The Panton and Leslie Office In Pensacola


If Americans would not migrate into Spanish Florida, Englishman would. One of the families Zespedes recruited was the Bulows whose BULOW PLANTATION, forty miles south of St. Augustine at Ormond Beach, successfully grew sugar cane and cotton. Despite the success of the Bulow family, plantation development did not attract Spanish planters who found Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico better investments,





On St. George Island, the Spanish attracted a unique colonist in Scotsman ZEPHANIAH KINGLEY, who established in 1817 a sugar plantation which still stands today. Upon his death, his wife, Anna Madgigine Jai, daughter of a West African ruler, managed the massive plantation. While mixed marriages were common in Spanish East Florida, When Florida joined the USA, the Kingsley family were pressured until they left for Cuba. When slavery was abolished in the USA, Miss Jai returned to Florida and in an epic court case obtained the estate again, only to sell it for a rightful price..


While Spanish Florida had few farmers and planters, many English fur traders remained in Florida reluctant to desert the profits found in the forests of West Florida. Since the Spanish had little to offer the Creek Indians in this area, Spanish officials realized that English traders had the loyalty of the Indian tribes and provided some economic benefits to Pensacola.

Zespedes wished to maintain good relations with the increasing number of Creeks fleeing Alabama Territory as American settlers moved westward. He realized the Indians would provide a buffer zone between St. Augustine and the American settlements


In order to develop a strong alliance with the Creeks, the Spanish allowed a Charleston merchant WILLIAM PANTON and his business partner JOHN LESLIE to establish a fur trade business in West Florida. The PANTON, LESLIE, AND COMPANY developed a lucrative fur trading empire with offices at Pensacola and Apalachicola. The picture shows company headquarters in Pensacola, based upon a 1900 drawing by E, D. Chandler. The firm sold the Indians every conceivable product, excepting rifles which were disallowed by Spanish law. In East Florida, the Spanish selected the FORBES AND COMPANY to handle the fur trade.


William Panton's success was helped by his friendship to an unusual Creek chief, named ALEXANDER McGILLIVRAY, the half-breed son of a Scotch merchant and a Creek French squaw. Despite a fancy Charleston education, McGillivray chose to live with the Creeks and emerged as their elected leader. McGillivray operated a prosperous cotton plantation and trained Creek couriers to write messages in Latin and Greek so white settlers couldn't decipher them. McGillivray traveled to New York and tried to convince President George Washington to protect Indian farming rights in the West.

McGillivray's pledge of friendship with the Spanish in 1784 encouraged other Creek chiefs to seek Spanish support. The Creek leader became an important customer of Panton and visited Pensacola so frequently, Panton invited McGillivray into the local Masonic Lodge. In the game of diplomacy both the Creeks and the Spanish shared the desire to prevent American expansion into the region.


Despite Indian friends, the Spanish faced continual armed conflict along its Northern borders, particularly in West Florida. When France ceded the region to Spain in 1763, the French did not accurately define the boundaries. England had recognized Spain's claim that 30 degrees, 38 minutes North latitude was the border; later accepted 30 degrees as the border. American frontiersmen accepted none of these early agreements.

To the frontiersmen, this empty wilderness belonged to those daring enough to homestead the frontier. Years of Spanish rule, they noted, had resulted in few settlements. Spain's talks with Washington's administration had resulted in no binding assurances that armed Indians would use Spanish Florida as a refuge.

By 1784, relations between Spain and the United States had deteriorated toward armed conflict. After serious incidents between the Spanish and American merchants on the Mississippi River, Spain closed the port of New Orleans to American vessels. This cut off water access to the Gulf for American frontiersmen and endangered Pensacola with invasion from the North.

Ano added cause of serious confrontation was the policy the Spanish had to give asylum to runaway slaves from Georgia and South Carolina. Southern planters joined the frontiersmen in the desire to drive the Spanish out of Florida. In 1790 the Federalists in Congress, trying to stop the escalation of conflict, sent American surveyor Andrew Ellicott to survey a boundary with the Spanish. Unfortunately, the Creeks prevented this intrusion into Indian hunting grounds and the survey was halted.

In 1795, Spanish leaders met with American diplomat Thomas Pinckney and agreed to make the "Mississippi River the western border of the United States" excepting New Orleans. This Treaty of San Lorenzo assured American vessels access through New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico and temporarily muffled the Warhawk demands to seize Spanish Florida.. The United States told Spain they would try to control settlement in the Western territories of Georgia and South Carolina. The Treaty delayed confrontation, but did not satisfy the Southern frontiersmen.


The Spanish Florida-United States border problem was further complicated by the presence of colorful opportunists who profited from the region's lack of political control. None was more troublesome than WILLIAM AUGUSTUS BOWLES, a former British naval officer. While visiting Florida during the American Revolution, he lost his rank due to insubordination, insulted his commander, and threw his uniform intothe Gulf. Bowles escaped into the forests of West Florida, where he was adopted by the Creeks. In 1781, he gained a pardon when he led some Creeks to the rescue of Pensacola, then under seize by a Spanish fleet.

