Chipco: Tallahassee Chief

Chipco: Tallahassee Chief

By Spessard Stone

Echo Emathla Chopco, whose name also variously appeared as Echo Emathla Chopka or Emathla Hadjo Chupco, but generally known as Chipco, of the Tallahassee tribe of the Red Stick Upper Creeks, was born between 1800 and 1805 in Alabama.

During the Creek Civil War of 1813-14, Red Stick Upper Creeks, led by Peter McQueen, a Tallahassee chief, contended against the William McIntosh-commanded Lower Creeks, who subsequently allied with U. S. General Andrew Jackson. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama on March 27, 1814, Jackson and McIntosh’s forces defeated the Red Stick Creeks. McQueen and about 1,000 of his followers, including the families of Osceola and Chipco, sought refuge in Spanish Florida.

During the First Seminole War (1817-18), General Jackson invaded Florida, captured the Spanish garrison at St. Marks on April 6, 1818, then advanced to the Seminole encampment at Suwannee on April 16 where he destroyed their towns. Chipco’s father was among those killed.

The Indians, including their Negro allies, found refuge about Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, and their waters. The Tallahasees, including Chipco and three brothers and two sisters, joined the exodus and first found sanctuary in the Peace River area of now Bartow and Homeland. After 1823, they resettled, probably, at the Thonotosassa Lake area.

Chipco, as an adult, was an imposing figure, described as over 6 feet tall, straight as a young pine, always alert, and very dignified. After the establishment of Fort Brooke at Tampa in 1824, Chipco and his band were frequent visitors.

The Second Seminole War (1835-42) commenced on December 28, 1835 in the Wahoo Swamp, near present-day Bushnell, when Indian warriors, led by Micanopy, Alligator, and Jumper ambushed Major Francis L. Dade’s command of 8 officers and 100 enlisted men and an interpreter, of whom only two privates and the interpreter, a slave who was captured, survived.

Chipco, reputedly, led an attack in the massacre and further participated in other battles of lesser importance. At Fort Cummings (Lake Alfred), he killed and scalped a sentry and took his gun. Of his exploits he later expressed regret for but one deed, which was the killing of a white infant by tossing it up and catching it, as it came down on the point of his hunting knife.

Various contemporary references appeared about Echo Emathla. In November 1837, he was referred to as “Chief of the Tallahassees.” In January 1841, he turned himself in at Fort Clinch, and for a time the operations in the area were halted to permit the other Tallahassees to come in, but few did, and Chipco remained in Florida when Colonel William Jenkins Worth declared the war ended on August 14, 1842.

The following April, Worth estimated in Florida only a remnant of 300 Indians, warriors of whom were 42 Seminoles, 33 Mikasukis, 10 Creeks, and 10 Tallahassees. They were located in a temporary reservation, west and south of Lake Istokopa and west of a line running from the mouth of the Kissimmee River through the Everglades to Shark River and thence along the coast to the Peace River.

In January 1847, Capt. John T. Sprague observed of the Indians: “The game of the country, climate and natural productions, places them above sympathy or charity, every necessary want is supplied. Deer skins are the principal articles of clothing and trade, for which powder and lead are obtained. Corn, pumpkins, potatoes, beans and peas are raised fresh and dried venison, turkeys and sea-fowl, fish and oysters in abundance, assures an independence the year round...”

By 1849, Chipco and his family had moved from the Thonotosassa Lake area to about twelve miles north of Lake Reedy. In December 1850, Capt. John C. Casey, Florida Seminole Agent, reported that the “chief of the outside Indians, Echo Emathla Chopko,” then living near Fort Gardiner on the Kissimmee, had stated all his people would be within the boundary by the end of the month.

Capt. Casey in 1849 considered Chipco as “a bad subject—vicious & hostile so much that when Gen. Worth presented Cotsa (his brother) with a black horse he threatened to shoot him.”

In the summer of 1849 at the Green Corn Dance, twenty Seminole men, including Chipco, called the “outsiders,” had been declared outlaws. Near Fort Pierce on July 12, four of this group killed James Barker and wounded William Russell.

On July 17 at about noon, Chipco and three squaws, appearing friendlier than usual, came to the Kennedy-Darling trading post at now Paynes Creek. After selling their goods, they left in mid-afternoon. Before sunset, four other Indians came, and, while the post occupants were dining, attacked and killed Capt. George Payne, the manager, and Dempsey Whidden, a clerk, and wounded another clerk, William McCullough, who with his wife, Nancy, fled. Pursued by Chipco and two others, the couple, though shot, escaped to Alafia. Before leaving, the marauders burned the store, and a party proceeded on July 19 to the James W. Whidden home where they wounded a son of Whidden.

Another war was averted when Billy Bowlegs, in October 1849 at Charlotte Harbor, turned over to Major General David Twiggs three of the alleged murderers, the hand of a fourth, and reported a fifth had eluded capture.

The consensus of ongoing and later investigations was that Sam Jones, the Mikasuki leader, had planned and directed the dual attacks and others, including Chipco, were involved, but escaped justice.

