Readers: While the realities of the newspaper industry have forced us to reduce our primary coverage area, we still relish the chance here at Post Time to slip in a story about one of our outlying, but no less interesting, places. Today: Okeechobee County.
This weekend, the county will host, at its actual site, a reenactment of the 1837 Battle of Okeechobee, which actually occurred on Christmas Day. Here’s more from a 2012 column noting the dedication of a historical marker:
The battle on the north shore of the big lake, on Christmas Day 1837, was the biggest and bloodiest fight of the Second Seminole War, one of America’s most controversial, and mostly forgotten.
At an expanse of sawgrass, chest-high water and muck, Gen. Zachary Taylor led about 1,000 U.S. soldiers and Missouri volunteers who routed several hundred Seminoles. Some soldiers later alleged Taylor, a future president, cowered behind a cypress tree for much of the battle.
The Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park is itself a stunning victory for forces who for decades fought to protect the site from encroaching development.
In 2006, as part of the $3 billion Florida Forever program, the state agreed to buy 145 of the 211 acres at the battlefield, which the National Trust for Historic Places had listed as one of America’s 11 most endangered historic sites. Officials said it likely would have ended up as townhomes.
The Second Seminole War, 1835 to 1842, was the longest and most expensive the white man waged against American Indians and draws parallels to Vietnam. Soldiers were sent far away to an inhospitable swamp to fight locals familiar with the territory, and it was a war of attrition in which three died of disease for every one killed in battle.
After the war, the Seminoles were scattered, with about 600 shipped west as part of the “Trail of Tears” and the rest vanishing into the Everglades.
On July 13, 1915, residents incorporated the town first called Okeechobee City, then changed four years later to just Okeechobee.
In 1939, West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a roadside marker along U.S. 441 near the battlefield. In November 2011, the marker was moved to the new park site.
Now that we’ve given you a little taste of Okeechobee County, come back around in August, when we celebrate the centennial of the county’s founding.
The Okeechobee Battlefield State Park is at 3500 SE 38th Ave. in Okeechobee. Reenactment website: www.okeechobeebattlefield.com. The event runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with reenactments scheduled for 2 p.m. both days. Admission is $10 per car.
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