One of the best state historians in the neighborhood, Albert DeVane of Lake Placid, has made an intensive study of Old Fort Drum and herewith gives factual data, and names of persons who helped in the establishment of the Fort. DeVane is a frequent contributor to The Okeechobee News. This is his account of the Old Fort and the settlement.
Do you know where Fort Drum is? Yes, everyone in Okeechobee can tell you, in fact very many people throughout the state can tell you. The old Fort and settlement has much history and I shall try and tell you. Recently a party made up of myself, my brother, Park, his son Tommy, Harvey Piety, all of Sebring, Clyde Hancock of Okeechobee, and Leonard and Raymond Dupper from Greeley, Colorado, made up a party to explore the ruins of the military site of Fort Drum.
The Fort had been built in the 1840s and garrisoned by. U. S. soldiers.
Mr. Hancock's father, Henry Hancock, moved to the Okeechobee area in 1901. He was an approved government licensed surveyor, having done much of the early surveying of the section, especially the unsurveyed lands around Lake Okeechobee.
Through his keen knowledge of the section, he and W. I. Fee, a historian from Fort Pierce, established the site where the battle of Okeechobee was fought.
His son Clyde, of our party, inherited much of the traits of his father, having acted as chainman on many of his numerous surveys. Mr. Hancock now owns the land where old Fort Drum was built. He directed our party to the spot he had been told was the site of the old military Fort. Jim Morgan and Streety Hair, Sr., old timers in the area, and also John Norman, who was raised on these parts, had pointed the old site out to him. You ask exactly where was this old military Fort? It was at the junction or crossroads of two military roads. One road running from Fort Kissimmee to Fort Lloyd, Fort Van Swearington on to Fort Jupiter, this road was later known as the old wire road. The other road ran from Fort Bassinger around the west end of the St. Johns marsh, through the cypress which joined it on the west, on by Fort Vinton to the coast. The terminus was then called Quay, later to be called Winter Set, a few miles north of the present Vero Beach.
We are now at the old crossroads. A preliminary survey over about 20 acres of land, trying to figure out where the old Fort and barracks stood. Assembling the metal detector, a fine tooth comb survey began.
Did we find anything? Yes, we were quite successful. An old hand-forged horse shoe, half of a mule horse shoe, quite a few 30 and 40 penny hand forged square nails, pieces of old cast iron cook pots, and other metal pieces we were unable to identify at the time.
At this site also were many pieces of a high grade red-clay oven tempered brick, also pieces of old hand-blown bottles of the early 18th century.
We did not find the 15-foot sharpened logs, set upright which encircled the Fort. Time and forest fires had destroyed the barracks and all wood work, including the log enclosure. In our former explorations at Fort Simon Drum and Fort Shackleford, we were able to find the burnt off logs encircling these Forts, which gave us the Fort's exact location. With diligent research I feel perhaps the burnt off logs might be found at Fort Drum.
I shall now give you some early history of the Fort Drum area.
Following the close of the Civil War in 1865 pioneers began to view the area as a fine cattle range. Among the first settlers in the area was Henry Parker. He moved from Bartow first to Bluff Hammock on the Kissimmee river. From there he moved to Fort Bassinger. About 1870 he sold his claim to Rabon Raulerson of Bartow. Parker them moved to Fort Drum, opened a store and trading post. His largest trade to begin with were the Seminole Indians, who were living at the time scattered along the St. Johns marsh, Cow Creek, Mospuito Creek, Bluefield, Indiantown, and some as far away as Hungryland.
These Seminoles brought their tanned deer hides, alligator and otter hides and also bird plumes to Parker's Store to trade for merchandise.
Some of the other first settlers into the area were Henry Holmes, father of Teet, Jim Morgan from Lowndes Co., Ga., Jim Norman, father of John, from Orlando, George Drawdy from Hillsboro county, Tipp Padgett, John McLaughlin, father of Edd, "The pony mail rider," John Parker. Also, John Webb the post master, Jasper Journigan, son of Isaac from Orlando. This Isaac Journigan's brother Aaron established the post office of Journigan, later to become Orlando, Don Sloan, Asbury Sellers, Wade H. Raulerson, father of Frank Streety Hair, Sr., son of Calvin of Manatee county and Rev. Joel Swain from Lowndes Co., Ga. He first moved from Georgia to Sumpter Co., Florida. In 1867 he moved to Hillsboro County. He was the second called pastor of Mt. Enon Primitive Baptist Church at Plant City in 1868.
From there he moved to Fort Drum in the 1870s and established the Fort Drum Primitive Baptist Church.
It will be of interest to state his father, Morgan, ran a blacksmith shop in old Troupville, second county seat of Lowndes County, Ga. in 1825. He was considered the strongest man in south Georgia.
There are other old early pioneers I have not named no doubt. Descendents of these pioneers still reside in the county.
The history of Fort Drum would not be complete without giving a little history of the Seminoles who lived in the early era of Fort Drum. Naming some of the older Indians who were friends of the pioneers and who made Henry Parker's store their source of supplies there were: Indian Henry Parker and his squaw Polly Parker. She was captured by the Army in Istokpoga area, moved to Egmont Key to be sent to Arkansas Territory. She and about 30 other Seminoles were put aboard ship. The steamboat stopped at St. Mark's for fuel (cord wood). She and five others escaped. They hid by day and traveled by night, making their way back to their old home, "The Okeechobee area."
Naming other Indians, there were Chief Billy Smith (Wild Cat Clan) a direct descendant of Wild Cat (Coacoochie) who was one of the three war leaders along with Sam Jones and Alligator in the Battle of Okeechobee on Christmas Day, 1837. Also Billy Smith's sons Tom, Dick and Moargan, Billy Stewart, Old Tom Tiger and his squaw, Martha Tiger, and her son Lake Wilson, Captain Tom Tiger, Medicine Man.
Also there was Tom Bigelow, father of Indian Joe Bowers, Chief Tallahassee and his six sons, Billy, Buster, Old Man, Mr. Dennis, Chipco, O..ar Hall, Jim Jones, 2nd for William H. Willingham, and Tommy Hill, Billy Martin, Robert and Jimmie Osceola, Old Doctor, Tommy and Jimmie Doctor, Tommy Micco and sons, Charlie Micco, Oscar Hall, Jam Jones, 2nd and Frank Shore, present Chief Medicine Man of the Brighton Seminoles. He is also a direct descendent of Wild Cat.
Jimmie Gopher and son Coffee, Old Turtenuzee, Charlie Peacock, Indians John Pierce and Jack Scarborough, Hilliard Johns, Willie Johns, Sam Huff.
Last but not least is our Centenarian of the Seminoles, Billy Bowlegs III, who is the Seminoles greatest historian. His life time of experiences would be a great book. Billy's mother was Lucy, and his grandmother was Nancy. He has a son Eli Morgan. His half-brother is John Jumper and half-sister, Lucy Pierce, over 90 years of age, now living at Brighton.
Another grand old lady of the Seminoles, over 90 years of age is Lucy Tiger, daughter of Polly Parker who has assisted me very much, relating the early history of the Seminoles.
Within the last two decades great progress has been made among the Seminoles in the fields of education, social and political and economics--which they so rightly deserve.