Traveling Florida Back Roads: Fort Basinger and the Lockett estate.
Yesterday Jules and I drove out there. This is right on the corner of 98 and 721.
“Fort Basinger (1837-1850) – A U.S. Army post established in 1837 by Colonel Zachary Taylor during the Second Seminole War in present day Highlands County, Florida. Named after Lieutenant William E. Basinger, 2nd U.S. Artillery, who was killed at the Dade Massacre 28 Dec 1835. Abandoned in 1850.”
“Ft. Basinger was a fort, named after a lieutenant killed in the Dade massacre, from the Seminole wars during the 1830’s. The Kissimmee river fort site is on the Lockett homestead however, there are no remains. Basinger, on the Okeechobee side, is literally the seat of civilization since it was the first part of present-day Okeechobee county where white settlement is recorded. The first settlers moved here after the civil war and by the turn of the century Basinger was a “bustling” cowboy community. The town boasted of two hotels, a general store, clothing stores, and a post office. There were two town periods, one during the 1800’s and another during the early 1900’s. The majority of the settlers were cattlemen, who also hunted alligators and “coons”. The chief weapon of the Florida cowboy was a strong whip, 12 to 18 feet of braided buckskin fastened to a handle of 12 – 15 inches long. The pop or crack resulting from its use sounded like a rifle shot and is claimed to have resounded for several miles. The name “cracker”, applied to natives of Georgia and Florida, is said to have originated as a cattle term for those who used the whips. Early, 1870, settlers to the area were Parker, Holmes, Raulerson, Chandler, and Underhill. Settlers on the Highlands County side were the Daughtreys and the Pearces. There was a steam boat business that traveled up and down the Kissimmee river from 1894 to 1920. It died when the highway system went in. When the railroad past up the area for the town of Okeechobee the town slowly disappeared. Submitted by: Mike Woodfin”
“Today the Lockett Estate and Basinger are just shadows of what they once were. There are no remains of the fort and the hotels and general store are long gone. Neglect and age are starting to take a toll on the buildings of the estate. The main house has rotting floors and roof. The barn is barely standing and several other smaller building are beginning to fall from neglect. There are several concrete lamp posts lining the originally drive, but some have fallen over and the boat house along the river is showing signs of the river’s rise and fall. One of the most important features is the Pearce family cemetery which is nestled under oak trees along Hwy 98. While the property is not being maintained, the cemetery has been secured to prevent wild hogs from destroying the headstones and disturbing the plots.
The site is currently in the hands of the South Florida Water Management District was part of the flood control plan. However, it is now considered excess property and may go up for public auction. Attempts to find a group to take control and keep the estate open to the public have failed. U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Florida Parks both backed out. Highlands County had the site briefly, but their plan to turn the historic location into a golf course prompted SFWMD to take it back. For now, the site is closed to the public. ”
In 1993, SFWMD acquired the Pearce-Lockett Estate through a donation as part of the Kissimmee River Restoration Project. The site was donated by the family on the condition that it wold be open to the public.
The Florida Park Service evaluated the property in 2002 and concluded that the site met or exceeded the qualifications for a State Park but due to constraints prevented them from accepting title from the District.
The Pearce-Lockett Estate is historically significant, but not designated as a State Historic SIte.
This beautiful place could definitely benefit from Amendment One money.