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The Cracker people of Florida.
Well, what are they?
Cracker people were the true pioneers of Florida, self reliant and resourceful. They spoke in a patois of Old English, some local vernacular and some invented words of their own. These people raised cattle and grew crops in the 19th century.
The origin of the word Cracker is open to some dispute: there are 3 main theories.
Number one, that it came from the noise the whip made when driving cattle
Number two, that it is from the corncracking sound when they ground the corn.
Number three, that is from the celtic word for loud mouth.
Which is correct; nobody knows for sure. I prefer to believe number 2 myself.
Grits(yuck! ) were their spaple diet and would have been used as we use the potato, wild hog was also a favourite as was Cooter which was a soft shelled turtle (conservationists are now wincing) Salt pork was cunfusingly known as saw mill chicken. Salting is a time honoured way of preserving meat before the advent of fridges and freezers.
A Cracker home was built to withstand the sub tropical climate of Florida and using local resources. They were mostly made from Virgin Pine which is high in resin so therefore resists the mites (very important in this state) the roofs were built from cypress shingles which allows air flow (again crucially importing for the searing heat of a Florida summer; can you imaging living without the air con?
Often they would be built of 2 cabin like structures linked by a dog trot (or porch) It is strange to think that these homes would be open without window or porch covering. They would burn turps or rubber to repel the marauding midges.
For those of you visiting the attractions area a good place to get a flavour of Cracker life is Cracker Country Museum in Tampa. This is fully outdoors and hear you can learn about Cracker life and even try your hand at spinning wool, churning butter or making rope. This really brings history alive if you have children with you.
There is a gift shop here where you can buy snacks, toys and home accesories that are redolent of this period.
The Cracker people were a vital part of the jigsaw of the history of Florida and will increase your understanding of this fascinating State.
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Page added on: 29 January 2011
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