One of the best things to come to Tampa since Bobby Henry's village in the early 1980s is the Tampa Bay History Center. It is downtown by the convention center, and three floors of exhibits in a huge, brand new building.
It starts off telling about the Native people, and has a great 20-minute film about the Narvaez expedition and Cabeza de Vaca in 1528, my favorite Spanish conquistador mission that ended 8 years later when the final 4 surviving members arrived in Mexico City. Narvaez was a cruel bastard who sought gold but only found his death. Cabeza de Vaca sought peace with the native people they came across, was enslaved by them, but eventually gained his freedom and traveled as an interesting trader and healer, who became somewhat of a messianic figure among the different tribes he met. So you have an interesting duality of the expedition leader, whom nobody was sad to see his death, and an officer among the expedition who's soul was saved by adapting to the surroundings and found a new life of peace.
Next you enter the gallery about the 2nd Seminole War. And I met and talked with Lt. John T. Sprague for a while. (Who is also a distant relative of mine.)
Sprague is responsible for writing the book, "The Origin, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War." It is because of him, that we have much information about the 2nd Seminole War, and he wrote down several speeches and talks with the Seminoles. Including the next audio-visual extravaganza in the museum; a theater that has a stirring rendition of Coacoochee's talk to Col. Worth on July 4th, 1841. All brought to life in a multi-screen theater, where we see Osceola and Coacoochee.
And an interesting item before the theater: Blood stained trousers from the 3rd Seminole War.
The next gallery covers more peaceful times, and has some great exhibits on Seminole patchwork.
Then upstairs is the Florida map room, with some excellent maps from Florida history in the past 500 years. This is where it really pays off to have my digital camera that doesn't need a flash.
Going out back of the museum along the water front, is a whole series of plaques commemorating Fort Brooke, the Indian removal, and the Seminoles struggle.
Underneath a "peace arch" to remind us to heal the wounds of the past and come together as one people.
A few more places of Seminole War history.
North of Tampa along highway 301 is Hillsborough River State Park with Fort Foster. Many of you may have been there before. But right south of there is a rails-to-trails project, called the Old Fort King Trail. This is an abandoned rail bed that has been converted to a bike/walking trail. This isn't the exact path of the Fort Brooke-Fort King road, but it is nice they decided to commemorate it.
And I had one more place I had to visit. About 30 mile north of here is the small community of Istachatta.
I had to stop by here, because Istachatta means Red Man / Red People. It is on the edge of the Cove of the Withlacoochee. One of the areas where the Seminoles hid their families and villages during the 2nd Seminole War.