The Apalachicola River Community of Indians Tribal Organization (ARCITO)

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"Dominickers of Florida": Caught Between the Races

 

 

Claim to be part Spanish and Indian …”

Other Florida Groups of Cheraw Ancestry

The Carolina Cheraw Origins of the "Dominickers”

Hall, Thomas, Bland, Forehand, Simmons, Mainer, Chavis, Mayo

Dominicker was a pejorative term applied to several (interrelated) populations of mixed bloods across the panhandle, most often used in Walton and Holmes Counties. We are currently working on an exhaustive research project, it will show the differing lines of descent for the Mt Zion community population and the historic "Sam Story" Euchee mixed blood families (Potters, Harris, Fennell, and others) both of whom lived in the same area, have held 'third race' statuses under segregation, and are most often thought of as a single population, but were not intermarried groups to any appreciable degree during the segregation era. For now I have gathered up some records and family sources about the so called “Dominicker” people. Currently several families who are or descend from the historic populations, including the Simmons, Hall, and Thomas families, of Mt Zion School and community area are active in local Indian activities in somewhat of a political nature. Most of the descendants of the historic “Dominicker” community in Walton County and to some degree Holmes County are averse to admitting their ancestry, though a few are active in local and pan-Indian activities. Some are part of a local group known as the “Echota Cherokee” tribe. One person who descends from the historic community and is involved in the modern Indian community is Rodney Ryals. He is a descendent of the Simmons and other families, is active in the Ponce De Leon/ Defuniak Springs, Florida area with the Creeks (Muscogee Nation of Florida, formerly called Florida Tribe of Eastern Creek Indians. The former Chairman of this organization was John Thomas. His niece Ann Denson Tucker is chairwoman now.) Below are some of the historical documentation of these families origins.

 1840 taxation census of Walton County, West Florida (later split to form Holmes)

Page 2:

Betsy Allen…..2male FPOC, 4 female FPOC

Page 7:

Henry Stephens…1white female, 16 male FPOC

Alfred Mayo….8male FPOC, 4female FPOC

 

1847 Walton County tax list:

William Chavers (sic Chavis)….$3.00….free man of color

Wiley Hall……………………...$6.00….free man of color

Note: he would only have been taxed double if his wife was also a FPOC

 

1850 census Walton County:

Household #109:   Hall, Wiley……..age 45….farmer…born NC

                                        Catherine…age 40……………born NC

                                        Wesley……….8……………………GA

                                         Mary…………6……………………FL

                                         James………..4…………………….FL

                                         Margaret…….2…………………….FL

 

 

1855 Walton tax list:

Daniel Gunn….$3.30………...free man of color

Jonathan Manor (sic Mainer)...free man of color

Benj. Thomas…$3.30……….free man of color

 

(NOTE: These mixed-blood families with surnames of Allen, Mayo, Chavers, Hall, Mainer, and Thomas can be found in the 1810-1820 census of Northampton, NC…on the site of the Meherrin reservation. The specific names of Hall and Thomas are on documents relating to lease/sale of Meherrin reservation property.)

 

One origin legend as recounted in the Florida volume of the Federal Writers Project in the late 1930’s, and I have in the second copy, in bold italics, responded to the story based on the documentary record:

 

“The beginning of the Dominicker Settlement was before the Civil War in 1855 by a black man named Joe Thomas. A slave raised a family of four children one boy and three girls, by a white woman named Polly Thomas. She owned the black man and after her husband was killed she took her slave for a husband and raised the four children. Their son Berrian Thomas married a white woman named Rally Hall. Their daughter named Martha Thomas married a white man named Bill Bland. The other girls raised a family of children without being married for different colored men.”

