Investigating an Early 20th Century Trading Post

One of the exciting projects recently undertaken by the THPO is the investigation of Brown’s Trading Post, which was an early 20th century store located on the Big Cypress Reservation. Brown’s Trading Post was established in 1901 by Bill Brown, his wife Jane, and their ten children. During this period, trading posts were found throughout South Florida and especially along the two coasts. Some of the more prominent posts included Stranahan’s store in Fort Lauderdale and Storter’s at Everglade. While these stores provided numerous trade opportunities for the Seminoles, they required at least three to four days of travel to reach. The establishment of Brown’s Trading Post lessened the amount of travel to one to two days.

Brown’s Trading Post was settled on a high area on the reservation, though additional soil may have been added for more elevation above the water. On his move to the area in 1901, Brown cleared about an acre of land and constructed a house, store, barn, and various outbuildings. In order for the Seminoles to be able to pole their canoes directly to the store, Brown excavated a ditch about one hundred yards from the store to the deeper water. For the most part, the Seminoles would supply Brown with alligator hides, otter skins, egret plumes, and raccoon hides and in return would receive grits, flour, sugar, pots, pans, and skillets. At times, men would trade or buy derby hats, watches, and vests while the women would attain beads for personal adornment.

In 1908, Brown decided to move his family back to Immokalee so that his wife’s health might improve. Upon Brown’s leaving, an Episcopal mission, under the guidance of a Dr. W.J. Godden, was set up at the location of the post. During this time, Dr. Godden also continued to trade and sell items to the Seminoles. In 1913, the area was abandoned and the buildings were moved to a new mission site. It is unknown what the area was used for between 1913 and 1970, at which time another store was built where Brown’s Trading Post once stood.

Archaeological excavations at Brown’s Trading Post have occurred numerous times in the past twenty years. The first investigation was conducted by the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, Inc. in 1990. During this examination, archaeologists found black glass bottle base fragments that date from 1900-1910 and an iron axe that also dates to 1900. A later survey in 2005 conducted by Janus research found numerous historic nails, as well as glass and porcelain fragments, a 19th century survey sight, and a porcelain doll’s head.

Although the THPO has just begun excavations on what is believed to be the location of Brown’s Trading Post, numerous exciting items have already been found. The majority of the artifacts recovered include glass fragments, faunal material (animal bones), and unidentifiable metal objects. One of the most interesting finds includes a bead that may be one of the items that was bought at Brown’s store.

For more information about the history of Brown’s Trading Posts and trade occurring in South Florida in the early 20th century please refer to Harry A. Kersey’s work entitled Pelts, Plumes, and Hides: White Traders among the Seminole Indians 1870-1930.



THPO, What is in that video?

Click here to watch the video.

Hi, my name is Ryan Murphy and I would like to invite you on an adventure through time by exploring the exciting world of archaeology. I work as a field technician for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Everyday my co-workers and I conduct archaeological excavations to discover, preserve, and document sites of historical significance. Archaeology is defined as the scientific study of cultures through the examination of their material remains such as buildings, tools, and other artifacts usually dug up from the ground. Join me in the following video where you will be introduced to some of the field techniques used by archaeologists in the field.

            This is field assistant Derek Braun.  Listen closely as he explains how a total station is used to collect accurate survey data such as grid points and how that data is utilized during archaeological excavations. The total station is a powerful tool allowing for pinpoint accuracy, which is very important for archaeologists. During archaeological excavations many questions are answered, but often times new questions arise creating the need for future investigations into specific areas. The precise data recorded with the total station allows archaeologists to return to an exact area, even years later when the environmental conditions may have changed dramatically.

            Oh, there I am in a hole again with field assistant Ryan Hesse who is waiting eagerly for more dirt to screen. This is not just any hole in the ground; it’s a special hole containing archaeological data. I am actually standing in a 1 x 2 meter test unit, which is just one of several that were excavated to gather data pertaining to a site known as Bird Cluster. Faunal material, such as bone and shell, was discovered within this test unit. You will notice that I am taking careful measurements and being very cautious as I excavate. This is very important because archaeology is naturally a destructive process. In other words, every detail must be documented because digging and removing affects the integrity of the site as a whole. At the top of the unit, Ryan is screening all the material excavated from the test unit. He is carefully collecting any cultural material, lets listen to him explain the excavation.

Meet Real Live Archaeologists!

The Tribal Archaeology Section is getting geared up to help out with this year’s American Indian Arts Celebration which will be held on the AH-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum Grounds November 5-7th, 2010.  The celebration includes a showcase of traditional and modern Native American arts, dance and music.

We will be featuring some exciting talks on all aspects of archaeology, including a presentation on “Tools of War” by Ryan Hesse. This talk will give you a taste for the upcoming museum exhibit opening in January of 2011. The upcoming exhibit will feature Arms of the Seminole Wars, yet we will give you a run down on the weapons used leading up to this time. We will have demonstrations performed by our “Expert” Flint Knappers Geoffrey Wasson and Nathan Lawres, an Atlatl demonstration/ activity by “Master Hunter” Derek Braun, not to mention some of our Environmental folks talk about the flora and fauna.

Come and meet us at AIAC!

We have plenty of hands on activities for the kiddies such as pottery reconstruction for beginners, experienced and expert levels and our mystery boxes that’ll leave you guessing.

For more information, become our friend on facebook and you will be the first to know about this and many more upcoming events sponsored by the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

Archaeologists at Work

My name is Julie Richko Labate and I am the Tribal Archaeologist here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The Tribal Archaeology Section, or TAS as we like to call ourselves, works with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) to protect and preserve artifacts and important archaeological sites on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s (STOF) six reservations. We are responsible for the pre-emptive cultural survey of areas undergoing development on all Seminole Tribe of Florida Reservations.

My name is Julie Richko Labate and I am the Tribal Archaeologist here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. The Tribal Archaeology Section, or TAS as we like to call ourselves, works with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) to protect and preserve artifacts and important archaeological sites on the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s (STOF) six reservations. We are responsible for the pre-emptive cultural survey of areas undergoing development on all Seminole Tribe of Florida Reservations.

 We are a team of ten archaeologists who are all college graduates with degrees in either Anthropology or Archaeology. We have had special training in archaeological field and laboratory methods through our experiences in cultural resource management work and various archaeological field schools.                                                                                             

We use the most advanced data gathering technologies to maintain an innovative and ever–evolving research design (much cooler than Tomb Raider because we DO archaeology). By using state-of-the-art Global Positioning Systems (GPS), the TAS is able to record and complete archaeology for the Tribe on both paper and in an electronic database. Our archaeological data collection and analysis database is one of the nation’s top tribal archaeological databases.

Archaeologists at Work!

The archaeological field crew excavates shovel test units in the first phase of archaeological site detection. Every shovel test is recorded and mapped using a Trimble GeoXT (GPS Device). The Trimble provides the location of the test unit at sub-meter accuracy. The maps created by the TAS aid in the writing of reports and in the archaeological research conducted on the Tribe’s reservations. The TAS, in conjunction with the THPO, is compiling an extensive and accurate research database. In years to come, a few simple clicks of a mouse will show what has been surveyed and the areas to be avoided due to the presence of the Tribe’s invaluable cultural resources.

Our goal is to maintain the cultural landscape of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. As the archaeological field crew, we pride ourselves in being an integral part of preserving the history of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Thanks for reading. Sho-na-Bish!