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Title: Ante-bellum Tallahassee
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Title: Ante-bellum Tallahassee
Series Title: Ante-bellum Tallahassee
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
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        Front Cover 3
    Front Matter
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    Title Page
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    Table of Contents
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Full Text



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tII:II' 1B

I 2 21 eI





Capitole de Tallahassee (Floride)
From Vues et Souvenirs de TAmerique du Nord, 1842
Ubrar of 0Coae

by Bertram H. Groene
Florida Heritage Foundation, Tallahassee, 1971

/ p



Robert Manning Strozier Library

AUG 12 1974

Tallahassee, Florida


Copyright @ 1971 by
Florida Heritage Foundation
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 78-181521
Printed by Rose Printing Company, Inc., Tallahassee, Florida

.. r

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ...................................... 1
1. In The Beginning ................................... 3
2. The First Years ...................................... 13
3. "A Sure Foundation" ............................... 25
4. A Planter's Society .................................. 41
5. The Scourge of a Plague ........................... 51
6. The Fire and After .................................... 59
7. The Mailsl Where Are The Mails? ................... 69
8. The Coming of the Iron Horse ...................... 83
9. We Must Have An Orderly Society .................... 93
10. Violence and the Frontier .......................... 105
11. Religion Comes to Tallahassee ...................... 119
12. A Little Learning ................................. 131
13. A Gay Life ........................................ 143
14. The Circus Came To Town :............."........... 157
Illustrations ..................... between pages 110 and 111
Appendices .......................................... 169
Notes ................................................ 181
Bibliography ........................................... 211
Index ................................................ 225


A NTE-BELLUM TALLAHASSEE was first conceived as a
doctoral dissertation by the author in conjunction with the late
Professor Weymouth Tyree Jordan of Florida State University. He
sustained both the author and his manuscript through three long
years of research and writing. It was through the continued efforts
of Mr. Malcolm Johnson, Editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, that
this book was published. He also helped the author alter the
original manuscript and spent considerable time in directing style
changes to round out a new and more readable history; therefore,
this book is his as well. To Mrs. Marguerite Neel Williams, of
Thomasville, Georgia, and the Florida Heritage Foundation, is
due the credit for their interest and cooperation in making this
history of our capital available to the public.
The writer of a history such as this must have many friends
and much help. The author wishes especially to thank the fol-
lowing persons: Mr. and Mrs. Allen Morris for locating and pro-
viding illustrative material; Mrs. Ellen Bone, Thesis and Disserta-
tion Director, Florida State University, and Mrs. Gertrude Roche,
Florida State University Library Microfilm Director, for their
technical and moral support; and Mrs. John W. Henderson for
being a warm friend and source of original material. The help of
the staff of the University of Florida's P. K. Yonge Florida Col-
lection, as well as the staffs of the Robert Manning Strozier Li-
brary, Florida State University, the Florida Supreme Court Li-
brary and the Florida State Library all must be acknowledged.
There were other libraries and many other friends, who had a
part. This history, then, is the result of many hands and hearts.
I thank them all and may this book be some small reward for
their help and many kindnesses to me.
Hammond, Louisiana 1971

1. In the Beginning

O N THE MORNING of April 9, 1824, John Mclver of
North Carolina, with another man, two women, two children,
and a mulatto man, worked his wagon up the gentle slope of a
hill that commanded the surrounding Apalachee Country. McIver
then moved half way down the southern slope of this hill or
ridge to near a waterfall that cascaded twenty or thirty feet into
a pool 200-feet wide. Here, within sound of the falls, he pitched
his tents. In two days the McIver family had built a roof of sorts
over themselves and their furniture. That evening Judge Jonathan
Robinson and Sherrod McCall arrived with slaves from the
judge's plantation on Little River, a tributary of the Ochlockonee.
The judge's slaves felled the trees for a clearing at the top of
the hill. They then began constructing three log buildings in the
stump-filled clearing in preparation for the third Legislative
Council for the Territory of Florida which was expected to meet
in this wilderness the following month.
The hill and plateau upon which the Melvers and Judge
Robinson and his party began their buildings was to become
not only that point from which the wilderness village of Talla-
hassee was to develop but the center from which the control
and development of the wild frontier of Florida was directed
through legislative decrees.
The "Tallahassee country," by which the surrounding hills
and flat lands was known, comprised all of what is modern Leon,
Wakulla and Jefferson counties. The northern boundary was
the piney woods of South Georgia. To the east was the Aucilla
River which how forms the boundary between Madison and
Jefferson counties. The Gulf of Mexico was the southern bound-
ary. The western boundary was formed by the winding Ochlock-
onee River which slanted southwest out of Georgia to begin at


4 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
the latitude of Tallahassee a broad 40-mile crescent sweep west-
ward then easterly to Apalachee Bay on the Gulf. In all, the
Tallahassee or "Apalachee Country" comprised roughly 1,800
square miles.
Early travelers to the territory of the Floridas were im-
pressed with the region. In 1773 the internationally known na-
turalist William Bartram described, as a botanist would, the
general area as being unusually fertile for the growing of cotton,
rice and corn.' Captain Hugh Young, a United States topograph-
ical engineer with Andrew Jackson's army in 1818, wrote with
enthusiasm of Apalachee's excellent streams which ran all sum-
mer, and of the fertile high hammock land. There was luxuriant
growth of grass and many sinks filled with clear water.2
Few early admirers of the Tallahassee country were to be
outdone by Judge Henry M. Brackenridge's inviting description
of Apalachee published in a March 1827 issue of The Pensacola
Gazette and West Floridian Advertiser:
In appearance it is entirely unlike any part of the United
States, so near the seaboard yet it resembles the high land
above the falls of the rivers in the Atlantic States . . The
largest of the lakes are called the Imonia, Jackson and Micka-
suki, each from thirty to forty miles in circumference and
which abound in fish, Trout, Bream, Perch and soft-shelled
turtle: and in Winter with Wild fowl.3
The judge continued his description with an obvious eye toward"
attracting the wealthy planter element of Virginia and Mary-
land. It would have been a hard-souled planter indeed who would
not have been stirred to longing when the judge wrote:
.. .The natural open groves of hickory, beech, oak and
magnolia surpass in magnificence the proudest parks of the
English nobility . . The soil of the uplands bears a strong
resemblance to the best part of Prince George's County, Mary-
land; and the face of the country is not unlike the South
side of the Potomac, opposite Washington City.
The judge wrote on:
In the valleys there is a much heavier growth of timber and
frequently deep cane brakes. There are also grassy ponds sur-
rounded by glades. The soil of the uplands as well as in the
valley is adapted to the culture of sugar cane, rice, Sea Island
cotton and Indian Corn . the Strawberry, the wild grape
and plum are found everywhere.



6 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
for what was to become Tallahassee and its mirage of gold and
On St. John's Day, December 27, footsore, hungry and with
galled shoulders from carrying armor, Narvaez and his army ar-
rived at Apalachen where they had been told there was much
food and gold.7 Cabeza, one survivor of the expedition, said of
Apalachen and the surrounding territory:
The town consisted of forty small houses low and of
thatch . . Throughout are immense trees and open
woods . . There are many lakes great and small, and
much larger than those we found before coming here. In this
province are many maize fields; and the houses are scattered.
There are deer of three kinds ... .It has fine pastures of
herds . geese in great number, royal ducks, night herons
and partridges.8
Narvaez lingered in this lake region of Apalachee for 25 days
fighting off constant attacks by the Indians. Toward the end of
July, discouraged in finding no gold and under continual Indian
harassment, he left the Tallahassee area and marched south to
Aute (St. Marks) and the eventual destruction of his expedi-
tion.9 They built crude boats in an effort to reach Mexico by
sea, but were swamped in a storm and nearly all were lost.
Eleven years passed before Europeans again sought the gold
mines of Apalachee. Late in May 1539, Hernando de Soto landed
at Tampa Bay with more than 600 men and about 250 horses.
De Soto's success as a conquistador was far different from that
of Narvaez. De Soto had accumulated great wealth in Peru
while serving under Francisco Pizarro-enough to retire in afflu-
ence and honor at the age of 39. Instead, De Soto, now the
governor of Cuba, sought still more riches and recognition. In
August, anxious Indians at Tampa Bay directed De Soto toward
the province of Apalachee and its mythical wealth. On the fourth
of October the expedition crossed the Aucilla River and entered
Apalachee; and on Monday, the sixth of October, this bold Euro-
pean expedition reached Iniahica Apalache near Tallahassee,
"where the lord of all that country and province resided."10 Here
De Soto and his entourage spent the winter in a village of 250 well
built houses in the midst of a plentiful supply of maize, pump-
kins, beans and dried plums-but, alas, no .gold. Communication
with Havana was established during the winter by means of
an Indian trail to Aute and from there by ship to Cuba. In March

-- - ---


In the Beginning 7
1540, De Soto left to hunt gold in Georgia and to the west."
He discovered the Mississippi River, and was slain there by
Indians, but the Spanish kept their hands on Florida.
In 1573, eight years after he had founded St. Augustine, Pedro
Menendez de Aviles introduced the first Franciscan missionaries
into Florida. By 1675, at the height of the Franciscan mission
system, there were 34 missions along the Atlantic coast from
Florida to Georgia and extending in a second line westward
from St. Augustine to Tallahassee.12 Considering the agricultural
wealth of Apalachee, it was only natural that the Spanish mission
system should become centered in the region. Mission activity
commenced in the Tallahassee area around 1633. San Luis de
Talimali, or de Apalachee, a Spanish blockhouse and mission
about a mile west of the present Florida State University campus,
must have been founded between that time and 1655, when its
name appears in a list of missions.13
Before any fort was built in the Tallahassee area, the Spanish
colonial government had, for some time, kept a lieutenant and
a few enlisted men in Apalachee to see that trade was honest
and to protect the missions. The long overdue fort of San Marcos
de Apalachee at St. Marks was not built until around 1677, some
35 years or so later than the establishment of San Luis.14
By 1675 San Luis was the center of Spanish colonial activity
in western Florida. A Spanish official, Juan FernAndez de Flo-
rencia, wrote in that year that the village of San Luis, head-
quarters of the deputy governor, had a population of 1,400 persons.
Another official wrote that the mission of San Luis had a military
officer in a country house defended by cannon and a garrison
of infantry.15
By 1675 the Apalachee missions were flourishing as they never
had before nor would at any time afterward. There were 14
missions with a population of 8,000 persons, a few Spaniards
but mostly converted Indians."1 Two of the missions can be
located within the city limits of modern Tallahassee: San Luis,
two miles west of the capitol on San Luis Ridge, and Purificaci6n
de la Tama, built in 1675 probably on the hill half a mile south-
east of the capitol known to ante-bellum Tallahasseeans as
"Houstoun's Hill."17 The first territorial settlers in 1824 found
considerable evidence of a large European-type settlement there.
There were regularly laid out streets at right angles to one an-


8 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
other, shade trees, grape arbors, and a number of plum trees.
Ellen Call Long, one of Tallahassee's grande dames and a his-
torian, remembered that near the Cascade on Houstoun's Hill
Governor DuVal had built a home within the walls of a fort and
had lived there for many years.18 Near the governor's house the
first Tallahassee residents also found large spikes, locks, keys,
hinges, and a fascinating porcelain chimney piece.19 Spanish priests
had probably built some type of brick structure on the same
hill as the capitol, for mortared bricks were dug up nearby.20
When the forerunners of today's Tallahasseeans first arrived
at the capital the old Spanish trail was still visible and ran
directly through Capitol Square on its way to Mission San Luis.21
This road had been traveled for 150 years before the first settlers
built their cabins and stores around the square. The road had
begun in St. Augustine. From there it had gone for miles in an
almost direct line through stretches of virgin pines and hardwood
hammocks, skirting swamps that were impassable.
The first decade of the 1700's brought disaster to the Spanish
settlements in Apalachee. Queen Anne's England was plunged
into war against France and Spain over the right of Louis XIV's
grandson to ascend the throne of Spain. This war, an ocean away,
soon spilled over into the English and Spanish territories of the
new world. In 1702 Governor James Moore of South Carolina cap-
tured and sacked St. Augustine but failed to take the fort. This
fiasco threw considerable doubt on the bravery of the governor
and cast a cloud over his honor. The Spanish redoubled their
efforts and encouraged their Timucuan and Apalachee Indian
allies to raid into British-held Georgia. In 1703 Governor Moore,
in an effort to salvage his damaged reputation, applied to the
South Carolina legislature for funds to raise an army to attack
the Spanish settlements in west Florida. The legislators, with
memory of Moore's St. Augustine failure still fresh in their minds,
refused his request. Grim and determined, Moore gathered 50
white volunteers about him and set out for Georgia where he
enlisted an additional 1,000 Creek braves.22 With his Indian
army, Moore dropped down out of Georgia by way of the Flint
River and on January 25, 1704, began his attack by destroying
the mission of Concepci6n de Ayubale some 20 miles east of
San Luis. The Spanish garrison at San Luis, under Deputy Gov-
ernor Juan Ruiz de Mexia, rushed to the rescue of distant Ayubale.


