Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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Friday Finds March 26, 2010

Quilting Natural Florida– Check out this blog post about an upcoming Quilt exhibit featuring Natural Florida. The exhibit runs until April 25, 2010. Links provided in blog post for further information.

Florida Highwaymen– Another article about our native artists. Article has a photo of still living Florida Highwaymen and one Highwaywoman.

Where’s the Beef– Cattle Ranching wasn’t just for the wild west. Read this article to learn more about Florida’s Cattle industry.

The History of FAU– Read about the history of Florida Atlantic University. From the time it was an air force base to the college it is today. It is located on the southeast coast of Florida in the city of Boca Raton.

Fort Foster– Read about Fort Foster where the Second Seminole War began.

Florida’s Forgotten Rebels– Read another writer’s take on John Horse, Florida Maroon. Amy Sturgis shows how the Second Seminole War was not only about the independence of the Seminole Indians but also the largest slave revolt in American History.

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Wanted Wednesdays: Code Adam March 24, 2010

I have decided to add a new type of post to my blog. It’s called Wanted Wednesdays and will explore the history of Florida’s criminal underbelly.

I’m going to start it off with Code Adam.

Adam Walsh 6 1/2 years old

Code Adam was named after Adam Walsh who was murdered in 1981 in Hollywood, Florida. On July 27, 1981 Adam and his mother Reve went to Sears to look at lamps. Adam saw some video games which were new. Anyone remember Nintendo?  He was allowed by his mother to play video games while she went to look at the lamps. When she came back to the video games Adam was gone. It is thought that he was abducted outside the door after being asked to leave by security along with some older children who were also playing the video game.

On August 10, 1981 his severed head was found in Vero Beach, Florida 100 miles away. The rest of his remains have never been found. Possible suspects for Adam’s kidnapping and death were Jeffrey Dahmer, Ottis Toole, and Henry Lee Curtis. While no one was brought to justice it is believed that Ottis Toole performed the crime.

In 1984 he co-founded National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Adam’s kidnapping and murder spurred John Walsh to begin the television show America’s Most Wanted. It has been since 1988. It has helped “television program has helped take down over 1,050 dangerous fugitives and bring home more than 50 missing children.”

Code Adam was founded by Wal*Mart in 1994 and was named after Adam Walsh whose story you just read. Many public places including museums, amusement parks and retail stores voluntarily participate in Code Adam. In 2003, Congress passed legislation requiring all Federal buildings to participate in the Code Adam program.

The program consist of six steps.
1.  If a visitor reports a child is missing, a detailed description of the child and what he or she is wearing is obtained. Additionally, all exterior access to the building is locked and monitored; anyone approaching a door is turned away.
2.  The employee goes to the nearest in-house telephone and pages Code Adam, describing the child’s physical features and clothing. As designated employees monitor front entrances, other employees begin looking for the child.
3.  If the child is not found within 10 minutes, law enforcement is called.
4.  If the child is found and appears to have been lost and unharmed, the child is reunited with the searching family member.
5.  If the child is found accompanied by someone other than a parent or legal guardian, reasonable efforts to delay their departure will be used without putting the child, staff, or visitors at risk. Law enforcement will be notified and given details about the person accompanying the child.
6.  The Code Adam page will be canceled after the child is found or law enforcement arrives.

While law enforcement and John Walsh himself believe that Ottis Toole committed the crime it will never be known for sure since Ottis recanted his confession and died a few years later of cirrhosis of the liver without a deathbed confession. In 2008, Adam Walsh’s case was officially closed and Ottis Toole named as the perpetrator.

TV trivia: John Dogget from the hit TV science fiction show X-Files, loses a son in the same manner as John Walsh did. Because it is television and X-Files they were able to solve Dogget’s son’s murder.

 

Friday Finds March 5, 2010

1. Florida History Online– Is an online reference for professional and amateur historians and history teachers. It covers New World in a State of Nature: British East Florida, Florida and the Civil War, Virtual St. Augustine: Documents and Narratives of the Ancient City, and Guides for Teaching Florida History Online. I will add a permanent link in my Links to the Past section for future reference for those interested.

