The tie between Osceola County and the Seminole Indians goes deeper than our county merely being named for Seminole Indian, Osceola. Billy Bowlegs III, his sister Lucy Pearce, Martha and Tim Tiger and others were frequent visitors to Kissimmee. We are reminded of the connection when we see and hear the names of extinct communities in Osceola County or current cities, towns; lakes and waterways.
Forts had been built in the area during the time of the Seminole Indian Wars and bands of Seminoles were seen by scouting patrols in the areas of Reedy Creek and the north end of Lake Tohopekaliga, where islands provided the perfect hiding place from United States Army patrols because of their thick, dense forests.
Many local merchants and leading citizens of Kissimmee welcomed the Seminole visitors into their homes and became advocates for them, fighting for reforms to the Indian policies implemented by the United States government. Kissimmee residents, Minnie Moore Willson and her husband Jim were strong supporters in working to “Save the Seminoles”.
Local newspaper accounts tell of Seminoles coming to Kissimmee to trade furs and skins with W.B. Makinson at his store for merchandise.
During the time of the Seminole Wars, a fast disposable shelter was needed since the Seminoles were constantly on the run from United States troops. The chickee, palmetto thatch over a cypress log frame, was developed and became popular due to its efficiency and durability, lasting about ten years and only needing to be re-thatched every five years. There were no walls or sleeping quarters and merely provided shelter and protection from the elements. Over time, the design was improved upon and some were built two stories high with living quarters.
Modern equipment allows for construction of chickees to be done in a matter of hours, rather than days. Although the Seminoles no longer live in chickees, building them has become a successful business in Florida. It enables the Seminoles to preserve the past while profiting from Florida’s heritage. The chickee at the Osceola County Historical Society Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek is an example of how a chickee would have looked in 1880-1881 and was built by members of the Seminole Indian Tribe.
Photo Courtesy: Florida Memory, Krystal McIntee, and “Kissimmee A Pictorial History”
Sources: “The River of the Long Water” by Alma Hetherington, “Kissimmee Valley Gazette”, Seminole Tribe of Florida website