Paradise, U.S.A. -- With Restrictions
A One-Family Eden with Steak and
Orchids Every Day and No Ration
Points or Cash Needed, But, Says
Explorer William Seabrook,
"King Gene" Hamilton Keeps
It Exclusive With His Toma-
hawk and Mysterious Bones
This article is about the Hamilton family of the Everglades who, if Seabrook is correct, were a law unto themselves in mid-century Florida.
It's difficult (at least sitting in southern California) to do much fact checking on this article. The Hamiltons were indeed an important family in the area at the time. King Gene was not so much above the law as was the law. From what I've been able to learn, he was a Deputy Sheriff in the 1930s, and probably was in the 1940s as well.
King Gene was born in Chatham Bend, Florida, in 1882. The Hamilton family seems to have been as prolific as Seabrook describes. When he died in 1967, King Gene was survived by 27 grandchildren. He seems to have had about seventeen siblings and six children. Quite a clan!
Hamilton's father was Richard Hamilton, who died in June 1943, less than a year before this article was printed, allegedly at 110 years. Richard Hamilton was born a slave, and was apparently descended from either Choctaw or Chickasaw in Georgia, probably in addition to African-Americans. It was his mother who first came to Florida from Georgia, in slavery.
I'm honestly not able to trace much of what Seabrook says here. It's not surprising that this family would merge with the Seminole, whose very name comes from the Spanish for "run away," and who were known for accepting fugitives -- whether Native Americans or Africans -- into their ranks.
An interesting thing about this article is that it shows Seabrook's extreme interest in the nature of authority sacred kingship. It's not hard to see the parallels between King Gene and Faustin Wirkus, the White King of La Gonave, whom Seabrook described in The Magic Island. You can read about him here.
Personally, I'd love to know more about King Gene Hamilton and the Hamilton family. If you know anything, please post. And if you happen to be in Key West or Everglades City or even Miami, you're in the right place to do research!