SOUTHEASTERN.INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with.The Seminole Tribe of-Florida
INTERVIEWEE: ADA WILLIAMS
INTERVIEWER: TOM KING
DATE: December 14, 1973
Mrs. Ada Williams's father, an early pioneer of
the Fort Pierce area, married Ada Raulerson, the
daughter of the first white family to live in
Okeechobee. Her association with the Cow Creek
Seminoles dates from her youth, and in this inter-
view she gives a first-hand picture of the Willy
Jones family, who lived with them on the property
of her husband's old Okeechobee Road homesite. She
discusses their desire for education, code of ethics,
sense of humor, and includes brief biographies of
the Jones children. Louise was the first Seminole
to graduate from a four-year university.
Willy Jones's wife, Flora was the daughter of
Tom Tiger. Mrs. Williams discusses the uprising
created when Tom Tiger's bones were stolen and she
describes their return, effected by Dan Carlton, first
sheriff of the newly created St. Lucie County. Brief-
ly, she describes the episode of the murder of Tom
Tiger's son by John Ashley.
Mrs. Williams conveys a feeling of respect and
cooperation between the Seminole Indians and the
early white settlers of the Fort Pierce-Okeechobee
Ashley, John (killed Tom Tiger's son), 4
Bowlegs, Billy, 2
Carlton, Dan (first sheriff of St. Lucie County), 2-4
Fairlawn School; first Indians attend, 5-6
Flournoy, John T. (stole Tiger bones), 3
Fort Pierce, Florida (description of early area), 1
Green Corn Dance, 7
Jones, Willy; family, 4-10
language; barrier, 6
Raulerson, Ada (first white family in Okeechobee), 1
Saint Lucie County (creation of), 3
Seminole Indians (Cow Creek)
character of, 5-8, 10-11
Miccosukee-Muskogee split, 9
tribal programs, 10
Tiger, Ada, 4-5; Tom, 2-4
Indian-white relations, 2, 9
comment on Seminoles, 11
K: The following is an interview with Ada Williams. It was con-
ducted at noon on the 14th of December, 1973, in a classroom
at the Indian River Junior College, in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Mrs. Williams is the administrative assistant to the president
for personnel affairs of Indian River Junior College. She is
fifty-three years old, and has lived in Fort Pierce all of her
life. She and her family have had extensive contact with the
Mrs. Williams, I understand that you and your family have
had a great deal of contact over an extended period of time
with the Seminole Indians in this area. Could you please go
into that in some detail for me?
W: Yes, my father was one of the early pioneers in the area. His
name is William Lee Coates, and he first came down into this
area when he was a fourteen-year-old boy. He went out west
from the river [Indian River] to live with the Reubin Carlton
family. At that time there were not many people living west
of the river. Most people lived right on the river, because,
as you probably know, the river was the only means of trans-
portation in this area. The Carlton family had come over
from the west coast with cattle, and they settled out from
town so that their cattle could range out there and graze.
That was in the days of the open ranges, before they had to
have fenced pastures.
There were a number of Indians living out in that area.
They were the Cow Creek Indians, and the Carlton boys had grown
up with the Indians. They would wrestle with them, they would
hunt with them, they would go to their Green Corn Dances, and
my father lived out there with them. I guess that was the time
that he first got acquainted with the Seminole Indians in this
area. Later, as a young man, he moved to Okeechobee and married
Ada Raulerson, who was the daughter of the first white family
to move into Okeechobee.
The Raulerson family is still living in that area. As
they built their home, they had a school teacher over there
come and live at the house with them. The Indians would come
and sit on the porch, and get commodities from Grandma Raulerson
that they couldn't get otherwise. Sometimes they would just come
in and sit. I think some of them had named some of their children
after Ada Raulerson.
My father remained in Okeechobee for awhile, and he became
a very close friend of Billy Bowlegs. Billy Bowlegs is known
throughout the state, and died a few years back. My dad would
go hunting with him and his friends. Daddy had a house with
a garage,and a room over the garage. That room belonged to
Billy any time he wanted to come into town and use it, and he
did frequently. That was the beginning of that.
I remember as a young girl, after I had graduated from college,
that one time Billy Bowlegs was over here in the hospital in Fort
Pierce. My father went to see him, and I went with him. He held
up his hand and showed Daddy the ring he was wearing, and asked him
if he remembered it. Daddy didn't. He said, "Well, you gave it to
me." As far as I know, he was buried with that ring.
K: Were there any other Indians who felt as comfortable in white
company as Billy Bowlegs did at that time?
