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Chief Billy Bowlegs - Leader Of The Florida Seminole Indian Wars

Chief Billy Bowlegs - Seminole Indian - Florida Chief Billy Bowlegs (Holata Micco, Halpatter-Micco, and Halpuda Mikko in Seminole, meaning "Alligator Chief") (ca. 1810 – ca. March 10, 1864) was a leader of the Seminoles in Florida during the Second and Third Seminole Wars against the United States.

Although Bowlegs signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing of 1832, he refused to leave Florida until 1858.

Bowlegs and his band lived in relative peace until 1855 when a group of army engineers and surveyors invaded his home area in southwestern Florida, cutting down banana trees and destroying other property. These brazen actions are often seen as an intentional provocation to make Bowlegs react so the settlers would have a reason to force the Seminole out. The provocation worked; Bowlegs led his warriors in sporadic attacks for the next few years in what is known as the Third Seminole War. The Army once again proved unable to stop his guerrilla tactics.

In early 1858, Chief Wild Cat of the Western Seminole was brought back from Indian Territory to try to convince him to relocate voluntarily and the government offered Bowlegs $10,000 and each of his followers $1000 if they did so. They initially refused, apparently in fear of government retaliation, but the band of 123 agreed to relocation later that year. In May, Bowlegs and his followers arrived in New Orleans, enroute to Arkansas and then on to their new home in the Indian Territory. A news correspondent described him as having "two wives, one son, five daughters, fifty slaves, and a hundred thousand dollars in hard cash." Upon his eventual arrival in Indian Territory, Bowlegs became a leading chief. He and his daughters became prominent land holders and slaveowners.

On August 6, 1850, an orphan boy named Daniel Hubbard disappeared from a Hillsborough County farm, owned by Jesse Sumner. The boy had been sent to another farm to drive cattle. Although there had been signs of Indians, Sumner was not concerned for Hubbard's safety. When Hubbard's horse returned to the farm without him, an investigation was conducted, and it was determined that he had been carried off by Indians and murdered. Citizens of the county began to pressure their representatives in Tallahassee, and Seminole Emigration Agent Casey received a letter from the Secretary of War telling Casey to demand the surrender of the Indians who had kidnapped the boy. If this were not done, the President of the United States would hold the whole Seminole tribe responsible. There were a few Indians called "outsiders" who roamed beyond the limitations of the Indian reserve, and Casey believed they were responsible for the killing. The Secretary of War gave permission for Casey to seize the "outsiders," but for some reason this was not done, and Casey was forced to negotiate with Chief Billy Bowlegs, a leader of the Seminole Indians. Chief Bowlegs promised to leave Florida if the three murderers were not surrendered. Three Indians were arrested near Fort Myers on May 17, 1851, nearly nine months after the murder, and were delivered to Sheriff Hagler in Tampa. They denied the killing, and Casey believed them.

The three Indians attempted an escape from the county jail located on Washington Street. Sheriff Hagler chained them to their cell, and on May 23, 1851, the three were found hanging from the bars in their cell. According to one report, one was still alive, but was not cut down until the next day when he was dead. According to Casey, many citizens believed that the three Indians were killed by Sheriff Hagler, Constable William Campbell, and the brother of Dempsey Whidden. Whidden had been killed by Indians on an earlier date at Payne Creek. It was a terrible end to the case of the murdered orphan. Chief Billy Bowlegs also believed that the three Indians were lynched. Soon after this incident, he left Hillsborough County with all of his tribe. There was never another Indian village established in Hillsborough County until modern time when the Seminole Tribe re-established at a new location on Orient Road south of Hillsborough Avenue.



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