William Cooley was an early settler in East Florida. He moved to the New River area (later to become Fort Lauderdale) in 1826 and started an arrowroot plantation. Eventually he became involved in local administration, and in 1835/6 he was involved in adjudicating a case in which white settlers were accused of killing a Creek Indian chief named Alibama. The settlers were jailed but later released, citing insufficient evidence. The Creeks were outraged, and laid much of the blame for the verdict on Cooley’s shoulders.
On January 4th, 1836, a part of 15-20 Indians raided Cooley’s home while he was away on an expedition, killing his wife and children. The incident has since been known as the “New River Massacre” or “Cooley’s Massacre.” It effectively ended the New River settlement – it would be more than a half century before whites would resettle in the area again in significant numbers. Cooley himself moved to Tampa, where he died in 1863.
Nothing remains of the original plantation, but a small park called “Cooley’s Landing” has been erected on the spot where it once stood, on the north side of the river. (Some sources place Cooley’s plantation on the south side, which is called “Cooley’s Landing South” today, but local historians believe it was indeed on the north side.) It is said that each year, around January, the screams of dying children are heard here.
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- Cooley's Landing Park
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Get Directions »
- 26.1171338, -80.15001059999997
- Broward County, Florida
- Nearest Towns:
- Fort Lauderdale, FL (0.5 mi.)
Boulevard Gardens, FL (1.9 mi.)
Franklin Park, FL (2.0 mi.)
Washington Park, FL (2.2 mi.)
Roosevelt Gardens, FL (2.5 mi.)
Melrose Park, FL (2.7 mi.)
Lazy Lake, FL (2.7 mi.)
Broward Estates, FL (2.8 mi.)
Wilton Manors, FL (3.1 mi.)
Rock Island, FL (3.1 mi.)
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