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1 So in Fear of Both the Indians and the Americans Susan Richbourg Parker William Pengree, a former British loyalist, fled to Spanish East Florida in 1786, feeling “so in fear of both the Indians and the Americans.” He was seeking asylum from the Lower Creeks and from his patriot neighbors. Lewis Fatio, Pengree ’s neighbor in Florida and also a loyalist, received a warning the following year from his own friend in Georgia that Fatio was “particularly in danger from the Americans.”1 Indian groups feared other Indians and the Americans , and bandits threatened everyone. In the years immediately following the American Revolution, every resident of south Georgia or northeast Florida probably had his or her own list of perceived perpetrators. Fear and upheaval was a daily feature of life in northeast Florida and along the border formed by the St. Mary’s River, where unsettledness and the need for self-preservation set the tone for social and diplomatic relations in the region. Spanish officials in East Florida fashioned relationships with Indian groups as well as whites in this context of chaos. In the immediate postrevolutionary period, whites exhibited the factionalism and sense of autonomy that had so long characterized Creek groups. But unlike the Creeks, whites did not aim to achieve consensus. Little has been written about the problems along the border between Spanish East Florida and the new United States, where factionalism and personal enmities were important elements in the shaping of the region. Military and civil officials of Spanish East Florida documented life along the border in correspondence that was archived in the governor’s office in St. Augustine. White and Indian residents signed petitions, usually with X marks, that were forwarded to the Spanish governor’s office. The reports and pleas from the countryside illustrate that confusion and chaos for all was an inextricable part of relations among Indian groups and for nations headed by Europeans or Euro-Americans.2 The American Revolution had ended, and treaties were signed to resolve issues from the war. But for the Georgia-Florida border, the high-level 26 / Susan Richbourg Parker arrangements made in Paris brought uncertainty and loss of assets from forced evacuation and from theft. Perhaps what the border residents had most in common in the years following the 1783 Peace of Paris was a sense that they had been deprived—of their homes, possessions, and especially their safety. Too many countered by showing little restraint in depriving others of possessions (and, if possible, land) to offset what they believed were their own losses. In 1784, St. Mary’s River became an international boundary that separated the territories of Spain and the new confederation of the United States. The river’s role as international border did not necessarily suit the needs of many living along its banks, who probably saw the river as an innocuous and familiar natural feature rather than an international limit drawn on a map. Until 1763 the St. Mary’s had been just another river in the southeast. For almost a century following the founding of Charleston in 1670, the English and the Spanish made territorial claims that overlapped. Carolina’s claims reached far south of St. Augustine. Spanish Florida’s extended into the area that the English considered to be Carolina. The watershed of the St. Mary’s lay within what historians would aptly call “the debatable lands.” And Indian groups continued to claim the land as their own. For slaveholders in the English colonies north of Spanish Florida, this was the area where escaping slaves hid from their pursuers as the runaways headed for the tantalizing idea of freedom in Spanish Florida. Not only did the Spanish hold out the lure of possible freedom for slaves who fled the English colonies. They also wooed and sheltered Indians who had fought or at least threatened the Carolinians. Residents of Carolina and Georgia were quite accustomed to having their way in this area. From the northwest, the Creek Indians moved in to fill the Indian-population vacuum created by Spanish-English dueling. Privateers and pirates lurked along the coastal islands. In the 1750s terrestrial bandits were able to establish their own settlement of New Hanover south of the Altamaha River. With the governors of both British Georgia and Spanish Florida condemning and condoning the bandits’ activities, the highwaymen went unchecked. In 1763 Spain turned over its Florida colony to Great Britain.3 James Grant, first governor of British East Florida, advocated in...


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