W: Well, I don't know. I think most of the Indians were pretty
good friends of the early settlers. One illustration of it--Dan
Carlton was the first sheriff of St. Lucie County after it was
created as a separate county from Brevard, and that was the last
time that we had any trouble with the Indians. It seems that
the pioneers had been going out and just shooting the hogs. The
Indians considered the hogs theirs. They didn't mind the settlers
killing a hog to eat, but I guess the time came when they were
acting as though the hogs were theirs. And the Indians, of course,
resented this. These hogs were descendants of animals that the
Spaniards had brought over, and had been running wild. Of course,
the Indians would kill them to eat them as they needed them. Most
of the other settlers did, but some of the others just got to
killing them for sport, and rounding them up and selling them,
and the Indians threatened an uprising. I think the settlers had
to collect between two and three hundred dollars at that time to
pay them for hogs.
K: Who was it they paid?
W: Well, they paid the chief of the Indians; I don't know who the
chief was. They paid him, and he distributed it among his tribe.
They were the Cow Creek Indians. I'm confused here; I was con-
fusing that story with the last time we had a threatened uprising,
and this threatened uprising came later. It was when Dan Carlton
There was an Indian chief called Tom Tiger. He has been
written up in the histories that I have read about the Seminole
Wars. Now, Tom Tiger was a very tall, handsome Indian, and he
was very highly respected by the whites as well as the Indians.
He lived, I think, around the Okeechobee and Kissimmee areas,
and would go into town with his wife to get supplies. One time
he was killed by lightning; lightning struck him in the dug-out
canoe. The Indians buried him according to their tradition, in
a litter they built of palmetto fronds--sealed in that, and placed
high in the top of a cabbage-palm tree.
There was some man--I don't know whether he was an anthro-
pologist or a historian or a scientist of some sort [John T.
Flournoy]--came down into the Okeechobee area. He was interested
in seeing how the Seminole Indians were buried. Some white man
told him where Tom Tiger was buried. He not only went and looked
at it, but he took the litter with the bones back with him to
the Smithsonian Institute. The Indians missed this up in a tree,
and knew right away what had happened, because this man was a
stranger in the little tiny area of Okeechobee, and had taken
Tom Tiger's remains away; so they were incensed, and they were
going to have an uprising. They were going to kill the white
people in that area, and at that time there were many more
Indians than white settlers in that area.
K: When was this?
W: This was sometime around 1905 and shortly after. [The incidents
described took place between January and July, 1907--Ed.]. St.
Lucie County was created in 1905; this is the time when Dan
Carlton was the sheriff of St. Lucie County. At that time,
Okeechobee County was part of St. Lucie County.
K: Can you tell me approximately where this took place? That covers
a pretty wide area.
W: When St. Lucie County was created in 1905, it was bounded by the
Sebastian River on the north, the Kissimee River on the west, the
St. Lucie River on the south, and the Indian River on the east.
You know, almost as if God himself had set up the boundaries for
the county. Later, Okeechobee County withdrew, seated its own
county, and in 1925 Martin and Indian River Counties pulled away.
At this time, Dan Carlton was the sheriff of this entire
area. Because he had grown up in the woods with these Indians,
they came to him, and gave him just so many moons to get Tom Tiger's
remains. It was solely because he had grown up with them as a
boy, and wrestled with them and hunted, I suppose, that they didn't
do some bodily harm to the settlers. So he went to Washington and
explained it, and they gave it to him. He brought the litter back,
and gave it to the Indians. I understand that they waited until
nightfall, and then with torches they went with a long line of
their people out into the woods. In the hammocks, they once again
placed it in a tree where they thought that it would not be
Now, Tom Tiger was the great-grandfather of a family of
Indians that grew up on our property that we got to know very
well, and were personal friends. Tom Tiger's son was the outlaw
that lived in Stuart. His name escapes me at the moment. John
Ashley hunted and trapped animals for skins to sell, with Tom
Tiger's son, and his sons were very highly respected. One day
he didn't return. The Indian did not return from this hunting
trip, and a dredging crew dredged up his body in the canal; he
had been killed. John Ashley, in the meantime, had taken all
the skins down to Miami to sell. That was when he was arrested,
tried, found guilty of the murder of this Indian, and was sent
to prison. Then he escaped from prison, and became a hunted
criminal for the rest of his life.
The son of Tom Tiger was married to an Indian named Ada.
