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History of Florida
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Local History Notes:
The 1854 Gazetteer of the United States by Thomas Baldwin shows:
FLORIDA, the most southern of the United States, and the twenty-seventh in the order of admission into the American confederacy, is bounded N. by Alabama and Georgia, E. by the Atlantic, and S. and W. by the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama. This state, which forms a peninsula in the southern part, lies between 25° and 31° N. lat., and between 80° and 87° 44' W. Ion. It is about 385 miles long from N. to S., in the peninsula about 50, and in the northern expanse 250 miles wide, including an area of about 59,268 square miles, or 37,931,520 acres, of which only 349,423 were improved in 1850.
Population: The number of inhabitants in 1830, was 34,730; in 1840, 54,477, and in 1850, 87,401; of whom 25,764 were white males; 21,498, white females; 419, free colored males; 505, free colored females, and 39,309, slaves; representative population, 71,677. This number of inhabitants was divided among 9107 families, occupying 9022 dwellings. Of the population, 20,563 were born in the state; 24,757, in other states; 300 in England; 878, in Ireland; 198, in Scotland and Wales; 97, in British America; 307, in Germany; 67, in France; 915, in other countries; and 58, whose places of birth were unknown. During the year ending June 1st, 1850, there occurred 933 deaths, or about 11 to every one thousand persons. In the same period, 76 paupers received support, of whom 12 were foreigners; the number of deaf and dumb was 22, of whom 10 were slaves; 25 blind, of whom 2 were free colored, and 12 slaves; 8 were insane, of whom 2 were slaves; and 37 were idiotic, of whom 1 was free colored, and 7 were slaves.
Counties: Florida is divided into 30 counties, viz. Alachua, Benton, Calhoun, Columbia, Dade, Dallas, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Levy, Madison, Marion, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, St. John, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sumter, Wakulla, Washington, and Walton. Capital, Tallahassee.
Cities and Towns: Key West is the largest town in Florida; population, in 1850, 2367. The other more important towns are Pensacola, population, 2164; St. Augustine, 1934; Tallahassee, 1391, and Jacksonville, 1045.
Face of the Country: "Florida is generally level, probably never elevated mere than 250 or 300 feet above the sea, and the southern part of the peninsula (we quote De Bow's ' Resources of the South and West') is covered with a large sheet of water, called the Everglades, of an immense extent, (filled with islands,) which it is supposed may be rendered available by drainage. The central portion of the peninsula is somewhat elevated, the highest point being about 171 feet above the ocean, and gradually declining towards the coast on each side. The country between the Suwanee and Chattahochee is elevated and hilly, and the western portion of the state is level." "The lands of Florida," says the same writer, "are almost sui generis, very curiously distributed, and may be designated as high hummock, low hummock, swamp, savanna, and the different qualities of pine land. High hummock is usually timbered with live and other oaks, magnolia, laurel, &c., and is considered the best description of land for general purposes. Low hummock, timbered with live and water oak, is subject to overflow, but when drained is preferred for sugar. Savannas, on the margins of streams, and in detached bodies, are usually very rich alluvions, and yielding largely in dry, but needing ditching and dyking for ordinary Seasons. Marsh savannas, on the borders of tide streams, are very valuable, when reclaimed, for rice or sugarcane." South-west of Florida is a chain of rocky keys or islets, dangerous to navigators, but favorable to the manufacture of salt, and for fisheries. On the N. E. coast are Amelia and other islands, which it is thought may yield the celebrated sea-island cotton advantageously. The Everglades cover an extent of about 160 miles long by 60 broad, occupying the most of that part of Florida S. of Lake Okechobee, and are described by De Bow as a vast lake studded with thousands of islands, from one-fourth of an acre to hundreds of acres in area, mostly covered with dense thickets of shrubbery and vines, and occasionally with lofty pines and palmettoes. The water is from 1 to 6 feet in depth, out of which (from a vegetable deposit at the bottom,) issues a rank growth of tall grass. The Everglades furnish a soil well adapted to the banana and plantain.