In the Beginning 9
All were captured or killed; some of the prisoners were burned
at the stake.23 Moore ravaged Apalachee, destroying missions,
fortifications, and villages. He later reported to the South Caro-
lina legislature that he had totally destroyed all the people of
four towns and that he was bringing back to South Carolina,
ostensibly at their own request, 300 Indian men and 1,000 women
and children. He was also bringing back 325 males and 4,000
women and children as slaves. All of this, Moore crowed, he
accomplished with the loss of only four whites and 15 Indians-
and, he added, "Without one penny charge to the publick."24
Although Fort San Luis was hot taken by Moore and his
Indian army, the severe damage he did to the other missions in
Apalachee discouraged the Spaniards. They evacuated the fort
and blew it up with a delayed-action fuse setting off gunpowder
charges that killed many curious Creek raiders who were crowd-
ing into the vacant fort. Purificaci6n de la Tama on Houstoun's
Hill also was destroyed, most likely by the Spanish who burned
it to keep it from falling into the hands of the enemy.25
So it was that the depopulation of old Apalachee came about.
Those Indians not carried north became fugitives among friendly
tribes of eastern Florida or in the west.26 Even after Moore re-
turned to South Carolina many of the Creek warriors remained
to destroy what little was left. They burned all of the vacant
villages and killed and ate the domesticated animals left behind.
When nothing was left they turned north once again into Georgia,
whence they had come.27 All that remained of the Spanish settle-
ments were burned foundations and an occasional bare standing
wall of a house, fort or chapel before a weed-grown patio. All
traces of the Indian houses were gone, and, with the exception
of the main trail, a maze of over-grown foot and wagon paths
led from nowhere to nowhere. Broad stretches of abandoned
cornfields crowded around the great savannahs of Ocalquibe
(Lake Jackson), La Harmonia (Lake Iamonia), Lake Micco-
suckee and the rest. The vacant fields spread on between the
hammocks and over the rolling bill country around the future
capital and the Indians named it all appropriately "Tallahassee,"
which means the land of the old fields or abandoned villages.
Twelve years after the mass exodus from Apalachee a
wandering Spaniard, Diego Pefia, journeyed through the Talla-
hassee area. Later in writing about it he made notations of this

10 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
or that Chicaza (old field or old town) as being rich in fig, peach,
and other fruit trees. On the wide prairie of Ocalquibe (Lake
Jackson) he saw a herd of 300 cattle and buffalo grazing in the
water. Animal life was returning to the Tallahassee country,
and he spoke of the deserted land with a nostalgia that many
Spaniards must have felt.28
Just when it was that the Creeks and Seminoles overcame their
reluctance to move into the lands of the dead and vanquished
Spanish and Apalachees is not known for certain. There are indi-
cations that they began to arrive about 1735-some 30 years
after the earlier civilization had been devastated.
In 1763, by the Treaty of Paris, France and her Spanish ally
acknowledged defeat by the English and became the losers in
the French and Indian, or Seven Years, War. During this war
England with her naval superiority had captured Havana, Spain's
stronghold in the Caribbean. Spain, anxious to regain Havana,
traded all of Florida for the town.
In 1763 England took possession of her new territory and in
1767 sent George Gauld, an English cartographer, together with
Lieutenant Philip Pittman, to chart Apalachee Bay and the
Tallahassee country. Gauld's map is the earliest yet discovered
that bears the name Tallahassee. On this map there appears an
Indian town at the western end of Lake Jackson bearing the
name Tallahassee or Tonaby's Town. The future site of Talla-
hassee lies in an area labeled Old Fields.29 Three years later
Joseph Purcell, on orders from the British Superintendent of
Indian Affairs, reconnoitered the Indian paths that led from
Pensacola to Tallahassee. His map locates an Indian town, Talla-
hassee Taloofa or Old Field Town, on the future site of the
capital.30 Purcell had the distinction of walking through a town
called Tallahassee 54 years before the founding of the city of
the same name. He remembered the village as having 36 houses,
a square, 16 families, 30 gunmen and a head man named Tonaby.
Visible signs of a Spanish civilization remained and Purcell re-
corded what he saw. Through the high pine and oak land of
the old field were old carriage roads worn two feet deep in
places. There were the ruins of forts, chapels and other buildings.
Cannon and church bells were lying about. Remnants of cause-
ways and bridges were reported.31
In 1783, at the close of the American Revolution, a defeated

-L Y

In the Beginning 11
England returned Florida to Spain, which was an ally of the
united colonies during the war. Since the earliest days of Spanish
rule the western boundary of Florida had been the Mississippi
River; the eastern boundary, the Atlantic seaboard. In September,
1810, a small group of American settlers arose in revolt and
captured the Spanish fort at Baton Rouge. They raised a blue
flag with a single silver star and proclaimed the Republic of
West Florida. President Madison quickly accepted the "Republic's"
request for annexation and occupied the territory between the
Mississippi and the Pearl Rivers. In April 1813, during the war
of 1812, the United States captured Mobile. The western
boundary of Spanish Florida now shrank to the Perdido River,
the present day coastal boundary between Alabama and Florida.
In November 1814, impulsive Andrew Jackson temporarily oc-
cupied Pensacola against Secretary of State Monroe's orders,
then left his prize to march toward Louisiana and historic im-
mortality at the Battle of New Orleans. Four years later, in
1818, General Jackson arrived in the Tallahassee country at the
head of an army to defeat the Creeks and Seminoles, whose
villages now crowded around the lakes. The old fields were no
longer deserted, although the name remained. The area was so
populated by now that the Indians had a saying that "you could
hear the cocks crow from one [village] to the other," so the
general area of Apalachee was also known as the Fowl Towns.
Of the six largest towns one was known as Old Tallahassee. It
was in the center of the Fowl Towns and was probably near
the west end of Lake Tallahassee (Lafayette).32
In March 1818, John Banks, a volunteer in Jackson's army
of 1,000 militia, regulars and Indians, wrote that he and his
comrades entered "a town called Tallahassee," which had been
abandoned by the Indians. "We burned this town," wrote Private
Banks, and then he and his companions marched off to fight
the Indians at "Mackasooky." The only life that they had found
in Tallahassee town was an old dying Indian squaw abandoned
by her people.33
It was during this foray into Florida that General Jackson
arrested the British traders, Alexander Arbuthnot and Robert C.
Ambrister, and had them tried by court martial at St. Marks for
spying and inciting the Indians. Arbuthnot was hanged; Ambrister,
shot. This provoked an international furore. Henry Clay led a


12 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
congressional investigation. He accused Jackson of usurping the
power of Congress to declare war, and of various command ex-
cesses. Jackson's action, backed by popular opinion, was sustained
by the House; but the issue arose time and again during Jackson's
later political career.
The arrival of Andrew Jackson in Apalachee marked the
end of 186 years of Spanish, English, Creek and Seminole occu-
pation of the region. The Adams-Onis Treaty negotiations were
reluctantly concluded by the Madrid government in February
1821. Just as reluctantly, Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel,
both of whom disliked Florida, moved into the seat of govern-
ment at Pensacola. Jackson had accepted the governorship of
Florida only to reward his friends with government positions.
Old Hickory grew to dislike his governorship to the point that
in later life he honestly believed that his appointment as governor
was contrived by his enemies to discredit him and to keep him
out of the political arena. The Jacksons stayed in Pensacola only
a few months then left for their beloved Hermitage in Tennessee.
Jackson resigned in December of the same year."4 It was not
a very auspicious start for a new territory.

2. The First Years

THE NEW TEITORY of Florida, so quickly aban-
doned by its first governor, had other troubles. The territorial
statutes held no provisions for a permanent seat of government.
The legislative meetings were to alternate between the two
former Spanish provincial capitals, St. Augustine and Pensacola.
The first territorial legislative council met in Pensacola in July
1822 under very difficult circumstances. Members from various
parts of the territory found traveling to Pensacola dangerous
and exhausting. It usually took three weeks by horseback under
the most favorable conditions to travel from East to West
Florida, sometimes by roads of the most primitive character and
much of the time by no roads at all. To avoid the hardship of
such a trip a group of East Florida legislators boarded the
sloop, Lady Washington, late in May 1822. They finally arrived
in Pensacola on July 7, almost a month late for the meeting. One
legislator, Thomas Lytle, in another vessel, was lost at sea.1
Scarcely had the Council sat when a yellow fever epidemic drove
its members from Pensacola to the house of Don Manuel Gon-
zales, 15 miles out of the city, where they reconvened. In spite
of this precaution James C. Bronaugh, president of the Council,
caught the dreaded disease and died. Bronaugh was later hon-
ored by having a street in the new capital named after him.
A few months after this first session, Virginia-born Governor
William P. DuVal, who had succeeded Jackson, wrote a letter
to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams suggesting that a
permanent site for the capital be selected somewhere between
St. Augustine and Pensacola.2
The second Legislative Council met in St. Augustine in
May 1823. This time the Pensacola delegation had a difficult
time reaching St. Augustine, and transporting the necessary

14 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
records by wagon from Pensacola to the new meeting place was
expensive, inconvenient and hazardous.3 Under these conditions
the legislators eagerly took up DuVals suggestion and passed
an act that read in part:

There shall be appointed two commissioners, one . for
East Florida . and one for . West Florida . . The
Commissioners . shall meet at St. Marks . on the first
of October 1823 and . explore . all . of the country ...
between the Ocklockny River on the West, and the Suwannee
River on the East . . That the . Commissioners . are
hereby authorized . to select the most eligible and con-
venient situation for the seat of Government for the Territory
of Florida.4
The commissioners chosen by Governor DuVal were Dr. William
H. Simmons of St. Augustine and John Lee Williams, a promi-
nent lawyer of Pensacola.
The Tallahassee country which the commissioners were to
Investigate was, by 1823, not a complete wilderness. First, there
was the old Spanish fort and garrison of San Marcos de Apalachee,
or St. Marks, at the junction of the Apalachie (Wakulla) and
St. Marks rivers. There was a small auxiliary settlement just
north of the fort. There were also a few plantation owners who
had settled on the rich lands lying on either side of the Little
River, a western branch of the Ochlockonee. Judge Jonathan
-Robinson and Sherrod McCall, who were to construct the log
cabin capitol building the following April, were from this region.
There was a plank bridge across the Little River built by the
army, and a ferry across the Ochlockonee run by William Ellis.
Then, there were the Indians, several hundred of them.
Dr. Simmons, carrying out the orders of the Legislative
Council, left St. Augustine on September 26, and with two
guides and two pack horses set out for St. Marks. He arrived
there 15 days later, after what his journal describes as a rather
uneventful and for the most part pleasant trip. After reaching
St. Marks, Dr. Simmons fretted for eight days awaiting his
colleague, Williams. In search of Williams, Simmons set out
on October 18 with the St. Marks post commander, Captain
William L. McClintock, for Judge Robinson's plantation on
Little River. On the twenty-fifth Williams finally arrived at the

The First Years 15
William's sea voyage from Pensacola to St. Marks, a trip
of perhaps 250 miles, lasted for 25 weary and frustrating days.
Williams and a companion, Dr. Charles E. Foster, set out in a
small sailboat operated by a Captain Ellis and his boy, George.
They left on a windy September 30, 1823, with one gun, pro-
visions for 30 days, and no maps or charts of any kind. By day
they sailed eastward hugging the coast. At night they camped
on the nearest peninsula or island. On October 5 the Captain
and Williams had their first of many arguments. One week
later, at St. Georges Island, a storm temporarily sank their small
boat. In three more days their food supply was exhausted; they
survived on oysters and crabs. By the 19th, Williams could no
longer stand the presence of the Captain nor his "eternal, un-
necessary delays." So, taking his few supplies, Williams left
the boat and his three companions and struck out alone on
foot across St. James Island. The island is bounded on the north
by the Ochlockonee and Crooked Rivers; its south shore forms
Alligator Point and harbor. Williams wandered for five days
over the island looking for a way to cross to the mainland. On the
23rd he barely managed in his weakened condition to cross the
Ochlockonee on a makeshift raft of driftwood. When Williams
landed on the shore he found his companions and the boat
waiting for him. Exhausted and half blind from fatigue, hunger
and thirst the commissioner finally consented to ride in the boat
once more. On the following day, October 24, they arrived at
Fort St. Marks.6
From the beginning of the investigation of the Tallahassee
area as a capital site Simmons complained of not having been
furnished with any money by the territory. Considering that
the traveling was difficult and expensive, it was impossible
for him and Williams to undertake the minute survey contem-
plated by the Council. On October 27 the commissioners, with
William Ellis for a guide, set out to investigate the Tallahassee
territory. The next day the party arrived at the "new Tallahassee
Village," where they encountered Neamathla, the most important
chief in the area. Neamathla was understandably disturbed on
learning of the nature of the visit of the commissioners. The
next day they visited "old Tallahassee" where Chifixico was the
chief. Here the chief picked up a handful of dirt, held it out
and angrily declared that this was his land.7 Three days later the


