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Interview with Mr. and Mrs. E. Meserve, July 28, 1972

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Title:
Interview with Mr. and Mrs. E. Meserve, July 28, 1972
Creator:
Meserve, E. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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Subjects / Keywords:
Seminole Indians
Seminoles -- Florida
Seminole Oral History Collection ( local )

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Funding:
This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Seminoles' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
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SEM 56 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Full Text
SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. & Mrs. E. Meserve
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Harry Kersey
DATE: July 28, 1972


SUMMARY
In 1915, Mr. Meserve opened the first hardware store
in Okeechobee and his wife is the daughter of L. M. Raulerson,
one of the early major Indian traders. In this interview,
they give a coherent picture of trade with the Indians
and the economy of the area. Included are details about
pricing, trading customs, wholesalers, transportation and
the plume trade. They relate several anecdotes about Indian
and white personalities of that area and time.


INDEX
Armstrong (Indian missionary), 13-14
Audubon wardens, 30
Bowers, Joe, 12, 14-17, 30
Bowlegs, Billy, 9, 24-25, 29
Dress (Indian), 7, 24-25
Economy (of area), 17, 21-22
F.E.C. (Florida East Coast R.R.), 2
Flournoy story (Smithsonian museum acquisition 14-16
Green Corn Dance, 27-28
Huckleby, Tantie, 19-20
Indian camp locations, 11-12
Language (division), 8-9
missionaries, 13-14
Nigger Jim Scrubbs, 12
Parker, Polly C'Evangeline of the Seminoles"), 26-27
Taylor's Creek (Anossoleecheecohatchee), 6, 11
Tiger, Naha (and squaw), 11
Trade (with Indians), 3-8, 10-11, 21, 28, 32-35
plume, 4, 30, 31, 34-35


I: This is Dr. Harry Kersey, Florida Atlantic University. Today
we are interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Meserve of Okeechobee,
Florida. The date is July 28, 1972.
S: ...about three o'clock. And we arrived in Okeechobee the next
morning about four o'clock, which is a thirteen-hour trip going
about a hundred miles. It was a cold, cold morning. I hadn't
had anything to eat since the morning that I left St. Augustine.
So the crew and myself got out and gathered up some palmetto
roots and some sticks, and one thing and another, and built a
fire until daylight.
And I told the conductor, "Well, I'm going uptown to get
something to eat. I'm hungry."
He says, "Uptown? You're right in the middle of the court-
house door." Then there was no town here.
I says, "Well, I haven't had anything to eat. I've got
to...."
He says, "Well, there's a creek down about a mile east of
here, and you might find somebody down there." So I went,
picked my little suitcase up and walked to the creek, and I
got down there and I was the only living human. So I says,
"Well, I'm going to get out of here. I'm going to go back
on the train." So I started back.
When I got about halfway up, I saw the train going through
the woods, headed back. And then I was into trouble. So I
looked around, put my suitcase down, looked all around to see
what I could see. I saw a little, looked like a little building,
down through the woods. At that time this was all timber. So
I says, "Well, I'll go down there."
I went down there, and that was my wife's brother. L.M.
Raulerson, had a little store there. It may have had a couple
hundred dollars worth of merchandise in it, so I got something
to eat and drank some water out of his pump and asked him then
what I could do about getting a room. And he says, "Well, go
to my mother's, because she never turns down anyone and she'll
give you a place to stay." That was the old home, right down
here.
So I went there, and my wife was on the porch laying in
a hammock, and I thought that was the prettiest girl I ever
saw. I asked her where her mother was, and she says, "She's
out in the back hanging out the washing." So I went back and
asked her about a room, and she says, "Well, I can't give you
a room now, because I don't have one. But my daughter does
have one." [That was] Mrs. Coates, that lives right behind
their place.


2
I went over to her and she gave me a room. So I stayed
there that night, and the next day I picked out my lot where
I wanted to put my store. And then I caught the next train
back to St. Augustine, and brought my building material and
a carpenter back with me.
I: What year was this now?
S: January, 1915.
I: And the train didn't get here till 1913?
S: No, the first train come in...I was the only passenger on the
first train.
I: The first train?
S: Yeah. That was January 3 it left Titusville, and got here on
January 4, 1915, see.
W: Titusville or St. Augustine? Where did you leave? Why were
you in Titusville?
S: You come to Titusville on the F.E.C. [Florida East Coast R.R.],
then you change there and come on this feed line out from Titus-
ville, through Maytown and Chuluota and Holopaw, Keenansville,
and then into Okeechobee.
I: How did you pick this place?
S: Well, that's kind of an odd story, too. I knew Mr. J.E. Ingraham,
who was the vice-president of Florida East Coast. And this was
his pet project, Okeechobee was. Now then, Keenansville was
the pet project of Mr. Keenan, who was another vice-president
of East Coast. But Mr. Ingraham says, "I'm going to move the
shops from St. Augustine to Okeechobee, because it's halfway
between Miami and Jacksonville, and this will be a town of about
40,000 people in a couple or three years. So he says, "If you
want to get on the ground floor and go down there and put in a
hardware store, you can't miss."
But just after the town got started, he died. When he died,
the town died. We played dormant here for years. There's nothing
happened at all--just the fish companies coming in, of course.
That's when we had our troubles.
I: Had you been in the hardware business up in...?


3
S: No, I had two years experience in the bank. I didn't finish
the eighth grade in school, 'cause my daddy says all I was
doing was wasting my time and eating his food; I'd just as
well get out and go to work.
I: Was St. Augustine your home?
S: Yeah, that's where I was born.
I: How many people were here?
S: I would say six or maybe seven families at that time. So there
would be twenty-five or thirty-five people living here. My
wife's two brothers--one was Louis Raulerson, Hiram's daddy.
He had this little store, and they would pole a boat from here
to Fort Myers to get groceries to put in the store. And of
course lots of times they would go by ox cart team to Fort
Pierce, but that was a hard trip; no roads, you know, out
through the woods, and take 'em days and days. So they poled
to Fort Myers, and that was weeks.
I: Well, to open a hardware business, you would think you'd need
more of a clientele than just a few families.
S: L.M. [Louis Raulerson] always called me 'sonny boy', and he
says, "Sonny boy, who're you going to sell your hardware to?"
I says, "The same people you sell your groceries to."
Which was mostly Indians, see? And then the Indians began to
come in. You know, the orneriest part about an Indian was that
he couldn't talk. I mean they couldn't talk English, I'll put
it that way. But he could make change as good as you or I
could, and that's the part that always used to puzzle me. I
just couldn't understand how they knew the American dollar so
well, and yet they couldn't speak a word.
They'd come in and they'd walk all around; they'd see
something they want, they'd grunt, point, and if [they] bought
a horse and wagon from [you], they'd want you to wrap it up.
This was the oddest thing in the world. They'd want paper and
string around it--I don't care what it was. And they'd always
buy one article at a time and pay you for it, and then go around
buy another article, come back and wrap it up, and they'd pay
you for it. You never could sell them two articles; and yet
they could make change, they knew it just as good as I did.
I: Yeah, that's interesting. In all the work I've done with
Indians, in a lot of educational programs, we've found the one
thing that the Indians score well in is mathematics. And of


course the numeration system is the same for an Indian as it
is for us, he just pronounces it different. The number concept
is not difficult. There's a basis for that I guess.
S: Well, they're a wonderful race of people. I mean I just en-
joyed them, I studied them and I worked with them and waited
on them because I was interested in them.
They come into my place. I traded merchandise for plumes.
I never did bother with the skins--I mean the alligator hides,
or 'coon hides, or otter hides. I didn't because I knew nothing
about it. But plumes--the egret plumes was what I was...I could
feel of one and tell just what it was worth, see? It goes by
the silkiness, the fineness of it, so you know. If it was a
coarse quill it wouldn't bring as much as a fine quill would
bring.
I: What would a fine quill bring?
S: Oh, in those days maybe seventy-five cents, maybe a dollar.
See, the women in those days wore them on their hats. I'd send
them to New Orleans, to a hattery I guess you'd call it, where
they put them, fixed up their hats and....
I: Do you remember the name of the company?
S: No I don't. I wouldn't know it if I heard it.
I: They did go to New Orleans?
S: Oh yeah.
I: Well, a lot of the people out of Key West, of course, shipped
to New York.
S: I don't remember sending any...I may have sent some to New York,
but most of them went to New Orleans. I don't know why--maybe
it was a broker there or something.
I: And that's the price you'd get, seventy-five cents?
S: Yeah, fifty to seventy-five cents apiece for them.
And you know, some people say that the Indians didn't have
a shotgun back in 1915, but that's a mistake. They did have
shotguns, because I sold them shells. I know they had to have
a gun, or they wouldn't have bought shotgun shells, see? They


5
tried to tell me they didn't have anything but rifles. Well,
I know better than that, because I used to sell them ammunition.
I: What were you selling them mostly, twelves, sixteens?
S: Twelve, sixteen--mostly twelve gauge, see?
I: What would you pay for a plume for example? For a plume that
you could sell for seventy-five cents?
S: Well, fifty cents, or sixty cents, or maybe thirty-five cents;
depends on the size, you know, the length of the plume and the
texture.
I: Did the plume buyers, like this house in New Orleans, publish
price lists?
S: No, I had to send it on consignment.
I: We've run across many documents in the southern end of the
state [Florida] from hide dealers that would publish a price
list periodically. We're buying, for example, six-foot al-
ligator hides for so much.
S: So much a foot.
I: Yeah, but you had to send on consignment?
S: Yeah, these were all on consignment.
I: So that was interesting. What percentage of your clientele
would you say was Indian? He indicated as much as a quarter
to a half of his father's store.
S: It would be. I would say more than that--maybe 75 percent,
because there was nobody here, see? I mean, there couldn't
have been over twelve or fifteen people, twenty people here
at that time; but the Indians were in every week. They would
camp down here on Taylor's Creek, and of course a lot of them
were out at Cow Creek. [East of the town of Okeechobee, Cow
Creek flows into Lake Okeechobee and was a principle camp of
the Muskogee-speaking Seminoles who now inhabit Brighton Res-
ervation.] See, you couldn't get to Brighton [twenty miles
southwest of Okeechobee] because it was all water. From the
Kissimmee River right on across that prairie [Indian Prairie]
was water then.


6
I: That was before the drainage canals had been put in.
S: Right. That was before the canals come in. They'd come in
with their dugouts up Taylor's creek, which was known at that
time as the Anossoleecheecohatchee. If you'll get an old
government map, you'll see that that's the name of it at that
time. Right back here through this swamp is where Taylor cap-
tured the Indians. [Col Zachary Taylor won a major battle
here in December, 1837, during the Second Seminole War.] And
took them up the Mississippi River.
I: The third [camp] was there?
S: Yes. At that time this creek was the Anossoleecheecohatchee.
I think it's a shame that they ever changed the name of it.
It means 'Mudfish Creek', just like the Okeechobee means 'Big
Waters'. And then the Kissimmee River and Lake Tohopekaliga
and Lake Kissimmee and Lake Istokpoga. Why they changed the
name of this, I don't understand.
I: They always want to venerate a general, I guess. They changed
it to Taylor. Of course, I've seen the pictures you let us
have to duplicate, and those are quite interesting. Do you
recall how much it cost to build that original building of
yours?
S: Well, I know what I had to build it with and stock it with.
Dad was on my note for $4000. That was to put the building
up and put my inventory in. And I paid it back in just a lit-
tle while. It didn't take me many...a year or two to pay it
back.
I: What were the Indians trading for, other than shotgun shells?
S: Mostly they would go heavy for pots and pans. See, they needed
pots and pans and utensils. And they'd go in strong for that.
Of course, we sold quite a lot of guns, and the ammunition.
And they soon got to building these chickees or shacks, and
they buy the small four-penny nails. It was just a general
thing, of course.
I: Yeah, they were starting to put the chickees together with
nails by then. I haven't found any old enough to go back to
when they were binding them together and roping them together.
I've never seen one that wasn't nailed. So I don't imagine
any of the old ones are still left.


7
S: I doubt it very seriously.
I: As the town grew, did the Indians come as regularly? Say by
the '20s, were they still coming as regularly?
S: Oh yes. That is, up until a few years ago.
You know it's a shame that they got away from their orig-
inal costume, because it was so colorful. And I don't know
if you ever saw them when they used a palmetto stem for their
visor--it looked like a visor on a hat. They take those stems,
and dry them out and curl them, and then put the hair over
it--looked just like a visor--and they'd sometimes tilt them
up and be sports. It was really very, very colorful.
I: The families we have talked to--and there are maybe five major
families in Florida now: yourself; the Raulerson family; the
Storter family from Everglades City; Mrs. Stranahan just died
two years ago and she was the last of the Stranahan line; the
people who live down in Choloskee, the Smallwoods, for example;
and then the Brown family that operated down in Big Cypress.
The best that I can tell, and I've been working at this about
five years, these were the only ones that had stores.
S: It's a pity you couldn't have talked to Mr. DeVane before he
passed away. Now there's a man who knew the Indians. He lived
with them, he stayed with them, he knew them from one end to
the other. In fact, Mrs. DeVane has the first shotgun that
I sold to Billy Bowlegs when I come to Okeechobee. Mr. DeVane
got it from him, and I tried to get it from him [Mr. DeVane],
but he wouldn't let me have it. So Mrs. DeVane has that now.
They'd come into the store, and I didn't have much in-
ventory--naturally you can imagine that, I didn't have practi-
cally anything--but they'd come in and sit in a circle lots of
times right down in the store and eat, and leave their trash
there, and the babies dribbled right on the floor and all that.
But I didn't mind that because I was interested in them. I
wanted it; in fact, I welcomed it. It was most interesting.
They'd sit there, and they were always so happy. Joyful peo-
ple, you know, laughing and going on.
I: Did you sell them beads?
S: No, I never did.
I: Did they get them over at Raulerson?


