaw, Muskogee Creek, probably Choctaw, and the Alabamo, Coosada (Koasati), Chatas and Sawoki.
Native Americans in Northwest Florida.
When tracing Indian ancestors in Okaloosa County, search the counties between Mobile, AL. and the Apalachicola River, FL. During the later part of the 19th century Creeks from south Alabama and South Georgia migrated into West Florida, adding to the small Indian population already present here. Some of those who were ‘removed,' upon returning to their home area tried to stay as close as possible to their ancestral tribal grounds. Florida Indians tended to live together in small family groups, usually in remote areas to avoid undue attention or trouble. This way they could also move quickly to another area if necessary. Creek country was from Pensacola, FL to the Apalachicola River; Seminoles were generally from Apalachicola to the East and South, the Uchees favored Uchee Valley and down to Ft. Walton Beach, FL. The Creek/Seminole people, more connected to the Georgia Creeks, centered near Perry, FL. They were not particularly close to the other tribal groups in the Panhandle. Walton County was a center of gravity in the Creek wars of 1836-37. Understanding what happened in the Florida panhandle in those years is most significant.
The challenges of tracing Native American ancestry can be legion and complex so pace yourself and take the long view. Remember that the native peoples, as a rule, did not maintain a written tradition. Most documentation was done by the white settlers via families named in land treaties or on trading post ledgers or census records. Also, many tribal associations have been deeply affected by whether they were ‘removed’ or ‘unremoved’ from their native lands. More recently, the search is further convoluted by attempts to obtain tribal 'membership.'
In the very early years (late 1700s - mid 1800s), the Creek peoples of the Southeast occupied territory as follows:
Upper Creeks - Occupied most of Alabama from south of the Tennessee River to Pensacola, FL.
Lower Creeks - Occupied most of Georgia and North Florida.
Seminole -" Breakaway" Creeks, Apalachees & Afro- American slaves who relocated to South Florida.
Here are a few profiles of key people who have played a role in the history of Native Americans in our general area:
- Andrew Ramsey, Chief of the Miccosukee Band of Apalachicola Creeks. Andrew Ramsey was born in 1923 and is an Apalachicola River Creek Native American living in Blountstown Florida. His family ancestors settled Calhoun County in 1815. Andrew’s Indian name is Vntolv Harjo and under this name he was Chief of the Miccosukee band of the Apalachicola Creeks. The Creeks used to share a cultural history with the Seminoles, but following the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823 they became a separate people. The government closed their Indian reservation on the west side of the Apalachicola River in the late 1830s.
- Calvin McGhee, Chief of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Despite the forced removal of Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama in 1836, some Creeks in the Tensaw district of Alabama maintained a distinct community around the small town of Poarch. The federal government held a tract of land at Poarch in trust for the Indians until 1924. In the 1940s the community began to organize politically in its own interest, and from 1950 to 1970 tribal leader Calvin McGhee spearheaded a campaign for recognition of Creek land claims in the southeastern states. The Poarch Band raised funds largely through an annual Thanksgiving Day Pow Wow. The Poarch Band descends from Muscogee Creek Indians who sided with the United States in the Creek War of 1813-1814.
-- Calvin McGhee Cultural Center. 5811 Jack Springs Rd. Atmore, Alabama 36502
- Muscogee Nation of Florida (formerly The Florida Tribe of Eastern Creek Indians) PO Box 3028. Bruce, FL 32455, is recognized by the House and Senate of the State of Florida. They reside in small townships across north Florida interior; families represent the clans of the Wind, Bird, Deer, Bobcat, Bear and Big House. (Google them and look for the town name, Bruce, FL.)
- Santa Rosa County Creek Indian Tribe, Inc. 4344 US Hwy 90 Suite A. Pace, FL. located between Pensacola and Milton in northwest Florida along Hwy 90 and Interstate 10, their mission is to raise community awareness to the Native American cultures, traditional and current issues. Surnames include: Nichols.
- Nathan Chessher, Elder, Muscogee Nation of Florida, is our local authority on historical aspects of Native Americans in our Okaloosa County area. The short list below is gleaned from his article, "The Creek Nation in Okaloosa County, Florida" See the "Native American Research & Resources" section at this website to locate this article and his article entitled, "Indian Traders Migration to Our Area". See more of his work in the Culture & Heritage section of this web page and in the exhibits at the Baker Block Museum.
- There was a significant Indian trail along the Blackwater River.
- Both the trail and the river served as a dividing line between the Upper Creek and Lower Creek
- There was (an Indian) Village near the Oak Grove Community on the Yellow River at the Great Ford,
many refugee Indians joined this group after the First and Second Creek Wars.
- In December, 1814, the Old Alabamo King and 30 of his warriors were killed, and 75 people were taken
prisoner. This occurred on the East side of Yellow River, in present-day Okaloosa County, the exact
location is unknown.
There were many paths – old Indian trails, animal migration routes, stagecoach and supply routes and hunting paths. They came into prominence, fell into disuse, or took different forms and connections over the span of years. Not all existed at the same time and many were renamed or combined with other routes. This sometimes confuses researchers who may forget to match the right time frame with the correct usage of a particular path name.
Pensacola Trade Path. Actually a series of paths, much of it was in Alabama. The paths were known as the Pensacola trade path because that was its destination. This trail preceded and became part of the early Three-Notch Road and Old Spanish Trail systems. Settlers and native peoples used the trail; settlers coexisted with the Creek Indians living along it. Path names changed over time as do our present-day streets and roads.
Red Ground/Jackson Trail. Also part of this early system of trails and paths, this trail took its name from Andrew Jackson and his travels in the area. However, it was also known as the Red Ground Trail because it was a supply route between the Creek Indian Village of Econcate (meaning, Red Ground), near the Apalachicola River and Pensacola, FL.
The Indianola Inn Hotel.
The hotel was built just behind and almost on a Shell Midden which was originally considered to be an ordinary prehistorical shell mound from the Woodlands Era, but archaeological work has revealed it has a greater prominence. The Smithsonian records that the area of northwest Florida supported a fairly large Native American population. A large mound was evident at present-day Fort Walton Beach and two historic reports relate the use of a shell mound by the Walton Guard as a high spot on which to mount a cannon during the early years of the Civil War. Built in 1912, the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1962.
Chief of the Euchee Peoples (Okaloosa-Walton Counties)
Chief Sam Story and the Euchee People. There were Euchee tribes in Tennessee and Georgia. And, in the early 1800s, Sam was Chief of a band of Euchee Indians in our area. They occupied lands on and to the west of the Choctawhatchee River - primarily in (present-day) Walton County. Learn more about Chief Sam and his people in the Culture & Heritage section of this web page, and in the Research & Resources section of this web page where you will find additional information on the topic.
His headstone was erected in the forest near the confluence of the Choctawhatchee River and its tributaries in Walton County, FL.
Baker Block Museum Educational Services. Corner Hwy 4 & Rt 189. Baker, FL 32531 (850)537-5714