Earlier this Halloween week we did a post on St. Augustine’s Lonliest Places.
This next place, the Osceola Capture Site, might be St. Augustine’s loneliest place of all.
Osceola, if you recall, was a Seminole chief. In October of 1837 he met the Army garrison from nearby Fort Peyton* for treaty negotiations under a flag of truce. Instead of negotiating a treaty the soldiers arrested Osceola and imprisoned him in St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos (called Fort Marion at the time). He was transfered to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island in Charleston, South Carolina, where he died of malaria less than three months after his capture. He is still buried there, just outside the front entry.
Capturing a respected opponent under a flag of truce was a black mark on the Army, but to be fair Osceola was no shrinking violet either. Osceola was under arrest two years earlier but gained his freedom when he promised to adhere to a treaty and leave Florida. But instead of leaving he, along with some other Seminoles, killed the local U.S. agent and some others. Such was frontier war in Florida, circa the 1830s.
These days Osceola is the symbol and mascot of Florida State University. Before every football game, an actor portraying the Seminole leader rides out on a white charger and fires a flaming spear into the turf at Doak Campbell Stadium.
That brings us back to the Osceola Capture Site.
It was a hard place to find and not easy to get to back in 1837. It’s pretty much the same today.
Located “two musket shots” from Fort Peyton, the modern-day site is located in a copse of pines and palmettos hidden behind St. Augustine’s Stonegate subdivision.
If you are brave and follow the sandy path back into the woods you will find a small obelisk. And that’s it. Nothing to tell you why this marker is here, or that it marked a pivotal point in Native American – U.S. relations and history, or that a famous Floridian — memorialized and venerated every football Saturday — lost his freedom here.
That is wrong.
The Actual Site
If you look on the plat maps you will discover that back in the day some foreward looking county commission created a right of way from Fort Peyton all the way to the Capture Site. But sometime in the 1990s another county commission, this one a rubber stamp for development, allowed two lots to be platted in Stonegate that effectively wiped out access to the right of way, blocking the last 1000 feet of access of from the public.
At least until 2005 a continuation of the blocked right of way still existed behind the two houses that were built on the lots. Then recently, who knows when, that small portion disappeared from the plats. The county now owns just a small parcel surrounding the capture site.
Strangely, it’s the Stonegate subdivision that has protected the Capture Site from further development.
When a new subdivision was proposed behind Stonegate right around the time of the real estate bust, the homeowner associations in Stonegate and the surrounding subdivisions along Deer Chase Drive objected strongly. The reason? The main access point for these new homes would be Deer Chase Drive. Deer Chase is a quiet residential road that would have become a freeway for cars heading to the new subdivision. So it was shot down.
Such are the developer turf wars in Florida post bust.
If you are a brave soul and would like to visit the Osceola Capture Site, here’s how you find it:
Park in the cul-de-sac where Tahoe Lane and Woodridge Drive meet. Take the path around the fence and walk about 1000 feet up the sandy road until you get to a taller section of pines. Take the road-sized path to your right (west). I believe this road-sized path is the second path on the right that you will pass (the other is a foot path). Take this road path approximately 500 feet west until you come to a small clearing. Go to the western side of the clearing and look to your left (south), you will see the obelisk rising a foot or two above the palmettos. Keep in mind the access is through private property. Even though it looks like there is plenty of foot traffic and moto use on the sandy road, be a good hiker and mind your manners so folks can continue to access the site.
*You can read about Fort Peyton on our earlier post, St. Augustine’s Loneliest Places.
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For a group of Realtors that will help you buy or sell a home in one of St. Augustine’s best places (even if it’s lonely and out of the way), contact St. Augustine Team or just call (904) 386-8327!