8
S: I imagine so. I don't know where they got them, but they'd
put them [on] until they couldn't move their chin down, just....
W: That came in bulk didn't it? In crates?
S: Yeah. Then they'd string them.
W: Gallons of them.
I: Yeah, they'd buy them by the quart or by the gallon at most
other places. I didn't know who was selling them up here--
if you were selling them.
S: No, sir. I never sold any beads.
I: You know this is interesting, that the Indians who lived up
here, the Cow Creek Indians, actually the Muskogee-speakers,
the Creek-speakers.... There were some differences in the way
they did business than with the Miccosukee-speakers that I
know best in the south. And, of course, they didn't speak the
same language.
S: Well, weren't they all Seminoles?
I: Well, Seminoles is just a general term we've given these In-
dians, but really they speak different languages.
S: Yeah, well, they don't associate with each other.
I: No. They're doing it more now that they have tribal unity,
but....
S: Well, I was just reading in Sunday's paper where they...what
do you call them?
I: Miccosukee.
S: There're still some of them there that can't speak English.
I: Many of them still don't. Actually, if you trace the history,
in 1880, a lot of the Indians who lived down on Fisheating
Creek [enters Lake Okeechobee from the west, just south of
Lakeport] were Miccosukees. These were the ones that moved
further south, and then the people from up here in Cow Creek,
between here and Fort Pierce, started moving around. So now,
most of your Miccosukees do live well south of the lake, but
they represent four-fifths of the Indians we call....


9
S: Well, they're still back in the 'Glades, aren't they? I mean....
I: They're in the 'Glades, and they're on Big Cypress, Brighton
and south of the Tamiami Trail, and they're the ones we deal
with mostly.
S: Well now, have you ever heard authentically that Billy Bowlegs
was a half-breed?
I: Not authentically.
S: There evidently was some truth or belief that he was, because
when I come here, Billy Bowlegs was more or less of an outcast
with the Indians. He never went with them. I hunted with
Billy Bowlegs many times--four and five days, a week at a time.
But when he'd camp, he'd camp by himself; and when he'd come
to town, he'd come alone; and when he'd hunt, he'd hunt alone.
So he was more or less of an outcast until Billy Smith died.
Now I don't know, but I've always heard ever since I first
come here that he was half colored. I can't say it authen-
tically, but there was a barrier there of some kind.
W: You know, that was a strange thing that that could have been,
the way they hated the white folks. The way they compared
people--they'd say white man, Indian, dog, nigger.
S: You ever hear that?
I: Yes, I've heard that. And here again I think there was more
of a concern with the Indian, the Cow Creeks over this, because
back in their history where there had been some intermarriage
with blacks, it was more in this group than with the southern
group. To my knowledge there was only one half breed Miccosukee--
Old Charlie Dixie. I know that family, but up here this is....
I'm the first to admit I know far less about the Indians up
here historically than I do about the ones further south in
the state. I know they had friends up in Kissimmee, like the
Willsons...
S: Yeah.
I: ...Jim and Minnie Moore-Willson, and people like this who wrote
about them who at first didn't even know they spoke a different
language.
S: Well, the Makinsons knew them quite well, too.


10
I: Where did you get most of your hardware from? Who was your
wholesaler?
S: Well, the most of it come from Jacksonville, and Louisville,
Kentucky; and also St. Louis, Chapee, what little bit I got.
At that time there was no truck lines because there were no
roads. It all come in by train on the railroad.
I: As the town grew here, did the people who came in...how did
they treat the Indians? I know the pioneer families liked
them and dealt with them. How about people who started coming
in?
S: Well, they had no difficulty. I mean, they didn't take up
any time with them because they weren't interested. They were
just a bunch of Indians, and that was about all it amounted to.
W: They've always been well-treated here.
S: But you see, my wife and her folks were always very kind to
them. They'd let them come in and sleep on the porch over-
night, feed their horses for them, and look after them. Be-
cause they were the only white family here for quite a while,
you see.
W: I don't think they were ever mistreated anyplace. People were
a little bit afraid of them, you know. Not to any great ex-
tent, but I don't know...they were a strange people. They
weren't so very friendly themselves. They could have spoke
up if they wanted to, not very well, but they could have if
they wanted to. They'd just let you talk all day, then they'd
grunt.
S: They just didn't trust them somehow or other.
W: They were just being smart, because my father could talk with
them.
I: He could speak the language, your father?
W: No, they'd speak. It was sort of a broken English talking
thing. But they carried on conversations you could understand.
They didn't carry on any long conversations--it was just a word,
and it made a connection somewhere.
I: When they came in, do you recall how they came in? Would they
come in once a week, once a month?


11
S: Oh, no. They'd be in and out during the week. Mostly though
on a Saturday afternoon, they'd come in. But they would be
in during the week; some of them most all the time, everyday.
Because there were a lot of them here at that time. I say a
lot; I don't know how many, but there was several of them,
many more than there were white people.
I: And they just came in almost like we use the store today, as
needed?
S: That's right.
W: I don't think they always came to us. They used to squat a-
round that place all out in front, you know. It was just some-
thing to do. They didn't do anything but hunt, you know, so....
I: Were they ever a disturbance?
S: Oh no! No, very peaceful. Just a nice tribe of people. I
just enjoyed them.
I passed Naha Tiger one day--this has always struck me
funny--I was coming in from the cemetery, and he was going along
on his horse. And his squaw was walking behind him with a sack
of groceries over her shoulder, see, a feed sack. And I stop-
ped and I said, "Naha, why don't you let the squaw ride?" He
says, "Squaw don't got 'em horse." After all, that's as good
an answer as any.
I: But in those early years they were still using a lot of the
canoes up here before the drainage.
S: Oh yeah, they'd come up the Caloosahatchee...I mean the Taylor's
Creek, see? Now then, where they were staying down around
Lakeport, I don't know. I don't know where they would go, but
they would go out across the lake [Okeechobee], and in fact,
I've got a picture of a canoe with two squaws and two little
pickaninnies in it coming in to the Taylor's Creek now, up at
the store.
I: There were some camps over on Fisheating Creek back in the
headwaters.
S: Right, and they were probably coming from there.
I: Right. Up where they start Harney Pond Canal [flows through
present Brighton Reservation into Lake Okeechobee] now. There
were some up in there. How about out to the east of here, be-
tween here and Fort Pierce?


12
S: Well, they used to camp out at Nigger Jim Scrubs', if you know
where that is.
I: No, I don't.
S: Well, Nigger Jim Scrubs got his name because there was a colored
man that was trying to marry one of the Indian girls. And the
Indians didn't like that. So, as the story goes, they cut his
head off. Killed him and cut his head off, and drug his head
way off one direction and his body the other, so they would
never get together, see? And that place is known today as
Nigger Jim Scrubs', because this nigger was named Jim.
W: Oh, that's some more Indian lore. I don't think you could
prove it.
S: It's still known as Nigger Jim Scrubs'. That's right this side
of Cypress Creek.
I: So they're on both sides, down to the southwest and out to
the east of here, too?
S: And also up Cow Creek, you see.
I: Yeah, up Cow Creek. Of course, that's where they got their
name where you first ran into them.
S: Yeah. The Creek Indians.
I: And these were moving down, of course, they'd all been up around
Kissimmee and up in that area, too.
Did you ever run into a man by the name of Bowers?
S: Joe Bowers is the only one I know of.
I: Well, that's the one I'm talking about.
S: Oh, yeah. I knew Joe Bowers as well as I know my....
I: Tell me something about him. He's a man I can't find any kind
of mention of.
S: Well, he lived at Indiantown [about twelve miles east of Lake
Okeechobee], or out from Indiantown. Now is this the same one
you're speaking of?


13
I: That's the one, right.
S: He had a grove out there at Indiantown. What we know as Indian-
town now. But there was no road in there, there was no way to
get to him hardly, yet he had a beautiful grove there. And ol'
man Joe was an old bachelor. He lived out there all by himself
for years and years. He had a lot of cattle, but all black
cattle; he wouldn't have anything but the Black Angus. That
was the only thing he would have. And finally he got married
to a young girl in his old age, just a year or two before he
died. They got married on horseback to be different, see?
Well, she lived with him long enough to about clean him out,
which didn't take but about a couple of years, then she left
and he died.
But he lived back there this side of Indiantown. In fact,
there's a sign there, she says now, at Indiantown, Joe Bowers'
Grove. That old grove is still there.
I: But there are no children or anything?
S: Oh, no! No, he didn't have any children. Just where he come
from, or how he happened to take up there or homestead, no one
knows. That is, I've never known of or found anybody who knew
anything about him other than just he was an old hermit.
I: Some Indians out in Oklahoma told us that the first Indian
missionaries who came in here, the Baptist missionaries, who
were Indians and that's why most of these Indians out at Brighton
are Baptists, and the others--that Joe Bowers had written them
and asked them to send in missionaries. The first sermon that
was preached in Florida by these missionaries was preached at
Joe Bowers' store in 1907.
S: Isn't that something.
I: Now that's the story I got from some of the Indians.
S: Well, I wouldn't be a bit surprised because....
W: A couple of missionaries from Oklahoma came and stayed at my
father's place, too. And one of them was a full-bred Indian.
His name was Armstrong. The man with him...they wanted to get
these Indians interested in going back and going to school--
those that weren't going to school at that time. They wanted
to go out through the tribe and see if they could get any
children interested in going back out there [to Oklahoma];
starting up in school. And they stayed.


14
This Armstrong was an enormous person. He was a mighty
man; he was tall and large, too. And I remember my mother
thought she would never find a bed that would hold him up--
he'd just break it down.
I: Did you ever run into the missionary by the name of Brown that
was in that early group? He was another big fellow, about the
size of....
W: Well, this man with him was a great big fellow. It might have
been the same two that you said went down to Florida. And I
suppose they could have been on the same mission. There were
two of them. They stayed quite a while, because my father
took them down there. They'd go around and then they came
back through and stopped again.
I: That's interesting, what you were telling us earlier, that
your father actually had the Indians at the table and treated
them as formal company.
W: Did you ever know or hear of the Flournoy story about the
Indians?
I: No.
W: Well, this man was sent out from the Smithsonian. They were
collecting things for the institution, and they sent him down
here to get something on Indians, see what he could find.
And at our house--that's why we have absolutely nothing left
in the line, or beads, or pottery, or stuff like that--
he just took it all; Dad gave it to him. Because we grew up
with that stuff, and it didn't seem very important to us. He
told us what he wanted it for was the museum. And so he wanted
to get some bones to take back of some sort of important Indian,
you know, a chief or something like that.
My father told him he didn't know how to take him into
any of these places, but he'd heard that this Joe Bowers could;
but he warned him against it. He said they were very strange
about these things, and they don't want anything disturbed that
belonged to their ancestors or tribes in any way. But he in-
sisted, so, Dad took him down there and told Mr. Bowers what
he wanted, and so he could get them back into the swamp. I
don't remember who it was exactly. Do you know whose bones
they were?
S: No, I don't remember. It was some chief.


15
W: It was one of their chiefs.
S: There was a grave and bones.
W: The way they buried them, sometimes they just cut a slab out
of a tree. They'd cut it up very carefully, the size of that
person--a cypress tree has an awful lot of hollow space; you
can see that from the root business. Well, they cut in, and
they stand them up in that place like that, and then they put
this slab back. Sometimes they would take a tree and cut it
down, cut it in two and make the bottom part back for the cof-
fin, and top they'd put over it. And of course they put them
in some special place, and you know the story about all those
things they had there--animals and all they'd killed and their
guns, if they had any.
Well, he went back. Mr. Bowers knew where these bones
were, and of course, I guess Mr. Flournoy gave him something
for them. And anyway, he came back with just a bag--they sold
corn in this kind of gunny sack. He brought them to the house
and Dad didn't like it a bit. He said, "You're going to get
in trouble about that." And he said he didn't think so. And
so he went back to Washington and he said he'd send for his
[things]. There was quite a chore getting those things over
to Fort Pierce, that's how he had to go over, and he'd collected
a lot of things. So he told him that he would send for them
later.
He went back, and somebody told the Indians about it.
They went on the war path. They were perfectly furious.
Though my father was one of their oldest friends and best friends,
the idea was that when they were going to have war or something
like that, they killed the best friend first, because they didn't
want him to get in the massacre or something like that. They'd
give him that much honor, you know. And so the rumor kept coming
to my father that they were going on the war path, and it was
all about those bones. The thing really got--I don't know how
much would have come of it--but anyway, they went over to Fort
Pierce, and the sheriff came out and told my Dad, he said,
"They say that so many moons, and if those bones aren't back,
they were going on the war path."
In the meantime, [Flournoy] did send for those bones, and
they were sent to him. And they [the Indians] were just like
they were when he took them away. So when they [Indians] got
real furious about this thing my father told the sheriff his
[Flournoy] name, and he said he knew it didn't mean that much
to him, that if he would get right to him, why, he was sure
[The Smithsonian] would send [the bones] back. Well, they gave


16
him a couple of months, or something like that, and he sent
the bones back. Sent them back just like they took them off;
he never had even taken them out of the bag. The sheriff went
out to Joe Bowers, because he knew where they came from, and
they put them back.
S: What was the man's name from Washington?
W: Flournoy.
I: About when was this?
W: You know, to us kids those things mean very little to us. I
don't know just...I can't imagine when it would have been.
[The incidents described took place between January and July,
1907.--Editor]
But everybody around...well, I know that it was so serious
that we were beginning.... My father sent the smaller ones up--
we had a sister living in Basinger, that's about eighteen or
twenty miles from here, and he sent us up to stay with her until
this thing blew over. He didn't know just how much of it was
going to materialize.
That's pretty well known all over, about that Flournoy
business. I don't know what they would have done, but they
certainly kept on until they got the bones back. It wasn't
an easy thing to do. The man never dreamed.... My father
talked to him, and he told him it would probably cause a lot
of trouble. But he didn't think so; he didn't think it was
that important. Just some old bones, you know.
I: Do you have any idea when this Joe Bowers died?
S: Well, it hasn't been too many years ago. I wouldn't want to
say because I get mixed up on time. But if you go down to
Indiantown and ask anybody they can tell you. I imagine any
of those merchants can tell you when Joe died. Well, I'll tell
you one thing, somebody that might possibly know something about
it would be Clayton White. His wife bought some antiques out
of that Bowers house, some priceless antiques. I don't suppose
they meant anything to him, but she collected those things, and
she had heard they were some wonderful, so she bought a bed-
room suite from that place.
W: This girl he [Bowers] married was just a sort of a tramp. He
called her Mae West. She just thought he had a lot of money.
I: Well, did he have a store there in addition to the grove?


