Fort Meade, Fla.
BACK FROM OKEECHOBEE
CAPT. B. H. KING WRITES INTERESTINGLY OF TRIP
Provided by Kyle S. Vanlandingham
ANCIENTLY INLAND SEA.
He Advises All Settlers in Capt. Broward's Paradise to Carry Immense Supply of Rations Along Unless They Can Subsist on Palmetto Sandwiches.
Back from the Okeechobee country, I thought I would write up what I saw and think of the hungry land. I found a low and flat country and at this season of the year very dry (last of May) and water scarce. Cattle were doing fairly well.
The prairies remind me of the plains of the southwest and old Mexico but a much poorer soil also less grass than is found in the southwest and old Mexico, but I felt the same cool breezes and freedom of the great plains. The saw palmettos, though somewhat changed the landscape. I saw no cyotes or circling Apaches but saw some old friend looking natural enough, the prairie ground owl, sitting at their holes. But the prairie dog, with his short bogging tail, did not show up.
We crossed the Kissimmee river at old Ft. Kissimmee. Marks of a military road built during the Seminole war, through the marsh, are still well preserved. I was disappointed in the prairie soil In a great many places it is too poor for grass, all a white sand, even the saw palmettoes struggling for existence. I was informed that during a wet season the entire country is under water from several inches to several feet.
The Kissimmee marshes are very rich muck land and fine pasture when the water is off during the dry seaon. This land would make all man could wish and be very easy to cultivate; but I see no way, unless worked like the muck lands of Holland, viz: canalled, dammed and the seepage water pumped out, which would run the cost up in thousands per acre.
From Kissimmee we struck out for island of Bassenger, a small inland town near Kissimmee river, and from there to Lake Okeechobee, 30 miles distant. After leaving the island of Bassenger, we struck the same open prairie trail till Taylor's Creek was passed, then a higher pine country up to Okeechobee.
I found Lake Arbuckle and Lake Okeechobee lovely spots. Okeechobee is surrounded first by a saw-grass marsh, then a beautiful hammock growth; cabbage palmettoes, maple, ash, oak, and cypress, a very dense shade up to the sand beach.
The lake is grand; now an inland sea of fresh water, but at one time back in the dim distance, it was a salt water sea. Specimens of coral and pre-historic shells are to be found in its bottom. Looking east and west, the sky and waters meet. This lake gets very rough at times, a short choppy sea much like the big lakes of Michigan and the northwest.
This part of Florida is only fit for range cattle. It will never be a truck or farming country. First, most of the land is very poor, and second, it is under water one half of the year and dry as a powder house the other half. The marsh or muck will have to be ditched, diked and pumped out at a cost of thousands per acre.
Of game, some deer, bear, turkey and quail are found and a panther now and then. Sand-hill cranes are still plentiful. The Kissimmee river and marshes are the hunter's paradise in winter for ducks and snipe. I saw there a bird new to me, a local name Mexican buzzard, it is more like the bald eagle. It reminds me of the raven of the southwest in its habits.
I met some of the engineers who are surveying and mapping out that part of the state for settlers, cutting it up in 20 acre lots, price $16.00 per acre for farming or truck land, but my advice would be for the settlers to bring in a two years grub supply and money enough to get them away when the grub taken gives out, or get used to living on saw palmetto sandwiches. Nature created this country for cattle and Florida cattle at that. Fine stock would fare like settlers. Texas cattle might get along. You find a few favored spots.
I call the emigration enterprise to south Florida just fishing for suckers--nothing else. And the suckers will find it costly mush in the long run.
At Lake Arbuckle I found the work of the mound builders on the shores of that lovely lake, also later camps of the Indians. Near Okeechobee several camps of the Seminoles were found, but they are fast fading away. They live now by hunting the alligator for his hide. As soon as the alligator is exterminated, which is now but a question of a little time, Mr. Indian will have to go to work or starve.
On the banks of Taylor's Creek, Gen. Taylor had a hard battle with the Seminoles. Bullets are often cut from the timber. Knowing something of the North American Indian, I can see after my visit to south Florida, what work and trouble our soldiers had in the Seminole war, being a long way from the base of supplies, in a country covered with dense swamps, and with little knowledge of the lay of the land, must have given the officers great trouble and have cost the general government millions, also great sufferings to our troops; at Mr. Peter Raulerson's, near Tantie, in cutting a drainage ditch, a large quantity of human bones were found and very old--also some iron bolts. The bones were of a small people. These people must have been Spanish adventurers who landed in south Florida long before Ponce de Leon. There were two parties; one got shipwrecked and the other was annihilated by the Indians.
I found the Okeechobee country healthy, cool and pleasant, and I was surprised to find so few insects there. Horse flies I found in great abundance and a great nuisance.
B. H. King , Fort Meade, Fla., June 10, 1910.
From issue of Thursday, July 28, 1910
Fort Meade Leader
Fort Meade, Fla.
July 21st, 1910
The article I wrote up of my Okeechobee trip appears to have got mixed up with the Everglades east side I have never been in the Everglades, and what I know is all hearsay. I am getting lettters and even post cards from hungry Jack Snipes up north who have invested money in Florida lands. My trip to the Okeechobee was for pleasure and observation and I only struck Okeechobee at north end of lake from Ft. Meade south east to Ft. Kissimmee, then south to Bassenger southeast from Bassenger to lake Okeechobee. I got a letter from a party in Cleveland, O., asking about his tract in the Everglades, and if his directions are given right, his tract is lying out in the Gulf stream 20 miles east of main land but this party may be going to start a fish ranch, oyster, crabs, shrimp and devil fish pits for all I know. I do not know anything of Everglade lands. The Furst Clark Contracting Co. is going to drain it sure whether it will be a success after drained, time will tell. Smart men say it is going to be great for south Florida. Maybe it will. The description I gave of my trip on west side is correct and the engineer work was east of Kissimmee river. I am not interested in any lands down there, either to buy or sell.
B. H. King