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The first white family to settle in the Basinger area was named Daughtrey. Two brothers, Arthur and Thomas, originally from east Tennessee, came to the lower Kissimmee River valley during the 1860s. Thomas settled on the river north of Fort Basinger and had a landing there during the 1870s. He later moved about five miles south of Fort Basinger and was living there in 1882. Arthur set up his homestead near the site of Fort Basinger. By 1885, Arthur and Thomas Daughtrey had moved from the valley to the Zolfo-Crewsville area.
About 1870 Henry L. Parker, a native of Columbia County, Florida, settled at Bluff Hammock, north of Fort Basinger, where he operated a ferry. Parker was born in 1832 and moved to Hillsborough County when he was about ten years of age. He remained there until about 1858 when he returned to Columbia County and married Elizabeth (Brinkley) Holmes, a widow with one son, Henry A. Holmes. Parker and his wife and stepson decided to leave Columbia County after the Civil War and move into the interior of south Florida. After he had operated the ferry at Bluff Hammock for a short time, Parker moved to Basinger, settling on the east side of the river. He was appointed County Judge of Brevard County in 1 872 and remained at Basinger until 1874 when he sold his place to Noel Rabun Raulerson, Sr. Henry Parker then moved to Lake View, a settlement located near Lake Marian.
Noel Rabun Raulerson, Sr.
|Noel Rabun Raulerson, Sr., born in Georgia in 1820, was the founder of one of Okeechobee Countys oldest pioneer families. It has been said that his father was one Nicebod Raulerson, but there is conflicting evidence on this point. [Authors Note--Recent research has shown that the father of N. R. Raulerson, Sr., was named Noel Raulerson.] Rabun Raulerson moved to Hillsborough County in 1844 and by 1850 was living on the southeast shore of Lake Hancock in present-day Polk County. He was involved in the cattle business on a large scale and in 1874 moved his family and cattle to the Basinger area, purchasing his claim from Henry Parker. Raulersons sons, William, David, Archie, and Peter moved to Basinger about the same time. Another son, Noel Rabun Raulerson, Jr., arrived in 1876. The elder Raulerson moved back to Polk County about 1890 but his sons remained at Basinger.
In 1875 Captain John Mizell Pearce settled on the western side of the river at Fort Basinger. Pearce was a cattleman from Polk County and after arriving at Fort Basinger he started a ferry operation across the river.
By 1877 Shadrach M. Chandler and his family were residing at Basinger. Chandler was born in 1824 in Mississippi, but later moved to Louisiana, where he remained until about 1859 when he moved to Florida, settling at Fort Meade. The Chandlers decided to settle at Basinger about 1877 and Shadrach soon opened up a general store there. After the great hurricane of 1878 had swept through the valley, the area was underwater, the river having grown several miles wide. The following story was told by Albert DeVane:
Shadrach Chandler had for years been known as one of the greatest ox drivers or bull whackers in Florida. In fact he got so good with the 10-foot handle bull whip that he could "but" a horsefly perched on an oxens back and never touch a hair. After a week or more of the flooded condition his groceries began to get low. Looking across the river and prairie he turned and said:
"Son, go get that boat tied to the lot gate, bring it to the front porch. We are going to Fort Ogden and get some groceries." Away they went down the river, edging along the outside until they came to Rainey Slough, up the slough to the switch grass marsh, down the marsh to Myrtle Slough, passing Telegraph Station, on to Shell Creek, down Shell Creek to Peace River, up the river to Judge Ziba Kings general store. After loading his boat with groceries, the return trip began. It took him one week to make the trip.
Shadrack M. Chandler
Arriving in Basinger about the same time as the Chandlers, was William Underhill. Although three years older than Shadrach Chandler, William was Shadrachs son-in-law, having married Samantha Chandler in 1865. Underhill was a cattleman who had originally moved to south Florida about 1848 and settled at Fort Meade.
Nearly all of the pioneers who moved into the Basinger area during the 1870s and 1880s were involved in the beef cattle business. The cattle ranges in Polk and Manatee counties were becoming crowded and the owners sought new grazing land for their beef in the lush grasslands of the Kissimmee River valley. The cattle grazed on the open range and were rounded up periodically, marked and branded, and then driven to market, usually at Punta Rassa on the southwest coast.
The first record which shows the existence of a school at Basinger is found in a letter sent to William Underhill from W. S. Norwood, Brevard County school superintendent, dated April 19, 1880. The letter was sent from Titusville, the county seat, and reads as follows:
Enclosed please find blanks for the Public School of your Dist. The Board, at its last meeting passed a resolution directing me to notify the trustees of each Dist. to commence the Public School the first Monday in June. You will therefore make the necessary arrangements for your school to commence on that day. The Board requires that the school of each Dist. be maintained sixty six days in order to receive the benefit of the school fund. The amount apportioned to your Dist. is thirty dollars. You will recommend your teacher to J. H. Tumblin, he being empowered by the Board to examine, grant certificates, and enter into contracts with all teachers on the West side of the St. Johns River.
