African-Native-American soldier and politician Abraham was born on June 28, 1787, in Georgia. For a time he lived in Pensacola, Florida, where he worked as a servant for a physician, Doctor Sierra. Abraham joined the British army under Major Edward Nichols during the War of 1812, who promised freedom to any enslaved man who joined him. Abraham had fled the army of Andrew Jackson and helped build the fort at Prospect Bluff, Florida. When Nichols and and Upper Creek Chief Joseph Francis set sail for England in 1815, Abraham stayed behind in the fort, which had become a haven for Africans who had escaped from slavery.
The fort was attacked and destroyed during the first Seminole War (1817-1818); Abraham was one of the few survivors. He made his way to a Suwannee River Town in Florida. Abraham continued fighting during the first Seminole War and he became known as “Sauanaffe Tustunnagee” (Suwannee Warrior). He lived in an African town in Florida called Pilaklinkaha, or Many Ponds, and was adopted as a member of the Seminole Nation. He became the Prime Minister of the Cowkeeper Dynasty and was a chief advisor to Micanopy, principle chief of the Alachua Seminole.
Abraham even served as an interpreter for Micanopy in 1826 when a delegation of Seminole Chiefs visited Washington, D.C. Later in life, Abraham married a woman named Hagan, the widow of Chief Billy Bowlegs [should be Holato Mico]. The date and details of Abraham’s death are unknown.
Source: [aaregistry.org, but information remains unverified. NBP]
Chief Billy Bowlegs
During the 19th and 20th centuries, Seminole men from three different generations were known as “Billy Bowlegs” by the whites living in Florida. The Seminoles, of course, have their own Indian names which signify a family or personal characteristic, and also contain the root word of the clan to which they belong. But the “white man’s” historical records rarely mention the proper Indian name for any of the Florida Seminoles.
The earliest “Billy Bowlegs” was O-lac-to-mi-co or “Holato Mico” (circa 1810-circa 1864), a Seminole chief who was part of a ruling Seminole family. Bowlegs met up with Andrew Jackson during the Indian uprisings of the early 1800s. In the 1850s, when the few remaining Florida Seminoles were living peacefully on their own lands in south Florida, ‘the old Chieftain’ was provoked into war by Colonel Harney’s surveying corps. One night Harney’s men slipped into Bowleg’s thriving banana plantation and hacked the plants to bits. When confronted by the outraged chieftain, the surveyors brazenly admitted to ruining the plantation because they wanted “to see old Billy cut up”. The incident led to the Third Seminole War (1855-1858), bringing federal troops and bloodhounds into South Florida. Chief Bowlegs and his war-weary band surrendered on May 7, 1858. Thirty-eight warriors and eighty-five women and children, including Billy’s wife, boarded the steamer, Grey Cloud, at Egmont Key to begin their journey to Oklahoma. Bowlegs died soon after his arrival, on April 27, 1859.
Following the Third Seminole War, a few hundred Seminoles remained in Big Cypress and other isolated parts of Florida. Among the descendant of this ‘remnant’ was another Billy Bowlegs, a tall, soft-spoken man who was befriended by James and Minnie Moore Willson, of Kissimmee. Writing in The Seminoles of Florida, 1896, Minnie Moore Willson recalls a visit from “Cho-fee-hat-cho (Billy Bowlegs).”
“With the desire to read and write, however, ended all ambition to be like the white man.”
Biography prepared by Gail Clement, Florida International University
Photograph of Billy Bowlegs, February 7, 1916. Photo courtesy of University of Miami Libraries, University Archives