On Oct. 1, 1931 the city of Clewiston was incorporated, but not for the first time. Clewiston had been incorporated in 1923, and then re-chartered in 1925. The city was named for early settler Alonzo Clewis, a Tampa banker who purchased a large tract of land southwest of Lake Okeechobee in the area then known as Sand Point.
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This weekend “marks” a milestone for one of our more outlying but historically rich areas: Okeechobee County. At 11 a.m. Saturday, at the reenactment of the historic Battle of Okeechobee, a marker will be dedicated at its new spot at a new state park.
The 1837 skirmish on the north shore of the big lake is approaching its 175th anniversary.
The battle, on Christmas Day 1837, was the biggest and bloodiest fight of the Second Seminole War, one of America’s most controversial, and mostly forgotten.
At an expanse of sawgrass, chest-high water and muck, Gen. Zachary Taylor — later president — led about 1,000 U.S. soldiers and Missouri volunteers who routed several hundred Seminoles.
The new park is itself a stunning victory for forces who for decades fought to protect the site from encroaching development.
In 2006, as part of the $3 billion Florida Forever program, the state agreed to buy 145 of the 211 acres at the battlefield, which the National Trust for Historic Places had listed as one of America’s 11 most endangered historic sites.
Officials said it likely would have ended up as townhomes.
Plans include a small museum that will describe the battle and house artifacts found at the site.
While the site will host this weekend’s reenactment, it’s not yet open as a park. No structures have been built yet.
The Second Seminole War, 1835 to 1842, was the longest and most expensive the white man waged against American Indians and draws parallels to Vietnam.
Soldiers were sent far away to an inhospitable swamp to fight locals familiar with the territory, and it was a war of attrition in which three died of disease for every one killed in battle.
After the war, the Seminoles were scattered, with about 600 shipped west as part of the “Trail of Tears” and the rest vanishing into the Everglades. In 1939, West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a roadside marker (above) along U.S. 441 near the battlefield. In November 2011, the marker was moved to the new park site.
The Battle of Okeechobee State Park site is at 3500 S.E. 38th Ave. in Okeechobee.
Willard Steele, playing the part of Gen. Zachary Taylor who fought in the Seminole War at Okeechobee, sets up the Missouri Volunteer Flag at the battle site south of Okeechobee. (1987 Palm Beach Post staff file photo)
In early March of 1921, Frederick Edward Bryant and G. T. Anderson of the Florida Sugar and Food Products Company took out a series of full-page advertisements in The Palm Beach Post soliciting support for a sugar mill in Palm Beach County. The Canal Point mill opened in 1923. Florida Sugar later merged with the Southern Sugar Company, which was bought by the United States Sugar Corporation in 1931.
By Michelle Quigley
The documentary Laura Woodward: Visionary Artist won in the documentary, cultural and education categories. The 30-minute production tells the story of Laura Woodward, a landscape artist who used her paintings to persuade Henry Flagler to build a resort in Palm Beach in 1894.
The Hurricane of 1928 — documenting the deadly storm that slammed into Palm Beach County and roared inland to lift the water right out of Lake Okeechobee — also won in the education category.
In 2009 T.E.N. won an Emmy award for its Anywhere/Anytime science videos.
The Telly Awards are in their 31st year of honoring the best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, video and film productions, and works created for the Web.
This column lost a great resource and mentor June 7 with the passing of Joseph Orsenigo at 87.
As my colleague Susan Salisbury noted, Mr. Orsenigo was a noted research scientist who also chaired the Belle Glade Museum Board and the Glades Historical Society.
He also was this writer’s primary source for the history of the Glades.
He knew Bean City was named for Arthur Wells, the first to grow winter string beans in the Glades.
He knew Fleming Drive in Belle Glade was named for Fleming “Slim” Rutledge, the father of Glades benefactor Dolly Hand.
He was one of several local and state historians and scholars who, in 1999, helped in the production of “Our Century,” the Post’s special section which later was published as a book. He also was among the group that helped the Post pick the all-time top 10 state and local stories.
His greatest help, of course, was with Black Cloud, my history book on the great 1928 hurricane.
He threw open his files, as well as the collection of “cracker historian” Lawrence Will, housed at the Palm Beach County library system’s Belle Glade branch. (The two of us jointly mourned the fact that many of those files were ransacked over the years and important documents lost to the ages.)
But he was able to provide searing memoirs, important government documents, and telling news articles I never would have found on my own.
Beyond that, he was a constant go-to person, providing insights, correcting misconceptions, and sending me in the right direction for documents, resources and interviews.
And when I challenged, both in Post articles and in my book, the idea that 1,600 victims could possibly fit into the mass grave at the Port Mayaca cemetery, suggesting whoever designed the marker simply picked a nice round number, Mr. Orsenigo opined — in his usual succinct manner — “who kept an accurate tally sheet?”
Lawrence Will Museum: Belle Glade branch, Palm Beach County Public Library: (561) 996-3453.