A young man named Robert LaMartin, born in South Carolina in 1851, arrived in Basinger about 1880. La Martin was well educated and soon after he moved to the area he became a Notary Public, performing marriage ceremonies and providing basic legal assistance to the pioneer settlers. In 1886 he married Mary Raulerson and shortly thereafter moved to Fort Drum. LaMartin remained there until about 1893 when he returned to Basinger. Until his death in 1904 he continued to serve as Notary Public.
Kirk Munroe, writer and adventurer, visited the Basinger area in 1882 and stayed at the home of Capt. John Pearce. Munroe was on an expedition in his sailing canoe, the Psyche. He sailed up to Caloosahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee and had planned to travel north on the Kissimmee but was unable to locate the rivers mouth. In desperation, he left his boat and headed north from the lake until he located the trail that ran east from Basinger to the Indian River. Turning west he soon found the log cabin of Edward Whidden, a cow hunter, where Munroe was treated with kindness and hospitality. The next day he walked fifteen miles west to the Kissimmee River and took up temporary residence at the Pearce homestead. After a few days, Munroe headed downstream in a skiff with a nineteen year old boy named Will Lefils. Together, they located the abandoned Psyche and returned with it to Fort Basinger. After about two weeks in the Basinger area, Munroe, still recovering from the sores and cuts he had receive from his walk through the sawgrass, boarded a steamer for the trip upriver to Kissimmee. In his diary and in subsequent writings Munroe states that the community on the eastern side of the river, across from Fort Basinger, was known as "Shake Rag." This must have been only a temporary nickname for the settlement has always been known as Basinger, while the community on the western side of the river near the old fort was known as Fort Basinger.
The decade of the 1880s saw the arrival of more settlers at Basinger. Eli Morgan, a resident of Pine Level in Manatee (now DeSoto) County, was a wealthy cattleman. Prior to 1885, Morgan moved to Basinger where he set up the headquarters for his cattle operations. Jeremiah Walker, who had been living in Brevard County since the mid-
1870s, eventually moved to Basinger during the 1880s. Walker delivered babies in the Basinger area-and at one time served as Justice of the Peace. In 1888 William Alderman, a DeSoto County cattleman, settled at Micco Bluff, about eight miles north of Basinger.
During the 1880s the isolated Basinger settlement received an important link to the outside world with the establishment of the steamboat trade along the Kissimmee River. Hamilton Disston, a wealthy Pennsylvanian who had purchased four million acres of Florida land in 1881, eventually completed a navigable waterway from Lake Tohopekaliga at Kissimmee to the Gulf of Mexico. Even before Disston began his dredging and clearing activities on the river, the Mary Belle, a small steamboat originally owned by Major Allen of Kissimmee, was in operation. It was the first steamer on the river and was owned by Capt. John Pearce when it was sunk in 1884.
Among those who operated steamboats on the Kissimmee River during the 1880s and 1890s were Capt. Benjamin F. Hall, Captains Addison S. and Samuel A. Gilbert, Capt. Paul Gibson, and Capt. Clay Johnson. Capt. A. S. Gilbert once described the steamboats cargo: "They hauled freight, such as alligator hides, otter and coon skins, oranges and grapefruit, as well as supplies for the ranchers and settlers along the river route, as well as all passenger service on the Kissimmee and Caloosahatchee Rivers." Capt. Gilbert also told about his largest steamer, the Bassinger, which was built about 1892: "Her speed was 12 miles an hour. She had six staterooms, three on each side. She was built by my brother Sam. There were six members of her crew, the captain, who was also the pilot; the engineer, fireman, cook and two deck hands." Most of the steamboats were sternwheelers and burned cordwood which was stacked at various points along the river.
The distance to Basinger from Kissimmee was about 80 miles by road, but by lake and river it was estimated to be from 162 to 175 miles. When river traffic was at its height, three steamers made regular weekly trips to Basinger and return, the voyage round-trip from Kissimmee being about five days. In 1899 the following article appeared in the Kissimmee Valley Gazette:
There is no more pleasant way of spending a week than to take the trip to Bassinger. Birds of all kinds are in sight the whole way: flocks of ducks, coots, herons, cranes, limpkins, curlews, plume birds and water turkeys without end; also alligators, rabbits and water snakes, and plenty of fish, too. In its narrowness, in the rampant growth of water plants along its low banks, in the unbroken flatness of the landscape, in the labyrinth of by channels and cut-offs and above all in the appalling, incredible, bewildering crookedness of its serpentine body, it is indeed an extraordinary river.
|The most colorful of the captains was Clay Johnson, a man who greatly resembled Mark Twain, with his white hair and mustache. Originally from Louisiana, he came to Kissimmee in 1883 and eventually operated a fleet of several steamboats, including the Roseada, Lillie, and Osceola.
In 1887 the western portion of Brevard County and part of southern Orange County were formed into a new political subdivision, Osceola County. The Basinger settlement was a part of Osceola County which had as its county seat the town of Kissimmee.