 

 “The beginning of the Dominicker Settlement was before the Civil War in 1855 (Benjamin Thomas’ family was on the 1850 census, so had to have arrived prior to 1855) by a black man named Joe Thomas (the progenitor of these Thomas’ was named Benjamin). A slave (Benjamin Thomas was taxed as a “free man of color” so obviously wasn’t a slave) raised a family of four children one boy and three girls, by a white woman named Polly Thomas (Benjamin’s wife was named Jane). She owned the black man (once again, Benjamin was never a slave) and after her husband was killed she took her slave for a husband (illegal under Florida law…she, the slave, and the minister would have been whipped and the marriage annulled) and raised the four children. Their son Berrian Thomas married a white woman named Rally Hall (Berrian Thomas married Mary Hall). Their daughter named Martha Thomas married a white man named Bill Bland. The other girls raised a family of children without being married for different colored men.”

 

 

The 1850 Census of Homes Co. shows:

Household #109: George W. Mayo (son of Alfred Mayo), wife and 2 kids

                  #110: Jane Thomas (wife of Benjamin Thomas), 5 children

                  #111: Micajah Stephens (son of Henry Stephens), wife and 3 children

                  #112: Alfred Mayo, wife and 5 children

 

(NOTE: Alfred Mayo would lead a mixed-blood “wagon train” to Louisiana and settle among other mixed-bloods there to form what would later be called the “Red Bones.”)

 

1870 census, Holmes county:

 

Household #320: Thomas, Berrian…45..Male…”M”…………..b. GA

                                           Mary K…34……….”W”……………..ALA

                                           Christian A. 5 (female) “W”………….FL

                              Hall, James M……13………..”M”……………FL

                                       Benjamin F….10………..”M”……………FL

                                       Ruth J………..8…………”M”…………...FL

 

Household #321: Hall, Ann C…..62……..”W”………………b. GA

                                     Elizabeth M…20…”W”…………………ALA

                                     Amelia A……18….”W”…………………ALA

                                     Willis F………16….”W”…………………ALA

 

Household #322: Thomas, Mary…..38…….”W”……………….b. GA

                                           Mary J…8……...”W”………………….FL

                                           Sarah F…6……..”W”………………….FL

                                           Franklin…1…….”W”………………….FL

 

Household #323: Bland, William….32…….”W”……………….b. FL

                                        Martha……33……”M”………………….FL

                                        Clara J……13……”M”………………….FL

                                        June E…….4…….”M”………………….FL

                                        William B…2……”M”………………….FL

 

1880 Holmes county census:

 

Household #142: Hall, Jeff………..INDIAN…34…………..b. FL

                                     Catherine….”B”……….30……………FL

 

Note: census taker instructions for 1880 stated that only people of “predominantly Indian blood residing on known Indian reservations, or persons of unmixed Indian blood should be recorded as ‘Indian.’”

                               

Household #208:  Hall, James……..”W”……….23………….B. FL

                                      Alice………”W”………23……………..FL

                                      Mary………”W”……….1………………FL

 

   Household #209: Thomas, Berry…..”Mu”………57…………..b. GA

                                              Mary….”W”………43……………..ALA

                                              Christian…”Mu”…..16 (grand-daug) FL

                                 Hall, Benjamin….”W”…….21 (step-son)……FL

 

Household #210:   Forehand, Sarah (Thomas)…..”Mu”…….52……………b. GA

                                               John……………….”Mu”…….19……………..FL

                                               Horace…………….”Mu”…….15……………..FL

 

Household #211:    Bland, William………..”W”……..34……………….b. FL

                                            Martha………..”Mu”…….44…………………GA

                                            Clara………….”Mu”…….21…………………FL

                                            Ginnie…………”Mu”….15…………………..FL

                                            William………..”Mu”…..13………………….FL

                                             Viola……………”Mu”….9…………………..FL

                                             John……………”Mu”……4…………………FL

                                             Sarah…………..”Mu”……1………………….FL

                                  Hall, Sarah   (Niece)….”Mu”…….15………………..FL

                                          Franklin (Nephew) “Mu”…….13………………FL

 