16 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
party came to the edge of what was later known to Tallahasseeans
as the Cascade. Williams described it as, "a deep gulf which
had been scooped out by a stream entering the Earth .. a
hole fourteen feet deep . .. The stream, which falls into this
gulf over a bank twenty or thirty feet in height, is sufficiently
large to turn an overshot mill."8
Williams was enchanted and delighted with the beauty of
the Cascade and the surrounding forests and hills. He was ready
at once to choose this immediate vicinity for the site of the
capital. Dr. Simmons was not. He represented the East Florid-
ians, and the closer to St. Augustine that a capital could be
chosen the better. Simmons insisted the area near the deep
mouth of the Suwannee River was a far superior location for
the capital. The doctor stood his ground and persuaded Williams
to accompany him on a trip to the Suwannee by boat before
he would cast his vote.9 Another sea expedition followed and
proved to be almost as poorly organized as William's trip from
Pensacola to Fort St. Marks. Williams, Simmons and two oars-
men in a pirogue from the fort rowed away to the east on the
morning of November 6. Six days later the voyagers returned
after an aimless, wandering trip in which they were not even
able to find the broad mouth of the Suwannee River.
One inescapable fact stands out. Dr. Simmons's patience and
enthusiasm for his job were gone. He apparently wished only
to get rid of the business at hand and return to St. Augustine.
He had abandoned the cause of the East Floridians whom he
represented and cast his vote for the Tallahassee country. The
man most responsible for the location of Tallahassee was John
Lee Williams-but there is no street or monument to his memory
in the city.
Four months later, on March 4, 1824, Governor DuVal is-
sued a proclamation stating that the appointed commissioners
had selected a site, "about a mile southwest from the old de-
serted fields of Tallahassee, [and] about a half a mile south of
the Oke-lock-o-ny and Tallahassee trail, at the point where the
old Spanish Road is intersected by a small trail running south-
wardly."10 Two and a half months later, on May 24, an act of
Congress set aside a quarter section of land for the capital and
three more quarter-sections in reserve. On June 21 DuVal left
St. Augustine for St. Marks.

_ _I~~

1I _

The First Years 17
Governor DuVal was not slow in promoting the development
of the new capital. Perhaps his effort to hurry along the capitol's
construction was a belated attempt to repair his damaged repu-
tation, for at first he was not a popular governor. DuVal had
succeeded Jackson as governor of Florida on May 8, 1822.
At first DuVal had shown only slight interest in his assignment
and spent little time in the territory. He appeared to have as little
interest in his job and the territory in general as had his predecessor.
In November 1822, after only two months in Pensacola, DuVal
left for his home in Kentucky, leaving territorial secretary Col.
George Walton in charge of his affairs. DuVal reluctantly re-
turned to his duties in Florida in March of the following year,
only after a letter from Secretary of State Adams sternly ordered
him to do so." It was the opinion of many that the Kentuckian
was unfit for his position. Even Andrew Jackson considered DuVal
a lawyer "of very moderate capacity."12 DuVal was also very tem-
permental and showed favoritism toward his friends which won
him additional enemies at a time when he needed all the friends
he could gather. Rumors spread that he planned to stay in Flor-
ida only during the legislative council sessions and had no in-
tention of moving his family from Kentucky.13
On the other hand, Prince Achille Murat, one of Tallahassee's
earliest and most notable citizens, liked the little governor and
whomever Murat liked he stood up for. He said that DuVal
was an "excellent man," who had the prettiest daughter and
the best applejack in the whole countryside.14
Things began to move faster when DuVal returned. During
the summer months he built a log cabin within the walls and
foundations of the old Spanish fort on Houstoun's Hill. Here he
later built a home, fine by pioneer standards, where he was to
live for many years. The location was in a beautiful grove of
oaks overlooking the Cascade." It was also during this summer
that the governor partially redeemed himself in the eyes of many
Floridians as a man worthy of his office. The affair concerned
the gathering together of the Creek and Seminole Indians of
Florida on reservations to allow the white settlers to move onto
the superior lands of the Indians. In September 1823, at the
treaty grounds of Moultrie Creek some five miles below St.
Augustine the major Florida tribes had signed away the birth-
right to their ancestral lands' for a pittance. The sum total given


18 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
the Florida Indians for their homeland was $221,000. This
amounted to three-fourth of a cent per acre.16 In addition, the
Indians were consigned to reservations, and white soldiers and
forts were provided to keep them there. During the summer
when DuVal was settling within the Spanish fort on Houstoun's
Hill, Neamathla, who had signed the Moultrie Creek Treaty
much against his will, began stirring his braves to resist the
whites moving into his beloved Tallahassee country, treaty or
no. Immediately the plucky little governor, trailed only by a
lone interpreter, rode into Neamathla's village and delivered
a stern and threatening speech to the amazed chief and his 300
hostile braves. DuVal ended by demanding that Neamathla and
his men come to a meeting at St. Marks on the 26th of July to
settle the issue once and for all. DuVal's daring paid off. At
the appointed meeting the governor destroyed Neamathla's in-
fluence by deposing him and naming cooperative Tuckose
Emathla, or John Hicks as he was known to the whites, as chief
of all of the Indians west of the Suwannee River.
During the late summer and early fall more settlers and of-
ficials began arriving and throwing up temporary shelters on
the forest-crowded, stumped-filled clearings where a territorial
capital was fast taking shape. Among these first arrivals was
Colonel Robert Butler, Andrew Jackson's old military aide and
close friend from Tennessee. President Monroe had appointed
Butler to the lucrative position of surveyor general for the Terri-
tory of Florida. The colonel had his surveyor's office built on or
near the site of the present Supreme Court building. He then
set about organizing the survey of the town. In the absence of
DuVal, who was in St. Marks about his Indian business, Col.
George Walton, territorial secretary and acting governor, chose
the exact location for the first quarter section that was to be
called Tallahassee.17 This, incidentally, was to be the point from
which all future surveys in Florida were to be taken. The original
city was confined to one-fourth of a square mile. Completely
surrounding this one-fourth square mile was a 200-foot cleared
strip. Tradition has it that this cleared area was a sort of in-
surance against a surprise attack by the Indians from any di-
rection. A striking present-day reminder of this old border is
Park Avenue, a divided street with a park in the middle. This
used to be called McCarty, or, more comnionly, the "200-Foot


The First Years 19
During the fall and winter of 1824 the Legislative Council
moved into the temporary two-story log cabin capitol. On De-
cember 11 the Council officially christened the village "Talla-
hassee," although it was not incorporated for another year.'s At
that time the Council also made provision for building a perma-
nent capitol to replace their rude meeting house. The money
for the building, the Tallahassee Fund, was to be raised from
the sale of lots within the city. The new capitol was not begun
for another two years and the alleged graft and corruption sur-
rounding the Tallahassee Fund was good political conversation
and ammunition for years after the fund had ceased to exist.19
DuVal in his opening message to the Legislative Council
had presented three plans of his own design for the capitol, one
of which was apparently accepted by the council members.20
DtiVal's plan located the town about the Capitol Square. Diag-
onally opposite to the northwest, northeast, southeast, and south-
west covers were public parks or squares-Wayne, Washington,
Green, and Jackson. The two main north-south streets that
flanked Capitol Square on the east and west were named for
President James Monroe and Secretary of State John Quincy
Adams, who held office when Florida became a territory in 1821.
Pensacola and St. Augustine, the two main east-west streets that
flanked Capitol Square on the north and south, were named
for the two largest towns in the territory. Bronough was named
after James C. Bronaugh, Andrew Jackson's personal army sur-
geon and first president of the Council, who had died of yellow
fever during its first meeting in Pensacola. Both Gen. Edmund
P. Gaines and James Gadsden, who had served with Jackson,
were also honored with street names. Clinton may have been
in honor of New York statesman Dewitt Clinton or after George
Clinton, vice president for both Jefferson and Madison. McCarty,
or 200-Foot Street, the northern boundary of the city, was named
for William W. McCarty, the second secretary of the territory.
The eastern boundary was the prime meridian line, the southern
boundary, the base line, but in those days they had no names.
The western boundary, Bolivar, honored that South American
liberator; the name now has been corrupted to "Boulevard."
The man who actually staked out the streets, lots and squares
of old Tallahassee according to DuVals plans was a surveyor
named Benjamin F. Tennille. When Tennille had finished his
work there were 322 lots, All of which were to be sold to raise

L __~_i___

20 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
money for the new capitol building.21 The sale of lots within
the city dragged on for 20 years with the Tallahassee Fund still
in the red. The state treasurer was finally forced to sell parts
of eight sections of land around the city to pay off the fund's
debts and lay it to rest in December 1845. The Tallahassee Fund
was dead at long last, but not forgotten.
Tallahassee was incorporated in 1825. It would take 15 years
and three more incorporations for the town to assume the one-
square-mile shape which it retained well into the twentieth cen-
After the third Legislative Council in 1824 had established
the capital, provided for a state house and surveyed the land,
the next order of business was to sell the idea of the Tallahassee
country as a new land of promise. The northern papers were
soon receiving Robert Butler's notice that, "19 miles north of St.
Marks near 3 navigable streams [Ochlockonee, St. Marks, and
the Wakulla], is a fine fertile country growing sugar cane, and
Sea Island cotton and watered by a never failing stream and
fine springs." Butler added that the terms were 6 percent down
on city lots with the remainder to be paid over a three-year
The word of the new land and new opportunities began to
reach the planters and farmers of North Carolina, Virginia and
Maryland. The migration to the Tallahassee country began in
the same way that settlers later were to flood into Texas in the
1830's and still later into California and Oregon. A few days
after the log legislative buildings and McIver's cottage were
built, the first general store was constructed. In July the gov-
ernor's residence went up in the Spanish ruins. By October Charles
Pindar had a house on Adams Street directly opposite Capitol
Square and small dwellings had sprung up like mushrooms among
the stumps. It was here in Pindar's Adam Street home from
October 4 to 7 that Judge Augustus B. Woodward presided
over the first Middle District Superior Court session in Talla-
hassee.24 Pioneer John Mclver was appointed court crier and
Ambrose Crane, court clerk. In those four days no cases were
brought before Woodward; and Crane, bored after three days
of inactivity, resigned on the 6th. Judge Woodward adjourned
his court the following day for lack of business.25
Tallahassee was not to maintain for long a reputation of

The First Years 21
peace and quiet. The surveying of the town and surrounding
land had begun shortly after the members of the third Legisla-
tive Council began their work, and the newly arriving busi-
nessmen lost no time in establishing themselves. Sometime in
November or December two hotels and a printing office were
started. Wyatt's New Hotel was on the northwest corner of
Lafayette and Adams. On January 19, 1825, Ambrose Crane,
Woodward's former court clerk, wrote to Secretary of State
Adams, soliciting the job of printing the territorial laws in his
new newspaper, the Florida Intelligencer: "Our press is now in
operation," wrote Crane, "and a weekly newspaper will be pub-
lished under the above title as soon as the laws of the territory
are published."26 It is anyone's guess as to whether either Wyatt's
or Hall's hotel was completed before the end of 1824. If Ambrose
Crane had a press in operation on January 19, 1825, it is reason-
able to believe the building which housed his press was up or
being put up by December 1824.
The population of Tallahassee still was meager in 1824. A
legislative act that granted preemptive rights to settlers who
had built homes in the city before January 1, 1825, was only
taken advantage of by six people. Only a very few persons have
been definitely identified as actual residents within the city
prior to 1825. A partial list would include William Wyatt, Am-
brose Crane, John McIver, Robert Butler, William Hall, Charles
Pindar and Richard Keith Call.
The year 1825 was to change all of this. On the 5th of
April 1825, pioneer and ex-Court Crier John McIver stood be-
fore the log capitol in the public square and began auctioning
to the highest bidders the 160 forest acres that surrounded the
square. By the end of the sale on the following day the govern-
ment had sold $45,000 worth of lots. The land in the city prob-
ably could have brought more but it had rained heavily the
day before and made the primitive roads unfit for traveling.
Several weeks later, on the third Monday in May, land outside
the city was put up for sale and sold at a minimum price of
$1.25 per acre.27
For some unknown reason, Acting United States Secretary
of the Treasury Southard issued the following directive: "Sir,
in payment for land [around Tallahassee] you are authorized to
receive bills from the banks of the United States and its branches,



