A Bit Of History In Ocala, Florida

Fort King, Ocala, Florida

It’s unusual to come across an early nineteenth century stockade fort in the middle of a Florida town. Not something you expect outside of Disney World. But on a recent drive through central Florida that is what we found in Ocala.

It’s a historically accurate replica of Fort King at its original site. Designated a National Historic Landmark the site is being developed into a park that includes an interesting museum. For the state of Florida this is almost ancient history. Early settlers, Seminole Wars, Andrew Jackson.

There’s history all around us if we just take the time to look and understanding it is important for our future. Here’s a peek into Florida’s history and what happened around Fort King.

Every state in America is noted for its tribes of American Indians that include Comanches, Blackfoot, Algonquin, Shaenee, Shoshone, Sioux and almost a hundred additional tribes. In Florida we recognize the Seminoles as our major Indian tribe, but who are they historically?

It seems Seminole history in Florida starts with bands of Creek Indians from Georgia and Alabama migrating to the state in the 1700s. Wars with other tribes along with conflict with the arriving Europeans caused them to move south seeking new lands. At the time Spain controlled Florida and encouraged these Indian migrations hoping to provide a buffer between them and the British colonies to the north.

A fort exhibit

It was at this time that these Florida Indians became known as the Seminole, a name that meant “wild people” or “runaways.”

Florida has long been considered an inhospitable place filled with swamps, and scrub land, cursed with hot weather, high humidity, mosquitoes and alligators. Even so by the late eighteenth century settlers began to look for land to settle in Florida and in 1819 Spain saw the inevitable and agreed to sell Florida to the United States.

Soon these new settlers were coming in conflict with the Seminoles and the government decided the situation needed a solution. In 1823 the Treaty of Moultrie Creek was signed between the United States and leaders of the Seminole Nation. That treaty had the Seminoles relocate to a large tract of land in what is now Central Florida. The treaty also prohibited white persons from entering or settling on those Seminole lands. The Ocala area was central to the Indian towns and the army built Fort King to assure that both sides kept the treaty.

In a reversal of policy Congress passed The Indian Removal Act in 1830 at the urging of President Andrew Jackson who had fought the Seminoles in Florida and defeated the Creek Indians in 1814. This resulted in the forced negotiation of the controversial Treaty of Payne’s Landing requiring that the Seminoles be removed to new lands in what is now Oklahoma.

Engraving from Seminole Wars

A core group of Seminoles, led by the warrior Osceola fiercely opposed the treaty forcing the government to reoccupy Fort King and the associated U.S. Indian Agency. General Wiley Thompson, the U.S. Agent assigned to Fort King and Osceola engaged in a number of confrontations. This resulted in General Thompson ordering Osceola chained and thrown into the guardhouse at the.

Inside the fort

Released several days later, Osceola declared that war was the only option left. On December 28, 1835, he attacked Fort King when Wiley Thompson and Lieutenant Constantine Smith went for a walk outside the post. Thompson was shot numerous times and scalped. Six others were also killed but Fort King was too strong to take. That same day a larger force of Seminole warriors attacked troops on their way to Fort King in a fight known as Dade’s Battle, leaving over 100 soldiers dead. This would become the start of the Second Seminole War.

Fort King was abandoned in May of 1836 in favor of Fort Drane built nearer the swamps where the Seminoles were hold up. Fort King was reoccupied in April of 1837. It served as a base for raids and in 1840 Captain Gabriel Rains of the 7th U.S. Infantry led 16 soldiers on a recon but were attacked by a Seminole war party. They managed to fight their way back to Fort King, with three men killed.

After defeating the army in early battles of the Second Seminole War, Seminole leader Osceola was captured in 1837, when U.S. agents invited him under a truce to talk peace.

Ft. King Historic Marker

Five years later the Second Seminole War was declared over on August 14, 1842. Fort King was evacuated for good the following year. By 1858, when the United States declared a formal end to the Third Seminole War over 3,000 Seminoles were moved west of the Mississippi River leaving only 200 to 300 Seminoles in Florida swamps.

