Okeechobee History, Arts and Culture

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A Glimpse of the Past

Take a stroll down Park Street in Downtown Okeechobee and experience the rich history of our town. Okeechobee TDC has coupled with the Okeechobee Historical Society to install banners at each of these downtown locations. Starting on NW Park Street and ending on SW Park Street, you'll find a collection of Historical Sites that offer 'A Glimpse of the Past.' These sites are located on the perimeter of Flagler Park, which features Veteran’s Park, Cattleman's Square, and a Butterfly Park, along with many locally owned diners and boutiques. Explore our history and enjoy the unique charm of Downtown Okeechobee!

Route from NW Park St. to SW Park St.:

Stop 1. Bank of Okeechobee - 410 NW Park Street

Stop 2. Gilbert's/ Capital Pawn - 400 NW Park Street

Stop 3. Boardwalk Building - 476 NW Park Street

Stop 4. McCarthy's Store/ Goodbread Lawn Tamer - 508 NW Park Street

Stop 5. Train Station/ Country Cooler Drive Thru - 707 SW Park Street

Stop 6. Freedman/Markham Building - 601 SW Park Street

Stop 7. People's Bank/ Okeechobee Utility Authority - 100 SW 5th Avenue

Stop 8. Southern Hotel/ Healthy Start Coalition -114 SW 5th Avenue

Stop 9. Northern Hotel/ Smitty's Glass & Mirror -119 SW 5th Avenue

Stop 10. Raulerson Department Store/ Caldwell Banker - 425 SW Park Street

Stop 11. Dr. Darrow's/Park Drugs/ Elliott’s Pawn Shop - 419 SW Park Street

Stop 12. Scharfschwerdts/ Hippie Daze Gift Shop - 413 SW Park Street

Stop 13. Okeechobee Hardware/ Don’s Appliances - 325 SW Park Street

Stop 14. O.O. Davis Building/ Mira Realty/ Regal Pizza - 301 SW Park Street

Download the list of Historical Sites Here: 
Glimpse of the Past Sites


History of the Okeechobee Lake and Canal System:

Lake Okeechobee and the canal system surrounding it have played a crucial role in the development and history of Okeechobee County and the broader region. Here is an overview of the history of Lake Okeechobee and its canal system:

  1. Early Inhabitants and Exploration:
    • Before European settlers arrived, the area around Lake Okeechobee was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Seminole and Calusa.
    • The lake was first documented by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, with the name "Okeechobee" likely originating from the Hitchiti words for "big water."
  2. Settlement and Agriculture:
    • The late 19th century saw the arrival of European settlers, and agriculture, especially cattle ranching, became a significant industry in the region.
    • The fertile land around Lake Okeechobee attracted farmers, and the area became known for its agricultural potential.
  3. Hurricane of 1928:
    • One of the most significant events in the history of Lake Okeechobee was the Hurricane of 1928. The storm caused the lake's dike to fail, resulting in catastrophic flooding and the loss of numerous lives.
    • In response to this disaster, the U.S. government initiated projects to improve the management of water in the region.
  4. Construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike:
    • Following the 1928 hurricane, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike in the 1930s to prevent future flooding disasters.
    • The dike was completed in the 1960s and serves to protect the surrounding communities from lake overflow.
  5. Creation of the Okeechobee Waterway:
    • The Okeechobee Waterway, a canal system connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, was completed in the mid-20th century.
    • This waterway included the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie Canal, providing a navigable route across the state of Florida.
  6. Agricultural and Economic Impact:
    • The canal system facilitated the transportation of goods and further contributed to the agricultural development of the region.
    • Agriculture, including sugarcane cultivation, continues to be a major economic driver for Okeechobee County.
  7. Environmental Concerns:
    • Over the years, Lake Okeechobee has faced environmental challenges, including water quality issues related to agricultural runoff and concerns about the health of the lake's ecosystem.

Understanding the history of Lake Okeechobee and its canal system provides insight into the challenges and developments that have shaped Okeechobee County and the broader region over the years. The management of water resources remains a crucial aspect of ongoing efforts to balance agricultural needs, environmental conservation, and community safety.


