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Westville has reopened on June 22nd. The whole living history park is being moved from the town of Lumpkin (Georgia) to Columbus, after years of struggling from dropping attendance, and in need of funds and repair. And I absolutely loved my visit!

The new location is right behind the National Army Infantry museum at Fort Benning, although the two museums are not connected other than geographically. It is hoped that the new location can keep the living history park operating, where more people can easily visit, along with school groups.

The entrance fee to the living history museum was suspended on the first day, and it was very crowded. I will visit again when I do not have to worry about the mobs of people.

The park has had a well-deserved restoration and everything is laid out as a small town. Not every building is moved there yet, and the ones who have not made the move have some of the furnishings displayed in the restored structures. One of my favorite buildings, the Yuchi cabin, is open for visitors.

The interpreters did a wonderful job as building docents. Many different views and backgrounds are represented by the living history folks in the park. My favorite was the quilt maker.

If there is anything negative to say, are two things that are absolutely not under control of the park. First is the lack of shade trees in the park. Old Westville had plenty of nice shade trees to keep shelter from the sun. But this is understandable, since a couple dozen buildings were moved to the new location, and land had to be cleared to move them in. New trees have been planted, but will take time to grow. The old park had been collecting buildings since the 1920’s.

Second thing was that the nearby Army post, Fort Benning, had an alarm or siren drill at noon, which was loudly heard everywhere in the immediate area. This will have to be taken under consideration for future programs and events.
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Former Seminole Tribe of Florida President Joe Dan Osceola passed away two weeks ago at the age of 82. When he became Tribe President in 1967, he was the youngest tribal leader in the country. At the same time, Betty Mae Jumper became the tribal Chairwoman.

To simply describe the difference between the tribal President and Chairperson: The President of the Tribe is head of the Board of Directors, or business end of the tribe. The Chairperson heads the tribal council, who are the representatives of the different reservations, like a legislature.

Reading Joe Dan Osceola’s bio, I see that he attended Georgetown College in Kentucky. That is also in the same town as was the Choctaw Indian Academy run by Richard M. Johnson from 1818 to 1842. Some of the youth from the Creek and Seminole tribes also attended the Choctaw Academy in the 1830’s. So Joe Dan is not the first Seminole Tribe member to go to school in the town, even if it was 120 years apart.

You can read more about his amazing life in the Seminole Tribune, so I will not repeat here what you can read elsewhere.

But I will state that I have been told that he was very smart financially, and saved or invested the money he received from the tribal dividends.

I knew about Joe Dan, but did not meet him until the opening of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in 1997.

While in the museum during the opening reception, I was walking by Joe Dan, cornered by a newspaper reporter interviewing him. It got my interest when she asked him a question, which I could see that he was visibly struggling with to avoid. It was a historical question, which I have no problem with, but I quickly determined that it was not his area of expertise. And no big deal on that, because with the modern internet, I am just now finding things out about my family from 150 years ago that we didn’t know before.

I don’t remember what the question was, but I saw that he needed rescuing from a subject that he was not normally tasked to answer. So, I inserted myself into the conversation, with and answer that started somewhat like, “Oh yeah, that is…” The reporter’s attention was directed at me, and she started asking me questions instead. I looked over, and Joe Dan had completely vanished! Vanished quickly and nowhere to be found, like a Seminole warrior escaping into the Big Cypress!

Later when we were enjoyed the meal of steak and lobster behind the museum, Joe Dan came up to me and apologized for his sudden departure. I told him that was no problem, that I sensed he needed rescuing, so I jumped in! I still laugh about this today, when I rescued him from the reporter!
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Picolata: the Seminole War Burials


Someone in the Seminole War group asked me to look up their ancestor who was in the Tennessee Militia and buried in Picolata. Of their ancestor, there appears to be nothing of the grave that remains. That is not unusual, because few graves remain from that time because they would be marked with wood. Very few markers survive from the 1830s and 40s, and those that do are of officers in St. Augustine.


But the story of Picolata is not that simple. 


Picolata is the major river crossing on the St. Johns River directly west of St. Augustine. There was a Spanish fort, and it continued its importance during the British and American territorial days. It was the gateway to the interior of the peninsula. The Spanish fort site is endangered from development or building right now.