1885 Holmes County census:

 

Dwelling: 531…..Hall, James M………”W”…..25

                                       Alice M……….”W”…..26

                                       Mary J…………”W”…..6

                                       Coburn…………”W”….4

                                       Margaret……….”W”….2

                                       Arquilla…………”W”….45…Aunt

           

                 532……Thomas, Benjamin…….”Mu”…..60

                                              Christian A…..”Mu”…..19…daughter

 

                 533…….Bland, Martha…………”Mu”…..44

                                            Clara J………….”Mu”….28

                                            Jennie…………..”Mu”….18

                                            William…………”Mu”…16

                                            Viola……………”Mu”….14

                                             John…………….”Mu”…..9

                                            Ailsy Ann……….”Mu”….4

                               Forehand, Sarah…………”Mu”….55….sister

                                                Harris…………”Mu”…19

                                 Thomas, Sarah………….”Mu”…18….niece

 

                534……Forehand, John……………”Mu”….23

                                               Pallis…………...”W”…..30

                                               Mary……………”Mu”….9

                                               Lettice………….”Mu”….5

                                               Harris, Jr………..”Mu”…11/12

 

                535…….Mayo, William…………….”Mu”…..35

                                          Margaret……………”W”……30

                               Melvin, Catherine…………”W”…….4…..niece

                                             

 

The primary families in the Dominicker community were Hall, Thomas, Bland (white man married a Thomas), Forehand (white man married a Thomas), and Simmons, as the documentation present shows. The family name of Simmons did not marry in until quite late (after 1880). Specifically after the Simmons man (censused as a “Mu” farm laborer in Dale Co, ALA then as “Indian” in Washington Co, FL) came in. This individuals Simmons family connects back to the Simmons’ of Sampson Co, NC.

 

The narrative below is an article published in 1939 in the Florida volume of the Federal  Writer's Project State Guide Series.  This effort was a part of President Roosevelt's many Works Progress Administration (WPA) projects that were implemented to create employment for people during the Depression, and is credited with helping many troubled Americans.

“PONCE DE LEON, 45.2m (64 alt, 382 pop), is the site of Ponce De Leon Springs, one of the many fountains of youth named for the Spanish explorer. In adjacent back country live 'Dominickers,' part Negro and part white, whose history goes back to the early 1860s. [Origin story #1A—Thomas family] Just before the War Between the States, Thomas, a white, lived on a plantation here, with his wife, two children, and several Negro slaves. After his death his wife married one of the slaves, by whom she had five children. As slaves often took the name of their masters, her Negro husband was also known as Thomas. Of the five children, three married whites, two married Negroes. Today their numerous descendants live in the backwoods, for the most part in poverty. The men are of good physique, but the women are often thin and worn in early life. All have large families, and the fairest daughter may have a brother distinctly Negroid in appearance. The name originated, it is said, when a white in suing for a divorce described his wife as 'black and white, like an old Dominicker chicken.' Dominickers children are not permitted to attend white schools, nor do they associate with Negroes. About 20 children attend a one-room school. As no rural bus is provided, he pupils often walk several miles to attend classes. An old cemetery, containing a large number of Dominicker graves, adjoins the school. Numerous curves and steep hills make driving west of Ponce de Leon somewhat dangerous; care and caution are advised. “

Excerpted from the Federal Writers' Project (Fla.). Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State. Sponsored by the State of Florida, Department of Public Instruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1939.

1930 federal Writers Project

The following are transcripts of two unpublished, anonymous articles written for the Florida volume of the Federal Writers Project state guide series in the late 1930's; The original typescripts are in the library of the University of Florida at Gainesville, from which these transcriptions were taken.

