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PEACE RIVER HISTORY

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When the early Spanish explorers invaded the peninsula, they were blinded by a lust for gold, and many a misguided conquistador died at the wrong end of an arrow.

Still, they were remarkably adept at choosing just the right name for the places they discovered. It was Ponce de Leon, for example, who christened our state pascua de florida, or “feast of flowers.”

Shortly thereafter — sometime in the early 1500s — an unknown Spanish cartographer was updating a map of the New World. Dipping his quill in a vial of iron ink, he sketched a meandering river in a previously uncharted region. Like all cartography, it was part accurate representation, part educated guess. Perhaps out of wishful thinking, he decided to call it Rio de la Paz, or the “Peace River.”

To the Seminole Indians, who settled on its banks two centuries later, it was Tallackchopo, “The River of Long Peas,” for the wild peas that covered the river’s banks. Displaced from their homelands in the southeastern United States, bands of Lower Creek Indians migrated to Florida and the Peace River Valley in the early 1700s, while it was still under Spanish rule. There they mingled with runaway slaves and adopted the colorful attire of Scottish traders, forging a unique culture and coming to be known as Seminoles, or “separatists.”

The late 1700s was a chaotic and violent time in Florida. Battles over land and slaves were commonplace. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 created additional turmoil. During this time, two legendary Seminole leaders emerged, Osceola (a.k.a. Billy Powell) and Abiaka (a.k.a. Sam Jones). Osceola was a courageous and charismatic warrior. Although never a chirf, he was a passionate defender of his people’s rights, and they regarded him as their spokesman and representative.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

In 1835 he was asked to sign a treaty relocating the Seminoles from the Peace River Valley to “Indian Territory” west of the Mississippi. When Osceola refused, within weeks the Seminoles and the United States were at war for the second time.

The first Seminole War had taken place in northern Florida. It began in 1817 and lasted little over a year. By contrast, the second Seminole War proved the most expensive Indian conflict in United States history, costing thousands of lives and over $20 million.

 

For two years Osceola and his warriors harassed and confounded the Army with guerrilla raids and ambushes. In 1837 he was captured during a conference held under a flag of truce. He died in prison in 1838 and was buried at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina.

The war raged for five more years. By its end, every Indian settlement in the Peace River Valley had been laid to waste. Those Seminoles and runaway slaves not killed or captured were driven into hiding, deep in the Everglades.

The third and final Seminole War erupted in 1855 when a crew of Army surveyors vandalized a banana field belonging to Chief Billy Bowlegs. Although the Chief eventually surrendered, a small band of his warriors refused, fleeing to the Big Cypress Swamp — where their descendants live to this day.


Following The Seminole Wars,The Peace River Valley remained a sparsley settled wilderness,dotted with small farms,citrus groves and cattle ranches. These farms relied on bone meal the main source of fertilizer. With the discovery of phosphorus' role in promoting plant growth,agriculture was forever changed.

Phosphorus, a non renewable resource is mined as Phosphate minerals which were formed millions of years ago when Florida was underwater. It is believed that Phosphate was formed when skeletal remains of animals,organic matter and dissolved Phosporus in seawater solidified and settled at the ocean's bottom,ultimately becoming sedimentary rock

Through.a series of discoveries by amateur geologists and mining engineers, the Florida " phosphate boom" of the late nineteenth centurywas sparked.In 1881,Captain J.Francis LeBaron of the U.S. army corps of engineers discoverd Phosphate while surveying the Peace River south of Fort Meade. Additional deposits were discovered in 1886 by John C. Jones and captain W.R.Mckee,who quickly formed a company and commenced mining operations. In 1888 captain T.S Moorehead created the arcadia Phosphate company,purchasing the rights to mine sections of the riverbed. Within a decade ,over 200 companies were mining Phosphate in central Florida, and the price of an acre of the Peace River land had soared from $1.25 to 300 dollars.Initially,Phosphate was mined with picks and shovels. Later as new and deeper reserves were identified, the mining companies began to srip-mining huge tracts with steam shovels. By the then the region had a new nickname - " Bone Valley " - because of the numerous fossils discovered in the deposits.