As a footnote, Florida is proud to call the Seminoles our tribe and the Noles are happy to be a part of Florida. back a few years ago when there was a movement to strip sports teams of their Indian names the Seminoles made it very clear that they were thrilled with their name being attached to Florida State. The Noles have done very well in Florida recently with the Hard Rock Cafe International (USA), Inc. being sold to the Seminole Tribe of Florida in 2007 with headquarters at the reservation in Davie, Florida.

Advertisements

Remarkable Silver Springs Florida

Florida’s Classic Attractions

Florida has always attracted visitors to its’ ocean beaches but, years ago, it also had an assortment of inland tourist destinations. Those old Florida attractions have been dying out, pushed aside and even replaced by theme parks. Unfortunately, history and gardens cannot compete with movie attractions, roller coasters and fantasies.

No closed Cypress Gardens

While Cypress Gardens once drew huge crowds, it was sold and replaced by Legoland. Silver Springs, on the other hand, has seen a revival under Florida State Parks’ new ownership and management. Of the over fifty natural springs in Florida, the largest by far is Silver Springs pushing out five hundred million gallons of clear 72° water every day.

Since the mid-19th century, the natural beauty of Silver Springs has attracted visitors from all over the world. Glass-bottom boat tours of the springs began in the 1870s. In the 1920s, W. Carl Ray and W.M. “Shorty” Davidson, leased the land from Ed Carmichael and developed the area around the headwaters of the Silver River into an attraction that eventually became known as Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. The attraction featured native animal exhibits, amusement rides, and 30 or 90-minute glass-bottom boat tours of the springs. Upon Carmichael’s death he left the springs to the University of Florida

In 1993, the state acquired Silver Springs from the University of Florida, though the concessions continued to be operated privately. In 2013 the state took complete control, merging the springs with the adjacent parkland to create Silver Springs State Park. With reduced cost of admission and boat tour prices, the park has seen a steady upturn in popularity.

The outflow area has water depths that range from very shallow to over fifty feet and the water is so crystal clear it is difficult to believe you are looking at a bottom that far down. The spring feeds the Silver River that flows for three miles until it joins the Ocklawaha River in the Ocala National Forest which than flows into the St. John River. The area is home to dozens of species of fish, birds, alligators and manatees.

In its’ commercial days, Silver Spring also played host to a number of movie and television productions. It was home base for underwater shooting of Loyd Bridges’ Sea Hunt TV show, James Bond’s Moonraker and Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan movies. It also was the set for The Creature From The Black Lagoon and hosted scenes from Smokey And The Bandit.

 

In addition to a nice concession area and the glass-bottom boat docks, the park is a favorite of kayakers and has great hiking trails. The Florida Park Service is developing a number of new areas like a creative kids playground. It also plays host to concerts and a number of nature programs. Admission is only $2.00 with the boat rides being an additional $11.00.

 

 

Little Pieces of History In Florida and Georgia

The Small Museums of Florida and Georgia

The CCC Museum

There was a time when small roadside attractions where the highlight of family road-trips. While they have been overshadowed by the mega-parks and major resorts, there are still a number of roadside gems that should be sought out – little pieces of history encased in small museums. If you take the time, you will discover these surprises everywhere.

Military Sea Service Museum collection

Discoveries we have made in Florida and Georgia include:

  • The Rural Telephone Museum

    The Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, Georgia, is home to the largest collection of antique telephones and telephone memorabilia in the world. As a bonus, this museum is a stop on the SAM Short Line excursion train out of Cordele – a great day trip!

  • Railway Museum Winter Garden

    The Central Florida Railway Historical Society Museum is a beautiful collection of railroad memorabilia displayed in a train depot in downtown Winter Garden, FL.

  • The Florida Air Museum

    Located in Lakeland, Florida off I-4, The Florida Air Museum displays a wide variety of vintage aircraft, ultralights, experimental homebuilts, air racers, military, aerobatic and factory-built aircraft from all eras.

