Hardee, De Soto, and Charlotte County


Hardee County

Forts during the Third Seminole War: Fort Green near the town by the same name. Fort Hartsuff was established during the Third Seminole War and is named after Lt. George Hartsuff, who is blamed for starting the war by destroying Billy Bowlegs' camp.

PLACES TO VISIT:

Paynes Creek Historical Site and Fort Chokonikla:

After the Second Seminole War ended, there was still not peace between the Indians and the white man. Sometimes they would cross paths and shooting would result.

At the end of the war, the United States ordered all Indians to the southwest quarter of Florida. A trading post, known as the Kennedy-Darling store, was established on Paynes Creek, the northern boundary of the reservation in 1849. It was set up to keep the Indians from going into the big towns to trade, thus preventing conflict between Seminoles and white settlers.

On July 17, 1849, five Indians came to trade at the store. They wanted to sleep the night in the store, but were told instead to sleep outside on the porch. That night the Indians attacked the store clerks, killing two and wounding a third. The third clerk, William McCullough, escaped with his wife and child, and saw the night sky lit up from flames of the burning store.

The United States government reacted by sending troops to Florida and reactivating many military posts in south Florida. This became known as "The Panic of 1849 / 1850." It looked like another Seminole War was about to start.

Chief Billy Bowlegs went to extreme measures to prevent another war. He claimed that the five attackers were outcasts from the tribe. The Seminoles captured four and killed the fifth of the renegades, and turned them over to the Americans. Bowlegs said that this would prove their intentions to keep the peace, even by turning their own people over to the Army to be hanged. (Although they were not hanged, and eventually shipped out west.)


Billy Bowlegs from an old daguerreotype taken during a visit to Washington City in 1852.  This was the first photograph taken of a Seminole.

In October 1849, Fort Chokonikla was built not far from where the Kennedy-Darling store once stood. Chokonikla loosely means "burned house". The fort consisted of three blockhouses and no walls. Sickness and disease became a big problem at the fort, so it was abandoned in July 1850. There was never any battle against the Indians here. Nothing became of the Panic of 1850, and soon the other forts were closed, including Fort Chokonikla. The Third Seminole War would later start in late 1855. Local residents say that remains of the blockhouses could still be seen in the 1950's.


Site of the former fort today.

Located near the town of Bowling Green. Usual state park admission charges to enter the park. Open daily, 9-5; the museum is probably on the typical state museum schedule and closed Tuesday and Wednesday.


DeSoto County

Camp Ogden was established on July 11, 1841 to serve as another outpost along the Peace River, and a gathering point for Seminoles to be moved west. It was near the village of Hospetarke, who participated in the attack on the Caloosahatchee trading post in 1839.

There was one situation during the war where a party of Seminoles arrived at Camp Ogden seeking refuge and wanting to emigrate to the west. Chasing behind them was another party of anti-removal Seminoles, who fired on a post wood cutting party and killed one soldier. The refugees were quickly sent to Tampa.

In August 1841, Colonel Worth took Coacoochee to Camp Ogden to help negotiate the removal of Hospetarke's village. When negotiation went too slow, Worth arranged a trap and captured Hospetarke. Both Coacoochee, Hospetarke, and their families were sent west before the year was over. Camp Ogden was deactivated shortly after, and remained inactive until the Third Seminole War and American Civil War.


HISTORIC QUOTES:


SEMINOLE CATTLEMEN:

"Previous to their misfortunes, they were considered the most wealthy of the American tribes, possessing immense herds of cattle, as their country afforded an uncommon fine range for stock. Bowlegs, one of their Chiefs, sold annually, a thousand head of steers, and was in the habit of killing, daily, a portion of cattle, for the use of his people."

From William Simmons in 1822, written in his book, "Notices of East Florida, with an Account of the Seminole Nations of Indians." The Bowlegs listed above is the first one, who is brother of King Payne and in the First Seminole War.

WAR CRIES:

"The War Dance -- This ceremony is strictly prohibited in times of peace, and is punishable by death, unless consent of the King [Micco] be obtained. -- Many travelers in Florida have pretended to give description of the War dance, but I have the authority of the oldest residents in the country who have lived years with the Seminoles, and who spoke their language fluently -- that they never although at frequent entreaties, could induce them to perform it; and I, myself, have repeatedly urged individual Indians to favor me with the war-whoop, but could never succeed during peace; but, after the commencement of hostilities, they were liberal to an unpleasant degree, without the ceremony being 'called upon.'"

Taken from "A Narrative of the Early Days and Remembrances of Osceola Nikkanochee, Prince of Econchatti, Written by his Guardian," by Dr. Andrew Welch, 1841.


Charlotte County

There have been remains of ancient Floridians found in the Charlotte Harbor area dating back 8000 years. After 700 B.C., the ancient Floridians even had created a shellfish farm in Turtle Bay.

Cash Mound in Turtle Bay shows that the area was a major tool manufacturing site. Weather and erosion in recent years destroyed the mound.

The Calusa Indians built several mounds in the Charlotte Harbor area. There was also a complex series of mound cities at Big Mound Key with canals connecting the different villages.

The Charlotte County area has a sad history of wholesale destruction of Calusa sites. Looters destroyed a large mound complex by bulldozers in 1980. There are no treasure stashes in these mounds; only bones, shells, and bits of charcoal. What the looters are looking for do not actually exist in the mounds, and what they destroy makes us lose a lot of knowledge about the Calusa. Development has also destroyed mounds in the area.

Unfortunately there are no Calusa sites in this county open to the public that you can visit these days.


Juan Ponce de Leon landed in the area of Charlotte harbor on May 24, 1513. Over the next several years he tried to establish a colony here. But after trading with the Calusa went sour, de Leon received a fatal wound in a battle with the local Indians. After the Spanish defeat, the colony was abandoned.

Miccosukees and Seminoles moved into Charlotte Harbor area and worked with Cuban fisherman by 1813. They became very friendly with the fishermen that they worked with, and sometimes intermarried. These Indians became known as the Spanish Indians. Many Indians and Black Seminoles lived near Negro Point in Sarasota Bay. It is known that the Cuban Fishermen traded with the Seminoles as late as 1834, but after the Second Seminole War started, it is doubtful that this trade continued. The Spanish government was having a lot of trouble holding onto Cuba in the 1830's, and would not have wanted the United States to have an excuse for removing one of the last Spanish holdings in the Western Hemisphere.

Fort Casey at Charlotte Harbor was established during the panic of 1850.

PLACES TO VISIT:

Historical Marker: First White Man Killed by Indians in America.

This one is too good to pass by. I found it listed on the www.RoadsideAmerica.com website. It is in a park on the river in Punta Gorda. One of crew members under Ponce de Leon is killed by a Calusa arrow in 1513.

The park address is 3498 W. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda, FL. Look it up and check it out.

I guess the claim of who was the first white man to die can be debatable, and if you are talking about Florida, the Caribbean, early unknown Vikings, or whomever. But it is a neat marker.


Charlotte County Historical Center, Charlotte Harbor:

I haven't been to this one yet, so if anyone has a report, please let me know.
Exhibits include information on the Calusa.


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© 1998, 2002, 2007 Chris Kimball
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