Polly Parker, Survivor

Polly Parker escaped deportation during the Third Seminole War and laid the foundation for the modern Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Painting of Polly Parker by Robert Butler, Brighton Reservation, 1989

Painting of Polly Parker by Robert Butler, Brighton Reservation, 1989

Polly Parker (Emateloye) was captured by the U.S. Army during the Third Seminole War (1855-1858). She was forced aboard the steamship Grey Cloud, bound for New Orleans and thence up the Mississippi River to the Indian Territory — the watery route that served as the Seminoles’ Trail of Tears. Parker escaped when the vessel stopped at St. Marks, south of Tallahassee. She then began a 400-mile journey southward to rejoin her people near Lake Okeechobee. Parker survived the perilous trek and her family lives on today in many prominent figures in the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

On December 1, a delegation from the Seminole Tribe of Florida, including some of Parker’s descendents, embarked by boat from Egmont Key in Tampa Bay and re-created the voyage to St. Marks. Special events took place on December 2 in St. Marks and in Tallahassee on December 3 to commemorate this important history and encourage greater recognition for the remarkable Polly Parker.