Basinger continued to grow in the 1890s. During the early part of the decade John Thomas arrived. In 1892 he married Annie Underhill, daughter of William Underhill. In 1895 Alexander Thompson moved to Basinger. Thompson was to play an active role in the political life of the area. Other individuals who moved to Basinger during the 1890s and early 1900s were: William and Cuyler Hilliard, John Lofton, Alfred Campbell, William Townsend Addison, Francis E. Daigneau, and Uriah Raiford Durrance.
On February 21, 1893, a post office was established at Bassinger, then discontinued July 31, 1894, and reestablished October 6, 1894. During the late 1800s and early 1900s the communitys name was spelled Bassinger and even on occasion, Bassenger. The first postmaster was Leacy A. Morgan, wife of Eli Morgan, and was appointed February 21, 1893. Mrs. Morgan died in 1897 and was succeeded on September 29th of that year by her son-in-law, Emory L. Lesley. Lesley served until July 1, 1899, when Stephen I. Pearce was appointed.
Shadrach Chandlers general store was the commercial center of the Basinger community during the 1890s. It was in this store that Croft Bass killed Archibald Raulerson about 1893. Bass was foreman of the Lesley cattle interests and got into an argument with Raulerson. Bass drew his knife, stabbed and killed Raulerson, and then left the area. He was concealed at the Lesley home in Tampa for several weeks and then made his way west to Texas and Colorado Springs. Shadrach Chandler, who was the only witness to the killing, died in 1898. Bass then returned to Florida and was acquitted on a plea of self defense.
Thomas F. Alderman operated a general store at Basinger for a time during the 1890s. Another store was operated by W. A. Roebuck.
It is recorded that there was a Methodist Church in Basinger as early as 1894. The Rev. Smith Hardin, a Methodist minister, began serving the Basinger church in 1895. He rode horseback on a 200-mile circuit, preaching at Basinger, Fort Drum, Orangedale, Sand Hill, and Lake View, receiving a salary of $200 annually. The Rev. B. H. Guy, a Baptist minister, preached at Basinger once a month during the early 1900s.
School teachers who served at Basinger during the 1890s included Maude Snell and a Ms. Farnsworth. About the turn of the century, a small school building was located near the Rob Alderman residence. Dr. G. M. Hubbard was teacher at that time. One visitor to Basinger in 1902 reported that on Saturday and Sunday mornings the school house was used for singing classes who made use of the old Sacred Harp song books.
A substantial white frame structure was eventually built and originally had three rooms. Teachers during the early 1900s included Professor Hawthorne, Mrs. Mary Steffee, Ida May Brownlee, DeWilton Alderman, A. R. Roebuck, Leila Roper, Fain Howell, Fred 0. Revels, Mary Belle McQuaig, Bessie Lawson, and Porter Lee Peden. Records from 1908 indicate that during the month beginning August 10 and ending September 4 there were 62 pupils enrolled at the Basinger school.
Basinger school house about 1915
James S. Walker's general store and post office
According to Douglas Thompson, one of the rooms on the Basinger school was cut off and moved some four miles north and set up as the Greeley School about 1911. This small school which remained in existence for about four years had Alma Nicholson, Leila Roper, and Lydia Lippincott as teachers.
On March 12, 1901, James S. Walker was appointed postmaster. Walker had just opened a general store and the post office was located in this building. On June 12, 1907, Willie Williams became postmaster. Williams, a native of Manatee County, was also a merchant, school teacher, and cattleman. Redocious D. Homes moved from Fort Drum to Basinger in 1907 and opened up a store. He became postmaster January 2, 1908 and served until November 13, 1911, when DeWilton Alderman was appointed.
The first person to be buried in the Basinger Cemetery was Noel Rabun Raulerson, III, son of Noel, Jr., and grandson of the original Rabun Raulerson. After the young Raulersons death in 1895, his father gave the land around where his son was buried to the community to be used as a cemetery.
The broad prairie land north of Basinger attracted land developers during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Prior to 1910, the Southern Colonization Company, organized by midwestern businessmen, purchased large tracts of land in the lower Kissimmee River valley. It was believed that the prairie lands would be perfect for farming. The Hunter Land Company handled the development and set up a hotel and demonstration farm at Hunters Camp, about seven miles north of Basinger. Prospective buyers came down the river on Capt. Johnsons steamer to look over the land. The standard tract sold was ten acres as the project was planned for small farmers. The buyers were promised that a railroad would soon be built into the area. In 1916 the South Florida and Gulf Railroad, constructed by the Southern Colonization Company, reached Prairie Ridge, a point about twelve miles north of Basinger. The railroad began at Kenansville, where the Kissimmee Valley Extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad was located. Original plans called for the South Florida and Gulf to extend to Basinger, but the railroad never got any farther than Prairie Ridge. For a time, the train arrived at Prairie Ridge every Saturday and Basinger residents drove wagon teams to the depot to pick up supplies. It soon became apparent that the prairie lands of the Kissimmee River valley were not suitable for farming. The project failed and the railroad tracks were dismantled. The roadbed became a sand road and today is known as the Pea Vine Trail.
Basingers population began to decline when the Kissimmee Valley Extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad arrived at Okeechobee in 1915. Steamboat service along the river eventually ceased and many residents of Basinger moved to Okeechobee and other communities.