Polk County

A pre-Seminole Indian mound at Lake Wales has shown evidence of trade with the Spanish, with glass & silver beads dating from the 17th century.

The Peace River starts in Polk County until it runs into Charlotte Bay. For a long time the Seminoles lived along this river.

Polk County was where Peter McQueen fled into Florida, and one of the last sites of his village.

Peter McQueen was the son of a Scotsman and Creek Princess, and was one of the most vocal anti-removal leaders. His sister was Osceola's grandmother. McQueen's group was originally Tallassee (Muskogee) Indians from central Alabama, near Tuskegee and Montgomery, Alabama.

In 1813, McQueen and several of his group were returning from Pensacola with supplies, including 1000 lbs. of gunpowder. This is actually not much, when you considered that the Indians used powder for hunting and obtaining deerskin for trade; the source of their economic livelihood. The Americans attacked the supply train in Alabama at Burnt Corn Creek, northeast of Mobile. McQueen's band fled, but returned later and was able to recapture their supplies. Most of the Americans were from Fort Mims north of Mobile, so the Creek Indians demanded revenge. This led to the events of the massacre at Fort Mims, one of the worst mass massacres in U.S. history.

Andrew Jackson soon came down from Tennessee, and ended the year-long Creek civil war with the battle of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson killed over 800 Creek Red Stick warriors. This was the worst ever massacre of Indians by the United States, and it is said that not more then 10 Red Stick warriors survived the battle. Many of the women and children were shot down as the tried to escape across the river. Jackson never gave much credit to his Cherokee allies, who helped turn the tide of the battle in Jackson's favor.

McQueen was not inside the village at Horseshoe Bend. He had feared for the safety of his people early on, and moved them a few miles away. It is said that McQueen was captured by Jackson's forces, but he escaped. McQueen's band fled to Florida.

Osceola was about 10 years old at the time and went to Florida with his mother. Osceola was called Billy (William) Powell by the white men.

In 1818 Jackson came into Florida to attack all Indian villages that he could find, in a campaign known as the First Seminole War. McQueen was one of the reasons for Jackson's invasion, who Jackson was looking to hang. Billy Powell (Osceola) and his mother were prisoners captured by William MacIntosh's Creek Indian force at the Econfina River before the battle at Suwannee. (12 April 1818.) They were released when they promised to bring in talk to McQueen about surrendering. They eventually went down to where McQueen had moved to along Peas Creek (Peace River), at the town of Talakchopco.

The town of Talakchopco was on the Peace River until 1836. Not far was the town of Chief Oponay, who fled from Suwannee Old Town after Jackson had destroyed it. Oponay had a big plantation.

The Seminoles along the Peace River fared better than the Seminoles in north Florida, and were not subject to raids from Georgia, like the Alachua Seminoles had to endure. They raised cattle and took it to Charlotte Harbor, and were very wealthy from their trading, farming, and cattle raising.

Peter McQueen is said to have been living around Cape Florida at the time of his death in the 1820's. In less than 20 years, his band had lived all the way between central Alabama to Cape Florida (at the southeast corner of Florida.) We know that Osceola was at Talakchopco for a short time in 1818, but we know little of what happened the next few years. We are not sure where Osceola lived between 1818 and the early 1830's, but by 1832 we know that he was living near Fort King in Marion County.

Once the Second Seminole War began in late 1835, the Seminoles fled to the unexplored area of Florida, far from the Army outposts. Osceola's family is said to have returned to the Peace River area, possibly to Talakchopco. Osceola was in north Florida leading the Seminole warriors in some spectacular battles. We now know of Osceola's secret village in the Cove of the Withlacoochee, and it is more probable that his family could have been there.

In April 1836, Colonel Robert Goodwyn, commanding the South Carolina Volunteers, left Fort Brooke to attack Seminole villages along the Peace River. The term of enlistment for the volunteers was almost over, and the Army was desperate for a successful attack against the Seminoles while the troops were still employed. They were so eager to attack the Seminoles that they mistakenly attacked another camp of South Carolina volunteers soon after leaving Fort Brooke. Colonel Goodwyn's command had so many problems during the campaign, that by the time they reached Talakchopco on 16 April 1836, the Seminoles had already fled. The soldiers burned Talakchopco and another nearby town, and left for Fort Alabama (later Fort Foster) on the Hillsborough River. Another exhibition of Louisiana volunteers came up the Peace River from Charlotte Harbor, but turned around after even less success against the Seminoles.

