Tuesday, February 26, 2019

No Dates, Only Names

Matching the recollections of King Stockton with actual details in records is proving to be a challenge, though several accounts definitely link to documents we can still access. The King Stockton biography, written toward the end of a long life begun in 1830, does provide the names; it just doesn't provide the dates. Preserving these families' stories will likely take deeper delving than I am prepared to do right now.

It was interesting to read in the Echoes of the Past history of Suwannee County that
the early settlers were chiefly concerned with building homes, raising crops and families, and keeping a sharp lookout for marauding Indians.

Despite the Seminole War, in the area of Florida which eventually became Suwannee County, Echoes of the Past estimated there were twenty three families living there by 1840. An available muster roll from organization of the local militia under George E. McClellan was dated November 28, 1840, so perhaps that becomes an indication of residents' response when these massacres had occurred.

Not mentioned in the Echoes history of these early massacres was that of the Sykes family. However, according to King Stockton's biography,
The Sykes plantation was only four miles from the McClellan plantation. When the Indians attacked the house there were several men and women there, and all were killed but one woman, who slipped out, and ran four miles to the next plantation and told what was happening.

Though the page containing names of the Columbia County residents—for that was the previous jurisdiction for the land which eventually became Suwannee County—does not indicate the date the Florida territorial census was recorded for 1840, generally, the enumeration began on June 1, 1840, and completed reports had to be submitted by November 1, 1840.

Bearing this in mind, and not having any indication of when, exactly, these attacks occurred, it is difficult to know whether victims' names would have shown up in the 1840 census. However, I tried my hand at locating any families in that record by that surname of Sykes.

There was one sole listing of a head of household, originally indexed at Ancestry.com as "Arthar Lykes," which may actually have been for the Sykes family.

The entry, incidentally, was placed three lines above that for the George E. McClellan household—possibly supporting the King Stockton narrative of relative proximity between properties.

This household appeared to be small—one male in his forties, one in his sixties, and one woman in her fifties, hardly the "several men and women" described by King Stockton. However, when you take into account that plantations were generally worked by enslaved individuals—and flip the census page to the next set of tallying marks—that number increases by several more, relatively younger individuals. This increases the household by two teenaged boys, one man in his twenties, another perhaps as old as his early thirties, plus one woman between the ages of twenty four and thirty five.

It's my guess it was that woman who made the desperate run for help. And I wouldn't be surprised if the place she headed—four miles away—was to the McClellan property. It is very likely that King Stockton, though himself still a boy, was there to witness the scene of her arrival as it unfolded.

Looking for any sign of the family in the next census, was it any surprise that I found no listing of the Arthur Sykes family? Whether for lack of a more competent speller—or more legible penmanship—or for sheer lack of will to put up with any more tragedy, there was not one sign of Arthur Sykes in Columbia County, Florida.

Still, I wonder whatever became of the one woman who fled the horrific scene of the Sykes massacre, desperately seeking help, and in the process, saving her own life to tell others of what happened. Perhaps she, as well, has descendants who remember their ancestor's oral history of those early days of settling what was then a very wild Florida.

Above: Excerpt from the 1840 census for Columbia County in territorial Florida, showing the name Arthur Sykes; image courtesy Ancestry.com.  


  1. These stories are so heartbreaking. I really had no idea of the tragedies in Florida during this time. This has been an eye opener.

    I want to thank you so much for igniting my memories. You inspired me to begin the journey to investigate the legend of a self published booklet in my own family. I have posted the investigation (and results) in my blog today at https://missmerry-s.blogspot.com/2019/02/holy-grail.html

    1. I am so excited for you, Miss Merry! How wonderful that you actually stumbled across a second copy of that book! I bet you are counting the days until you can get your own copy of it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...