Early Everglades Explorations

alligators hunters in 1882 everglades
Alligator hunters in the Florida Everglades. 1882. Via Vintage Sports Pictures.

Herald Explorations in the Florida Wilderness

We print today an interesting letter and special dispatch from our correspondent in charge of the Herald explorations in the wilds of Florida, describing his progress and discoveries. A vast area of the peninsula has been, up to the present, a terra incognita civilized man, and the utmost exertions of explorers have hitherto failed to lift the veil of mystery that has hung over that strange land. Since the days of Ponce de Leon, who sought on the shores of the “Land of Flowers” the mystical fountains of perpetual youth, the utmost interest has been manifested in determining the physical character of Florida.

But few have been tempted to brave the terrors that were found to surround investigation, and explorations were limited to the coast line territory, which proved, with the exception of the northern sections, to be the only habitable portion of the State. Now, however, there is a prospect that we will become acquainted with the nature of the interior – its vast swamps, mysterious rivers, great forests, and even the ancient monuments left by the long extinct races that peopled its area.

early everglades explorations. its vast swamps, mysterious rivers, great forests

During the Florida war, when the dusky warriors of Osceola fought so stoutly against their white enemies, scattered posts were established by the United States Army for the purpose of maintaining communications between the occupied districts, but many of these have long ago lost every vestige of interest except that attaching to their names in connection with sanguinary combats between civilization and barbarism.

early everglades exploration. when the dusky warriors of Osceola fought so stoutly against their white enemies

Following the direction marked by a singular column of smoke which was observed by our correspondent to rise from some unknown source in the interior the Herald expedition plunged into the wilderness of vegetation that clothes the country, and succeeded, after much exertion and wading through deep water, in reaching an island or elevated ground surrounded by swamps.

There were discovered some strange and rudely carved masses of stone, evidently erected by a prehistoric race as idols. With a description of these we also find that of the “sinks,” or singular points of disappearance of the rivers where they enter on subterranean courses to reappear again in other places. The dark haunts of the alligator and venomous snakes, the bear, the panther and the deer are graphically described by our correspondent, who is determined to prosecute his explorations until Florida gives up the secrets of her “Everglades,” rivers and forests to the readers of the Herald.


marsanneMarsanne Petty conducts historical research about 18th century southern United States and environmental history. To get more great updates and original history, sign up at The Southern Sage. To get her to help you with your own research project, email mapetty[at]gmail.com.

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