Abiaka, better known as Sam Jones, was an elder of the Miccosukee when the Seminole War began. The American soldiers knew him as “Old Sam Jones” or “The Devil.”
To the Seminole, Abiaka was a medicine man, a warrior, a spy, a strategist, and a great leader. He was a central figure in the Second Seminole War and a leading opponent of the Indian Removal Act.
When American negotiators talked about forcing the Seminole to leave Florida, it was a given that Abiaka would never agree to leave. He almost never went to negotiations himself, but instead sent his followers, including Coacoochee and Osceola, in his place.
He was cunning and smart in keeping his people one step ahead of capture. It is said that Abiaka used a ruse of delivering fish to various forts as a means of spying on the mobilization activities of the troops as Florida’s military presence escalated.
An observation by Dr. Ellis Hughes described Abiaka at Fort King as follows:
“Apopka [Abiaka] Sam Jones used to bring fish before the war to Fort King. Capt. Galt had written a parady on “‘twas Dunois the brave,’ substituting Sam Jones a Sandy Hook fisherman to Dunois and the officers at Ft. King transferred the name to Apopka [Abiaka].”
On April 23, 1835, Seminole leaders were asked to ratify the Treaty of Fort Gibson at a meeting at Fort King called the Fort King Council. Sixteen Seminole leaders signed the ratification; however, Sam Jones and three others refused to sign. The Indian Removal Agent Wiley Thompson then dramatically struck the names of Jones and the other three dissenters from the official “List of Chiefs.”
John Bemrose, a member of the Army’s medical staff observing the Council meeting, described Sam Jones as:
“…a ferocious looking Indian Chief… reclining carelessly against the Barracks partition… He was evidently dissatisfied with the proceedings. I noticed him stamp his feet as if in a great rage, shaking his head, white with [r]age, as if to show his utter contempt for the agenda, and for the officers. After his palaver had gone on for some time, there was a sudden crash, and the platform where they sat, owing to the unusual weight, gave way, precipitating both parties to the ground.”
At the end of the war, Sam Jones, who was estimated to be over 100 years old, led the last Seminole remaining in Florida deep into the familiar wetlands of the Everglades and away from the American forces and settlers. He was the dedicated force behind one of the strongest resistance movements in American Indian history. He died peacefully in the 1860s knowing that his people had indeed won and would remain in Florida.
The Seminole tribe of Florida survives today because of Abiaka.