22 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
the notes of the incorporated banks in the cities of Boston, New
York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond, and of the specie
paying banks in the states of Louisiana and Alabama." This
excluded the specie paying banks of Georgia and South Caro-
lina.28 An indignant editorial in the Savannah Georgian of June
1825 concluded that this was an underhanded way of barring
farmers from Georgia and South Carolina from Tallahassee land
sales-which it certainly did. It remains a mystery why Georgia
and South Carolina farmers were, in effect, not permitted to buy
in the Tallahassee country.
The first half of 1825 saw a dramatic growth of the village.
In September the Pensacola Gazette announced that the new
village of Tallahassee had, in addition to the businesses already
established there, a church, school, seven stores, an apothecary
shop, two shoemakers, two blacksmiths, three carpenters, a tailor
and three brickyards.29 Fortunately through advertisements in
Crane's Florida Intelligencer we can identify the names and lo-
cations of a few of these first Tallahassee businessmen. One of
the blacksmiths was John Green, who advertised his shop as
being on the main street north of the public square. One of the
carpenters was cabinetmaker Robert P. Boyce, located on the
corner of Monroe Street and Washington Square. Three of the
seven general stores were those of Turbott R. and J. R. Betton,
G. Davis, and Capt. H. Bond. Bond's store was opposite the
northeast corer of Capitol Square. The apothecary shop was
located on the north side of Capitol Square and was operated by
Tallahassee's first two physicians, Drs. C. A. Watkins and Ed-
mund Tucker.30
The schoolhouse was the lower floor of a two-story log
building built by Masonic subscription on the southwest corner
of Duval and McCarty Streets. The upper floor was the meeting
place of the Masonic Lodge, the first fraternal organization in
the village. Jackson Lodge, No. 23, was established on December
18, 1825, and was organized by territorial surveyor general Robert
Butler. The school room probably was used for public worship
on Sunday. In 1825 a Methodist Church and parsonage was
built one block west of the Masonic Lodge by the Reverend C.
Woodbery. It was a small frame house with an open ceiling and
bare wooden walls and glassless windows covered by solid shut-

: _JI

The First Years 23
The two hotels were just as primitive. Empty most of the
year they were crowded during the legislative meetings. For a
dollar, a person chose one of two or three large bamlike rooms,
each housing perhaps a dozen beds. As Prince Murat, who had
slept in Tallahassee's first hotels so aptly put it, it was two to a
bed, "and nobody is so ridiculous as to trouble himself about who
is with him any more than in the pit of a theatre." Where there
was no bed available, the guest slept on the floor. The next
morning breakfast table was set for 30.32
As the town prospered, a change took place. There was a
dramatic increase in the population. In December 1824 only
six persons had made substantial enough improvements on their
property to claim the right of preemption. This would seem to
indicate that there were not many more than six private homes
worth claiming in the whole town.33 Four months later, in April,
there were around 50 houses and an undetermined population
in Tallahassee. Of the town at the end of 1825, Murat could
write, "A year ago, this was but a forest; now there are more
than a hundred houses, two hundred inhabitants, and a news-
paper. . Is not this magic?"34 There were, then, perhaps 150
white inhabitants in Tallahassee in April; more than 200 in De-
cember. The first census, completed September 10, 1825, by
,James Cameron, receiver of taxes, showed a total Leon County
white population of 608 persons.36 "The inhabitants of the town,
particularly the innkeepers," wrote the prince, "have realized a
handsome sum. In place of their log-houses, elegant houses made
of boards and timberwork, painted in all sorts of colors, are
erected as if by enchantment in the very heart of the wood,
which now assumes the name of city."36


3. "A Sure Foundation"

THE YEAR 1826 was a good year for the village of
Tallahassee. In the winter of 1825-26 the town had been incorpo-
rated and a government set up. A permanent capitol building
was begun, the first newspaper was by then publishing its
weekly issues with a fair degree of regularity, and a better and
more stable class of settler had completed the long and difficult
trek with family and slaves from Virginia and other states. Stores
had also begun to multiply and were bringing a few luxuries
to the new settlers. On the dock at St. Marks, waiting to be
shipped to Tallahassee, were China tea, Havana and St. Domingo
coffee, chocolate, Spanish cigars, Holland gin, Jamaica rum,
peach and apple brandy and wines no end. Civilization was
coming to Tallahassee.
A year earlier, on December 9, 1825, the fourth Legislative
Council gave the growing village a salaryless City Council com-
posed of an intendant, or mayor, and five councilmen. The in-
tendant and four of his councilmen formed a quorum for the
transaction of business. The intendant was also a justice of the
peace and called the council together when the public good
required it. The council, as in most cities, handled all such vital
functions of the town such as levying taxes, providing for law
and order, licensing merchants and daily routine matters.'
It was also the duty of the council to, "extract from the
treasurer at least four times a year . a statement of receipts
and expenditures" of the city.2 This was supposed to provide
for an efficient and up-to-date financial reckoning, but that was
a long time in coming. One of the first financial statements was
released by city treasurer Leslie A. Thompson which showed
the city's 1826 expenditures to be $782.3 By 1843 a bitter com-
mentator wrote in the Tallahassee Star of Florida that the city

26 Ante-bellum TaUahassee
officials had finally after 10 years published a report from the
city treasurer but it was incomplete. It showed that the city was
in debt some $18,000, "but," as the exasperated writer sourly
commented, "how the money was expended or by whom .. it
leaves the people . wholly in the dark."4 The writer added
as a caustic after-thought that not one dollar in a hundred which
the people paid came back to them in the shape of benefits
The first city election was held on the first Monday in
January, 1826, and was supervised by census taker James Cam-
eron, Allen W. Coleman, and hotel owner William Wyatt. Dr.
Charles Haire was elected the first intendant. All of the ordinances
passed by this and all the city's future councils were posted at
the market place, the door of the capitol or the council room
and were published for four weeks in Crane's Intelligencer and
later in William Wilson's Floridian.
It was also in 1826 that the first real capitol building was
erected. The year before the Legislative Council had ordered
that commissioners be chosen to direct the building of one wing
that was not to cost more than $12,000. On January 7, 1826, at
what must have been an impressive ceremony for the backwoods
capital, the Masons laid the cornerstone. A copper plate deposited
in the cornerstone had inscribed on one side:
Behold, saith "The Lord God," I have laid in Zion a stone, a
tried stone, a "precious corner stone," a sure foundation-On
the 7th day of January, A. L. 5826-A. D. 1826 was laid this
foundation stone for a Capitol to be erected for the use of the
citizens of Florida.
On the reverse side of the plate were listed the officers of the
lodge: Governor DuVal, Secretary George Walton, the honor-
able Augustus B. Woodward, Henry M. Brackenridge, and Jos-
seph L. Smith.5 The Masons also deposited a glass jar in the
hollow of the cornerstone which contained coins and other items.
The cornerstone of the capitol according to John C. Galbraith,
an early Tallahassee historian, was laid several hundred yards
north of the original log cabin capitol.6 The leading citizens then
proceeded to the Methodist Church where David B. Macomb
"delivered an appropriate oration, after which the brethren par-
took of a splendid dinner prepared by C. Pindar."7 This first
wing was completed in 1826. Construction on the rest of the



"A Sure Foundation" 27
building was not attempted until 1828 when Governor DuVal's
brother, John P. DuVal, contracted with Benjamin G. Thornton
to construct a capitol around the old first wing. After erecting
a sawmill and lime kiln near Washington Square and going to
considerable expense to carry out his part of the contract,
Thornton found the Tallahassee Fund had insufficient money to
pay him for the preliminaries. There may have been some graft
and corruption in handling the fund, but the greatest loss more
likely was in uncollectable paper which managers of the fund
had taken in payment for city land. Suit and counter-suit fol-
lowed and 13 years later Thornton collected $2,500 in damages.8
The unfinished capitol wing was given $1,200 by the Legis-
lative Council in 1832 to be lathed and plastered and for the
fences and gates enclosing the Capitol Square to be painted.
Finally in 1839 the territorial delegate Charles Downing, man-
aged to get a $20,000 appropriation from Congress for erection
of a new capitol.9 Captain R. A. Shine, the chief builder in ante-
bellum Tallahassee, tore down the old wing begun in 1826 and
started construction on a new one. More lawsuits were forth-
coming but by December 1840, Cosam Emir Bartlett, then
editor of the Tallahassee Star of Florida wrote enthusiastically
that the southern wing of the new capitol was expected to be
ready for the next legislative session. The building, still un-
finished, was occupied in January 1841. The capitol finally was
completed in 1845 under strong protests from a faction that
wished the seat of government removed to some other city.10
The county was almost as long in building its courthouse.
On December 29, 1824, the Legislative Council had also created
Leon County. It was carved out of Gadsden, which a year before
had been given the whole territory from the Apalachicola to the
Suwannee. Fifteen years were to pass before an official county
courthouse was built. Richard Keith Call, Tallahassee's promi-
nent lawyer, politician and future governor, built a large two-
story building on the northwest corner of Lafayette and Monroe
Streets which was used as the courthouse, Episcopal Church
and a hall for all exhibitions that came to town." In 1837 the
Council authorized sale of lots on the east and west sides of
Courthouse Square for funds to build a courthouse and jail.12
Courthouse Square is where the post office now stands (1971).
There is no record as to when the new courthouse was finished


28 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
but it was probably in the last half of 1838 or the first part of
1839. The April 6, 1839, issue of the Tallahassee Floridian re-
ported a fire in the clerk's room of the new courthouse. This
courthouse served Leon County until it burned in 1878.
The rest of the village, unlike the capitol, grew, unhampered
by the inconsistencies of poorly managed public funds and the
vagaries of frontier politics. Next to the capitol and courthouse
the most singularly important buildings in Tallahassee were its
hotels. They were at the very center of the city's public life.
Forerunners were the crude taverns of 1825 and 1826 where
mess pork, cornbread, game and rum or wine could be had, as
well as a night's lodging on the floor or in a crowded bed. The
first of these was Colonel Pindar's on the west side of Capitol
Square, and William Wyatt's on the south side. By 1828 there
were four hotels to take the place of these early taverns. Josiah
Everett's Eagle Tavern and Colonel Pindar's Florida Hotel were
both west on the Square. J. R. Betton's Washington Hall was
on the east. The most important, The Planters Hotel, built by
former tavern owner William Wyatt, was on the northeast corer
of Pensacola and Adams looking southward to the new wing
of the capitol.13 In 1828 Colonel Pindar was sending advertise-
ments about his Florida Hotel as far as Savannah. His table, he
said, was furnished with as good food as the country could afford.
His bar had choice liquors and his stables good provender.14
Typical hotel charges in 1828 Tallahassee were those of the Flor-
ida Hotel. The charge was $18 per month for board and room
and $15 per month for meals only. Lodging for a man and his
horse was $1.50 per day. Breakfast was 3712, dinner 500 sup-
per 37%1 and a room, most likely shared, 18%0 per day.'5
Advertise as he would, neither Pindar nor any other hotel
owner was able to rival the Planters as the most successful hotel
in Tallahassee prior to 1834. The Planters was the principal tempo-
rary home of legislators, speculators, planters, national officials
and foreign visitors. As such, it was a center of political activity
and was as important in the formation of local and territorial
policy as was the capitol itself. The Planters also housed visiting
dentists and other professionals. Its saloon doubled as a cultural
center where most of the travelling theatrical troups and others
held their entertainments. Here, then, was the social hub
of the village. Here the most widely celebrated balls were held,


"A Sure Foundation" 29
honorary dinners given and national celebrations performed. The
old Planters Hotel came under the genteel management of future
governor Thomas Brown of Virginia around 1830. The Planters
doom was sealed in 1833 when Brown bought out Pindar's Flor-
ida Hotel. He expanded the old building by brick additions
until it took in most of the block between Pensacola and Lafay-
ette facing the Square. The Brown, or City, Hotel was the finest,
most expensive and successful hotel in the capital and was to
remain so until after the Civil War. It had nearly 100 rooms
including parlors, sitting rooms, suites for private families with
a fireplace in each ($10 per month to keep burning), large stables
and what must have been a large and spacious dining room.1"
Thomas Brown had started from Virginia in 1827 and after
two months had arrived in Tallahassee in January 1828. A series
of reverses on his sugar plantation on the west end of Lake
Jackson caused him to turn to the hotel business around 1830.
Brown had come with an impressive retinue of 140 slaves, most
of whom he used in his hotel business as waiters, chambermaids,
cooks and hostelers. A few he kept on a small vegetable and
dairy farm that supplied his new and popular hotel with vege-
tables, milk and butter.17
Although Brown's City Hotel was the very best the town
had to offer, Tallahassee was still a wilderness village in which
true refinements were hard to come by. Comte Francis de
SCastelnau, renowned French naturalist and traveller and certainly
one of Tallahassee's most noted and cultured early visitors, spent
a part of the winter of 1837-38 in what he called the best tavern
in town. Breakfast was coffee without milk, venison and corn-
bread. Lunch consisted of pork, cabbage and sweet potatoes,
and supper was tea without milk, and, to quote Castelnau, "the
eternal cornbread."18
By 1850 there were only two hotels left in town. Brown had
long since sold his hotel which had, without his influence, drifted
downward. The faded Planters offered its "sole competition In
the late 1840s and early 1850s there were a few scattered board-
ing houses about the town such as J. L. DeMilly's "Georgia House,"
Mrs. Bull's and the Lloyd's. But these did little to take the place
of a badly needed hotel. The City Hotel had been opened in
1833 and another new hotel would not be built in Tallahassee
until well after the Civil War.

