This past weekend was the third Paynes Creek festival. It was moved to October because this is the 160th anniversary of the establishment of Fort Chokonikla at this location.
Paynes Creek flows into the Peace River. An Indian trading post, known as the Kennedy-Darling Store, was established here in 1849 after their trading post at Charlotte Harbor burned down the year before. They moved it further north to be closer to Fort Brooke and further inland. This was considered the northern boundary of the Indian territory. (Although there was no treaty defining the boundary.)
In July 1849, only three weeks after the trading post was open for business, five Indians showed up to trade. That evening, they fired upon the people eating dinner inside the building, but another store worker and his wife escaped. The Indians were suspected to have just raided a settlement near Fort Pierce. This started the "Panic of 1849."
Fort Chokonikla, meaning "burnt house" was built nearby in October 1849. Probably named after the store, which was burned by the Indians who raided it.
In 1850, General David Twiggs met with Billy Bowlegs and negotiated a peace at Fort Chokonikla. So the Panic of 1849 ended quickly, but several forts were established at that time. You can read the rest of the story in the museum. The hours have changed, and I think that Neal told me that the museum is open Thursday to Monday, 10-4.
I really enjoy this park. It is never crowded and always very peaceful. There are a couple trails that you can walk. Here is where Paynes Creek (coming in from the right) flows into the Peace River.
George Payne who headed up the trading post was a naturalist as well. Today the Peace River is known as the main area for fossil hunting in Florida. Payne sent several fossils up to the Smithsonian. (Which then lost them, of course.)
Paynes Creek looks shallow in most places.
You can cross over a suspension bridge and see the grave marker of the store clerks, and also walk to the site of the trading post. The fort site is next to the museum.
The fort was closed in July 1850 due to sickness.
Paynes Creek State Park is not to be confused with Paynes Prairie, which is about 150 miles north. Paynes Creek State Park is in the town of Bowling Green in Hardee County. (Okay, that still doesn't help.) Look for Highway 17 in the center of the state, about 15 or 20 miles south of Bartow (Polk County seat). Follow the signs in Bowling Green off highway 17 to the park.