The Battle of Okeechobee 

The Battle of Okeechobee took place during the Second Seminole War on December 25, 1837, near the northern edge of Lake Okeechobee in Florida. The conflict was part of the larger effort by the U.S. government to forcibly remove the Seminole Native Americans from their ancestral lands in Florida and relocate them west of the Mississippi River. Here is a more detailed account of the Battle of Okeechobee:


  • The Second Seminole War (1835–1842) was sparked by tensions over the enforcement of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which aimed to relocate Native American tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River.
  • The Seminole people, resisting removal, engaged in guerrilla warfare against U.S. forces in Florida, led by prominent leaders such as Osceola.


  • U.S. forces were led by Major General Thomas Jesup, a seasoned military commander.
  • The Seminoles were led by various chiefs, including Alligator and Sam Jones. Osceola, a well-known Seminole leader, was not present during the battle.


  • Jesup's primary objective was to defeat the Seminole warriors and force them to comply with the removal policy.

The March to Lake Okeechobee:

  • In December 1837, Jesup led a force of around 1,000 troops, including regular army units, volunteers, and allied Creek and African American warriors, southward in pursuit of the Seminoles.

Encounter at Lake Okeechobee:

  • The U.S. forces reached Lake Okeechobee on December 25, 1837, and encountered the Seminole warriors positioned behind a dense hammock on the lake's northern edge.

The Battle:

  • The U.S. forces attacked the Seminoles in a frontal assault, leading to a fierce and intense battle. The terrain, characterized by thick vegetation and uneven ground, made the fighting challenging for both sides.
  • The Seminoles fought fiercely from their defensive positions, using the natural cover to their advantage.

Casualties and Outcome:

  • The battle resulted in significant casualties on both sides. Estimates suggest that around 25 U.S. soldiers were killed, and over 100 were wounded. The Seminoles also suffered losses, although the exact numbers are unclear.
  • Despite the heavy fighting, the battle ended inconclusively. The Seminoles managed to withdraw from the area during the night.


  • While the Battle of Okeechobee did not decisively end the Second Seminole War, it demonstrated the challenges of fighting in the Florida wilderness and the determination of the Seminole warriors.
  • The war continued for several more years, eventually leading to the removal of most Seminoles from Florida.

The Battle of Okeechobee remains a significant episode in the history of the Second Seminole War, showcasing the difficulties faced by both U.S. forces and the Seminole warriors in the unique and challenging environment of Florida.

Other Resources:

Here are some aspects of Okeechobee's cultural and historical context:

Historical Sites:

The region may have historical sites and museums that preserve and showcase its history. These could include exhibits related to Native American heritage, early settlers, and the development of the area.

It's essential to engage with the local community, visit cultural institutions, and attend events to gain a deeper understanding of Okeechobee's unique arts and cultural expressions. Keep in mind that cultural landscapes are dynamic, and communities continually evolve and shape their identity over time.

Additional Resources:

City of Okeechobee https://cityofokeechobee.com/city-history.html

Tommy Markham's Site https://www.tommymarkham.com (go to "original website" for historic pictures)

LaMartin-Kyle Van Landingham's History of Okeechobee County https://lamartin.com/history/history_of_okeechobee_county/history_of_okeechobee.htm

LaMartin-Okeechobee photos1895-1930 https://www.lamartin.com/old%20okeechobee/old%20okeechobee.html

FL Memory-State Library and Archives https://www.floridamemory.com/find?keywords=Okeechobee%2C+Fl

Online copies of the Okeechobee News https://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00028410/00719

Native American Influence:

Before European settlement, the area around Lake Okeechobee was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Seminole and Calusa. Their presence has left an imprint on the region's history and culture.

Additional Resources:




Agricultural Roots:

Okeechobee has a strong connection to agriculture, particularly in the cultivation of cattle, dairy, hay, sod, potatoes, cabbage, and other crops. The agricultural history has shaped the local economy and cultural practices.

Additional Resources:




Fishing and Outdoor Recreation:

Lake Okeechobee is renowned for its fishing opportunities, attracting outdoor enthusiasts and anglers. This aspect of the local culture reflects a deep connection to nature and recreational activities.

Additional Resources:





Festivals and Events:

Okeechobee hosts various events and festivals that bring the community together. While these may not be as internationally recognized as events in larger cities, they contribute to the local cultural scene.

Additional Resources:






Visual and Performing Arts:

While Okeechobee may not have a robust art scene compared to major urban areas, there are likely local artists and performers contributing to the cultural fabric of the community. Community art initiatives, galleries, and local performances can be found.

Additional Resources: