Last blog I talked about "The Blockhouse" at Collier-Seminole State Park. Although the park opened as a state park in 1947, it had an unusual history as an attempt to open as a national park prior to that. The feds were not interested at the time. After Barron Collier passed away in 1939, his children and Collier County continued the push to develop a park. One person who was influential in this effort was D. Graham Copeland. Copeland had worked for Barron Collier and became a Collier County Commissioner. Although no record exists from that time because hurricane Donna flooded the courthouse in Everglades City in 1960, Copeland can be seen as directly involved in the early development of the park.
Around 1940, the Barron Collier monument on the Memorial Field was built. A dedication ceremony for the Barron Collier monument was held on January 1st, 1941. A 1943 county map has the name of the park listed as, "Barron Collier Memorial Park."
Below: The Memorial Field at Collier-Seminole State Park as it looks today.
When the monument was dedicated, there were rock pedestals on the edge of the field, made from local limestone rock. Since the limestone is very porous and deteriorates over time when exposed to the open air and rain, it ages very poorly. It seems as if they unfortunately did not survive over time, and were removed many years ago. But on the pedestals were four bronze plaques.
Below: And early park photo of the Memorial Field with one of the stone pedestals and a bronze plaque.
In Carlton W. Tebeau's book, "Florida's Last Frontier, the History of Collier County," he talks about the development of the park and building the Collier memorial. He incorrectly states that bronze tablets on the Seminole war were mounted on both sides of the Barron Collier monument. This is incorrect, because early park photographs show the tablets clearly mounted on the sides of limestone rock pedestals.
In 2005, the head bust of Barron Collier on the memorial was stolen during Spring Break. It was never recovered, and this was the third time in eleven years that the head had been stolen or destroyed from vandalism. It was decided not to replace the head due to the cost and possibility that it would once again suffer the same fate.
Below: The Barron Collier Monument today.
The four bronze Seminole War memorial plaques have been in storage for many years. Why have they been there? First is because where they were originally displayed no longer exists. Other than the Barron's head bust on the monument, the last remaining stone pedestal was also destroyed by spring break vandalism about 2007. And also because bronze plaques are very difficult to maintain in a tropical, coastal environment. Left out in the open, they need to be constantly cleaned and do not do very well where they were at. And finally, some of the information on the plaques is just plain wrong.
I will show you photos of these plaques and tell you what is on them, followed by my own comments.
Bronze plaque 1:
We call them savage. O, be just!
Their outraged feelings scan;
A voice comes forth—‘Tis from dust—
The savage was MAN!
Comment: Certainly not politically correct. Nobody uses the term savage anymore.
Bronze plaque 2:
This site known as
Little Royal Palm Hammock
Used by Spanish Indians, maroons, and Seminoles
for growing of crops, was occupied by US
regular troops commanded by Brig. Gen. W.J. Worth,
Maj. W.G. Belknap and Capt. George Wright, during
the Second Seminole War, and by U.S. regulars
and Florida Mounted Vols., commanded by
Col. S. St. George Rogers, Capt. W.H. Cone and
Capt. L.A. Hardee, during the Third Seminole War.
Greater courage, intrepidity, bravery and
resourcefulness have never been possessed by
any invading army than by the officers and men
who explored these trackless swamps in pursuit
of a valiant and vigilant enemy almost a
century ago that Collier County might be what
it is today—January, 1941.
Comment: It is doubtful that all these people used the hammock as described. This is an attempt to promote the historical significance of the area. We know that Col. Rogers came through here, because he mentioned it in his report after the November 28, 1857 battle while searching for the location of the burial of Capt. Parkhill. He arrives and said the battle was not here, but down the trail a few more miles. We are not sure if any of the other officers mentioned ever visited, although we do know that Belknap was in the area in 1841. And in the last paragraph of the plaque, they are really playing up the contributions of the troops. Looking at the enlistment records show another view, with high desertion rates down in this part of Florida, and men pushed to the point of starvation and exhaustion while on patrol. The will to push on and fight seems to diminish under those harsh conditions.