Rivers, Bays, &c: Florida has a number of bays, viz. Chatham, Charlotte's Harbor, Tampa, Appalachee, Appalachicola, Choctawatchee, and Pensacola bays, all on the W. side. The last affords an excellent harbor. There is also a chain of lakes running through the middle of the state, the largest and most southern of which is Lake Okechobee. The rivers too are numerous, and mostly more or less navigable. In the N.W. is the Perdido, a small river separating Florida from Alabama; followed in order by the Escambia, Blackwater, Yellow-water, Choctawatchee, and Chapels river, but none of great length, and all entering the state from Alabama, discharge their waters into the Gulf of Mexico, with the exception of the Chipola, which is an affluent of the Appalachicola. The latter, (the largest river in the state,) together with the Oclockonee, Oscilla, and Suwanee, enter the state from Georgia, and also flow into the Gulf of Mexico. The St. Mary's, (separating the state from Georgia on the N.,) the St. John's, and Indian river, (or inlet,) are the principal rivers falling into the Atlantic. The St. John's is a broad and sluggish stream, resembling an inlet, and is navigable for vessels drawing eight feet water for more than 100 miles. The Appalachicola is navigable for vessels of the same draught to the junction of the Chattahoochee and Flint. Rivers in this state often issue from the ground with sufficient force to turn a mill at their source.
Objects of Interest to Tourists: About 12 miles from Tallahassee, a spring bursts from a vast depth, which has been sounded with 250 fathoms of line before finding bottom, This forms a lake of beautiful transparency, reflecting the sky in all its hues, and is nearly as cold as ice in the hottest weather, The number of these springs, some of which, at their source, have sufficient force and body to turn a mill, bursting from a great depth below the surface, has led to the conjecture that a vast cave, or series of caves, underlies the whole country in which they exist, and through whose roof they burst with violence, wherever an opening in the rock has either been made or found. The Great Sink in Alachua county is an underground passage, by which the waters of the Alachua-Savannah are supposed to discharge themselves into Orange lake. "In this place," says Bartram, "a group of hills almost surround a large basin, which is the general receptacle of the water draining from every part of the savanna, by lateral conduits, winding about, and one after another joining the main creek or general conductor, which at length delivers them into this sink, where they descend, by slow degrees, through rocky caverns into the bowels of the earth, whence they are carried by secret subterraneous channels into other receptacles and basins. There are three great doors or ventholes through the rocks in the sink, two near the centre, and the other one near the ring, much higher up than the other two, which was conspicuous through the clear water. The beds of rocks lie in horizontal thick strata or lamina, one over the other, where the sink-holes or outlets are." There is a warm and slightly sulphurous spring on Musquito river. In Beaten county are iron and sulphur springs.
Climate, Soil, and Productions: The peninsula of Florida, the most southern land belonging to the United States, approaches within a degree and a half of the torrid zone, of whose climate it largely partakes, and a number of whose productions it yields.
On the night of June 28-29, the coldest known for many years, the thermometer fell to 44°. Bartram, however, states, in 1765, that on the 3d of January, the thermometer fell to 26°, and all the orange-trees were killed. At St. Augustine, the thermometer has sunk on various occasions to 33°, 30°, and 24°; and at Pilatka, in lat. 29° 38', to 28°, and to 27°; at Tampa, lat. 27° 48' to 28°, 26° 40°; 28°, 30°, 38° and 30°. At Fort King, in the interior half a degree S. of St. Augustine, the climate is more severe than on the coast, and ice an inch thick is sometimes seen in its vicinity. The summers, however, are hotter than on the coast. While the minimum range at St. Augustine was 39° and the maximum 92° at Fort King the minimum was 27°, and maximum 105°. The Gulf coast, too, has a more severe winter climate than the Atlantic: the minimum (at the time referred to) was 35°, and maximum 92°, at Tampa bay. From the relative number of deaths occurring annually, it appears that Florida is the most healthy of the United States. The soil of the state is generally sandy, except in the hummocks, where it is mixed with clay; yet, owing to the mild climate, it is highly productive in many parts. The best lands, however, of the state lie useless at present for want of drainage. Florida is particularly well adapted to grazing. Besides the forest and fruit-trees subsequently enumerated, the state produces cotton, Indian corn, sugarcane, rice, tobacco, (of a very fine quality,) beans, peas, sweet potatoes, and butter, in considerable quantities; and some wheat, rye, oats, Irish potatoes, barley, buckwheat, wine, cheese, hay, grass-seed, hops, flax, and silk. This state is also favorable to the growth of Sisal hemp. In 1850 there were 4304 farms in Florida, containing 349,423 acres of improved land, and yielding 1,996,809 bushels of Indian corn; 66,586 of oats; 135,359 of peas and beans; 757,226 of sweet potatoes; 1,075,090 pounds of rice; 998,614 of tobacco; 18,052,400 of cotton; 23,247 of wool; 371,498 of butter; 18,015 of cheese; 2510 tons of hay, and 2,752,000 pounds of sugar; live stock, valued at $2,880,058; market products, $8721, and slaughtered animals, $514,685. Forest-Trees: