Everglades Exploration Network

Fort Harrell Found by 3 EEN Members: Shawn Beightol, Chris Harris, & Tony Pernas

For Immediate Release
Ending a Century of Mystery, Shawn Beightol, Chris Harris, and Tony Pernas Locate Missing Seminole War Fort Harrell
Monday, June 30, 2014
Contact: Shawn Beightol (beights@yahoo.com 305-801-8717)
Miami, Fl. – Amateur historians/Florida Everglades explorers Shawn Beightol, Chris Harris, and Tony Pernas announce today the rediscovery and location of a Seminole Indian War Fort constructed in 1837 and last seen by engineers of the Tamiami Trail in 1917.  The fort has been lost to researchers for nearly a century due to the remoteness of the location, the difficulty of exact geographic mappings/locations in the Florida Everglades, and rapid decomposition and changing topography of the wet, hot, tropical region.  
Using historic war maps, engineering surveys and notes, and 1940's era aerial photos, the Beightol/Harris/Pernas team logged almost a hundred hours and miles this year narrowing down the possible locations to one particular clearing that National Park employee Tony Pernas noticed on an aerial survey.  
Last week, June 26 2014, the team made a final, late season overnight push into the tropical hardwood hammock at the headwaters of the Everglades'/Big Cypress' New River.  The team found what it believes to be conclusive evidence of Fort Harrell's exact location - a series of post holes in the limestone subsurface used to erect horizontal log fort walls in the manner of Pennsylvania's 1778 Fort Roberdeau (www.fortroberdeau.org/content/history-fort-roberdeau) or Spotsylvania's 1864 battleworks (https://npsfrsp.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/are-those-trenches-real/ ), a technique necessary when the ground or time constraints do not allow the digging of a continuous trench to support a typical vertical log palisade.
The clearing believed by the team to have held Fort Harrell (and supported by such historic maps as the 1848 Blunt Nautical Chart, 1855 Westcott Survey Maps, and 1856 Ives Military Map) consists of a limestone subsurface layer covered with 1-2 inches of peat soil.  Team member Tony Pernas noticed regularly occurring holes in the limestone, many of which appeared in pairs.  By flagging the visible holes, it was determined that they describe a rectangular area with 4 straight and perpendicular sides, interior walls, an extension that may be a bastion or livestock enclosure and an excavated/natural boat landing.
The absence of modern decaying materials, as so many other high grounds/mounds explored this year possessed, suggests this is not the site of subsequent fishing or hunting camps.  This, combined with the erosion to the regularly spaced/placed holes in the limestone suggest this to be a much older structural site than a hunting/fishing camp of the past 50-60 years.
National Park employee Tony Pernas has reporting our findings to the cultural resources division of the National Park Service.  Next step would be a thorough professional survey of the area, including the soil in and around the enclosed area, the post-holes, the boat landing, and lake bottom. 
Images and further notes of the Discovery of Fort Harrell Everglades/Big Cypress mission may be found at: 

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Congratulations. I hope you are right.  There will certainly be trash items in the soil that the NPS will be able to positively date your site.

Reminds me of the Miami Circle.  Amazing stuff.

Did you find any broken glass or ceramics?

Congratulations Shawn, you finally found it!  I can't wait to see the full research. 


How far away is the site from paddleable water, coming up the New River?

How far away was the nearest airboat trail?

About 2.5 miles north of "the end of the line " paddle-able new river creek surmised from our 4/26 hike. About 1.5 north of airboat trail.

Thinking about a paddle trip north out of chokolskee mid-july with chris. 15 mile paddle straight to id'd high dry indian/ hunt camp mounds. Can explore mounds and try to go north to what we believe is ft harrell.


I'll send gps coordinates of hunting/camping mounds shortly.

The 3 mound campsites are ID'd in the top right corner.  This shows the entire ~15 mile paddle from Chokoloskee to "camp-able" mounds.  The quality of camping in terms of dry space (in my opinion) is the lower SW site (just inside Big Cypress Preserve), followed by the NE site, followed by the middle "2 Canoe Camp."

Pavel might provide insight here also, we identified these together.

Caution:  The lower SW site showed signs of improvement (coconut trees planted with fencing around them, cook stove and table).  I reported this to park service and I hope they will clear it out so that it remains open to all and not someone's "Pet Camp" that they might be possessive of.


Congratulations! So glad you all finally found Fort Harrell. An accomplishment to be proud of.

 I think this is a pretty good spot for set up the command post

what's at NR6 & "3"?

Pavel will have to answer the "NR6," but it looks as though he is agreeing with me that the mound between the 2 lakes (with the curved arrow) is the better of the 3 sites (the table is on that mound, along with evidence of a long usage by some hunter/fisher group).  "3" looks like the coordinates of "2 Canoe Camp", a dry area where we found (and reported) 2 canoes with FL numbers stashed in the mangroves.  The site shows some clearing and a small tent could go in there, especially after the canoes are moved.  Initially I thought it was just a stash site of someone who was stealing canoes and couldn't make it out, but on further investigation of GE, it looks like there are a couple of airboat trails that lead almost up to the canoes.

NR6 is just a waitpoint and number 3 is the Canoe Camp.  Like Shawn said I think the best site is the hunting camp with table(white arrow).

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