Land Grant from the Creeks and Seminoles to Thomas Browne

On March 1, 1783, several “Kings and Warriors” representing Upper Creek, Lower Creek and Seminole towns affixed their “Names and family Marks” to a document granting British Indian Agent Thomas Browne substantial territory west of St. Augustine, Florida.

These family marks (see excerpt below) are drawings that represent Creek and Seminole clans. Visit the Significant Documents page to learn more.

Excerpt from a copy of a "Land Grant from the Upper Creeks, Lower Creeks and Seminoles to Thomas Browne..." found in Francis P. Fatio v. Philip Dewees (1838), Series 49, Box 476, Wallet 864

Excerpt from a copy of a “Land Grant from the Upper Creeks, Lower Creeks and Seminoles to Thomas Browne…” found in Francis P. Fatio v. Philip Dewees (1838), Series 49, Box 476, Wallet 864

Smallwood’s Store and Chokoloskee

On this day in 1974, Smallwood’s Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Seminole Indians at Smallwood’s Store: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Seminole Indians at Smallwood’s Store: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

The Seminole women pictured here represent members of a family camped near Smallwood’s Store on Chokoloskee Island in southwestern Florida. Their style of clothing and beads indicate that the photograph dates to the early 20th century, probably between 1900 and 1920. The archival record for this photograph identifies “Lena’s mother” on the far left, with “Frank Charlie’s mother” to her right. This photograph can be found at the State Archives of Florida in the Bedell collection.

Ted Smallwood at his Post Office and Trading Post: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Ted Smallwood at his Post Office and Trading Post: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Deaconess Harriet Bedell was an Episcopal missionary who worked with Native American tribes, including the Florida Seminoles. She established the Glades Cross Mission in Everglades City, Florida, which was active between 1933 and 1960.

Deaconess Bedell with Seminole women and a child: Glades Cross Mission, Everglades City, Florida (ca. 1940)

Deaconess Bedell with Seminole women and a child: Glades Cross Mission, Everglades City, Florida (ca. 1940)

Seminoles visited Chokoloskee Island as early as the 1880s to trade at the store owned by C. G. McKinney, opened for business sometime after he arrived on the island in 1886. Ted Smallwood succeeded McKinney in 1906 and established Smallwood’s Store, which catered to a thriving business with the Seminoles in alligator skins and otter pelts.

Ruby Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (ca. 1910)

Ruby Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (ca. 1910)

 

Seminole families camped on a beach near Smallwood’s Store while visiting the island, trading animal commodities for sewing machines, cloth, canned goods and other necessities. They built temporary chickees (“home” in Mikasuki), made sofkee (“corn gruel”), and supplied locals with venison and other wild game.

Other stores in the area frequented by Seminoles in the early 20th century included George Storter’s and Charlie Tigertail’s, both in the vicinity of present-day Everglades City. Charlie Tigertail’s store was the first Seminole-owned trading post in south Florida.

Charlie Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Charlie Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Visit the Florida Photographic Collection to learn more about the Bedell collection and to view historic photographs of the Florida Seminoles and Chokoloskee Island.

“Scenes of the Everglades” (1928)

Businessman and adventurer Homer Augustus Brinkley produced “Scenes of the Everglades” in 1928 to illustrate the exotic environment found in the Florida Everglades. He later used the film in a traveling show, which included a live caged bear and Brinkley dressed as a Seminole Indian.

This film shows perhaps the earliest known moving images of the Florida Seminoles. They are shown playing their version of the southeastern Indian stick ball game, performing traditional dances and tending to the business of daily life. Most of the Seminole footage was taken at a camp known as Californee in the western Big Cypress. Also included in Brinkley’s film are scenes of wildlife, plants and views of the Florida Everglades.

“Scenes of the Everglades” is one of seven full-length films available on Florida Memory featuring footage of the Florida Everglades.

Want to learn more about the environmental history of the Florida Everglades? The University of Florida has digitized nearly 100,000 pages from their archival collections on the subject.

