Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos using historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.
This episode features historic maps of Wacahoota.
Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Wacahoota.
Florida’s cattle industry is the oldest in what is now the United States. Spaniards introduced the first cattle to Florida in the 16th century. By the mid-1600s, Spanish ranchos extended from the area near St. Augustine to the Apalachee district in the panhandle, and South to the Alachua Prairie. The largest rancho, known as La Chua, counted thousands of animals worked by European, African, and Native American cattlemen. Raids by Creek Indians and colonists from Carolina in the early 1700s destroyed the Spanish ranchos, including La Chua. Native American immigrants, later known as Seminoles, migrated into the area and began working the former Spanish livestock.
By the mid-1700s, the area around the Alachua Prairie, including Wacahoota (wack-a-hoo-tee), meaning “cow pen” in the Hitchiti language, contained thousands of animals grazing on the wet prairies that dotted the region. William Bartram, an English naturalist, described the scene as he saw it in the early 1770s:
“The extensive Alachua savanna is a level, green plain… scarcely a tree or bush of any kind to be seen… encircled with high, sloping hills, covered with waving forests and fragrant Orange groves, rising from an exuberantly fertile soil. At the same time are seen innumerable droves of cattle… Herds of sprightly deer, squadrons of the beautiful, fleet Seminole horse, [and] flocks of turkeys…”
The leader of the Alachua Seminoles at the time of Bartram’s visit was known appropriately as the “Cowkeeper.” The Cowkeeper and his people traded with colonists living along the St. Johns. They hunted and tilled the soil relatively undisturbed until the early 1800s. During the War of 1812, Georgia colonists known as the Patriot Army, with de facto support from the United States government, invaded Spanish Florida intent on fermenting rebellion against the colonial government.
The war spread into the Seminole country, and a series of skirmishes ensued. The Seminoles soundly defeated the invaders, but two decades later another conflict broke out—the Second Seminole War. This map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Domingo Acosta, shows lands once occupied by Bowlegs, one of the principal leaders during the Second and Third Seminole Wars. The area became known to the Americans as Bowlegs’ Old Plantation, and then Wacahoota once the Seminoles were evicted. Today, the area is a crossroads near the intersection of Marion, Alachua, and Levy counties, Southwest of Gainesville.
For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now