Ben Brotemarkle, FOR FLORIDA TODAY
Many Florida towns were built around Seminole War forts. Some, such as Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Myers, retain their fort names.
Fort Shackleford was constructed in 1855 during the Third Seminole War. Archaeologists continue to search for its exact location.
Archaeologist Dr. Annette Snapp is operations manager for the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum in Clewiston, and is leading the effort to find Fort Shackleford.Snapp will give a free presentation at 7 p.m. Fridayfor the Florida Historical Society Archaeological Institute at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science, 2201 Michigan Ave. in Cocoa.
Seminole Indians moved to Florida in the 1700s to avoid the expanding American colonies. Runaway slaves found sanctuary here with the Seminoles. White settlers also began coming to the area after the American Revolution to take advantage of Spanish land grants. The First Seminole War started in 1816, when General Andrew Jackson began a series of invasions into Spanish-controlled Florida.
"At the time he is very interested in wresting Florida from Spain, and also in the movement of Indians away from the white settlers," Snapp said.
By 1821, Florida was a Territory of the United States. Andrew Jackson was president in 1830 when the Indian Removal Act was passed, empowering him to arrange the relocation of the Seminoles and other Native American groups to land west of the Mississippi River.
"There was this sense that everybody will agree to do this, but of course, it leads to the Trail of Tears," Snapp said. "The Cherokee and other tribes are forced to walk west to Oklahoma and other areas out west. With Andrew Jackson turning his eyes on, and the federal government turning their eyes on Florida, it leads to the Second Seminole War."
The Seminoles had been pushed onto a reservation in the central part of Florida. During the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842, tensions rose between Native Americans and white settlers. The Seminoles resorted to sporadic guerilla warfare to defend their land.
Following the Second Seminole War, the tribe had been pushed even farther south, and Florida was named a state in 1845.
The Swamp Land Act of 1850 allowed the federal government to give swamp land to states, which could then sell the land to settlers who agreed to drain the swamp. This legislation encouraged an influx of white settlement in Florida.