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Discovery of Seminole War-era fort inspires book

Tosan describes her effort as 'creative nonfiction'

Nov. 14, 2012

It took 15 years, but Muriel T. Eden-Paul combined her family's story of conservation in Florida with a history of the often-overlooked Second Seminole War in a new book, "Once Upon A Picket."

It's a story that began unfolding in the 1970s, when an excavation of her family's land unearthed the historic Fort Cooper in Citrus County, Fla., - and one she scarcely imagined she'd tell when she moved to Wauwatosa nearly 25 years ago.

But as generations of her family passed - first her grandfather, John H. Eden, who bought the former citrus grove, and then her father John H. Eden, Jr., who inherited the 704-acre property - Eden-Paul felt compelled to share her family's legacy of history and conservation.

"It's amazing how one generation affects another," Eden-Paul said. "As a kid, I never even thought about that. But once I started working on the project, I realized that if my grandfather had never moved down there, who knows what would have happened to that land."

Her grandfather didn't live long enough to see it, but today the property is known as Fort Cooper State Park, home to Florida's only preserved Seminole War-era fort.

It's a badge of honor for Eden-Paul, since, she said, "so many from that timeframe have been buried under concrete and construction."

And it's a theme she wove into her book, which follows not only the stories of her father and grandfather, but also the Seminole tribe and militia members from that time, including Georgian militia man Major Mark Anthony Cooper, for whom the fort is named.

In the 1970s, Cooper's family shared Cooper's personal journal and other documents of the soldiers' experiences with the Eden family. And, Eden-Paul said, she used elements of that journal as dialogue in her book, which she describes as creative non-fiction.

"The thing that I enjoyed the most about working on this book was being able to bring the characters to life and weaving this historical event into something that affected not only the lives of people in the 1830s but also generations that followed after that," Eden-Paul said.

It is that message that Eden-Paul hopes people take from the book.

"I think we always have to be careful to preserve what's been handed to us, if we're going to have anything left for our children and our children's children," Eden-Paul said.

To recommend a person for Someone You Should Know, call (262) 446-6643.

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