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seminolewar


Fort Harrell / Harroll Found

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Thank you to everyone who forwarded the article last week to me. I am glad that you were thinking of me!

A July 2nd article in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper had the story of three researchers/explorers that have located Fort Harrell. (Called Fort Harroll in Sprague.) The group consisted of a couple teachers from Miami and a National Park Service employee. They have been searcher for about a decade for this remote little fort that is hidden among the most difficult to reach mangroves in Big Cypress. Finally on the fifth trek to locate the fort, they found post holes in the lime rock and remains of some old posts.

The location of the fort is about as remote as you can get in Big Cypress National Preserve. It is directly east of Chokoloskee Island and southeast of Ochopee, along the New River, about six miles up from Sunday Bay. They certainly deserve an A plus for the work they have endured to reach it in the summer, when conditions are at the harshest.

You can see the fort on this 1841 map by Lt Cmd John McLaughlin, U.S. Navy, circled in yellow. I am not sure about the date on the map, and it may be incorrect, having been added later. It is compiled of several expeditions in south Florida to search for the Seminoles.

1841 McLaughlin Map

What I find unusual, is that no other interior forts are marked on the map, and there were others. There is a small square on the map where Fort Poinsett was at Cape Sable.

Fort Harroll is mentioned briefly in passing by Maj. William Belknap during his expedition into the Everglades, dated December 19, 1841, and abandoned a few weeks later in January 1841. The purpose of the fort was as a supply depot for the expedition into the Everglades. I do not know of any other Army expeditions into the Everglades during the time, other than Belknap, who would have established the remote post.

The fort was only active for a few weeks until the end of the campaign. Since there are no post returns in the Adjutant General records, the fort probably had minimal usage. I mentioned the post holes, but it is doubtful that the fort even had walls. Not all forts did. This one does not show any evidence of a blockhouse. The fort could have just been a canvas fort, which we know existed. Maybe the post holes marked out a fence? Since there are no post returns on file, most likely there was not much to it, and not much effort made to construct anything more.

There were about half a dozen other forts in Collier County, and Fort Harrell / Harroll was the most primitive and saw the least usage.

The explorers said they hope a road or trail will be established down to the site and allow people to visit, but I don’t see that happening. We don’t even have enough information about the fort to make a good historical marker. But I am glad when a small Seminole War site makes the news.
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