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Trailblazer Lawrence Silas



Lawrence Silas (1887-1974)

Portrait Courtesy Osceola County Historical Society

 

He was a Cowboy who became a prominent Cowman in the 1939 Cow-Town of Kissimmee. The Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Courier, on 13 May 1939, said of Cattleman Lawrence Silas that he was “one of oldest established and largest dealers in cattle.” At 52 years of age, the Silas herd in 1939 consisted of 2,000 head of cattle roaming 10,000 Silas owned and leased acres spread across Florida’s Osceola County.


Ten years later, the Tampa Tribune of 2 October 1949 reported the man’s landholdings had grown to nearly 20,000 acres. “But Lawrence Silas has more than his lands, his cattle and his comfortable bank account ," said the Tribune, "he has the friendship of ranchers and city folk, white and Negro, with whom he has lived and worked in peace all his life.” Lawrence, the Tribune said, “has spent his life in the Kissimmee River Valley.”


Lawrence, the son of a freed slave, was born in 1887 where a railroad town of Kenansville would be established a quarter century later. “Remote” does not do justice in describing the place where Lawrence Silas was born, but settlers were beginning to tame the new Osceola County, formed from parts of Orange and Brevard Counties, only six months prior to his birth.



Lawrence Silas Boulevard in Kissimmee was named for this week's Trailblazer


Lawrence learned the cattle business from his father, Tom Silas, but at the young age of 18 years, relocated closer to Kissimmee where he worked for white ranchers until branching out on his own. As a cattleman, Lawrence Silas was friends with the most influential of cattleman in the area, including prominent rancher Iris Bronson, a State Legislator and President of Florida's State Cattleman’s Association.


“I bought as many as $75,000 worth of cattle from Lykes Brothers in a single day,” said Lawrence in 1949. “Those were days when cattle sold by the head, and $1,000 would buy a lot of cattle. I remember,” he continued, “the days when we drove cattle from all over South Florida, along Sixth Avenue in Tampa, and on down to Ballast Point for Lykes Brothers.”  


Known by friends and neighbors as “Uncle Lawrence,” Silas lived by a tradition he acquired by watching his father, treating those who worked for him as he expected to be treated. And his handshake, said those who knew Lawrence Silas well, “sealed many cattle deals.”


Having lived much of his life in the saddle, Lawrence Silas, in 1974, suffered a stroke while at work on horseback, and died.


Lawrence Silas, truly a Central Florida trailblazer!

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