Amateur Sleuths: We Found Old War Fort
US soldiers used Fort Harrell in the second Seminole War
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2014 2:20 PM CDT
A canal in South Florida's Everglades.   (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)

(Newser) – Three amateur explorers have uncovered what they say are the remains of an old US Army fort in South Florida—a find harking back to the time of Andrew Jackson and the removal of Native Americans to lands beyond the Mississippi River. Shawn Beightol, a Miami-Dade school teacher, says a map of old forts inspired him to go scouring the Everglades. "That got me hungry," he tells the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He knew that Fort Harrell, built around 1837 for soldiers in the second Seminole War, may well have decomposed in the hot, wet climate of the Everglades. But along with two other outdoorsmen—a computer engineer and a National Park Service worker—he analyzed old war maps, aerial photos, and engineering surveys, and journeyed into the Everglades five times this year. On the last trip, they spotted what others might have overlooked: post holes in limestone.

The trio carefully ran yellow tape around the find and measured it at roughly 45 feet by 135 feet; they say it once had interior walls and an extension serving as a bastion or livestock enclosure with a boat landing, Everglades Exploration Network reports. (See photos on Beightol's Facebook page.) Now they want professionals to survey the site and see for themselves. Archaeologist Bob Carr says it would be "significant because few sites have been preserved and not all have been found" from the Seminole War era in South Florida. "The most significant forts were the bigger ones along the coast that were occupied for a longer time. But the interior ones were important, too." One of the explorers says he wants the fort opened for recreational use, and all three plan to keep hunting the Everglades for more forts. "That's what we do for fun," says one. (Read about researchers who were looking for a long-lost fort ... in the wrong state.)