The American patriots had an encampment at Picolata during the Patriot War / War of 1812 that the Seminole Indians burned.


During the 2nd Seminole War, Picolata was an important military establishment and depot during the entire war. 


Picolata had a hospital, and Sprague in his book, “The Florida War,” has the list of casualties of the regulars. He lists one officers and sixty-two enlisted men who died at Picolata and nearby. It was always assumed they were moved to St. Augustine. But, maybe not!


From an article written by Robert Hawk in the National Guard records in St. Augustine, it gives more information.


In summer 1927, Robert Ranson was walking in the woods of the Picolata area, and stumbled upon several old, wooden grave markers of soldiers who were buried there during the 2d Seminole War, 85 to 90 years earlier. My impression is, that if there were wooded grave markers, then it would mean that the remains were never removed to St. Augustine.


Long story short, Ranson was able to get Congressional authorization to provide grave markers for the graves that he identified. A new cemetery at the site of the old one was dedicated with nice new VA markers on February 22, 1931. Here is Robert Ranson’s list of 50 soldiers that are buried at Picolata, from the Florida National Guard, Special Archives Publication #149.




The cemetery was totally forgotten after that. The Great Depression, World War II, kind of kept everyone busy and not visiting the site. In 1949, the cemetery was discovered again and cleaned up. Then it was forgotten again. Once again it was rediscovered, in 1965 and 1971, and cleaned up again.

The problems with Ranson’s list, are that there are 13 more names in Sprague of soldiers who died at Picolata or the area. They are:

2d Dragoons:
King, Benjamin, Pvt
Miller, William, Pvt
Slean, James, Pvt
1st Artillery:
Bolles, John, Pvt
2d Artillery:
Mackay, James, Pvt. Died on march from Ft. Drane to Picolata.
3d Artillery:
Fields/Field, H.S., Sgt. Picolata Road.
Laden, Jeremiah, Pvt
Mustell, Joseph, Pvt (also as Mulleen) Picolata Road.
4th Artillery:
Ellis, Robert, Pvt
Plunket, Lawrence, Pvt
4th Infantry:
Dougherty, C.L., Pvt
7th Infantry
Hopkins, John, Pvt
Recruits:
Cooper, Henry



Image: The national Cemetery at St. Augustine with the pyramids before 1913, form FloridaMemory.

Here is the big question of who is buried in St. Augustine. After researching the pyramids at St. Augustine’s National Cemetery for the past four years, we went back to the original orders and read what it said. And it is:

Col. Worth’s orders for burials under the pyramids in St. Augustine include 3 categories:


1. Officers. Officers who were killed in battle or died on service. That is most all the officers in the war.
2. Major Dade and his men, of the command’s non-commissioned officers and privates, save two who survived.
3. Non-commissioned officers and Privates who fell under peculiar circumstances of gallantry and conduct.


This third criteria is very important to pay attention to what it says, because it does not mean all the remains of all the enlisted soldiers who died in the war. If they just died of dysentery, they are not included. “Under peculiar circumstances of gallantry and conduct” means that you were killed in battle.


Of those who could have been buried in Picolata and reinterred in St. Augustine, only one officer fits the criteria for Col. Worth’s orders; Capt. Garner, who died of yellow fever, and he has a separated grave marker outside the pyramids. He is the only one from Picolata who has a separate grave outside the pyramid.


Of the three enlisted men who Sprague lists as killed on the Picolata road, the Richmond Enquirer of Nov. 20, 1840, says that Sgt. Field and Pvt. Mulleen(or Mustell from Sprague) were buried at Fort Seale, and Pvt. Kain(or Cain) was sent to the hospital in Picolata where he died of his wounds. Pvt. Kain/Cain could have been buried at Picolata and later moved to St. Augustine. All three were ambushed on the road on Nov. 1, 1840.



Of the combined list of 63 names from both Ranson and Sprague, two killed by Indians were buried at Fort Searle, and one at Picolata. Of those buried at Picolata, only Capt. Garner and Pvt Cain/Kain fit the criteria in the orders from Col. Worth to be buried in St. Augustine at the end of the war. Of those two, only Garner has an actual gravestone in St. Augustine. So, the only actual evidence that we have without the original records, is that Cpt Garner was moved to St. Augustine from Picolata. Why Ranson only lists 50, and there are 13 more listed in Sprague that Ranson did not include, we do not know why there is such a discrepancy.


