More than 50 registered descendants from the Seminole Maroon diaspora braved 30-degree wind chill to honor their ancestors during a ﬁve-day observance last week centered on the Loxahatchee River Battleﬁeld site in Jupiter.
The commemoration took place more than 180 years after warriors of the Seminole Nation held off attacks by the U.S. Army in two battles and marked the deﬁant stand for Indigenous sovereignty and yet another betrayal by the United States government. Attendees came from places such as Oklahoma, Mexico, Texas and the Bahamas, in addition to Florida. They visited historic sites, heard from scholars who provided historic details and shared their stories.
The ﬁrst of two battles of the Loxahatchee River in Palm Beach County took place on Jan. 15, 1838, when the Seminoles defeated the U.S. Army. The second happened on Jan. 24 that year, when 300 Seminoles held off 1,500 U.S. troops on the banks of the Loxahatchee in the last standing battle of the Second Seminole War. Outnumbered, the Seminoles fled into the Everglades.
Major General Thomas S. Jesup, who commanded the U.S. troops in that second battle, recommended that the Seminoles be allowed to remain in the Everglades and the war be ended. His request was denied but the government tricked the Seminoles into coming forward under a white flag of truce at Fort Jupiter and took 600 prisoners. The Seminoles were captured and deported to Oklahoma, becoming part of the “Trail of Tears,” and some were turned over to so-called “slave catchers.”
The commemoration allowed attendees “to ﬁnd common ground and laid the groundwork for future cooperation,” said Wallis Hamm Tinnie, president of the Florida Black Historical Research Project (FBHRP) and project director for a $50,000 grant from The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Telling the Full History Preservation Fund and the American Rescue Plan of the National Endowment for the Humanities which made the event possible.
Tinnie is a Miami Dade College professor-emerita who took charge of the FBHRP after the death of her cousin, Isa Hamm Bryant, who founded it in 1996. Her grandmother, Florence Ealer Jones Hamm, was born on a Mikasuki Reservation near Tallahassee. She married James Hamm from Timmonsville, S.C., and the couple moved to West Palm Beach, arriving by canoe around 1911, where she lived in an African American community.