BAKER — Nathan Chessher and Julia Cadenhead want Okaloosa County residents to know that Creek Indians’ presence here preceded widely circulated dates.
"We didn't just fall off the turnip truck," Chessher, author of the new book, “Creek by Blood,” said. The Crestview resident, a descendant of the tribe, explores the area’s rich Native American culture in the book’s pages.
"Nearly everybody in this part of the country has some Indian (heritage) within them,” Chessher said.
That, in part, is due to the tribe’s longevity in this area.
"(The book) documents the fact that there were indeed Native Americans here before 1800; that wasn't always known in this county," Cadenhead, the book's editor, said.
The Creek Indians’ participation in primitive churches was a significant part of their presence here, Cadenhead said.
Non-native settlers fought and killed Indians who did not appear on a church roster, which indicated they could assimilate to mainstream religion.
"Creek peoples in this area and south Alabama joined the primitive church for a reason," she said. "They were a Christian people and their spirituality was pure, but they also needed to be protected and they needed to fit in."
One place of worship that offered such protection was the early incarnation of Yellow River Church in Baker, Chessher said.
"Indians established that church (in 1836) as a refuge," he said.
A photocopy of the church’s roster appears in the book.
The book also explores many area families’ histories, Cadenhead said.
Friends, family and history lovers surrounded the collaborators on Thursday evening at Baker Block Museum. There, the pair signed copies of the book, which represented several years of work.
Throughout his life, Chessher has compiled knowledge of Creek Indians. He has visited several historical sites in Florida, collecting information and artifacts, many of which are on display at the museum.
"I'm not bragging, but I know the subject upside down and backwards,” Chessher said.
Cadenhead, who called the publishing process a year-and-a-half “labor of love,” convinced Chessher to write the book.
“I figured I better get it down (on paper) or it’s going to die with me,” he said.
Now that it’s written, the pair hope Okaloosa residents will explore the book and learn more about local history.
"I hope people will read it and feel encouraged about who they are and what may or may not have been in their past," Cadenhead said.
That seems to be happening, if book sales are an indication.
"I was only expecting to sell four or five (copies), but we have nearly sold 50," Chessher said.
What: "Creek by Blood" by Nathan Chessher
Available: 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays and the third Saturday of each month
Where: Baker Block Museum
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.