In 1987, a group of energetic individuals, with
a love and respect for history, came together to form the Florida Cracker
Trail Association, to recreate a part of Florida's past that has become
a traditional event. The Annual Cross-State Ride serves to highlight and
preserve the importance of Florida's role in the introduction of horses
and cattle into the New World as well as the birth and continuance of
the cattle and horse industries by Florida's future settlers and their
descendants. Community developers are moving into the heartland of Florida, buying
huge multi-thousand acre ranches and converting this wild land to tracts
of housing. As a result, the area's history is being threatened.
The sound earned the Cowmen the nickname of Crackers.
The crack could be heard for miles, so they also used them to communicate with each other, like a form of Morse code, and were able to identify each other by their whip cracks.
Many Crackers rode rugged, rather small horses known as cracker ponies and relied on herd dogs to help get a cow out of a marsh, work a hundred steers into a tidy group and move cattle along the trail. A good dog, a horse, and whip were all the tools a true Cracker needed.
The Crackers survived in difficult conditions. They fought off panthers, wolves, bears, and cattle rustlers and spent weeks or months on cattle drives across difficult marshes and dense scrub woods, often enduring burning heat, torrential thunderstorms, and hurricane winds.
Today, the term Florida Cracker refers to an independent, self-reliant cowboy and the lifestyle that goes with that character.
Each year, the Crackers gathered west of Fort Pierce to drive their giant herd of scrub cattle west across the state toward Bradenton and then to Tampa, Punta Gorda, and Punta Rassa, to ship them to Cuba.
Needing provisions for the trip, but having no money, Crackers often stocked up at P.P. Cobb’s General Store in Fort Pierce. Mr. Cobb let them fill their saddlebags with his merchandise and pay him after they had sold their herds to the Cubans, who were willing to pay in Spanish gold coins.
The Cracker Trail was the only dry route across Florida.
To the north, the Kissimmee River and its floodplains blocked the way.
To the south, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades made passage impossible.
Each year, the Florida Cracker Trail Cross-State Ride honors the Cracker Cowmen and their history.
On November 20, 2000, the Florida Cracker Trail was selected as a Community Millennium Trail. Millennium Trails is a partnership between the White House Millennium Council, the Department of Transportation, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the National Endowment for the Arts and other public agencies and private organizations. The goal of Millennium trails is the creation of a nation-wide network of trails that protect natural environment, interpret history and culture, and enhance alternative transportation, recreation and tourism.
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© Copyright 2013.
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Florida Cracker Trail Association, Inc.
Keeping History Alive!
The Cracker Trail represents not only an important part of Florida history, but American history as well.