30 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
The hotel shortage became so acute in 1858 that a desperate
City Council passed a resolution for construction of a city owned
and operated hotel to be built by the issue of city bonds. The
hotel was to cost $20,000 and was to be paid for in 20 years.
This unusual scheme never got beyond the "resolution" stage.19
Twenty miles to the south lay St. Marks, one time military
base for the Spanish Apalachee missions, the prize of Andrew
Jackson during his foray against the Indians of Spanish Florida
and the base of operations for commissioners Williams and Sim-
mons. Ante-bellum St. Mark's fate was to be a poor sister of
Tallahassee, dutifully shipping out the cotton of the Tallahassee
countryside, receiving the inbound staples and luxuries from the
sea and shipping them northward to Tallahassee, yet receiving
precious little in the way of return for handling the great wealth
of a rich land and a growing capital. An 1829 visitor to St. Marks
found it a dirty swampy little place with a few scattered huts
half buried in the mud, and a hotel of sorts built in the center
of the old Spanish fort. "The inhabitants are pale and squalid,"
wrote the observer, "and as for the infants they look like res-
urrection children."20
Tallahassee's children were hardly of the resurrection va-
riety, and although the lion's share of the profit of the Sea Island
cotton of Apalachee went to the shrewd New York shippers,
Tallahassee took her portion of the wealth of the land, and her
merchants prospered. Plantation cotton of the Chaireses, Gambles,
Bradfords and Crooms flowed to New Orleans and New York
for credit. From New Orleans and the great Mississippi Valley
there were returned such basic supplies as pork, lard, sugar,
corn, whiskey and molasses. From the northern seaboard cities
of New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia came machinery, cloth-
ing and textiles, flour, and the finer things from Europe-wines,
silk, and glassware. The Bettons, McWilliams, Williams, Bonds
and Lindenbergers had early monopolized the trade of the county
and the credit and trade of the aristocratic planters was mainly
theirs. Tallahasseeans became so successful that by 1859 their
names were on the stern of at least four sailing packets. One
of them, the H. L. Rutgers, named for the pioneer banker and
financier, must have broken all existing records for in 1858 it
made a round trip between New York and St. Marks in 30 days.21
One of the first merchants was Capt. Henry Bond, whose

"A Sure Foundation" 31
store was opposite the northeast corner of the capitol. He sold
only the coarse basic provisions: mess pork, lard beef, brown
sugar, buckshot, molasses, salt, prime pork, hams and middlings.
By 1826 however, a wealthier and more genteel class of settlers
began their long treks south with their wives, children and
slaves. To accommodate this different clientele new stores were
opened to offer a great variety of the latest luxuries. One such
store was that of L. and M. A. Armistead who bought out
Captain Bond and added to the inventory such luxuries as Lon-
don clothes and cassimeres, cassinetts, French and Italian silks
and crepes, Swiss muslin, fine hats and gentlemen's cloaks.22 In
the food line there were beginning to appear more urbane items:
raisins, pepper, allspice, ginger, cheeses etc. Although the Armi-
steads had opened the first large store in Tallahassee, they and
the other merchants were to be overshadowed by Turbott R.
Betton of Alexandria, Virginia, who began with a small general
store with his father, Joseph R. Betton, in February 1826. Betton
was to become for the next 20 years the most important retailer
for both the city and the surrounding plantations.
With the increase of a wealthier population came members
of various trades and professions. By the end of 1826 there were
six doctors in Tallahassee and an over-burden of hopeful law-
yers. The lawyers were usually in offices around the Square,
while the physicians were either in the hotels or practiced in
their homes. Doctors Watson and Tucker had established a drug
store on the north side of Capitol Square. The post office
was in the store of C. C. and R. W. Williams.23 These served
a city population of less than 500 and a total county population
of not over 1,000.

Hslds. Hslds.
Free City Co. Total without with
Year White Slave Negro Total Total Hslds. Slaves Slaves
1825a 200b .. 1 301 996
18300 541 881 4 926 6,494 79 30 49
1840d 815 786 15 1,616 10,718 177 47 180
1850' 787 618 41 1,391 10,051 204 88 116
1860f 997 889 46 1,982 12,343 241 98 143

32 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
A combined city market and council chamber was built in 1828.
It was erected on Wayne, or "Rascal's" Square, as it was later
known. The city hall now (1971) stands on the site. Here mutton,
pork, venison, tame and wild fowl and fish were sold. It was
almost as popular as Capitol Square as a meeting place and
stump forum.25
By 1830, Tallahassee's business district had outgrown the
main square and had expanded northward with businesses on
both sides of Monroe and Adams Streets and ending at McCarty
-later Park Avenue. Many were two-story wooden buildings
in front with warehouses in the rear. By this time the popula-
tion of around a thousand was supporting a variety of new
businesses. Ivy Hugon had established a bakery, and there were
two drug tores in town, that of the Doctors Monroe and Willis
on Adams Street, and E. B. Perkins on the corner of Jefferson
and Adams. There were two carriage and wheelright establish-
ments, those of J. Van Horn, and ex-constable A. W. Crews; and
a visiting dental surgeon, J. H. C. Miller. Turbott R. Betton ex-
panded his mercantile business, and James McMullin, a very
popular individual, was operating a rival store.26 The editorship
of the Floridian had by now fallen to William Wilson, who also
opened Tallahassee's first book store and operated it off and on
until it was bought out in 1852 by William R. Hayward.27 By
1830 the clothing merchants, R. B. and J. B. Bull, opened their
store, which was to operate for over 20 years.28 The town auc-
tioneer was Cary Bronaugh, who was soon to give up his estab-
lishment to Robert J. Hackley, the most noted ante-bellum
slave and land auctioneer in Tallahassee.29 Hackley was a hot
tempered, impetuous man who, a few years later, was to limp
through the rest of his life because of a senseless duel of his
own provocation. He had previously lived on a farm in what
later was to become Tampa. The U. S. Army confiscated his
farm to build an army camp. Dispossessed, Hackley arrived in
Tallahassee sometime between 1826 and 1830. His auction houses
were among the chief centers of business in the first 15 years
of the city's history, until his bankruptcy in 1842.30
Shoes were probably manufactured as early as 1826 in the
city, but the first to advertise shoe making was H. R. W. An-
drews, who made boots and shoes on Jefferson Street in No-
vember 1829. The leading blacksmith was David C. Wilson.83


"A Sure Foundation" 33
One of the early refinements of the town was D. B. Butler's
"Jackson's Coffee House," which also included a bar and billiard
table. It was on the northwest corner of Washington Square
facing that early park.
In September of the same year A. W. Coleman opened a
bath house where gentlemen could take a cold or hot bath at
any time of day until 10 at night. William Ireland even opened
an "oyster cellar" on the south side of the capitol in December
1830. Yet, with all of these improvements in services, Benjamin
Chaires, one of the wealthiest planters in Florida could with
much justification speak of the town as still "The rough village
of Tallahassee."32
Prince Murat, a shrewd observer, wrote that in Tallahassee's
early stores:
Everything fetches two or three times its value. The first
things sent are provisions, such as beef, pork, and salt fish,
ham, butter, bacon, spirits, different sorts of meal, and stuffs
for the family and the negroes, cast-iron, earthenware, saddlery,
ironmongery, medicine, etc. Everything is sold pell-mell in
the same shop by the same person. The dealer, who, in general
is only the co-interested clerk of some great northern house,
usually brings with him his family, and also the graces and
fashions of the great town from whence he comes; he dresses
himself in a most incredible style, and forms a perfect con-
trast to the rest of the population. He does in general very
good business, although he is often obliged to give credit to
the planter until the next harvest.83
Margaret Brown, hotel-owner Thomas Brown's wife, writing
from Lake Jackson in 1830 drew the same conclusions as the
I am still pleased with this country tho we have had a great
deal to contend with. Everything, of course, in a new country
is high, particularly provisions . . Goods of all kinds are
very high out here, and cash wonderfully scarce. The country
is yet so new that merchants charge what they please for their
By 1830, six years after its founding, the town's total popu-
lation had struggled upward until it reached 926 souls, 541 whites,
four free Negroes and 381 black slaves. Strange as it may seem
with a population of 926, Tallahassee was the third largest town
in the territory. Only ancient St. Augustine and old Pensacola
were larger. There were by Tallahassee's sixth year a number of

34 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
neighboring towns that had sprung to life shortly after the
capital's founding, but all were eventually in different counties.
Twenty-two miles to the west was Quincy, founded a year after
Tallahassee. In 1828, Monticello, 26 miles due east, changed from
an Indian village to a white settlement. Apalachicola, on the
bay of the same name 70 miles to the southwest, had begun
to develop at about the same time as Tallahassee. In 1828, Mag-
nolia, Fort St. Mark's first competitor, came to life at the farthest
point of navigation up the St. Marks River. This town 15 miles
south of the capital was destined to become a genuine ghost
town by 1850. By 1830 Cowford, later Jacksonville, had a popu-
lation of only 100 persons. Tampa consisted of a straggling set
of houses and stores near Fort Brook. Miami was a tropical jungle.
The only existing picture of the business district of downtown
Tallahassee is Castelnau's winter sketch, 1837-38 (See insert)
of the northeast and southeast corners of Jefferson and Adams
Streets looking down Jefferson toward Washington Square and
one of the three public wells in town. The capital was only as
neat as it appears in the sketch during the winter months. Dur-
ing the remaining nine months weeds apparently grew to luxur-
iant flowering along the roads and in all the vacant places. This
was in spite of a city ordinance dating back to 1828 making each
adult male liable to a four-day draft or $3.00 fee per year for
street and town maintenance.35 "During . last summer," com-
plained the editor of the Floridian in 1834, "workmen could not be
obtained for love nor money and it was only owing to the inter-
ruption of public work gangs in the county that the intendant
was able to get hands at the time he did."86 This compulsory
system must have been abandoned shortly thereafter, for in
January 1835 the Floridian indicated that Charles Austin, clerk
of the City Council, was contracting with private individuals to
keep the roads and streets of the city in repair and the weeds
cut three times per season.87
The city fathers did the best they could for the town's im-
provement, but it was an uphill battle with the pioneer popu-
lation. In the summer of 1830 William Williams, the town's first
banker, lent intendant Leslie A. Thompson $300 to pay for
three public wells, one of which can be seen in a Castelnau
sketch.38 Along with the construction of the public wells an
ordinance was passed that prohibited use of wooden chimneys

_ I

"A Sure Foundation" 35
or chimneys made out of sticks and dirt, mud or clay.89 The
pioneer and his ways were fast passing.
From 1830 the business community of the city grew and
prospered as never before until the nationwide depression of 1837
and the Second Seminole War drove many of Tallahassee's here-
tofore most successful merchants into bankruptcy. The "palmy
days" of the Tallahassee merchants were truly in the first half of
the 1830s. After the depression and the great fire, competition
became so rigorous that no one merchant had the great oppor-
tunity of wealth and recognition that was the happy lot of those
first pioneer businessmen. In the early thirties the firm of Betton
and Emory sold heavy plantation machinery as well as dry goods,
groceries, hardware, crockery, glass, tinware, whisky, gin, brandy,
wine, medicines, stationery, hats, shoes, boots, millstones, grind-
stones, and many other articles. In 1835 at the height of Betton's
business a single newspaper notice advertised 30 tons of ham-
mered iron, 30 crates of earthenware, 180 pieces of cotton bag-
ging, and 1,020 sacks of Liverpool salt.40
The drugstore of E. B. Perkins, the foremost pharmacist in
very early Tallahassee, is the large two-story building in the
foreground of Castelnau's sketch. This was on the southeast
corner of Jefferson and Adams. Druggist Perkins provided his
customers with an array of what was then the very latest in
drugs and household items. A small sample list included ink and
ink powder, chlorine toothwash, Bullards oil of soap for linen
clothes, lucifer and phosphorous matches, patent medicines of
all descriptions, Madeira, port, Marsala, claret, hermitage and
Canary wines, grape juice, surgical instruments, dried herbs
from the shakers, lemon balm, catnip, hyssop, mint, sage, sweet
marjoram, savory, thyme, celery, lime juice, and lemon syrup.
Spices included genuine India curry, and there were English,
French and Prentiss soaps and perfumery, thermometers, hy-
drometers, and many, many other items. Druggist Perkins was
willing to give "some drugs to the poor free."41
In 1831 another very well known pioneer merchant appeared
on the scene and remained in business until the end of the ante-
bellum period. On January 20 of that year, jeweler Frederick
Towle advertised watches and jewelry on terms. From this date
until the early 1860's Towle was the best known jeweler in
Tallahassee. A partial list of items suggested as Christmas gifts