So, given this hypothesis, there is a likelihood that there are about 60 soldiers still buried in Picolata who were never moved to St. Augustine. I think it is strong evidence because Ranson found the original wooden grave markers back in 1927. If the remains had been removed, they would have removed the grave markers.


So, can you visit the Picolata Cemetery today? No, you cannot. It is private property and the owners do not allow anyone to visit. When I went there last year to look at the historical marker, there was a local resident driving around on an ATV with a shotgun.


But, an actual photo showed up on the internet of the Picolata cemetery in 2015, from the land owner who started a gofundme page to build a retreat for wounded warriors. I support this type of thing and hope that he succeeds. I am a veteran myself and am in favor of this. It is also a great way to preserve the cemetery.


You can read more about the Picolata cemetery here:


The Strange Story of the Picolata Cemetery
https://gyrmoultriecreek.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/the-strange-story-of-the-picolata-cemetery/#comments

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Last week I had someone say on the facebook group, that a professor of a college or university in West Palm Beach, told them that the Seminoles were not the original inhabitants in Florida.  He stated that they were kicked out of the Timuquan, Tequesta, Calusa, and Jupiter tribes. I am getting pretty tired of college professors making asinine statements.  Then I see the same thing a couple days later repeated in the West Palm Beach newspaper, and the Gainesville newspaper.  I guess he was writing a blog for them.

First off, there is no Jupiter Tribe. The people around Jupiter north of Palm Beach have been identified as being at Hobe Sound, Jaega or Ais Indians. Second, if they were kicked out of the tribes (and they were not), then they still would still be from there. You are indigenous to the area because you live there and are from there. The tribal differences and politics, and being chased out of the local village make no difference saying if someone is an aboriginal inhabitant. They are undoubtedly indigenous people, and there is no doubt in anyone's mind about that. 

But these are minor issues.

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Thanks from information by John Missall, I can now take credit card orders for books at my talks and reenactments. So I am now able to sell books directly to someone who wants to purchase using credit card. 

This will work out great for me, because I am not at all happy with Amazon taking most of the profit or royalties from my book sales. So, if I can cut out Amazon because they make more money off my books than I do, then that’s great. Because of the difficulties I had with CreateSpace and Amazon a few months ago, all my future books will be through a different publisher. 

I also found out that a digital copy of my timeline book is being passed around. I don’t know if it was a kindle copy or pdf they had gotten from kindle. This is pirating my work, and the same as people who download music without paying for it. So, I am discontinuing digital or kindle copies. 

Lastly, I gave a historical talk recently. Afterwards, some people were asking me to come to their festivals and reenactments. There is a good reason why I don’t do these anymore. The main reason is that it costs me several hundred dollars out of my pocket to attend a single event as a participant. I cannot reimburse the cost to myself if I sell $20 worth of books, which is about how much I usually sell at events. So, if I do events in the future, they will have to be worth my time, money, & effort. 

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For the past ten years I have maintained my family genealogy research on Ancestry. I have found some interesting things, like my great-grandfather who had another wife that we didn’t know about.

But to verify all of this, was through careful research to make sure that I was not adding someone just because they had the same name. It has not been easy!

Unfortunately, other people have not been such good researchers, so that there is a lot of junk now on Ancestry.  Other people using my research and family photos has somewhat irritated me, especially when they started adding erroneous information. Someone added a family tree where my father lived in New York City, which he never did. But they added the New York residence because my Dad had a common name as other people the same name and born the same year. 

Now it seems to be a problem with Ancestry full of erroneous family trees that will make genealogy research even more difficult to unravel. People have been connecting erroneous information and then claiming most assuredly that they are related to Seminole leaders like John Hicks, Osceola, or Sam Jones. Regardless that the information they have is all wrong. And, why can’t they be related to a Seminole who was never famous? Why only the famous characters?