THE DOMINECKER SETTLEMENT

The Dominecker [sic] Settlement is located in Holmes County, about half way between Westville and Ponce de Leon, Florida. Westville prides itself on being the one that made bootleg liquor famous, and the Domineckers owned and operated the stills. Ponce de Leon is a small village -a trading post for farmers. During the time that lumber and turpentine were leading industries, the town thrived. Now, a small sawmill employs a few people and cull lumber is shipped to the paper mill at Panama City. People trade one product for another and there is very little money spent. The town derives its name from a small spring on the Pea River, called Ponce de Leon Springs. The spring claims to be the original “Fountain of Youth” discovered by Ponce de Leon. The Domineckers live in their little settlement and have few outside interests. The children are not allowed to attend the white schools. For a child from the settlement to attend school was unheard of until 10 years ago, their efforts to enter their children in school caused such an upheaval, the school board finally compromised by establishing a grammar school for them. A few exceptions have been made in Westville for high school students, but they are never allowed to actually graduate. Two families have moved to Shamrock, Florida to send the children to a white school.

The Domineckers attend the Mt. Zion Baptist Church. It is supposed to be a white church, they are allowed to go to any church to “preaching” but cannot take a part in church affairs. They seldom attend any services but their own -unless it is a holiness revival. These people are sensitive, treacherous and vindictive. They never start a disturbance but if any one bothers them – the whole family will do childish things to get revenge, to steal a hog or mutilate a crop is as good as a want. They are pathetically ignorant and en entire family will work hard for little compensation. The Domineckers come to town once a week for supplies. Their dilapidated wagons are drawn by anemic looking oxen. Each wagon is literally spilling over with children. Thay attend their business quickly and quietly and leave as unceremoniously as they came. They are treated witht the same courtesy that a Negro receives -never served at a public fountain nor introduced to a white person. It would be ridiculous to prefix “Mr.” or “Mrs.” to their names. The Domineckers differ in size but they are practically the same type. Their skin is dark, swarthy and thick looking; some have medium skin with big brown freckles, their eyes are brown and sharp, usually deep-set. They have beautiful white teeth and bright pink gums. Most of them have black straight hair, none of them have real kinky hair and one family has three children that are decided blonds – their skin looks sun-burned. They are a type of people that age quickly, probably from lack of care. The men are big and burly looking, noted for their strength and famous for “halter breaking” calves and horses. The women are low in stature, fat and shapeless, they wear loose-fitting clothes and no shoes. One woman 74 years of age has never owned a pair of shoes. When a person is the smaller type his is almost dwarf-like in size. There seems to be no in-between size. The people move from one hut to another, often living alone for awhile and then moving back into the family group. Men, women and children work in the fields. Some houses are scrupulously clean while others are filthy. They just live from day to day -certainly not an ambitious group. Each generation marries into the lower class of white people; their original group will soon be extinct.

 Common law marriage is practiced, as a matter of fact -most of them “take-up” with each other. Local people claim that the Domineckers are 95% Negro. This statement is absurd. They are about three fourths white and one eighth Negro and one eighth Indian. “

The following unpublished article, from the informative archive on the rich past of the Florida panhandle, including the Dominicker Community is from Mr. Hood. A rich collection of information is maintained by Mr. Hood, and is reproduced here by kind permission of Mr. Beale, formerly employed by the U. S. Public Health Service and the U. S. Census Bureau. The report was written as part of his field notes during a research visit to Florida.

