Antonia Bonelli Leonardy captured by the Indians

complied by halsema.org editors

excerpt from:
Stormes Family History, Frances Stormes Wright
Antonia Paula Bonelli, born 6 April 1786, in St. Augustine; married Bartolome Joseph Leonardy 26 July 1808. Antonia was living on her father's plantation at Matanzas when; in 1802, she was captured by the Indians and held captive for 22 months. Years afterwards, she gave a sworn deposition detailing this capture and her experiences as a prisoner of the Indians. The following is a verbatim copy of her deposition.

From: American State Papers, Class V, Military Affairs, Vol. VI, p. 500, Washington, D.C. 1861.
Personally appeared before me, Joseph Sanchez, a Justice of the Peace for the county of St. John's, Antonia Bonelly Leonardy, who, being duly sworn, in explanation and continuation, says: That at the time the Indians made the descent upon the settlements of Josiah Dupont, Mr. Pellicer, and deponent's father, in the year 1802, she, this deponent, was about thirteen years of age.

The persons of her father's family taken by the Indians were her mother, Mrs. Mary Bonelly, and five children, viz: this deponent, Joseph, Theresa, Catherine, and John; the nine Indians set out immediately with all the plunder that they and the prisoners could carry, and traveled by circuitous routes and by-paths for the interior of the country. Deponent's family were made prisoners about three o'clock in the afternoon, and were forced to march that day and the following night until daylight of the second day., when they halted and encamped until the morning of the third day when they started again, and traveled until sundown.

They encamped for the night, and so again on the fourth day, and for twenty-four days from the time of her capture. The party could not travel fast, as the plunder was heavy, and deponent and her sister Mary, who was eleven years old, were obliged to carry alternately their brother John, who was about twenty months old.

On the second day after they started from the Matanzas they crossed a small river, and afterwards they crossed the St. John's where it was very wide, (probably a little lake); she recollects also crossing a river called Suwannee, in a skin. The skin was stretched out by two cross sticks, and a rim made of wood; she laid down in the bottom very still whilst crossing, and remembers she was afraid to look up. The banks of this river were very steep. On the twenty-fourth day they arrived at a town called Mickasuky, the chief of which she recollects was called Ken-ha-jah.

When we were within a short distance of the town the party halted and proceeded to make a division of their plunder and prisoners, after which we were turned over to some Indian women who came out to meet us; after which the Indian men went another way to dance over the scalp of deponent's brother. Whilst living with these Indians, which deponent learned were called by the name of Mickasuky tribe, deponent experienced many hardships and cruelties, and her trials were very severe; and the circumstances and history of her captivity and that of her family were so peculiar and barbarous that everything appears to be fresh to her mind, and she does not think that anything but death can efface them from her memory.

The Mickasuky town, where deponent was, she understood from the Indians, was about a day's journey from St. Mark's on the Gulf of Mexico, and a considerable distance from Apalachicola, and within the Spanish boundary of the two provinces of the East and West Florida.

Deponent's mother and Catherine, Theresa, and John, were detained seven months; and at the end of this time deponent's father sent one Jack Forrester with three hundred dollars to redeem the family, but the Indians not considering that a sufficient sum detained deponent and her brother Joseph. Deponent was detained fifteen months longer, but her brother Joseph escaped previously to that time, and got down to St. Mark's, from thence to Mobile, New Orleans, Cuba, and finally he reached St. Augustine in a vessel commanded by Captain Stepen Benet.

About twenty-two months after deponent's captivity, her father sent two hundred dollars, being the additional sum demanded by the Indians, and she was then released and delivered up to her brother-in-law, Thomas Pacety, who brought her to St. Augustine, accompanied by Payne, the chief of the Seminoles, and a negro slave belonging to said chief.

Deponent further says that her father and mother, the said Jack Forrester, the said Captain Stephen Benet,and her brother-in-law, Thomas Pacety, are long since dead; her sister Mary resides at St. Mary's, Georgia, ,and that the rest of her family that are living reside in the Island of Cuba.

She has always understood that the Mickasuky Indians were considered by the Spanish government to be under the military jurisdiction of the governor of West Florida, and not of East. Florida.

Her mark: X

ANTONIA BONELLI LEONARDI

Sworn to before me this 1st day of October 1835.

John P. Sanchez, Justice of the Peace,
St. John's County.

Excerpt from Deposition following: " ....He was in St. Augustine at the time the Indians made a descent upon the settlements of Josiah Dupont and others at Mantanzas, in 1802, and he saw the dead body of Thomas Bonelly, who had been killed by them in that affair, lying in the market place, in St. Augustine, having been brought up to to town in a boat."

FELIPE SOLANA

Sworn before me October 7, 1835.

John P. Sanchez, Justice of the Peace
St Johns County, Florida

another excerpt from:
Stormes Family History, Frances Stormes Wright
Antonia was born in 1786, and thus was actually about 16 years old when captured by the Indians. Her older brother, Thomas, was killed in the initial attack on the homestead at Matanzas. Thomas was 26 years old at that time, and probably killed while trying to defend his family. This would also explain Antonia's statement in the deposition: "The Indian men went another way to dance over the scalp of deponent's brother."

It will be noted that Antonia made her deposition in 1835, some 33 years after her capture. This was probably because the first Seminole Indian War began in 1835, and evidently the authorities were trying to obtain as much evidence as possible about previous Indian attacks, and establish military responsibilities and jurisdictions. Also, the heirs of persons who had lost property in Indian attacks could make claims against the government.
From halsema.org editors:
Antonia had a child by her Miccosukee captors. The baby was later baptized and named Maria Antonia Domecia Bonelli. Maria only lived a few short years (1804-1810). Most researchers list the father as: "Medicine man of the Mikasuky Indian village."


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