Tuesday, July 19, 2016

AMERICA'S FIRST COWBOYS

Old "US" have found snippets of important Florida history while visiting the area of the state long remembered for the large cattle ranches.  Pioneers of Old Florida and the vast untamed wilderness of Florida "scrub" or Cracker cattle descended from the mix of Spanish and British breeds - Adalusian cattle, the ancestors of Texas Longhorns.
Andalusian Cattle
Longhorn Cattle
Florida has the longest history of ranching of any state in the United States.  Cattle and the people who raised them and the importance of ranching has changed since cattle first arrived with the earliest Spanish explorers more than 400 years ago (1521).  Florida's Andalusian/Caribbean cattle were the first in today's United States.  By 1700, Florida contained 34 ranches and 20,000 head of cattle, and huge cattle drives contributed to the economical growth of Florida.
Cowboy Country in Florida
Beautiful Florida Cattle Country
Florida Savannah
After the Civil War Florida became the nation's leading cattle exporter.  From 1868 to 1878 ranchers received millions of dollars for over 1.6 million cattle exported to Cuba and contributed to the state's recovery from Reconstruction-era depression.
Florida Cattle Country
Florida Cattle Cooling Down in a Lake
In 1895 Frederic Remington, American sculptor, painter and writer wrote about the Cracker Cowboys of Florida.  Florida's old-time cowboys had a unique way of herding cattle.  They used 10-12 foot long whips made of braided leather to bring stray cattle back into line thus earning the cowboys the nickname of "crackers".  Cattle, no bigger than donkeys at that time, were valuable because they could survive in the wilderness.
Grazing Cattle In Florida 
We visited a citrus and cattle pioneer town, Fort Ogden, which has the oldest post office in DeSoto County to be in continuous service, established in 1876.
Fort Ogden - off US 17 North near Arcadia, FL
We learned about a true Florida legend, Ziba King, who died in 1901, who reportedly owned 50,000 head of cattle worth $500,000. which represented 10% of all the cattle in Florida.  He was known as a true cattle baron.
Ziba King - 3/12/1838 - 3/7/1901
Ziba King was a Confederate veteran who moved to Florida after the Civil War when carpetbaggers took his family's plantation in Georgia.  King left with $5 in his pocket and walked to Florida.  He homesteaded the customary 160 acres in Fort Ogden (up the Peace River), opened a general store, and began to acquire cattle, became a judge in neighboring Arcadia,  and was president of the First National Bank of Arcadia, with prominent positions in 2 other banks.

King was an imposing at 6' 6'", 225 lbs.  He owned the local newspaper, served on the school board, and at one time bankrolled the entire school system for one year with his own money.  King was active in politics and served terms in both houses of the Florida Legislature.
Fort Ogden Memorial Park - Fort Ogden, FL
Ziba King Family Gravesite - Ft. Ogden, FL
We found the very well maintained burial place of Ziba King, wife, Florida, and several infant family members in a memorial park family plot (land formerly a part of King's landholdings), in Fort Ogden, Florida, just west of US 17.  Fort Ogden is south of Arcadia and the eastern side of Peace River.

Zibo King Gravesite - Fort Ogden, FL
The State of Florida has a ranching heritage rich in values and solid traditions.  Florida's beautiful open spaces, environment, natural resources and animal habitats are a reason our beef production should be increased in Florida.  That is a reason there is a drive among Florida beef producers that beef born, raised and harvested in Florida stays in Florida.

Post a Comment