17
S: Oh, no.
I: He didn't have a store, he was just a friend and confidant down
there.
S: They had pictures made before they got married on horseback,
but I mean Joe didn't have any store or anything like that as
far as I know. Just that one shack, and his groves, and his
cattle.
W: If you can find one of the settlers, one of the older families
in Indiantown, I think anybody could tell you about Bowers.
I: The economy of this area, pretty basically, you say in the early
years [was] the fish, the shipping of fish out of here. How about
the vegetables? When did vegetables...?
S: There was one time there was a lot of farming here. Beans,
mostly.
I: And then when...? You were talking about the bad years here,
and the economy.
S: Oh boy! We had some rough ones.
I: Well, when was this?
S: That was back in '27, '28, '29, '30; that was when the banks
broke, and during the....
I: Land boom?
S: Yeah, the Depression. When the bubble busted. It was rough.
See, we were without a bank here for years. We had to go to
Fort Pierce to get change. If you wanted to get a dollar changed,
you had to go to Fort Pierce to do it. It was rough.
I: What happened to the Indians during this period? Were they
affected like everyone else?
S: No, they seemed to get along all right. I mean they got along
better than the rest of us, I think, because they weren't ac-
customed to wealth. Their standard was different. They had
the Indian standard and we had a white man's standard, and so
they got along all right. They didn't seem to have any dif-
ficulty.


18
I: You sound like you'll never forget that day you got off the train.
S: Oh boy! I'll never forget that train, no sir. That was rough.
You can imagine a young 'un.... I was just an old clapper-headed
boy, I mean. And nothing to eat, nowhere to stay, and right out
in the middle of the woods.
I: Just a store and a few houses, huh?
S: Yeah, that's right.
W: There was a doctor here. Mr. McDermitt. And Indians came to him
for treatment a lot. They brought Dr. McDermitt turkey and ven-
ison in payment for all the medical treatment, you know. There
never was any question of paying cash; they'd just bring a turkey
or a deer or something. And of course that was a big treat for
him, so that took care of the medical bills.
I: When did they [the Indians] start working on the ranches around
here?
S: Not too long ago. I would say maybe ten or twelve, possibly
fifteen years ago they started picking tomatoes, or maybe doing
a little work, not too much. [Several Cow Creek Seminoles had
worked on ranches in the Okeechobee area as early as the 1930s.
--Editor] In fact, they don't do too much ever.
I: And got their own cattle and things out on the reservation?
S: Yeah, but see the government now is taking good care of them,
which they should. They were pretty roughly treated, I think.
I: Other than the pictures in your store, over the years have you
collected any other Indian artifacts? Your wife mentioned that
the Smithsonian pretty much cleaned her family out of them.
S: Yes, that's right. No, I haven't got a thing.
W: Is it the Hutchinsons that are the artists [you] are so interested
in?
I: Yes.
W: They have some lovely pictures. I think there are three of them
in the library.
S: I can get you some pictures. Does Dolly Dyer ever come back
through, do you know?


19
W: No, she moved to Arizona.
S: I know, but I mean she didn't come back, you know. Her folks
were here when I come here. They come in here about 1910. And
she has a stack of little photographs, there must be a couple
hundred of them. A lot of them were very interesting; but she
has moved out with her brother in Tuscon, Arizona, so I don't
know if she still has those photographs or not.
I: Who owned the sawmill here?
S: That's Faith's brother.
I: Oh, that was your brother's saw mill?
S: Yeah.
I: It was just independent; he just owned the saw mill?
S: Yeah, that's right.
I: How long did that operate here?
S: Oh, he had saw mills two or three different times for a year or
two at a time. They'd cut enough lumber to build a house, and
then shut it down. That's about all it amounted to, because
there was nobody to sell it to, you see?
I: Do you remember the schoolmarm that they named the town after
initially?
S: 01' Tantie Huckleby.
I: She must have been quite a person to name a whole town after
her.
W: Well, the whole story there.... She came here from Atlanta,
and she was a gentlewoman of first water. She was really the
little Dresden China Doll. A very lovely person
The teachers came out from Fort Pierce. That was the
nearest place. At the time all this was going on, way back
before I went to school, my father would go out through, out
on the river to collect these children from families that were
just not interested in school. He wanted to have school for
our sake, and there had to be enough children before they would
send a teacher out. Even at that, my father had to pay half
of the fee for the teacher, and go out and gather up all these


20
children and bring them in and keep them at our house all the
five days of school. He'd go get them on Sunday afternoon, and
then on Friday afternoon he'd distribute them back out through
the woods wherever.
S: Came up the Kissimmee River.
W: She was one of the teachers they sent out. And of course, the
teacher always stayed at our house, and they just stayed there.
I: You must have had a large house.
W: It was. No question.
S: A big log cabin.
W: Wasn't any board or anything; they just stayed there. And she
was one of the better ones.
At that time they talked about having a post office. So
my mother was made postmaster. We fixed the post office back
in one of the bedrooms.
At this time, this place used to be called Bend, because
of the river and this creek down here.
S: There's a lake, see, around the bend.
W: So at the fence stakes, up to the same miles across the front,
that was my daddy's ranch. He just had to put up a thirty-
mile fence, that's all. Because the rest of it was river and
creek, you see. And so it was called the bend, and she [Tantie
Huckleby] was sent out, the post office came along, and she
[was] there when mother was going into this. And she said,
"Well, if you don't have any particular thing in mind for this
post office, a name, I'd like to have you name it for me."
And her name was Tantie Huckleby.
It didn't make any difference to mother, so she said that
was all right. So when they set up the post office, that's how
it happened to be named Tantie. For the first teacher, you know,
that really taught in a....
I: When was this? What year roughly?
W: Now you got me there. These things I could find out, but I
can't tell you right off hand.
I: When did they rename it Okeechobee?


21
S: When the train come in.
W: Well, when they bought the county--six of them--St. Lucie County.
S: See, this county was formed in 1917. But you see, her daddy--
used to be Brevard County--and he used to ride from here to
Titusville horseback to attend the....
[Due to having to turn over the cassette, there is a break here
in the continuity of the interview.]
S: So I don't know what happened to her.
I: Lived up in Highlands County, right?
S: I believe so.
I: I know the area, and I've read just about everything he has
written. People who write about the Indians write about all
sorts of things; their dress, their hunting, their religion.
They write about everything but their trade, and that's precisely
what we were looking at. There're only maybe one or two families
who consider themselves Indian traders per se. Like yourself,
you were a businessman with a hardware store who happened to
have an Indian clientele, I imagine.
S: Well, I never considered myself an Indian trader.
I: I only know of maybe two families that did. And Browns, down
in the Big Cypress....
S: Yeah, they had to be.
I: They were. There was nothing else there but Indians. And
Stranahan [at Ft. Lauderdale] in the early years, though he was
really connected with the stagecoach line from Lantana [On the
coast, a few miles south of Palm Beach] down to the Peacock
Inn in Coconut Grove [in Miami].
S: I would say when I came here there was about five or six fami-
lies, and other than that our trade was from the Indians.
I: But you had not planned it?
S: No, it just happened to me, that's all. But see, I couldn't
make a living out of the store, I had to work. I stayed in the
store all day, and then I would work practically all night to
make a living. I had to; there was no other way to get by.


22
I: What were you doing?
S: Well, I had a Model 'T' Ford worm-drive truck, and at that
time Clewiston and Moorehaven [on southern shore of Lake Okee-
chobee] really got started. See when I first moved there wasn't
a thing from there [Okeechobee] to. Florida City [at the extreme
southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula]. It was just a sheet
of water. It was on the ridge, just the outside of the lake.
I: So you were working in the evening?
S: Oh yeah. They started farming there, and was raising beans,
so there was a crate house here, see? I took the job of hauling
the crates from the crate house and loading them on the boats
to carry across the lake, because there was no way to get there,
only across the lake. All the vegetables had to come out that
way, and go in that way.
So I'd work until three and four o'clock in the morning
loading the boats, and then stay in the store all day in order
to get by. It was kind of rough. 'Cause there was no money;
I mean there was nothing here to get any money out of. There
was nobody here except the Indians that did the trading and....
I: Well, did you ever think of leaving during those years?
S: Oh no, no, no. I wouldn't have missed that for anything in this
world. I've had the most interesting life of any man alive today,
I really think.
I: How old were you when you came here?
S: I was nineteen.
I: You've been here a good long while.
S: But see, coming right out of a town I didn't know anything about
the country--didn't know how to build a fire even. I was just
that green. It sounds funny, but I didn't know anything then.
W: Well, that fishing industry came in right behind you, and you
had furniture with your hardware, so it began to grow after that.
S: Oh, yeah. It began to grow after that. And so when the fishing
industry come in...well, we were here you might say without a
law for almost two years. See, there was no road to Fort Pierce,
and they'd deputize someone to be deputy sheriff, and the fisher-
men would run him out of town, across the creek and make him


23
leave. It was everybody for himself. And it was just a matter
of who could stay and who couldn't, but I never had any trouble.
I always got along with them. But they'd come in every Saturday
and get drunk, and just shoot up the town, and kill each other.
Faith and I used to stand on...well, we had a balcony at that
time in front of the store, upstairs where we lived. We'd stand
up there and watch them fight out there in the park. Oh, it was
just terrible.
I: This was in the old store then?
S: The old store, yeah. We lived upstairs, see, in the old store.
And in the '28 hurricane...first it burned down in January of
1928. We had a gasoline stove, and she got up to cook breakfast
and the thing had leaked, and it exploded. The whole thing
burned up. So then we built it back, and just got back in and
going again, and the hurricane come along and blew it down. So
I said it was time to leave here now, and so we came down here
and built this one.
I: When were you married.
S: In 1916, fifty-six years ago.
I: That's a good long while.
S: Yeah, but we've had a nice life; we've had a grand life.
I: I guess it's colorful to look back on this now. Talking to the
people who've grown up down here, and lived down in the islands
and on the south end, I think Florida would have been more enjoy-
able back at the turn of the century and later than....
S: Well, I debated whether to go to Miami when I left home or come
here. But I'll never regret coming here, because it's been such
an interesting life..
W: It was a strange place to live in. People came here from all
over. They always....
S: The wealthiest people in the United States used to be here.
W: And there was a little waffle shop uptown and you'd go in there
maybe for breakfast, and the person that come over to you might
be the James
S: The Fisks and the Mungs and Carlingtons from Palm Beach, they
were over here all the time. I've been hunting with them dozens
of times.


24
I: Did you ever use Indian guides like Billy Bowlegs?
S: Oh, no; just whenever I go with them boys, be one or two of the
boys here wanted to go down to the cypress or go up on the prairie.
I: Did you do that often with them?
S: Oh yeah. I used to love and enjoy hunting with Billy, because
he was a good hunter.
W: Is Billy living still?
S: No, he died three or four years ago, four or five years ago.
I: About '64 or '65.
S: Time gets away. I can't remember anymore.
I: Yeah, about '65, I think, he passed away. He was....
S: Quite a fellow. But you know they played Billy up so big the
last few years that I kind of got disgusted, knowing his past.
Back, you know, fifty years ago his history then, and it seemed
the last few years just blossom out like a flower, why....
W: DeVane [Albert DeVane, amateur historian from Lake Placid]
glorified him, you know. He had a rig made for him--dress
and a fancy hat. He took him anyplace in the world there was
a convention or a celebration of any kind. He appeared with
Billy. And of course if there was a parade, he and Billy entered
the parade and all that. So he just gloried by him.
I: Some of the pictures I have of him were made up in Kissimmee
about 1909, 1910, 1911 and he was just in overalls, or at least
pants and trousers and shoes and maybe an Indian shirt.
S: I'm surprised at that, because most of them wore just Indian--
the long-tailed shirts, and you never saw a woman with a pair
of shoes on. Once in awhile you'd see an old buck with shoes
on, but never a squaw. I don't understand that.
I: Well, these were at Minnie Moore-Willson's house up in Kissimmee
before World War I. I got a whole bunch of pictures up there.
And the Indians with him, were in regular dress, in their native
costume. But I've got a couple of him in just shoes; he'd been
working around the yard I think.


25
S: Well, you see that goes back again to this same story about
him being maybe a kind of an outcast from the Indians.
W: But this myth never, I never...until he died he wore a shirt,
he never had a....
I: The long shirt?
S: Yes.
I: Did many of the Indians up here wear the turbans?
S: Used to have one old Indian come in off of his canoe wore a
derby hat; that was the funniest-looking thing you ever saw.
He'd have this long shirt on, and he was a long, tall Indian
and this derby hat sitting up there.
I: Do you know that was one of the major trade items at Brown's--
derby hats?
S: Is that right? Well maybe that's where he got that.
I: They must have made a fortune at Storter's and Brown's and
Stranahan's.
S: Well, he was the only one I ever saw, but he always had on that
derby hat.
I: I've got pictures of dozens of Indians down in Big Cypress
wearing those derbys.
S: Is that a fact?
I: Yeah, Stranahans sold them too.
W: A regular Indian couldn't wear that dress. You had to be im-
portant to have a turban. That meant you were a chief, I guess,
nothing under a chief.
I: Well, a lot of them used to wear it, because when they first
started wearing those shirts without pockets they used to keep
tobacco and shot and everything....
W: Well, they made a handkerchief sort of thing, maybe sort of
a.... You know, they had a special turban that was just for
the....