Florida abounds in forest-trees, among which are the live oak, so valuable in ship-building; the water, and other varieties of oak, swamp cypress, pine, hickory, magnolia, dogwood, and laurel. The palma christi, or castor-oil bean, becomes a large tree; and on the islands and keys, boxwood, satin-wood, mastic, and lignumvitæ abound. Arrowroot grows wild, and ginger and cinnamon may be cultivated. The pine grows from Cape Sable to near Indian river. Fruit-trees of great variety find a congenial Soil and climate in Florida, (except in a few seasons of unusual severity.) The lime, lemon, orange, olive, cocoanut, plantain, pine-apple, banana, guava citron, pimento, coffee, pepper, cloves, &c. may all be successfully cultivated. Animals: Hideous alligators bask on the shores of the inlets, rivers, and lagoons of Florida. Turtle, oysters, and other shell and fin fish abound. Great numbers of wild fowl are found in many parts along the coast.
Manufactures: This is not a manufacturing state. There were in 1850 but 121 establishments producing annually $500 and upwards. There were invested in cotton factories that year $80,000, employing 900 male and 335 female hands; consuming raw material of the value of $30,000, and producing 624,000 yards of stuffs, worth $49,920; value of homemade manufactures, $74,362.
Internal Improvements: Florida has not made much advance in works of internal communication, nor is it to be expected in a state so sparsely populated, and the greater part of whose settlements lie contiguous to some navigable waters. In 1853 there were 54 miles of railway completed, one connecting St. Mark's with Tallahassee, and the other Iola and St. Joseph's.
Commerce: Florida has but little foreign commerce, and its domestic trade is limited pretty much to the export of its products, viz. cotton, rice, live oak and other lumber, pitch, tar, turpentine, and resin. Salt is exported from the Salt Keys, and fish are sent to Cuba. The lumber trade is rapidly increasing in importance. According to De Bow, 188,499 bales of cotton were received at the ports of Florida in 1851-2, nearly all of which was probably exported. The foreign exports for the same year amounted to $2,511,976, and imports to $30,713. Only one small vessel built. Entire tonnage of the several districts, 9668,97. The fisheries are valued at about $15,000 annually. Education: There is no system of free schools in Florida, nor any college. According to the census report in 1850, there were 10 academies and 69 common or public schools. Religious Denominations: Of the 132 churches in Florida, 45 belonged to the Baptists, 10 to the Episcopalians, 1 to the Free Church, 75 to the Methodists, 14 to the Presbyterians, 5 to the Roman Catholics, and 2 to minor sects. Averaging 1 church to each 507 persons. Value of church property, $165,400. Government: The executive power in Florida is vested in a governor elected by the people for four years, and receiving a salary of $1500 a year. The legislative power is placed in the hands of a senate, of 19 members, elected for four years, and a house of representatives, of 40 members, elected annually, and both by popular vote. The judiciary consists, 1. Of a supreme court, composed of a chief and two associate judges, which holds four sessions annually, one in each of the following places: Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Mariana; and, 2. Of four circuit courts. The judges' salaries of both courts are $2000 a year each. Florida has but one member in the national house of representatives, and three electoral votes for president. The assessed value of property in 1850 was $22,784,837; ordinary expenses, $45,000 per annum. History: Florida was the earliest settled of the now existing states of the United States, but was not a part of the territory of the Union till 1820, when it was purchased of Spain. Though so recently become a member of the American confederacy, Florida is more fertile in materials of history than many of her elder sisters. Her territory was visited by Ponce de Leon as early as 1512, and afterwards by Narvaez, who invaded the country from Cuba with 400 men, and penetrating into the interior, was never again beard of. De Soto subdued the savages, after a bloody resistance, in 1539. The French began settlements, but after a struggle, in which mutual atrocities were perpetrated, they were expelled by the Spaniards, who settled St. Augustine (the first permanent colony) about 1565. Previous to the Revolution, Florida was involved in a war with the English colonies of Georgia and South Carolina, in which the Spaniards were defeated by Oglethorpe. At the peace of 1763, Florida fell into the hands of the English, but was reconquered by Spain in 1781. Since its acquisition by the United States, it has been the theatre of many sanguinary conflicts with the Seminole Indians, led on by their daring chief, Osceola. The savages, though but a handful in number, managed to baffle for years the skill and power of our armies, by retreating to their swamps and forests, and it cost the United States government many millions of dollars before they were finally subdued, which event took place in 1842. In 1846, the greater part of them were removed beyond the Mississippi. General Jackson followed these Indians, in 1818, into the then territory of Spain, to chastise them for depredations on the American settlers, took possession of St. Mark's and Appalachicola, besieged the Spanish governor, who had aided the Seminoles, and brought them all to submission. There is a remnant of this tribe still in Florida, who steadfastly resist all offers of the general government to induce them to remove.