I don't know whether this was the same Indian that was named for
Ada Raulerson or not. She was the daughter of the chief, and
her husband was the son of a chief, so I suppose you would con-
sider them royalty, or at least leaders of their people. When
Ada Tiger's little girl was just a baby, her son was allegedly
murdered by John Ashley. Flora Tiger then grew up and married
Willy Jones. Willy Jones was the son of Sam Jones, and Sam
Jones was a recent chief of the Cow Creek Indians until his
Willy Jones is a very ambitious man; a very intelligent fine
Indian. He and Flora were working for a farmer out from Vero
schools; they would have to drive miles and miles early in the
morning through the woods to catch a bus. Because Willy Jones
knew my father, and his connection with the Indians, he went
to him and asked him if he knew anyone who had some property they
would allow him to move his family on that would be near a bus
My husband and I lived on my husband's old family home place
on Okeechobee Road about ten miles west of town, and we had quite
a large amount of land there. We always had a very kindly feeling
towards Seminoles, and we said we'd be very happy for Willy Jones's
family to move there. Willy had a trailer, and we also had some
unoccupied houses that had been built for citrus workers. So
they used two of the houses and their trailer.
Flora's mother, Ada Tiger, came to live with them. At that
time she was an elderly woman, and she would not live in a house.
They built her a chickee, and she lived in the chickee and slept
there. She spoke no English that I know of. Flora speaks English
very brokenly. Flora was a beautiful Indian woman. She had such
a lovely way of walking. Her posture was so straight and grace-
ful, and when she walked it was as if the wind were blowing across
the grass. I always liked watching Flora when she would walk.
She and Willy had three children. One was Flora's child
by a former marriage, named Addie Smith. Smith was not her father's
name--she was named for a missionary whose name was Addie Smith.
Addie was about fourteen at the time they moved on our property.
Willy's son Bert was seven, and Louise was about five. They were
the three children.
They moved there, and the two older children entered school,
and immediately they were very well liked by the other children.
The school they went to--Fairlawn School--it was the first time
they had anyone there but white children. These children were
very will liked, very popular. Bert was in my mother's room.
They entered him in the second grade, and mother asked to keep
him for two years. They had to learn the language pretty much.
They could speak a little English; could understand more than they
could speak. They had to learn the language, learn to read and
write, and of course all the other studies that a child would
learn in school.
Bert had such high principles. It was interesting to my mother
that whenever they created a city government in the classroom,
the children always wanted to elect Bert the policeman, because
he was such a good citizen. Bert was also a fine athlete. I
can remember as a little boy he would practice running back and
forth on the dirt road going down the lane to his house. Run just
as fast as he could, and my husband would tease him and ask him
what he was afraid of; what he was running from. Bert said he was
running so he could be a fast football player.
They were very fine neighbors. Frequently, Flora would send
me something that she had made--a purse, a jumper for my little
girl, a shirt for my son, an apron or a skirt for me. All these
lovely Seminole clothes she would send from time to time, and
always say thank you for letting us live here.
Willy was a bulldozer operator. One time my husband was
clearing some land. He had rented a bulldozer, but didn't know
how to operate it too well. Willy drove in in his pickup and stood
there watching him; you could tell he was agonizing over this amateur
bulldozer operator. Finally, he walked up and waved his hands and
my husband stopped, and he says, "Old man Harold, you get down. Me
do that." He got up and did the whole field, and he wouldn't allow
Harold to pay him. He said, "No, you let my family live here, and
I want to do this for you." He seemed to not want to be obligated,
you know; wanted to pay his way all the way. He would frequently
grade the road going down to his house. If the roof leaked, he had
it repaired. There was never any of this coming and telling us
and asking us, you know.
The children excelled in school. Addie had a more difficult
time than the two younger children, because she was older, and
there was the language difficulty. But they were sweet, fine.
They came to our yard and played with our children all the time.
Addie would come and help me in the house. Louise was the youngest,
and I guess she had the easiest time of all in school. She entered
in the first grade at the right age, and went ail the way through.
Bert became active in the Future Farmers of America. He was elected
to an office, and remained very popular all the way through school.
He and Addie both attended Indian River Community College. Addie
did not graduate; she left and went to work for the Indian agency
on their radio, because she could speak the language and also
Bert went into the service, and went over to Germany. He
made a fine record for himself there; came back, and married a .
lovely Seminole girl who was a granddaughter of another chief.
He had a job with the government--head of the Head Start in the
southeastern division of the United States. He did a lot of
flying, visiting these many Indian sites. Later his abilities
were recognized, and he was given a better job with the Boy Scouts
of America. He was located in Florida then.
Louise went to a school, and came out here to the Indian
River Community College. She graduated (she was on the dean's
list), then she went to the University of Florida one year. She
stayed out of school a year, then went to the Florida Atlantic
University and graduated with a four-year degree. To my knowledge,
Louise is the first, or the only Seminole woman in the history of
the world to graduate from a four-year college.