36 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
by Towle in 1835 included silver ware, plain and horizontal
watches, chains, rings and pins, jet jewelry, gold and silver
double and single eye spectacles, extra glasses to suit all ages,
gold and silver thimbles, alabaster and ebony clocks, silver and
shell combs, candlesticks, snuffers and trays, music boxes of all
sorts, silver service spoons, cutlery, scissors, needles, gold and
ivory mounted canes, porcelain and morocco pocket books, beads,
double barrel guns, pistols, and cloth, hair, shaving and tooth
brushes. He even sold musical instruments.42 Towle hired a
gunsmith as well as a watchmaker to assist him. Towle's com-
petitors, Gerardin and Wuy, in 1835 expanded Towle's list of
items to include French dueling pistols, gentlemen's dressing
cases, ladies' cravats, under caps, gauze veils, shawls, silk em-
broidered gloves, rich purses, violins, birds organs and har-
By 1832 the clothing merchants were already multiplying
to give pioneer tailor J. B. Bull fierce competition. The result
was that the tiny settlement of Tallahassee and the prosperous
and class-conscious planters were deluged with a large inven-
tory of the very latest fashions from New York, London and
Paris. In January 1832, E. W. Dorsey opened a clothing store,44
and another was opened a year later by R. H. Wooley, who
advertised the latest New York and London fashions. In his
store one could buy super-fine black, blue, brown, invisible green,
bottle green, and steel mixed cloths; also such ready made cloth-
ing as gentleman's frock and dress coats, coat-tees, pantaloons
and vests of almost every description, fine linen and cotton shirts,
flannel shirts, fine camlet cloaks and wrappers, etc. fancy, trimmed
and plain sacks, black Italian silk cravats, white figured and
pongee handerchiefs, linen shirt collars, shirt bosoms and studs,
horse skin and buck skin suspenders and beaver hats.45 In
November 1834, yet another merchant tailor, H. A. Pierson,
opened his establishment, which he called "The Store for Fashion,"
where he sold the standard clothing plus "fine silk and doe-skin
undervests, double breasted velvet and fine black cloth and
cassimere, Valentia and white Marseilles vests."46 There were
two important additions to. the general merchandise business by
the opening of Benjamin Byrd's store in 1832 and George H.
Lindenberger's establishment in 1834.47
By 1835, just before the onset of the depression, there were



"A Sure Foundation" 37
two new small factories in Tallahassee. E. S. Roberts was manu-
facturing plain tin and japanned ware, block tin, brittannia and
pewter ware on Monroe Street; and Benjamin F. Alexander
was building cotton saw gins.48 An engraver, D. H. Throop,
who was proficient enough to engrave banknotes, maps and
portraits, worked out of Editor "Billy" Wilson's bookstore. A
second bookstore run by James Linn was in competition with
It was also in May 1835 that what must have been 50 tons of
the first commercial ice in the area arrived at St. Marks from
New York and was shipped to Tallahassee and kept at Kindon's
candy factory.49 Great blocks of ice had been sawn out of the
frozen lakes of upstate New York and New England the winter
before. The blocks were then stored in sawdust and wood shav-
ings. During the spring and summer months they were repacked
in sawdust aboard sailing ice packets and shipped south to
St. Marks, Magnolia or Newport. Here the ice was carried by
ox and mule teams to the capital. So it was that Tallahassee had
ice continually from 1835 on.
By 1835 Robert J. Hackley was the only important auc-
tioneer in Tallahassee and as such was also one of the most im-
portant business men in the region's slave and plantation econ-
omy. "Billy" Wilson, who was to relinquish publication of the
Floridian in 1837, continued his book store business. This grand
old man of the city finally sold the latter, after nearly 25 years
of operation, to William R. Hayward in January 1852,50 and
died one year later in March 1853.51 Wilson had come from
Vermont to Florida 25 years previously practically a dead man
from advanced tuberculosis. He was so weak that he was car-
ried from the northern stage coach into the hotel. After a not-
able life as a publisher, teacher, mayor and bookstore manager,
he died weighing 200 pounds.62
In 1841 blacksmith D. C. Wilson put aside his smithy's
apron and went into the grocery business. This was the be-
ginning of a business that was to grow into the Wilson's De-
partment Store, which survived until 1971.53
In 1838 there was a large city stable on the south side of
McCarty Street facing the present-day post office. It was run by
Cannon and Russell. Here a hack and four could be hired for
$15 per day or a horse stabled for $1.25 per day.54




38 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
Henry Kindon's candy factory and bakery was on Jefferson
Street opposite Gerardin's jewelry store. It must have been a
fascinating place to the children. His range of products seemed
endless. He advertised that he manufactured candy "of every
description and quality." There were hard candies called rock,
barleys, frost, lemon, cream London, Bire, cinnamon, sarsaparilla,
sassafras and horehound. There were peppermint, rose, acidulated
lemon and cayenne drops. In addition he made suger plums,
rose and sugar almonds, cinnamon buds, cayenne lozenges, sugar
sands, peanut and almond cakes, chocolate balls and burnt al-
monds; not to mention a wide variety of household syrups such
as ginger, cagot and vinaigre de Flambeau.65
In this same year C. H. Buxton operated a hair dressing
and shaving salon where he kept "every variety of ornamental
hair" and would "make to order ladies' and gentlermen's wigs,
toupees, bandeau's, braids and curls." Buxton discretely added,
"ladies invariably waited on at their residences."56
In 1839, small as the town was, it was supporting three
French restaurants; the "Citizens Coffee House" of Maurice and
Fayant on Monroe Street opposite the capitol, and F. LeBleux's
restaurant. LeBleux had been the manager of the North American
Hotel in New Orleans.
The third restaurant, that of P. J. Thursby, was called the
"Tallahassee Exchange." It was a combination bar and cafe. A
small list of the alcoholic beverages available included champagne,
sherry, peach brandy, gin, Madeira, and Monongahela and Irish
whisky. A French chef from New Orleans served a menu which
ranged from green turtle soup, oysters, beef, venison steaks and
mutton chops to ham, eggs, turkey, duck, chicken and pickled
As for modern conveniences, Tallahasseeans were introduced
in 1834 to a miracle of scientific progress, a steam washing ma-
chine. This machine, the promotion of a Yankee, R. N. Forbes,
not only washed "a lady's gown or handerchief of the most deli-
cate texture" but would clean a rug or wash the living room
furniture, walls and window sills. What a wondrous machine
this must have been Mr. Forbes happily advertised that this
modern miracle could be operated by "a girl of 10 or 12 [and]
repaired by the most ordinary mechanic."58
Yet for all these hard won improvement, not all of Talla-


rr I_

"A Sure Foundation" 39
hassee's visitors were impressed. A proper and dandified Boston-
ian, John S. Tappan, wrote a sarcastic letter home in December
1841 in which he observed that Tallahassee "presents a much
better appearance than P. Leon having a % finished capitol, two
churches and a Jaill!"59
By the spring of 1842 the worst effects of the depression
that had struck the whole nation in 1837 descended upon the
business community of the town. The April 22, 1842, issue of
the Tallahassee Florida Sentinel listed 17 petitioners for bank-
ruptcy, among whom were some of the oldest and best known
of the capital's businessmen; Robert H. Berry, William Burgess,
Thomas E. Lindenberger and Robert West. In June of this same
year the Tallahassee pioneer hotel owner, Col. A. A. Fisher, filed
a similar petition, and in September auctioneer Robert Hackley
unburdened himself of his debtors by filing bankruptcy pro-
ceedings.60 Tallahassee's business people were to see better times
but not until after two calamities: the scourge of a plague of
yellow fever and a nearly complete and disastrous fire.
By June 1843, just before the great fire, Tallahassee with a
total population of a little over 1,600 souls-slaves, free adults and
children-had an impressive list of businesses. There were at
least two or more blacksmiths, 11 general stores, two auction
houses, three drug stores, seven groceries, four confectionary
stores, two jewelers and two bookstores. In addition, there were
a bakery, two shoemakers and two tailors, two drygoods stores,
and an ice house; and this list is far from complete. To all of
these' businesses and more must be added two newspapers and a
respectable array of professional people, doctors, lawyers, and
the like. In the late thirties and early forties Tallahassee's business
people did a business that amounted to over 2% million dollars
each year.61
By the early 1840s, although Tallahassee was still a wilder-
ness village, she was doing a business of a town several times
her size in spite of a national depression.


4. A Planter's Society

TALLAHASSEE'S EXISTENCE depended upon its official
status as capital of the territory and later the state. Its prosperity
rested upon its merchants and the fortunes of the surrounding
plantations and farms, and the labor of their slaves. By 1860
there were over 300 farms and plantations and over 9,000 slaves.
The 3,000 white people of the Tallahassee country were to be
outnumbered three to one by Negroes by the beginning of the
Civil War.1
The first planters in old Apalachee were a few men such
as Capitol builder Judge Robinson, who first settled the Little
River valley, just over the Ochlockonee in Gadsden County. To
the east, future road builder John Bellamy and his 70 slaves
built a plantation near Lake Miccosukee. There were others, of
course, but none as prominent.2 Neither Bellamy's nor Robinson's
plantation was in what was later to be Leon County. In the
spring of 1826 there were only a few more than 20 farms and a
few plantations scattered here and there to depend upon Talla-
hassee for supplies. In these new fields, however, there were
growing the two crops destined to become ante-bellum Talla-
hassee's commercial lifeblood; corn and Sea Island cotton.
Probably the most famous though not the most successful, of
the planters was Prince Achille Murat. Achille was the son of
Joachim Murat, marshal of France, and Napoleon's sister, Caro-
line. Achille was also the dispossessed crown prince of the king-
dom of Naples. He immigrated to the United States in 1821, six
years after his uncle's defeat at Waterloo. He settled briefly with
his exiled relatives in New Jersey and then struck out on his
own for St. Augustine, where he lived long enough to gain for
himself the reputation of an eccentric. Few citizens of that once
Spanish stronghold would forget the prince's habit of carrying
on his affairs of business while seated with a chair, umbrella and

C ,,,


42 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
table in the ocean with the waves rolling just under the table's
top. In 1825 he moved to a plantation in Jefferson County which
he later named Lipona. This plantation was 20 miles east of
Tallahassee on the Aucilla River. In July 1826 the Prince married
Catherine Willis Gray, the widowed daughter of Byrd Willis.
Theirs was the eighth wedding license issued in the capital.
Catherine was the great-grand niece of George Washington and
at the time of the marriage many of Florida's first families con-
sidered her marriage a step-down. They considered a blue-
blooded president much superior to a dictator of undistinguished
Murat was the most colorful character of Tallahassee's ter-
ritorial period. One of his hobbies was cooking, and he was
notorious for trying to cook and eat anything that flew, crawled
or swam. His menu ran the gamut from fried toadstools, rattle-
snake and baked owl with the head on, to cows' ears stew. Try
as he would, though, he could never conquer the masterful art
of cooking a turkey buzzard. "I roast heem, I fry heem, I stew
heem," said the defeated prince, "bote by gar soir, he ees no
good."3 The prince's predeliction for women was often for his
young slave girls, and his spitoon was a shaggy dog which he
took along for that purpose when he visited his fastidious mother-
in-law in Tallahassee.
In 1830 Murat prepared for a return to Europe in an attempt
to claim the throne of the Kingdom of Naples. His departure
was the occasion for a grand ball at the Planters Hotel presided
over by aristocratic Thomas Brown.4 A few years later Murat
returned, poorer but wiser. His plantation, Lipona, of over 1,000
acres and more than 100 slaves had been lost to a Union Bank
foreclosure in the spring of 1839. The Prince and Princess then
moved to a smaller plantation, Econchatti, where Achille died
in 1847.5 Seven years later Kate moved to Bellevue, a 500-acre
plantation on the Jackson Bluff Road two miles west of the old
city of Tallahassee. She divided her time between Bellevue and
Econchatti until her death long after the Civil War.
In the latter half of the 1820's a number of the town's
wealthy planters began clearing land and planting cotton. Two
of the very first planters were former staff officers and close
personal friends of Andrew Jackson-Richard K. Call and Robert
Butler. Call had fought with Jackson in the Creek War of 1812.


