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VOLUME 34 NUMBER 4 DECEMBER 1981
Editor's Page . . .. . 165
The Kaskaskia Projectile Point: A Seminole
Indian Metal Arrow Point Type Recently
Recognized in Florida
by James S. Dunbar. . .. 166
The Seminole Negroes of Andros Island
Revisited: Some New Pieces to an
by Harry A. Kersey, Jr . ... 169
Summary Interim Report of Excavations at the
Quad Block Site (8Hi998), Tampa, Florida
by Harry Piper and Jacquelyn Piper. 177
The Brickell Store and Seminole Indian Trade
by Robert S. Carr . .. .180
The Miami Indian Tourist Attractions: A
History and Analysis of a Transitional
Mikasuki Seminole Environment
by Patsy West . . .... 200
Coppinger's Tropical Gardens: The First
Commercial Indian Village in Florida
by Dorothy Downs .. . . 225
The Seminoles and the Civilian Conservation
by James W. Covington .. .... 232
The Seminole Tribe, Inc.: Winning and
Losing at the White Man's Game
by Margot Ammidown. . .. 238
This issue of The Florida Anthropologist is a special edition on the
Seminoles and Miccosukees. It is not the intention of this journal to pre-
sent these tribes as an exotic minority conveniently situated in Florida for
the interest and study by local anthropologists. Instead, we wish to provide
a collection of articles that reflect the history of the acculturation of a
powerfully independent Native American group within a dominant white culture,
a white culture that has thus far failed to break the tribal bond that is
the essence of Seminole and Miccosukee identity.
Almost every author, ethnographer, and Indian agent who has written
about the Seminoles for the past one hundred years has beat a warning drum
about the disappearance of tribal identity, the atrophy of tradition, and even
the possible extinction of the Seminoles. Yet, it is a fact that Seminole
tribal identity remains amazingly intact despite three wars, the drainage of
the Everglades, and the constant contact with the white man's material world.
Although many traditional patterns of Seminole life-ways have been altered
over the years, there is a certain resilience that has made the transition
from canoes to pick-up trucks, an unspectacular and nontraumatic event.
I suspect this quality will provide the basis for maintaining the integrity
of the Seminole identity even if the day arrives when most Seminole/Miccosukee
men are wearing three-piece suits and making daily calls to their commodity
brokers. This kind of cultural fortitude is no small matter in an area where
newly arrived Haitian "refugees" will someday be Haitian-Americans, and where
present day Cuban-Americans will undoubtedly, within one or two generations,
be simply Americans.
Seminoles at the Opa Locka Dirigible Field, December, 1929.
Photographer: Gleason W. Romer. Photo courtesy of Patsy
West and the Miami Public Library (c445b).
THE KASKASKIA PROJECTILE POINT:
A SEMINOLE INDIAN METAL ARROW POINT TYPE RECENTLY RECOGNIZED IN FLORIDA
James S. Dunbar
Ponce de Leon Springs Park in Volusia County, Florida, encompasses a
relatively large mutli-component site--DeLeon Springs 8Vo30. Evidence of
cultural activity dating from the early Archaic Period to the late historic
times has been noted in the area surrounding and within the spring pool and
run. Obvious site features include a prehistoric shell midden and a historic
period water driven sugar mill now converted into a restaurant. The property
also is one of the state's first tourist attractions which is still in opera-
As a result of an archaeological assessment conducted on the property
by the author and Brad Wright (Field agents for the Underwater Archaeological
Research Section of Florida's Division of Archives, History, and Records
Management), several exposed and standing site components were examined as
well as two artifact collections, one stored in the Sugar Mill Restaurant
and the other owned by Mr. Luck McGee of DeLeon Springs, FL. Based on obser-
vations of these collections it became apparent that the site contained a
relatively early Seminole Indian component as indicated by three diagnostic
Seminole Indian projectile points recovered from the site. The McGee collec-
tion included two hart pine arrow shafts tipped by conical sheet metal pro-
jectile points and the Sugar Mill collection included one conical sheet brass
projectile point (Fig. 1).
The point type, named Kaskaskia, was originally recognized as a Seminole
Indian type (Perino 1971:plate 29, p. 58). Chronologically, the point type
is dated from circa AD 1830-1900 from sites in Oklahoma, however, they are
dated from as early as AD 1680-1700 in the areas of original geographic
distribution prior to the various Indian groups being removed to the Oklahoma
reservations. The specimen shown in Figure 1 is 5.645 cm long x 1.130 cm wide
at the base and .055 cm thick and is made of sheet or kettle brass. As far
as the author is aware, the Kaskaskia points recovered from the DeLeon Springs
site are the first to be recognized in Florida.
Other artifacts that may date to the Seminole Indian occupation include
one conical socketed bone point with part of the wooden shaft intact, one
carved bone deer scapula hair pin (curved), a drilled box turtle rattle, and
one Spanish olive jar sherd (McGee collection). Additionally, one intact
Sand one partially intact dugout canoes have been reported as coming from the
Springs site area.
As a result of these findings a review of historical documents was con-
ducted which indicated that Seminole occupations at the Springs site may have
been among the earliest and most extensive in the central peninsular Florida
south of St. Augustine. In 1789, approximately eight years after two British
land grants had been secured for the property, a band of Creek Indians (early
VOL. 34 NO. 4
Seminoles) had been occupying the site for an undetermined length of time
(Tanner 1963:220). The property, which belonged to Panton, Leslie and Com-
pany, the largest fur trading firm in Florida (ca.1780-1819), had a trading
post located nearby in the Astor area, making the DeLeon Springs site an
ideal camp location for the Seminoles. The duration of this initial Seminole
occupation is uncertain, however, after 1818, the Seminole band of Uchee-
Billy moved from "Mikasuki" to Spring Garden or DeLeon Springs (Fairbanks
1956:204). Historical records are unclear, and it is uncertain whether
Uchee-Bill's band joined another group of Seminoles already occupying the
Springs site, or reoccupied a village abandoned by a preceding Seminole
group. The Seminole name given the springs village was Tallahassee, meaning
Old Town (Ibid.).
Sometime before 1832 the Seminoles abandoned the site and it was then
occupied by Col. Orlando Rees, who converted the area into a large sugar
plantation. In the same year, the distinguished John James Audubon visited
the Rees property then known as Spring Garden Plantation (Proby 1974:311).
Rees, with the aid of Audubon's traveling companion (an unnamed Scottish
Engineer) succeeded in harnessing the spring's outflow by erecting a large
undershot water wheel for powering the works of a sugar mill. The spring
pool was dammed and the water diverted to the mill's spillway. According to
contemporaneous accounts, this was the first experiment attempting to harness
a large spring for power, and it met with good success (Williams 1962:56).
The full potential of Col. Rees' operation was never realized, however, due
to the outbreak of the Seminole War. In 1835, Rees' plantation was attack-
ed and upwards of one hundred and sixty slaves were stolen. The mill
and houses were destroyed (presumably burned), and the American settlers
forced to leave (Cohen 1964:74). In mid-March of 1836, the U. S. troops
visited Spring Garden, and surprisingly,encountered a hurriedly abandoned
Seminole village with vegetable crops that had been only partially harvested.
This 1836 record is the last account of Seminole activity at the site except
for a few Seminole families that were associated with the tourist attraction
during the late 1950's.
The Kaskaskia Points recovered from the Ponce DeLeon Springs are appar-
ently the first reported in Florida. Since the historical records indicate
that the Seminoles utilized the site from circa AD 1789-1836, a rather de-
finite chronological period for the projectile point type is indicated.
Figure 1. Kaskaskia projectile point.
Cohen, Myer M.
1964 Notices of Florida and the Campaigns. A facsimile reproduction
of the 1836 Edition, University of Florida Press, Gainesville,
Fairbanks, C. H.
1956 Ethnohistorical Report of the Florida Indians Document Pre-
sented Before the Indian Claims Commission.
1971 Guide to the Identification of Certain American Indian Pro-
jectile Points. Oklahoma Anthropological Society Special
Proby, K. H.
Audubon in Florida. University of Miami Press, Coral Gables,
Tanner, Helen H.
1963 Zespedes in East Florida 1784-1790. University of Miami
Hispanic American Studies No. 19, University of Miami Press,
Coral Gables, Fl.
Williams, John Lee
1962 The Territory of Florida. A facsimile reproduction of the
1837 edition, University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Fl.
James S. Dunbar
Florida Division of Archives,
History, and Records Management
THE SEMINOLE NEGROES OF ANDROS ISLAND REVISITED:
SOME NEW PIECES TO AN OLD PUZZLE
Harry A. Kersey, Jr.
It is not altogether uncommon in the field of ethnohistory for the law
of serendipity to account for significant discoveries as much as the rigorous
application of research methodology. Such was certainly the case when, while
searching for Seminole demographic data in Key West, the author recently un-
covered a set of articles from the Bahama Herald of 1853-54 which led to a
heretofore missing link in the history of the Seminole Negroes of Andros
Island. From the old pages unfolded the tragic story of a black family which
had its origins in the Tampa Bay region, migrated about south Florida to the
Keys, took part in an open sea crossing to Andros, and ultimately lost a son
to Cuban slavery. In the process a great deal of knowledge has been gained
concerning the fate of those Seminole Negroes who made their dramatic and
perilous flight for freedom over a century and a half ago.
Following the First Seminole War in 1818, a great number of free Negroes
who had lived among the Seminole towns of North Florida which were devastated
by Andrew Jackson's punitive expedition, moved southward and established
settlements in the vicinity of Tampa Bay. They were predominantly fugitive
slaves from Georgia, Louisiana, and the plantations of Spanish Florida. Many
had served under the British officers Col. Edward Nicolls and Capt. George
Woodbine during the War of 1812, and thus were virulently anti-American and
anti-white. Nevertheless, their settlements had been visited by whites and
their life-style described as early as 1822 (Simmons 1822:36-53). Essentially,
the Negroes maintained an independent existence in their own towns apart from
the Indians who ostensibly controlled them. In point of fact, the Seminoles
and Negroes were interdependent and united against a common foe who would usurp
their land and liberty. Of the two, because the Negroes had by far the most
to lose in any capitulation, they became implacable negotiators and ferocious
fighters when the time arrived for confrontation with the United States. Appar-
ently an official who was familiar with the Seminole Negro situation in Florida
had considered the possibility of their peaceful removal outside the country.
A Mr. Penieres, Sub-Agent for the Florida Indians reported in 1822: "They
fear being again made slaves, under the American government, and will omit
nothing to increase or keep alive mistrust among the Indians whom they, in
fact, govern. If it should become necessary to use force with them, it is
to be feared that the Indians will take their part. It will, however, be
necessary to remove from the Floridas this group of freebooters, among whom
runaway negroes will always find refuge. It will, perhaps, be possible to
have them received at St. Domingo, or to furnish them means of withdrawing
from the United States" (Giddings 1858:71). Historians are generally agreed
that the Second Seminole War of 1835-42 was as much a conflict over the dis-
position of these Negroes as it was of Indian removal (Mahon 1976:59-61;
McReynolds 1957:178-89; Porter 1971:182-358).
VOL. 34 NO. 4
Even so, not all of the Seminole Negroes remained in Florida to face the
cataclysm. At the time of the Adams-Onis Treaty by which Spain ultimately
ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, many of the Seminole Negroes opted
to seek asylum in the British Bahamas. They believed that their fate was
sealed if they remained on the peninsula, given the temper of the pro-slavery
factions in control of the federal government. Indeed, slave catchers were
already working the interior of the territory at the time treaty negotiations
were initiated in 1819, and those families which made their way southward did
so at great personal risk. It is estimated that upward of three hundred made
the trek and rendezvoused with "wreckers" from the Bahamas at Cape Florida
(Vignoles 1823:135-36). Those who could afford to, bargained with the cap-
tains for passage to Andros Island, the nearest large landfall in British
territory. Others who could not meet the price charged, or feared the
"wreckers" might not deliver them to safety, elected to make the crossing in
Seminole dugout canoes fitted with sails and paddles (Neill 1956:79-85). It
is not known just how many perished or survived in this exodus which extended
over a number of years, but it was an epic journey born of desperation which
has a modern counterpart in the Haitian and Cuban "boat people."
The fact that isolated bands of Seminole Negroes crossed the Gulf Stream
and 150 miles of the upper Straits of Florida to the Bahamas at various times
between 1820 and 1837, has remained a relatively minor and obscure footnote
to the Indian Wars in Florida. No question was raised as to the fate of these
people until 1945, when Kenneth W. Porter, acknowledged to be the leading
chronicler of Seminole and Negro relations in ante bellum Florida, revived
the issue via an article in the Florida Historical Quarterly. Conceding that
this was one aspect of red and black interaction of which he knew virtually
nothing, Porter reviewed the meager sources containing accounts of the events
and concluded "The Bahamas would have been a natural refuge for the Seminole
Negroes, because the Seminole had long enjoyed close trade relations with
these islands. Alexander Arbutnot, the merchant, and Robert C. Armbrister,
the soldier and adventurer, who had been executed virtually at Jackson's
orders in 1818 for intervening in the affairs of the Seminole in a fashion
hostile to the United States, had both come to Florida from the Bahamas"
Porter questioned whether the descendants of the Seminole Negroes on
Andros Island had to any extent preserved their cultural heritage and identity.
Reports of folklorists who had visited Andros in the 1920s and '30s gave a
few clues such as: the predominant surname among the Negroes of the north
section of the island was Bowlegs, a traditional Seminole name; they often
hunted with bows and arrows, and; their major settlement was Nicolls Town--
possibly named for Col. Nicolls. Despite this evidence, Porter felt the
subject needed further investigation.
The following year Porter's question concerning the cultural identity
of the Negro Indians of Andros Island was answered by the noted anthropologist
John Goggin, also writing in the Florida Historical Quarterly. He concurred
that there had been a close tie between the Seminoles and the British in the
Bahamas which probably extended back to the period of English control of Flor-
ida between 1763-83, citing the use of 800 Seminoles as troops by Governor
Tonyn during the Revolutionary War, as well as the enlistment of at least one
Seminole Negro in the Royal Navy during that period. Goggin also confirmed
the essential elements of the crossing from Cape Florida to Andros with the
"wreckers" and by canoe. For five weeks during 1937 he had conducted an
archeological survey of Andros Island, and incidental to that had spent some
time among descendants of the Seminole Negroes at Mastic Point, a small settle-
ment on the northeast coast. He found that the old people retained a clear
oral tradition of their migration from the mainland. The main informant was
76 year old Felix MacNeil, the grandson of Scipio Bowlegs, who was a "doctor"
and leader of the group which first came to Andros. Goggin's account held
that: "The Indians who first came to the Bahamas were 'black Indians' not
'white Indians,' and they came a long way according to tradition. They were
constantly pursued (through Florida) by slave catchers, but sometimes they
would stop in one town for three or four years. However, it would not be
long before they heard 'the footsteps of the slave catchers getting closer
and closer,' causing them to flee again. Finally they arrived at Cape Florida
and felt that this was the last place. As far as can be determined, com-
puting the ages of MacNeil's ancestors, the date of arrival was between 1810
and 1820, probably closer to the latter date" (Goggin 1946:204).
As to the retention of Seminole cultural traits, Goggin was less opti-
mistic. Even though he had not visited the major settlements at Red Bay and
Nicolls Town, informants had told him that few of the Indian customs remained.
The most obvious linkage with the past was the surname Bowleg, which was
acknowledged to have a Florida origin. The use of dugout canoes had dis-
appeared, although when his informant was a boy the old ones which had brought
the original group of people to the island could still be observed rotting
away. Similarly, the making of bows and arrows had died out except as toys
for children. In summary Goggin noted ". it can be said that although
the legend of Indians on Andros Island is based on fact, anyone expecting to
find a functioning Indian culture will be disappointed. A more thorough study
of the Red Bay settlement would be interesting from many points of view and
is certainly a worthy project. The culture of the Andros Island Seminole is
only a variation of the typical Bahamian Negro culture" (Goggin 1946:206).
Although World War II intervened and Goggin never returned to complete his
study, he did leave a clue for future ethnohistorians in a footnote which
speculated: "It is very likely that the files of the Nassau newspapers will
provide the most complete data for the movement of the Seminole Negroes to
the Bahamas (Goggin 1946:203).
For the next three and a half decades there was no further attempt to
investigate the history of the Seminole Negroes of Andros Island, although
a few newspaper pieces recounted the general outlines of the story (Smith
and Kerr 1977:6f). It was not until the fortuitous discovery of the Bahama
Herald articles, sequestered by Mrs. Betty Bruce, a conscientious librarian
with the Monroe County Public Library in Key West, that the history of these
people could be extended.
The story begins with a notice in the Bahama Herald of November 9, 1853,
to the effect that the newspaper was reprinting a story from the New York
Herald concerning a Negro man who had recently presented himself to the Amer-
ican Counsulate in Havana, claiming to be a free-born citizen of the United
States and who had been held against his will for forty years (Bahama Herald
November 9, 1853:1). Apparently the demeanor, language and uniqueness of
the story told by the man "Ben" had a ring of truth which led the U. S. Consul
and others to pursue the matter further. Ben claimed that he had been born
in Charleston, S.C., gave the name of his father, mother, brother, and two
sisters, and said that around 1808 they emigrated first to Florida, and then
came to the Bahamas. He thought that he was about twelve years of age at the
time, and his mother hired him out as cabin boy to the captain of a small
trading sloop. The ship's master "Captain Jim" had treated him well, and
apparently was not a party to his ultimate abduction and enslavement. During
the course of "Captain Jim's" trading among the islands he sailed to Havana
with a load of shells and other goods, anchoring at the village of Regla
at the mouth of the bay. While waiting for the captain to return, Ben was
carried off by a white man, possibly a seaman, and imprisoned in a house at
the back of the town. From there he was later taken on horseback to a farm
in the country where he was placed in chains; the following day he was to
begin his four decades of enslavement. The newspaper reported "as soon as
he had acquired language [Spanish], he explained to his pretended master how
he had been taken, that he was free, and demanded that he might go to Havana
to make application for his release. Finding this only increased their vigi-
lance, he made no more efforts, but determined to wait quietly until an oppor-
tunity should occur, which he believed would come sooner or later, and that
he would have justice. He says he kept himself from losing the knowledge of
the English language he had at twelve years by constantly repeating the story
of his life, to himself in English, enumerating every incident and all the
names of his family and friends" (Bahama Herald November 9, 1853:1).
In 1846 the master of Ben, who resided near Canasi some eighteen or
twenty miles from Havana, died but his property was not distributed among
his heirs until 1853. For this reason Ben was brought again to Havana by
his new master who apparently had no knowledge of his history. Ben deter-
mined anew to seek his freedom and sought "the America" which was finally
understood to mean the American Consulate. Upon hearing his story the acting
U.S. Consul took the matter to the Spanish Governor-General of the Island
who placed Ben under his protection until the matter could be investigated.
On November 23, 1853 the Bahama Herald printed a letter from the acting
U.S. Consulate in Havana, William H. Robertson, confirming the essential
details of Ben's story, and requesting the-newspapers' assistance in col-
lecting any information on the unfortunate Negro whose family might still
be in Nassau or the out islands ". his father was generally called Uncle
Joe, and his mother was named Lizzie, that he had an elder brother named
Dick, and two sisters named Marianna and Lucinda that his parents, with
the whole family removed in a boat to Tampa (Bahama Herald November
23, 1853:3). The consulate also needed information of "Captain Jim" who
might still be in the islands, or anyone else who could confirm Ben's story
in the courts.
