In 1837, as General Zachary Taylor was in pursuit of Chief Alligator during the Second Seminole War, he and his men camped on what the future U.S. president Taylor nicknamed "Paradise Island." Inhabited by the Sarope tribe of Native Americans for nearly 12,000 years, the island is home to the first recorded Native American village in North America.
Brahma Island in Lake Kissimmee, Florida, has a long history, and in its very recent past, the last 150 years, it has been in the care of the Lightsey Family. During the Civil War, five of the seven Lightsey brothers fell in battle. The remaining two brothers settled in Central Florida.
The Lightsey family acquired the island in 1880, and the family takes great pride in preserving the natural beauty of the plant and animal species that inhabit Brahma Island. The current family owners faced extensive estate taxes following the passing of their father. But, instead of selling their land, the family established a wild boar hunting business on the island.
In the early 1970s, Cary and Layne Lightsey began their lucrative hunting business and hosted celebrities such as Johnny Depp and Shaquille O'Neill. Though the Lightsey brothers were offered several million dollars for their property, they stayed true to the long-held traditions of their family and continue to develop the business to ensure the island is preserved and maintained.
Describing the long tradition of cattle ranching in the Lightsey family, Cary Lightsey maintains that "if you took a Lightsey at birth and adopted them or moved them to somewhere else in the nation... if you look them up in thirty years, they would be in the cow business and have horses."
"We're proud that we're the owners of the island, it really means a lot to us, and it's important for us to keep the natural beauty here and not change anything," says Lightsey.
The family's dedication to conserving the island’s beauty to pass down to future generations has been a blessing to the land, which otherwise might have been sold and used for development.
To learn more about the history of Brahma Island from Cary Lightsey, check out the video below.