The Choctawhatchee is a river arising in southern Alabama and flowing about 225 km (140 mi) south into northwest Florida, where it empties into Choctawhatchee Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico. In its present form the name simply means "River of the Choctaws".
In the Milan Tapia journal of 1693 the river is referred to as Chicasses. The term was also applied to the Chatot who lived in the vicinity of the river at that time. In 1769 Gauld referred to the river as Chacta-hatchi or Pea River. The Romans map (1774) shows in as the River Chatto Hatcha (Rock River); and another Romans map (1776) calls it Matto Hatcha (River of Thanks). wanton (1952) said that Chatot was probably a synonym for Choctaw, and the river may have been named for them. If so, Chatto Hatcha on the 1774 Romans Map may be a way of writing "Chatot River". The Chatot were closely associated with the Choctaw, and may have been considered a division of that larger tribe. Whether the place-name refers to the Chatot or the Choctaw is, therefore, irrelevant. Choctawhatchee still essentially means "river of the Choctaws".
The Chatot were first mentioned in a 1639 Spanish document wherein the governor of Florida discusses having consummated a peace between the Chatot, Apalachicola, and Yamasee. He said this peace was "... an extraordinary thing, because the aforesaid Chacatos (Chatot) never maintained peace with anybody." they were living west of the Apalachicola River at the time, perhaps along the middle of the Chipola River. Two missions were established among them in 1674, but the following year the natives rebelled. The disturbance was soon ended by the Spanish, and the Chatot then settled near the Apalachee town of San Luis (Tallahassee). San Luis was attacked in 1695 by Lower Creeks who carried away 42 natives.
In 1706 or 1707 the Chatot and several other small tribes were attacked, and were scattered or carried off. The remaining Chatot fled to Mobile. They settled there until 1763 when Mobile was ceded to the English. They then relocated to Lousiana. Swanton (1952) states that as late as 1924 some old Choctaw remembered the Chatot presence on the Sabine in Louisiana. Swanton also estimated the population to be 1,200 to 1,500 in 1674. By 1805 they numbered about 100. Many probably found their way to Oklahoma by this time and were incorporated into other tribes.
Simpson (1956) said the Purcell-Stuart Map of 1778 shows the name as Choctaw Hatchee, but later in his book indicates that the same map shows Talak Hatchee (Creek words:Talak meaning pea, and Hatchee meaning river). The river originates in Alabama and the western tributary is currently referred to there as the Pea River. There is, therefore, little doubt that the Choctawhatchee River, or at least part of it, was once called Talak Hatchee (Pea River) by the Indian inhabitants.
As noted above, the Choctawhatchee river was also referred to as Chicasses in 1693, and there are several possible interpretations. The Chickasaw word Chicaza refers to an old field or clearing, or place of settlement. The name, therefore, may have been initially applied to a site, and later to the river, or at least part of it. The name is also similar to the Choctaw wordsChikki meaning old and Asha meaning to sit or reside. Most likely, Chacasses is simply a way of writing "Chickasaws". The Chickasaw Indians were closely associated with the Choctaws.
The western tributary to the Choctawhatchee River proper was, and still is, called the Pea River. The eastern part of this stream in Alabama, and from the confluence south, was and still is the Choctawhatchee (River of the Choctaws).