The Dangers of Steamboating

A Walk Along the Kissimmee River. Via South Florida Water Management District.

Florida Desperado

Desperate Fight with and Escape of a Cattle Dealer.

By United Press over Private Wire.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., April 8. – A special from Kissimmee City to the Herald gives an account of the exciting events resulting in the capture of Ralph Willingham, a rich cattle owner and noted desperado of the Southern Florida wilderness. Willingham went aboard a steamer trading on the Kissimmee river and lakes and demanded of Captain Pearce by what right he ran a steamer on those waters. The Captain gave a civil answer, but was attacked by the gigantic Willingham who would have killed him with his bowie knife but for the interference of the crew. After a bloody struggle in which two of the crew were wounded, Willingham was overpowered and bound. Redding Parker, a brother-in-law of Willingham and also a desperate character, was asleep in the lower part of the boat during the struggle. On learning of Willingham’s capture he made a desperate effort to release his friend, and it required another fierce combat to subdue him. He afterward escaped from his captors, swam ashore and escaped. Captain Pearce took his prisoner to Galando, the county seat, to claim a standing reward of $2,500 for the outlaw. Willingham, who is known as the cattle king of South Florida, insolently boasts that his great wealth will enable him to buy his freedom. He is said to be guilty of five murders.

florida desperado. Willingham was overpowered and bound.

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]

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