After visiting DeBary Hall, I went back to Sanford to the historical society museum. The museum is on the western end of Fort Mellon Park. The park is actually the former military reservation of Fort Mellon. I met with Christine Kinlaw-Best, who has been enthusiastically researching Fort Mellon and the 2SW.
After local author and 2SW historian Author Francke passed away about 10 years ago, his research collection was donated to the museum. There are a few book of copies he made from the National Archives. Francke was such a paper miser that the scribbled a lot of his notes on canceled checks, so those are stored away in a box, but hard to organize or catalog.
Since Francke's book on Fort Mellon has been hard to find these days, Christine has printed a book that is on sale at the museum, "The History of Fort Mellon." She is continuing the research on the fort and has found things that Francke didn't know about.
One thing that I found interesting, was that after the Civil War, there were U.S. Colored Troops stationed at Fort Mellon, as part of the pacification (reconstruction) of the south. Nobody had seen this in any records before.
Also, before the Civil War, Joseph Finnegan of CW fame stirred up a lot of trouble in the area when he would come in and warn of Indians. A lot of times these claims seemed to be just his imagination, but people would still desert their homes and hold up in the fort for as long as six weeks.
Also books I got at the museum: "From Fort Mellon to Baghdad, A Time-Line Evolution of the 2nd Dragoons" by Charlie Carlson.
"The Tale of a Mosquito [county] A Story of Early Sanford" by Mrs. J.N. Whitner, reprinted from a 1910 historical paper of the establishment of Fort Mellon and local history.
Christine said that she was able to find the descendants of Captain Mellon who still have his dress shoulder boards. Interesting things is that every generation has had a Charles Mellon, even continuing today.
Next year is the 170th anniversary of the battle at Lake Monroe, and they are planning an event at the museum. I will reprint Christine's email below that explains more about it. I really enjoyed her note, and was glad to receive it just before I came to town so I could visit the museum.
Dear Mr. Kimball,
My name is Christine Best and I live in Sanford, Florida. I've been a member of the Seminole War mailing list for quite a while, as I love to read about what is going on, with the reenactor events. I also have extensively studied the Seminole War in our area here, such as Fort Mellon, Fort Reid, Fort Kingsbury (across the lake from us), etc.
I just wanted to also say how much I enjoy reading your web-blog. I love the fact that you are "teaching" about the Second Seminole War, as you are writing in your blog, plus, I really appreciate the fact that you are adding the historical photos, as you write.
I noticed in your blog that you mentioned that Mr. Franke's book on Fort Mellon is now going for around 165.00 in used book stores. I did want to let you know that it was driving me crazy, that folks here in Sanford.....only think of "Fort Mellon Park".....as a "place" to have a picnic.....not even realizing that it is called "FORT" Mellon....because it really WAS a fort!!! You wouldn't believe the shocked look on people's faces, when I point that out to them!!!
So.....I wanted to let you know....because I wasn't sure if you knew this....but, not too long before Mr. Franke died, he donated his entire research collection for his book and every thing that he had researched on the 2nd Seminole War, to the Sanford Museum. It is there for anyone to look through and study. All of his research notes, along with copies of letters & papers from the National Archives that he personally researched are included in his notebooks, that he prepared as he was getting ready to write his book on Fort Mellon. The Museum, of course, has copies of his books, also.
The Sanford Museum sits on the edge of Fort Mellon Park, just a stones throw from where the battle took place on the lakefront of Lake Monroe. Also, because it was driving me nuts, that it is nearly impossible for people to purchase a copy of Mr. Franke's book now.....in the past couple of years, I wrote a book for the Sanford Historical Society (the support group for the Sanford Museum), on the History of Fort Mellon. My book is taken directly from most of Mr. Franke's research, since it all was given to the Sanford Museum, plus, I added some new research, that has come to light since Mr. Franke wrote his book on Fort Mellon. In my book, I was able to also include information on Fort Reid, our other 2nd Seminole War fort, here in Sanford.
My book is not nearly as long as Mr. Franke's book on Fort Mellon, due to the fact that my research and writing was a donation to the Sanford Historical Society, so that they could print it and sell it in the Sanford Museum, at an affordable cost, since Mr. Franke's book is so hard to find now & when it can be found, it is so expensive!! And, my main objective was to be able to educate others on the fact that we did, in fact, have a major battle, right here in Sanford. The book is for sale at the Museum for 10.00 dollars, if you know of anyone who is ever interested in reading about Fort Mellon. And, as I did want to let you know....Mr. Franke's papers are available for research! Not too many people know that, I guess. But, I would think that anyone studying the Second Seminole War, would probably enjoy going through Mr. Franke's papers.
Not too long ago, I happened to be stopping by the Sanford Museum, just as Mr. & Mrs. Debary were leaving the Museum. I was fortunate enough to get to talk with them awhile. They are such a nice couple & very enjoyable to talk to!
Another thing that I was fortunate to have happen....while researching my book on Fort Mellon, I located the direct descendants of Captain Charles Mellon, who died during the Battle of Camp Monroe, with our fort then being renamed "Fort Mellon". After locating the direct descendants, they then made a trip to Sanford and I was fortunate to be their "tour guide" on the day they visited. It was the first time in over 150 years, that a descendant of Capt. Mellon's had visited the spot where he died.
The Sanford Museum now has it's 50th Anniversary coming up in February of 2007. The official date is Feb. 8th, 2007.....but, we will be having an all-day open-house on Saturday, Feb. 10th. One thing that also coincides with the Museum's 50th Anniversary....is the 170th Anniversary of the Battle of Camp Monroe and the death of Charles Mellon, Feb. 8th, 1837.
I wanted to check with you and see if you could give me some advice or any assistance, in finding out if there is any way to see if any of the reenactors would be interested in setting up a display of any type, on the 2nd Seminole War, in Fort Mellon Park, next to the Sanford Museum, for that day? Who would I contact? Do you have any suggestions? We just had our very first planning meeting for the Museum's anniversary and we thought that it would be an important time for visitors to learn about the importance of the 2nd Seminole War to our area, since this is also a big anniversary for us, being 170 years since the battle.
Are there any big events going on near that weekend in February? I know that if there are things already planned elsewhere, then it would probably be hard for anyone to have time to come to Sanford ....but I thought I'd check with you, to see if you could advise me on anyone who may be able to come. This is a wonderful opportunity to educate the "locals" (who, as you know, are really mostly newcomers to our Great State), on the importance of our State's history.
Thank you for your time and once again, I really enjoy your blog!