  • The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum offers an interesting and educational museum experience that transports you and your family back in time over 300 years to Port Royal, Jamaica, to the height of the Golden Age of Piracy.
  • The National Civil War Naval Museum

    National Civil War Naval Museum located in Columbus, GA. Tells the stories of the navies of the Civil War, connecting people with the past; giving them a better sense of place and time.

On a recent drive we decided to take a look at south-central Florida and visited a few small towns like Sebring, Lake Wales, Lake Placid and Clewiston. Planning the trip we researched a couple of stops that seemed worthy of a visit.

In Sebring, home of the the famous race course where the first 12 Hours of Sebring was held on March 15, 1952, we found our first museum of the trip.

The Military Sea Services Museum – an admittance free museum that has collected seagoing artifacts, stories, books and photographs relating to the time spent at sea by our military. In the collection are a large number of custom ship models, uniforms, weapons and some real finds like a commemorative brass plate cast for the WWII Japanese surrender on the battleship Missouri. The building sits in the middle of a WWII military training airfield.

Cyprus swamp trail at Highlands Hammock State Park
CCC Museum near Sebring

Another stop in Sebring was planned as a visit to Highlands Hammock State Park. Established in 1931 and developed later by Florida’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the park features a lush and incredibly diverse 9,000 acre refuge for endangered animals and ancient flora. While the park is a great place for hiking, it is also home to the Florida CCC Museum. Chock full of memorabilia and AV displays, it is a remarkable place to learn about the Civilian Conservation Core, the New Deal program that gave hundreds of thousands of young American men an opportunity for paid work and training during the Great Depression.

UDT – Seals Museum

While on the subject of Florida small museums, there is one that I have been visiting for years. Located on the southern end of North Hutchinson Island at Ft. Pierce is The National UDT And Seal Museum. It was located at Ft. Pierce because that was the site of the original WWII training facility for Underwater Demolition Teams. It was originally named the UDT Museum but was later updated to include Seals.

 

The Seal teams have overshadowed UDT in recent years but Seals are a progression from the UDT units that were active in WWII up to the early 1970’s and they share the same training program (Buds for Basic Underwater Demolition School). Stop by and learn something about Seals, their training, missions and their predecessor’s, the Underwater Demolition Teams..

UDT prided themselves as the first on the beach in a landing assault

 

Memorial Day and Pointe du Hoc

June 6th 2019 the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

A Day at Pointe du Hoc

At 7:10 am on the morning of June 6th 1944 at a point of land where the rolling farmland of western France drops ninety feet down vertical cliffs to meet the sea, in the words of one Army Ranger “All hell broke loose.”

Three hours before that, on a troopship offshore hidden in the fog and smokescreen laid down by the armada, the PA system announced, “Rangers, man your craft.” Of the three hundred Rangers that boarded those boats to attack those cliffs and capture its gun emplacements later that morning only ninety would still be standing.

The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc

At Pointe du Hoc, at that moment the World War II invasion of Normandy began.

Visiting today it is almost impossible to comprehend how anyone could scale those cliffs under enemy fire and succeed.

Spend a moment visiting this land, set aside to the memory of those brave men and reflect on just what Memorial Day represents.

Pointe du Hoc occupied the high ground overlooking beaches to the east and was covered in fortified cannon emplacements. It was thought that if the cannons were not taken out of commission they would have prevented a successful landing on the beach below.

The Battle Of Point Du Hoc

The 90 foot cliffs scaled by the American Rangers.

 

Looking down at the landing beach.
The German gun emplacements.
Pointe du Hoc is still covered by the craters of the Allied barrage.

 

The German gun emplacements.

The German gun emplacements.
Seventy years later Pointe du Hoc still shows scars from that day.

The countryside behind Pointe du Hoc.