Bowles accepted a job as an Indian agent, but was considered an unreliable and ruthless individualist. When the Spanish regained Florida in 1783, Bowles was told to leave, but instead elected to wage a personal war against the Penton and Leslie Company and its monopoly of the fur trade in West Florida. Gaining the support of the Nassau firm of Bonamy & Miller, Bowles tried to get the English to support him in an attempt to overthrow the Spanish in Florida.

Authorities in London rejected Bowles' plans and the Spanish sought the help of Alexander McGillivray. Within weeks McGillivray's men captured Bowles and brought him to the Spanish in Pensacola. The Spanish tried to convince the daring Englishman to join the Spanish navy, but when Bowles refused them, he was sent to a prison in the distant Spanish Philippines.

Several years later, Bowles was reassigned to Madrid, but escaped off the coast of British West Africa. Bowles was treated as a wayward hero in London, but he elected to return to Florida in 1791 to renew his personal war against Spain. By now, his Creek friends had deserted him and Bowles was recaptured and sentenced to Morro Castle prison in Havana, Cuba.

Struck down by the plague and on his death bed in prison, Bowles was visited by the Governor of Cuba who wanted to see the celebrity prisoner. Bowles informed his guard, "I am sunk low indeed, but low enough to greet a Spaniard." The death of Bowles, however, did not lessen the conflict along the borderlands. Bowles was merely a symptom of Spain's lack of control of its frontier.


Spain's attempts to improve its colonial system in La Florida proved futile due to the increasing involvement of the United States with the War in Europe between Napoleon and the monarchs of Europe, including England and Spain. In 1803, Thomas Jefferson obtained the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon who commandeered New Orleans from Spain when he occupied Madrid. Now Florida was even separated from Texas and the rest of the Spanish New World.

Spain was reluctant to sell Florida to the United States, but Warhawk Southerners, angry over Creek refuge in Florida, runaway slaves, and Spain's lack of Florida development, invaded Florida without Federal authority. In 1810 a band of frontiersmen crossed the Mississippi and seized the town of Baton Rouge, calling it "the Republic of West Florida."

In January 18ll,Brigadier General Mathews , former Governor of Georgia, and St. Johns planter Colonel John McIntosh organized "the Patriots", a group of American settlers who wanted a "Republic of East Florida." With the promise of 200 acres of Florida land as an incentive, dozens of Georgia farmers joined McIntoch on an attack on St. Augustine. They destroyed Spanish plantations and left only after a British fleet intervened.

Florida was becoming a political liability to Spain. Panton and McGillivray had died. The Spanish government owed the Panton and Company some $200,000 for services and the construction of now empty warehouses and wharves. Pirates and adventurers were making South Florida their headquarters. Georgia planters were organizing slave raids into Florida.

The outbreak of the War of 1812 between the United States and England, placed Spain, an ally of England, in a perilous position. England utilized Florida ports for supplies, particular naval products. Spain further angered Southern leaders by allowing the British to construct a fort at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River.

The Creek destruction of Fort Mims, an outpost in Alabama gave General Andrew Jackson the reason in invade Florida in pursuit of both the escaping Creeks and the British fur traders who sold weapons to the Creeks. The United States Government did not authorize Jackson's invasion. His superior Secretary of War John C. Calhoun wanted to remove Jackson, but ironically Secretary of State John Quincy Adams defended Jackson's response.

Jackson entered Pensacola and placed Spanish officials in their own dungeons. He scared the British fleet out of the port. Only the British movement on New Orleans prevented Jackson from taking command of Florida.

Since the War of 1812 ended English protection of the coast of Spanish Florida, the town of Fernandina was seized in June of 1817 by Gregor McGregor, a colorful adventurer who was just a shade north of being a pirate. American troops from Georgia had to enter Amelia Island to oust McGregor's band from starting a piracy center. Later that year Jackson returned to Florida to capture Indian agents and punish them, an embarrassment to Spanish leaders.


Officials in the James Monroe administration realized that unless Florida was obtained, the Southern frontier would remain an unsettled mess. John Quincy Adams sought out the Spanish Foreign minister de Onis with the offer to trade ownership of Florida for the claim by the United States that a section of Texas was part of the Louisiana Purchase. Spain rejected such a humiliating proposal as well as Adams' additional acceptance that the United States would pay all war damages caused by Jackson's Florida invasions and Indian attacks on Americans.

Two years passed before Spain was willing to send negotiator General Francisco Vives to New York to end Spain's two hundred forty year Florida rule. Vives became reluctant when he discovered that Northerners did not share Southerners desire to invade Florida. He backed away from a full commitment. It was not until 1821 that the Spanish Crown recognized there was no alternative to yielding Florida. They could not stop an American invasion, not with Spain's Latin American colonies in collapse.

In 1821, the Spanish yielded Florida to the United States. It meant the end of Spanish rule in North America along the Atlantic Ocean.