Yesterday June 14th we recognized Flag Day. For me it is also the birthday of my grandfather Pop Pop Marcus Donald Shepherd (1908-1999) Plant City FL. Pop was probably one of the last Americans to not have a SSN# and never took a dime from the gov... basically subsistence farming on approx 100 acres growing citrus, vegetables, honey, cattle and sugar cane. I never saw him eat anything exotic- like pizza! I don't think he had much in the way of schooling but he was certainly one of the smartest men I ever met.
Also on June 14th 1856 my 4th great grandfather Alderman Carlton was killed leading men into a skirmish with Seminoles near Ft Meade Fl. This was one of the final battles of the 3rd Seminole Indian Wars. He and his men were basically cowboys who had been volunteered into service and happened to be manning Ft Meade that particular day. Grandpa Carlton heard gunshots ringing out from the Tillis farm and turned to his men to say "Boys there's work for us in those woods lets go!". He and several men were killed in a hammock adjacent the Tillis farm where Ms. Tillis and her young children were pinned down under relentless gunfire from the attacking Seminoles. Ultimately saving the lives of the young family.
Also on June 14th 1774 William Bartram traveled from Micanopy FL over to Chiefland Fl, on a route approximately the same as SR24. His party spent a night near Long Pond just south of present day Chiefland then journeyed up to the thriving Seminole trade center of Talahasochte. Where I sit at this moment typing my morning blog! Talahasochte sits on the banks of the Suwannee river on a high bluff about 6 miles upstream of Manatee Springs State Park and within the present day Andrews State Wildlife Area. Bartram described a large community lead by the Great White Chief (who happened to be out on a hunting trip). Since the town wanted Bartram to wait and meet the White Chief he spent at least one night here. To use their time wisely they boarded a canoe to go down the Suwannee the short trip to Manatee Springs (named by Bartram)... there Bartram observed about 6 manatees along with a group of Seminoles skinning one on the bank! Turns out they are great table fare! Also Bartram learned the Seminoles here used very large cypress canoes (holding 20-30 men) to travel to both Cuba and the Bahamas where they would trade deerskins for rum, coffee, cigars, and other products. I am not sure I would want to paddle my kayak the 6 miles down to Manatee and back, much less CUBA!!!!
I sit here this morning in Talahasochte grateful for all our ancestors had to deal with to bring Florida and our country to where we are today on this great Flag Day. Grateful I can relax with my coffee and enjoy this gorgeous sunrise. Grateful I can post this on my website despite having no broadband here in Talahasochte.
I also realize just a short drive from Talahasochte sits launch pad 39A... the launch point where brave men departed to walk on the moon on my birthday. I think about those explorers along with the ones currently training to launch from Florida for the trip to Mars. I think of the short time period between June 14th 1774 when Talahasochte was booming and now as we prepare for the Mars launch and it is a bit overwhelming! I think of how much my home state has changed in that time and even my lifetime. I think of the courage and exploring spirit deep in our DNA... and I realize our canoe trip to Cuba is the Mars trip. Where will we be launching in another 246 years?
Photo- Marcus D Shepherd on his back porch steps Plant City FL (Cork, FL) circa 1971 photo by Douglas A Barlow