26
S: Have you got a picture of this old Polly Parker?
I: Not of Polly Parker.
S: My picture is gone from the store; now it's up at the artist's
in Jacksonville. I have a friend here that wanted a duplicate
of this of Polly Parker. So I took it up. And I was up there
about three or four weeks ago; I went by to get it. She didn't
have it ready. I says, "Well, I want my original." "Well,"
she says, "you can't have it because I've got to have that to
make the other one, and I haven't finished it."
I: What do you know about Polly Parker? They keep calling her
the "Evangeline of the Seminoles."
S: She was the grandest old soul that ever lived, I'll put it
that way. She couldn't speak, she couldn't do anything but
grunt, but she was always...even her eyes were smiling when she
smiled. She was just a happy....
W: Wasn't she the one that got away from them when...?
S: Well, that's the story. I don't know if there's anything to it,
but....
I: Yeah. That's why they are always playing her up as having made
her way back from around the coast. But there was a Polly Par-
ker's Camp up northeast of here that was in quite a legal dispute
early in this century. A group called the Friends of the Sem-
inoles, up in Kissimmee, was trying to buy it up as an Indian
reservation before they got Brighton and the others established,
and they were naming it after her. And so her name is in the
literature quite a bit.
S: She was a grand old person. I'll declare I just thought the world
of old Polly. She was always so friendly. I don't think she
ever come into this town, she wouldn't come in and grunt, grunt,
grunt to me, you know. Like I was just sitting, and we'd get
to talking, you know; our hands going, and laugh and go on.
She was just a grand person. Old, old. But when she died,
she was just as bald-headed as this thing right here. She didn't
have a hair on her head. But the picture I have she has quite
a lot of hair, so it was several years later that she passed
away.
It's a shame that they just buried her right out there
across the river, right out in the woods. [They] made a pen


27
out of palmetto, the palm logs. And of course, that's all
burned up now and gone, but Owen Pierce knows exactly where it
is. But I wouldn't know. He says he can go right there to it
today even though it's burned down.
W: Well, somebody should...there should be a marker of some kind.
S: She was an outstanding person. I mean she was absolutely an
outstanding Seminole.
I: I think you mentioned before we turned on the tape recorder,
Mrs. Meserve, that you went to Green Corn Dances?
S: Well, we went to one, that was all.
I: Where did they hold them at that time?
S: Well, at that time it was out towards Cow Creek.
W: They were always back where you couldn't get to them. You'd
have to go over a pretty deep pond or something like that.
Mostly when my father used to go, he went on horseback. But
they were so tucked away, and nobody knew when it was going to
be. Unless they asked you, you'd never get there.
S: There was very few white people ever attended the Green Corn
Dance.
W: Then after they had jeeps and ways of getting into those places
more people went. I don't think they ever liked it. I think
that's really why you don't hear of it anymore. And so many
people would go out there, and they....
I: Just a handful of the Indians still observe that.
S: Well, there's quite a few of them. I would say thirty, maybe
forty were sitting around. There would be four and five in a
little bunch here, and four or five over there just sitting
around a big fire in the center.
I: But now most of them are Baptists or something else, and very
few of them, at least out at Brighton, still observe it. [A
majority of the Seminoles on Brighton still attend the annual
Green Corn Dance. Conversion to the Baptist faith has not meant
the rejection of this renewal ritual.--Editor] Down on the
Trail they do; they're all pretty much traditional there.


28
Down in the southern end of the state people used to
come in to the stores like Stranahan's and buy up goods, and
then carry them out into the Everglades to sell to the Indians.
Did you know of any people around here who were going out to
the Indian camps?
S: No, not here. There was a Captain Hart, a young man, he ran
a boat from here to just the other side of Fisheating Creek.
What's the name of that...?
I: Lakeport.
S: Lakeport. And he used to do that. I sold him hundreds and
hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise, and he carried it down
there and sold it, but I don't know who his customers were. I
know he bought worlds of pans, pots, flatware, cheap kitchen
ware, a lot of butcher knives, and stuff like that just every
time he come in, about once a week. So he had somebody he was
unloading them on, I don't know who.
I: Were shotgun shells the only kind of ammunition you sold?
S: Oh no! No, no. I sold rifle shells, too. .30-.30s and of
course, a lot of .22s. But I would say the predominating thing
was the twelve gauge shotgun shell.
I: Where were they hunting the plumes up here? Where were the
rookeries they were hunting?
S: Oh, gracious me! You can go up and down these creeks and rivers...
anywhere you go there was egrets at that time, very plentiful.
It's the shame of the world that the government hadn't protected
them long before they did because they were becoming pretty near
extinct. To kill a whole bird just maybe to get one or two
little feathers out of it, it's a shame in this world.
I: I didn't realize the rookeries were that extensive up on the
west side of the lake here.
S: At that time there were worlds of egrets up in this section.
Especially up and down the river banks, you know. They'd catch
minnows, see? Walking, just like these Blue Herons in the winter
here.
W: Well, the funny thing...when we were children, there was a
washing place--of course, there was no drainage then--in front


29
of our old house. At certain times in the afternoon, they'd
come by. They were just like white clouds, and they'd stop
down in this place and feed awhile before they went on to the
rookery. And then early in the morning you'd see them going
back down to the lake. Twice a day they went through, and both
times they stopped because it was marshy, and it wasn't too
deep. They could walk around, you know, and pick out frogs
and snails--that's mostly what they got. And that went on every
day of the week. They'd come through in the morning, and then
go back. It was just like a white cloud going by. I don't
know where the rookery was, but it couldn't have been too far.
I: Well, before the drainage they could have been all over around
down in here, because Harney Pond Canal and those big drainages
were pretty late, were they not? They were into the twenties
before they got those cut through.
S: That's right.
I: So there could have been rookeries all over here.
S: This whole country was under water. Practically everything
and everywhere you'd go there was these ponds.
I: Billy Bowlegs had his camp out there about where Brighton is
now in 1930. So, I saw a map of when Roy Nash did his survey,
and he had all of the Indians' camps pegged on it in 1930.
I thought it was interesting that Billy...and Billy Stewart
were way out there. They were the only two out where the res-
ervation is now.
S: Have you ever met Eli Morgan? He's still alive, this Indian.
Well, you ought to talk with him. He can talk fairly good
enough to make it interesting. He's in the store every once
in awhile; he always comes in to see me when he comes in.
He's getting well along in age, though. I imagine Eli must
be close to seventy now, 'cause...maybe he is seventy.
I: Is he out on Brighton?
S: Yeah, he's out to Brighton. But you ought to look him up.
I: Okay. I've got to go out and see Frank Shore, before long,
and I'll get Frank to introduce...I just don't know him.


30
S: Well, Eli Morgan is a good Indian and he's one of the old-
timers. And as I say, he can talk enough to make it interesting
for you. He was named after the Eli Morgan that used to be at
Nigger Jim Scrubs', ol' Bluefield.
I: I wonder if all the Bowers' out there were named after this
Bowers down at Indiantown? You know there is a whole family
of Bowers, Indians?
S: Is that right? Well, yeah; they were all named after ol' Joe.
See, as you know they didn't go by name. They just picked up
a name, liked it, and used it, see?
I: Right. Because there's Andrew Bowers, and Joe Bowers, and Dick
Bowers, and....
U: Sam, Pete....
I: Yeah, there're more Bowers out there than you can shake a....
I guess they just picked it up from him and used old family names.
When did you stop trading in the plumes, do you recall?
S: Oh, when the government clamped down. I don't remember how
many years it's been, but it's been many, many years ago. I
would say back in the early twenties.
I: Yeah, because really you started getting laws against pluming
as early as 1901, and then a big federal law in 1910. The
1920s seems to be when it was dying out.
S: Well, right in the early twenties is when they really put the
brakes on it.
I: They really started getting the Audubon wardens in here, and....
One of the funniest stories I ever heard, it strikes me as funny,
is that Frank Brown, one of the Brown boys, he really shot up
whole rookeries by himself. He was one of the earliest Audubon
wardens. When he found out he couldn't shoot them up anymore
then he began protecting them. Sort of like it takes a thief
to catch one.
S: That's right.
I: So I guess they couldn't have picked a better Audubon warden
than Frank Brown. He knew every inch of the Big Cypress, and
knew how a plumer would come in there to take them. But I've


31
often heard that in spite of all the government laws, that
there was really a thriving plume trade as long as the demands
of fashion...and this seemed to change in the twenties.
S: Well, you see it did. They'd keep them from putting plumes
on hats, you know, and the law became that strict.
W: Weren't they shipped abroad?
I: Right.
W: Didn't France take a lot of them?
I: Well, in 1910 they passed a law in the United States forbidding
the plume trade in both interstate commerce and importation of
plumes. But into the twenties it was still going on. It wasn't
enforced. I think the enforcement aspect is what we're talking
about here. Florida passed the first law in the United States
against hunting the birds in 1901. And then there was a national
law in Congress in 1910. But they did all sorts of things to get
around it. Finally it took cutting off the international trade.
Some of the people we talked to who made their whole living off
this said that into the twenties there was still a trade, be-
cause the demand was still there in spite of the law.
W: Of course, in our family you weren't allowed to. They didn't
see any sense in just killing, you know, like the whooping
crane that was almost extinct before they stopped that. And
they were all around. There would be deer and turkey and every-
thing like that, but we had cows, too, and when they needed
something like that they'd go kill it. As far as wholesale
killing, or killing just because you wanted to be shooting at
something, that was just not allowed in our family. I guess
that was too early for them. So many of them used to be in
front of our place, but I know my father never would think about
any shooting down there. But there certainly was plenty of them.
Maybe they hadn't started that fashion....
I: All of these things fit together. Because as we've been to
talk to the various families and various people, you are one
of the very few that has been the start of the business right
on through. Like Kirby Storter, whose father, of course, started
his store down at Everglades in 1892. Mr. Storter died many,
many years ago, and Kirby remembers growing up there as a boy.
We're usually talking with second, sometimes third generation
memories.


32
S: I would say I was about eight or ten years old...
W: ...when his dad was really trading with the Indians and when
he was with the hides and things.
I: Well, the same is true with Kirby Storter. He was about the
same age, but he has all these memories. Frank Brown was a
teenager trading with the Indians, but Frank is ninety, and
very lucid, and his sister is what--ninety-two now, ninety-
three? And we have great tapes with them. They had no records
but they could tell you...they could almost remember pricing
structures of how much they were paying. We're getting a pretty
good picture of how much the hides and plumes and everything
were worth, from yourself and others. What we're now looking
at is how much the Indians were having to pay for things, like
a pot or pan. For example, how many plumes would it take to
buy a pan?
S: Well, maybe one plume or maybe three or four plumes, depending
on the size of the pan and if it was an enamel pan or a tin pan.
But they liked tin for some reason, they didn't go much for
this enamel.
W: How about that black stuff, that heavy iron stuff?
S: Oh, you mean the ol' cast iron?
W: Right.
I: What would a cast iron skillet, for example, sell for?
S: Well, at that time it wouldn't be but a dollar, a dollar and
a half, two dollars--a dollar and a half as a rule. Now we
sell them for six and eight and ten dollars.
I: So a couple of plumes might get them a skillet?
S: That's right. It would get them a dutch-oven.
I: All right. How about a shotgun? What would a shotgun go, say
a twelve gauge shotgun?
S: Well, at that time around thirty-five or forty dollars.
I: This would be in the twenties?
S: Yeah.


33
I: So they would have to have a pretty....
S: They'd have to have quite a lot of plumes, yeah.
I: Did you ever handle sewing machines?
S: No. Well, I used to handle these little hand ones, but I don't
remember what I used to get for them.
I: We've heard twenty-five to thirty dollars.
S: Yeah, that's about right. Even cheaper than that when I first
got them, you know.
U: What color were they.
S: You know, we used to turn them by hand.
I: Were they Singers or White?
S: The old Singers.
I: They were the Singers?
S: Yeah.
I: So in the twenties then, this gives me some price ideas...and
the shotgun shells forty-five cents a box.
S: Well, that was forty-five cents.
I: Was that for twelve and sixteen?
S: That's twelve gauge, yeah.
I: What about sixteen?
S: Well, they were both about the same.
I: About the same, forty-five cents, give or take. How about a
.30-.30 rifle?
S: Oh, now, that's a good question. I can't tell you off hand,
it's been so long. After all, fifty some years.
I: Just trying. You know, sometimes I throw them out and people
just answer automatically.


34
S: I know, but I don't want to make a statement you see. I don't
want to say it was twenty dollars if it was fifty or something
like that, I'd rather not say anything.
I: What we do is we take ranges of figures and just sort of average
out and say it was somewhere in this range.
S: Well, a rifle and a shotgun would at that time be practically
the same, about the same in price.
I: So they could, on a good day's pluming, do some pretty good
trading, too.
S: Oh yes. Boy, I sold many a plume, I tell you. They'd bring
them in wrapped up, and they'd wrap them...ninety-nine times
out of a hundred they'd be wrapped in a newspaper. Now, where
they got the newspaper I don't know, but almost inevitably
they'd be wrapped in newspaper. They never would bring them
out here open. They'd always have them laid out, and wrapped
up just as neat as they could be. And lost of times a folded
paper and a plume, a folded paper and a plume, see? But if it
was a newspaper, it wouldn't be regular store paper, and that's...
I still wonder how they got that.
I: Did they have a pretty good idea of what they had in terms of
value? Or did they pretty much depend on you?
S: No, they more or less depended on the white man to tell them.
Because I mean, after all, you say, "I'll give you that much,"
what could they do? They couldn't walk to Fort Pierce or Lake
Amoha. So they more or less depended on the purchaser, what-
ever he wanted to offer them. But I'd give them anything I pos-
sibly could because I was interested in them. I enjoyed them,
and I wanted to learn their ways and habits.
I: How often did you ship your plumes--just when you had enough to?
S: Just when I had enough to, twenty-five, thirty, forty, fifty
plumes and I'd send them off.
I: How would you send them? Did you send them...?
S: I put them in a box.
I: Just on consignment, huh? Well, that's interesting. I'd never
heard how plumes were shipped. I'd assumed that they would be
shipped that way.