2. St. Augustine, Florida History– From the website:  Browse a timeline, written history and enjoy a virtual tour of many of St. Augustine’s historical sites and landmarks. Browse augustine.com’s private virtual book collection and interactive maps.

3. South Florida Ecosystem History Project– The USGS South Florida Ecosystem History Project, part of the USGS South Florida Ecosytem Program, is designed to integrate studies from a number of researchers compiling data from terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems within south Florida. They are studying the Biscayne Bay and Southeast coast, Florida Bay and the Southwest coast, and Terrestrial & Freshwater Ecosystems or Southern Florida. It has an interactive kids’ section and online posters that were presented at recent scientific meetings.

4. Naples Florida History and Culture– Read about the history of the town of Naples Florida including its downtown area, Crayton Cove, and Marco Island.

5. The Complete History of Florida Gators Football– This interactive graphic shows the history of the Florida Gators Football team from 1906-2008.

6. History of North Brevard-Titusville– Read about the city of Titusville located in North Brevard county. The table of contents include: various chapters about the Spanish settlers, the Second Seminole War, important settlers, incorporation of the town and the space industry.

 

John Horse: Florida Maroon of the Second Seminole War March 4, 2010

John Horse, leader during the Second Seminole War

John Horse also known as Juan Cavallo, Gopher John, and John Cabayo. His mother was a black slave woman and his father/owner was part Hispanic and part Indian. He was twenty-five years old when the Second Seminole began in 1837 and was a completely free man having neither a white master or a Seminole master. By age fourteen he had escaped to a maroon village and freed himself from his father/owner and joined a Seminole village. When the Second Seminole War began he decided to fight and he fought against the white man. During his skirmishes with the whites, the Seminoles haild him as a war-chief. On December 28, 1835 John Horse and his followers ambushed Major Francis Langhorn Dade’s 105 man command. It was a massacre with no survivors. This is said to have caused the Second Seminole War. This occurred two years after the rejection of the Treaty of Fort Gibson and is perhaps in retaliation for the forced acceptance of the Treaty of Fort Gibson.

He is said to have been a good war chief and cared for the warriors that were under his command. He was fluent in English and the Seminole language, and the dialect spoken among the slaves on the majority of the plantations. He was also knowledgeable about medicine and it was thought that he learned it from his mother who was from West Africa. All of these features made him a good leader that the maroon blacks wanted to follow.

During the time of the failed peace conference at Fort Izard with John Caesar and the other failed attempt at peace between Abraham and General Jesup John Horse did not settle for peace but continued fighting on. He was eventually captured along with his ally Wild Cat, or Coacoochee, during one of these peace offerings that was staged by the white man in order to capture Seminoles and Maroons. They were thrown into prison at Fort Marion in St. Augustine. They escaped prison in November 1837. They, with their followers, made their way south to Lake Okeechobee where they fought but lost against General Zachary Taylor. It was fought on Christmas day in 1837 and is thought to be the bloodiest contest within all the Seminole Wars.

After losing the Battle at Lake Okeechobee, John Horse, along with Coacoochee, retreated to the Everglades, but white U.S. forces did not give up. They were constantly on the run  and faced disease and starvation. Finally in 1838 only out of fear for the well being of his wife and children did John Horse surrender. He was sent to Indian Territory.

*information about John Horse is from Philip Thomas Tucker and  found in The Journal of Negro History Vol. 77 No. 2 Spring 1992.

 

Protecting Florida’s Coasts during times of War March 2, 2010

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was dismantled instead of destroyed because it was be too expensive to fix if destroyed

Florida is a peninsula that lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. According to State of Florida.com it has 1,800 miles of coastline and of that 1,200 miles are sand beaches.  That’s a lot of shoreline to protect. How does Florida protect all it’s shoreline. While perusing Florida Memory I came across two original documents that the organization posted for public reading. The first one is from the Civil War and the second document is from World War II. Both documents speak about how attempts of Florida’s coastline was protected during these wars from the enemy.

Florida was the third state to secede from the Union on January 10, 1861.  While it was controlled by Yankees it’s civilian population was full of secessionists and southern sympathizers.

