The St. Johns River has been a source of food and shelter for humans for nearly 6,000 years. Paleo-Indians first shared the river valley with mastodon, saber-toothed cat, bison, and other Pleistocene-era animals. Many of the early peoples formed complex cultures with ceremonial centers and temple mounds. At the time the Europeans arrived in the sixteenth century, the Timucua occupied the region, fishing, hunting, and farming. In the 1700s, naturalist William Bartram explored the river, noting its abundant wildlife and natural features.

During the Second Seminole War in 1837, General Thomas S. Jesup sent a Cherokee delegation to meet the Seminole leaders to persuade them to surrender. The meeting was supposed to take place at "Totalousy Hatchy," apparently a corruption of "Tootoosahatchee" or Chicken Creek, the Seminole name for the meeting location on the west bank of the St. Johns River. The site was also called Fowl Town in English, or Powell's Creek. The two tribes met farther south at Chickasaw Hatchee, present day Taylor Creek. The Cherokee Chief met the Seminole chief Micanopy and urged the Seminoles to surrender and accept removal to Oklahoma. Micanopy stalled and the meeting ended. The following month, the Seminoles came to Jesup's camp to negotiate terms of surrender. A frustrated General Jesup had Micanopy, three other chiefs, and 78 warriors, seized under a flag of truce.

The St. Johns was one of Florida's first tourist attractions - a 300 mile-long, north-flowing river highway that connected the river's origins, in marshes near Vero Beach, with Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean. Between 1830 and 1920, 300 paddle wheelers traveled the river, carrying hunters, sightseers, and cargo to and from numerous settlements along its shores. The old pasture at the end of Beehead Road marks Tosohatchee's cattle ranching days, dating from the early 1900s. From 1925 until 1977, ranching was replaced by hunting, managed by the privately-owned, non-profit Tosohatchee Game Preserve, Inc., a family style outdoor club. The state acquired the property from the Tosohatchee Game Preserve Corporation in 1977. William Beardall, who served as mayor of Orlando from 1940 to 1952, was the club's last president. Three generations of the Beardall family had been members, from its inception until the property sale. Over the years, the club resisted outside pressures that pushed for logging and development of the site and the sale fulfilled a goal of the club's founders - the preservation and protection of the Tosohatchee property. In 1993, the Beehead Ranch House was moved to the Fort Christmas Historical Park, operated by the Orange County Parks and Recreation Department, where it was restored and opened to the public for interpretation. In 2006, management of Tosohatchee was transferred from the Department of Environmental Protection to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.



FWC Facts:
According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 66.1 million people engage in wildlife observation, spending about $38.5 billion per year.

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