Fletcher Park is not really a park, so to speak, but a preserved piece of state owned land with a rich history. And since the Fletcher Park Marker relocated to the Osceola County Historical Society, we thought you'd like to hear about its history.
Austin B. Fletcher (1852-1923) was born in Mendon, Massachusetts to decedents of an early settler of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He attended Tufts College, now Tufts University, in Medford, Massachusetts where he graduated in 1872. Mr. Fletcher became a prominent lawyer contributing greatly to Tufts and to many causes along the East Coast.
It remains a mystery as to why Fletcher purchased land in Osceola County, but according to old newspaper articles, he owned a beautiful piece of property. It was 38 acres located on Reedy Creek off of Old Tampa Highway, between Kissimmee and Haines City. It is reported that the dense forest, along with tall cypress trees, was also home to a sweet orange grove. Some believed the orange seeds were originally dropped by early Spaniards, or perhaps Indians, while others believed that the hidden grove was a natural product of the rich Florida soil.
These sweet orange trees were for many years a well guarded secret of the Seminole Indians, who lived in this area and were the object of many a search party. It is also said that in this hidden forest, during the days of the Seminole War, the Indians would wrap themselves in Spanish moss and pose as sentinels. Camouflaged in the the tall cypress trees they would sit watching the American troops pass in their marches to and from Fort Brooks in Tampa to Fort King in Ocala.
Fletcher made Tufts the principal beneficiary of this estate, who eventually decided to deed the land to the state of Florida in 1935. The marker was moved because it was in danger of being destroyed, as it was too near the Old Tampa Highway widening project. Lucky for Osceola county, Mike Bast brought it to the attention of the county commissioners, who relocated the Fletcher Park Marker to where it now stands at the Osceola County Welcome Center & History Museum. The park may be long gone, but the historical marker is a reminder of days gone by and the generosity of Mr. Fletcher.