The November 26, 1853 Bahama Herald headlined a column "BEN", THE FREE
AMERICAN CITIZEN, ENSLAVED AT CUBA His relatives alive in the Bahamas. The
editor noted that although many people thought it futile to make inquiry
about "Captain Jim" or the relatives of Ben, there were persons who would
interest themselves in a case of this kind, and who endeavor to ferret out
information calculated to benefit the enslaved kind, and oppressed ". we
are therefore glad to mention the Inspectory of Police was yesterday informed
that one of Ben's sisters is residing in Grant's Town; and that his mother
is residing at Andros Island. The sister has related circumstances that
she heard from her mother corroborative of Ben's story. There are,
we understand, persons here and at Andros Island well acquainted with Captain
Jim. We presume the Police Magistrate will take the deposition of Ben's
sister and that his mother will be sent for, or if too aged to travel some
proper person will be sent to Andros Island for the purpose of examining her
touching her son and his loss" (Bahama Herald November 23, 1853:3). The
December 10 issue of the Herald informed readers that Ben's mother had
arrived in Nassau along with his brother, and that they fully corroborate
the account leaving no doubt of its truth. ". Though, owing to the
length of time which was elapsed since he was stolen, and his tender age
at the time, there are some discrepancies as to dates and places. For
instance, he left his mother in Florida, not Nassau, as he supposed, and
he was placed originally, not with 'Captain Jim', who took him to Havana,
but with another man, who transferred him to Jim, probably after bringing
him to Nassau. He is also mistaken about his age, which is not so advanced
as he states, and the time when he left Florida, which must have been 1820,
not 1812" (Bahama Herald December 10, 1853:3).. The paper promised to provide
full statements at a later date.
Perhaps the most historically significant article in this series appear-
ed on December 21, 1853. It contained the substance of the information
supplied by Ben's mother, Elizabeth Newton, his brother Richard Newton, and
three other individuals well acquainted with the case. Each of these accounts
adds immeasurably to the story of the Seminole Negro community in the Bahamas,
and are deserving of verbatim reproduction; however in the interest of time
and space only three will be reproduced here.
Bahama Herald, December 21, 1853
"The following is the substance of the information which has been col-
lected relative to the case of Benjamin Newton--
Elizabeth Newton stated-- That she was upwards of sixty years of age;
that she was born in Tampa Bay, Florida, and always lived there; she lived
with a black man named Ben Sims, as man and wife; they were both free, and
lived among the Indians; her first child is named Richard Newton, who is now
here; the second child named Ben. As near as she can tell, Ben was born in
1810. When he was about ten years of age, she put him as a cabin boy, with
a white man, Capt. Mott, of New Providence, who was over at Florida, -- she
never saw Capt. Mott or him again. She was told by the wreckers that Capt.
James had taken him from Capt. Mott, and carried him to Havana, where he was
sold. She never saw Capt. James, though she had heard that there was such
a man about Florida. She also had two daughters, one named Mary Ann, and the
other Lucinda, both of whom are now dead. Mary Ann died about six years ago,
and Lucinda died of cholera a year ago. After they were born Ben (her husband)
died; she then lived with a man named Joe McNeil in Florida; he was often
called Uncle Joe. Soon after she lost Ben she came over to Andros Island in
the Bahamas, in consequence of the Indians warring against each other. Capt.
Pearce brought them over in a sloop from Florida. She has often inquired
about Ben, but could hear nothing of him until her daughter came from Nassau
to say that she was required there to give information. She firmly believes
that the man named Ben spoken of as being'in Havana is her son. Joseph McNeil
died some years ago at Andros Island; her son Ben would call him Uncle Joe.
She could not tell what made Ben say that he was in New Providence, unless
Capt. Mott brought him here before Capt. Jim took him; she was never at
Charleston, but they moved from place to place in a boat in Florida.
Richard Newton states-- That he is upwards of forty, but does not know
his exact age--he is the elder son of Lizzie Newton; his father's name was
Ben Sims; they both lived in Florida. His brother's name was Ben; he recol-
lects when he was missed; his mother put him on board of Capt. Mott, of New
Providence, as cabin boy, and he never saw him since. The crew of Capt.
Mott's sloop had told him that one Capt. James, known as a Pirate, came on
board and forcibly took away Ben; he never saw Capt. James; he has since seen
Capt. Mott in New Providence, but never asked him about Ben. Capt. Mott is
dead many years. He (Newton) came over from Florida with his mother and two
sisters Mary Ann and Lucinda, in a sloop called the Friend, commanded by Capt.
Pearce,--other people came over at the same time; he had been living at Andros
Island ever since. When he was at Havana about six years ago, working at the
wharves, having gone there in the sloop Gig, with Capt. Scott, he heard that
a person called Ben was over in the mountains, a slave, he was told so by a
man named Henry, a colored man, who described the person of this Ben, and led
him to suppose it was his missing brother,--he went over to the mountains,
but could find no trace of him, and has heard nothing of him since.
Mitchell Roberts states-- That he was born in Florida, and served in the
Royal Colonial Marines there stationed during the American War, at a fort
called Prospect Bluff,--he knows Elizabeth Newton,--when she lived among the
Indians, she had two children one named Dick, the other Ben; he knew their
father Ben, both Lizzie and Ben were free people. When he first knew Ben
he was a boy about 7 or 8 years old,--he was missed at the Floridas--he was
told so by Lizzie at Andros Island after she came up. He left the Floridas
in 1820. Lizzie came over in the latter part of the same year, bringing with
her two daughters, one named Mary Ann, and the other Lucinda. Has seen Capt.
Mott both here and at the Floridas--he knew Capt. James, who was sometimes
called Capt. Jim--he saw him at the Floridas, he was a short white man, with
full whiskers, and was considered a pirate, but he never heard he was in the
habit of taking boys. He (Roberts) is 67 years old. Ben's father was older
than he was. He knew Uncle Joe, Ben's step-father, he was younger than he"
(Bahama Herald December 21, 1853:3).
A possible clue as to how Ben passed from Captain Mott into the hands of
the notorious "Captain Jim" may be found in another much earlier Bahamian
newspaper article. The Royal Gazette of October 13, 1819, contains an account
of an encounter on the high seas in which a ship commanded by a Captain Mott
was stopped and boarded by a band of freebooters flying a Spanish flag. How-
ever, they were commanded by an English-speaking captain who appeared to be
an American. After opening and reading a letter which Captain Mott was carry-
ing to New Providence, the boarding party withdrew. The letter contained a
report of an incident at Cape Florida in which a settler, James W. Lee, had
his house and property burned by Captain Levi James of Savannah. The pre-
text for this action was that Lee, because he was living in Spanish Territory,
was a Spanish sympathizer, and Florida "belonged" to the United States--
although this was prior to the signing of the Adams-Onis Treaty. It was Lee's
letter to his lawyers in the Bahamas which was intercepted. Although con-
jectural, it is possible that Captain Mott's ship was in actuality stopped
by Captain James under a false flag, and at this time the cabin boy Ben could
have been taken (Royal Gazette October 13, 1819:3).
The final report on this tragic incident appeared in the Bahama Herald
of May 13, 1854 "From the New York Daily Times, May 1--Ben, the Negro who has
been unjustly held in slavery for some 40 years, and whose case has already
been stated in the Times, is dead. The American Consul was doing all in his
power to secure his release, but the obstacles thrown in the way by the Govern-
ment were so great as to render all his efforts unavailing" (Bahama Herald
May 13, 1854:4). In death the ill-fated Ben found his final release, but
his story had brought forth testimony which helped establish forever some
missing elements in the history of his people.
What, then is the significance of Ben's story in the overall history of
the Seminole Negroes of Andros Island? First, the depositions given by Eliza-
beth and Dick Newton, Mitchell Roberts and others are the only known first-
hand accounts given by actual participants in the great migration from Florida
to the Bahamas. They specifically fixed the date of their crossing as 1820,
and even identified the ship and captain who brought them to Andros! Their
testimony is certainly consistent with extant historical evidence, and con-
firms Goggins earlier assumption that the crossing of the McNeil family group
was ca. 1820. Moreover, it was also established that the McNeils had a Flo-
rida rather than a Bahamian origin, which the Scottish surname might lead
one to suspect. Mitchell Roberts' testimony is of particular interest due
to his claim of service in the Royal Colonial Marines, serving at Prospect
Bluff during the War of 1812. He may have been the individual referred to
by Goggin's informant as an ancestor who served in the British navy. If not,
he provides yet another instance of Seminole Negro enrollment in British
A second contribution of this sketchy narrative is that it details the
plight of a free-born Negro family which had the misfortune to live among the
Seminoles of the Tampa Bay region during a particularly tumultous period in
Florida history. In those years of transition when the territory was passing
from Spain to the United States, the Indians and their Negro allies came
under severe pressure from slave catchers and white settlers on the frontier.
Black family groups such as Elizabeth Newton's fled from place to place in
search of safety and freedom; ironically at the time they found refuge in the
Bahamas a son was ensnared in Cuban slavery. Over the ensuing years the close
knot family apparently never gave up hope of securing his freedom, and Dick
Newton even made a perilous journey to Cuba in search of his brother. For
his part, Ben kept alive his native language by reciting the family history
and relationships--a tradition common among African slaves as we now know
(Stewart 1973:45-69). His death was all the more poignant coming as it did
when freedom appeared to be close at hand.
Undoubtedly in the future scholars will uncover similar, and perhaps
happier, vignettes which will further add to our knowledge of the cultural
history of the Seminole Negroes of Andros Island.
Bahama Herald (Nassau)
Giddings, Joshua R.
1858 The Exiles of Florida. Gainesville, University of Florida
Press Reprint, 1964.
Goggin, John M.
1946 The Seminole Negroes of Andros Island, Bahamas. Florida
Historical Quarterly 24:201-206.
Mahon, John K.
1967 History of the Second Seminole War, 1835-42. Gainesville
University of Florida Press.
McReynolds, Edwin P.
1953 The Seminoles. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press.
Neill, Wilfred T.
1956 Sailing Vessels of the Florida Seminole, Florida
Porter, Kenneth W.
1945 Notes on the Seminole Negroes in the Bahamas. Florida
Historical Quarterly 24:56-60.
Porter, Kenneth W.
1971 The Negro on the American Frontier. New York, Arno Press.
Royal Gazette (Nassau)
Simmons, William H.
1822 Notices of East Florida, With an Account of the Seminole
Nation of Indians. Gainesville, University of Florida
Press Reprint, 1973.
Smith, Larry and Kerr, James
1977 Island Once Sheltered Seminoles. Fort Lauderdale News,
February 7, 6f.
Stewart, William A.
1973 Sociolinguistic Factors in the History of American Dialects.
Continuity and Change in American Negro Dialects. Black
Language Reader, New York.
1823 Observations Upon the Floridas. Gainesville, University of
Florida Press Reprint, 1977.
Dr. Harry J. Kersey, Jr.
Department of Education
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, FL
SUMMARY INTERIM REPORT OF EXCAVATIONS AT
THE QUAD BLOCK SITE (8Hi998), TAMPA, FLORIDA
Harry M. Piper and Jacquelyn G. Piper
In June of 1980, the City of Tampa began clearing a downtown block for
the construction of a parking garage. Local bottle collectors digging in
a newly exposed area uncovered human remains and associated artifacts which
were later identified as belonging to historic period Indians. The Florida
Division of Archives, History, and Records Management determined that the
burials dated from the 1824-1848 period and were associated with Fort Brooke.
A prehistoric cultural component was also evident at the site. Based on this
data, the State Historic Preservation Officer advised that this site should
be professionally excavated prior to commencement of construction activity.
The City of Tampa then contracted with Piper Archaeological Research, Inc.
of St. Petersburg, to mitigate the impact of the construction project on the
The archaeological field crew spent 14
weeks excavating the complex multicomponent
site. The impact area contained a pre-
historic Indian site and evidence of late
19th and early 20th century occupation, as
well as a locally unknown cemetery that con-
tained the physical and material remains of
historic Indians, soldiers, and probably,
The remains of 126 individuals were
removed and turned over to the City of Tampa
for reinterment. Another 10 gravestains were
excavated from which coffin nails were re-
covered, but no bones. Nine additional graves
located outside the impact area were mapped,
but not excavated. The majority of burials out-
side the impact area were revealed during a pipe- .
line excavation that was dug in the street east of
the project area, indicating that the cemetery con-
tinued in that direction. Analysis of the materials
from the site is ongoing. Dr. Curtis Wienker, a
physical anthropologist, was retained by the Piper
firm and has recently completed his description and
analysis of the human osteological and dental remains
from the site. Results from trace element analysis
and amino acid dating tests by consultants Dr. Peter
Betzer and Dr. Daniel Belnap, respectively, are forth-
Figure 1. Skeletal remains,
VOL. 34 NO. 4
PIPER AND PIPER
Above. Silver earbob.
Right. Seed bead pattern.
0 1/2 I 2 3 4 5 6
0 I/4 1/2 3/4 I 2
QUAD BLOCK SITE
Broad categories of artifacts recovered include several types of glass
and ceramic beads, German silver medallions, gorgets (Fig. 4), and bracelets,
silver coins, metal and glass containers, table knives and clasp knives,
military and civilian buttons, musket balls, nails, lithic projectile points,
tools and flakes, and aboriginal pottery. Although analysis of the archaeo-
logical remains has not been completed as yet, it is anticipated that data
from the historic component of the site will fill gaps in the incomplete
documentary records concerning the second quarter of the 19th century at Ft.
Brooke and the frontier settlement which later became Tampa. Additionally,
an analysis of the cemetery burials is expected to reflect the demographic
structure of the population during the time the cemetery was utilized. Anal-
ysis of soil samples from the stomach area of the skeletons and trace element
analysis of bone samples may yield dietary and health data. Excavation of
the graves also produced useful information concerning burial practices,
coffin types, and materials available for coffin construction.
Although physical traits of skeletons can be used to distinguish be-
tween individuals of Amerindian and non-Amerindian ancestry, tribal identity
of individuals interred in the cemetery must be determined from artifactual
evidence. For example, careful excavation revealed a beadwork pattern of a
traditional Seminole style (Fig. 3) which, together with other data, verifies
the historical record of the presence of Seminoles at the Fort.
The site is considered a major source of information on the material
culture of the Seminoles during a period of rapid cultural adaptation. Differ-
ential social status within the Indian population may be evidenced in the
grave goods associated with the burials or by the absence of such goods.
Perhaps most importantly, the cemetery site has the potential of helping to
better understand the process of acculturation during a period of contact
and conflict between two cultures.
When analysis and studies are complete, a final report of the findings at
8Hi998 will be written and submitted to the City of Tampa. It is the authors'
hope that the report will be made available to the interested student.
Harry M. Piper
Jacquelyn G. Piper
Piper Archaeological Research, Inc.
St. Petersburg, FL
0 1/21 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 II 12 13 14 15
0 I/4/23/4 2 N. 4 5 6
6 1/4*1/2 3/4'1 2 3 4 5 6
Figure 5. Silver bodice piece (on left), and silver pendants.
THE BRICKELL STORE AND SEMINOLE INDIAN TRADE
Robert S. Carr
This article will discuss the Brickell Store; a major site of Seminole
Indian trade during the last three decades of the nineteenth century in
South Florida. This paper will discuss a history of the store, trade patterns
and artifacts, and the role of Miami's traders as unofficial liaisons between
the Indians and the Federal government.
The patterns of trade that developed between the Seminole Indians and
whites in nineteenth-century Florida represent one of the few forms of
Seminole-American cooperation before the twentieth century. The American
acquisition of Florida in 1819 led to few attempts to retain the normal
avenues of trade that had been fostered by the English and Spanish with the
Florida Indians. An attack by Chikika and his "Spanish Indians" upon a
trading post on the Caloosahatchee River in 1839 was a principal incident
towards the inception of the Second Seminole Indian War. After the cessation
of hostilities of the Third Seminole Indian War, an estimated 200-400 Indians
remained in the interior of South Florida.
Figure 1. View of the mouth of the Miami River and Brickell
Point, looking south, ca. 1904. E is the Brickell
Store, F is the Brickell warehouse built in the
1890's. Photo courtesy of the State of Florida
VOL. 34 NO. 4
Trade in the Miami vicinity may have occurred as early as ca. 18;0 when
Robert Fletcher opened a store on the south bank of the Miami River a short
distance from the river's mouth (Richards 1903:9). In 1870, Fletcher sold
the land to Charles F. Barager, and Barager continued to operate the store
and acted as postmaster for the settlement. In 1871, the land was sold again,
and Charles Barnes became the new store operator (Ammidown 1981:18-19,27,33),
operating it until his death by yellow fever in 1873. On the north side of
the river, J. W. Ewan operated a store and trading post in the old Ft. Dallas
barracks during the 1870's (Parks 1979:114). Colonel George Thompson reported
that in 1865 Seminoles obtained whisky from a "dirty shanty" owned by "French
Mike" Sayers on the Miami River (Benttey 1950:3). This location is probably
not accurately reported by Thompson since Michael Sayers [Sears] lived five
miles north of the Miami River (Peters 1976:8).
William Barnwell Brickell arrived in Miami from Ohio in 1870. He ac-
quired large tracts of land south of the Miami River and along Biscayne Bay.
Statements in depositions taken for verifying the Brickell property title
indicate that by the end of 1871, Brickell had brought his family to Miami
and had erected a house and a store building on their property on the south
bank of the Miami River (Robbins, Graham, and Chillingworth 1907). In 1873,
a post office was added to the store, and Brickell's daughter, Alice, became
the postmaster. William's wife, Mary, often operated the store, particularly
during William's trips to Key West.
Seminole Indian Trade
Indian trade was normally conducted in autumn and winter after the grow-
ing season (Henshall 1884:162). Ralph Munroe states that in 1877 the Bis-
cayne Bay settlement received part of its subsistence from the Indians, who
"brought in venison, bear, wild turkey, terapin, gopher (an edible land
tortoise) and plenty of the finest 'pumpkins' or rather squashes, and sweet
potatoes similar to yams, but far better, and of huge size" (Munroe and Gilpin
1930:91). At least some of this trade was conducted with the settlers, rather
than with just the stores. For example, Mary Conrad, a Dade County home-
steader in the 1890's, recalls buying huckleberries from the Seminoles for
ten cents a quart and chickens for fifty cents each (1957:9).
Trade at the Brickell store was very brisk. Addison states he saw as
many as fifty Indian canoes in one day at the Brickell's (Rockland 1897:169).
Munroe and Gilpin recount that:
Mr. Brickell did a good business with them nearly every day. Deer
and alligator skins, egret plumes, starch, pumpkins, sweet potatoes,
gophers, etc., were the principal articles they brought in for
barter, and in return took out, besides flour and other standard
goods, a general lot of odds and ends hard to classify. .
Alarm clocks and hand-power sewing machines were in demand (Munroe
and Gilpin 1930:100).
Kirk Munroe in an article for Scribner's Magazine provides the following
account of a Seminole family's transaction at Brickell's trading store:
S. he stands up at the counter examining and selecting goods,
while she [the wife], sitting on the floor in a remote corner,
keeping the children quiet, and gazing wistfully at the wealth
of desirable articles about her, indicates her choice by gestures
or in low tones to him. He is generous to her, and if she has no
money or credit of her own, rarely refuses to gratify her modest
desires in the way of calico, beads, or sewing materials (1890:310).
Trade was not conducted item for item. At the Brickell store, the Indians
received their proceeds in coined silver, and then bought what they needed.
Often, some of the coins were modified by the Indians into various types of
MacCauley observes that another Miami trader, J. W. Ewan, used a form of
credit with the Indian. It was based upon the twenty-five cent piece which
the Seminoles called "Kan-cat-ka-hum-kin" which means literally "one mark on
the ground" (1887:524). The credit paper is given single marks or pencil
strokes for each quarter's credit. MacCauley provides the following example
of what such a slip looked like:
J.W.E. owes Little Tiger
At his next visit the Indian may buy five "marks" worth of goods.
The trader then takes the paper and returns it to Little Tiger
changed as follows:
J.W.E. owes Little Tiger $1.75 (Ibid.)
