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A section of rough, wooden palisade helps demonstrate what Fort Cooper might have looked like in 1836. Tables arranged under the trees make the picnic area in the hardwood hammock by the lake a refreshing retreat. Two sandhill cranes pose for the camera by Lake Holathlikaha. Lily pads grace the edges of Lake Holathlikaha.
Fort Cooper State Park
Reenactors fire a cannon at Fort Cooper Days.

History and Culture

The park is named in honor of Major Mark Anthony Cooper, commander of 380 First Georgia Battalion Volunteers along with army regulars. In April 1836, Major Cooper built a fort near the lake's edge to protect the sick and wounded left behind by General Scott as he continued on his way to Fort Brooke (Tampa). Major Cooper was ordered to hold his position and await relief troops in nine days, but by the third day they were discovered by the Seminoles who kept them under constant daily attacks. On one occasion the Seminoles tried to storm the fort with a force in 'excess of 500 warriors.' After 16 days, with provisions running out, a relief column returned to support the troops. Due to Major Cooper's vigilant leadership during the two week siege, the Georgia Battalion sustained about 20 men wounded, and lost only one. Fort Cooper was utilized as a reconnaissance, observation and dispatch post until 1842 by various U.S. Army detachments.

A thatched roofed shelter or 'chickee' reminds park visitors of the Seminole tribe's presence at Fort Cooper.

Chickee

In April 1836 during the Second Seminole War, Major Mark Anthony Cooper was ordered to stay behind to care for sick and wounded Federal soldiers while General Winfield Scott and his troops marched to Fort Brooke (near present day Tampa) to gather reenforcements and supplies. A field fortification was hastily constructed on the western bluff of Lake Holathlikaha, and Cooper was left in the command of five companies of the First Georgia Battalion of volunteers and a small artillery company. While Cooper waited for Scott's return, a group of Seminole warriors, lead by Chief Osceola, encamped across the lake and engaged in several skirmishes with the soldiers. Cooper and his troops held the fortification for 16 days until General Scott returned with additional troops and supplies and lead the combined troops back to join the main body of Federal soldiers at Fort Drane (northwest of present day Ocala).

Families enjoy picnicking along the tree-lined banks of Lake Holathlikaha.

Lake Holathlikaha

Lake Holathlikaha has been the park's main focal point and area of activity. Swimming, sunbathing, fishing, camping and picnicking have been popular activities in and around the lake since the park opened in 1977.

Park Ranger Randy Brown poses with 'Please take nothing but pictures leave nothing but footprints' sign.

Ranger Randy Brown

In this 1970s photograph, Ranger Randy Brown poses with a 'Please take nothing but pictures leave nothing but footprints' sign. Park signs such as this one remind visitors of the importance of protecting the park's natural and cultural resources for all to enjoy.

A park ranger eagerly shovels sand for a building foundation at Fort Cooper.

Construction

Constructing buildings and landscaping at state parks involves architects, engineers and contractors, as welll as park staff. Here a park ranger assists with the construction of the foundation for a new building at Fort Cooper in the 1970s.

A rustic style wood and stone restroom stands attractively in its wooded surroundings.

Restroom

Even the most utilitarian buildings in state parks can be well-designed and attractive. This rustic style restroom, built in 1977, was there when the first visitors arrived at the park.