Site of Fort Gatlin Florida Heritage Historical Maker

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Site of Fort Gatlin Florida Heritage Historical Maker

Site of Fort Gatlin Florida Heritage Historical Maker

by:
jtracy
November 3, 2016

On November 9, 1838, during the Second Seminole Indian War (1835-42), the U.S.. Army established Fort Gatlin in Mosquito County. This fort was named for Army Assistant Surgeon John S. Gatlin (1806-1835) who was killed in the Dade Massacre in 1835. The site of the fort was chosen as a military outpost due to its strategic position overlooking three lakes and because the area was frequented by Native Americans led by Seminole Chief King Philip and his son Coacoochee. The Fort served the state militia during the war until the Army withdrew in 1849. A few soldiers and families remained in the area, growing citrus and raising cattle. In 1856, Fort Gatlin became the county seat of Orange County, created from Mosquito County in 1845. The community's name was later changed to Orlando, a name attributed to militiaman Orlando Reeves, who was reportedly killed in a skirmish during the Second Seminole War. It is believed that Reeves is buried near the site of Fort Gatlin. In 1941, during WWII, the United States Navy established the Underwater Sound Reference Laboratory near this site on Lake Gem Mary because of the great depth of the lake. The lab was closed in 1997.  Text from the Florida Heritage Site Marker for the Site of Fort Gatlin.

Listen as Orlando native Charley Wells describes growing up in the idyllic area of Fort Gatlin in this excerpt from an oral history interview with Attorney Wells at his GrayRobinson law office in downtown Orlando, October 13, 2016.

LISTEN Part I (20:54) (Text highlights from audio recording.)

In October of 1943, my family moved and I moved to Gatlin Avenue in south Orlando. And it was on Gatlin Avenue on Lake Jennie Jewell where I grew up. And so we lived out there in an area which was a two lane street that came from what was then known as Kuhl Avenue and came down to what is now Summerlin and was a paved road. And further east on Gatlin Avenue was a dirt road. And where they now have a laboratory, it was by the Navy at that time when I was growing up that was the woods there wasn't any development there.

Fort Gatlin

But the landmark there, was that they had put in a slab on the ground where the Gatlin Avenue stopped being paved and became dirt road that recognized Fort Gatlin. And Fort Gatlin used to be there and that was dating back to when the Seminoles, as I understand it at least, we were having several wars, the American settlers were with the Seminole Indians. And that was the historic event of Gatlin Avenue or Fort Gatlin.

Lake Jennie Jewell and Lake Gatlin

But that's where I grew up. And it was a sandy bottom lake. And during my childhood we spent a lot of time, my friends and I who lived along Gatlin Avenue, both in Lake Jennie Jewell and mainly over in Lake Gatlin which was right across the street from us. That was sort of an idyllic place to grow up. And if you can picture it in 1943, and that was during of course World War II, and so it was far enough out of town that you had to have public transportation because of gas rationing to get out of town. And the bus came down Kuhl Avenue. And they were running a bus from downtown Orlando out to Pine Castle Air Force Base because that was a facility that was part of the war effort.

There were two Air Force Bases here in Orlando at the time. Orlando Air Force Base which was down in now Herndon Airport, was part of that complex. And the Pine Castle Air Force Base which is now McCoy Airport. And so we regularly rode the bus back and forth to town because that was a major means of transportation during gas rationing during the war.

But there was literally very little along what is now Summerlin Avenue between Gatlin Avenue and Michigan Avenue which was sort of north of the south border of the downtown area of Orlando, there was almost completely orange groves. Where the development of Southern Oaks is, all was woods. But on the side of the lakes, all was orange grove. And so, that was the area which I remember vividly from my growing up in south Orlando....

 

 

 

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