Bronze plaque 3:
Engagements in Collier County
December 10, 1840
On border of the Everglades: Pvt. Wm H Allen, Co H, killed.
December 20, 1841
About 8 miles N by E of here: Sgt. John Doane, Co I, 8th Inf. and
Pvt. William Foster, Co., D, 4th Inf., killed..
March 29, 1856
21 miles ESE of here near mouth of Chokoloskee (present Turner)
river; 2 killed and several wounded, names unknown.
April 7, 1856
30 miles NE of here at Bowlegs Old Town on border of Big Cypress;
2 killed and 6 wounded, names not known.
March 5 & 7, 1857
In Big Cypress NE of here, location unknown; 4 killed and
8 wounded, names unknown.
November 21, 1857
15 miles N of here and S of Ft. Doane; Capt. W.H. Cone, F.M. Vols.,
surprised Indians killing one warrior and capturing 18 women
November 28, 1857
12 miles ENE of here in Big Royal Palm Hammock, west of Deep Lake;
Capt. John Parkhill, F.M. Vols, was killed and 5 wounded in ambush.
Capt. Parkhill is buried on the shore of Lake Lizzie, known to Indians
as “Fish Catching Lake” and now called Deep Lake.
December ___ 1857
17 miles NE of here, Capt. Winston Stephens, F.M. Vol., engaged
Billy Bowlegs in the last skirmish of the Third Seminole War at west
Hinson grove. 1 trooper and 5 Seminoles killed; 2 Seminoles,
including Chat-to-pot-chat Slab-kee, nephew of Bowlegs,
Died at Old Ft. Foster N of here,
Pvt. Joseph Gordon, Co. B, Jan. 26, 1838; Pvt. William Hawk, C.B., Oct. 31, 1837,
Pvt. John Jones, Co. B, Dec. 18, 1837.
Comment: The location and research of these sites is the direct work of D. Graham Copeland, as seen on his 1947 map of Collier County.
Bronze plaque 4:
To the Memory of
Arpeika (Sam Jones), Chekika, Holate Micco (Billy Bowlegs),
Otulke Thlocklo (the Prophet) and Thlocklo Tustenuggee (Tiger Tail)—
the great Seminole Chieftans—who, convinced of the perfidy
of the white race, directed from the deep recesses of
the Big Cypress with masterly strategy the valiant
struggle of a few against overwhelming numbers that
their people might remain free and undisputed masters
of the land they loved;
Assinwar, Hospetache (Shiver and Shakes), Chopco Tustenuggee
Fuse Hajo, Holate Emathla, Nethlock Emathla, Shonock Hajo
and Waxey Hajo (Old Alligator)—their sub-chiefs—and some
350 warriors who followed where they led;
Coee-coo-chee (Wildcat), Alec Yahola, Pessac Micco, Hollar
Toochee and Tustenuggee Hajo, who, having foreseen the tragedy
which awaited their people in Florida, acted as guides and
messengers in Collier County for the whites and attempted
with some success to avert the Second and Third Seminole
Wars and the destruction of the remnant of a proud nation.
Comment: This seems to be taken directly out of the book by Captain John T. Sprague, "The Origin, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War." Not all these chiefs and warriors made it down to Big Cypress and this corner of Florida. Holate Emathla was brother of Charlie Emathla and had his village in North Florida, and surrendered at the beginning of the Seminole Seminole War. He died while moving to Oklahoma. And the last paragraph I think that the Seminoles and Miccosukees have a very different opinion of the people mentioned and acting as guides. And like the officers mentioned on the other plaque, I do not think all these Seminoles made it down to Collier County either.
The plaques are safely stowed away and out of the weather. Maybe one day there will be a better memorial to the Third Seminole War in Florida. These history sites and people need to be remembered.