The Joseph Janney Steinmetz Collection

Few photographers captured the allure and promise of Florida like Joseph Janney Steinmetz. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1905, Steinmetz came to Florida in 1941. During World War II, he served in the United States Navy developing techniques for aerial reconnaissance photography.

Steinmetz at his studio: Sarasota (May 5, 1948)

Steinmetz at his studio: Sarasota (May 5, 1948)

After moving to Florida, Steinmetz found regular work with the Florida Development Commission, a promotional agency of the Florida state government. He also operated an independent photography studio in Sarasota.

Seminole family selling patchwork clothing near the Brighton Reservation (January 27, 1948)

Seminole family selling patchwork clothing near the Brighton Reservation (January 27, 1948)

Over the course of his career, Steinmetz’s images appeared in numerous publications, including The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, Time, Holiday, Collier’s, and Town and Country. Although his favorite subject was the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Steinmetz captured a variety of subjects ranging from weddings to Tupperware parties to the Florida Seminoles.

Ringling Brothers Circus clown Emmett Kelly enjoying a bath

Ringling Brothers Circus clown Emmett Kelly enjoying a bath

Visit Florida Memory to learn more about Joseph Janney Steinmetz and to view photographs from his wonderful collection.

Tamiami Trail, A.K.A. U.S. 41 (Officially Opened April 25, 1928)

Before the completion of the Tamiami Trail (U.S 41), few travelers successfully navigated the 108 miles between Miami and Naples. Wetlands, mosquitos, alligators and cypress swamps made travel across southern Florida difficult at best.

Advertisement for real estate on the Tamiami Trail (1924)

Advertisement for real estate on the Tamiami Trail (1924)

Until the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the interior of the Florida peninsula south of Lake Okeechobee was largely unknown, except to the Seminoles themselves. Through repeated attempts to expel the Seminoles from Florida in the 19th century, the United States government slowly learned about the region known today as the Everglades. Greater knowledge of the vast swampland hatched various schemes to exploit its resources.

Boosters envisioned agricultural enterprises converting wetlands into farms producing sugarcane, livestock and copious vegetables—enough to feed the frozen north in winter. Massive drainage efforts in order to “reclaim” the rich Everglades soil began in the early 20th century.

Surveyors on the highest spot in the road (1920s)

Surveyors on the highest spot in the road (1920s)

Roads suitable for cars followed closely behind drainage infrastructure. On April 25, 1928, the Tamiami Trail opened to travelers. Construction on the east-west section of the road lasted for 12 years. Once completed, cars could travel east from Naples to Miami for the first time.

Nellie Tommie and her son in the Tamiami Canal (1956)

Nellie Tommie and her son in the Tamiami Canal (1956)

The southernmost Seminoles, known today as the Miccosukee, took up residence alongside the Tamiami Trail in the 1920s. Many Miccosukee Seminoles worked on the construction of the road and enjoyed greater access to Miami after its completion. The Miccosukee living on the Tamiami Trail built businesses specializing in crafts and animal demonstrations and led hunting expeditions into the Everglades.

Tamiami Trail blazers (1923)

Tamiami Trail blazers (1923)

Florida Seminoles and Musa Isle

Three Seminole medicine men: Musa Isle, Miami, Florida, ca. late 1910s

Three Seminole medicine men: Musa Isle, Miami, Florida, ca. late 1910s

The above photograph was taken in the late 1910s or early 1920s at Musa Isle, near Miami, Florida. The individuals in the photograph are described as “medicine men,” but are otherwise unidentified in the catalog record from the State Archives of Florida.

Musa Isle was a tourist attraction started by John Roop in 1907 on property he purchased on the Miami River from A. J. Richardson. In 1919, Roop leased a section of his property to a Seminole man named Willie Willie. Willie Willie and his father, Charlie Willie, operated a trading post west of Miami. They brought animal commodities to Musa Isle and sold them directly to wholesalers.

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