Paynes Creek Historic State Park

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Paynes Creek Historic State Park is the venue of the annual Fort Chokonikla Encampment Reenactment each February. It is a Florida State Park located on Lake Branch Road one-half mile southeast of Bowling Green, Florida. On November 21, 1978, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, under the title of Payne’s Creek Massacre-Fort Chokonikla Site.

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Many early trading posts were built by Kennedy and Darling, two army sutlers from Fort Brooke who had started their own trading company. One such was constructed in the late 1840s along the Charlo-popka-hatchee-chee (Little Trout-Eating Creek in Seminole), west of Peas Creek (later known as the Peace River), near present-day Bowling Green. The proprietors were Capt. George Payne and Dempsey Whidden.

The Massacre
Ignoring the terms of the treaty with the Seminoles, settlers moved southward, encroaching on the reservation. Though Billy Bowlegs, one of their leaders, was reconciled to the state of affairs, others of his people were not so compliant. On July 17, 1849, Payne and Whidden were killed by five renegade Seminoles, following which the store and everything in it was burned.

Fort Chokonikla – Site of the old fort
The attack on the trading post caused many of the settlers to flee to the nearest fort, then ask for military forces to be sent so they could return to their homes in safety. This led to the establishment of Fort Chokonikla near the site of the former trading post only three months later, on October 26. The fort’s name is believed to derive from the Seminole “Chocka-nickler” meaning “burnt store”. It was also variously spelled at the time as “Chokkonickla” or “Chokhonikla”.

However, due to its location near a swamp, a breeding site for mosquitos, many of those stationed at the fort contracted and died of malaria. This became such a problem that the fort’s doctor recommended the fort’s closure. The army quickly agreed, and the fort was vacated on July 18, 1850, after less than nine months of occupancy, and a year and a day after Payne and Whidden’s deaths.

View Fort Chokonikla Encampment Reenactment Details