Early Expedition into the Everglades

A Wilderness in Florida Where Freedom’s Edict Has Never Penetrated.


A Wilderness in Florida Where Freedom’s Edict Has Never Penetrated.


The New Orleans “Times-Democrat” About to Explore the Everglades of Florida.


Since the New York Herald sent the steamer Jeannette to discover the North Pole, journalistic enterprise in the direction of geographical discovery has had no such illustration as that which the New Orleans Times-Democrat is preparing to furnish. The enterprise now almost ready to be carried into operation is an expedition of discovery in the wonderful everglades of Florida. The nature of such a voyage may be judged from the following editorial article in a recent issue of the Times-Democrat announcing the progress of preparations for the journey:

early expedition. an expedition of discovery in the wonderful everglades of Florida


Florida may almost be said to have been discovered during the last 15 years, for it is within that time that the State has come to be the resort and abode of thousands of northern people, and the orange culture has grown into a great industry. During this period the State has steadily grown in resources, and the growth bids fair to be continuous. Nevertheless, a barge part of the Southern portion of Florida remains an “undiscovered country.” In December last the Times-Democrat sent out an expedition, which succeeded in passing down the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee and thence through the Caloosahatchie River into the Gulf of Mexico. This expedition made valuable discoveries. It is now our purpose to send out another expedition to explore the famous Everglades, which are now quite as unknown to the civilized world as were the wilds of Africa previous to the expedition of Stanley in quest of Livingstone. Several attempts to explore this country have been made by the United States government, and, during the Seminole war the troops frequently attempted to follow the Indians into the Everglades, but they never succeeded in penetrating beyond the borders of the Everglades proper. When the general government sought to remove the Indians to their reservations, many of the different tribes fled into the Everglades, and it is estimated that 700 or 800 are now living there. Only 80 appear upon the rolls of the census, because no census officer has been able to penetrate the wilderness. Indian-hunters come out with bear, deer, and panther skins, showing that the Everglades must contain good hunting-grounds. A number of negroes, say 30 or 40, are known to be held by the Indians. They speak the Indian tongue, wear the dress of Indian women and are made to do the women’s work. These negroes are evidently the progeny of runaway slaves, who escaped before or during the civil war, and are still held in slavery.


Only one missionary ever attempted to carry the news of Lincoln’s proclamation into the Everglades; he left the borders of the Indian country with great speed. A few months ago Chief Tiger Tail became displeased with one of his colored servants, and brought him into Fort Myers to offer him for sale. When informed that the negroes were all free he ejaculated: “White man’s nigger mebbe free, but Indian’s nigger, no.” Whereupon Tiger Tail grasped his darky by the nape of the neck, pushed him into the canoe and paddled back to the Everglades. The Seminoles are quite jealous of any interference with their domain, and will not serve as guides through their country. So strictly Is this rule maintained that an Indian boy who has been raised by Col. Hendry, under an agreement with the Indians that he may stay six months of each year with Col. Hendry and six months with his people, could not be prevailed upon, for any consideration, to guide white men into the country.

early expedition. Indian-hunters come out with bear, deer, and panther skins, showing that the Everglades must contain good hunting-grounds.

The Times-Democrat expedition will assemble at Jacksonville on October 15, and proceed by rail to Cedar Keys, thence by steamer to Fort Meyers [sic], and up the Caloosahatchee River, through canals to Lake Okeechobee. A camp will be established for one week on “Observation Island,” until preliminary surveys shall have been made and everything is in readiness for the trip. A direct course will be taken for Whitewater Bay, on the Gulf coast. When the center of the Everglades shall have been reached a camp will be established for two weeks, and surveying parties will be sent out in easterly and westerly directions. The Everglades in their entire extent will be penetrated.


The personnel of the Times-Democrat expedition will be as follows:

Major A. P. Williams, the Times-Democrat ‘s representative in Florida. Major Williams was born in 1844, in Rapides parish, was a pupil of “Stonewall” Jackson at the Virginia Military Institute, and of Gen. W. T. Sherman at Alexandria in this State. During the civil war Major Williams was Inspector-General to Major-General A. P. Bagby.

Col. C. F. Hopkins, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a naval officer. Col. Hopkins was the Colonel of a Florida regiment in the Confederate army, and is now the leading Civil Engineer of Florida.

Dr. James Kellum, a native of Virginia, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and surgeon in the United States Navy. Dr. Kellum was Medical Director to Gen. Walker in the Nicaraguan expedition and Medical Purveyor to Lieut.-Gen. Longstreet.

Col. F. A. Hendry, “The Cattle King of Florida,” who has lived for many years on the borders of the Everglades, and who is better acquainted with that section them any other man in the State.


The expedition will take with them the canoes Susie B., Daisy W., E. A. Burke, P. M. Baker, W.H.H. Judson and A. W. Cockerton. These canoes were built by the Racine Canoe Works, and ordered through Katie & Co. of Chicago. Susie B. and Daisy W. are 18 feet in length, 41 inches beam, with air-tight compartments, with sails and center-boards, and rigged for oars and paddles. The remaining four canoes are 14 feet in length, 36 inches beam and rigged similarly to the others. The six canoes will be manned by eight colored men, uniformed by the Times-Democrat, each of whom is over six feet in height, selected from 60 applicants.

marsanneMarsanne Petty conducts historical research about 19th 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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