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.



A Note From the Tribal Historic Preservation Office

One of the recent additions to the THPO is the institution of an outreach committee that aids in planning and participating in different events. To date, we have created a THPO Christmas card that was on display in front of the Big Cypress gym in December, and spectacularly lost at football during the annual Big Cypress Toilet Bowl tournament.


In even bigger news, we have two very big events occurring in the month of February. The first event is the Brighton Field Days, which is February 17-19 on the Brighton Reservation. At this event, we will have a THPO tent that will have a variety of activities that help in teaching historic preservation. Activities at the booth will include touch boxes (reach inside the box and tell us what you feel – turtle shell, squirrel fur, what is it?), puzzles of pottery pieces (broken pottery that you have to put back together), and a bean bag toss game that focuses on learning about Seminole history and culture.


The second event in February is the Big Cypress Shoot Out that is occurring February 24-26. As visitors enjoy this event, they can also come visit us at our THPO tent. At this tent we will have a mock dig in which children and adults can hone their archaeological skills. Another exciting game that we hope everyone will enjoy is chunkey, which has been played in North America since at least 1,000 years ago. In this game, a chunkey stone (round stone with a hole in it) was rolled on the ground while several players threw spears at the location they thought would be the final location of the stone. The person who threw the spear closest to the stone’s final location without actually hitting the stone won. The final event will include a type of trivia game in which all of the questions are related to the Seminole Wars.


We hope that these activities will allow us to teach the public a little bit about what we do at the THPO on a daily basis. If you attend the Shoot Out or the Field Days, please stop by the THPO tent and say hi!


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.

Wait, so you don’t dig up gold?

Indiana Jones and Tombraider were nowhere in sight at the 2009 field season at the suspected Fort Shackelford site on the Big Cypress Reservation. While the archaeologists at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum are not being chased by Russian spies, we do have some exciting things happening that impact the archaeological community. The following is an account from one of our field technicians on his experience in the field:

My name is Derek Braun. I am an archaeological field technician for the Tribal Archaeology Section (TAS), but I also assist and conduct Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) Surveys for the TAS and Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). GPR is a non-invasive geophysical surveying technique which can be used to find some archaeological features. In layman’s terms, “GPR works by sending a tiny pulse of energy into a material and recording the strength and the time required for the return of any reflected signal, (2010).” The basic steps for GPR are as follows: a survey is conducted over an area likely to have archaeological remains, the data has to be processed to make a visual image showing high reflection areas (possible archaeological features), and finally the high reflection areas are ground truthed or excavated to determine an explanation for said anomaly. For more detailed information see the GSSI website posted above. One of the most common uses in archaeology for GPR is cemetery mapping.

Derek Braun

While employed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida (STOF), I have assisted Dr. Kent Schneider with the GPR survey for the Fort Shackelford relocation project. Ft. Shackelford was an early to mid-nineteenth century military fort located on the Big Cypress Reservation.  We surveyed a large portion of land surrounding the Fort Shackelford monument. In the spring of 2009, an archaeological field school was conducted under the supervision of the STOF-THPO, and the Florida Golf Coast University. The field school provided a chance to ground truth some of the high reflection anomalies found after the processing of the GPR data for the Fort Shackelford relocation project survey. Unfortunately, no archaeological features were located during the field school. This should not reflect negatively on GPR, because like any process negative results will exist. Personally, I have seen a number of archaeological features located using GPR in the academic and professional field. Hopefully this brief glimpse into GPR will inspire some of you to look into or pursue a career in geophysical surveying techniques for archaeology.

Archaeologists at work

If you are interested in learning more about Ft. Shackelford or about the Tribal Historic Preservation Office in general, join us at the Florida Anthropological Society Meeting which will be held on May 7-9, 2010 in Fort Myers. We will be discussing the results of a unique collaborative research project between the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Anthropology Program at Florida Gulf Coast University. Hope to see you there!

Fort Shackelford field school