These children were all fine looking children, and they all
had a great sense of humor. I'm always so amazed when I hear
people speak of the stoic expressions or stoic nature of an Indian.
I don't think I've ever seen anyone as full of mischief as were
these Indian children. They were always playing jokes.
I know there was once a cousin, a Joe Johns, who was Willy's
nephew, his brother's child. He came over and lived with them.
His mother was dead. He lived with them a number of years, and
this little boy was very gifted in art. I recognized his gift,
and made arrangements for him to study art with Dean Bacchus...
he's an internationally known artist, very famous in Florida.
About that time, Joe's grandmother wanted him to come back to the
reservation and live with her, so Joe did. I was afraid that this
great gift he had wouldn't be developed, so I purchased a pad of
art paper and sent it over to him. To be sure that he would draw,
I told Louise that I wanted Joe to draw an Indian woman, an Indian
man, some scenes of the animals in the woods as he saw them, an
opossum, a deer; and I wanted a picture of the chickee, and on
down the line.
Well, several weeks later Louise brought me a folio of pictures
that Joe had drawn. Her eyes were just sparkling, and she said,
"Joe sent you the pictures. Here's the one of the Indian man, and
here's the one of the Indian woman, and here's a deer," and she
says, "here's a chickee." It was a bitty little tiny baby chicken--
and then she laughed. I knew that she and Joe had had a good time
laughing about this chickee; and then later she pulled out a picture
of the dwelling, the chickee. But that's just an example of their
sense of humor.
They enjoyed sports. We had a swing in our back yard that
was made of a tire, suspended by a rope under an oak tree, and
oh, the antics those little boys would perform! I used to talk
to them about the Green Corn Dance; they always went. They would
come back, and Louise was very small, and I would ask her questions.
Anything she didn't want to answer, she'd always say, "I don't know.
I don't know." Later after she got to know me better, they would
come and just volunteer information.
One time after they had come back from a Green Corn Dance,
Joe was telling me that he had been scratched at the dance, and
he was very proud of that. Then he says, "But my uncle, she gets
scratched more than anybody." Of course my children thought that
was hilarious, "My uncle, she got scratched more than anybody."
They had such beautiful speaking voices, soft and musical.
I was impressed with the fact that they would never gossip about
any of the other Indians. There was an Indian family living in
our area that was considered sort of an outcast group from the
Indians over on the reservation.
K: Do you know why?
W: I think they had intermarried quite a bit with blacks, and I think
that they simply didn't have the code of ethics and honor. They
drank a lot. Well, I'll give you one example. One day this family
drove into my yard to sell me some huckleberries, and I bought the
huckleberries. One of the girls was sitting in a room, in my kitchen,
and she stayed there when this family drove in. The minute the car
drove out, she rushed out on the porch, and her eyes were flashing
in anger, and she says, "Did you buy those berries?"
I said, "Yes, I did."
She said, "Let me see." And I showed them to her, and she
said, "Hump! Just as I thought, they're no good, they're not
really huckleberries." There's another berry that grows in the
woods, you know, that looks sort of like a huckleberry, and she
thought they were no good. She said, "How much she charge you?"
I told her, and she said, "That's too much." She was just furious,
and yet she would never talk about these Indians.
I remember the girl from this other family had come to school
for a while, and then all of a sudden she dropped out. I asked
one of the Jones girls why this other Indian girl had dropped out
of school. She said, "I don't know," and then there was this
long silence. About an hour later she came to me and she said,
"My mother tells me I musn't talk about other girls, but I think
she dropped out because she's going to have a baby." Then she
didn't say any more, and of course I didn't question her. They
were a lovely family.
Willy Jones later bought some property on Eleven Mile Road,
paid a very high price for it, and had a nice home constructed
on the property. He set out a lot of nice shrubbery and citrus
trees, and keeps the lawns beautifully. Since that time, he's
built a garage, and it's a nice home.
K: How many other Indian families live in this area?
W: Well, I wouldn't know exactly. There's another group called the
Tommie Indians that worked on ranches, and I think a number of
the ranchers have families that live there. As far as I know,
they live in chickees. They've never built houses. On the
reservation, of course, most of them are getting homes now.
