Once a Knight is Enough

Knight Genealogy

by Laura Knight


Florida Cow Hunter: The Life and Times of Bone Mizell

Florida cow hunter Bone Mizell (born 1863) was immortalized in 1895 by artist Frederick Remington in Harper’s magazine as the archetype of the “Cracker Cowboy.”

Bone Mizell


There are quite a number of articles about Bone so it is hard to choose one that says everything. I suppose you should get the book - Florida Cow Hunter: The Life and Times of Bone Mizell by Jim Bob Tinsley - that tells his story. But, just to pique your curiosity, here are excerpts from several pieces found online:

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 6 ft 5 inches tall compared to a 5 ft 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.

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! SOURCE


He was famous for his riding skills. He and other cowhunters in those days rode small horses called "Marsh Tackies".

Not only was he a great rider, he was an expert with his long bull whip.

He was not only tall, he could be mean and he was lean and muscular.

He was also very talkative and cracked people up with his jokes and observations. This was even more noticeable when he had been drinking, and it seems like he drank often and a lot.

One famous story has a local sheriff arresting him and others for playing poker.

Bone protested that they weren't playing for money, they were playing with poker chips.

"It's the same as money", the sheriff said, and hauled them off to jail.

In the morning Bone was ordered to pay a fine or stay in jail. He handed the judge some poker chips, and the judge protested that the fine had to paid in real money.

"The sheriff says poker chips is the same as money", said Bone.

The judge laughed and let him go. SOURCE


Around 1862, a cow hunter by the name of Morgan Mizell and his wife, Mary Fletcher Tucker, moved from Hernando County to a little-populated area in Manatee County called Horse Creek. A year later, Morgan Bonaparte Mizell - affectionately known as Bone to his 11 brothers and sisters - was born.

In 1885-86, Horse Creek became the site of Pine Level, Manatee County's town seat. Later still, this land became part of Desoto County. By this point in time, Bone Mizell was a grown man who had worked cattle with his father for many years. As a young man, Bone was never much of a student, preferring to spend his time on the back of a horse rather than at a school desk.

Bone was more than 6-foot tall with a protruding chin and a hawk-like nose. His weather-beaten tanned skin made him appear much older than his years. He was known across the Florida prairie as a man who only slept outside, loved his whiskey and drank it often, had a wheezing, lisping way of speaking, and enjoyed his leisure time in bordellos. He was a great storyteller and lover of wisecracking jokes.

Despite his rough ways, Bone had a special talent for recognizing and remembering cattle and brands. During a round-up, if a cow man wasn't sure which brand belonged to which ranch, Bone was the one who was called. He was especially skilled at "mammying-up," the ability to match cows with their calves.

Intelligence was needed to identify and remember all the brands and earmarks used on cattle in Florida. Up until 1949 when The Fence Law was passed, Florida cattle freely roamed the scrubby landscape, and Bone's skills made him a sought-after cow man. At one time Bone was ranch foreman for Judge Ziba King, one of the largest cattle owners in the state of Florida. He was said to own at least 50,000 head of cattle and had nine men employed part-time under Bone. Bone was fit for that big job. SOURCE

Bone Mizell

Bone Mizell 1863 - 1921


Bone became the most famous of the Mizell family, a lineage prominent in early Florida history, not only because of his success of his trade, but because he was immortalized in a painting personifying the “Cracker Cowboy.” Mizell essentially become the poster child of the Wild South.

In 1863, Bone was born in Horse Creek, a sparsely settled community located in present day DeSoto County.

He was the eighth of 12 children for Morgan Mizell and Mary Fletcher Tucker.

Because Bone's father admired French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, he was named Morgan Bonaparte Mizell.

Unlike his namesake, Bone grew tall, lean and lanky in the saddle. He often let his long legs dangle below the stirrups of his Florida-bred pony, Marsh Tackle.

Bone was in most traditional ways illiterate, but he memorized thousands of cattle brands and whom they belonged from all the time spent out on the range.

In fact, he was famed throughout the state for his remarkable memory for both cattle and brands.

When round up time came and cow hunters were left scratching their heads trying to distinguish which cow belonged to which rancher, Bone was called in. It only took one look for Bone to know whom a cow belonged to.

In 1885, artist Fredrick Remington visited Florida to study cattlemen. Bone became the subject of his painting A Cracker Cowboy. The rendering appeared in Harpers’ Weekly and in a metropolitan New York Weekly.

According to Jim Bennett, author of Bone Mizell; Cracker Cowboy of the Palmetto Prairies, Remington chose Mizell because of this charisma.

“The artist recognized that cracker cowboys lacked the glamour associated with the Western variety he'd helped popularize. He also recognized that Bone had a charisma all his own, that Bone's fame as a rangeland raconteur and prairie prankster was widespread and well deserved,” Bennett wrote.

Bone had always said whiskey would kill him one day.

Once while passed out, some of his friends carried him to a nearby cemetery and laid him between two graves. The next morning when he woke up. he is said to have looked around and said,

“Here is Judgment Day and I’m the first one up!”

Another version has it that when Bone awoke, he announced: 'Dead and gone to hell. No more'n I expected.'

In the 1890s, Bone switched his career from ranching to “cattle rustling:” changing brands on cows or illegally branding unmarked livestock. In 1896, he was convicted of rustling and sentenced to two years in a state penitentiary.

Some of Bone’s friends petitioned for his pardon, but were told by state officials he must serve time in prison before that could happen. Bone said his sad goodbye's solemnly before he boarded a train headed for prison.

When he arrived, the warden gave him a tour of the facility, and then invited him to dinner. After Bone cleaned his plate he said, ”Now that I served my time can I have my pardon?”

The question reportedly tickled the warden so much; Bone was granted a pardon the very next day and sent home.

Eventually the drinking caught up with Mizell. He died at age 58 while waiting for a money order from Ziba King in the depot house in Fort Ogden, Fla.

An agent said Bone looked like death stretched out on a bench in the ticket office. When the agent asked Bone to sit up, he reportedly said, “Yeah I’d better not lay down. I might die.” The agent returned from lunch to find Bone dead on the floor.

A local doctor was called to the scene but pronounced Mizell dead without examining him. Another spectator inquired, “Don’t you need a test?" 
The doctor reportedly replied, “That’s Bone Mizell. If I tested him, he'd test 90 proof.”

The examiner’s office listed the cause of death as “Moonshine–went to sleep and did not wake up.”

The good life, the bad life, the hard life of a Cracker cowboy had finally caught up to Bone Mizell.

Bone was buried in the Joshua Creek Cemetery in Arcadia. SOURCE

Bone Mizell Marker


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