When the Indian used all the credit on the slip, the paper was returned to
While one might anticipate that prices paid to Seminoles would fluctuate
in a supply-demand economy, Kersey (1975) and Nicholas (1973) have indicated
that purchase prices paid to the Indians at certain stores remained station-
ary despite market fluctuations. This was particularly true at the Stranahan
store in Ft. Lauderdale. It is not known whether Brickell conducted trade
in this manner, but some of prices paid to Seminoles at Brickell's and in
the Miami vicinity in 1890 are stated as follows: fawn hide, 25; deer skin,
-40-50; buckskins dyed with red mangrove, $1.00 a pound; white egret plume,
$1.25; white heron plume, $1.00; alligator skins, 10 a foot; alligator
teeth, 10 a pound (Gilpin 1890:69,77).
The Role of the Trader
It is probable that most of the individuals who made the decision to be-
come Indian traders were guided by motives of maintaining a livelihood or
profit, and that few of them realized the prominent role they would assume as
a liaison between Seminoles and whites. The white trader assumed a powerful
position in the Seminole scheme-of-things, being the individual who supplied
the material things such as guns, traps, cloth, etc., that had become an im-
portant element of Seminole susbistence. The traders and their history in
South Florida are well documented by Kersey (1975), and the interested reader
is encouraged to read his work for a full account of their role in the process
of Seminole acculturation.
The Brickells apparently maintained the confidence of their Seminole
clientele, although some observers have raised questions as to the honesty
of Mr. Brickell's transactions with the Seminoles. Ralph Munroe was once
shown a pair of binoculars by a Seminole who had purchased them from Brickell
for fifteen dollars. The lens were ordinary glass (Munroe and Gilpin 1930:
100). However, other accounts indicate that the Brickells were very generous
with credit or loans to the Indians, and in one instance Mary Brickell claims
to have lent $500 to an Indian (Rockwood 1897:177).
The Brickells expressed friendliness towards the Indians. On Sundays
the Brickells would invite the Indians to listen to the religious services
held on their grounds (Muir 1953:16). Brickell's interest in the Seminole's
welfare is best revealed by the following letter to the Federal Office of
Indian Affairs dated June 15, 1891:
On the sixth day of June,Indian Charley was sailing from Hills-
borough to New River when his canoe capsized, he went to Station
No. 4 to leave a deer that he shot while hunting, he left it
there for one night, he got the venison next day and took it to
camp and cooked it for supper, all the Indians that eat any of
the venison were taken very sick so they sent Little Tiger to
Miami to report. He came down and said all the Indians in one
camp had been poisoned and that thirteen was sick and several
they thought would die, we at once forwarded some medicine and
the Indians are getting slowly better. They wish me to forward
you a piece of the venison so that you can have it analyzed and
see what the Temporary Keeper put on it.
The citizens here would like the matter looked into for it will
not be safe if a stranger can come here and put poison in things
the Indians have to eat.
The medical inspector for the Department replied that the meat,when
tested,showed no traces of artificial poisoning, and that the meat was spoiled
by ptomaine poisoning. William Brickell was perhaps more interested in Indian
affairs than most traders, but as such, he demonstrated how effectively the
trader could serve as a liaison between the Indian and the Office of Indian
The importance of the Miami trader as a laison between the government
and Indians is reflected in the events of 1873, when rumors of an imminent
Seminole attack swept through the Miami community. When the Indians learned
of the rumors and that the white settlers were getting ready to flee to Key
West, they dispatched a party of eight or ten Indians with Old Aleck and
Billie Harney, all of them wearing white plumes in their headdress as a sign
of peace, to the Miami settlement. The Indians signed a written treaty of
peace that was immediately sent to Washington, D.C. by Charles Barnes, the
operator of what originally had been the Fletcher store (Richards 1903:32).
Other accounts suggest that Mary Brickell may have been part of the arbi-
trating party in this misunderstanding, and that the peace conference was
held south of the Brickell home (Brickell n.d.).
The Brickell Store Site
During the years 1961-1964, the author made numerous visits to the
Brickell home. During that time period, the twenty-two room Brickell resi-
dence was vacant and scheduled to be razed. This house (Fig. 3) was actually
the only remaining structure of the four major two-story buildings that had
been built by the Brickells during their occupancy of the land. There are
some indications that this beautiful house was built around 1907, although
it is possible that an older structure already existed there, and that the
porch and additional rooms were added later. Questions about the date of
the construction of the house are raised here, because it was beneath the
house and from within the cellar and adjacent grounds that most of the trade
artifacts were recovered.
Historic documentation indicates that this house was not used as the
store. Apparently, the store and post office were located in a building
several hundred feet closer to the river. This is confirmed in a U.S.
coastal survey map depicting the store's location drawn in the 1870's (U.S.
Senate 1914:119). Also, Sonny Cooper (1981) states that Maude Brickell,
'William Brickell's daughter, indicated to him in the 1950's that the store
was closer to the river and had been torn down around 1902. Apparently, the
reason for the occurrence of the trade items in the house is simply that the
material had been moved from the store building when the store building was
In 1961, permission was given by the owner of the Brickell property to the
author to conduct excavations and make collections beneath the house and to the
adjacent grounds. In total, four different areas were investigated. One
of the most significant areas examined was the cellar and the crawl space
beneath the house (Fig.2,a). The cellar had been carved into the oolithic
limestone bedrock that occurs naturally beneath the house. Before the
author's investigation, collectors had removed tens of thousands of beads
from both the cellar and from within the house. Many of these beads were
reported to have been in their original wooden boxes. The largest number
of artifacts in this study, both prehistoric and historic, were recovered
from beneath the house.
A second area (Fig.2,c) that contained store merchandise was located
approximately 25 feet outside the cellar door, northwest of the house adja-
.cent to a gravel driveway. A large number of beads (Type 16) were found
buried within the upper 5 inches of soil. Also, a large number of cut
nails were located here, both artifact concentrations suggesting that
wooden boxes with their contents had been dropped or placed on the ground
and that the wood eventually rotted away, leaving only the contents.
Sample area C was located on the bayshore 150 feet east of the house.
It was a trash dump that recently had been made from materials taken from
inside the house before the house was razed. The dump site contained a large
number of beads consisting of types 1-4 and 30 types not represented in other
Sample area D was located about 15 feet west of the west porch. A two-
'foot square test pit yielded a large number of kaolin pipe fragments, nails,
broken glass, and some china fragments. All historic material was recovered
in the upper 6 inches of the excavation.
Right. Map of the mouth of
the Miami River. Brickell
house, a, (see Fig. 3),
b is trash pile, c is area
of artifact clusters, d is
trash pit, e is Brickell
store, f is Brickell ware-
house (see Fig. 1).
Below. Brickell home, ca.
1907, looking west, William
Brickell sitting on chair.
Photo courtesy of Historical
Museum of South Florida
In 1969, the house was razed and the cellar filled with rubble. The
site was used as a parking lot until 1980, when the Holiday Inn began con-
structing a hotel on the site. For three months of that year during the
early phases of construction, the Dade County Historic Preservation Division
directed salvage excavations of the prehistoric (Da98) and historic com-
ponents of the site (report currently in progress). Fortutiously, much of
the cellar is still preserved beneath a landscaped "island" within the
driveway to the hotel entrance.
It would be a pleasant task for this writer to report that all of the
artifacts recovered from the Brickell site neatly fit into a chronological
range of 1871-1900, which is roughly the time span of the existence of the
Brickell store. However, the mouth of the Miami River has been a major focus
of human activity since prehistoric times, and both prehistoric and historic
artifacts were generously mixed together in the shallow soil beneath the
house. There have been a number of occupants on the Brickell site during
the nineteenth century previous to the arrival of the Brickells, and thus it
is reasonable to assume that some of the historic artifacts recovered during
this investigation are of pre-Brickell associations. This could easily be the
case with some of the beads, particularly those classified as type 24, and
the T.D. pipe bowl fragment.
This discussion will concentrate on those artifacts associated with
Seminole Indian trade, particularly the beads. Other artifacts from the
Brickell store are listed in Table 1. Many of these items represented types
of merchandise that were purchased by both Indian and nonIndian customers,
but undoubtedly, articles such as thread, thimbles, and the iron gig were
favorite types of acquisitions by the Seminoles.
Some of the most interesting artifacts associated with the Brickell site
are the kaolin pipes. A total of 42 pipes and pipe fragments were recovered.
Excavations within area D produced a type with a curved stem, a type unlike
any found elsewhere on the site. Three distinct styles were represented,
one with the stem represented as a human arm with the hand holding the base
of the bowl (Fig.9,B),a second style with the pipe depicted as a bird's leg
with the talons supporting the bowl (Fig.9,A), and finally, the same curved
type without any decorations. Similar pipes have been recovered from Ft.
Laramie, Wyoming, dating from a pre-1877 context (Wilson 1965:121). Other
designs represented on the Brickell pipes are a bowl with a harp and "Erin"
[Ireland] embossed on one side (Fig.9,E), a bowl fragment with a floral design
(Fig.9,D), a stemmed bowl fragment with the letters "T.D." inscribed on the
back (not pictured), and a stem with "The Meerschau ." embossed upon
it (Fig.9,C). All of these pipe fragments were recovered from beneath the
The popular use of kaolin pipes amongst the Seminoles is doubtful. Pipe
fragments are rarely reported from nineteenth-century Seminole Indian sites.
It seems probable that the Brickell pipes were intended principally for non-
Indian clients and that those pipes recovered from area D were probably used
by Mr. William Brickell.
A total of 654 glass and ceramic beads were recovered during this in-
vestigation. Most of these were recovered from the cellar, and areas beneath
the house near the cellar. Area C produced beads of types not found else-
where on the site. No beads were recovered from area D, which is to be
expected since this feature is a household trash pit and probably contained
mostly items that had been used by the family.
The Brickell beads have been classified using Kidds' typology (1970)
into thirty types. The Kidd taxonomy is based on the distinctions in bead
manufacture, such as the wire wound technique and cut class tubes, but Kidd
does not create a category for molded beads, a type that represents 13.2%
of this collection. This author observed that the molded beads are in-
dicated by a seam along the bead axis. Unlike Kidd, I was unable to use
the Munsell color dictionary, and instead, I have used the Maerz color
Types of manufacture represented in this collection are tube beads
(52.8%), molded (13.2%), and wire wound (26.4%). Beads of undetermined
manufacture represented 6.6% of the sample. It is possible that this ratio
of types might prove to be a more valuable tool for the chronological place-
ment of an archaeological assemblage of glass beads than the occurrence of
any particular type, since many beads were probably available to traders or
long in use well after their date of manufacture.
A large number of seed beads were also observed and collected, but
because of the difficulties of analyzing and classifying these tiny beads,
they are not discussed here. However, the recovery of a glass bottle filled
with black seed beads (Fig. 8) from beneath the house was a singular and
unusual find. The bottle is 9 cm high and has a pewter cap, and like a salt
shaker, the beads were dispensed individually through a small 2 mm hole in
This assemblage of beads was compared with several other bead collec-
tions made at the Brickell site. A small collection made by Mark S. Greene
during the same time period as the author's investigation contained no types
not represented here. Several collections of Brickell material have been
donated to the Historical Museum of South Florida (HMSF). Two of these
donations included beads. One of these donations had twelve types repre-
sented by 29 beads, of which eight types were represented in the author's
collection. A second donation was a necklace that incorporates only two
types, numbers seven and twenty, of the beads discussed in this paper.
Comparisons were also made with Seminole beads collected by John Goggin in
the 1930's and 1940's from "old villages" in South Florida. Unfortunately,
no better prevenance was indicated in this collection which now reposes at
the State of Florida Museum in Gainesville. Of the fifteen types repre-
sented in the Goggin collection, twelve of them are types identical to
those in the author's sample.
The thirty types are described as follows:
1 (82 specimens) Kidd la
Simple tube, glass clear, interior of bead painted Maerz empire
yellow (plate 9, k-3), length 5-8 mm, diameter 4.5-5 mm, sampling
2 (4 specimens) Kidd la
Simple tube, glass clear, interior of bead painted Maerz rose (plate 2,
J-3), length 4-5 mm, diameter 5 mm, sampling area C, same construction
as type one above. This bead is represented in the Goggin collection.
3 (37 specimens) Kidd la
Simple tube, glass clear, interior of bead painted white, length
5-7.5 mm, diameter 5-6 mm, sampling area C, same construction as type
one above. This bead is represented in the Goggin collection.
4 (40 specimens) Kidd la
Simple tube, glass clear, interior of bead painted Maerz lichen green
(plate 26, A, A-4), length 4-5 mm, diameter 5 mm, sampling area C,
same construction as type one above.
5 (4 specimens) Kidd la
Simple tube, glass translucent Maerz Sea green (plate 19, K-6),
specimens vary from round to slightly hexagonal in cross section,
length 31 mm, diameter, sampling area A.
6 (1 specimen) Kidd la
Simple tube, glass clear, length 19 mm (incomplete specimen), diameter
4 mm, sampling area A.
7 (4 specimens) Kidd If
Simple tube, five sided, translucent Maerz ultamarine (plate 35, G-12),
length 6 mm, diameter 5 mm, sampling area A. This bead is represented
in Goggin collection, and is one of two beads on a necklace in the HMSF
8 (11 specimens) Kidd If
Simple tube, six sided, barrel shaped, ground facets, translucent
Maerz ultamarine (plate 35, G-12), length 6-9 mm, diameter 6-8 mm,
sampling area A.
9 (3 specimens) Kidd lf
Simple tube, seven sided, barrel shaped, ground facets, translucent
Maerz ultamarine (plate 35, G-12), length 7-9 mm, diameter 8-9 mm,
sampling area A.
10 (12 specimens) Kidd If
Simple tube, six sided, barrel shaped, ground facets, clear Maerz
opal green (plate 28, K-5), length 9-12 mm, diameter 8-10 mm, sampling
11 (6 specimens) Kidd lf
Simple tube, six sided, barrel shaped, ground facets, translucent Maerz
amber glow (plate 12, H-10), length 6-8 mm, diameter 8 mm, heavy
patination, poor preservation, sampling area A. This bead is repre-
sented in the Goggin collection.
12 (12 specimens) Kidd lllf
Layered tube, seven sided, barrel shaped, ground facets, exterior
layer is translucent Maerz ultamarine (plate 12, G-12), interior layer
is opaque Maerz light blue (plate 34, C-9), length 4.5-9 mm, diameter
6-9 mm, sampling area A.
13 (21 specimens) Kidd llf
Layered tube, six sided, barrel shaped, ground facets, exterior layer
viewed from end is clear, interior layer viewed from end is trans-
lucent Maerz sky grey (plate 34, B-2), bead view from side through
layers is Maerz light blue (plate 34, C-6), length 9-12 mm, diameter
8-10 mm, sampling area A. Bead is represented in the Goggin collection.
14 (4 specimens) Kidd lllf
Layered tube, six sided, barrel shaped, ground facets, exterior layer
is translucent Maerz gull grey (plate 36, A-3), interior layer is
translucent Maerz bluish white (plate 34), length 7.5 to 9 mm,
diameter 6 mm, sampling area A. Bead is represented in the Goggin
15 (1 specimen) Kidd lla
Simple tube, doughnut shape with rounded edges, opaque Maerz peach
[pink] (plate 9, A-5), length 6 mm, diameter 6 mm, sampling area B.
The HMSF collection has two specimens; one amber and one clear.
16 (346 specimens) Kidd IVa 3
Layered tube, doughnut and barrel shaped, rounded edges, two color
variations, color variation type 1: exterior layer is opaque Maerz
cardinal (plate 5, L-5), interior layer is white grey, color variati n
type 2: exterior layer is translucent Maerz flamingo (plate 2, 1-11),
interior layer is white, length is 2-7 mm, diameter is 3-7 mm, sampling
area A and B. Bead is represented in Goggin collection and in the
17 (1 specimen) Unknown
Clay bead, round, white, length 7 mm, diameter 9 mm, sampling area
A. Similar beads in the HMSF collection indicate that this type
originally had monochromatic exterior paint. The painted colors
observed in the HMSF collection were red and gold.
18 (1 specimen) Individually Molded
Molded, round, clear glass, length 11 mm. diameter 11 mm. This bead
appears to have been molded as an individual bead. The circumference
has a seam across its length suggesting a two piece mold. Sampling
19 (3 specimens) Individually Molded
Molded similar to type 18, round, translucent Maerz ultamarine (plate
35, G-12), length 7 mm, diameter 8 mm, sampling area A.
20 (1 specimen) Kidd Wlb 8
Wire wound, round, translucent Maerz cardinal (plate 5, L-5), length
8 mm, diameter 9 mm, sampling area A. Bead is represented in Goggin
21 (10 specimens) Kidd Wlb
Wire wound, round and doughnut, opaque black, length 8 mm, diameter
10 mm, sampling area A. The HMSF collection contains two specimens.
22 (4 specimens) Kidd Wlb
Wire wound, round, opaque brown, length 8 mm, diameter 8 mm, sampling
area A, poor preservation; cracked and heavy patina. Bead is repre-
sented by a specimen in the Goggin collection.
23 (5 specimens, 19 fragments) Kidd Wlb
Wire wound, round, translucent Maerz green (plate 18, L-7), length
7-10 mm, diameter 11 mm, sampling area A, very poor preservation,
cracks easily. Bead is represented by 2 specimens in Goggin collection.
24 (1 specimen, 20 fragments) Kidd Wlb
Wire wound, round, opaque Maerz cobalt blue (plate 34, L-7), length
12 mm, diameter 13 mm, sampling area A, very poor preservation, cracks
25 (2 specimens) Kidd Wlb 16
Wire wound, round, translucent Maerz ultamarine (plate 35, G-12),
length 15-22 mm, diameter 16-24 mm, sampling area A and B.
26 (1 specimen, 2 fragments) Kidd Wlc
Wire wound, elongated oval, opaque white, length 28 mm, diameter 15 mm
(at widest point), sampling area A, poor preservation; cracking.
Similar in form to number 100 in Pratt's Oneida Iroquois Glass Trade
27 (9 specimens) Kidd Wlc
Wire wound, elongated oval, translucent Maerz cardinal (plate 5, L-5),
length 11-22 mm, diameter 4 mm, sampling area B. Bead is represented
by 3 specimens in Goggin sample.
28 (3 specimens) Unknown Manufacture
Polished, round, faceted opaque black, method of manufacture difficult
to determine because of color and reflectivity, length 6-9 mm, diameter
7-9 mm. Bead is represented by one specimen in Goggin collection and
three specimens in the HMSF collection.
29 (2 specimens) Individually Molded
Molded similar to type 18, five sides, faceted, clear Maerz yellow
(plate 10, F-2), length 5 mm, diameter 5 mm, sampling area A.
30 (6 specimens) Individually Molded
Molded similar to type 18, however, seam is parallel to direction of
string hole, raised lip around holes, clear glass, length 13 mm, diameter
11 mm, sampling area C.
Bead types from the Brickell store. See text for
Table 1. Artifacts Recovered From the Brickell Site
3 sticks of red sealing wax, Area A
3 composite brass (gold wash) and glass
cuff links, Area A, (Fig. 5,G,H)
8 brass thimbles, Area A, (Fig. 5,E)
3 white metal thimbles, Area A, (Fig. 5,F)
1 oval lead fishing weight, Area A
1 brass container of 250 primers/percussion
caps with fragments of original label, Area A
4 white clay marbles, Area A, (Fig.5,J)
5 bone buttons, Area A, (Fig. 5,K,L)
3 hard rubber buttons, Area A
1 fancy copper button, Area A, (Fig.5,N)
2 iron buttons, Area A
4 composite iron and copper buttons, Area A
5 various shell buttons, Area A, (Fig.5,I,M)
2 wooden spools with thread, Area A, (Fig. 5,C)
1 brass compass, 2.5 cm diameter, Area A
1 brass woman's compact with mirror, 8 cm
diameter, Area A, (Fig. 5,A)
1 ornate brass compact, Area A, (Fig. 5,D)
1 circular compact mirror, Area A, (Fig.5,B)
12 alligator teeth (two drilled), Area A, Fig. 5,O,P)
2 iron shoe hooks, Area A
1 white metal strap buckle, Area A, "Pat.
