Keeping History Alive! Florida Cracker Trail Association


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.

In 1521, Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de León attempted to colonize Florida. Attacked by Native Americans, the colonists abandoned their quest, leaving horses, cattle and hogs behind, the first livestock in North America. They bred and ran wild for over 400 years.

Following the Civil War, a rugged brand of individual settled along Florida's east coast and central corridor. These early settlers became known by their Northern neighbors, as Florida Crackers or Cracker Cowmen, a reference to the cracking sound made by the braided, leather whips they used to flush cows out of the palmetto scrub and spur on oxen that pulled their carts and wagons.

cow whip

Each year, the Crackers gathered west of Fort Pierce to drive their giant herd of scrub cattle across the state toward Bradenton and then to Punta Rassa, to ship them to Havana, Cuba.

Needing provisions for the trip, but having no money, P.P. 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.

The Crackers relied on bullwhips to herd the cattle and communicate with each other, like a form of Morse code, and were able to identify each other by their whip cracks.

Today, the term Florida Cracker refers to an independent, self-reliant cowboy and the lifestyle that goes with that character.

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 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.

P.P. Cobb General Store Cracker Trail Museum
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Florida Cracker Trail Association, Inc.
Keeping History Alive

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Keeping History Alive!

The Cracker Trail represents not only an important part of Florida history, but American history as well.
Thank you for keeping history alive!