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Seminoles fought fiercely to keep their Florida land

In the years between the explorers coming to Florida and the arrival of the Seminole Indians, who were runaways from several Indian tribes in the 1700s, five flags would fly over Florida.

The Seminoles became very prosperous; they built villages, fished, hunted and raised corn and other crops. During this time, the Indians were known to have taken in runaway slaves. Some of them lived with the Indians, others had their own villages. They also intermarried, which led to the race of Black Seminoles.

In the 1800s, tension between the white man and the Seminoles increased. This was because of 40-million acres of land which later was to become Hernando County. The land had been granted the Indians under the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1923.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. Any tribe east of the Mississippi River could exchange their land for land in Oklahoma.

The Seminoles were talked into sending a delegation of Seminole chiefs to Oklahoma, where they were kept for eight months until they finally signed a treaty, which said that all Seminoles would go west.

When they returned, not all the Seminoles were happy with the treaty. The most vocal was Osceola, who had a village on the Withlacoochee River. Under his leadership many chiefs, such as Micanopy, Aripeka, Alligator, Juniper, Emathla and Tiger Tail (who is said to be buried in the Lake Lindsey Cemetery) decided to continue the fight to keep their land.

The U.S. government spent seven years and $40-million on a war with the Seminoles. Several thousand soldiers were unable to defeat 1,500 Indians.

The bloodiest of these battles fought in our area was the battle known as the "Dade Massacre." One hundred and ten soldiers, led by Maj. Frances Dade, were marching from Fort Brook in Tampa to Fort King in Ocala. They were ambushed by Seminoles led by Emathla, Juniper and Micanopy.

Osceola, who had set up the ambush, had been detained at Fort King, where he had gone to kill the Indian Agent, Wiley Thompson. Thompson had captured Osceola's part-black wife when she visited the fort and sold her into slavery.

Of the two soldiers who survived the massacre, one told his story. Frank Laumer, a resident of Hernando County, wrote a history of the battle called "Massacre." A re-enactment of the event will be performed at the Dade Battlefield State Historic Site near Bushnell on Jan. 2 and 3, 1993.

Osceola continued to fight the relocation of the Seminoles to Oklahoma. During a meeting with the white men under a flag of truce, he was captured and imprisoned. He later was sent to Fort Moultrie in South Carolina where he died and is buried.

Aripeka and other Seminoles, still undefeated, moved south to the Everglades where their descendants live today. Aripeka's grave was found a few years ago in the Everglades, where he lived to be 100 years old.

Virginia Jackson is director of the Hernando Historical Museum Association. The association's Heritage Museum, at May Avenue and Jefferson Street in Brooksville, is open for tours from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $2 for adults and 50 cents for ages 12 and under.

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