This area saw some major action during the Second and Third Seminole Wars. During the Second Seminole War, Forts Carroll, Cummings, Fraser, Gardner, and Camp McCall were established. In the Indian scare of 1850, and the Third Seminole War, more military posts were activated, like Fort Clinch, Arbuckle, and Hooker. Fort Blount later became the town of Bartow. Fort Davenport, where the town of Davenport gets its name. Fort Meade was located at the town of the same name.

On 16 June 1856, there was a major battle between the Seminoles and Florida militia forces near Fort Meade. There is a monument at a local park to remember this event, known as the battle of Tillis Farm. This was the last major, organized battle of the Third Seminole War.

During 1856 most of the settlers living around the Peace River in this area fled to Fort Meade for protection. One settler who did not, and stayed at his homestead, was Willoughby Tillis. Tillis has the distinction of being with the Spring Grove Guards at the first battle of the Second Seminole War (Black Point), and being involved in the last major battle of the Third Seminole War. On June 14, 1856, the Tillis farm was attacked by Seminoles early in the morning when Mrs. Tillis went outside to milk the cows. The family defended themselves, but was trapped in their house, while two boys who escaped brought the militia from Fort Meade. The Seminoles were unable to get to the house, and killed about a dozen horses on the farm instead. When the militia arrived, the commanding officer and two soldiers were killed. At least one Indian was killed, and he was later found to be an important local chief.

The next day a militia force left Fort Meade to chase after the Seminoles, which were believed to have been joined by a much larger force. The next day on June 16, 1856, the militia found the Seminoles on the Peace River. They charged the Indians, and a fierce battle erupted along the riverbank. Five soldiers were killed, and they estimated at least 20 Seminoles killed. (But the Seminoles claim only four killed, with only 12 warriors in that battle.) Chief Oscen Tustenugge was among those killed. The soldiers captured many supplies that the Seminoles had captured in raids further up north.

There were problems for the militia that were revealed in these skirmishes. When signs of Indians were found, Captain William Hooker was more interested in rounding up his cattle for sale instead of protecting the settlers. In fact, most of the militia was not at their post at Fort Meade, but out in the countryside on private business.

Osceola County

During Taylor's 1837 campaign, there is mention of a large island on Lake Kissimmee with an Indian mound and Seminole villages on it. This would probably be what is today known as Brahma Island.

Cypress Island: No longer open, this was a wildlife attraction in the early and mid-1990's that fell victim to the Disney monster. The Island is 132 acres in the middle of Lake Tohopekaliga. Roaming free on the island were wild ponies, Emu birds, Llamas, and various other exotic animals. In 1998 the owner tried to auction off the land to pay for expenses, where it would become 5 acre plots of expensive homes. The auction didn't happen, and instead the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission purchased it as environmentally sensitive land in 1999.

Chief Wildcat, also know as Coacoochee, was born on Cypress Island on Lake Tohopekaliga around 1807. Also known as Makinson Island. He was a Miccosukee Indian; son of King Philip (Emathla), and nephew of Micanopy. A large village was on this island, but was abandoned by the time Colonel Taylor came through in 1837.

Seminole War Forts: Fort Taylor.

On January 12, 1852, Aaron Jernigan, a settler who moved to the area of Fort Gatlin, (what is today Orlando) led a posse of local cowboys on a hunt for Seminoles. They found a Seminole village around Lake Tohopekaliga and killed some of the people they found there. There is no evidence that the Seminoles were causing any trouble or making raids. As far as we know, they were living peacefully until Jernigan and his hoodlums came to kill them. Jernigan's group also killed some of the Indian livestock and took 120 hogs. Several of the local citizens complained to the Governor Thomas Brown, but he was a friend of Jernigan and defended him. Governor Brown said that the Seminoles should not have been that far north of the defined reservation boundary, and that if the Indians had livestock, it must have all been stolen.

During the Third Seminole War, Aaron Jernigan's behavior caused him to be removed as the militia commander of the area. There was a new governor, James E. Broome, who would not save Jernigan this time. Jernigan was always in a state of drunkenness. Complaints reached Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who had the governor relieve Jernigan of command on charges of alcoholism and neglect of duty.

Many Seminoles came to trade as far north as the town of Kissimmee during the late 19th century.


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