Battle of Okeechobee artifacts at museum

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Historical Society hosted a reception with archeologist Steve Carr on April 13 at the Historical Museum on U.S. 98.

Thanks to Mr. Carr and loans from other families, the museum has added a display of artifacts from the 1837 Battle of Okeechobee.

Battlefield artifacts from the early 1800s.

Battlefield artifacts from the early 1800s.

Mr. Carr said some of the artifacts came from the Parker Store in Fort Drum. He said Henry Parker was a veteran of the Seminole War. Other artifacts came from a Seminole camp at Bluefield.

“Many years ago, when development in South Florida became rampant, we were losing historical sites,” Mr. Carr explained. “Many developers did not have a concept of Florida history.”

He said Mike Crane started a group called “Preserving Our Heritage.” He said when developers planned to develop on a historic site, the group would seek permission to do historic salvage before construction work began.

Sometimes they only had a short window of time to try to find and save pieces of local history.

For example, before the Kings Bay development was built near the Battlefield site, the archeologists only had about a month.

He said for many years most of the artifacts he has salvaged have been stored in his garage because they don’t have a permanent place to display them.

“To me, everything we preserve is valuable,” he said. Every artifact tells a story.

Archeologist Steve Carr presented the Okeechobee Historical Museum with a piece of cypress wood that has 12 musket balls embedded. The wood is believed to have been part of a canoe. The artifact came from the site of the Battle of Loxahatchee.

Archeologist Steve Carr presented the Okeechobee Historical Museum with a piece of cypress wood that has 12 musket balls embedded. The wood is believed to have been part of a canoe. The artifact came from the site of the Battle of Loxahatchee.

Mr. Carr brought with him a piece of cypress wood salvaged from the site of the Second Seminole War Battle of Loxahatchee, just before dredging was done in that area. He said they believe this piece of cypress was once part of a canoe. He pointed out 12 different musket balls embedded in the wood.

“This was probably a company fire, where everyone in the company is firing in the same direction,” he said. They would do this to break through a line, he said.

He said he offered the artifact to the State of Florida and to Palm Beach County, but neither had a place to display it.

“These artifacts tell stories,” he said. “This tells the incredible story of the struggle for survival by the Seminoles.”

He said the Seminole War “gets washed over,” in the history books. “A lot of history needs to be told even if we’re not proud of it,” he added. Mr. Carr placed the piece of wood on loan to the Okeechobee Historical Museum.

Another Battle of Okeechobee artifact came from a Georgia family.

This sword is a relic from the Battle of Okeechobee, Dec. 25, 1837.

This sword is a relic from the Battle of Okeechobee, Dec. 25, 1837.

Okeechobee City Councilman Dowling Watford, who is a member of the Okeechobee Battlefield Friends, said he got a call from a man who asked if he was interested in a sword from the Battle of Okeechobee. David Proctor was on a bike tour, and the day he passed through Okeechobee it was raining and they couldn’t ride, so he stopped in at the chamber of commerce where he learned about the Okeechobee Battlefield Friends and got Mr. Watford’s contact information.

Mr. Proctor, his wife, Susan Allred Proctor, and her cousin Ann Allred Horner, were at the Okeechobee Museum for the presentation.

A Seminole war officer's pistol found in the 1920s in the mud of Taylor's Creek in Okeechobee.

A Seminole war officer’s pistol found in the 1920s in the mud of Taylor’s Creek in Okeechobee.

Susan Allred Proctor, explained that her grandfather John G. Allred worked for Florida Power and Light. She said her grandfather, who was born in 1912, was a collector of guns and swords. She said one of the places he lived during his career was Okeechboee. When people couldn’t pay their electric bills, he would pay the bills for them and take the guns and swords in trade.

He later moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, where some of the collection was placed on display.  By coincidence, not long before the Proctors contacted Mr. Watford, Okeechobee Historical Society President Magi Cable, had found an old newspaper clipping from Bowling Green about a sword from the Battle of Okeechobee being displayed there. They soon discovered this was the same sword.

Mrs. Proctor said that when her grandfather died, her father J. Glenn Allred inherited the swords and his brother, Tollie Everett Allred, inherited the guns.

Mrs. Proctor has loaned the military sword to the Okeechobee Historical Museum in perpetuity.

Also on loan to the museum is a Seminole War officer’s pistol found in the 1920s by Ellis Meserve in the mud of Taylor’s Creek. This pistol, which has been authenticated by the Smithsonian Institution, is on loan from the personal collection of Paul Box.

Mr. Watford said they hope to add to the collection of items from the Battle of Okeechobee.

Historical Society President Magi Cable said the museum is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and often opens for visits from school classes as well as groups from clubs and organizations by special arrangement on other days. For information, call 863-763-4344.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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