Dec. 15, 1885"
1 iron cork screw, Area A
1 iron harpoon or gig point, Area A, (Fig. 5)
1 bottle, aqua, 11.5 cm high, Area A, "Davis
Vegetable Pain Killer"
1 bottle, aqua, 10.5 cm high, Area A, "Thuber's
pureess Jamacia Ginger"
2 plain bottles, medicine (?), 12.5 cm high
2 bottles, aqua, 21.5 cm high, cellar, Area A,
"Hamlin's Wizard Oil"
1 Mason jar, aqua, 19 cm high, Area A, "Patent
Nov. 30, 1858"
S r ; ".- ._ "
i^^." ^-^ *:'~ ';.\ v^'"!* -- -
HB|^ I'^'' "i "V-- *
3 5 6 7 5a
Figure 5. Artifacts from the Brickell Store.
See Table 1 for descriptions.
Beads from the Brickell Store.
A (#26); B (#17); C (#28); D (#20); E (#16); F (#23);
G (#30); H (#27); I(#21); J(#18); K(#25); L(#19);
M (#8); N (#12); 0(#8); P (#9); Q (#14); R (#11);
S (#7); T (#1,2,3,4); U (#5); V(#6); W (#13); X (#10).
C D E F G H I
K L M N O P 0 R
S T U V W X
0 4 cm
Figure 8. Right. Glass bottle filled
with black seed beads, actual
Figure 9. Below. Clay pipes from the
197 BRICKELL STORE
The Seminole Indian trade that occurred in South Florida during the last
half of the nineteenth century represented the first major Seminole-white
cooperation since the Indian Wars, and set the pace for avenues of cooper-
ation that were to become more common during the twentieth century. This
paper attempts to discuss this trade and trade patterns by using historic,
ethnographic, and archaeological data relative to the Brickell store and
other Miami traders. Interestingly, some of the archaeological data con-
firms the historical documentation relative to certain trade items, such
as the recovered beads and the alligator teeth. Obviously, organic material
such as animal skins and plumes would normally not survive the humid soil
conditions of South Florida. The material recovered from the Brickell
store, when compared to the historical and ethnographic documents, indicates
that the archaeological record provides a very limited sample of the total
types of material involved in the trade process. Reconstructions of Seminole
trade patterns fare considerably better when the written documents are used.
If there is any contribution that trading-post excavations can provide
for Seminole archaeology, it is that of providing an assemblage of material
items that one might expect to recover from Seminole camp sites in the South
Florida's interior, research that has, of yet, not been attempted, part-
icularly in regards to a multi-data anthropological and historic approach
towards reconstructing Seminole camp patterns as suggested by Kersey (1981).
Excavations of other trading posts could also provide pertinent reference
collections, particularly of bead types, which could prove useful as a
dating tool for Seminole camp sites. Brown's trading post in the Big Cypress
has already been heavily vandalized by treasure hunters and collectors, but
other sites such as Smallwood's on Chokoloskee, and Stranahan'sin Ft. Lauder-
dale, have the potential for yielding useful data if carefully excavated
I am very much indebted to Arva Parks for her editorial comments and
review of the original version of this paper. Both she and Margot Ammidown
shared historical documents that greatly increased the scope of this paper.
Dr. John Reiger edited this version, and I greatly appreciate his time and
effort. Becky Smith and Linda Williams of the Historical Museum of South
Florida, and Joan Morris of State of Florida Photographic Archives,provided
many of the resources that were necessary for the background research.
Mark Greene and Louis Koufakis made available to me artifacts from the
Brickell site. Sonny Cooper shared his thoughts and knowledge of the
Brickell family. Others who provided help on this project were Dr. Harry
Kersey, Melinda Maxwell, who did the drafting, and Esther Nedelman, the
1981 Untitled typescript on the history of Brickell Point. To be
published as part of report on Historical and Archaeological
Investigations of Brickell Point, by Dade County Historic
Bentley, George R.
1950 Colonel Thompson's "Tour of Tropical Florida", Tequesta
N.D. Untitled manuscript on file with Dade County Historic
Preservation Division, Miami, Florida.
Brickell, W. B.
1891 Letter to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, June 15, 1891.
The National Archives, Office of Indian Affairs, Letters
Received, 1881-1907 (22617-918), Washington, D.C.
Conrad, Mary D.
1957 Homesteading in Florida During the 1890's. Tequesta
1980 Personal conversation with Bob Carr, June, 1980.
1890 Diary of Emma Gilpin. Unpublished typescript on file
at Historical Museum of South Florida.
Henshall, James A.
1884 Camping and Cruising in Florida. Robert Clarke and Co.,
Pelts, Plumes, and Hides: White Traders Among the Seminole
Indians, 1870-1930. The University of Presses of Florida,
Seminole Trading Sites in South Florida: A New Ethno-
Archeological Opportunity. A paper presented at the
Southwest Florida Archaeological Conference in Naples,
Florida on May 30, 1981.
E. and Martha Ann Kidd
A Classification System for Glass Beads for the Use of Field
Archaeologists. In Canadian Historic Sites Occasional Papers
in Archaeology and History No. 1. National Historic Sites
Service, National and Historic Parks Branch, Department of
Indian Affairs in Northern Development, Ottowa, pp. 46-91.
1887 The Seminole Indians of Florida. U.S. Bureau of Ethnology,
5th Annual Report, Washington, D.C.
Maerz, Aloys J. and M. Rea Paul
1950 Dictionary of Color. McGraw-Hill Co., New York.
1953 Miami, U.S.A. Holt, New York.
A Forgotten Remnant. Scribner's Magazine, 7(3):303-317.
Munroe, Ralph M. and Vincent Gilpin
1930 The Commodore's Story. Ives Washburn.
Nicholas, James C.
1973 The Economics of the Indian Trade in Florida. A master's
thesis on file at the Department of Economics, Florida
Atlantic University, Boca Raton.
1979 Where the River Found the Bay. An unpublished typescript
on file with the Florida Division of Archives, History,
and Records Management, Tallahassee.
1976 Lemon City: Pioneering on Biscayne Bay, 1850-1925.
Banyan Press, Miami.
Pratt, Peter P.
1961 Oneida Iroquois Glass Trade Bead Sequence 1585-1745.
Indian Glass Trade Beads Color Guide Series No. 1
Onondaga Printing Co., Syracuse.
Richards, A. C.
1903 Reminiscences of Mrs. A. C. Richards, 1903. Collection
of newspaper articles in possession of Mrs. Arva Parks,
Coral Gables, Florida.
Robbins, Graham, and Chillingworth
1907 A true copy of a certificate and opinion of title to
the Mrs. Hagan (Or Rebecca Egan) donation: opinion on
the title of Mrs. Mary Brickell to the Mrs. Hagan
donation on Biscayne Bay, Dade County, Florida.
Rockwood, Caroline W.
1897 An East Florida Romance. New Amsterdam Book Co., New York.
U. S. Senate
Florida Everglades: Report of the Florida Everglades
Engineering Commission to the Board of Commissioners of
the Everglades Drainage District. 62nd U.S. Congress,
2nd Session, Senate Document No. 379, Washington, D.C.
Clay Pipes From Fort Laramie. Annals of Wyoming, 33(2)121.
Robert S. Carr
Dade County Historic Preservation
THE MIAMI INDIAN TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:
A HISTORY AND ANALYSIS OF A TRANSITIONAL MIKASUKI SEMINOLE ENVIRONMENT
The drainage of the Florida Everglades began in 1906 (Dovell 1948).
This undertaking had detrimental effects on the environment of the Mikasuki
Seminole Indians of Florida. The Seminoles, who had survived several drastic
moves from one type of physical environment to another during the past two
centuries because of the expansion of Anglo-American settlements into Indian
lands,were once again compelled to change their lifestyle.
The drainage of the Everglades caused the Mikasuki Seminole's economy
to decline rapidly. Significant cultural patterns such as seasonal migrations,
certain hunting techniques, and maritime skills, such as sailing, were lost.
During this difficult period, the tourist attraction provided an effective
adaptation to these awesome changes. The tourist attraction provided an
important economic transition between the Indians' traditional and modern
Two Miami attractions, Coppinger's Tropical Gardens and Musa Isle Grove,
were forerunners in hiring Seminoles for exhibition purposes. It is esti-
mated that in 1930 alone, over one-half of the total population of Mikasuki
Seminoles were employed in commercial villages (Nash 1931:39; Davis 1980).
The employment of Seminoles in
tourist attractions has long been
discredited for its effects on the
Indians. However, this study has
produced alternative views that
are supportive of the Seminoles'
tourist attraction involvement.
The tourist attraction promoted
the Mikasuki Seminole lifestyle,
and a niche was found for the
Figure 1. Henry Sam Willie,
S at Musa Isle, ca.
VOL. 34 NO. 4
Indian in his rapidly changing world. From this vantage point, the Seminoles
assimilated concepts from the dominant white culture which would prove useful
in their future endeavors.
The changes that occurred in the Everglades after drainage operations
were severe. The Fall of 1913 brought unusually dry conditions to the Ever-
glades. It was speculated that this was the result of a drought and the
canal excavations (Dovell 1948:53). By 1915, the Miami trading post operator,
J. D. Girtman, was forced to sell out because:
The Indians could no longer bring in pelts and plumes, and the
drainage had made the use of their boats near Miami impossible
This year, 1917, found the Everglades again unusually dry. A Miami Herald
(1917a) article stated:
The unprecedented condition of the Everglades soil makes it
possible for a man to walk in localities where man has never
walked before, old trappers and hunters affirm. This condition
is caused in part by the long drought and partly by the state's
Sam Huff, a Mikasuki Seminole born on Pine Island west of Fort Lauder-
dale, ca. 1872 (Sturtevant 1956:57), and an early employee at the tourist
attraction, Coppinger's Tropical Garden in about 1918 (James 1980), related
the saga of the Everglades drainage from the Seminoles' point of view in a
classic interview with William C. Sturtevant (1956:65) in 1952:
Steam shovels began to make canals in the Everglades. Steam
shovels came out of Ft. Lauderdale and others came out of
Deerfield, heading for [Lakel Okeechobee. 'Just as soon as
they hit the lake, the water is going to dry up in those
Everglades, and as soon as the water dries up, they're going
to start plantations'--that's what the white people said to the
Indians. Another steam shovel went out from Dania, and another
one from Miami. Just as soon as they hit Okeechobee, the water
was going to dry up. But I didn't believe it, until they hit
Okeechobee. Then the water dried up, and even in Okeechobee
it was dry too. The Everglades became small, and the trees
grew very fast.
Pete Tiger, a Muskogee Seminole from Brighton, recalled the results of
In the old times we could paddle our canoes for many days and hunt
the deer and the alligator. Now the white man has drained the Glades
with his canals to make fields for his tomatoes and sugarcane. Our
canoes cannot run on the sand and it is forbidden to cross the white
man's fences. And the deer and the alligator each day go farther
away (Burman 1956:149).
Although the Mikasuki Seminoles established an increasing economic
dependence on the dominant white culture through trading practices, during
the late Nineteenth Century (Kersey 1975), they had been successful in main-
taining the rigid customs of conduct and other folkways within their cultural
system. Their isolated existence and past unpleasant dealings with outsiders
made them cautious of those who dared to disturb their Everglades domain. As
late as 1910, Indians were opposed to having outsiders in their territory.
Indians who acted as guides, did so under fear of punishment by the council
(Dorn 1949:45-46). Alanson Skinner in his collecting expedition among the
Seminoles in 1910 for the American Museum of Natural History noted that:
The natives greatly resent the intrusion of whites, but we were
able to gain admission almost everywhere through our guide, Frank
Brown of Immokalee, whose father had been an Indian trader for
more than thirty years (Skinner 1913:63).
The loss of transportation resulting from the drainage of the Everglades
may have been the greatest economic shock to the Seminoles. Culturally, all
navigational skills were soon lost. The waterways and channels of the Ever-
glades, some doubtless used by Florida's first inhabitants, were obliterated.
Documenting his discussions with the Mikasuki Seminole, Josie Billie, W. C.
Many locations near the Tamiami Trail are still oriented in his
mind in relation to the now-oblitereated Everglades canoe trails,
rather than the highway and the Seminole camps now scattered
along it (1955:42).
Thus, many predrainage activities were to become only memories to the
Twentieth Century Mikasuki Seminoles. With adverse environmental conditions
in the Everglades, many Seminoles took advantage of employment in Miami's
tourist attractions. This new source of employment was appealing to the
Indians, who received salary, food, and yard goods as an incentive to live
seasonally at these locations for the enjoyment of tourists.
In 1917, Henry Coppinger, Jr., of Coppinger's Tropical Garden, N. W.
20th Avenue and the Miami River, hired two Mikasuki Seminole families to
set up a village in his tourist attraction (Coppinger 1975). Soon thereafter,
Coppinger's competition, Musa Isle Grove at N. W. 16th Street and 25th Avenue,
also on the river, followed suit (James 1980). Two credible accounts exist
that relate the circumstances under which the Seminoles first became involved
in the tourist attraction business. In one account, Henry Coppinger related:
The driver of a sightseeing bus had stopped at an Indian camp on
the Tamiami Trail. That was long before the Trail was completed.
The people got off the bus and looked over the camp and had their
pictures made with the Indians. The bus driver got the idea, he
began promoting trips to the Indian camp. But after a few days he
took a bus load to the area and the Indians were gone. The people
demanded their money back. But the idea of an Indian village seemed
like a good one, and Coppinger was asked by the tour people to set
one up. I went into the Glades and got two families--paying each
family $35.00 a week to let the tourists gawk at them as they sat
about the chickees or went about their activities. It helped our
business tremendously (Smiley 1967).
Doubtless the Indian village did help business at the Tropical Garden,
particularly since a severe freeze struck just a month after the Garden was
formally opened on January 1, 1917. Many of the tropical plantings were
destroyed. Phil James (1980),a long time friend of Coppinger's and an early
employee at the Garden, recollected that he had been told that the Indians
came to Coppinger's to get warm during the 1917 cold spell and remained as
part of the attraction. The Coppinger hammock had been previously a Mikasuki
Seminole camp, noted by the Everglades explorer, Hugh Willoughby (1898:44).
One of the first families to become established at Coppinger's was the
Jack Tigertail family. The Tigertails, who maintained an Everglades camp
twenty-five miles west of Homestead (Miami Herald 1917b), were residing at
Coppinger's by the season of 1918 (James 1980). (A "season" at this time
ran from January 1 through April 30). Tigertail was very popular with the
area's local residents, and in 1921, his portrait was chosen as the emblem
of the newly created City of Hialeah.
Soon after the Indians established their camp at Coppinger's, Musa Isle
Grove engaged Willie Willie, a Mikasuki Seminole, to set up a larger village
on the west side of the Musa Isle property around 1919 (James 1980). This
was the beginning of the famous Musa Isle Village which ran for nearly fifty
years. The owner of Musa Isle Grove, John A. Roop, had operated a very pro-
fitable mail order fruit shipping business and popular tourist attraction
since acquiring the grove in 1907. With the opening of the Miami drainage
canal, however, the grove declined as the watertable dropped (Redman 1980).
Perhaps for this reason, a new attraction was needed at the once popular
Willie Willie was an unusually industrious, ambitious and individualistic
Seminole for his day. He and his father, Charlie Willie (nee Billy Jumper),
were shrewd businessmen (Osceola 1980) with acculturated ways. They bought
Everglades products from their fellow Indians and sold directly to the market,
thus making a large profit (Coppinger 1975). They established Musa Isle camp
as a trading post (James 1980). It appears that Willie Willie operated Musa
Isle as his business which he actively managed and promoted (Ibid). According
to James L. Glenn (Undated Ms.), former Seminole Agent, Willie Willie's yearly
gross income from Musa Isle was $50,000 (Undated Ms. Photo #54).
Egbert L. Lasher, former owner of a market in Ft. Lauderdale (Fort
Lauderdale City Directory 1918-19; E. F. West 1980) opened a small tourist
attraction on the North Fork of New River around 1920-21. The attraction
featured a small Seminole camp and a natural slough filled with alligators.
The attraction was short lived (E. G. West 1980). Henry Coppinger, Jr.
purchased many of the larger alligators for the Tropical Garden when Lasher
sold out. Lasher, it is believed, took the remaining alligators with him
when he moved to Miami at Musa Isle, probably in late 1921 (James 1980).
Disheartened by the decline of Musa Isle Grove due to drainage operations,
John A. Roop sold his entire acreage to John A. Campbell in early 1922 for a
subdivision (Redman 1980). Campbell found, much to his distress, that Bert
Lasher held a lease to the riverfront property where the Indian village was
located (Campbell 1981). Several sources, white and Indian, have said that
Willie Willie was induced to sign away whatever rights he had to Musa Isle
Village to Bert Lasher (Anonymous sources). Lasher operated Musa Isle Village
for ten years (Campbell 1980; Dade County Records 1932).
In the fall, when the tourist season began (in the 1920's) the Indian
"in charge" of the Seminole camp at the Musa Isle attraction, would be asked
to locate one or two additional families to fill vacancies at the attraction's
camp. Before the Tamiami Trail opened in 1928, the Seminoles arrived at the
camp in their canoes, bringing all of their household goods, dogs, chickens,
and hogs with them (Davis 1980).
Musa Isle had seven house sites and normally five of these chickees
were utilized by the Seminole families hired by the tourist camp. The other
two house sites were used by families that were passing through, and doing
temporary business with the Musa Isle trading post and purchasing supplies
in town. They generally stayed in the camp two or three days and then re-
turned to the Everglades (Ibid 1980).
Allan Davis, an employee of Musa Isle from 1925-1932, recalled that
each family earned $15.00 a week and were given a generous $7.00 extra for
food. The men also hunted and brought in fresh meat and the women period-
ically gathered coontie as supplements to their food supply.
Coppinger's also had seven house sites during 1918-1922, with one of
these used by visitors (James 1980). In later years, there were only five
chickees at the village (Coppinger 1975). Henry Coppinger supplied food to
the Indians that he hired. He also set up an account with several local mer-
chants to allow the Seminole women to make purchases for their sewing needs,
allowing a set amount per family. With this added benefit,the salary for these
Indians was low, about $20.00 per month for a family of four (James 1980).
Coppinger's was a popular village in the early days and it was not uncommon
to turn families away for lack of available space in the village. James
recalled that Coppinger always saw to it that such families had something to
eat, and whenever an Indian came to the attraction with something to sell,
Coppinger never turned them down.
Coppinger was selective in choosing the families for the village. He
never took in anyone who drank excessively. Mikasuki Seminoles who were
employed in the early years at Coppinger's were: Jack Tigertail, Futch
Cypress, Charlie Billie, Josie Billie and Tiger Tiger.. Coppinger hired
many Indians from the Fort Lauderdale area. There appears to have been a
majority of Mikasuki Seminoles from the Broward County area who were early
employees of both tourist attractions: Doctor Tommie's Family (Annie Tommie);
Sam Huff; Cory, William McKinley, and John Osceola; and the Charlie Willie
(nee Billy Jumper) family (Coppinger 1975; James 1980). By the time Allan
Davis (1980) was acquainted with many of these families in 1925, most were
residing off-season west of Miami. Many Indians employed at Musa Isle during
this period came from Collier County.
Davis recalled that Seminole families returning to Musa Isle sometimes
brought with them families that he had never seen before. What was the re-
action of these newly arrived Indians to the tourist attraction? Phil James
(1980) remembered that they were:
Kind of shy, but they got used to it after awhile. Some didn't
like it, I guess they'd leave.
