So who is Bone Mizell, you may ask? Why should you care? Ever wonder where the term Florida Cracker came from? Or why one city honors a sculpture of his iron brass boot? This cowboy was a true legend in ever sense of the term. So stick around, and live the life of this Florida legend.
Bone was born in Horse Creek, FL in 1863. The 8th of 12 children born to Morgan Mizell and Mary Fletcher Tucker. Bone's daddy admired Napoleon Bonaparte the famous French emperor. So he gave his son the name Morgan Bonaparte Mizell. Bone stood nearly 6ft 5inches tall compared to a 5ft tall Napoleon lol. Bone's horse was a small Florida bred horse known as a Marsh-Tackie. Bone Mizell loved to play pranks and drink his share of Moonshine. John Underhill was known as Bone's best friend another well known Cracker Cowboy.
According to legend, the term Cracker Cowboy got their name from the loud cracks a cowboys whip would make when being snapped. In 1895 a painting by Frederic Remington of Bone Mizell was featured in August 1895 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine and entitled it " A Cracker Cowboy". Florida Native born son's and daughter's are now considered and called "Crackers" to this day.
Bone did stray from being a rough cowboy for a short time, opening a grocery store in his home town and slowing down just a bit. If people paid in cash he did well, but Bone often gave credit to those without cash and if you owed him he would put a black mark on the wall. One day those walls were filled up with black marks, and Bone could no longer remember who owed what and from who? He promptly closed his doors and returned back to the palmetto pastures. Back to herding cattle for Bone. He never once claimed to own a home for he was said to have only slept in the beds of bordellos that flourished in the small towns of Florida after the Civil War.
Judge Ziba King had the largest array of cattle some 50,000 head of cattle worth $500,000. Ziba King thought so highly of Bone he would end up making him one of his top wranglers and lead foreman.
There are many accounts of Bone being arrested many times for cattle thieving and re-branding. No matter what it seemed, Bone always ended up slipping through the cracks. Bone was down on his luck and decided the cure would be to herd some cattle to Arcadia, and so he did. Shortly there after he was arrested for brand altering and on March 15, 1895 he appeared before the judge in a hung over dirty fashion. Of course Bone wasn't worried he knew the local were in his pocket. Officials always went out of their way to get Bone off his charges.
One of Bone's most outlandish pranks involved his best friends corpse and a little train ride. Sometime around 1890 Bone's old friend John Underhill passed away at a cow camp in Lee County, FL. Not long after his friend's death, a Jewish boy from New Orleans drifted out into cow country. He became friends with Bone but failing in health from hard labor and the traveling he had done, the boy died at the cow camp as well. Bone buried the young boy right next to his friend John Underhill. Some years later the boy's parents heard of the death and sent money to the undertaker to have the body exhumed and sent back to the family plot. The undertaker hired Bone Mizell, he rode out to the graves and had two thoughts on his mind: The young boy grew weary of travel and never wanted to see the inside of a train again. On the other hand John his old buddy always wanted to go ride on a train, he just never had the money for a ticket. So Bone switched corpses and John finally got his ride.
Bone Mizell was arrested for rustling in neighboring Lee County and now he did worry because he had no one in Lee County on his side. During the trial, many Desoto friends attempted to tamper with the jury deliberation. They threw a large rock through a window with a rope and basket tied to it. Inside the basket was food and whiskey. But it didn't help Bone was found guilty March 2, 1896. Sentenced to two year hard labor in the state pen.
Desoto county tried relentlessly to petition the release of Bone Mizell and to have him pardoned. They were told not until he served time. So they sent Bone off at the train station giving him a send off only a hero would have received. When he arrived at the Prison it was a hero's welcome, he was a celebrity in his day. He was given the grand tour of the prison and wined and dined. Bone was placed on a train back to Arcadia the next day. It was considered time served. He was eventually pardoned from the Lee County conviction.
Bone's brother Jess Mizell was the Sheriff in Manatee County and ended up being killed in a gunfight. Much to the surprise of historians, Bone was never violent. He never took part in the family feud of the Barber-Mizell's documented to have occured in the 1870s, even though it was sparked by the assassination of his cousin David Mizell.
A last attempt was made by friends and family to dry old Bone Mizell out from his moonshine loving ways. Friend Ziba King sent Bone to a Sanitarium in Hot Springs, Arkansas July 14,1921. Unfortunately, Mizell Died at the age of 58 with his "boots on". He was at the Fort Ogden train depot/telegraph house on a bench when he died. Ironically waiting on a money order from Ziba King. The Atlantic Coast Line attendant and the coroner are the only names found on the death certificate that reads "Moonshine - went to sleep and did not wake up" Bone Mizell is buried nearby Arcadia in Joshua Creek Cemetery.
Panda and I were lucky enough to visit his resting place, and found small trinkets left for him as a memorial, paying homage to the cowboy's wild ways. The cemetery was quiet and peaceful, Bone is resting in luxury, while his brass boot sits in the center of town. Many pass it by, never knowing a thing about the man whose feet once filled it. But lucky for you, now you know!