35
S: Well we shipped them by express right to New Orleans, but I
don't remember the...it was some concern, it had something to
do with hats. I remember that, but I wouldn't know the name.
I: That's interesting, because I don't think anyone's ever said
how they packed the plumes into the.... That's amazing. I
wonder where they got the newspaper?
S: That's a good question.
I: I'll ask some of the Indians that.
S: And I'll bet you that ninety-nine out of every hundred that
they would bring in, I mean packages, would be in newspapers.
Don't ask me where they got the paper because I don't know.
I: Was there any particular season they were hunting in? In the
spring when they were nesting?
S: Well, of course, yes. During the pluming season would be in
the spring.
W: They only have a season. They only have a season once.
S: Well, they had just one season for the plumes, see? But I
don't know if they gathered them enough to keep them coming,
or what they did with them.
I: Well, Mr. and Mrs. Meserve, we appreciate it. You've been most
helpful and most kind to let us come in and tape this.
S: Well, we're glad to help you but there is so little we know.
I: When we get this whole piece together we will certainly send
you the copy. I'm writing a preliminary article that'll come
out in The Florida Historical Quarterly in January which will
be very sketchy, but just touching on the major families.
And then I'm hoping to put it into book form with a chapter on
each of the areas. I'd like one chapter on the people here,
the Raulersons, the Meserves, and maybe put Bowers in it and
so forth, who dealt up at the north end of the lake; another
chapter on the Stranahans; another chapter--make a five chapter
monograph out of it. So what I will do, the initial little ar-
ticle, I'll send you copies of that and let you comment on that,
and then anything that's out of line in that one, I want to have
corrected before the book form comes out later on. I've already


36
put a title on the article for the Florida Historical Quarterly.
They're calling it "Pelts, Plumes, and Hides: White Traders
on the Florida Frontier, 1880 to 1930." What we'll call the more
definitive work later on where we really talk in depth...and that's
what we're trying to get here, we've got ledgers out in the car
from the Raulerson's store and so forth. So as soon as we get
it all together we'll either mail it back or preferably bring
it back to you and see you again. So thank you very much, we
appreciate it.
S: You're welcome.


Full Text

PAGE 1

SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida INTERVIEWEE: Mr. & Mrs. E. Meserve INTERVIEWER: Dr. Harry Kersey DATE: July 28, 1972

PAGE 2

-------------------------------~-SUMMARY In 1915, Mr. Meserve opened the first hardware store in Okeechobee and his wife is the daughter of L. M. Raulerson, one of the early major Indian traders. In this interview, they give a coherent picture of trade with the Indians and the economy of the area. Included are details about pricing, trading customs, wholesalers, transportation and the plume trade. They relate several anecdotes about Indian and white personalities of that area and time.

PAGE 3

INDEX Armstrong (Indian missionary), 13-14 Audubon wardens, 30 Bowers, Joe, 12, 14-17, 30 Bowlegs, Billy, 9, 24-25, 29 Dress (Indian), 7, 24-25 Economy (of area), 17, 21-22 F.E.C. (Florida East Coast R.R.), 2 Flournoy story (Smithsonian museum aquisition), 14-16 Green Corn Dance, 27-28 Huckleby, Tantie, 19-20 Indian camp locations, 11-12 Language (division), 8-9 missionaries, 13-14 Nigger Jim Scrubbs, 12 Parker, Polly ("Evangeline of the Seminoles"), 26-27 Taylor's Creek (Anossoleecheecohatchee), 6, 11 Tiger, Naha (and squaw), 11 Trade (with Indians), 3-8, 10-11, 21, 28, 32-35 plume, 4, 30, 31, 34-35

PAGE 4

I: This is Dr. Harry Kersey, Florida Atlantic University. Today we are interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Meserve of Okeechobee, Florida. The date is July 28, 1972. S: about three o'clock. And we arrived in Okeechobee the next morning about four o'clock, which is a thirteen-hour trip going about a hundred miles. It was a cold, cold morning. I hadn't had anything to eat since the morning that I left St. Augustine. So the crew and myself got out and gathered up some palmetto roots and some sticks, and one thing and another, and built a fire until daylight. And I told the conductor, "Well, I'm going uptown to get something to eat. I'm hungry." He says, "Uptown? You're right in the middle of the court house door." Then there was no town here. I says, "Well, I haven't had anything to eat. I've got to " He says, "Well, there's a creek down about a mile east of here, and you might find somebody down there." So I went, picked my little suitcase up and walked to the creek, and I got down there and I was the only living human. So I says, "Well, I'm going to get out of here. I'm going to go back on the train." So I started back. When I got about halfway up, I saw the train going through the woods, headed back. And then I was into trouble. So I looked around, put my suitcase down, looked all around to see what I could see. I saw a little, looked like a little building, down through the woods. At that time this was all timber. So I says, "Well, I' 11 go down there." I went down there, and that was my wife's brother. L.M. Raulerson, had a little store there. It may have had a couple hundred dollars worth of merchandise in it, so I got something to eat and drank some water out of his pump and asked him then what I could do about getting a room. And he says, "Well, go to my mother's, because she never turns down anyone and she'll give you a place to stay." That was the old home, right down here. So I went there, and my wife was on the porch laying in a hammock, and I thought that was the prettiest girl I ever saw. I asked her where her mother was, and she says, "She's out in the back hanging out the washing." So I went back and asked her about a room, and she says, "Well, I can't give you a room now, because I don't have one. But my daughter does have one." [That was] Mrs. Coates, that lives right behind their place.

PAGE 5

2 I went over to her and she gave me a room. So I stayed there that night, and the next day I picked out my lot where I wanted to put my store. And then I caught the next train back to St. Augustine, and brought my building material and a carpenter back with me. I: What year was this now? S: January, 1915. I: And the train didn't get here till 1913? S: No, the first train come in I was the only passenger on the first train. I: The first train? S: Yeah. That was January 3 it left Titusville, and got here on January 4, 1915, see. W: Titusville or St. Augustine? Where did you leave? Why were you in Titusville? S: You come to Titusville on the F.E.C. [Florida East Coast R.R.], then you change there and come on this feed line out from Titus ville, through Maytown and Chuluota and Holopaw, Keenansville, and then into Okeechobee. I: How did you pick this place? S: Well, that's kind of an odd story, too. I knew Mr. J.E. Ingraham, who was the vice-president of Florida East Coast. And this was his pet project, Okeechobee was. Now then, Keenansville was the pet project of Mr. Keenan, who was another vice-president of East Coast. But Mr. Ingraham says, "I'm going to move the shops from St. Augustine to Okeechobee, because it's halfway between Miami and Jacksonville, and this will be a town of about 40,000 people in a couple or three years. So he says, "If you want to get on the ground floor and go down there and put in a hardware store, you can't miss." But just after the town got started, he died. When he died, the town died. We layed dormant here for years. There's nothing happened at all--just the fish companies coming in, of course. That's when we had our troubles. I: Had you been in the hardware business up in ?

PAGE 6

------------------3 S: No, I had two years experience in the bank. I didn't finish the eighth grade in school, 'cause my daddy says all I was doing was wasting my time and eating his food; I'd just as well get out and go to work. I: Was St. Augustine your home? S: Yeah, that's where I was born. I: How many people were here? S: I would say six or maybe seven families at that time. So there would be twenty-five or thirty-five people living here. My wife's two brothers--one was Louis Raulerson, Hiram's daddy. He had this little store, and they would pole a boat from here to Fort Myers to get groceries to put in the store. And of course lots of times they would go by ox cart team to Fort Pierce, but that was a hard trip; no roads, you know, out through the woods, and take 'em days and days. So they poled to Fort Myers, and that was weeks. I: Well, to open a hardware business, you would think you'd need more of a clientele than just a few families. S: L.M. [Louis Raulerson] always called me 'sonny boy', and he says, "Sonny boy, who're you going to sell your hardware to?" I says, "The same people you sell your groceries to." Which was mostly Indians, see? And then the Indians began to come in. You know, the orneriest part about an Indian was that he couldn't talk. I mean they couldn't talk English, I'll put it that way. But he could make change as good as you or I could, and that's the part that always used to puzzle me. I just couldn't understand how they knew the American dollar so well, and yet they couldn't speak a word. They'd come in and they'd walk all around; they'd see something they want, they'd grunt, point, and if [they] bought a horse and wagon from [you], they'd want you to wrap it up. This was the oddest thing in the world. They'd want paper and string around it--I don't care what it was. And they'd always buy one article at a time and pay you for it, and then go around buy another article, come back and wrap it up, and they'd pay you for it. You never could sell them two articles; and yet they could make change, they knew it just as good as I did. I: Yeah, that's interesting. In all the work I've done with Indians, in a lot of educational programs, we've found the one thing that the Indians score well in is mathematics. And of L ____ ----------------------------------------------~

PAGE 7

4 course the numeration system is the same for an Indian as it is for us, he just pronounces it different. The number concept is not difficult. There's a basis for that I guess. S: Well, they're a wonderful race of people. I mean I just en joyed them, I studied them and I worked with them and waited on them because I was interested in them. They come into my place. I traded merchandise for plumes. I never did bother with the skins--I mean the alligator hides, or 'coon hides, or otter hides. I didn't because I knew nothing about it. But plumes--the egret plumes was what I was I could feel of one and tell just what it was worth, see? It goes by the silkiness, the fineness of it, so you know. If it was a coarse quill it wouldn't bring as much as a fine quill would bring. I: What would a fine quill bring? S: Oh, in those days maybe seventy-five cents, maybe a dollar. See, the women in those days wore them on their hats. I'd send them to New Orleans, to a hattery I guess you'd call it, where they put them, fixed up their hats and I: Do you remember the name of the company? S: No I don't. I wouldn't know it if I heard it. I: They did go to New Orleans? S: Oh yeah. I: Well, a lot of the people out of Key West, of course, shipped to New York. S: I don't remember sending any I may have sent some to New York, but most of them went to New Orleans. I don't know why--maybe it was a broker there or something. I: And that's the price you'd get, seventy-five cents? S: Yeah, fifty to seventy-five cents apiece for them. And you know, some people say that the Indians didn't have a shotgun back in 1915, but that's a mistake. They did have shotguns, because I sold them shells. I know they had to have a gun, or they wouldn't have bought shotgun shells, see? They

PAGE 8

5 tried to tell me they didn't have anything but rifles. Well, I know better than that, because I used to sell them ammunition. I: What were you selling them mostly, twelves, sixteens? S: Twelve, sixteen--mostly twelve gauge, see? I: What would you pay for a plume for example? For a plume that you could sell for seventy-five cents? S: Well, fifty cents, or sixty cents, or maybe thirty-five cents; depends on the size, you know, the length of the plume and the texture. I: Did the plume buyers, like this house in New Orleans, publish price lists? S: No, I had to send it on consignment. I: We've run across many documents in the southern end of the state [Florida] from hide dealers that would publish a price list periodically. We're buying, for example, six-foot al ligator hides for so much. S: So much a foot. I: Yeah, but you had to send on consignment? S: Yeah, these were all on consignment. I: So that was interesting. What percentage of your clientele would you say was Indian? He indicated as much as a quarter to a half of his father's store. S: It would be. I would say more than that--maybe 75.percent, because there was nobody here, see? I mean, there couldn't have been over twelve or fifteen people, twenty people here at that time; but the Indians were in every week. They would camp down here on Taylor's Creek, and of course a lot of them were out at Cow Creek. [East of the town of Okeechobee, Cow Creek flows into Lake Okeechobee and was a principle camp of the Muskogee-speaking Seminoles who now inhabit Brighton Res ervation.] See, you couldn't get to Brighton [twenty miles southwest of Okeechobee] because it was all water. From the Kissimmee River right on across that prairie [Indian Prairie] was water then. ------------------------------

PAGE 9

6 I: That was before the drainage canals had been put in. S: Right. That was before the canals come in. They'd come in with their dugouts up Taylor's creek, which was known at that time as the Anossoleecheecohatchee. If you'll get an old government map, you'll see that that's the name of it at that time. Right back here through this swamp is where Taylor cap tured the Indians. [Col Zachary Taylor won a major battle here in December, 1837, during the Second Seminole War.] And took them up the Mississippi River. I: The third [camp] was there? S: Yes. At that time this creek was the Anossoleecheecohatchee. I think it's a shame that they ever changed the name of it. It means 'Mudfish Creek', just like the Okeechobee means 'Big Waters'. And then the Kissimmee River and Lake Tohopekaliga and Lake Kissimmee and Lake Istokpoga. Why they changed the name of this, I don't understand. I: They always want to venerate a general, I guess. They changed it to Taylor. Of course, I've seen the pictures you let us have to duplicate, and those are quite interesting. Do you recall how much it cost to build that original building of yours? S: Well, I know what I had to build it with and stock it with. Dad was on my note for $4000. That was to put the building up and put my inventory in. And I paid it back in just a lit tle while. It didn't take me many ... a year or two to pay it back. I: What were the Indians trading for, other than shotgun shells? S: Mostly they would go heavy for pots and pans. See, they needed pots and pans and utensils. And they'd go in strong for that. Of course, we sold quite a lot of guns, and the ammunition. And they soon got to building these chickees or shacks, and they buy the small four-penny nails. It was just a general thing, of course. I: Yeah, they were starting to put the chickees together with nails by then. I haven't found any old enough to go back to when they were binding them together and roping them together. I've never seen one that wasn't nailed. So I don't imagine any of the old ones are still left.

PAGE 10

7 S: I doubt it very seriously. I: As the town grew, did the Indians come as regularly? Say by the '2Os, were they still coming as regularly? S: Oh yes. That is, up until a few years ago. You know it's a shame that they got away from their orig inal costume, because it was so colorful. And I don't know if you ever saw them when they used a palmetto stem for their visor--it looked like a visor on a hat. They take those stems, and dry them out and curl them, and then put the hair over it--looked just like a visor--and they'd sometimes tilt them up and be sports. It was really very, very colorful. I: The families we have talked to--and there are maybe five major families in Florida now: yourself; the Raulerson family; the Storter family from Everglades City; Mrs. Stranahan just died two years ago and she was the last of the Stranahan line; the people who live down in Choloskee, the Smallwoods, for example; and then the Brown family that operated down in Big Cypress. The best that I can tell, and I've been working at this about five years, these were the only ones that had stores. S: It's a pity you couldn't have talked to Mr. DeVane before he passed away. Now there's a man who knew the Indians. He lived with them, he stayed with them, he knew them from one end to the other. In fact, Mrs. DeVane has the first shotgun that I sold to Billy Bowlegs when I come to Okeechobee. Mr. DeVane got it from him, and I tried to get it from him [Mr. DeVaneJ, but he wouldn't let me have it. So Mrs. DeVane has that now. They'd come into the store, and I didn't have much in ventory--naturally you can imagine that, I didn't have practi cally anything--but they'd come in and sit in a circle lots of times right down in the store and eat, and leave their trash there, and the babies dribbled right on the floor and all that. But I didn't mind that because I was interested in them. I wanted it; in fact, I welcomed it. It was most interesting. They'd sit there, and they were always so happy. Joyful peo ple, you know, laughing and going on. I: Did you sell them beads? S: No, I never did. I: Did they get them over at Raulerson?

