The Charley Knight Connection

On September 16th a group of Florida Frontiersmen went  to the Tampa Bay History Center to visit the Charles L. Knight Family collection of Florida Seminole objects and materials.  I hope the following information will help the newer Florida Frontiersmen members and friends understand the connection between Charley Knight, the Florida Frontiersmen, the Alafia River Rendezvous®, and the Seminole Indian tribe of Florida.

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In 1984 when the Alafia River Long Rifle club lost their shooting range and rendezvous site in Hudson, FL , Charley Knight offered them the use of his property off Keysville Road in Hillsborough County. They declined the offer as the club was folding. Through Florida Frontiersmen member Clint Oak, Mr. Knight offered the use of his property to the Frontiersmen. Mr. Knight suggested that the name of the rendezvous remain the same and that it be scheduled on the same dates used by the Alafia River Long Rifles. So in January 1985 on the fourth Sunday and preceding days the Florida Frontiersmen, Inc. held their first Alafia River Rendezvous® continuing the tradition started by the Alafia River LongRifle club in 1971 using the same name and on the same dates.  fullsizeoutput_849IMG_2774

Charley was a member of the U.S. Interior Department’s advisory board for American Indians.  He was named chairman of the Florida Commission on Indian Affairs in 1969 and later served on a successor group, the Florida Council of Indian Affairs. He was appointed to the Interior Department board in 1995. Knight also served as “booshway,” or chairman, of the Florida Party of American Mountain Men, a group dedicated to wilderness survival. Charley died of a heart attack on Mar. 25, 1996 on a flight coming back from the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum in Cody, WY .

This link will take you to a 1975 interview conducted by a USF professor with Charley Knight in which Charley explains his devotion to the Seminoles. Interview with Charles Knight (October 1, 1975)

Knight-funeralFormer Hillsborough property appraiser Charles Knight’s funeral was at Myrtle Hill Cemetery. Seminole Indians participated in a rare traditional tribute to Charles Knight, who was instrumental in helping the Seminole Indians acquire the first nine acres of property which is now the current Seminole Indian Reservation on Interstate 4 in east Tampa. Swamp Owl, a Seminole Indian historian and speaker from the reservation in Big Cypress Swamp stood silently at Charley Knight’s casket covered with Indian feathers. Swamp Owl was a 20-year friend of Charley’s.

It is appropriate that the 2018 Alafia River Rendezvous® Booshways have included the Seminole Indian history as part of the Florida History theme. I am sure Big Bear (Charley) is very pleased. – Ron

Sources: https://www.tampapix.com/peoplemover.htm, Betz, A HISTORY OF THE FLORIDA FRONTIERSMEN and ORGANIZED BLACK POWDER SHOOTING In WEST CENTRAL FLORIDA 1948 – 1990

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