Most of the territory was inhabited by Native Americans and the new white settlers were not welcomed by them at all. William Rowell enlisted as a private in the Florida Militia in 1836 during the 2nd Florida Indian War and served in several tours and battles around the state. By 1837 he had been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and had his own Company. The 2nd Florida Indian wars continued from 1835 to 1842, in between conflicts the men returning home to take care of crops and family.
William Rowell was promoted to Captain by 1839 when a New York newspaper printed the following account of one of his encounters with the Indians.
New York American - April 2, 1839 Pages 6-7
Tallahassee - March 20
POSTSCRIPT - We stop the press to tell another tale of Indian fighting, blood and murder. We shall be brief, for we are sick at heart upon even an approach to this subject.
On Monday, while Captain Rowell's company was scouting, they fell in with an old Negro man, who told them that they had just seen Indians and directed the soldiers where they might find them. The scouts charged on and soon came in sight of two Indians, who were quietly seated on a fence and who beckoned the whites in a friendly manner to approach, which the latter did fearlessly, and upon nearing the fence, were fired on by a large party of Indians who were concealed in the hammock, supposed to number from 60 to 70.
Two of Capt. R's company were killed on the spot and two badly wounded. One dead Indian was afterwards found on the ground.
Captain Rowell and his men are said to have fought bravely but had not sufficient force to contend successfully with the foe.