Report on the Dismantling of Florida Lighthouses Upon the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1861 is a four page letter signed by James Paine, A. Oswald Lang, and Francis A. Ivey who were southern sympathizers. It was written to the governor of Florida Madison Starke Perry. They tell him how they walked “a journey of about 140 miles. 90 of it on foot, being exposed to a burning Sun and drenching rains, and with a very scant allowance of food– ”

They did this because they felt it was their duty to the south to try and stop the north as much as they could and to do that they dismantled the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse and destroyed the Cape Florida lighthouse.  According to the letter A. Oswald Lang was the Assistant lighthouse keeper of the Jupiter Inlet light house and resigned when he found that the Keeper was a Yankee posing as a secessionist.

There are much more interesting bits to this short four page letter. While the handwriting is very clear there is no need to worry about being able to read the original document as a typed text is included along with it.

Blackout orders for Palm Beach, Florida

This is a short one page document issued by the governor of Florida, Spessard L. Holland, who was governor in 1942 and the commanding officer of Key West. They are blackout orders for Palm Beach so that the lights from the town, beach, and amusement parks do cause Allied merchant ships to become targets of German U-boats. It goes into detail that all lights within two miles of the beach were either to be turned off or screened so as not to be seen from off shore.

An interesting note about both of these documents is that it doesn’t mention the west coast of Florida at all. In fact in the Blackout orders for Palm Beach, Florida it says,

It is requested that you immediately take steps to have extin- guished all street lights on water front streets and highways at once, and those actually on the ocean front, not those on the west side.

I’m not sure if this is talking about the west coast or just the west side of Palm Beach. No matter with the east coast facing the Atlantic it is much more vulnerable to attack and hurricanes than the west coast which faces the Gulf of Mexico and is much more sheltered.

Perhaps this is why there is a difference in cultures between the east coast and the west coast. Do you readers who have visited Florida or live in Florida think that the culture differences between the east coast and west coast is partly due to the west coast being more sheltered against storms and naval attack than the east coast?

 

John Caesar: Florida Maroon of the Second Seminole War March 1, 2010

King Phillip, Second Chief, painted from life by George Catlin in 1838. Smithsonian American Art Museum. He was the owner of John Caesar

John Caesar, a slave of Seminole leader King Philip and a contemporary of Abraham was approaching his sixties at the outbreak of the Second Seminole War. John Caesar was married to a slave woman on a plantation and this led him to be able to freely enter the plantation to visit his wife without suspicion of other activities. When the Treaty of Fort Gibson was rejected and fear of being put back into slavery was imminent, John Caesar, with the help of King Philip, incited slave revolts on nearby plantations. In December 1935, hostilities broke out on the St. John’s River, invading Seminoles and Maroons under the leadership of King Philip and John Caesar. This caused at least 250, if not more, plantation slaves to join in the fight that was the Second Seminole War.

During the siege of Fort Izard against General Gaines on February 27, 1836 John Caesar during the night approached the fort claiming that the Seminoles wanted to make peace. He did this without the knowledge of the Seminole chiefs. When they found out, it was was agreed that they should go to the conference. While at the conference, reinforcements for Fort Izard arrived and, thinking that the fort was under attack, they fired upon the Seminoles in the conference, thus continuing the war.

After this failed conference, and even the time between the conference and the previous uprisings on the plantations along the St. John’s River, John Caesar drops from the picture. It is believed that his Seminole owner, King Philip, preferred to avoid the white man rather than to fight him so they were avoided unless interaction was necessary. In December 1836 John Caesar seems to have gotten restless and decided on his own to go stir up trouble for plantations closer to St. Augustine that earlier they had left alone because of their proximity to the town. In January 1837, while trying to steal horses to begin the raids, John Caesar and his followers were found out. They fled the area. Men from St. Augustine followed their trail and discovered their camp in the woods where they opened fire on the completely unprepared raiders. The men from St. Augustine killed three and wounded at least one other. One of the three killed was John Caesar.

The aftermath of the failed uprising of John Caesar struck fear into the hearts of the white men knowing that another uprising could occur at any time. This led General Jesup to make the peace treaty with the remaining Seminoles and using Abraham as an interpreter.

**Information about John Caesar comes from Kenneth Wiggins Porter from The Journal of Negro History Vol. 31 No. 2. April 1946.**