A Planter's Society 43
The future governor was a regular visitor to Andrew Jackson
at The Hermitage in Tennessee and it was here that he married
Mary Kirkman in 1824.6 Robert Butler of Tennessee had an even
closer connection with the Jacksons. He was not only Jackson's
adjutant at the Battle of New Orleans but was with Old Hickory
when the latter captured St. Marks from the Spanish during
the First Seminole War. Butler had even married Mrs. Jackson's
niece. Call moved to Tallahassee in 1825 as the receiver of the
Federal Land Office and a brigadier of the Florida militia. Robert
Butler was the surveyor general. Both of these Jackson men were
in an unusual position to get the best of the Tallahassee land.
Call, though he was more of a speculator than a planter, built
two plantations. One on Lake Jackson was called Orchard Pond.
The other was The Grove just north of the old town limits.
Later he built the manor house for this plantation which still
survives (in 1971) as the beautiful brick mansion next to the
governor's mansion. Call was twice governor. He served as
Jackson's choice from 1836 to 1839. He was reappointed by
President William Henry Harrison in 1841 and served as gov-
ernor until 1844.
Surveyor General Robert Butler built his plantation on the
southwestern shore of Lake Jackson. It was here that Tallahassee's
annual event, "The Feast of the Roses," was held. This elaborate
party was a highlight of the social season and a must for the
best of those in old Tallahassee. The name, "Feast of the Roses,"
was derived from Mrs. Butler's magnificent rose garden which
must have been a truly wonderful sight.7
Ten or so miles to the east, between Tallahassee and Prin-
cess Murat's beloved Lipona lay the thousands upon thousands
of acres of the wealthy Chaires brothers, Green Hill, Thomas
Peter and patriarch planter, financier and businessman Benjamin.
The Chaires brothers were originally from North Carolina. Ben
Chaires, like Robert Hackley before him, had pioneered another
frontier Florida town prior to his arrival in Tallahassee. He was
one of the first city commissioners of Jacksonville, in 1822-23
when that settlement was founded. The various plantations of
the Chaires family grew to huge proportions. When Benjamin
died in 1888 he alone left a 9,000-acre plantation and a brick
mansion three stories high containing 15 rooms. Green Chaires
settled on Lake Lafayette. When his house was burned by


44 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
Indians in 1838, and his wife and a child died in the blaze, he
moved to the vicinity of the modern day hamlet of Chaires east
of Tallahassee. Many of the black people there are the des-
cendants of the Chaires's slaves of ante-bellum days.8
Clifton Paisley, an expert on the agriculture of the Tallahassee
country, has estimated that by 1830 the choice farm land around
Tallahassee included over 109 lakes and ponds. Lake Jackson
alone has a 30 mile shore-line. Lake Jackson together with
lamonia, Miccosukee and Lafayette ringed the most desirable
land during the ante-bellum period and it was here that most
of Tallahassee's best known planters settled.
In the winter of 1827-28 future Governor Brown led his
long caravan of family and 140 slaves from Virginia. He was
followed and at times led by the caravan of the Gamble brothers,
John and Robert. John had been at one time secretary to Chief
Justice John Marshall during his trip to France in 1797. His large
plantation northeast of Tallahassee was called Waukeenah. John
Gamble is best known as the founder and president of a disastrous
financial adventure called the Union Bank, whose collapse brought
ruin to so many planters and farmers in old Apalachee.9
In that same winter Francis Eppes, despondent over the
death of his beloved grandfather, Thomas Jefferson, took his
wife and three children to Tallahassee, caravan fashion-the
women and children in carriages, the men on horseback, wagons
behind with the household goods and the Negroes bringing up
the rear on foot. Eppes immediately bought some land on Black
Creek near the Georgia line, named his plantation L'Eau Noir,
or Black Water, and began planting cotton. The death of his
wife and the threat of the looming Indian War forced him to
sell Black Water and move to Tallahassee. He bought a second
plantation a few miles from town and planted more cotton fields
but continued to live in town as one of its most notable citizens
until after the war.10
The most unusual farming idea during the entire ante-bel-
lum period was the Lafayette fiasco. During the American Revo-
lution the idealistic young marquis had served as a general in
the colonial forces. In the process he risked his life and spent
a considerable part of his fortune for the American cause. This
unselfishness earned for the young Frenchman a permanent place
in the hearts of Americans. In 1794 when he was badly in need



A Planter's Society 45
of money the United States Congress eagerly granted him his
back pay as a major general of $24,424. In 1803 Congress gave
Lafayette 11,520 acres of land in the Louisiana Territory. In
July 1824, when the Marquis sailed for America to visit his old
friends, Congress came up this time with a $200,000 cash grant
and a gift of a township of land (36 square miles) in the new
booming Territory of Florida. It was then that Richard K. Call
tried to interest his new friend in becoming a citizen of Florida,
but to no avail. Congressman John McKee of Alabama came
to Tallahassee and chose Township 1 East, Range 1 North. The
southwest corner of the Lafayette grant began at the prime
meridian marker near the capitol at Meridian and Bloxham
streets, and it extended north six miles, then six east, then south
again.11 This land was supposedly worth $150,000.12
Lafayette eventually sold all these holdings, without ever
seeing them, but not before he had attempted his abolitionist
dream of a slave-free society to replace the fast growing slave
society in and around the capital. In March 1831 there arrived
from France 50 to 60 Norman peasants. Led by three old friends
of the General, they settled on a bluff overlooking Lake Lafayette.
Here free white labor was to grow limes, mulberry trees and
silk worms, and olives. The success of free labor would turn
Florida into a silk and olive country and would banish forever
slavery in the new territory. In three months only 50 acres of
land had been cleared. The settlers were unaccustomed to the
climate; disease took its toll. The struggling peasants received
a final blow when they learned their land deeds had not been
properly certified and were worthless. The little colony gradually
broke up. Most returned to France. A few shipped from St.
Marks to New Orleans, and the remainder settled on the north-
western outskirts of Tallahassee which grew into a section of
predominantly Negro residents but retains the name of French-
town-one of the only reminders of Lafayette's unrealistic dream.
In the 1830's, plantation builders flooded into the country
from the northern states. In 1832 John Branch, former governor
of North Carolina, U. S. senator from North Carolina 1823-1829,
and Jackson's secretary of the navy 1829-1831, moved to Talla-
hassee. He bought a plantation of several thousand acres which
he named Live Oak. He built an impressive home which had
formal French gardens planted with flowers and shrubs imported


46 Ante-bellum TaUahassee
from all over the world. Branch was Florida's governor from
1844 to 1845.
Following Branch came such wealthy and affluent planter
families as the Randolphs, Haywards, Whitfields, Bradfords, Ban-
nermans, Meginnisses, Hopkinses, Wards, Crooms and others. In
October 1837 Bryan Hardy Croom, his wife Frances and three
children, were drowned en route from North Carolina to Talla-
hassee when their steamship Home broke up in a storm off Cape
Hatteras. Their destination was Goodwood Plantation, where
Bryan Croom's brother, Hardy Croom, was to build the beautiful
manor house which still stands (1971) in an ancient oak and
magnolia grove east of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.13
One of the more unusual planters who arrived in the 1850s
was a free mulatto, 59 year old Dorothy O'Cane, from South
Carolina. She had considerable property-three houses and 10
slaves who worked her land and helped run her household.14
In the last decade before the civil war some Leon County
plantations reached enormous size. El Destino and Chemonie,
east of town and stretching into Jefferson County, together had
almost 10,000 acres. The owner of these plantations was George
Noble Jones, a wealthy absentee owner whose home was Savannah.
By 1860 Joseph John Williams, north of town, owned five
plantations, 4,000 acres of land and 245 slaves. Frederick R.
Gotten owned 274 slaves and thousands of acres of land. The
Bradfords, Crooms, Branches, Baileys, Kirkseys, Carrs, Chaireses
and Calls had large holdings. By the Civil War the grip of the
large Tallahassee planters on the economy of the countryside
was almost complete. Paisley estimates 73 planters, operating
just 79 out of a total of around 400 farms in the county, owned
76,000 of the best 110,000 acres-or over two-thirds of all prime
corn and cotton land. These planter families mostly living on
their great farms in English baronial style, did well by their
monopoly. They consistently made Leon County by far the great-
est cotton producing county in the entire territory and state.
By 1860 they produced 12,000 of the total 16,000 cotton bale
crop piled on the docks for shipment at St. Marks and
Newport. This meant that three-fourths of the profits from the
only major money crop in the Tallahassee country belonged to
these few.1"
In this year before the great war Tallahassee had only 997
white persons, 889 slaves and 46 free Negroes. About one white

~ ------- --

A Planter's Society 47
family in 10 in town had slaves. The county on the other hand
had 2,197 white persons and 8,200 slaves. The statistics show
without much question that the great majority of the people
in the Tallahassee country were farmers who lived in the county
and not the town, and that they were massively outnumbered
by the thousands of black slaves on the great plantations.16 Talla-
hassee was the political center of the territory and state, but to
her merchants and planters it was a cotton town and a cotton
country first, last and always.
The money brought into Tallahassee by her merchants and
planters made some sort of banking facilities necessary. Never-
theless, before 1829 there were no local banks in the town. In
1829 William Williams, whose nickname was "Money" Williams,
brought his wife and seven children-four boys and three girls-
to Tallahassee from North Carolina and opened the Bank of
Florida.17 The town commissioners were so anxious for a bank
that they sold "Money" the highly desirable lot on the southwest
corner of Adams and 200-Foot Street for $5.00. Here Williams
built The Columns, as the new red brick dwelling came to be
called, and the bank building adjacent to it, around 1830.1i Local
legend has it that construction of both buildings was contracted
to planter Benjamin Chaires. These buildings may have been sub-
contracted to Tallahassee's free Negro contractor and builder,
George Proctor. The Columns is the two-story red brick structure
with four giant white columns in the front on the northwest
corner of Duval Street and Park Avenue. It was moved there
in 1971 from the southwest corner of Park and Adams to become
Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce headquarters.
Williams used the upper rooms as a dwelling while the
lower floor parlor was used as a banking house until the addition
was built' One legend found in almost every early account of
The Columns was that there was a "nickle in every brick." Dur-
ing later years when the basement was used as a school the '
children dug into many of the bricks with their penknives trying
to determine if there was any truth in the legend. The origin
of the rumor came about from the fact that when the building
was built bricks cost $14 per 1,000, or five cents a brick.19 At
any rate, around March 30, 1830, the Bank of Florida began
operations with "Money" Williams as its president.
Under Williams's guidance and sometimes unorthodox bank-
ing habits, the Bank of Florida became quite unpopular. A corn-

48 Ante-bellum Talahassee
mentary in the local newspaper charged that the' bank was run
for the benefit of the stockholders and not for the public for
whose benefit it was chartered. This resentment culminated in
an investigation in 1832. Williams left for Georgia, though not
to escape scandal. The investigation resulted in no particular
indictment of Williams, but, quite the contrary, in the chartering
of another bank, the Central Bank of Florida, in that same year.
Territorial Secretary James D. Wescott, Jr., as acting governor,
vetoed this charter, saying that there was not enough business
in Tallahassee and the surrounding area to justify another bank.
As an example, he stated that the Bank of Florida could not
float a circulation of over $50,000 and that the foreign notes
paid in at its counter did not exceed 5 per cent of that sum. So
he reasoned that this charter would not create capital where
there was none to spare. The Central Bank's charter was passed
over his veto, nonetheless. To show the close relationship between
the bank and the city government, in 1835 the eight directors
of the Central Bank were T. R. Betton, H. R. Hayward, James
McMullin, William Wilson, G. H. Chaires, R. C. Allen, J. R.
Dorsey and William Hilliard. Five of these were also elected
city councilmen for that year; Betton, Hayward, McMullin, Wil-
son and Hilliard. Most of these men were the town's wealthiest
In 1833 the Central Bank, with planter Benjamin Chaires
as president, absorbed the Bank of Florida by buying its stock,
charter and rights from William Williams. The Bank of Florida
was revived for a short time in 1843 but failed and never re-
vived. In the same year that President Chaires's Central Bank
bought out Williams's Bank of Florida another bank was char-
tered. Governor DuVal in his opening address to the 1833 Legis-
lative Council damned the existing banks available to Talla-
hasseeans as benefitting only the merchant class. DuVal com-
plained that, "The planter's crop could not, like a note in the
bank, be renewed every 60 or 90 days." The reason the banks
did not serve the planter, he said, was that they had brought
little if any additional capital into the territory. The immediate
need was a bank that would bring in a flood of foreign capital.
DuVal praised the proposed charter of a new idea, The Union
Bank, and prophesied that it "would serve the planters and se-
cure all from loss."
There were three giants in the early banking of the territory,



A Planter's Society 49
The Bank of Pensacola, The Southern Life Insurance and Trust
Company of St. Augustine, and the Union Bank. The Union Bank
was not geared to the business interest of Tallahassee merchants;
in fact, non-planters were forbidden in the charter even to buy
stock in the new bank. It was strictly a planters' bank. The bank
amounted in effect to the planters in the Tallahassee area form-
ing a company by which they pledged their slaves and land
to the territorial government for bonds which they in turn sold
to outside interests, especially Europeans. Two-thirds of the
money thus received by the planter was for his use. For this
money the planter gave long term interest-bearing notes. The
stock for the land and slaves was paid when these notes were
redeemed. The bank redeemed the territorial bonds out of the
profits on the notes. Assume that a planter mortgaged his land
and slaves to the bank for $15,000. In return he would receive
$15,000 in stock. This stock he would then pledge back to the
bank in return for $10,000 in cash. The borrowed stock was to
be paid up when the planter redeemed it 20 years later at a
specific interest. The first officers of the Union Bank were John
G. Gamble, president, and directors A. Alston, R. Gamble, R. C.
Allen, H. W. Braden, James Gadsden, W. B. Nuttall, George T.
Ward, F. Fitzgerald, C. H. DuPont, and Joseph McBride.
The idea of the Union Bank was the invention of its presi-
dent, planter John G. Gamble, who apparently copied the
charter of the Union Bank of Louisiana. A great deal concern-
ing the purpose of the bank can be gathered from the fact that
the officers and directors of the bank were the bank's biggest
customers. President Gamble owned 2,021 shares at $100 per
share, or one-fourteenth of all of the issued stock. Robert Gamble,
his brother, owned 1,350 shares. The Parkhills, who were great
landholders, owned 2,215 shares. Thus, three persons owned one-
sixth of the shares, 11 owned one-third, and 25 persons owned
one-half of all the shares issued. Loans were made freely on
land and slaves; partiality and favoritism were the order of the
day in lending. The planters were a favored class to begin with,
and the first and foremost business of the Union Bank was to
promote agriculture and not the prosperity of the Tallahassee
In July 1841, the Union Bank was faced with payment of
$670,000 or default. This plight was brought to light and resulted
in both state and national investigations. A congressional investi-

