Broward History: The Florida Seminoles
Boyd Anderson High School History Across Broward Students interviewing Larry Mike Osceola in January 2015. (Photo by Roberto Fernandez, III)
By Simone Loftman
On Jan. 29, 2015, a group of students from Boyd H. Anderson High School interviewed a member of the Seminole tribe, Mike Osceola. The students are all a part of an organization called the History Across Broward Initiative. Mr. Osceola covered many topics such as Sam Jones and the Battle of Pine Island, which occurred in March 1838. He also spoke about the Seminole perspective on Abiaka who we know as Sam Jones. He first covered the events leading up to the battle of Pine Island.
In November 1837, American forces captured King Phillip, a Seminole tribe leader, and several other Seminoles. They were imprisoned at Fort Marion, St Augustine. On Oct. 27, 1837, Osceola and Coa Hadjo were captured under the white flag of truce and were sent to St. Augustine. These were events that led up to the Battle of Pine Island. As Seminole leadership declined and the death of Mike Osceola at Fort Marion occurred, a U.S. general gave the command to his troops to seize fire due to the inactivity of the Seminole tribe. The U.S. military received a tip about Sam Jones’ whereabouts from a Seminole who was planning to surrender and emigrate. Sam Jones was at his Pine Island settlement in the Everglades near New River. The Everglades had never been breached by the US up to this point.
The Seminole perspective on Jones was very admirable. He was very relentless and his perseverance was prominent. “He lived and died in a country he loved and never surrendered. That’s our perspective, Seminoles about Sam Jones, Abiaka or the Devil or the Rascal,” Osceola said. The physical characteristic of Jones was considered to be older even when he was young. His elusive behavior was a fact. He always evaded the soldiers, which, according to Osceola, frustrated the American soldiers, and likely caused them to exclaim, “That old devil, that old devil escaped again,” Osceola said. His ability to escape the Americans must have caused annoyance and anger amongst the U.S. Military. Osceola stated that the Americans never knew the image of Sam Jones, which opened up many opportunities for the Seminole leader to attack. There were some stories that Sam Jones himself walked right into some of the American forts to sell fish to the soldiers and he analyze each fort’s weak spots, their weapons’ locations and would attack later on that night. Sam Jones was friendly to the soldiers, which made it very easy for him to blend in. Even though the American soldiers never knew what Sam Jones looked like, Osceola stated that the soldiers knew the Devil was in his garden.
Eight clans of the Seminole people followed Sam Jones to escape the soldiers, these eight were: Bird, Wind, Panther, Snake, Bear, Big Town, Deer and Otter. As determined as Sam Jones was, the Seminole tribe resistance movement never lost control. Under the strategy, guidance and leader-ship of Jones, the Seminole survived not only through the Second Seminole War but also through the Third Seminole War, which occurred from 1855-1858. Jones was never captured; he died peacefully in the Big Cypress in the 1860s in his 80s. “It is he that is responsible for saving the population of Florida Indians,” Mike Osceola said. Sam Jones was evidently the hero to the Seminole tribe of Florida. Osceola stated that he was not the prominent face of the war like Chief Osceola but he was the strategist, the planner in the back-ground, which is one of the basic reasons why he was never captured or surrendered.
“There is an old Seminole saying that you do not repeat the name of the deceased, may-be, in the third person term. Sam Jones was a victim of that tradition.” Mike Osceola said. This could have been the reason why he was never mentioned in Mike Osceola’s tribe. As of to-day that specific tradition is declining as the younger generations are starting to teach their children about Sam Jones, shedding light on the man and his contributions for the tribe.