The Biography of Simon Barclay Conover
Simon Barclay Conover, senator, was born in Cranbury, N. J., Sept. 23, 1840; son of Samuel and Ann Maria (Barclay) Conover, and grandson of Johnson Conover. He studied medicine at the University of Nashville and was graduated as M.D. in 1864. He joined the Union army as assistant surgeon, was assigned to the army of the Cumberland and stationed at Nashville, Tenn. In 1866 he was ordered to Lake City, Fla., and resigned from the army on being appointed state treasurer by Governor Reed in 1868. He was a member of the State constitutional convention, 1868, a delegate to the Republican national convention at Chicago, and a member of the national committee. At the close of Governor Reed's administration he was elected to the state legislature and was made speaker of the house. He was elected by the legislature of Florida U.S. senator and served 1873-79. In 1880 he was the unsuccessful candidate for governor of the state and resumed his medical practice, afterward removing to Montana where he was an invalid in 1899.
From: Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans,
Johnson, Rossiter, editor
William P. Duval Biography
William P. Duval, governor of Florida, was born in Virginia in 1781; son of Major William Duval, an officer of the Revolutionary army, grandson of a member of the house of burgesses, and great-grandson of a French Huguenot who settled in Virginia. He was taken to Kentucky when a boy and was there educated and admitted to the bar. He served as a captain in the war against the Indians in 1812 and was a representative in the 13th congress, 1813-15. He was appointed governor of Florida Territory by President Monroe and continued in office by Presidents Adams and Jackson, serving 1822-34. He practiced law in Bairdstown, Ky., 1815-22, and 1834-48. He removed to Texas in 1848 and died while on a visit to Washington, D.C., March 19, 1854.
From: Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans,
Johnson, Rossiter, editor
The Biography of Francis Philip Fleming
Francis Philip Fleming, governor of Florida, was born at Panama, Duval county, Fla., Sept. 28, 1841; son of Col. Lewis and Margaret (Seton) Fleming; grandson of George Fleming, a native of Ireland, who settled in Florida about 1783, and of Charles and Matilda (Sibbald) Seton; and great-grandson of Andrew and Margaret Seton of New York. He was educated by private tutors. At the beginning of the civil war he enlisted in Capt. John W. Starke's company of Florida volunteers, which was soon after incorporated into the 2d Florida regiment, and in July, 1861, left for the battle-fields of Virginia. In August, 1863, he was promoted 1st lieutenant in the 1st Florida cavalry in the army of Tennessee, and served until the end of the war. He was admitted to the bar in 1868 and practised in Jacksonville. He was married May 23, 1871, to Floride Lydia Pearson. In 1888 he was elected governor of Florida, and one of his first acts was to establish a state board of health. He was succeeded in 1893 by Henry L. Mitchell, and returned to the practice of his profession.
From: Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans,
Johnson, Rossiter, editor
Local History and Genealogy Links:
Tree: Sabal palm (cabbage palmetto)
Flower: orange blossom
Nickname: Sunshine State
Motto: In God We Trust
Area (sq. mi.): 58,560
Admitted: 3 Mar 1845