Thursday, August 13, 2009

Milly Francis - The True Story of the Creek Pocahontas

One of Florida's most fascinating legends revolves around an incident that took place in the spring of 1818 on the Wakulla River just north of today's town of St. Marks.

Duncan McKrimmon, a private in the Georgia Militia, had roamed beyond the sentries surrounding Fort Gadsden on the Apalachicola River. The First Seminole War was then underway and the wandering soldier was quickly taken prisoner by Creek warriors from the Wakulla River village of the Prophet Francis (Hillis Hadjo).

A prime figure in the recently closed Creek War of 1813-1814, Josiah Francis had fled to Florida after the collapse of his Red Stick movement in Alabama and Georgia. With him he brought his wife, son and daughters, one of whom was a young girl named Milly. (Note: Although her name is sometimes given as Malee, all of the Prophet's children had Anglicized name and her name was actually Milly).

McKrimmon was taken to the Prophet's village on the Wakulla where, according to the "eye for an eye" laws of the Creeks, preparations were made to torture and execute him in retaliation for the deaths of the sisters of one of his captors. Likely this would have consisted of sticking splinters of pine wood into his skin and lighting them on fire to torture him before he was finally dispatched with a bullet or hatchet.

Milly Francis, then around 15 years old, was playing by the river with her sisters when she heard the sounds of war cries coming from the village. Rushing to see what was happening, she quickly realized that the unfortunate young man was about to be killed. Milly pleaded with her father to spare McKrimmon's life, but Francis replied that he had no power over the situation because the soldier had been captured by others. He told his daughter, however, that she should talk with the warriors who had captured him.

Milly then went to these warriors and once again begged that McKrimmon be spared. One of them replied that he had lost his own sisters in the Creek War and intended to take the soldier's life to atone for their loss. Milly, though, reasoned with him and pointed that the soldier was just a boy with no "head for war" (meaning he was too young to make his own decisions). The warrior relented on the condition that the young white man agree to have his head shaved in the Creek style and join the Prophet's band. As might be expected, McKrimmon readily agreed.

The soldier was quickly handed over to the Spanish at San Marcos de Apalache (Fort St. Marks) for safe-keeping and was still there when Andrew Jackson's army captured the fort in April of 1818. McKrimmon was freed, but the Prophet Francis was captured and hanged by Jackson's forces. Milly and the rest of her family soon surrendered themselves to the newly-installed American commander of the fort.

They were sent back to the Creek Nation by way of Fort Gadsden, but the remarkable story of Milly Francis was just beginning. To read the true story of what happened to her, please visit

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