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I just found a copy of Flamingo Magazine from November 2018. I tried to restrain my comments, and believe me, this came out a lot shorter than originally written. In the magazine, there is an article on Osceola and Major William Lauderdale, from whom Fort Lauderdale was named. The article has some beautiful photos and layout. Unfortunately, the text of the article is total crap.


The article starts out with telling the tragedy of Negro Fort / Prospect Bluff, and says that Osceola, as young Billy Powell, and his mother were there. “Out of the rubble of the old fort, as he rose from the piles of bodies left behind in the summer sun.” 


We have no evidence that they were there. As part of Peter McQueen’s band, there is no evidence that Peter McQueen and his people were ever there. We do know that McQueen’s band was defeated and many captured in 1818 by forces under Creek leader and American ally William MacIntosh on the Econfina River. Osceola and his grandmother were among those captured at Econfina. If there is any connection between Osceola and the destroyed fort at Prospect Bluff, there are no historical documents that I have seen to connect the two. It seems to me that the author is combining two fashionable subjects—Osceola and the fort as Prospect Bluff—for his own agenda. This is a disservice to the many people and warriors who participated in history and who are largely forgotten. It wasn’t all just about Osceola.


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For those of you participating in the two different Seminole War reenactments this weekend, have fun, and I hope your festivals are successful and nobody gets hurt. I will not be there for very specific reasons.

And specifically; my background as a former safety supervisor with the state parks has made me a marked man and libel if anything goes wrong at your festival.

Back starting in 2007, when I worked for the Florida State Parks, I was a participant with establishing the blackpowder safety standards and rules developed for the reenactments and living history programs. The state parks have a written policy and guidebook that is published for all to see. The manuals of Florida State Parks Historic Weapons Firing Safety Program cover either muskets and small arms, or artillery. And I was very proud to be a Safety Supervisor at various events at state parks for a few years.

Although I no longer work for the state parks, I still have the manuals of the safety program we developed. It has changed for later time periods, but I agree with the program that we developed for our antebellum period. 

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A few years back, I met a woman at the Miccosukee festival who was a member of the Miccosukee Tribe. When I mentioned that I I’ve done reenactments, she bristled and said, “They just want to kill Indians all over again!” It made me stop and think of her sentiment, and why she thought that way. Are we just glorifying the bad part of history? Our goal as interpreters is not to show death and bloodshed, or just have a battle. 

The woman had a very good point. It was a very difficult part of her history. A documentary I saw of Creek people in Oklahoma, explained that they did not speak about the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the Creek War that happened 200 years ago at their community grounds because of the bad memories that it brought up. I talked to a Creek friend from Oklahoma who was visiting this past summer, and they do not talk about the history that happened here in the east. These are bad memories for them, even if they were six or seven generations ago.

Jack Martin in his book, “Sacred Revolt,” one of the best that covers the Creek War causes & effects, in my opinion, starts out with a very good point. He writes:

“I was disturbed at the way historians left those people dead on the battlefield without ever bothering to ask who they were and why the fought? It was as if scholars were killing them over and over again by failing to imagine their lives, symbols, desires, and perspectives.”

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I have had several comments and issues on the Seminole War Facebook page this past month that I want to address.


The DNA ancestry tests are more popular than ever. There are several different DNA tests on the market. People are taking them to see if they have Native American Indian ancestry. Often, the results are confusing.

 

Sometimes these results bring up more questions than answers. My test said that my ancestry was about 12 percent of Italian and Spanish ancestry, of which I had no idea, and do not know where that came from. I thought that most of my ancestors are fairly well document, but I guess not.


Then according to National Geographic, we all came out of Africa 100,000 years ago, and I have some DNA from Denisovan and Neanderthal. Denisovan is related to Australian Aborigine; maybe I should claim that?


This is all very interesting, and fun to talk about, but totally meaningless in the long run. It won’t get me anything. Records written down by my great-grandmother are more meaningful than this test.


People want to take these tests and prove they are Native American Indian. Some even told me to prove they are Creek or Seminole. If they need a box with a test tube to spit in to prove they are Creek or Seminole, then I will tell them that they are not. The only way that you are going to prove to me that you are Creek or Seminole is by the scratches on your arm. It has always been about community and culture, not spitting in a bottle.


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