Everglades Biographies

James Mallory Willson

James Mallory Willson, a native of Somerset, Kentucky, and former resident of Chicago, Illinois, relocated to Kissimmee, Florida in the early 1880s. Through contacts with the Southern Baptist Organization, James Willson helped organize Baptist missionary crusades for the Seminole Indians. Together with his wife, Minnie Moore Willson, he was instrumental in the society known as "Friends of the Florida Seminoles." This organization dealt with the Indians through education and attempts to raise their standard of living. During his extensive dealings with the Seminoles, James Willson also compiled an extensive vocabulary and dictionary of the Seminole Indian language. James M. Willson, an invalid the last few years of his life, died on August 5, 1943.

Biography prepared by Ruthanne Vogel, University of Miami

Excerpt of letter from James M. Willson to M.K. Sniffen, Secretary of the Indian Rights Association, January 26, 1925. Minnie Moore Willson Papers, University of Miami.

"If this drainage plan is carried out as it is outlined then I believe it would include the 100,000 acres we persuaded the Fla. Legislature to set aside for the Seminoles....

Then too there is another part of this work we must consider and that is to have that tract of land turned over to the National Gov. for these Indians, and thus get it out of the hands of Florida. As long as it is left in its present title I fear, now that people are getting land crazy, some one will come forward with some scheme to get that land turned over for other purposes.

The Florida Seminoles are now so far down in the Everglades I have not seen any of them for a long time, but I am very anxious to make a trip to visit them. So far as I know they are getting along about as usual, with the hunting about gone, which means of course more hard times for them than they have ever known. They need all the friends they have and then some..."



Near Lake Okeechobee, James M. Willson and Billy Bowlegs, with a deer on his back, just returning from an hour's hunt. February 8, 1916.

Photo courtesy of University of Miami Libraries, University Archives

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