K: Was the Jones family a Christian family, or were they traditional
W: They were a Christian family. They went to a Baptist Church
at the reservation every weekend, for Willy had cattle and
he worked his cattle. I understand at that time not all the
Indians would. They'd just let the cattle range; if they got
along, all right, or if they didn't, all right. But Willy would
go over and work his cattle. He would brand his calves; he would
take care of them just like our ranchers do. They had a house over
there on the reservation, and every weekend they went back. Now,
these children seemed to fit in easily with the white children at
school, and make friends with them. Yet, after school they really
didn't socialize with them much. I always felt that perhaps they
were a bit lonely. They went to the reservation each weekend to
be with their own people, and as far as I know, each of these have
K: You mentioned earlier that most of the Seminoles in this area, at
least at the turn of the century, were Cow Creek Seminoles. Is
the Jones family Muskogee speaking or Miccosukee speaking?
K: Do you know anything about the conflicts in the Seminole tribe
between the Miccosukees and Muskogees?
W: I don't suppose I know any more than any other Floridian. I felt
that when their generation went to school, the children probably
would not know the language. At that time I started writing down
some of the Seminole words, and telling them they should make a
dictionary, and write their language down. They, being children,
didn't take that very seriously. But I told them they should know
more about their own people. I would read them stories about the
Seminole Wars, and they started getting interested, and they would
We discussed this one time, and I asked what the difference
was. Of course, there was the difference of the language. I guess
the other was simply their attitude toward the white people. They
said that their people were willing to cooperate and be friends,
and to consider themselves a part of the country. The others, at
the Big Cypress, liked to be a separate group.
These two groups would get together for their pow wows and
for their sports. At one time I was asked to go over and serve
as a judge. They were having races, competing with crafts, getting
awards, and electing their queen. Incidentally, Louise was elected
as the queen of the Florida Seminoles. So the two groups got to-
gether in that way. I think it's a philosophical difference. One
still likes:to retain the bitterness and remain a separate people.
The others feel that that happened a long time ago; they should
support the government, serve in the Army, and try to take ad-
vantage of any technological advancement that the white people
K: Do you know whether or not the Jones family, and other Seminole
families who live off the reservation, benefit in any way from
Seminole tribal programs, such as the housing program and the
health care program and so forth?
W: I don't know about that--as far as I know, they probably could
if they wanted to. The Jones family was always a very proud
family. These youngsters worked, and they had a savings account.
Willy borrowed the money from First Federal. He went to my father
to ask him how to go about doing it, and then of course Daddy called
in and told them that he was a very responsible person and had
a good job. As far as I know, they carried their own weight
in everything. I do know they got their portion of the Indian
money when it was sent. You know, at various times they would
all get a check. They would divide the money up.
K: Was this his dividend on the cattle program, and so forth?
W: Yes, I know that he got his share of the cattle, and he was
allowed to have his portion. They have to limit the number they
can have because of the grazing on all of their land is improved
K: During the time you were growing up, there must have been a con-
siderable number of Seminoles living between here and Indiantown
who later moved over to the Brighton Reservation between 1934
and 1936. Do you know how that movement to the Brighton area
got started? At that time there was no reservation. I under-
stand that they just decided to go over there. Were you aware
of what was going on?
W: No, as a little girl, my earlies remembrance of the Indians [was
when] they came to our home. They would come in to sell huckle-
berries, and sometimes to get money from my father. At that time
there was a depression on in the whole land, and everyone was
suffering, and I guess the Indians suffered most of all. They
would always be barefooted, and their feet were thick and broad;
I was fascinated by them as a little tiny girl. I was going to
be a missionary among the Indians when I grew up. As I grew
up and got to know them better, I thought, "Why did I ever think
they needed a missionary?"
They were kind and gentle people. They would just come in
to talk to my father, and to get help. I know sometimes they
would come in to borrow a jack, to jack the tire...borrow a patch
to patch their car tire with. Sometimes they would be needing a
ride, and he would give them a ride. They recognized him as a
friend, and would come there. Sometimes he would give them legal
advice, or he would tell them people in town that they could see,
or people they could sell things to. I know they just lived all
about in the woods, and had very, very hard times. I imagine
they went back to the reservation because the government started
helping them, or maybe it was the missionaries. Maybe it was
people working with them that way. I just don't know.
K: Do you have any more comments that you would like to make on any
aspect of Seminole culture or your relationship to the Seminoles?
W: Well, I've always had a great sympathy for them, great admiration
for them. I always felt that we had a lot to be ashamed of, the
way we moved them out of the state in the first place. I'll be
very happy to see them have their own schools. I do hope they
retain their culture. I admire their spirit and their pride. I
hope that they retain their language, and a speaking knowledge
of their language, and that they instill within their children
their pride in their race and in their culture, because I would
certainly miss it. It think our whole state would lose a great
deal if we lost the Seminole's identity, and their colorful
clothing. I'd like to see all of us adopt their moral codes
that they had at one time. They had such a strict moral code.
K: Thank you very much for your time, Mrs. Williams.