When on August 6, 1850, eight-year-old Daniel Hubbard was killed by Indians in Marion County, a new crisis occurred. On May 17, 1851, three Indians were arrested at Fort Myers and on May 19 sent to Tampa where Casey separately examined the trio, who all implicated Chipco and three others, whom they charged killed the boy because of the theft of Chipco’s three ponies by Jacob Summerlin, a prominent cattleman of now Plant City. On May 23, while awaiting trial, the three prisoners were found hanging by the bars of the windows of their prison. Undetermined was whether they had committed suicide or been murdered by the sheriff, Benjamin Hagler, and the jailers, William Campbell and "Young" Whidden, the brother-in-law and brother of Dempsey Whidden.

In 1853, Chipco and his tribe moved south of the Caloosahatchee River where they were in the fall of 1855. Soon after, they apparently moved to an island in Lake Hamilton.

In the fall of 1855 at Taylor’s Creek, northeast of Lake Okeechobee, a conference had allegedly been held by the Indians to wage war when a suitable opportunity arose, with Chipco, alone, in opposition. That moment came in the Big Cypress Swamp on December 20, 1855, when Billy Bowlegs led an attack on Lt. Hartsuff’s surveying team, thereby beginning the Third Seminole War.

Chipco, afterwards, joined his warriors on raids, including the Simmons Hammock Massacre on May 16, 1856, in which Levi Starling and his son, James, and a Mr. Roach were killed. In 1856, William Collins, a friend of Chipco, heard of plans to capture Chipco and his band and rode on horseback at night and warned him. When a boat company of the Florida militia arrived at Lake Hamilton to capture the Tallahassees, they found an abandoned camp as the band had moved to an island in Lake Marion, six or seven miles east of now Haines City. Later, they, along with Billy Bowlegs, Sam Jones, and others, fled to the hammocks and islands near or in the swamps of the Everglades and Big Cypress, from which they would make sporadic attacks on pursuing soldiers. In May 1858, the war ended with exile of most Indians, but Chipco and his group remained at the headwaters of Peas Creek.

In February 1859, Colonel Rector conversed about emigration with Chipco, who replied that the Great Spirit had told him to die in the land he loved, and he came in peace and friendship and desired so to depart. Upon leaving, he was described as a sad relic of former greatness.

About 1866, Chipco moved to the Kissimmee River and valley with his camp on Tiger Creek where it runs into Lake Hatchineha. About 1872-1875, the band moved to Catfish Lake (now Lake Pierce, east of Lake Wales).

Chipco, although not very familiar with the English language, and his band frequently visited Tampa where they traded hides, skins, furs, bird plumes, jerked venison, and bead work for the goods they needed.

On June 29, 1879, Lt. R. H. Pratt, who had been directed to investigate the Seminoles in Florida, arrived for a brief visit to Chipco’s village, which included 26 inhabitants, of whom three were Negroes (one man and two women), whom the previous year Chipco offered to sell for $800 each in Fort Meade.

In April 1880, visitors to the camp of “Old Chipco, the chief of the Creek Indians,” observed, “The tribe has 18 members, 5 of them being warriors. Old Chipco, the Chief, is 97 years old, bent and crooked up with old age, and wrinkles....They live on wild game and fish, cultivate 20 acres of land, raise corn, potatoes, sugar cane and hogs, and live in palmetto huts.”

Chipco died on October 16, 1881. The Bartow Informant of November 12, 1881 reported:

"The news has just reached us of the death of Chipco, the chief of the remnant of a band of Tallahassee Indians, on the 16th of October last.
"This noted Seminole warrior, as near as can be learned, was a little over one hundred years of age, and had, up to a few months back, been able to engage in the hunts and annual festivities of his tribe, but has at last had to succumb to old age.
"He fully participated in the long Seminole war, and at the time Billy Bowlegs and his companions were deported to the Indian territory, in 1858, Chipco and his band managed to elude their pursuers, and have since lived here and there in the Kissimmee country, though of late years their main camp has been about 25 miles east of here, near the Catfish lakes...
"The usual formalities peculiar to Indian tribes were gone through at his death —six fine horses and many fat hogs having been shot and killed at his grave, and his rifle and hunting accouterments, together with cooking utensils, were buried with him, so that he might have the use of them in the ‘happy hunting grounds.’
"The remnant of Chipco’s band now numbers but three warriors, with their women, children and negroes...
"There are other Indian bands residing below Okeechobee, but they are steadily decreasing in numbers, and persistently resist every effort of our government to ameliorate their condition.”

Acknowledgment: My thanks are extended to Canter Brown, Jr. for his research assistance.

Principal references: Albert DeVane, “Chipco and Tallahassee Led Seminole Remnant in Florida,” Tampa Tribune, July 15, 1956, p. 15-D; Capt. John C. Casey Papers; The Bartow Informant of November 12, 1881; John K. Mahon, History Of The Second Seminole War 1835-1842, 1970; James W. Covington, The Billy Bowlegs War 1855-1858 The Final Stand of The Seminoles Against The Whites, 1982; Canter Brown, Jr., Florida’s Peace River Frontier, 1991.

This article was published in The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Florida) of January 1, 2004, 11A.

Chipco and Tallahassee Led Seminole Remnant in Florida

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Chipco's Village