Davis (1980) recalled that new families might come in to Musa Isle:
in rags and the children looked like they hadn't enough
to eat, and in three to four months they all had new clothes
and they [were] getting fat.
Davis further remarked that some Indians could take the tourist attraction
only so long, then they would go back to the swamps. James recalled that a
man and wife often packed up and went on hunting trips of two to three weeks,
returning to Coppinger's with hides and meat which they sold.
The most important role for an Indian in the tourist attractions was
that of head man, often referred to erroneously as "chief". According to
Phil James (1980), the Indian man who could communicate the best in English
and who was the smartest, got the job. It was the responsibility of this
person to recruit new Indian employees for the attraction and to keep general
order in the camp (Davis 1980). Doubtless, this position commanded a certain
sense of respect from the other members (although most were relatives) as
the head man was a liason with the dominant culture and was responsible for
their welfare. Because of their special qualifications and responsibility,
the head men commanded a higher salary than others in the camp (Dade County
Records 1932). Such persons were known to distribute the payroll and handle
the grocery money for the camp (Ibid). Identified head men at Coppinger's
during 1918-1940 were: Jack Tigertail, Charlie Billie, and John Osceola.
Head men at Musa Isle for the same period were: Willie Willie, Tony M. B.
Tommie, Cory Osceola, and William McKinley Osceola (Coppinger 1975; Davis
1980; James 1980).
An often made objection to the Indians' tourist-attraction lifestyle
was that the Indians did "nothing". Those persons closely associated with
the attractions also shared this opinion, in regards to the Indians's work.
Phil James, in recalling the Indians at Coppinger's, said:
They'd work in the village thatching chickees---[but] you
couldn't get them to do anything elsee.
Allan Davis (1980) stated:
All [the Indian] did was sit in his hut. He didn't do
[anything] except sleep and eat.
The Indians, it appears, were well aware of their "job". They were hired
for exhibition and, like the employee of today, would not consider doing
anything more than they were hired to do without additional compensation.
Reverend James L. Glenn commented in 1928:
Their own private folkways have a cash value that must be
bewildering [to them] (Tebeau 1957:65).
The Mikasuki Seminoles' lifestyle in the tourist attraction followed
much the same effortless schedule as it did in the Indians' Everglades
environment. The men at both Coppinger's and Musa Isle involved themselves
periodically in hewing canoes. Craftwork and clothing were produced by the
women. Men also produced crafts. Additional chores were undertaken on a
periodic basis: hunting, coontie gathering, and fishing (Davis 1980; James
1980) but unlike their life in the Everglades environment, such foods were
supplements, not a means of subsistence. In fact, there is little difference
between the daily activities in a Tamiami Trail camp (Greenlee 1952:29) and
those in the tourist attraction camps of Miami.
The key issue with many who were against the Seminoles' involvement
in the tourist attractions was the "degrading" and "demoralizing" aspect of
such a lifestyle. Phil James (1980) recalled that at Coppinger's (1917-1922),
the Indians would:
Mill around with people and talk to them in broken English and
get tips from the tourists.
Allan Davis (1980),however, noted that at Musa Isle (1925-1932), the Indians
did not have much physical contact with the tourists:
They'd just sit in their huts and stare and the white people
would stare at them. .. [A tourist would] go up there and
talk to them and they'd be just as mum. The Indians wouldn't
say one word.
Davis recalled that when he first began working at Musa Isle in 1925,
the children were running around the village asking the tourists for money.
I stopped that. I said if Ethe tourists] want to take your
picture, it's all right for [you] to ask for money, but not
to go up to a person and say, 'Money. Money. Money:' It
was like begging and I didn't want the Indians to think that
they would have to beg for anything.
James remembered that the Indians at Coppinger's would turn their back on a
camera unless they got a tip. They would accept anything, he said, but
usually received 25.
Davis also recalled that periodically a journalist might come through
the attraction and put an article in the Newspaper, "Indians in Captivity"
or other such headline. Davis stated that:
S. the Indians were free to go any time they wanted to go.
They weren't there by compulsion. They came [to Musa Isle]
because they wanted to.
Seminole Agent, James L. Glenn (Undated Ms:83) gave a graphic account
of the tourist attraction atmosphere as he viewed it:
The tourists will talk both loudly and freely about the damn
funny clothes and the damn dirty pots, and some brute will
grab the blouse of an Indian wife and yell, 'Hey Bill--want
a squaw?' The husband of the wife will see what damn fools
these tourists are, but will ignore it.
Musa Isle had developed a significant trading post economy in pelts
and hides beginning with Willie Willie's business in ca. 1918. (James 1980).
This trade filled a void for both Indians and whites in the Miami area, as
J. D. Girtman's trading business closed in 1915 (Kersey 1975:44) leaving no
commercial trade in that area. Allan Davis, who hunted actively between
1922 and 1925, first became familiar with Musa Isle through dealing with
Bert Lasher at the Musa Isle Trading Post. In 1930, Lasher was one of two
major Miami hide buyers, and supplied the Special Seminole Agent, Roy Nash,
with statistics that year, concerning the yearly value of Indian trade at
the Musa Isle Post (Nash 1931:37).
Phil James (1980) said that the Indians came to Coppinger's to trade,
but the volume in pelts and hides was not significant enough to be handled
as a business. As a result, the furs, hides, and small cased alligator
hides were utilized in the manufacture of articles to be sold as souvenirs
at that attraction. Baby alligators, which brought the Indian 15 apiece,
remained a big item of trade at the tourist attraction (Coppinger 1975).
Henry Coppinger, Jr. has been credited with initiating the exhibition
sport of alligator wrestling (Smiley 1967). It was from watching him per-
form, that many young Seminole men learned this technique (Coppinger 1975,
Smiley 1969), from which they earned additional income and a lasting popular
identity. The Indians did not, however, begin wrestling at Coppinger's, but
at Musa Isle. Henry Coppinger, Jr. performed his own alligator wrestling
shows at the Tropical Garden until 1925, when he then took his show on the
road (James 1980).
Alligator wrestling, snake handling, and other related activities which
were performed at the tourist attractions were against tribal custom (Jumper
1980). A foremost modern day alligator wrestler, Allen Jumper, of Hollywood,
said that the money received from alligator wrestling and related activities
overcame the customs which formerly forbade such activities.
At Musa Isle, earnings for alligator wrestling were on a tip basis.
If a wrestler gave a good show to a good audience, he would benefit sub-
stantially by the coins and bills thrown into the pit at the end of the
performance, when the alligator would be flopped over on its back and stroked
to sleep. Allan Davis, who was often the announcer, would say to the audi-
The alligator wrestler doesn't receive any pay from the Village
for putting on this exhibition. The only money he gets is what
you throw into the pool----. Now see if you can wake this alli-
David recalled that the top alligator wrestlers were: Josie Jumper, Henry
"Cowboy" Billie, Chestnut Billie, and Frank Jimmie.
An estimated 400 Mikasuki Seminoles were enumerated by the Seminole
agent, Lucian Spencer for 1930 (Nash 1931:23). An additional 40 Indians
resided on the Hollywood Reservation. It is estimated that over one-half
of the Mikasuki Seminoles resided in a tourist attraction for varying lengths
of time in 1930. This statistic is based on the following information: A
family unit is estimated at 5 persons. Musa Isle had 5 camp sites: 25 in-
dividuals. Musa Isle had 2 camp sites for itinerant families which changed
"every 3-4 days" (Davis 1980) or once weekly. A season at this time was an
average of 5 months (Nash 1931:39) between January through May. Therefore,
210 persons utilized the itinerant camps at Musa Isle per season. Doubtless
duplicity occurred, therefore only 150 individuals, or 30 families will be
used for this conservative estimate. Coppinger's Tropical Garden had 5 camp
sites, or 25 individuals. In 1930, 30-40 individuals set up a village in
St. Petersburg (Nash 1931:21). A total of these figures shows that in 1930,
235 Mikasuki Seminole individuals resided in tourist attractions. Estimates
covering 1931-1933 show that between 200 and 270 individuals resided in Musa
Isle, Coppinger's and related promotional ventures on a yearly basis.
In 1930, Roy Nash (1931:39) estimated that families employed by the
tourist attractions received an average salary of $6.00 per week, with food,
for five months of the tourist season. The following itemized expenditures
at the Musa Isle Village for the week of March 24-30, 1932, afford an insight
into the actual breakdown of payroll and grocery allowance (Dade County
Cory Osceola [head man] $10.00 Josie Billie $5.00
Mrs. Cypress $ 7.50 Mrs. Jimmie Billie $2.50
Wm. McKinley Osceola $ 7.50 Tommie Billie $3.00
The actual number of individuals in camp cannot be discerned from these
records. Changes in camp residence, however, can be visualized by the
fluctuating payroll (unitemized) and grocery allowance for April 2 and 9,
4/2/32: Payroll $33.00 Groceries $25.00
4/9/32: Payroll $24.50 Groceries $20.00
Perhaps the most significant contribution made by the tourist attractions
to the economy of the Mikasuki Seminoles, was through the development of
crafts. At the attractions, crafts gained an enthusiastic market and became
commercialized. Prior to the tourist attraction economy, the Mikasuki Sem-
inoles did not produce a significant amount of craftwork for the tourist
trade (Kersey 1975:43) as their market was not yet formulated and their main
energy was expended towards subsistence. Seminole Agent Spencer (U.S. Dept.
of the Interior 1918:6) noted:
The cause for the lack of progress among these Indians is and
has been, a lack of a dependable source for subsistence. Their
problem of securing food and clothing has heretofore taken all
their time and left them no opportunity for mental development.
At the tourist attractions of Miami, economic incentives and the generous
quantities of leisure time allowed the women, and to a lesser but signifi-
cant extent, the men, to create craft items for sale. Coppinger's supplied
the Indians with yard goods (James 1980). In the early years, crafts were
sold by the Indians from their chickees. Crafts being sold in 1918 were:
palmetto fiber dolls and miniature cypress canoes (James 1980). Seminole
clothing had little market at this time, but could be ordered. A Seminole
craft shop was opened at Coppinger's in 1922 to accommodate the crafts that
the Indians had made in the off-season months (Miami Herald 1922a). Musa
Isle also had a craft shop by 1922. There was a standard 100% markup on all
crafts at the shop (Davis 1980).
During the 1930's, the craft of manufacturing "tom-toms" was introduced
at Musa Isle by an Indian from Arizona (Ibid 1980). He instructed the Florida
natives on how to paint Southwestern Indian motifs and portraits on the drums.
Davis obtained green calf skins and cured them into rawhide for the drum heads.
The drums were a major seller. Buffalo Tiger and "the Tiger boys" were the
main artists for this project (Fig. 2). Additional exotic crafts were intro-
duced at Musa Isle in 1932 by the wife of the new operator of the attraction,
Nellie Campbell, who introduced the concept of "peace pipes" made from the
large stand of bamboo growing on the attraction property. Mrs. Campbell also
created an interest in developing new forms of beadwork (Campbell 1981).
The tourist attraction even aided those Seminoles not employed at the
attractions by purchasing their crafts. Petty cash disbursements from Musa
Isle for March 28 and 30, 1932, record purchases made from Indians not in
residence at the attraction: Annie Tommie, Mrs. Sam Tommie, and Mrs. Ben
Frank (Dade County Records 1932). As these persons were associated with the
Dania Reservation, it is possible that they may have come from Dania speci-
fically to sell their crafts at Musa Isle.
Figure 1. Buffalo Tiger, Musa Isle, ca. 1937.
Photographer: Florence I. Randle,
An additional benefit of tourist attraction life for numerous Mikasuki
Seminoles were trips to northern cities for exhibitions, state,and world
fairs, and related activities. Although such events were not sponsored by
the Miami tourist attractions, many of their employees, such as Henry
Coppinger, Jr., Phil James, and Allan Davis, were involved in setting up the
trips. Henry Coppinger appears to have pioneered the practice, taking 23
Seminoles to Toronto, Canada in 1931 (The Mail and Empire 1931; Coppinger
1975). These events, in which the Seminoles participated in engagements
lasting from two weeks to six months, were probably significant educational
experiences. Traveling across the United States and experiencing new climates
and new surroundings were,doubtless, unforgettable experiences in the lives
of those participants. Additional benefits from such trips were monetary,
as salaries were considerably greater than in the Miami camps (Davis 1980).
The Mikasuki Seminoles adhered to traditional customs while in residence
at the tourist attractions. The continuance of such behavior illustrates
that the tourist attraction camps were as vital a setting as any Everglades
Indian camp, regarding courtships, births, deaths, and council decisions.
The customs regarding the preparation of food contributed towards the
distinctive village arrangement at Musa Isle. Under normal situations, a
visiting family would eat with the woman's clan members (Spoehr 1941:143).
During large gatherings, such as the Corn Dance, each clan has their own
designated area in which to camp and prepare food. However, in the tourist
attraction, with families coming and going, different clans were represented.
As a result, two designated cooking chickees were erected in the center of
Musa Isle Village (Davis 1980). At Coppinger's, there were individual camp-
fire areas maintained (James 1980).
Children who were born during the tourist season at Musa Isle were de-
livered in a four-acre undeveloped area to the west of the Village. A canvas
tarp would be erected over four posts for the mother, who was assisted by
one or two women (Davis 1980). In keeping with custom the father could not
see his wife or child for four days, at which time they would reenter the
village. Children were born at Coppinger's in a thatched chickee located
off to one side of the camp area (James 1980).
Deaths and even a tribal execution occurred in the Miami tourist attrac-
tion camps. The events and customs associated with these mortalities were
recorded and have been described by many non-Indian camp employees and the
media (Davis 1980; James 1980; Miami Herald 1922c; Miami News 1939). Despite
the fact that these deaths occurred in tourist attractions, it was still
necessary to protect the camp and its inhabitants from supernatural elements
by the Indian's observance of customary rituals. During periods of mourning,
the inhabitants of the camp, both white and Indian, participated in taking
"medicine" and the attractions closed long enough to complete such procedures
On February 18, 1928, Mrs. Tony (Edna John) Tommie died at Musa Isle
Village of tuberculosis. She was a resident of the camp and her husband
was the head man. A small chickee had been built for her in an undevel-
oped area away from the main camp and curious tourists (Davis 1980). Doubt-
less, this isolated dwelling was representative of the Seminole custom noted
by Skinner (1913:74).
when the Indians residing in a permanent village believe a
man is dying, they will carry him outside the village to die in
a lodge hastily erected for the purpose, and thus avoid the neces-
sity of moving camp to escape misfortune.
Allan Davis recalled that as soon as Mrs. Tommie died:
The men went to their huts and grabbed their guns and
started shooting in the air [Then the] medicine man had to
come in and make medicine, boil roots and so forth and anyone
that had to do with her or about her, had to take a bath in this
medicine and drink it. It tastes more like quinine than anything
else. Awfullest tasting stuff I've ever had.
Sturtevant (1955:342) commented on the importance of such medicine to
the well being of the camp:
These medical procedures serve to prevent the soul from returning
to camp from lonesomeness, and taking the soul of a relative with
it when it leaves.
Edna John Tommie was buried the day she died at Woodlawn Park Cemetery
(Miami Herald 1928b) with all of her personal effects (Miami Herald 1928a).
The Seminoles at Musa Isle continued customary observances in the privacy
of the undeveloped area west of the village. A Herald article noted that:
some distance from the village the Indians conducted cere-
monies throughout the day and into the night except for the brief
interval of the burial. Tony Tommie and other relatives of Edna
John will remain in mourning four days following the Seminole
custom. The leader plans to leave today for some point in the
Everglades to mourn alone (Ibid 1928a).
Another article observed:
Probably the last act of Tony Tommie before his departure into
the Everglades was to fire a gun four times, once south, once
east, once west, and once north. This ceremony completed he
tied a gun to a tree and left it (Miami Herald 1928b).
Sturtevant's (1955:339) informants discussed the subject of gunfire used
ceremonially in conjunction with a death in camp. A situation similar to
the one above was described. Another informant stated that the gunfire
to scare away the soul or hurry it along its way to the west.
Other members of the camp continued mourning customs such as pouring water
(probably medicine) on their heads and bodies, which would protect the camp
from the soul of the woman (Miami Herald 1928b).
Mourning customs were observed in detail at the death of the popular
Jack Tigertail, March 8, 1922, at Coppinger's Tropical Garden. (Tigertail
had been shot to death. His murder was attributed to a non-Indian in a well
publicized trial, but allegedly, the murder was committed by another Indian
over a personal conflict [Anonymous sources].) The village observed a period
of silence as a sign of distress over his death. A Miami Herald (1922b)
Not a word was spoken and the silent figures, from the oldest
squaw to the youngest child, kept the silence for hours.
Fires were started and were kept smouldering with green wood so that
the spirit of Jack Tigertail would not return. Tigertail's wife and children
removed their belongings from their chickee and moved to a chickee in another
part of the camp.
In her new abode, at the rear of the square elevated floor, she
partitioned off a small space, of about three by six feet, and
placed about it a substance similar to a mosquito bar. She re-
moved from her neck the long strings of beads. Her hair
had been 'done up' on the top of her head but now she arranged
it so that it laid over her shoulders. She donned a dress of
blue and black and went into seclusion behind the screen,
where she shall 'sleep' for the next four days, or as long as
the fires smoulder in the camp. During the next four days, she
will not leave her seclusion, will eat but very little and will
converse with no one. At the end of the four day period Mrs.
Tigertail will come from her place of hiding, and with her hair
still streaming down her back, and without the beads, will resume
the usual activities of the camp. She will remain a widow for at
least three years, and during that time will not upon any occasion
again 'do her hair up'.
Other women in the camp also went into mourning by undoing
their hair on the top of their heads. They retained possession
of the beads, however (Ibid 1922b).
Tigertail was so popularly admired by the white community that they
asked and received permission to bury him. Interred with him was his rifle,
a box containing all of his possessions: cooking utensils, an old flashlight,
pieces of leather, buckles, knives, mirrors, small pieces of iron, beads and
other miscellaneous items (Miami Herald 1922c). There is no mention of these
items being "broken" which was the usual procedure (Sturtevant 1955:339,345).
Also, unclear is the type of leather included in the burial. Was this cow-
hide leather or buckskin? Buckskin was not traditionally interred with the
dead as it was feared that all the deer would go with the dead person (Ibid
The death of Tigertail marked the first such event in a tourist attrac-
tion. It was feared that the Indians, in keeping with assumed custom, might
vacate the attraction. Doubtless, special customs were observed to assure
that the camp would be safe, such as washing in medicine for four months and
perhaps burning bay (Ibid 1955:353), but the Indians stayed, saying that they
were "satisfied" (Miami Herald 1922d). The Herald, it should be noted, solic-
ited funds to provide for Mrs. Tigertail and her children and by March 31,
1922, they had accumulated over $1,500.00 (Ibid 1922e).
The data included in the previous passages relating Mikasuki Seminole
customs, conforms explicit to anthropological data collected by William C.
Sturtevant (1955). The following customs which surrounded a decreed execu-
tion, however, have not been so documented.
An execution, authorized by the tribal council, took nlae aL Muin Iel-
February 24, 1938. The victim was John Billie, 30 years old, who had been
condemned at the Corn Dance ceremonies for two murders. Billie chose to keep
his life by staying away from the Everglades. He thought himself safe in
Miami, but eventually he assaulted two women. The elderly father of one of
the women, John Osceola, met with a hastily called council and was granted
permission to carry out the execution immediately. Louis Capron (1953:197)
stated that during the previous trials Billie had been "turned over to the
Tiger clan for disposal". John Osceola was a member of that clan.
Osceola was driven in a truck by his son from his camp at Coppinger's.