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8 S: I imagine so. I don't know where they got them, but they'd put them [on] until they couldn't move their chin down, just ...• W: That came in bulk didn't it? In crates? S: Yeah. Then they'd string them. W: Gallons of them. I: Yeah, they'd buy them by the quart or by the gallon at most other places. I didn't know who was selling them up hereif you were selling them. S: No, sir. I never sold any beads. I: You know this is interesting, that the Indians who lived up here, the Cow Creek Indians, actually the Muskogee-speakers, the Creek-speakers There were some differences in the way they did business than with the Miccosukee-speakers that I know best in the south. And, of course, they didn't speak the same language. S: Well, weren't they all Seminoles? I: Well, Seminoles is just a general term we've given these In dians, but really they speak different languages. S: Yeah, well, they don't associate with each other. I: No. They're doing it more now that they have tribal unity, but S: Well, I was just reading in Sunday's paper where they what do you call them? I: Miccosukee. S: There're still some of them there that can't speak English. I: Many of them still don't. Actually, if you trace the history, in 1880, a lot of the Indians who lived down on Fisheating Creek [enters Lake Okeechobee from the west, just south of Lakeport] were Miccosukees. These were the ones that moved further south, and then the people from up here in Cow Creek, between here and Fort Pierce, started moving around. So now, most of your Miccosukees do live well south of the lake, but they represent four-fifths of the Indians we call

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9 S: Well, they're still back in the 'Glades, aren't they? I mean I: They're in the 'Glades, and they're on Big Cypress, Brighton and south of the Tamiami Trail, and they're the ones we deal with mostly. S: Well now, have you ever heard authentically that Billy Bowlegs was a half-breed? I: Not authentically. S: There evidently was some truth or belief that he was, because when I come here, Billy Bowlegs was more or less of an outcast with the Indians. He never went with them. I hunted with Billy Bowlegs many times--four and five days, a week at a time. But when he'd camp, he'd camp by himself; and when he'd come to town, he'd come alone; and when he'd hunt, he'd hunt alone. So he was more or less of an outcast until Billy Smith died. Now I don't know, but I've always heard ever since I first come here that he was half colored. I can't say it authen tically, but there was a barrier there of some kind. W: You know, that was a strange thing that that could have been, the way they hated the white folks. The way they compared people--they'd say white man, Indian, dog, nigger. S: You ever hear that? I: Yes, I've heard that. And here again I think there was more of a concern with the Indian, the Cow Creeks over this, because back in their history where there had been some intermarriage with blacks, it was more in this group than with the southern group. To my knowledge there was only one half breed MiccosukeeOld Charlie Dixie. I know that family, but up here this is I'm the first to admit I know far less about the Indians up here historically than I do about the ones further south in the state. I know they had friends up in Kissimmee, like the Willsons S: Yeah. I: Jim and Minnie Moore-Willson, and people like this who wrote about them who at first didn't even know they spoke a different language. S: Well, the Makinsons knew them quite well, too.

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10 I: Where did you get most of your hardware from? Who was your wholesaler? S: Well, the most of it come from Jacksonville, and Louisville, Kentucky; and also St. Louis, Chapee, what little bit I got. At that time there was no truck lines because there were no roads. It all come in by train on the railroad. I: As the town grew here, did the people who came in •.. how did they treat the Indians? I know the pioneer families liked them and dealt with them. How about people who started coming in? S: Well, they had no difficulty. I mean, they didn't take up any time with them because they weren't interested. They were just a bunch of Indians, and that was about all it amounted to. W: They've always been well-treated here. S: But you see, my wife and her folks were always very kind to them. They'd let them come in and sleep on the porch over night, feed their horses for them, and look after them. Be cause they were the only white family here for quite a while, you see. W: I don't think they were ever mistreated anyplace. People were a little bit afraid of them, you know. Not to any great ex tent, but I don't know •.. they were a strange people. They weren't so very friendly themselves. They could have spoke up if they wanted to, not very well, but they could have if they wanted to. They'd just let you talk all day, then they'd grunt. S: They just didn't trust them somehow or other. W: They were just being smart, because my father could talk with them. I: He could speak the language, your father? W: No, they'd speak. It was sort of a broken English talking thing. But they carried on conversations you could understand. They didn't carry on any long conversations--it was just a word, and it made a connection somewhere. I: When they came in, do you recall how they came in? Would they come in once a week, once a month?

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11 S: Oh, no. They'd be in and out during the week. Mostly though on a Saturday afternoon, they'd come in. But they would be in during the week; some of them most all the time, everyday. Because there were a lot of them here at that time. I say a lot; I don't know how many, but there was several of them, many more than there were white people. I: And they just came in almost like we use the store today, as needed? S: That's right. W: I don't think they always came to us. They used to squat round that place all out in front, you know. It was just some thing to do. They didn't do anything but hunt, you know, so I: Were they ever a disturbance? S: Oh no! No, very peaceful. Just a nice tribe of people. I just enjoyed them. I passed Naha Tiger one day--this has always struck me funny--1 was coming in from the cemetery, and he was going along on his horse. And his squaw was walking behind him with a sack of groceries over her shoulder, see, a feed sack. And I stop ped and I said, "Naha, why don't you let the squaw ride?" He says, "Squaw don't got 'em horse." After all, that's as good an answer as any. I: But in those early years they were still using a lot of the canoes up here before the drainage. S: Oh yeah, they'd come up the Caloosahatchee I mean the Taylor's Creek, see? Now then, where they were staying down around Lakeport, I don't know. I don't know where they would go, but they would go out across the lake [Okeechobee], and in fact, I've got a picture of a canoe with two squaws and two little pickaninnies in it coming in to the Taylor's Creek now, up at the store. I: There were some camps over on Fisheating Creek back in the headwaters. S: Right, and they were probably coming from there. I: Right. Up where they start Harney Pond Canal [flows through present Brighton Reservation into Lake Okeechobee] now. There were some up in there. How about out to the east of here, be tween here and Fort Pierce?

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12 S: Well, they used to camp out at Nigger Jim Scrubs', if you know where that is. I: No, I don't. S: Well, Nigger Jim Scrubs got his name because there was a colored man that was trying to marry one of the Indian girls. And the Indians didn't like that. So, as .the story goes, they cut his head off. Killed him and cut his head off, and drug his head way off one direction and his body the other, so they would never get together, see? And that place is known today as Nigger Jim Scrubs', because this nigger was named Jim. W: Oh, that's some more Indian lore. I don't think you could prove it. S: It's still known as Nigger Jim Scrubs'. That's right this side of Cypress Creek. I: So they're on both sides, down to the southwest and out to the east of here, too? S: And also up Cow Creek, you see. I: Yeah, up Cow Creek. Of course, that's where they got their name where you first ran into them. S: Yeah. The Creek Indians. I: And these were moving down, of course, they'd all been up around Kissimmee and up in that area, too. Did you ever run into a man by the name of Bowers? S: Joe Bowers is the only one I know of. I: Well, that's the one I'm talking about. S: Oh, yeah. I knew Joe Bowers as well as I know my ..•. I: Tell me something about him. He's a man I can't find any kind of mention of. S: Well, he lived at Indiantown [about twelve miles east of Lake Okeechobee], or out from Indiantown. Now is this the same one you're speaking of?

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13 I: That's the one, right. S: He had a grove out there at Indiantown. What we know as Indian town now. But there was no road in there, there was no way to get to him hardly, yet he had a beautiful grove there. And ol' man Joe was an old bachelor. He lived out there all by himself for years and years. He had a lot of cattle, but all black cattle; he wouldn't have anything but the Black Angus. That was the only thing he would have. And finally he got married to a young girl in his old age, just a year or two before he died. They got married on horseback to be different, see? Well, she lived with him long enough to about clean him out, which didn't take but about a couple of years, then she left and he died. But he lived back there this side of Indiantown. In fact, there's a sign there, she says now, at Indiantown, Joe Bowers' Grove. That old grove is still there. I: But there are no children or anything? S: Oh, no! No, he didn't have any children. Just where he come from, or how he happened to take up there or homestead, no one knows. That is, I've never known of or found anybody who knew anything about him other than just he was an old hermit. I: Some Indians out in Oklahoma told us that the first Indian missionaries who came in here, the Baptist missionaries, who were Indians and that's why most of these Indians out at Brighton are Baptists, and the others--that Joe Bowers had written them and asked them to send in missionaries. The first sermon that was preached in Florida by these missionaries was preached at Joe Bowers' store in 1907. S: Isn't that something. I: Now that's the story I got from some of the Indians. S: Well, I wouldn't be a bit surprised because .•.. W: A couple of missionaries from Oklahoma came and stayed at my father's place, too. And one of them was a full-bred Indian. His name was Armstrong. The man with him they wanted to get these Indians interested in going back and going to schoolthose that weren't going to school at that time. They wanted to go out through the tribe and see if they could get any children interested in going back out there [to Oklahoma]; starting up in school. And they. stayed.

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14 This Armstrong was an enormous person. He was a mighty man; he was tall and large, too. And I remember my mother thought she would never find a bed that would hold him uphe'd just break it down. I: Did you ever run into the missionary by the name of Brown that was in that early group? He was another big fellow, about the size of. •.. W: Well, this man with him was a great big fellow. It might have been the same two that you said went down to Florida. And I suppose they could have been on the same mission. There were two of them. They stayed quite a while, because my father took them down there. They'd go around and then they came back through and stopped again. I: That's interesting, what you were telling us earlier, that your father actually had the Indians at the table and treated them as formal company. W: Did you ever know or hear of the Flournoy story about the Indians? I: No. W: Well, this man was sent out from the Smithsonian. They were collecting things for the institution, and they sent him down here to get something on Indians, see what he could find. And at our house--that's why we have absolutely nothing left in the ____ line, or beads, or pottery, or stuff like that-he just took it all; Dad gave it to him. Because we grew up with that stuff, and it didn't seem very important to us. He told us what he wanted it for was the museum. And so he wanted to get some bones to take back of some sort of important Indian, you know, a chief or something like that. My father told him he didn't know how to take him into any of these places, but he'd heard that this Joe Bowers could; but he warned him against it. He said they were very strange about these things, and they don't want anything disturbed that belonged to their ancestors or tribes in any way. But he in sisted, so, Dad took him down there and told Mr. Bowers what he wanted, and so he could get them back into the swamp. I don't remember who it was exactly. Do you know whose bones they were? S: No, I don't remember. It was some chief.

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15 W: It was one of their chiefs. S: There was a grave and bones. W: The way they buried them, sometimes they just cut a slab out of a tree. They'd cut it up very carefully, the size of that person--a cypress tree has an awful lot of hollow space; you can see that from the root business. Well, they cut in, and they stand them up in that place like that, and then they put this slab back. Sometimes they would take a tree and cut it down, cut it in two and make the bottom part back for the cof fin, and top they'd put over it. And of course they put them in some special place, and you know the story about all those things they had there--animals and all they'd killed and their guns, if they had any. Well, he went back. Mr. Bowers knew where these bones were, and of course, I guess Mr. Flournoy gave him something for them. And anyway, he came back with just a bag--they sold corn in this kind of gunny sack. He brought them to the house and Dad didn't like it a bit. He said, "You're going to get in trouble about that. 11 And he said he didn't think so. And so he went back to Washington and he said he'd send for his [things]. There was quite a chore getting those things over to Fort Pierce, that's how he had to go over, and he'd collected a lot of things. So he told him that he would send for them later. He went back, and somebody told the Indians about it. They went on the war path. They were perfectly furious. Though my father was one of their oldest friends and best friends, the idea was that when they were going to have war or something like that, they killed the best friend first, because they didn't want him to get in the massacre or something like that. They'd give him that much honor, you know. And so the rumor kept coming to my father that they were going on the war path, and it was all about those bones. The thing really got--I don't know how much would have come of it--but anyway, they went over to Fort Pierce, and the sheriff came out and told my Dad, he said, "They say that so many moons, and if those bones aren't back, they were going on the war path. 11 In the meantime, [Flournoy] did send for those bones, and they were sent to him. And they [the Indians] were just like they were when he took them away. So when they [Indians] got real furious about this thing my father told the sheriff his [Flournoy] name, and he said he knew it didn't mean that much to him, that if he would get right to him, why, he was sure [The Smithsonian] would send [the bones] back. Well, they gave

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16 him a couple of months, or something like that, and he sent the bones back. Sent them back just like they took them off; he never had even taken them out of the bag. The sheriff went out to Joe Bowers, because he knew where they came from, and they put them back. S: What was the man's name from Washington? W: Flournoy. I: About when was this? W: You know, to us kids those things mean very little to us. I don't know just •.. I can't imagine when it would have been. [The incidents described took place between January and July, 1907.--Editor] But everybody around well, I know that it was so serious that we were beginning My father sent the smaller ones upwe had a sister living in Basinger, that's about eighteen or twenty miles from here, and he sent us up to stay with her until this thing blew over. He didn't know just how much of it was going to materialize. That's pretty well known all over, about that Flournoy business. I don't know what they would have done, but they certainly kept on until they got the bones back. It wasn't an easy thing to do. The man never dreamed My father talked to him, and he told him it would probably cause a lot of trouble. But he didn't think so; he didn't think it was that important. Just some old bones, you know. I: Do you have any idea when this Joe Bowers died? S: Well, it hasn't been too many years ago. I wouldn't want to say because I get mixed up on time. But if you go down to Indiantown and ask anybody they can tell you. I imagine any of those merchants can tell you when Joe died. Well, I'll tell you one thing, somebody that might possibly know something about it would be Clayton White. His wife bought some antiques out of that Bowers house, some priceless antiques. I don't suppose they meant anything to him, but she collected those things, and she had heard they were some wonderful, so she bought a bed room suite from that place. W: This girl he [Bowers] married was just a sort of a tramp. He called her Mae West. She just thought he had a lot of money. I: Well, did he have a store there in addition to the grove?