Beale’s Report from 1956

“A VISIT TO THE “DOMINICKER” MIXED-RACIAL GROUP IN HOLMES COUNTY, FLORIDA

November 28, 1956

By Calvin Beale

I first went to Bonifay, the county seat, and visited the county health nurses, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Sims. They immediately mentioned he letter of inquiry from Dr. Witkop of Public Health Service and asked if I had any connection with it. I allowed as how I did. Both were glad to talk about the Dominicker group. Only one family is among their current patients. The patient is an elderly man, Jim Simmons, who has diabetes. The nurses, especially Mrs. Sims, a native of the county, knew other Dominickers. The term Dominicker is not acceptable to the group and is not used in their presence. They do not wish to be considered colored. One became very angry with Mrs. Lee when she, not knowing the family, listed a new-born child as Negro because of the somewhat Negroid appearance of the family. I believe she changed the record after the protest. The appearance of the group was said to be variable. Jim Simmons claims to be part Spanish and Indian. The nurses knew of the Forehand, Goddin (the present spelling), and Thomas families but had not been sure of the connection until I confirmed it. They also mentioned a Curry family. The names were all said to be held by white people too. The teeth of the Dominicker children were said to be better than the average for white children. There is no dentist in the county.

Some in the group suffer from TB. The group extends over into Walton County, where a couple of children in one family have a congenital malformation. (There is a Negro family in Holmes family [sic] with three albino children. I did not get the spelling of the name, which sounded like Hodah or Hoodah.) The nurses knew nothing of the origin of the Dominickers. They said Jim Simmons was approachable and probably would be glad to talk. All in the group were said to be poor. A separate elementary school is still maintained for the group, called the Mt. Zion School. Current enrollment is 12, said once to have been about 25. The nurses estimated the population of the group at 40. I next visited the Soil Conservationist, who knew of the group, but, not being a county native, took me to the man in charge of the Selective Service office. The S.S. man went over some of the same ground covered by the nurses. He said the Dominickers were sensitive on the race question and might not get information unless the questioner were referred in by someone accepted by the group.

It was his opinion that the children attending Mt. Zion school were essentially the darker ones and that some of those who looked white were in surrounding white schools. The teacher of the separate school is a white woman, Miss (?) Dupree, who lives in Westville. The present building was erected after World War II at a cost of $8,000. The S.S. man did not know how the Dominickers were drafted racially during World War II. Some farm, others work in forest industries. He said they were low in culture”

 

 

 

The Mount Zion Community School, known locally as the “Dominicker” School (photo courtesy of Mr. Hood, a scholar and archivist of northern Florida’s history)

 

 

 

 

 

Euchee Chief Sam Story and his Descendants in Walton County Florida

Potter, Fennel, Harris, Rowe

Euchee Chief Sam Story is a local legend with the rural families in the Walton and Holmes County area and has hundreds of descendants there, most of whom are assimilated into the local white and black population. He was Chief of a band of Euchee Indians in the early 1800s, a group who occupied the lands on and to the west of the Choctawhatchee River and the surrounding area The Euchee were originally in the Savannah area of Georgia but some had migrated to Florida and established several towns there separate from the main body of Euchee who were settled in Creek Nation. This area of Florida, which would one day be Walton County,  was sparsely populated and isolated much longer than other parts of the panhandle. When the first White settlers came into the area, the Euchee were doing well running cattle to Pensacola and trading with passing ships. Chief Story was friendly to the incoming American settlers and had good relations with them all his life. Some believe that his parents were Timothy Kinnard, a white man of Scottish descent, and an unknown Euchee woman, but this is in need of more scholarly research and has not been established documentarily. The chief was a well-known figure in the drama of the settlement of the Florida Panhandle and was respected by white settlers as forthright and fair dealing. In his elderly years more settlers had migrated to the area in ever-increasing numbers, this following the acquisition of the Florida territory by the United States through treaty from Spain in 1821, and a steady growing pressure was exerted on the resources of the Florida Euchee.

In 1820, Neill McLennan and his brother-in-law, Daniel Campbell moved from the area near Richmond County in North Carolina. They came to the area that would become Walton County, Florida seeking a better life as many settlers after them would. These newcomers were invited by Chief Sam Story to settle on lands adjoining his village located on Bruce Creek in the Euchee Valley, near the modern rural hamlets of red bay and Bruce. These settlers met the Chief in Pensacola when he was there engaged in trading and selling his cattle to the ships supply traders in business there. After becoming friends, the men and Chief Story were known to visit and assist each other, and the men were joined by their families, other relatives and friends. By the early 1830’s many white people had moved into the Euchee tribal area and were destroying forest resources depended on by the Indians, and were scaring off the deer and other wildlife depended on by the Euchee hunters. Tensions were growing across the frontier, often disrupting the age old trade agreements and alliances among the Indian communities. Both the McLennan family as well as the old Chief decided to leave the area due to these unwanted conditions.

