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 to each of you Shawn, Tony, and Chris. I have lurked in the background intently following y'alls story and it's been great so far.

RE: but on further investigation of GE, it looks like there are a couple of airboat trails that lead almost up to the canoes.

I read the Southern Airboat site every now & then and came across this....

darn bunch of modern bootleggers caused a lot of problems part of why we lost the eastwest trail through the stairsteps in 1988 between the park and the Feds using law enforcement as an excuse was one of their reasons to lock us out of the best trail to interconnect south of the loop with New River and Ochopee...

If I'm looking at Google Earth right I would guess this "eastwest trail" is what leads to your canoe camp. Not a whole lot of help but I imagine every little piece to this puzzle helps.

BTW, Southern Airboat is a great site for history, maps, anecdotes, glades stories, etc. Quite a bit like EEN 'cept they get their a bit quicker ;-)   They do tend to look down some on paddlers, which is a shame considering all of us (paddlers, airboaters, hunters, etc) have such a deep love for BiCy & the glades. 

I remember when the trail was closed.

Shawn, have you heard anything about what the NPS plans on doing with the site you guys discovered and when?

Just got this email from Tony: "Cultural Resources have contacted me and they want to go out to the site.  They have spoken with SEAC and they seem interested and the process has begun... There is a lot going on now with the sudden media attention. "

The UTube video is great. I will study it.  Thanks for posting. Im jealous lol.  Great work Shawn, Chris and Tony!


Excellent vid!

Great work!
Wow, that's really cool. Congrats, great work, and thank you! I'm totally convinced you found what you are looking for.

Wow, just wow. Thanks for sharing! Just incredible.

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