Going Wild In Florida

A Short Story

Florida is all about the water, Sun and beaches and if you visit you should take the time to get up close to some of our wildlife. From Manatees in the clear springs, birdwatching up the Indian River or the island of Captiva and alligators almost anywhere. The options are varied and there are a number of guides ready to introduce you to airboat rides, party boat fishing offshore, inter-coastal cruising, and snorkeling adventures.

Allow us to introduce you to some of the locals:

A Great White Egret
Brown Pelican
Frigate Birds are the pirates of the sky
An anhingas dries in the Sun

While the Double-crested Cormorant does often nest in colonies, we’ve never seen such a large group in one place before. The video below was taken on the Indian River in eastern, central Florida and it appeared as if a large shoal of fish had attracted the attention of a number of Cormorants along with some Brown Pelicans. What first caught our attention was a large area of frothing white water near the far bank. By the time we got near the feeding was breaking up but still an interesting sight.

 

 

 

 

Keep your eyes open – the wild side is everywhere in Florida.

Dolphins are found everywhere from the surf in Naples to up the Indian River

Two Walt Disney World Resorts and a Cablecar

Walt Disney World has a huge range of resorts with rates from about $100 up to near $1,000. But they all have the advantage of being inside the “World” and all have been touched by that famous Disney magic. At the economical end of the spectrum are two that are about to gain some additional popularity. Disney’s Art of Animation and Pop Century Resort.

Pop Century Resort

Art of Animation is one of the newer additions to the Disney World moderate cost level resorts. Built in 2012 it includes family suites that represent an excellent value if you’re traveling with a whole family. The resort celebrates the artistry of favorite Disney and Disney•Pixar films from the rooms to the grounds and public buildings. It features three pools and a walking and riding trail around the lake along with a huge food court, bars and a game room.

Art of Animation
Art of Animation

Art of Animation also has standard hotel rooms along with family suites. The family suites at Art of Animation are a good choice for larger families and include 1 Queen Bed and 1 Double-Size Table Bed and 1 Double-Size Sleeper Sofa. Prices range from $160 for a standard room to $350+ for a family suite.

Art of Animation

Next door to Art of Animation is Pop Century Resort based on the fads of the 1950s through the 1980s. Yo-yos and Play-Doh, Rubik’s Cube and rollerblades, this resort is dedicated to the fashions, phrases, toys and dances that defined America in those times. It is one of Disney’s more economical properties with room rates running from $110 through $140.

Cablecar test run
Art of Animation Cablecar Station

The Art of Animation and Pop Century Resorts are a good distance from all four Disney World theme and water parks and Disney Springs, they just don’t have a park within walking distance. Buses have been the only free method of transportation available to get to the parks from these resorts. But that is going to be changing. Walt Disney World will soon begin operating a new sky-car system that will connect three moderately priced resorts to Epcot and Disney Studios.

The cablecars themselves will each be able to carry ten passengers and will be running only a couple of minutes apart. The three resorts on the system include Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach. Not only will it relieve congestion on the roads and reduce the number of buses (and fuel) it will also provide a fun experience for guests that should increase the appeal of these moderately priced resorts.

Walt Disney World Insiders – We Have Some Advice

LOOKING FOR AN INSIDE TRACK ON WHAT TO EXPECT INSIDE WALT DISNEY WORLD?

Welcome to everything Disney, Walt Disney World that is. Below are links to in-depth articles on where to stay, how to get ready for a visit, where to eat and additional things to do.

We first visited WDW forty years ago and now live less than twenty miles away. Over the years we have seen a lot of changes and we’ve learned a few things. Let us share our ideas and information on Walt Disney World.

 

 

 

The Happiest Place On Earth!  Without question, WDW is the most visited vacation destination in the world, paying host to forty million visitors a year. Adding to that the city of Orlando also features Universal Studios, Sea World and over a dozen additional major tourist attractions. All this adds up to a must-do vacation destination for a lot of families the world over.

Far and away the star of the Orlando attractions is Walt Disney World and an experience not to be missed.

