Fort Christmas
Historical Park

Fort Christmas is located in Christmas, Florida just off State Road 50, twenty miles east of Orlando enroute to Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville.

The History of Fort Christmas

Long before the coming of the Spaniards, central Florida was occupied by the Timucuan Indians, who numbered about 14,000 at the time of contact with the white man.  The Timucuans, along with the other Indians which lived in Florida at the time of European contact, eventually died out from diseases, warfare and slavery.

The Indians who later became know as Seminole began migrating into Florida in the early 1700s.  These were tribes which had broken away from their own nations, made up of Creek, Hitchiti, Mikasuki, Muskogee and Red Sticks, Oconee and others who moved into the sparsely populated areas in northern Florida.  The Seminoles raised crops and cattle and had citrus groves.  The Government wanted to move the Indians south onto a reservation.  This led to the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823.  In less than 10 years, the settlers wanted that land, too.  A council was called and the treaty of Payne's Landing was signed in 1832 to move the Indians to the Arkansas Territory west of the Mississippi River.  Many Seminoles opposed the treaty and resistance intensified under the leadership of Osceola, who refused to sign the treaty.  Instead he took his knife and said "This is how I will sign!" and stuck his knife in the document.

Outraged, General Thompson had him arrested, placed in irons and imprisoned.  Pretending he would sign the treaty, he was released and began his resistance against the white man.  With Fort King needing reinforcement, 111 officers and men left Fort Brooke December 23, 1835.  On the 100 mile march, the party was ambushed and all but three were killed and scalped.  The Second Seminole War began with this battle, known as Dade's Massacre.

William F. Blackman's History of Orange County records that United States soldiers, sent to help white settlers battle the Seminole Indians, built and occupied a log fort.  An excerpt from the journal of Captain N.S. Jarvis, a surgeon in the United States Army, states on December 27, 1837, "today we finished our fort which we called Fort Christmas, having commenced it on that day".  It was right across a creek from an Indian village that was abandoned.  We know this from the journal kept by Captain Jarvis.  He reported that he rode his horse into the village and was immediately covered by fleas so he made a hasty retreat.

The fort was to be used as a supply depot for the soldiers that went looking for the Seminoles.  So if they got in a battle they would not have far to go for supplies.  But the Seminoles had all left the area and after leaving 80 soldiers at the fort the rest moved further south.  It became necessary for supply ships to reroute through Jupiter Inlet as the army went on southward.  For this reason Fort Christmas was abandoned in March 1838.

The war ended in 1842 and 3,824 Seminoles were transported to what would later become the state of Oklahoma.  There were 200 to 300 Seminoles still in the swamps of the Everglades that the Army was unable to capture.

The Third Seminole War was started by aggravated acts of a party of surveyors.  Several encounters took place and, finally in 1858, about 160 Seminoles agreed to emigrate.  Today, more than 1,400 Seminoles live in South Florida.

An excerpt taken from "History of Fort Christmas" (2000), compiled by The Fort Christmas Historical Society.

To Fort Christmas homepage


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