On-line Opinion Magazine…OK, it's a blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Billy Bowlegs Festival

Jolly Rogers

In order to generate “local excitement” [sell stuff] the chamber of commerce is once again annoying people with the Billy Bowlegs Festival. This year the unavoidable part runs from Friday, June 3rd and finishes up on Monday with a really annoying parade that screws up traffic and sends a lot of noisy people through my neighborhood.

Almost at bad as the Monday traffic jam are the Friday fireworks. I know a lot of people enjoy fireworks, but they probably have not seen what loud noises and flashes of light can do to people and aircraft – I am definitely not a fan.

First off, there definitely were pirates in the local waters, hell, Al Capone had a winter house in the area, because boats have been avoiding taxes and bringing in illegal substances for centuries, but Billy Bowlegs wasn’t one of them.

Billy Bowlegs [Holata Micco] was a Seminole chief who fought the US in the Second Seminole War and pretty much was the Third Seminole War. Today he would be referred to as a terrorist, insurgent, freedom fighter, and/or guerrilla leader, depending on your point of view.

Unable to defeat him, the US government finally paid him an absurd amount of money [for the day] to move to what would become Oklahoma with the other Seminole.

When the Civil War broke out, he sided with the Union and commanded a company of Seminole in the Union army with the rank of Captain. He was expecting a further reward from the government for his service, and was “mentioned in dispatches” for his unit’s fighting ability. Unfortunately he died of smallpox in 1864.

This is primarily Choctaw and Creek territory, the Seminole were down in South Florida, but the local “city fathers” decided that Billy Bowlegs sounded like a pirate name. Facts rarely interfere with local traditions.

After the problem of being a Seminole was pointed out, the local powers that be claimed that it was a reference to William Augustus Bowles who was a privateer, pirate, and a leader among the Creek and Cherokee, but he was based to the East in Apalachicola.

Long time residents know the names of several pirates who worked in these waters, but their families would be miffed if you brought the topic up, as they became “leading citizens” in later years.