Zazu’s Verandah on the Dadeville Square opened the Tales of Dadeville speaker series Thursday night with Ralph Banks, a Dadeville native with a family history in the area dating back to 1852. Moderated by TPI’s Amy Passaretti, speakers for the free series will share Dadeville’s history on the last Thursday evening of each month through October and the third Thursday in November.
A food truck will be on site at 6 p.m. at each event and Zazu’sVerandah will be open for beverage sales throughout the evening. The storytelling begins about 6:30 or 6:45 p.m. each evening and lasts about 30 minutes with a Q&A session following.
“Bubba Gibson actually came to us with this idea,” Zazu’s owner Mitzy Hidding said. “Mickey Forbus and Wayne Smith were instrumental in helping us reach out to these great citizens to share their stories. Next up is Mr. Roy Mathis on Sept. 24.”
Banks, a volunteer at Horseshoe Bend National Military Park in Daviston and Ft. Toulouse-Ft. Jackson in Wetumpka, presented the first talk which focused on the pre-town history of Dadeville, a tale of exploration and exploitation starting with the Spanish in the mid-1500s.
When the Spanish came to this area through Florida in the 1540s, they found a rich country and towns that were home to hundreds and sometimes thousands of people, mostly Creek clans, Banks said. Spain’s Hernando de Soto killed many Native Americans, some deliberately and many others through the spread of diseases to which the native peoples had no immunity.
Other Europeans came to the area 60 years later, including settlers from Georgia and South Carolina, and they found a much different place.
“The Spanish came looking for gold and early traders wanted furs and hickory nut oil,” Banks said. “By the time of the Revolutionary War, every major chief among the Creeks was at least one-quarter European, but they were very good at playing the European powers off each other. Of course, they ran into a problem when they started dealing with the American settlers because they wanted the land.”
Following the Revolutionary War, matters became more tense as the Upper Creeks and Lowers Creeks engaged each other in a civil war over the influx of settlers. The Lower Creeks were complacent with the newcomers.
“They figured there wasn’t much they could do to stop it, but the Upper Creeks wanted to fight it,” Banks said.
During the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Great Britain, four armies converged on what is now Alabama, as the U.S. troops and Federal Creeks came against the Red Stick Upper Creeks while the British came against the U.S.
“Of the four armies, the most successful was Andrew Jackson’s army,” Banks said. “Horseshoe Bend was basically a fortified refugee camp and the people there thought it was more defensible. They thought they could hold off long enough to escape by the river. That didn’t work out very well for them.
“The Red Sticks fought bravely, but they never had a chance. The Red Stick Chief Menawa was shot seven times and presumed dead. He waited among the other dead bodies until it was safe to crawl to the river. He found a canoe and went downriver until he found someone to help him recover.”
Jackson’s men counted the dead by collecting noses, which were easily obtained with the swipe of a knife and very portable during collection. This method also assured that each body would only be counted once.
“They didn’t want to have to report the number of women and children that were killed, so they just said it was too many,” Banks said.
Menawa had been shot at least once in the face and artistic renditions made of him in subsequent years do not indicate his nose was counted.
When a new treaty was signed in 1832 and the land was split up and given to individual leaders’ households, Menawa was given 640 acres.
The Creeks were at first encouraged to sell their land and move West. Many crossed from the Alabama territory into Florida to join the Seminoles in the Second Seminole War with the U.S. over the Seminoles right to occupy land. When the move West became forcible, U.S. troops had a hard time finding the Lower Creeks to push them out, so the troops employed Upper Creeks as scouts to track them down. Menawa was one of the scouts. When he arrived home after scouting for the U.S., he was told he had to move to Oklahoma.
In 1835, Francis L. Dade commanded 110 U.S. soldiers who were on a resupply and reinforcement mission from Ft. Brooke, which is now Tampa, Florida, to Ft. King, now Ocala. Seminoles attacked the Army, and only one U.S. soldier survived the attack, Banks said.
“When this area here was surveyed for the new county seat (1837-1838), Dade was the hero of the day, so the town was named after him,” Banks said.
For more on this story, check out the September issue of Lake Martin Living magazine, which will be available at lakemagazine.life/LakeMartinLiving/, in racks and inserted in subscribers’ issues of The Outlook and The Dadeville Record in mid-September.