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17 S: Oh, no. I: He didn't have a store, he was just a friend and confidant down there. S: They had pictures made before they got married on horseback, but I mean Joe didn't have any store or anything like that as far as I know. Just that one shack, and his groves, and his cattle. W: If you can find one of the settlers, one of the older families in Indiantown, I think anybody could tell you about Bowers. I: The economy of this area, pretty basically, you say in the early years [was] the fish, the shipping of fish out of here. How about the vegetables? When did vegetables ? S: There was one time there was a lot of farming here. Beans, mostly. I: And then when •.. ? You were talking about the bad years here, and the economy. S: Oh boy! We had some rough ones. I: Well, when was this? S: That was back in '27, '28, '29, '30; that was when the banks broke, and during the •... I: Land boom? S: Yeah, the Depression. When the bubble busted. It was rough. See, we were without a bank here for years. We had to go to Fort Pierce to get change. If you wanted to get a dollar changed, you had to go to Fort Pierce to do it. It was rough. I: What happened to the Indians during this period? Were they affected like everyone else? S: No, they seemed to get along all right. I mean they got along better than the rest of us, I think, because they weren't ac customed to wealth. Their standard was different. They had the Indian standard and we had a white man's standard, and so they got along all right. They didn't seem to have any dif ficulty.

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18 I: You sound like you'll never forget that day you got off the train. S: Oh boy! I'll never forget that train, no sir. That was rough. You can imagine a young 'un ...• I was just an old clapper-headed boy, I mean. And nothing to eat, nowhere to stay, and right out in the middle of the woods. I: Just a store and a few houses, huh? S: Yeah, that's right. W: There was a doctor here. Mr. McDermitt. And Indians came to him for treatment a lot. They brought Dr. McDermitt turkey and ven ison in payment for all the medical treatment, you know. There never was any question of paying cash; they'd just bring a turkey or a deer or something. And of course that was a big treat for him, so that took care of the medical bills. I: When did they [the Indians] start working on the ranches around here? S: Not too long ago. I would say maybe ten or twelve, possibly fifteen years ago they started picking tomatoes, or maybe doing a little work, not too much. [Several Cow Creek Seminoles had worked on ranches in the Okeechobee area as early as the 193Os. --Editor] In fact, they don't do too much ever. I: And got their own cattle and things out on the reservation? S: Yeah, but see the government now is taking good care of them, which they should. They were pretty roughly treated, I think. I: Other than the pictures in your store, over the years have you collected any other Indian artifacts? Your wife mentioned that the Smithsonian pretty much cleaned her family out of them. S: Yes, that's right. No, I haven't got a thing. W: Is it the Hutchinsons that are the artists [you] are so interested in? I: Yes. W: They have some lovely pictures. I think there are three of them in the library. S: I can get you some pictures. Does Dolly Dyer ever come back through, do you know?

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19 W: No, she moved to Arizona. S: I know, but I mean she didn't come back, you know. Her folks were here when I come here. They come in here about 1910. And she has a stack of little photographs, there must be a couple hundred of them. A lot of them were very interesting; but she has moved out with her brother in Tuscon, Arizona, so I don't know if she still has those photographs or not. I: Who owned the sawmill here? S: That's Faith's brother. I: Oh, that was your brother's saw mill? S: Yeah. I: It was just independent; he just owned the saw mill? S: Yeah, that's right. I: How long did that operate here? S: Oh, he had saw mills two or three different times for a year or two at a time. They'd cut enough lumber to build a house, and then shut it down. That's about all it amounted to, because there was nobody to sell it to, you see? I: Do you remember the schoolmarm that they named the town after initially? S: 01' Tantie Huckleby. I: She must have been quite a person to name a whole town after her. W: Well, the whole story there She came here from Atlanta, and she was a gentlewoman of first water. She was really the little Dresden China Doll. A very lovely person The teachers came out from Fort Pierce. That was the nearest place. At the time all this was going on, way back before I went to school, my father would go out through, out on the river to collect these children from families that were just not interested in school. He wanted to have school for our sake, and there had to be enough children before they would send a teacher out. Even at that, my father had to pay half of the fee for the teacher, and go out and gather up all these

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20 children and bring them in and keep them at our house all the five days of school. He'd go get them on Sunday afternoon, and then on Friday afternoon he'd distribute them back out through the woods wherever. S: Came up the Kissimmee River. W: She was one of the teachers they sent out. And of course, the teacher always stayed at our house, and they just stayed there. I: You must have had a large house. W: It was. No question. S: A big log cabin. W: Wasn't any board or anything; they just stayed there. And she was one of the better ones. At that time they talked about having a post office. So my mother was made postmaster. We fixed the post office back in one of the bedrooms. At this time, this place used to be called Bend, because of the river and this creek down here. S: There's a lake, see, around the bend. W: So at the fence stakes, up to the same miles across the front, that was my daddy's ranch. He just had to put up a thirty mile fence, that's all. Because the rest of it was river and creek, you see. And so it was called the bend, and she [Tantie Huckleby] was sent out, the post office came along, and she [was] there when mother was going into this. And she said, "Well, if you don't have any particular thing in mind for this post office, a name, I'd like to have you name it for me." And her name was Tantie Huckleby. It didn't make any difference to mother, so she said that was all right. So when they set up the post office, that's how it happened to be named Tantie. For the first teacher, you know, that really taught in a I: When was this? What year roughly? W: Now you got me there. These things I could find out, but I can't tell you right off hand. I: When did they rename it Okeechobee?

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21 S: When the train come in. W: Well, when they bought the county--six of them--St. Lucie County. S: See, this county was formed in 1917. But you see, her daddyused to be Brevard County--and he used to ride from here to Titusville horseback to attend the [Due to having to turn over the cassette, there is a break here in the continuity of the interview.] S: So I don't know what happened to her. I: Lived up in Highlands County, right? S: I believe so. I: I know the area, and I've read just about everything he has written. People who write about the Indians write about all sorts of things; their dress, their hunting, their religion. They write about everything but their trade, and that's precisely what we were looking at. There're only maybe one or two families who consider themselves Indian traders per.se. Like yourself, you were a businessman with a hardware store who happened to have an Indian clientele, I imagine. S: Well, I never considered myself an Indian trader. I: I only know of maybe two families that did. And Browns, down in the Big Cypress S: Yeah, they had to be. I: They were. There was nothing else there but Indians. And Stranahan [at Ft. Lauderdale] in the early years, though he was really connected with the stagecoach line from Lantana [On the coast, a few miles south of Palm Beach] down to the Peacock Inn in Coconut Grove [in Miami]. S: I would say when I came here there was about five or six fami lies, and other than that our trade was from the Indians. I: But you had not planned it? S: No, it just happened to me, that's all. But see, I couldn't make a living out of the store, I had to work. I stayed in the store all day, and then I would work practically all night to make a living. I had to; there was no other way to get by.

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,-----------------------------------------------22 I: What were you doing? S: Well, I had a Model 'T' Ford worm-drive truck, and at that time Clewiston and Moorehaven [on southern shore of Lake Okee chobee] really got started. See when I first moved there wasn't a thing from there [Okeechobee] to.Florida City [at the extreme southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula]. It was just a sheet of water. It was on the ridge, just the outside of the lake. I: So you were working in the evening? S: Oh yeah. They started farming there, and was raising beans, so there was a crate house here, see? I took the job of hauling the crates from the crate house and loading them on the boats to carry across the lake, because there was no way to get there, only across the lake. All the vegetables had to come out that way, and go in that way. So I'd work until three and four o'clock in. the morning loading the boats, and then stay in the store all day in order to get by. It was kind of rough. 'Cause there was no money; I mean there was nothing here to get any money out of. There was nobody here except the Indians that did the trading and I: Well, did you ever think of leaving during those years? S: Oh no, no, no. I wouldn't have missed that for anything in this world. I've had the most interesting life of any man alive today, I really think. I: How old were you when you came here? S: I was nineteen. I: You've been here a good long while. S: But see, coming right out of a town I didn't know anything about the country--didn't know how to build a fire even. I was just that green. It sounds funny, but I didn't know anything then. W: Well, that fishing industry came in right behind you, and you had furniture with your hardware, so it began to grow after that. S: Oh, yeah. It began to grow after that. And so when the fishing industry come in well, we were here you might say without a law for almost two years. See, there was no road to Fort Pierce, and they'd deputize someone to be deputy sheriff, and the fisher men would run him out of town, across the creek and make him

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23 leave. It was everybody for himself. And it was just a matter of who could stay and who couldn't, but I never had any trouble. I always got along with them. But they'd come in every Saturday and get drunk, and just shoot up the town, and kill each other. Faith and I used to stand on well, we had a balcony at that time in front of the store, upstairs where we lived. We'd stand up there and watch them fight out there in the.park. Oh, it was just terrible. I: This was in the old store then? S: The old store, yeah. We lived upstairs, see, in the old store. And in the '28 hurricane first it burned down in January of 1928. We had a gasoline stove, and she got up to cook breakfast and the thing had leaked, and it exploded. The whole thing burned up. So then we built it back, and just got back in and going again, and the hurricane come along and blew it down. So I said it was time to leave here now, and so we came down here and built this one. I: When were you married. S: In 1916, fifty-six years ago. I: That's a good long while. S: Yeah, but we've had a nice life; we've had a grand life. I: I guess it's colorful to look back on this now. Talking to the people who've grown up down here, and lived down in the islands and on the south end, I think Florida would have been more enjoy able back at the turn of the century and later than S: Well, I debated whether to go to Miami when I left home or come here. But I'll never regret coming here, because it's been such an interesting life •. W: It was a strange place to live in. People came here from all over. They always ..•. S: The wealthiest people in the United States used to be here. W: And there was a little waffle shop uptown and you'd go in there maybe for breakfast, and the person that come over to you might be the James ---S: The Fisks and the Mungs and Carlingtons from Palm Beach, they were over here all the time. I've been hunting with them dozens of times.

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24 I: Did you ever use Indian guides like Billy Bowlegs? S: Oh, no; just whenever I go with them boys, be one or two of the boys here wanted to go down to the cypress or go up on the prairie. I: Did you do that often with them? S: Oh yeah. I used to love and enjoy hunting with Billy, because he was a good hunter. W: Is Billy living still? S: No, he died three or four years ago, four or five years ago. I: About '64 or '65. S: Time gets away. I can't remember anymore. I: Yeah, about '65, I think, he passed away. He was S: Quite a fellow. But you know they played Billy up so big the last few years that I kind of got disgusted, knowing his past. Back, you know, fifty years ago his history then, and it seemed the last few years just blossom out like a flower, why W: DeVane [Albert DeVane, amateur historian from Lake Placid] glorified him, you know. He had a rig made for him--dress and a fancy hat. He took him anyplace in the world there was a convention or a celebration of any kind. He appeared with Billy. And of course if there was a parade, he and Billy entered the parade and all that. So he just gloried by him. I: Some of the pictures I have of him were made up in Kissimmee about 1909, 1910, 1911 and he was just in overalls, or at least pants and trousers and shoes and maybe an Indian shirt. S: I'm surprised at that, because most of them wore just Indianthe long-tailed shirts, and you never saw a woman with a pair of shoes on. Once in awhile you'd see an old buck with shoes on, but never a squaw. I don't understand that. I: Well, these were at Minnie Moore-Willson's house up in Kissimmee before World War I. I got a whole bunch of pictures up there. And the Indians with him, were in regular dress, in their native costume. But I've got a couple of him in just shoes; he'd been working around the yard I think.

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25 S: Well, you see that goes back again to this same story about him being maybe a kind of an outcast from the Indians. W: But this myth never, I never .•. until he died he wore a shirt, he never had a I: The long shirt? S: Yes. I: Did many of the Indians up here wear the turbans? S: Used to have one old Indian come in off of his canoe wore a derby hat; that was the funniest-looking thing you ever saw. He'd have this long shirt on, and he was a long, tall Indian and this derby hat sitting up there. I: Do you know that was one of the major trade items at Brown'sderby hats? S: Is that right? Well maybe that's where he got that. I: They must have made a fortune at Starter's and Brown's and Stranahan's. S: Well, he was the only one I ever saw, but he always had on that derby hat. I: I've got pictures of dozens of Indians down in Big Cypress wearing those derbys. S: Is that a fact? I: Yeah, Stranahans sold them too. W: A regular Indian couldn't wear that dress. You had to be im portant to have a turban. That meant you were a chief, I guess, nothing under a chief. I: Well, a lot of them used to wear it, because when they first started wearing those shirts without pockets they used to keep tobacco and shot and everything ...• W: Well, they made a handkerchief sort of thing, maybe sort of a You know, they had a special turban that was just for the

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S: Have you got a picture of this old Polly Parker? I: Not of Polly Parker. 26 S: My picture is gone from the store; now it's up at the artist's in Jacksonville. I have a friend here that wanted a duplicate of this of Polly Parker. So I took it up. And I was up there about three or four weeks ago; I went by to get it. She didn't have it ready. I says, "Well, I want my original." "Well," she says, "you can't have it because I've got to have that to make the other one, and I haven't finished it." I: What do you know about Polly Parker? They keep calling her the "Evangeline of the Seminoles." S: She was the grandest old soul that ever lived, I'll put it that way. She couldn't speak, she couldn't do anything but grunt, but she was always .•. even her eyes were smiling when she smiled. She was just a happy •... W: Wasn't she the one that got away from them when ? S: Well, that's the story. I don't know if there's anything to it, but I: Yeah. That's why they are always playing her up as having made her way back from around the coast. But there was a Polly Par ker's Camp up northeast of here that was in quite a legal dispute early in this century. A group called the Friends of the Sem inoles, up in Kissimmee, was trying to buy it up as an Indian reservation before they got Brighton and the others established, and they were naming it after her. And so her name is in the literature quite a bit. S: She was a grand old person. I'll declare I just thought the world of old Polly. She was always so friendly. I don't think she ever come into this town, she wouldn't come in and grunt, grunt, grunt to me, you know. Like I was just sitting, and we'd get to talking, you know; our hands going, and laugh and go on. She was just a grand person. Old, old. But when she died, she was just as bald-headed as this thing right here. She didn't have a hair on her head. But the picture I have she has quite a lot of hair, so it was several years later that she passed away. It's a shame that they just buried her right out there across the river, right out in the woods. [They] made a pen

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27 out of palmetto, the palm logs. And of course, that's all burned up now and gone, but Owen Pierce knows exactly where it is. But I wouldn't know. He says he can go right there to it today even though it's burned down. W: Well, somebody should ..• there should be a marker of some kind. S: She was an outstanding person. I mean she was absolutely an outstanding Seminole. I: I think you mentioned before we turned on the tape recorder, Mrs. Meserve, that you went to Green Corn Dances? S: Well, we went to one, that was all. I: Where did they hold them at that time? S: Well, at that time it was out towards Cow Creek, W: They were always back where you couldn't get to them. You'd have to go over a pretty deep pond or something like that. Mostly when my father used to go, he went .on horseback. But they were so tucked away, and nobody knew when it was going to be. Unless they asked you, you'd never get there. S: There was very few white people ever attended the Green Corn Dance, W: Then after they had jeeps and ways of getting into those places more people went. I don't think they ever liked it. I think that's really why you don't hear of it anymore. And so many people would go out there, and they I: Just a handful of the Indians still observe that. S: Well, there's quite a few of them. I would say thirty, maybe forty were sitting around. There would be four and five in a little bunch here, and four or five over there just sitting around a big fire in the center. I: But now most of them are Baptists or something else, and very few of them, at least out at Brighton, still observe it. [A majority of the Seminoles on Brighton still attend the annual Green Corn Dance. Conversion to the Baptist faith has not meant the rejection of this renewal ritual.--Editor] Down on the Trail they do; they're all pretty much traditional there.

