Wednesday, September 23, 2009

History in Motion: Florida historian asks, "Where's the beef?"

The first cattle in North America were brought ashore in Sarasota by the Spaniards in 1521– they also introduced pigs and horses to this area. Large land holdings in Alachua County and near Tallahassee were devoted to raising Andalusia cattle. The herds were shipped from Punta Rassa to Cuba and traded for gold.
Today, some Florida cattle are descended from these mixed breeds. They were originally known as “cracker cattle” because early cowmen herded them by cracking their whips. During the Civil War, the Confederates needed the meat and leather supplied by Florida herds, especially as the naval blockade tightened.
In the 1960s, the Roberts family sold most of the ranch, retaining only some parcels and the main buildings. They donated five acres to Collier County, which also purchased an additional 10 acres. In 1995, the county holdings were placed under he umbrella of he Collier County Museum system. Lora Jean Young,  and Donna Ridewood, the first manager of the ranch for the museum, succeeded in establishing the property on the Register of Historic Places. Over the years, the ranch has often been the scene of historic battle reenactments and many improvements have been made since 1995.

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