Upon reaching Musa Isle, Osceola's son called out Billie's name, and with
Billie fully cognizant of what was about to happen, John Osceola shot him
with a sixteen gauge shotgun (Miami News 1938c). Charles Hamilton, who ran
the souvenir shop at Coppinger's observed that:
The Indians, solemnly paraded about the spot [where John Billie
had fallen] with smoking green branches of trees. This was to
drive away the spirit of Johnny Billy (Miami News 1938e).
Driving back to his hut, Chief Osceola, seated cross legged
before his hut with his gun across his knees and a pipe in his
mouth, informed his tribesmen what he had done. They filed by
him to shake his hand and gave him money, which the chief
deposited in a tin can on the ground beside him (Ibid 1938a).
The News (1938b) further related:
Under the Seminole custom, Chief Osceola must sit for three
days after the killing. During this time those who are his
friends must bring him gifts. Those who fail to appear auto-
matically become his enemies.
The police arrived at Coppinger's and John Osceola was taken into custody,
which surprised Osceola. He was later released in the custody of his lawyer,
O. B. White. The News (Ibid) stated that before Osceola was taken to police
headquarters, he had received between $25 and $30 in offerings from his friends.
The night of March 3, before his hearing, Charles Hamilton said that
Osceola was up all night making medicine.
This was a brew of certain green leaves, kept in motion while
boiling by one of the Indians who brew down a piece of bamboo
into the fluid. [The medicine was probably made by medicine man,
Josie Billie.] Next morning, all of the Indians washed in it
March 4, 1938, the hearing took place before the justice of the peace.
Josie Billie acted as interpreter (Ibid 1938d). The Miami News (1938c) re-
Perhaps the strongest defense witnesses for Chief Osceola will
be John Billy's own kinsmen, who, it is said, will testify the
death sentence was submitted by them and they had given their
Attorney O. B. White, who represented Chief Osceola, told the
court that the two Seminole [women] who had been attacked by
Johnnie Billie could not be brought into court to testify
because their moral code does not allow them to speak in the
presence of white men (Ibid 1938e).
The coroner's jury held the shooting of John Billie by John Osceola justified,
after ten minutes deliberation. At noon, March 5, John Osceola broke a two
day fast, and the Seminoles began a feast which lasted several days (Ibid 1938d)
Not everyone, however, was in agreement with the way the dominant culture
accepted this display of tribal justice. Seminole Agent F. J. Scott, in
correspondence with the Miami Chief of Police Guigg, prior to the inquest,
said in excerpts printed in the Miami Herald (1938).
In any man's land a murder is a murder, and cannot be condoned
when it is premediated, cold blooded murder .and I know of
no good reason why a law of the land should not prevail in this
Insofar as tribal approval of such an offense is concerned,
it can readily be seen how such an offense could be condoned
by the members of the Seminole tribe who might be sympathetic,
but mere tribal approval of the offense should not operate to
appease the white man's law. .
When any Indian leaves a government reservation set aside for his
exclusive use and makes his home in any civilized community he
immediately becomes subject to all of the laws of that community
regardless of what his tribal customs and practices might have
It is not understood how we can teach the Seminoles to respect and
obey the laws of the communities in which they reside if major crimes
committed in those communities are to be overlooked on the theory
that the crime was committed in accordance with an ancient tribal
The tourist camp Seminoles were often featured in special local events.
Allan Davis escorted delegations of Seminoles to uncountable openings, and
marched with them in numerous parades on Flagler Street. The Seminoles were
often part of the infield of Hialeah Race Park track. They were on hand to
meet the first passenger ship from the Clyde Line on her inaugural entry into
the Miami Harbor, November 11, 1929 (Miami Herald 1929). The Indians took
a blimp ride in the Goodyear dirigible "Defender" in December, 1929, and
they met the American Clipper seaplane at Dinner Key, October 24, 1931.
The City of Miami promoted both Coppinger's and Musa Isle by taking
notable guests of the City to the attractions. A "greeting" ceremony was
usually staged at the attraction upon their arrival.
Margaret Lasher, wife of Musa Isle operator Bert Lasher (1922-1932),
was responsible for the spectacular publicity events at that attraction, such
as staged Indian weddings and contests. One such wedding was that of Tony
Tommie and Edna John (Fig. 3). The Miami News (1926) described the event,
staged before a capacity crowd at Musa Isle in June, 1926.
They crashed delightedly through huts in the Indian Village in the
rush to get a good view of the ceremony. They knocked over
kettles and stepped in frying pans and were blithly happy. Some
even climbed to the trembly palmetto thatched roofs of the pool
shelters and stabbed their feet into the dry spread leaves. But
it was worth all that to see (Miami News 1926).
John Osceola performed the ceremony. The crowd flung coins and bills
to the bridal pair. The festivities at the attraction provided visitors with
a taste of Seminole fry bread and coffee (Davis 1980). Dances from the Green
Corn Dance were led by Cory Osceola. There were also alligator wrestling
contests, canoe racing and archery contests. However, according to Davis,
the couple had been married prior to the public "ceremony".
James L. Glenn, former Seminole Agent, (Undated Ms:83,85-6), described
the Indian "weddings" this way:
This is neither Indian nor a wedding, and the people of Miami
know it and even some of the tourists know it. One Indian boy
was married so often that too many of the tourists came to
remember that, 'That's the boy they married off last year.'
Since the Indian girl is most attractive between the ages of
fifteen and twenty, the 'bride' must be taken from this age
group, but the Indian boy is still in the gosling state until
after he is twenty, so the 'groom' must be considerably older.
He often is a man with a wife and several children, but he is at
his prime and is supposed to know enough acting to play this farce
through to the end.
As the time draws near the buses from downtown pour out excited
and strange people from every part of the nation, and from every
social strata of life. The stage has been well set, the show is
already going strong. The cash register sings its wildest sym-
phony. The packed throngs wait in eagerness for the curtain to
rise, only there is no curtain. The 'medicine man', who here is
acting, leads [this] riotiously dressed Indian man and girl before
the crowd. In the name of matrimony he invokes a solemn pledge
from each, only the girl may be giggling in the meantime. And
then to ascend to the seventh heaven of pure, undiluted farce the
'groom' wraps his arm about the 'bride' and plants a pair of
saliva coated lips on her face. They both shudder, and she grabs
her dress or cape and wipes away the residue of this filthy habit.
The gifts from the stores of Miami are handed over to the 'new
bride and groom', and for days the Indians chuckle over what fools
these tourists really are. They also wonder about that something
man has called FRAUD. The more thoughtful say, 'May be so alright
for white man, no good for Indian.'
Figure 3. Capacity crowd at Musa Isle views the wedding of headman
Tony M. B. Tommie and Edna John. June, 1926. Photo-
grapher: Gleason Waite Romer. Romer Collection, #9c,
Miami Public Library.
The tourist attractions of Musa Isle and Coppinger's Tropical Gardens
were not condoned by the Seminole Agency officials and church and civic
organizations involved in Seminole welfare. A Federal survey was made of
the Seminoles in 1930 by Special Agent, Roy Nash (1931). The Nash report,
which became a Senate Document, contains valuable data on the Florida
Seminole Indians. It was, however, extremely biased in its negative out-
look towards the tourist attractions and the Indians who sought such employ-
ment. In this report, the two Miami tourist attractions and a third attrac-
tion which opened briefly on Treasure Island in St. Petersburg (Hull 1980),
were condemned for their employment of Seminoles for exhibition purposes.
These places point the road to stagnation and death. .
Earning one's living in competition with rattlesnakes and
alligators leads nowhere (Nash 1931:81).
Nash's recommendation concerning the future of these attractions was:
That inasmuch as the obnoxious commercial villages have been
organized in more than one Florida city, the Florida legislature
should be asked for a law 'making it a misdemeanor to harbor
these Indians for amusement purposes,'. (Ibid 1931:85-86).
Nash's strongest case against the two Miami attractions were reports of
two Federal contract doctors in Miami and Ft. Myers, who administered to the
medical needs of the Indians in their jurisdiction. The doctors claimed that
all cases of social diseases treated in 1930 could be traced back to Musa
Isle and Coppinger's as the source of infection (Ibid 1931:45). Nash, in
his zeal to close down the attractions, wrote to Miami Mayor C. H. Reeder,
November 1, 1930, suggesting that on the basis of his research:
It would be a splendid thing if the City of Miami would prohibit
Indian villages for show purposes within her borders (Ibid 1931:44).
The Miami City Commissioner, however:
were of the opinion that the camps were assets to the city
and beneficial to the Indians because they provided them with
trading posts for the furs and skins they obtained in the Ever-
glades (Ibid 1931:45; Miami Herald 1930).
Miami City Commissioner, E. G. Sewell praised the Musa Isle camp as historical
as well as an attraction for winter visitors (Miami Herald 1930). Martha
Lasher and Cory Osceola of Musa Isle protested Nash's accusations before the
Commission. Allan Davis gave this reaction to Nash's report:
Well, I felt just like the Seminoles did--it went in one ear
and out the other. That was their way of life. I wasn't
trying to change it, they didn't want to be changed and their
camps in the Glades were the same way--we did keep Musa Isle
more sanitary than the ones in the Glades (1980).
The Nash report appears to have had significant impact on formulating
future Agency policy in regard to the Indians' involvement in the tourist
attractions, as ten years later the same unyielding outlook was maintained
(Federal Writer's Project 1941). It is unfortunate that those agents did not
attempt to review the situation themselves in a more realistic and workable
light. It is also a possibility that the ill feelings generated by those
agents against the Indians in tourist attractions, served to complete the
alienation of many Mikasuki Seminoles from being responsive to governmental
In 1930, the Rev. James L. Glenn was recommended by Roy Nash to fill the
position of Seminole Agent (Glenn 1976:1). Glenn too, was adamant in his
wholesale disapproval of the Seminoles' tourist attraction involvement, graph-
ically described in his annual reports and personal papers:
To see the proud, and daring warrior reduced to the pit of
the monkey, the bear, the snake, the alligator, and other
strange and forgotten creatures of the earth is most pathetic,
and assuredly is an injustice which the race, in its adjust-
ment to the larger resources of more cultured people, ought
never, never to be allowed to suffer (U.S. Dept. of the
Like other showmen they find that there is profit in humbuggingg'
the public with exaggerations, distortions, and misrepresentations.
Such a life is not hopeful for the future welfare of the tribe
(U.S. Dept. of the Interior 1932:10).
The Agency had indirect grievences with the Miami tourist attractions
because of some of the Agency's programs. The Indian Service paid for medical
aid to all Florida Seminole Indians, on the reservation and off. Therefore
the tourist attraction employees were eligible and received such care. In
1930, Nash (1931:84) recommended:
That the Government discontinue paying the doctor's bills for
Indians making their living in commercial amusement camps.
Additionally, several reservation families were periodically employed as
little as one day a week at the tourist attractions. As residents of the
reservation, they received rations. Nash had suggested cutting off all
rations for Indians who accepted this "demoralizing" employment (Nash 1931:
In 1932, Deaconess Harriet M. Bedell, an Episcopalian missionary who had
years of experience among Native Americans in Oklahoma and Alaska (Hartley
and Hartley 1963), came to South Florida on a speaking engagement. While
in Miami, she was taken to the tourist attractions, where her attempts
to communicate with the Indians was met with rebuff.
I found the Indians very unresponsive and no interest was shown
in my being a friend of the Indian (Bedell Collection 1933).
Set aback by the attitude of the Seminoles in the tourist attraction,
the Deaconess became determined to aid these Indians so that they would not
have to seek tourist attraction employment. Deaconess Bedell's slogan through-
out her twenty-seven years with the Mikasuki Seminoles was: "exhibit arts
and crafts, not people!" (Bedell Collection 1941). Nixon Smiley, former
writer for the Miami Herald, made the following observation on the Deaconess'
work with the Seminole:
Her failure to stop the exhibition of Indians by whites as tourist
attractions bothered her almost as much as her failure to Chris-
tianize them (Smiley 1974:240).
Civic organizations involved in Seminole welfare projects were often
influenced against the tourist attraction lifestyle by such guest lecturers
as Deaconess Bedell (Bedell Collection 1933). The feelings of such groups
in the 1930's is best summed up in the following statement:
Commercial camps, operated by whites, are deplored by all who
work sincerely for the benefit of the Seminole; the effect of
liquor is degrading; the diseases of the white race have made
their appearance among the Indians; there are some mixed-blood
children and there is some immorality (Federal Writers'
The attitude expressed above reflected the pervasive idea that the only
"proper" place for the Seminoles was under the Agency's protective wing,
learning those things and performing those tasks in the prescribed manner
which the Agency thought would serve the Indian best in the future. In
keeping with such theory, those Indians who went along with the establish-
ment were considered "good" and those Indians who frequented the tourist
attractions were labeled "undesirable". Agent Dwight Gardin, provided the
following information for inclusion in a WPA publication (Ibid 1941:38).
Life in the tourist centers, or in commercial camps owned and
operated by white men, has not had a beneficial effect on the
Seminole. During the past ten years, those so engaged have be-
come more indolent, with a growing contempt for the white people
who pay to see them.
The Indians engaged in the business of commercializing their
race, are as a rule of the poorest type, often lazy outcasts and
renegades from the tribe. They are looked upon with contempt by
the higher type of Seminoles of the reservations and primitive
camps, who have little or no contact with tourists.
It would appear from the above statement that Gardin had established
little contact with the Indians in the Miami tourist attractions, or he would
have been aware that many persons associated with the tourist attractions were
members of highly respected families, and certainly not "lazy outcasts" or
Observers of Mikasuki Seminole culture in the 1930's were anxious to
relate the effects of acculturation on the Indians. Some believed that the
Indians were loosing their native ways. Others noted that the Indians were
acculturating the wrong elements of the dominant culture. Whatever theory
was voiced, the tourist attraction was undoubtedly the scapegoat for any of
the altered or forgotten Seminole folkways.
It is this author's opinion that the Indian families who were the most
active in the tourist attractions, were (and continued to be) among the most
traditionally oriented Indians in Florida, and their families continue to
uphold a traditional, yet progressive, lifestyle. Some of the most notable
Indians involved in the tourist camps and exhibitions were Josie Billie, a
highly regarded medicine man, Cory Osceola,who was head man at Musa Isle
by 1930, and who became an active leader through the 1950's representing Micco-
sukee land claims and Indian rights, and Buffalo Tiger, who as a boy con-
structed crafts at Musa Isle and is presently chairman of the Miccosukee
Tribe of Florida, Inc.
In reviewing the opposition to the tourist attractions, it is interesting
to note that the Seminole Indian Agency had no economic programs for the In-
dians previous to 1922 (the tourist attractions had begun as early as 1917-18).
By 1930 (Nash 1931:39) programs for Indian laborers were available on the
reservations, but such employment was not comparable to tourist attraction
employment which was more suited to the Indians' lifestyle. Additionally,
the reservations did not have a craft outlet until 1940, when one was initiated
on the Hendry County Reservation (U.S. Dept. of Interior 1966:21), a location
far away from the Mikasuki Seminoles' habitat.
While the Seminole Indian Agency characterized life in the tourist camps
as "demeaning" and "demoralizing", the commercialized lifestyle of the Mika-
suki Seminoles appears to have been "degrading" only to certain outsiders.
During this author's discussions with various members of those Mikasuki Sem-
inole families that participated in such employment, they indicated no nega-
tive feelings or opinions whatsoever about their experiences (West 1973).
An indication of the positive atmosphere that existed in the attractions
between the Indians and the whites is suggested by the many Indian children
who were named for attraction operators, employees and associates (Miami
Herald 1965, 1969; Davis 1980). This practice was doubltess a carry-over
from the trading post era, when children were named for post operators
There appears to have been a genuine fear of the federal Indian agency
by a majority of Mikasuki Seminoles. There was little to be found at the
agency which was compatible with their ways: frame buildings, beds, shirts
and trousers, shoes, schoolroom education, eight-hour work days--and the
general fear that the agency personnel would try to make them "white".
As a result of their tourist attraction experience, many attraction
employees set up small villages along the Tamiami Trail which doubled as
tourist attractions and craft shops. Many such businesses are still in
existence and new ones have been established. Several are significant and
large profitmakers, run by the offspring of tourist attraction families.
The Mikasuki Seminoles benefited substantially from their tourist
attraction involvement. The development of successful economic patterns
and assimilation appear to be the key benefits gleaned from this experience.
Despite condemnation by many whites, Indians associated with the attractions
were apparently content and did not see the experience as being a negative
one. In retrospect, the Miami tourist attractions, specifically Coppinger's
Tropical Garden and Musa Isle, were an important transitional environment
for the Mikasuki Seminoles of Florida.
1918-19 Fort Lauderdale City Directory. The Florida-Piedmont
Directory Company, Asheville, North Carolina.
Burman, Ben Lucien
1956 The Glamour of the Everglades. Reader's Digest,
Campbell, Nellie M.
1981 Telephone interview with author, Pasadena, Texas, January
1953 The Medicine Bundles of the Florida Seminole and the
Green Corn Dance. BAE Anthropological Papers,
Coppinger, Henry, Jr.
1975 Taped interview with author, South Miami, Florida, June
Dade County Chancellory Records
1932 Book 88, Page 105, File 34405-D. Dade County Courthouse.
Davis, Allan W.
1980 Taped interview with author, Gulf Breeze, Florida, January
Dorn, J. K.
1949 Recollections of Early Miami. Tequesta 9:43-49.
Dovell, J. E.
1948 Thomas Elmer Will, Twentieth Century Pioneer. Tequesta
Federal Writers' Project, Works Progress Administration
1941 Seminole Indians In Florida. Department of Agriculture,
Glenn, James L.
1976 Transcript of interview with Dr. James L. Glenn. On file
at the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, October 22-25,
N.D. My Work Among the Florida Seminoles. Manuscript on file
in the James L. Glenn Collection, Fort Lauderdale Historical
Aspects of Social Organization and Material Culture of the
Seminoles of Big Cypress Swamp. The Florida Anthropologist
Hartley, William and Ellen Hartley
1963 A Woman Set Apart. Dodd, Mead, and Co., New York.
Hull, Catherine Welsh
1980 Interview with author, St. Petersburg, Florida, July 9,
Interview with author, Avon Park, Florida, October 24,
Interview with author, Hollywood, Florida, February 16,
Kersey, Harry A., Jr.
1975 Pelts, Plumes, and Hides: White Traders Among the Seminole
Indians, 1870-1930. University Presses of Florida, Gaines-
Mail and Empire
1931 Spectators at C.N.E. Awed As Experts Fight Alligators,
Toronto, Canada, September 1, 1931.
1917a Miami Party Are Still in Everglades, March 1, 1917.
1917b Fifteen Days King's Party Now Past Due, March 11, 1917.
1922a Picturesque Tropical Gardens Invite Visitors to Gaze on
Native Florida, January 22, 1922.
1922b Seminoles Keep Fires Burning, March 9, 1922.
1922c Lone Seminole Sees Slain Chief Buried by Palefaces and
Grunts Tribe's Approval, March 10, 1922.
1922d Seminoles Planning to Stay in Village on Edge of 'Glades,
March 15, 1922.
1922e Tigertail Fund, March 31, 1922.
1928a Indian Buried in White Cemetery--Edna John Tommy, Wife of
Seminole Leader Dies of Long Sickness, February 18, 1928.
1928b Tony Tommy Grieves Alone in Everglades--Seminole Leader
Disappears After Death of Wife, February 19, 1928.
1929 Indians Meet First Clyde Liner Coming Here, July 28, 1929.
1930 Commission to View Seminole Villages--Musa Isle Operator
and Indian Protest Statement Alleging Spread of Disease,
November 11, 1930.
1938 Police See Law Appeased by Verdict in Osceola Case, March 6,
1965 November 2, 1965.
1967 Irishman First Gator Wrestler, by Nixon Smiley, February 26,
1969 Henry Bert: An Indian with Ties to Two Different Worlds,
by Nixon Smiley, March 16, 1969.