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28 Down in the southern end of the state people used to come in to the stores like Stranahan's and buy up goods, and then carry them out into the Everglades to sell to the Indians. Did you know of any people around here who were going out to the Indian camps? S: No, not here. There was a Captain Hart, a young man, he ran a boat from here to just the other side of Fisheating Creek. What's the name of that •.. ? I: Lakeport. S: Lakeport. And he used to do that. I sold him hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise, and he carried it down there and sold it, but I don't know who his customers were. I know he bought worlds of pans, pots, flatware,, cheap kitchen ware, a lot of butcher knives, and stuff like that just every time he come in, about once a week. So he had somebody he was unloading them on, I don't know who. I: Were shotgun shells the only kind of ammunition you sold? S: Oh no! No, no. I sold rifle shells, too •. 3O-.3Os and of course, a lot of .22s. But I would say the predominating thing was the twelve gauge shotgun shell. I: Where were they hunting the plumes up here? Where were the rookeries they were hunting? S: Oh, gracious me! You can go up and down these creeks and rivers anywhere you go there was egrets at that time, very plentiful. It's the shame of the world that the government hadn't protected them long before they did because they were becoming pretty near extinct. To kill a whole bird just maybe. to get one or two little feathers out of it, it's a shame in this world. I: I didn't realize the rookeries were that extensive up on the west side of the lake here. S: At that time there were worlds of egrets up in this section. Especially up and down the river banks, you know. They'd catch minnows, see? Walking, just like these Blue Herons in the winter here. W: Well, the funny thing when we were children, there was a washing place--of course, there was no drainage then--in front

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29 of our old house. At certain times in the afternoon, they'd come by. They were just like white clouds, and they'd stop down in this place and feed awhile before they went on to the rookery. And then early in the morning you'd see them going back down to the lake. Twice a day they went through, and both times they stopped because it was marshy, and it wasn't too deep. They could walk around, you know, and pick out frogs and snails--that's mostly what they got. And that went on every day of the week. They'd come through in the morning, and then go back. It was just like a white cloud going by. I don't know where the rookery was, but it couldn't have been too far. I: Well, before the drainage they could have been all over around down in here, because Harney Pond Canal and those big drainages were pretty late, were they not? They were into the twenties before they got those cut through. S: That's right. I: So there could have been rookeries all over here. S: This whole country was under water. Practically everything and everywhere you'd go there was these ponds. I: Billy Bowlegs had his camp out there about where Brighton is now in 1930. So, I saw a map of when Roy Nash did his survey, and he had all of the Indians' camps pegged on it in 1930. I thought it was interesting that Billy and Billy Stewart were way out there. They were the only two out where the res ervation is now. S: Have you ever met Eli Morgan? He's still alive, this Indian. Well, you ought to talk with him. He can talk fairly good enough to make it interesting. He's in the store every once in awhile; he always comes in to see me when he comes in. He's getting well along in age, though. I imagine Eli must• be close to seventy now, 'cause .•. maybe he is seventy. I: Is he out on Brighton? S: Yeah, he's out to Brighton. But you ought to look him up. I: Okay. I've got to go out and see Frank Shore, before long, and I'll get Frank to introduce .•. I just don't know him.

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30 S: Well, Eli Morgan is a good Indian and he's one of the old timers. And as I say, he can talk enough to make it interesting for you. He was named after the Eli Morgan that used to be at Nigger Jim Scrubs', ol' Bluefield. I: I wonder if all the Bowers' out there were named after this Bowers down at Indiantown? You know there is a whole family of Bowers, Indians? S: Is that right? Well, yeah; they were all named after ol' Joe. See, as you know they didn't go by name. They just picked up a name, liked it, and used it, see? I: Right. Because there's Andrew Bowers, and Joe Bowers, and Dick Bowers, and U: Sam, Pete I: Yeah, there're more Bowers out there than you can shake a I guess they just picked it up from him and used old family names. When did you stop trading in the plumes, do you recall? S: Oh, when the government clamped down. I don't remember how many years it's been, but it's been many, many years ago. I would say back in the early twenties. I: Yeah, because really you started getting laws against pluming as early as 1901, and then a big federal law in 1910. The 1920s seems to be when it was dying out. S: Well, right in the early twenties is when they really put the brakes on it. I: They really started getting the Audubon wardens in here, and ...• One of the funniest stor:oo.s I ever heard, it strikes me as funny, is that Frank Brown, one of the Brown boys, he really shot up whole rookeries by himself. He was one of the earliest Audubon wardens. When he found out he couldn't shoot them up anymore then he began protecting them. Sort of like it takes a thief to catch one. S: That's right. I: So I guess they couldn't have picked a better Audubon warden than Frank Brown. He knew every inch of the Big Cypress, and knew how a plumer would come in there to take them. But I've

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31 often heard that in spite of all the government laws, that there was really a thriving plume trade as long as the demands of fashion ..• and this seemed to change in the twenties. S: Well, you see it did. They'd keep them from putting plumes on hats, you know, and the law became that strict. W: Weren't they shipped abroad? I: Right. W: Didn't France take a lot of them? I: Well, in 1910 they passed a law in the United States forbidding the plume trade in both interstate commerce and importation of plumes. But into the twenties it was still going on. It wasn't enforced. I think the enforcement aspect is what we're talking about here. Florida passed the first law in the United States against hunting the birds in 1901. And then there was a national law in Congress in 1910. But they did all sorts of things to get around it. Finally it took cutting off the international trade. Some of the people we talked to who made their whole living off this said that into the twenties there was still a trade, be cause the demand was still there in spite of the law. W: Of course, in our family you weren't allowed to. They didn't see any sense in just killing, you know, like the whooping crarie that was almost extinct before they stopped that. And they were all around. There would be deer and turkey and every thing like that, but we had cows, too, and when they needed something like that they'd go kill it. As far as wholesale killing, or killing just because you wanted to be shooting at something, that was just not allowed in our family. I guess that was too early for them. So many of them used to be in. front of our place, but I know my father never would think about any shooting down there. But there certainly was plenty of them. Maybe they hadn't started that fashion I: All of these things fit together. Because as we've been to talk to the various families and various people, you are one of the very few that has been the start of the business right on through. Like Kirby Storter, whose father, of course, started his store. down at Everglades in 1892. Mr. Storter died many, many years ago, and Kirby remembers growing up there as a boy. We're usually talking with second, sometimes third generation memories.

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32 S: I would say I was about eight or ten years old .•. W: ... when his dad was really trading with the Indians and when he was with the hides and things. I: Well, the same is true with Kirby Storter. He was about the same age, but he has all these memories. Frank Brown was a teenager trading with the Indians, but Frank is nine~y, and very lucid, and his sister is what--ninety-two now, ninety three? And we have great tapes with them. They had no records but they could tell you they could almost remember pricing structures of how much they were paying. We're getting a pretty good picture of how much the hides and plumes and everything were worth, from yourself and others. What we're now looking at is how much the Indians were having to pay for things, like a pot or pan. For example, how many plumes would it take to buy a pan? S: Well, maybe one plume or maybe three or four plumes, depending on the size of the pan and if it was an enamel pan or a tin pan. But they liked tin for some reason, they didn't go much for this enamel. W: How about that black stuff, that heavy iron stuff? S: Oh, you mean the ol' cast iron? W: Right. I: What would a cast iron skillet, for example, sell for? S: Well, at that time it wouldn't be but a dollar, a dollar and a half, two dollars--a dollar and a half as a rule. Now we sell them for six and eight and ten dollars. I: So a couple of plumes might get them a skillet? S: That's right. It would get them a dutch-oven. I: All right. How about a shotgun? What would a shotgun go, say a twelve gauge shotgun? S: Well, at that time around thirty-five or forty dollars. I: This would be in the twenties? S: Yeah.

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I: So they would have to have a pretty S: They'd have to have quite a lot of plumes, yeah. I: Did you ever handle sewing machines? 33 S: No. Well, I used to handle these little hand ones, but I don't remember what I used to get for them. I: We've heard twenty-five to thirty dollars. S: Yeah, that's about right. Even cheaper than that when I first got them, you know. U: What color were they. S: You know, we used to turn them by hand. I: Were they Singers or White? S: The old Singers. I: They were the Singers? S: Yeah. I: So in the twenties then, this gives me some price ideas and the shotgun shells forty-five cents a box. S: Well, that was forty-five cents. I: Was that for twelve and sixteen? S: That's twelve gauge, yeah. I: What about sixteen? S: Well, they were both about .the same. I: About the same, forty-five cents, give .or take. How about a .30-.30 rifle? S: Oh, now, that's a good question. I can't tell you off hand, it's been so long. After all, fifty some years. I: Just trying. You know, sometimes I throw them out and people just answer automatically.

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34 S: I know, but I don't want to make a statement you see. I don't want to say it was twenty dollars if it was fifty or something like that, I'd rather not say anything. I: What we do is we take ranges of figures and just sort of average out and say it was somewhere in this range. S: Well, a rifle and a shotgun would at that time be practically the same, about the same in price. I: So they could, on a good day's pluming, do some pretty good trading, too. S: Oh yes. Boy, I sold many a plume, I tell you. They'd bring them in wrapped up, and they'd wrap them ninety-nine times out of a hundred they'd be wrapped in a newspaper. Now, where they got the newspaper I don't know, but almost inevitably they'd be wrapped in newspaper. They never Mould bring them out here open. They'd always have them laid out, and wrapped up just as neat as they could be. And lost of times a folded paper and a plume, a folded paper and a plume, see? But if it was a newspaper, it wouldn't be regular store paper, and that's I still wonder how they got that. I: Did they have a pretty good idea of what they had in terms of value? Or did they pretty much depend on you? S: No, they more or less depended on the white man to tell them. Because I mean, after all, you say, "I'll give you that much," what could they do? They couldn't walk to Fort Pierce or Lake Amoha. So they more or less depended on the purchaser, what ever he wanted to offer them. But I'd give them anything I pos sibly could because I was interested in them. I enjoyed them, and I wanted to learn their ways and habits. I: How often did you ship your plumes--just when you had enough to? S: Just when I had enough to, twenty-five, thirty, forty, fifty plumes and I'd send them off. I: How would you send them? Did you send them ? S: I put them in a box. I: Just on consignment, huh? Well, that's interesting. I'd never heard how plumes were shipped. I'd assumed that they would be shipped that way.

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35 S: Well we shipped them by express right to New Orleans, but I don't remember the .•. it was some concern, it had something to do with hats. I remember that, but I wouldn't know the name. I: That's interesting, because I don't think anyone's ever said how they packed the plumes into the That's amazing. I wonder where they got the newspaper? S: That's a good question. I: I'll ask some of the Indians that. S: And I'll bet you that ninety-nine out of every hundred that they would bring in, I mean packages, would be in newspapers. Don't ask me where they got the paper because I don't know. I: Was there any particular season they were hunting in? In the spring when they were nesting? S: Well, of course, yes. During the pluming season would be in the spring. W: They only have a season. They only have a season once. S: Well, they had just one season for the plumes, see? But I don't know if they gathered them enough to keep them coming, or what they did with them. I: Well, Mr. and Mrs. Meserve, we appreciate it. You've been most helpful and most kind to let us come in and tape this. S: Well, we're glad to help you but there is so little we know. I: When we get this whole piece together we will certainly send you the copy. I'm writing a preliminary article that'll come out in The Florida Historical Quarterly in January which will be very sketchy, but just touching on the major families. And then I'm hoping to put it into book form with a chapter on each of the areas. I'd like one chapter on the people here, the Raulersons, the Meserves, and maybe put Bowers in it and so forth, who dealt up at the north end of the lake; another chapter on the Stranahans; another chapter--make a five chapter monograph out of it. So what I will do, the initial little ar ticle, I'll send you copies of that and let you comment on that, and then anything that's out of line in that one, I want to have corrected before the book form comes out later on. I've already

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36 put a title on the article for the Florida Historical Quarterly. They're calling it "Pelts, Plumes, and Hides: White Traders on the Florida Frontier, 1880 to 1930." What we'll call the more definitive work later on where we really talk in depth and that's what we're trying to get here, we've got ledgers out in the car from the Raulerson's store and so forth. So as soon as we get it all together we'll either mail it back or preferably bring it back to you and see you again. So thank you very much, we appreciate it. S: You're welcome.