As legend says, John Horse got the nickname “Gopher John” as a child. He had owned a few turtles and was asked to sell them to a U.S. Army Commander. The commander kept asking John to supply him with more turtles and paid John for them. When it was time for a big turtle meat feast at the Army camp, the commander noticed only a few turtles in the pen. John had re-sold the man his own turtles over and over again. The commander nicknamed him Gopher John.

John Horse lived through the War of 1812 and two Seminole Wars. He fought against Creek Indians and the U.S. Army for the freedom of the Seminoles. However, in order to gain freedom for his family, he worked as a translator for the U.S. Army in the Second Seminole war. After building the village of Wewoka for his people, he traveled to Washington to lobby for land settlement and freedom. For 20 years, between 1850-1870, he was leader of the Black Seminoles in the southwest.

John Horse, or Gopher John, died in Mexico City in 1882 while on a mission to settle a land dispute.

Little Known Black History Fact: Gopher John, Seminole Warrior  was originally published on

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