"He Man" Fever Spreads Fast At Indian Wedding Ceremony,
by Norma Davis. June 5, 1926.
Indian Ruler Claims Victim Beat Daughter, February 24, 1938.
Osceola Awaits Verdict of Tribesmen In Slaying, February
Seminole & Paleface Laws Clash--Execution of Johnny Billie
Decreed by Tribal Council--Indian Court Members Will Testify
In Defense of Patriarch, March 2, 1938.
1938d Jury Says 'Justifiable Homicide After Brief Deliberation',
March 4, 1983.
1938e Seminoles Feast To Celebrate Acquittal of Chief Osceola,
March 6, 1938.
1931 Survey of the Seminole Indians of Florida. Senate Document
314, 71st Cong., 1st Session.
Osceola, Pete, Sr.
1980 Interview with author, Naples, Florida, November 2, 1980.
Redman, Virginia Roop
1980 Taped interview with author, Miami Shores, Florida, February
1913 Notes on the Florida Seminole. American Anthropologist
1974 Yesterday's Florida. E. A. Seamann, Miami, Florida.
1944 The Florida Seminole Camp. Anthropological Series, Chicago:
Field Museum of Natural History 33(3):121-149.
Sturtevant, William C.
1955 The Mikasuki Seminole: Medical Beliefs and Practices. Ph.D.
Dissertation on file at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
1956 A Seminole Personal Document. Tequesta 16:55-75.
Tebeau, Charlton W.
1957 Florida's Last Frontier: The History of Collier County.
University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
United States Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs
1918 Annual Report. Narrative Section, Seminole Agency, Dania,
Florida. Prepared by Lucien Spencer, Special Commissioner.
1932 Annual Report. Narrative Section, Seminole Agency, Dania,
Florida. Prepared by James L. Glenn, Special Commissioner.
1933 Annual Report. Narrative Section, Seminole Agency, Dania,
Florida. Prepared by James L. Glenn, Special Commissioner.
United States Department of the Interior
1966 Indian Arts and Crafts Board Seminole Craft Center: 1940-1965.
Smoke Signals 47-48(Winter/Spring):21-25.
West, Ethel Freeman
1980 Interview with author, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, February 16,
West, Everett G.
1980 Interview with author, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, February 16,
1973 Unpublished notes relating to Mikasuki Seminole tourist
attraction involvement. On file with author.
Willoughly, Hugh L.
1898 Across the Everglades: A Canoe Journey of Exploration.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott.
COPPINGER'S TROPICAL GARDENS: THE FIRST
COMMERCIAL INDIAN VILLAGE
The tourists who came to Miami wanted to see Seminole Indians, and Henry
Coppinger gave them what they wanted. In 1914 (Coppinger 1981), he opened
Coppinger's Tropical Gardens, Alligator Farm, and Seminole Indian Village
on the south bank of the Miami River at 19th Avenue (Fig. 1). The exotic
setting of lush tropical foliage and stately Royal Palms housed hundreds of
alligators, crocodiles, monkeys, and a village of several Indian families.
There was a fruit drink stand and a "curio" shop, which sold many "Indian"
souvenirs that were admittedly imported from Mexico, as well as genuine arts
and crafts made by the Indians living in the camp. It was a very popular
tourist attraction during the 1920's-1940's.
Henry Coppinger was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1848, and emigrated to
America in 1866. In 1883, he moved to Orlando, Florida, where he lived for
15 years. He and his wife, Marie, came to Miami in 1898 by wagon, cutting
their trail for two weeks, as there was no road. They raised two daughters
and five sons. Henry remained in Miami until his death in 1924, two years
before the hurricane which devastated his tropical gardens.
Francis "Sonny" Coppinger and his sister, Mary Alice, are the only two
surviving Coppinger children. Mr. Coppinger talks with pride about the role
of Coppinger's Tropical Gardens in the development of the Miami tourist in-
dustry, and about the first Indian village opened to Miami visitors. He
vividly recalls his childhood, spent with his family and Indian families,
and his career as an alligator wrestler.
He recounts that his father bought his land along the Miami River from
Maude Brickell. The Brickell family owned all of the land along the river to
Biscayne Bay. The first site Henry selected was too rocky for growing exotic
plants and fruit trees, so in 1912 he traded it for the ten acres next to it.
There were Indians camped on the Coppinger land and across the river. The
combined number of Indians living on both sides of the river was about 100
Since most of the tourists who came to Miami expressed a desire to see
Seminole Indians, it gave Henry an idea. A road was along what is now North-
west 7th Street, but there was not a road to the Coppinger land. With a mule
and wagon, Henry built a road to the entrance of his property. He let the
Indians stay and added more chickees. In 1914, he opened the gardens to the
public and charged a fee for people to visit the gardens and Seminole Indian
At first Coppinger did not pay the Indians to stay there because he
bought and sold everything they made in the curio shop. Some Indian families
came from remote camps in Big Cypress and the Everglades, and they would stay
VOL. 34 NO. 4
Figure 1. Entrance to Coppinger's Tropical Gardens, ca. 1930's.
in the village or leave as they pleased. The families made the 40-80 mile
trip by canoes, bringing the whole family and everything they owned in one
The Indians brought alligators and other animals and began building
cages for them. Soon the alligator and the animal farm became another pop-
ular attraction. Baby alligators were unusual souvenirs from Florida, and
the Coppinger family bought them from the Indians for 25 cents each. Alliga-
tor eggs were 10 cents each. The Indians also brought mulch. The eggs were
covered by mulch in boxes in the sun and soon hatched.
The large 8-10 foot alligator hides the Indian men brought were sold to
tanning factories in the North. Smaller hides were made into lamps. The
COPPINGER'S TROPICAL GARDENS
Coppinger and Indian families often worked until two or three o'clock in
the morning, stuffing alligator hides, getting them ready for the next day
when they would sell the lamps as fast as they could make them. They would
run a wire through the body, straight or curled up, and stuff them with saw-
dust. The lamps sold for about $25.00 apiece. The Coppingers bought thou-
sands of hides from the Indians.
Eighteen year old Henry Coppinger, Jr., became the first alligator
wrestler in 1918. Soon his brothers, Jack and Sonny, began wrestling alli-
gators for tourist entertainment too. It was Henry, Jr.,who taught the
Indians how to wrestle the large reptiles, starting first with small alliga-
tors and working their way up to grappling 7-9 foot alligators.
Jack Tigertail was "Chief" of the Indians at the Coppinger village.
Sonny described him as an unusually big man. He was the model for road signs
that pointed the way to the Miami suburb of Hialeah, signs shaped like a large
Indian man with his arm outstretched and pointing. The figure was painted
wearing a colorful big shirt with a long skirt. Jack was shot and killed by
another Indian as he patrolled the Coppinger village one night in 1922. The
Coppingers raised a marker on the spot where he was killed. Jack was the
first Indian buried in a white man's cemetery in Miami, in the City of Miami
Sonny Coppinger recalls seeing numerous Indian burials along the Miami
River. When an Indian died, the body was placed in a canoe that had been
cut, and the canoe was put in a tree. The Indian was buried with all of his
belongings, and if he owned a dog, the dog was killed and buried with him.
One such burial was across the river from Coppinger's.
After Mr. Coppinger died, Mrs. Coppinger and their sons operated the
tourist attraction. The 1926 hurricane did such extensive damage to the
gardens and Indian village, that the Coppingers had to close the business
for repairs for two years. The Indian families went back to the Everglades
or to another commercial village, Musa Isle.
The attraction reopened in 1928. The Indian men carved totem poles for
the new village. "They always carved poles, but they didn't paint them. We
had to paint them," Sonny Coppinger said. They also carved miniature canoes
and toy bows and arrows for sale to the tourists. The women were busy making
dolls, doing beadwork and sewing. The Coppingers bought boxes of beads for
the Indians' use, and Mrs. Coppinger supplied sewing machines, hand cranked
Singer, White and Franklin machines. If an Indian family left the camp, they
would always return the sewing machines to the Coppingers.
The Indian families cleaned and raked their village, and the Coppingers
provided food and medical attention for the people. Dr. John Dupuis was
their doctor. Mr. Coppinger can remember his mother's concern for the Indian
people in the camp. "I can remember her getting up several times in the night
to take medicine to sick Indians" he said. "One Indian, Shirt Tail Charley,
was nearly dead when he came up the river in his canoe to the camp. My mother
took care of him, gave him his medicine. One morning we woke up and Shirt
Tail Charley and his canoe were gone." Apparently he made a full recovery,
because two years later he returned to Coppinger's camp.
Commercial exhibition Indian villages in Miami became the target of much
criticism in the 1930's, from such people as Roy Nash, Special Commissioner
of the Indian Field Service (Nash 1931; Miami Herald 1930), Episcopal mis-
sionary Deaconess Harriet Bedell, and members of the Dade County Federation
of Women's Clubs. Critics alleged that the village owners were exploiting
the Indian people and encouraged a lack of independence. "Exhibit arts and
crafts and not people!" exclaimed Deaconess Bedell (Bedell undated). They
also levelled charges of health and sanitation hazards. Although there was
justification for some of the charges, it was found that most were exagger-
ated, and the villages continued to operate.
The commercial villages actually served a need for Florida Indian people
with few alternatives for survival. The situation of the Florida Indian
people had become critical, as they once more were experiencing extreme
changes in their way of life. In the years following the wars of Indian
removal, the people went from a subsistence economy, living off of the
abundant supply of fish, game and small gardens, to a trading economy de-
pendent on the sale of hides and exotic bird plumes. Soon the Indian people
were left with little source of income because of the dwindling natural re-
sources due to the drainage of the Everglades, short supply of game, and laws
forbidding the taking of bird plumes. The people were now dependent on trade
stores, but could no longer afford goods.
The Indian people who had settled in the Everglades were again disturbed
when the new road, Tamiami Trail, was completed in 1928. The road connected
Miami with Naples and Tampa on the west coast of Florida. It caused further
drastic changes in Everglades ecology, cutting off the natural flow of water
which caused seasonal drought in the area south of the new road. White
hunters and fishermen had easier access to the Indian supply of fish and
game, so food supplies became more scarce. Unprotected and actually not
wanting aid, Florida's "unconquered Seminoles" became "Florida's Forgotten
Man", declared a Miami Daily News article of 1934 (Warren 1934:3).
Commercial exhibition Indian villages became a necessary way of life for
the Indian families who made their homes there. Families could live tempor-
arily at such villages as Coppinger's or Musa Isle, staying for several months
while they earned some money, their groceries were supplied, and they were
near necessary medical help. They would return to their wilderness camps
for several more months, if hunting and fishing supplied adequate food.
Many families, such as the families of William McKinley Osceola and the
Tigers, lived in both Coppinger's and Musa Isle. Howard Osceola recalls
that his father, William McKinley Osceola, was often sick and unable to hunt
(Osceola 1981). The family would come to a village in town, where they were
given groceries and medical attention. Howard, now in his fifties, liked
living in the villages and did not mind tourist stares. He said, "We were
just kids, out playing with lots of friends around, and didn't mind the
tourists. Maybe the grown-ups didn't like it, but we were having fun and it
didn't bother us."
There were many divorced women with children who lived in the commercial
villages. Howard has said, "Some of the women had no choice." Acculturation
had caused a breakdown in the matrilineal camp system, and some single women
with children no longer had the security of an extended family to care for
them. "Those women had no other way to get groceries for themselves and their
children. They would stay there, sew and get a little money saved up, then go
back to the swamps again. For about a year, you wouldn't see them. Then they
would come back again."
COPPINGER'S TROPICAL GARDENS
Figure 2. Cooking chickee at Coppinger's Village,
Figure 3. Seminole Indian women sewing at Coppinger's village.
Annie (Tiger) Jim also remembers her childhood in commercial villages
with her family, including sisters and brothers Buffalo, Bobby, Tommy, and
Jimmy Tiger (Jim 1981). She has pleasant memories of the villages and en-
joyed being in town, where she was near stores. Annie is also in her fifties,
and still sewing patchwork clothing for sale. Her family has been photo-
graphed at Coppinger's many times and also lived at Musa Isle. Her mother,
who was at Musa Isle until it closed, had a sewing machine, but "didn't make
such fancy clothes when I was a little girl," Annie has said. "When she got
older, she made fancier clothes. She made $15 a week pay." Annie's mother
did not allow her to use her sewing machine, but when her mother was out of
the village, Annie would sneak a turn on the machine. That is how she learn-
ed to sew.
Bobby Tiger now manages the Miccosukee Indian Cultural Center village
and runs it in much the same way the old exhibition villages were organized.
He also wrestles alligators for tourist entertainment, an "art" he probably
learned as a child growing up at Coppingers.
Coppinger's Tropical Gardens was also known as Coppinger's Pirates Cove
during the thirties and forties. It was a favorite spot for the tourists;
visiting by car, streetcar, bus or boat, during the years of its operation.
Boatloads of tourists would cruise on tour boats up the Miami River, stopping
at the Coppinger dock.
The Coppinger family lost interest in the gardens and alligator wres-
tling after World War II. Few Indian families wanted to stay at the village
as more job opportunities became available, and those who stayed were more
transient than ever. In 1958, the Coppinger's leased and later sold the
attraction after Mrs. Coppinger died. The new owners spent a considerable
amount of money to refurbish the facility and conform to the Miami building
codes. The venture was unsuccessful, as tourist taste had changed and the
attraction was difficult to find after the- Dolphin Expressway bypassed the
entrance. Beleaguered by financial and other problems', the gates to the
gardens and Indian village closed for a final time in 1976.
Coppinger's Tropical Gardens set a precedent for a style of commercial
Indian village which provided a source of income for many dispossessed Florida
Indians. Both the Seminole and Miccosukee Indian tribes still operate this
type of village today. Coppinger's encouraged and influenced Indian arts
and crafts such as patchwork making and woodcarving. Although the Florida
Indians are known for their "art"of alligator wrestling, it was the Coppinger
family who can be blamed or praised for teaching the Indians this unique and
I wish to thank Francis "Sonny" Coppinger, Howard Osceola, Annie Jim,
and James Keegan, Jr., for the time they gave to me for interviews.
Bedell, Deaconess Harriet
Undated Bedell Papers. On file at the Historical Association of
Southern Florida, Miami, Florida.
Coppinger, Francis "Sonny"
1981 Personal interview. January 13, 1981.
Jim, Annie Tiger
COPPINGER'S TROPICAL GARDENS
"Commission to View Seminole Villages", November 11,
"Florida's Seminoles" (reprint of articles). Miami
Daily News, September 15, 1934.
THE SEMINOLES AND THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS
James W. Covington
After October, 1929, the Great Depression began to spread throughout
the whole of America. Industrial production declined by one-half from 1929
to 1933, construction fell even at a greater rate and as a result one-fourth
of the civilian work force was unemployed by 1933. Some unemployed men with
families moved into the homes of more fortunate relatives, many persons went
from door to door selling everything imaginable in order to earn a few dollars
and others became vagrants moving from town to town by railroad freight car
and living in makeshift Hoovervilles. It was an experience that older Amer-
icans have never forgotten.
One of the programs introduced by the Federal Government to help unem-
ployed young men was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) which engaged
young men aged 18 to 25 to work in projects under the direction of Army
officers to restore the forests, improve national parks, control floods,
restore grazing lands, and construct trail roads. The law creating the
CCC was signed on March 31, 1933, and, by the time of its termination in
1942, had employed over 2,000,000 men (Burner, Genovese and McDonald 1980:
556). From all accounts it was one of the better pieces of legislation
passed by the New Deal Congress.
When the Civilian Conservation Corps had been created, officials in
the Office of Indian Affairs recognized that the Indians could play an active
role in providing soil erosion control, restoration of grazing lands,and
flood control projects. Acting under advice of Harold L. Ickes, Secretary
of the Interior, a CCC program for Indians was approved by President Roose-
velt in April, 1933. Robert Fechner, Director of Emergency Conservation
Corps and popularly known as the Civilian Conservation'Corps, announced
that 14,400 Indians would be employed (New York Times, May 1, 1933). How-
ever, there were several basic differences between the original program
and the one announced for the Indians. The Indian program enrolled only
men. They could be men of any age and their work camps would be any size or
form that the superintendent of the agency felt might be suitable. Com-
missioner of Indian Affairs, John Collier, felt that this program would help
the Indians govern themselves, help retain their old culture and religion,
and improve the reservation land (Parman 1971:120-122).
It took some time for the Indian portion of the program to start roll-
ing but by 1942, 126 different types of projects ranging from archaeological
work in Arizona to the operation of a fish hatchery in Wisconsin had been
tried. The work was difficult because many of the Indians had never held
steady jobs before, and nearly half had not attended school beyond the fourth
grade, and thus lacked many of the basic educational skills. It aided Indians
who entered war industry and the armed forces, and many physical improve-
ments on the reservation were made. However, one historian judging the
results of the program pointed out that enough data on the subsequent careers
of the enrollees does not exist to prove that CCC-ID had much effect on the
Indians (Parman 1971:56).
VOL. 34 NO. 4
CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS
One tribe that made use of the program and achieved some lasting bene-
fits was the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Depression had not hurt them
as it had done to the whites for the Seminoles had so little to lose. Only
a few lived on the several reservations but the remainder lived in scattered
camps on state or privately owned land from which no one was ready to drive
Food was obtained from crops of corn, sweet potatoes, squash and melons
planted in small gardens clearednear homesites and from wild plants such as
cabbage palm and huckleberries. A supply of meat was obtained from the hogs
kept on the open range and from game killed in the field. When cash was
needed to buy articles at the stores,the Indians made money by trapping
raccoons and otters and killing alligators and selling the hides. Some
cash was made by illegally killing and selling deer and turkeys to the whites.
In the winter and early spring some worked for as long as 45 days a year
harvesting truck crops such as tomatoes, beans, and egg plants for an aver-
age of $3 a day. During the Fall hunting season a few served as guides for
$4 a day (Nash 1931:35-49).
Probably the most degrading way to make a living was to work at the two
amusement parks in Miami and the one at St. Petersburg by placing themselves
on exhibition to the tourists. It was estimated that some fifteen families
earned $6 a week for twenty weeks of work at these camps. Life at these
camps was not good for the Indians were exposed to social diseases and heavy
drinking. In summary, life for the Indians was not bad for the Indians but
their major source of cash, the fur trade, was coming to an end for the
white man was dominating the trade with superior vehicles, traps and guns
and would drive the supply of game close to extinction.
1931 and 1932 were not desperate ones for the Seminoles. Of the 315
adults, only eleven old or sick persons were receiving food to the extent
of $10 a month, and widows with children received $15.00 a month from the
agent. Others who needed help went to live with relatives. The eight to
ten families that resided within the bounds of the Hendry County reserva-
tion planted cow peas and raised chickens and goats for meat. Eighteen
others supplemented their income by operating wildlife and Indian village
camps along the Tamiami Trail but the agent estimated that $200 was the
total income from all camps in 1932. Income from trapping had declined to
a total of $5000 for an estimated 5000 pelts. Finally, the agent reported
that the Indians living in the Big Crypress Swamp were charging whites 50
apiece to watch their most sacred ceremony--the Green Corn Dance. This
author finds such a practice almost unbelievable unless it was a staged
performance (Annual Report of the Seminole Agent 1933).
With the Depression reaching its greatest depth in late 1932 and early
1933, unemployed whites began to move throughout the haunts of the Indians
to find food for their families. After'killing deer and wild turkeys in
the Everglades the hunters moved to the places where the cabbage palms pro-
vided swamp cabbage and the wild Zamia root was used for making starch and
flour. Such activities brooded ill times for the Indians since the Indians
depended on the wild life and plants for their own food.