 The Euchee Chief sent a party to scout for lands to the southeast, following news of relatives who were among the Seminole in the south Florida wilderness. So while many of the McLennan and their relatives decided to head west by boat, and would later become prominent early settlers of what would become McLennan County, Texas, the Euchee agreed that it was time to leave the increasingly hostile social situation of the panhandle. Incursions by hostile red Stick Creek were making the area dangerous for all Indians.  Unfortunately, Chief Sam Story died just before his tribe moved, and is buried south of the fork of Bruce Creek and the Choctawhatchee River. After the traditional time of mourning, several hundred Euchee went southward to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, traveling from Story's Landing,  located  near the burial site of the chief, southeast of t Red Bay in Walton County. The main portion of the tribe then traveled southeastward, traveling both by land and by water to their new home among their Seminole kinsmen.

Nothing more was heard of them, but some descendants’ of the family speak of visitation among the Florida Euchee descendants in the panhandle with relatives from south Florida, as well as with Oklahoma kin through the years. Most of the descendants of the Chief  eventually settled with the Seminole Tribe in South Florida. It is well known from archival records and interviews with Oklahoma Euchee friends from Duck Creek Ceremonial Grounds and the Yuchi Tribal Organization ( and the E.U.C.H.E.E. organization in Oklahoma) that the United States Army forced some of the Walton County Euchee people and several other small West Florida bands to relocate west of the Mississippi River, in the Indian Territory.

 

This photo is of the monument erected at the burial place of Chief Story and is courtesy of the above individuals at [email protected]

According to local traditional oral histories, Chief Sam Story had three sons, Jim Crow, Swift Hunter and Sleeping Fire, and three daughters, Leaping Water, Quiet Water and Round Water. Jim Crow, and many other members of the tribe, left numerous descendants, some of them have been confused with the  Dominickers”, a neighboring mixed-race group by the surrounding white population of the times in Walton, Holmes, and Washington counties. Today the descendants are members of various local Indian groups in the panhandle, with the majority absorbed by the local white and black population. There were Euchee people in movement all over the southeast in the colonial era, and after the movement of the majority of the Walton County Euchee to the southern part of the Florida peninsula, they became a large band under Sam Story’s grandson called Euchee Billy, and lived at a place called Spring Garden in Volusia County. Today many of the Florida Seminole are unaware of their connections to the Euchee people of Walton County, according to Mary Frances Johns, a Miccosukee elder. As representatives of the Florida Indian community, the authors often visit with Euchee people at Duck Creek Euchee Ceremonial Grounds in Oklahoma and the Euchee Tribe of Indians headquartered in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. We have shared our records and oral history with them in their recent effort to gain federal recognition as a separate Nation from the Creek Nation by the US government. Despite many descendants’ of Chief Sam Story’s Band of Euchee today being assimilated into the general population of Walton County, or part of the local Creek and Cheraw tribal groups, his legend remains strong in his homeland among Indians and others alike.

Sources

  • John Love McKinnon, History of Walton County. Atlanta: Byrd Printing, 1911. Electronic version created 2002 by the State University System of Florida, pp. 62-66, 94-97. [1]
  • E. W. Carswell, Holmesteading: The History of Holmes County, Florida, published by the author at Chipley, Florida, 1986 (available in print only)
  • Clayton Gillis Metcalf, Scots and Their Kin, Volume I: Gilli(e)s, Padgett, Arrant, McQuagge, McLennan, published at Enterprise, Alabama, 1984 (available in print only)