10 Things To Consider Before You Visit WDW. If you are planning a visit in the future we have some advice to help make the most of your vacation.

First and very important is to start making reservations as far in advance as possible. Decide if you will stay inside the “World” or at one of the seemingly thousand of additional resorts outside of the property. Restaurants and special events are in high demand and the sooner you start making reservations the better your chances of getting what you want. You will also want to start making “Fast Pass” selections to get you onto rides faster.

Where To Stay. Our recommendation is to stay inside the “World”. While it is true you can save money and often get more for your money staying off property, you will miss staying in the heart of the excitement. Often staying inside WDW can add hours of time to your park visits. First, you are already nearby when the parks open and in addition each day  a different park has early or late extra hours for WDW resort guests only. Usually the gates open an hour early or are extended by an hour.

A World of Foods To Experience. There was a time when a visit to WDW meant a day or two of fast food. No more! Walt Disney World has more restaurants, snack bars, cafes and lounges, food trucks and dinner shows than can be counted. While we would never characterize food at WDW as a bargain it is also remarkably varied and extremely good. Several are rated on the best in America list. Get an early start on where you plan to eat.

Dozens of food choices at Disney Springs

Special Events and More. Maybe you are planning your first trip to WDW but the people at Disney World have additional plans for you. You can think of it as them just wanting to make your visit extra special but actually they really want you to come back over and over again. These offerings include Christmas parties, Food and Wine Festivals, Flower and Garden Shows, behind the scenes tours, special park events and hours, marathons…  Find out all that’s going on.

The Liberty Belle Riverboat in The Magic Kingdom

Getting Around WDW. One of the things we like about Walt Disney World is the adventure of just getting around the “World”. From boats and ferries to monorails and soon to open sky cars getting there is all part of the fun.

Magic Bands and Fast Pass. When it started you could only get a Magic Band if you where a Disney hotel guest and to make Fast Pass reservations you had to have a hotel reservation too. Things have changed. Now if you have purchased park tickets and created a My Disney account (anyone can register for free), you can now make Fast Pass reservations before you travel to WDW.

The Disney Vacation Club. Over twenty-five years ago Disney began a time share program with the opening of the Old Key West Resort. In the beginning it was structured very much like other time shares but soon it was restructured into something uniquely Disney and may represent one of the few true values in timeshare.

A boat from Epcot to The Boardwalk resorts

A Brief History of Disney World. Just under fifty years ago Walt Disney opened a vacation and entertainment complex on the west side of Orlando, Florida. Not wanting to repeat the mistake of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, where the park was sited on a piece of land surrounded by property owned by a multitude of other interests. This time they secretly began buying massive tracks of land just west of the city ending up with about thirty-nine square miles of what used to be swamp and orange groves.

When Walt Disney World opened it comprised two theme parks and three resort hotels that included The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, The Contemporary and Polynesian resorts and a property on the golf course appropriately named The Golf Resort (now called Shades of Green for exclusive use of active military)  along with a shopping and private hotel areas.

Big Thunder Mountain in The Magic Kingdom
Pirates of the Caribbean at The Magic Kingdom

Today WDW includes four theme parks, The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Studios and Animal Kingdom along with two water parks. There are now four golf courses, Thirty four Disney owned resort hotels (soon to add four more) five separate time-share resorts (Disney Vacation Club resorts [DVC]) and expanded shopping and entertainment district. There is also a sports complex and a campground (which was part of the original “World”.

In addition there are major additions and upgrades being made to several parks, upgrades to WDW transportation network and a Star Wars Experience hotel to open soon. The people at Disney are hard at work trying to get you to visit more often…

 

REVIEWS AND WORTHWHILE LINKS

CURRENT REVIEWS

GOOD LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION

  • Walt Disney World home page HERE
  • Calendar of WDW special events HERE
  • Dining Guide to WDW HERE
  • The Disney Food Blog HERE
  • My Disney Experience HERE