The first New Deal program to be implemented among the Seminoles in
Florida was the Civil Works Administration--a forerunner of the WPA (Works
Project Administration). In a telegram received on November 3, 1933, work
was authorized for a clerk, supervisor and two skilled and five unskilled
workers for the period November 23, 1933 to February 15, 1934. The men
were put to work clearing the land near the agency building at Dania-
Hollywood of palmettoes,making rock driveways,and laying sidewalks. The
women were taught to make quilts. Quilt making was soon discontinued for
the market was not good in subtropical Florida.
John Collier worked with the War Department to secure surplus items
for the Indians. In the final year of the Hoover administration some relief
supplies filtered down from Washington. Surplus army uniforms including
pants, overcoats, shoes and shirts were distributed to the Indians. From
the Red Cross came overalls, blankets, sweaters and infant garments. To
this observer, the distribution of such articles as overcoats and army
shoes to the Indians was a great miscalculation.
When the CCC-ID finally began operations on the reservation, the large
palmetto growth covering the Dania-Hollywood Reservation was the subject
for attack. Orders were approved on January 22, 1934 that the Indian Emer-
gency Conservation Work or popularly known as Civilian Conservation Corps,
Indian Division had been approved and work should begin immediately to
remove the plants. Initially the Indians used hoes and axes to clear most
of 140 acres and later tractors and road graders operated by whites were
used to clear out hard pockets of resistance. Altogether 1075 man hours
of work were allotted to the clearing of the land. Other projects at this
time included the fencing of pasture land and the construction of a telephone
line. According to the agent, all of the Indians worked very well on the
project and when one became a slacker he was reported by the others to the
supervisor. When word spread to the other camps that the work was available
and suitable for the Indians, many families travelled from remote parts to
Dania-Hollywood (Annual Report of the Seminole Agent 1934). From March 31,
1933, to March 31, 1936, the sum of $30,058.08 was spent on Emergency Con-
servation Work projects on the Seminole reservations.
By 1936, the CCC projects had been extended to the newly opened reser-
vation at Brighton and the much older Big Cypress reservation in Hendry
County. Working with a limited budget, Superintendent Francis J. Scott
employed thirty Indians grading truck trails on both reservations, fencing
the Brighton reservation, general cleanup, digging wells, posting the Big
Cypress and Brighton Reservations with no trespass signs and improving the
public camp ground at Hollywood. Scott's problems on the CCC projects
stemmed from the fact that most of the funds allotted had to be expended
for necessary equipment, materials and supplies, leaving little for labor.
Scott believed that work must be provided at subsistence wages for those
attracted to the reservation. The Government could not expect the Indians
to stay on the reservation if they could not earn a living there (F. J.
Scott to Commissioner of Indian Affairs, July 24, 1939,40290-39 Records of
Indian Affairs). Since there was no Indian who could supervise the work,
B. L. Yates, a resident of the area who spoke the language and had the
confidence of the Indians was hired as mechanic.
William Boehmer, who was a school teacher at Brighton recalled that the
Indians had to be taught everything in the CCC projects for they had no
prior experience in making roads, erecting fences or digging wells but once
they has learned the essentials, they were excellent workers (William Boehmer
CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS
telephone conversation with author, January 31, 1980). Ninety-two Indians
and 7 whites were utilized for such work out of a total of 279 males among
the 568 on the tribal roll in 1934.
The main thrust of the use of the CCC funds was to make the three reser-
vations into presentable and suitable places where the Seminole would desire
to live instead of moving to the exhibition villages at Miami. Indications
that administrators at Washington liked what was going on was seen in the
fact that the budget was increased from $8,486.75 in 1937 to $25,970 in 1938
and $38,000 in 1939.
The monthly publication of the Indian Office and CCC-ID Indians at Work
featured the Seminole cattle program in its March, 1940 issue and the front
cover of the October 1939 issue showed some Seminoles (attired in Seminole
jackets) walking to work carrying hoes and shovels.
When the budget was reduced to $30,000 in 1940, Superintendent Scott
protested to J. P. Kinney, General Productions Supervisor, but was told
that since budgets had been previously increased to pay for costs of sur-
veying Brighton and Big Cypress reservations and the work had been completed,
the budget should be reduced. Under this interpretation each enrollee in
1940-41 would only receive a maximum of 11 days of work a month. During the
entire length of the program, the sum of $4,530.73 was spent on buildings
and plant and $164,516.52 on land and improvements (Final Report of Indian
Emergency Conservation Work and Civilian Conservation Corps--Indian Division,
Table Six). Enrollees in CCC-ID received $30 a month plus food and lodging
or commutation. White employees in 1938 received the following pay: W.
Stanley Hanson, mechanic $135 a month; B. L. Yates, mechanic $135 a month
and Frances Frost, clerk typist at $1260 a year.
In 1939 and 1940,the Miami Herald noted celebrations held by the Indians
at Dania-Hollywood in honor of the anniversaries of the establishment of
CCC-ID. In six years CCC-ID had provided funds for 46 miles of fence, 21
miles of walks, 15 miles of truck trails, 12 miles of road, 1,293 acres of
improved range and 663 acres seeded (Miami Herald, April 23, 1939). An
even more elaborate celebration took place a year later on April 11, 1940,
when a softball game held the attention of spectators who refreshed them-
selves with ice cream, cake and orangeade. The cause for celebration was
the work done in one year by CCC-ID which included the building of living
quarters for two employees, the drilling of wells, erection of windmills,
maintenance of roads, construction of a ninety-foot bridge across Harney
Pond Canal, installation of seven miles of telephone line, construction of
a sugar mill, and building sixteen miles of hog wire fence (Miami Herald
April 11, 1940).
In February, 1940 John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and
Director Murphy took a trip to Florida where they conferred with CCC-ID
officials and the Indians. On the trip from Dania-Hollywood to Brighton,
their car was pushed over soggy dirt roads by a truck. When it became
mired, ten Indians pushed and used logs and jacks to get the truck and car
away from the watery morass.
The construction work continued in 1941 under Dwight R. Gardin, former
shop instructor, who took the place of Scott. Such work included the digging
of wells, the fencing of land and repair of truck trails. Superintendent
Gardin was not happy with the 1941 $4,094 decrease in funds allotted to
CCC-ID in Florida and did his best to protest the action to Washington.
He pointed out that the Indians had been attracted to move to the reserva-
tion by the possibility of a CCC-ID job and would develop home ties by
starting the raising of hogs, chickens and planting of a subsistence garden
(Gardin to Murphy, October 4, 1940, 67133-40 Records Office of Indian
Affairs). If the funds were reduced, the Seminoles would probably move back
to the tourist camps of Miami or to the Tamiami Trail. It was very important
that funds be expended at the Big Cypress Reservation for there was a serious
attempt to introduce the livestock industry there. Finally after Washington
would not respond to his appeals, Gardin completely ignored the budget and
spent twice as much money as the $31,000 allotted (Murphy to Gardin, January
21, 1941 Records Office of Indian Affairs). Ray Hall, writing a separate
note to Gardin, said that it was the worse case he had ever seen. Gardin
was soon replaced by William B. Hill due to his poor relationship with
Federal and state officials.
After the United States entered World War II, Congress decided to term-
inate the CCC program on July 2, 1942. In anticipation of the termination
of the project, Superintendent Hill had been advised by Daniel Murphy in
April, 1942 to "close out as soon as possible, except forest protection,
CCC-ID." CCC property was transferred to the Army or Navy,but if not needed,
the Indian service could retain it. Of the CCC-ID property in Seminole land,
$2,903.51 value was transferred to the Navy and the Indian Service was given
goods to the extent of $1,134.59 (Final Report, Table 7).
One author who surveyed the effect of CCC-ID upon the national scene,
believed that the program achieved sizeable results in terms of physical
improvements. Truck trails and lookout towers were constructed, poisonous
plants eradicated,fences erected and dams built (Parman 1971:54-55). Yet
much of this improvement to the reservation did not bring economic gains in
all areas. For the Seminoles, just as for.other tribes, CCC-ID had limited
economic pact on reservations that were suitable only for grazing. CCC-ID did
not help the Seminole prepare for Army service for no Seminoles were drafted
and only three volunteered. Very few went into war work for there was not
many such plants near the reservation.
The major value of the CCC-ID for the Seminoles was that it trained them
in the fundamentals of beef production, such as range improvement, water con-
trol, fencing, and digging of wells. Cattle had been shipped in from the
dust bowl as part of a program for Indian economic development in 1935. Fred
Montesdeoca, a trained county extention worker, who was appointed in 1937,
encouraged the Indians to take an interest in the proper treatment of the
cattle and hogs and instructed them in range control. By 1939 three Indian
trustees at Brighton were elected to supervise the cattle program there. The
cattle industry was to become the major economic base for the Seminoles at
the Brighton reservation.
1932 Annual Reports of the Seminole Agency, Dania, Florida,
Narrative Reports, Record Group 75, Microfilm Publication,
National Archives, Washington, D.C.
CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS
Final Report of Indian Emergency Conservation Work and
Civilian Conservation Corps, Indian Division, Civilian
Conservation Corps-Indian Division Papers, Record Group
75, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
1980 Former teacher at Brighton, telephone conversation with
author, January 11, 1980.
Burner, David, Eugene Genovese, and Forrest McDonald
1980 The American People. Revisionary Press, New York, p. 556.
Gardin, Dwight R.
1940 October 4, 1940 67133-40 Record Group 75, Records of Office
of Indian Affairs, Federal Records Center, Atlanta, Georgia.
To Director of CCC-ID Daniel Murphy.
Miami Herald. April 23, 1939.
Miami Herald. April 11, 1940.
1941 January 21, 1941 (no accession number) Record Group 75,
Records of the Office of Indian Affairs, Federal Records
Center, Atlanta, Georgia. To Dwight Gardin.
1931 Survey of the Seminole Indians of Florida, 71st Congress,
3rd Session, Senate Document 314, Government Printing Office,
New York Times. May 1, 1933.
1971 "The Indian and the Civilian Conservation Corps," Pacific
Historical Review XL, pp. 39-57.
Scott, Francis J.
1939 July 24, 1939 40290-39 Record Group 75 Records of the Office
of Indian Affairs, Federal Records Center, Atlanta, Georiga.
To Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
Dr. James W. Covington
Dept. of History
University of South Florida
THE SEMINOLE TRIBE, INC.: WINNING AND LOSING
AT THE WHITE MAN'S GAME
On July 27, 1953, Resolution Number 108 was passed by both Houses of
Congress. Had the legislation been implemented in Florida it would have
meant disaster for the Seminole tribe. The resolution called for Indian
reservations and monies held in trust by the government for the tribes to
be turned over to those tribes at which time they would be subject to tax-
ation. Bureau of Indian Affairs supervision would be discontinued and the
individual agents who administered the affairs of the tribes would be with-
drawn. The legislation was, in fact, a poorly conceived effort to "terminate"
the American Indian tribes (Kersey 1979).
The informally organized Seminole tribe objected to the proposal on a
number of grounds. They recognized that no tribal members were educated or
experienced enough to take over the administration of the reservation. Prior
to this time Indian children had only attended school for a few years and
two-thirds of the tribe did not speak English in 1953. Reservation lands were
not at that time income producing, and access to and from some remote areas
of the reservations was dependent on the U.S. Indian Service's road program
which had only begun recently constructing roads. Also, the tribe would not
have been able to replace, operate, or staff health care facilities.
The attempt to place the Seminole Tribe on the list of tribes to be
disenfranchised was a rude reminder to the Semincle Indians that their
dependence on U.S. Government agencies placed them in a very precarious
position. Equally shocking to the politically-aware members of the tribe
was that they had had almost no voice in the eventual defeat of the proposal.
The witnesses who testified against the termination of, federal services were
Mrs. Frank Stranahan and U.S. Representative Dwight L. Rogers (McGoun n.d.).
Senator George Smathers used his considerable influence to buy the tribe some
time, but no tribal spokesmen were directly heard by the Congressional Com-
mittee that was debating their future.
As a result of this action, and even though it was antithetic to their
history, the Florida Seminoles decided to organize a main governing body.
In August of 1975, the Seminole Tribe, Inc. became an officially chartered
legal entity (Osceola 1960). The Indians along the Tamiami Trail declined
membership, later forming the Miccosukee Tribe, Inc. By 1960 of the one
thousand recorded Seminoles, 884 were approved members of the Seminole Tribe
(Ibid.). They elected an eight-member council and organized committees to
handle community planning, membership, and budget and financing. The reser-
vations represented were Hollywood, Brighton, and Big Cypress. Later, the
Immokolee Reservation was also included.
Today, almost thirty years after their 1953 predicament, the Seminole
Indians are in the midst of a very different state of affairs. The tribe
is a successful business enterprise and some of its members, if not the tribe
VOL. 34 NO. 4
SEMINOLE TRIBE, INC.
itself, have become wealthy. As many Indians are fond of putting it, they
have learned "the white man's game", but their education was something of
a trial and error method. The Indians had not been educated in the ways
of business which meant they were ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous
businessmen and companies who knew the tribe was anxious to get involved in
the economic system.
The Hollywood reservation was in the best position to become involved
in business because of its proximity to the populous southeast Florida Gold
Coast. State Road 7, bordering the Hollywood Reservation on the east,was an
appealing location to industry. Tribal representatives began signing long-
term leases with private industry for parcels of their land. The agreements
did not include such things as rent escalation in relation to inflation and
the initial rents paid were often less than a fair market value (Dorschner
1979). When the tribe soon found itself with less land and their people as
poverty stricken as before, they changed their strategy. The Tribal Council
set out to conquer the fine art of grantsmanship, which they did successfully,
and hired an aggressive lawyer, Steven Whilden, who informed them that the
sovereignty they held over their reservations could be made to profit them
far more than any land leases.
The tribe tested this theory in the mid-1960s when they opened their
first tax free cigarette shop. According to one report, tribal revenues in-
creased from $600,000 in 1968 to $4.25 million in 1977 (Ibid.). Currently
there are a number of tax free cigarette shops operating, all run by Indians
who pay a tribe tax on their profits of eight percent (Whilden 1981). In
December 1979, the Seminole Tribe opened a bingo parlor on the reservation.
The entry of the tribe into these businesses has not gone uncontested, but
after a decade of legal challenges and allegations of financial misconduct,
outside interference has reached a plateau.
Currently, every man, woman and child who is a member of the tribe
receives a dividend every other month. In October of 1981, the amount paid
was $150 apiece (Whilden 1981). Tribal lawyer Steven Whilden claims one-third
of the profits go directly to the people, one-third goes to the tribe itself,
and, although he avoided the subject, presumably, one-third to private in-
vestors. These figures have been disputed though. The tribal funds have
been used to establish and maintain, among other things, the Seminole Police
Force, gymnasiums at Brighton and Big Cypress, a senior citizens center and
a program called the Cultural Heritage Enrichment Project.
The Cultural Heritage Project began approximately two years ago as a
pilot project of the Special Services Department and was funded by the Indian
Health Services (IHS). After a year, when IHS funding ran out, the program
was continued by the tribe. The Cultural Heritage Project was initiated
to study mental health problems among the Indians (Ibid.). The most common
problems discovered were alcohol and drug abuse, and juvenile delinquency.
While some of the disorders had long been recurrent within the tribe, it
was also noted that instances increased as contact with white society in-
creased, and as adherence to traditional tribal lifestyles diminished (Special
Services Department 1981). The Hollywood Reservation has been afflicted far
worse than the more isolated and traditional Big Cypress and Brighton reser-
The program attempts to use the tribal elders, many of whom are still
knowledgeable in Seminole culture, to teach and inspire younger Indians to
incorporate more of the Seminole philosophies and traditions into their
lifestyles. Robert North, Director of the Seminole's Human Resource Division,
believes, "It is important that we take a realistic approach. We are trying
to amplify and relate the Seminole heritage, not turn the clock back" (North
1981). The program holds classes that teach Seminole crafts, (i.e., bead work
and canoe making), history, customs and traditions, games such as stick ball,
the native languages--Creek and Miccosukee, and sponsors camping and other
field trips. Enthusiasm for the program is high, particularly on the Holly-
wood Reservation where a survey showed 80% of the youth polled (Table I)
were interested in learning more about Seminole traditions and history (Spe-
cial Services Department Report 1981:Table II). It generally remains to be
seen if the Cultural Heritage Project can reincorporate Seminole tradition
into their youths' everyday life, or whether it will only succeed in making
it a recreational passtime.
One area where tradition has successfully been combined with modern
life is in the field of medicine. The few Seminole medicine men who still
practice traditional medicine are mostly from the Big Cypress Reservation.
They agreed to start a training program with seven apprentices who would
be taught the use of medicinal herbs and songs (Seminole Indian Medicine
Training Project n.d.). Today the Seminole trainees work in the Indian
health clinics with medical doctors and are incorporating traditional
practices with standard clinical practices when treating their patients.
David Motlow, coordinator of the Indian Medicine Training Program reports
that "doctors that came out here used to look down on the medicine man,
but today they are trying to work with him because they realize he has some
It is ironic that the source that enables these projects to continue,
the Seminole business enterprises, is partially to blame for the problems
they address. Motlow and others believe that the bingo and cigarette
businesses go against the grain of Indian philosophy because they exploit
the weaknesses of others (Motlow 1981). He hopes that the tribe will
eventually move away from those enterprises towards such activities as
cattle ranching and catfish farming, activities that would use the Seminoles'
most crucial possession--their land in a more harmonious way. Other tribal
members disagree, however, and are only interested in multiplying the pro-
fitable gambling and retail businesses. Doing so would increase the Sem-
inoles' exposure to the ways and values of white society and probably cause
a greater threat to the continuance of Indian tradition. So once again,
the Seminole Indians find themselves in a state of transition with important
and difficult choices tQ make. One path threatens to lead to the complete
assimulation of the Seminole Indians as a distinct cultural entity, but
provide greater financial security, the other towards a less profitable
economic outlook, but a stronger tribal identity. Admirers of the Seminole
cultural heritage hope for the latter.
SEMINOLE TRIBE, INC.
Table 1. Youth Needs Assessment at Seminole Reservations*
The following table demonstrates the percentages of
want to learn more on the specific issues:
BRIGHTON BIG CYPRESS
Seminole Short Stories
Seminole Traditional Dancing
Seminole Traditional Games
Seminole Arts & Crafts
Seminole Herb Gathering
Native Food Preparation
Historic Field Trips
Feeling Good About
Getting Along With
those youth surveyed who
Jobs as a Teenager
Future Career Interests
How to Handle Money
Other (Learn to Speak Miccosukee)
*Reprinted from Special Services Department,
Programs," Table 11.
"Tribal Council on Tribal Health
Committee of Seminole Indians
1953 Letter to Area Director, Muskogee Area Office, Oklahoma
Office, Dania, Florida, October 16, 1953.
1979 "The Suburban Seminoles". The Miami Herald (Tropic
Magazine), April 8, 1979.
Kersey, Harry A., Jr.
1979 "The Seminole Indians of Florida". In Southeastern Indians
Since the Removal Era, ed. Walter Williams, University of
Georgia Press, Athens, p. 184-190.
N.D. "First Decades on Reservation Spent in Search of New Life".
The Miami Herald.
1981 Interview with Margot Ammidown, Hollywood, Florida, November,
1981 Interview with Margot Ammidown, Hollywood, Florida, November,
1960 "Operations of the Seminole Tribe of Florida as of April 1,
1960". Mimeographed report on file at the Hollywood Seminole
Seminole Indian Medicine Training Project
1981 "Final Report: Seminole Indian Medicine From a Cultural
Context". On file at the Hollywood Seminole Reservation.
Special Services Department
1981 "Tribal Council on Tribal Health Programs". Xeroxed report
on file with Robert North, Big Cypress Reservation, Orlando,
1981 Interview with Margot Ammidown, Miami, Florida, October, 1981.