* I

50 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
gation in 1842 found the bank guilty of "extravagance and over-
trading," as well as "unwise and improvident management," which
it said had "commenced with the first possession of funds." A
state investigation in 1842-43 resulted in suspension of the bank-
ing powers of the Union Bank and a repudiation of the territorial
bonds floated to support the financial operations of the bank. In
1843 the bank had to close its doors. The aftermath of the crash
of the bank led to years of court actions. The protests of Euro-
pean holders of Florida bonds developed into an international
incident and was one of the claims of the British subjects against
the United States that had to be settled by international arbi-
tration. The life of the Union Bank, "like that of a comet," wrote
a Tallahasseean, was "brilliant at first, but brief and dark at the
end ... .All that remains are voluminous records of suits . .
numerous unredeemed obligations and a strain on the credit
of the state."22
A futile attempt was made to rob the bank in March 1844.
The robbers were unable to crack the safe and fled with nothing
for their troubles. This was the one and only bank robbery in
ante-bellum Tallahassee.
From this point on, the city's private banking came to a
halt because of a frightened Legislature that imposed severe re-
strictive measures brought on by the Union Bank fiasco. Banking
activities were carried on in Tallahassee after 1845 by agents
of a northern bank. In 1851 the General Assembly passed an
act incorporating the State Bank of Florida at Tallahassee under
the superintendence of four-times mayor Leslie A. Thompson
and others.
In June 1856, the Floridian and Journal announced the open-
ing of a new bank building on Monroe Street, to which the
paper added, "We are indebted to Mr. H. L. Rutgers." What
bank this building was to house is a question. Perhaps it was a
new building for the State Bank of Florida, if it really lasted
from 1851 to 1856. It is possible that druggist B. C. Lewis, who
opened his own bank in that year with his three sons, bought
this building from Rutgers. In 1860 the Bank of Tallahassee
was incorporated by an act of the state legislature with the com-
missioners R. A. Shine, D. C. Wilson, John McDougall, Asa Clark,
P. B. Brokaw and Thomas Hayward. This was the last bank to
to be incorporated in the town prior to the Civil War.

r~- --------------~ ---

--- 1

5. The Scourge of a Plague

SOMETIME EARLY in its history Tallahassee acquired
a reputation of being an unhealthy town set down in the midst
of an unhealthy countryside. This was not unusual; for most
of the frontier towns in the South, especially those near the
coast, were subject to periodic outbreaks of malaria and the
dreaded yellow fever. In 1830 Editor Billy Wilson of the
Floridian grumbled about exaggerated reports concerning the
health of the city. Wilson informed his reading public that what
few cases of fever there were in town were of a bilious nature
and not of the yellow fever variety. The only two cases not cured
by the city doctors were those of two Negroes whose problem
was too much alcohol.' Still the town's unhealthy reputation
continued. Mrs. Martha Bradford of Pine Hill Plantation, a few
miles outside of Tallahassee, received a letter in June 1832 from
her cousin Ann in Enfield, North Carolina, who wrote that:
"Unless it [Tallahassee] proves healthier than it has done lately
I shall not be very anxious to move .. . When we move I
would prefer a healthy country to a rich and sickly one."2
"Cousin Ann's" fear of the health of Florida's capital in 1831
was certainly justified, for in that year a serious epidemic, most
probably yellow fever, settled upon the village. The editor of
the Floridian, with an eye to the town's image, called reports
of the fever "greatly exaggerated" and estimated the mortality
rate at about one in 60 persons. A statistic such as this would
indicate the death of perhaps 16 in the city whose population
was a little under 1,000, and perhaps a grim county total of
100 out of roughly 6,500 persons.3
Early in 1832 Asiatic cholera swept down upon New York
City and by October the disease had struck the great port of
New Orleans, Tallahassee's nearest large city. In panic, nearly

52 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
one-third of New Orleans population of 50,000 fled, and
of the two-thirds that remained the disease carried off over 2,000
in 22 days. By November 22 the disease had gone.4 Tallahasseeans
were justly terrified on learning that a ship from New Orleans
had arrived the third week of November at St. Marks with part
of its crew dead or dying. The disease proved to be yellow fever-
slight consolation for the jittery capital. Again, in June of the
following year, cholera appeared briefly at nearby Apalachicola,
then quickly died away.5 The next year cholera spread into
Georgia and South Carolina but left Tallahassee untouched.
In September 1839 an epidemic of yellow fever in Augusta,
Georgia, caused a wholesale evacuation of the town. The
Floridian insisted that in spite of the false and misleading re-
ports about deaths from fever, Tallahassee was the healthiest
city in the South. Furthermore, what few cases of disease that
were found in the city must have been contracted from other
regions and towns, not Tallahassee.6
The Comte de Castelnau, however, who had wintered in
Tallahassee in 1837-38 summed up with a foreigner's impartiality
the health problem of the city and surrounding countryside:

Each year bilious fevers of the most dangerous sort spread
consternation in all the region. Then all the shops are closed,
the fear of the epidemic together with the stifling heat drives
from the city the planters of the neighborhood, and all the in-
habitants who can bear an expense of that sort go to the
northern part of the United States in search of a more healthy
climate; the merchants take advantage of this season to go
to make their purchases in New York or Philadelphia, and
the planter goes to Niagara or Saratoga Springs to live luxuri-
ously and spend in three months his yearly income.7
Castelnau added that the climate was always dangerous for
strangers. The most unhealthy months, he said, were August,
October and November. The comte wrote, "No one can be
certain of escaping the plague, not even the planter who settled
in the country long years before, nor the negro born in the
malarial regions of Carolina or under the burning sun of Georgia."
Castelnau cast a wary eye at what he considered the rather large
size of the Tallahassee country's cemeteries and warned his
readers not to be lured to Middle Florida because of its beauty,
for the danger of disease was too great.8



The Scourge of a Plague 53
In late June and early July of 1841, the yellow fever, which
had for 10 years bypassed or only lightly touched the town,
descended upon the capital in all of its virulent fury. The disease
first appeared in the port of St. Joseph westward on the coast,
then in nearby Apalachicola, a summer resort for many Talla-
hasseeans. It spread to St. Marks at the lighthouse, and then
Tallahassee's own child, Port Leon, a few miles below St. Marks.
Robert Raymond Reid, only two months out of office as governor,
died of the fever on July 1. By the 17th of July, Reid's 22 year
old daughter, Rosalie, died, and shortly after that her own
daughter. A few days later Gen. John Graham, Reid's son-in-
law, West Point graduate and adjutant general of Florida, was
dead. Governor Reid's was a blighted family. In less than two
years his family of 10 was reduced to his widow and her two
children. Even his brother, a naval lieutenant on board the
Sea Gull, drowned when his ship floundered off Cape Horn.9
Reid, a South Carolinian by birth, practiced law in Augusta,
Georgia, where he became the town's mayor. In 1832 he was
appointed Superior Court judge for East Florida by Andrew
Jackson, and in 1838 he presided over the Constitutional Con-
vention at St. Joseph. President Van Buren, Jackson's close friend,
chose Reid as Florida's fourth territorial governor in 1839.10
There were other well-known Tallahasseeans who died short
distances from the capital. Former Floridian Editor Samuel S.
Sibley's wife, Elizabeth, died in St. Joseph leaving him with
two motherless children, while Col. John B. Collins, Florida's
militia quartermaster general, died at Port Leon."1 In Tallahassee,
onetime postmaster Isham G. Searcy, an early settler, financier
and political magnate, died, as did merchant James Moore and
Eliza Betton, the wife of T. R. Betton, the town's great tradesman.
Dead also was the beloved Rev. Philo Phelps, pastor of the
Presbyterian Church. The fever carried away the whole family
of Robert Wellford, five in all. Death took members of many
more of Tallahassee's early families: Westcotts, Wards, Aliens,
Sheas, Sheffields, Scotts, Keowins, Berrys, and the grim list goes
Editor Sibley, saddened by the loss of his wife and con-
fused by the inexplicable nature of the dreadful disease, poig-
nantly wrote toward the end of the epidemic this despondent


54 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
The visits of the Angel of Death in this city within the last
several months have been oft repeated . .. The deaths have
been sudden and violent. The victims of the disease have
been of all classes and ages . . Both sexes have suffered
alike. The affluent and the indigent, the planter, the artisan,
the tradesman and the professional man; the temperate ..
and those who freely indulge in eating and drinking, have
without distinction suddenly received the fearful summons to
leave this world.18
The fear and confusion was complete and Tallahasseeans
estimated that only three or four families in town and not more
than a dozen individuals entirely escaped the holocaust.14 Even
Governor Call contracted the disease, but he recovered.15 In
August one estimate put the death toll at 10 per cent of the
city's 1,600 inhabitants, or around 160 people laid in their graves.16
Grim evidence of the extent of the fatalities from the disease
was shown by the fact that in August, during the height of the
epidemic, Intendant Eppes passed a city ordinance establishing
a new city burying ground next to the church graveyard for
the fever victims. This became the "old city graveyard" in the
heart of the capital."7
Treatment for yellow fever was hopelessly primitive. Hot
water and cayenne pepper applied to the feet and legs was
a typical remedy.18 Current medical advice to prevent yellow
fever was just as pathetic. To ward off the disease Tallahasseeans
were advised to eat moderately and exercise modestly, guard
against unnecessary exposure, not eat unripe fruits and avoid
all alcoholic drinks.19
As late as October 15 the Sentinel was advising those who
fled the city not to return yet. By November, however, the trial
by fever was over and the city was left to resume an otherwise
normal life. What had brought on the disaster no one knew.
Some supported the theory that "forsaken backyards and side-
ways all covered with rank growth" sent out deadly yellow fever
fumes.20 Others, with perhaps more truth than they realized,
believed that the disease had been brought in by way of the
nearby Gulf ports of St. Marks, Port Leon, Apalachicola and
St. Joseph. One immediate result was the building of Bel Air.
This was a suburb of the capital built in the open piney woods
about three miles south of the capitol on the road to St. Marks.
Here each summer after 1841 the socially prominent and

I I _

The Scourge of a Plague 55
wealthy migrated for the hottest three of four months in the
belief that the open pine woods were healthful and they would
be safe from the unhappy weeds and death of Tallahassee. Gov-
ernor Call's daughter, Ellen, nostalgically remembered life there
"in a style that reminds one of the primitive days of the country.
Camp life under the lightwood torches . social chats in
evening rambles, bees, teas and tableaux, cards, lunch and
Bel Air continued to be the capital's health and summer
resort for the very best of Tallahassee society until the con-
clusion of the Civil War. The war, a plague far more disastrous
than the fever, took the wealth from the majority of the promi-
nent citizens of the town, reducing them to a financial posi-
tion that made the luxury of Bel Air an impossibility. A few
years after the war, Bel Air was abandoned to the pine woods.
Only the name remains today.
After the plague, Tallahassee continued to have a rather bad
health reputation through the Civil War.22 Whatever the cause,
Tallahasseeans unanimously agreed death and suffering would
have been far worse had it not been for the skill of the capital's
Tallahassee, for a town its size, had always had an abun-
dance of doctors, legitimate and otherwise. In 1826, with a popu-
lation of about 700 there were at least seven practicing physi-
cians, or one for every 100 individuals.24 By 1860 the popula-
tion had grown to around 3,000 and supported 14 physicians,
or a little over one for every 200 persons.25
In March of 1826 the physicians of the Tallahassee area
banded themselves into a loose medical fraternity for the pur-
pose of establishing regular rates of charges for house calls,
operations and medicines.26 Each house call cost $1.00. An eve-
ning call was $2.00. Mileage was a standard extra charge-$2.00
for a mile or under, and $1.00 for each additional mile. These
were sunny daytime charges. If the doctor made a house call
during a daytime thunder shower or at night the charge was
$2.00 per mile. The fee was raised to $3.00 per mile if the
doctor was aroused from bed on a rainy night. A Tallahassee
doctor would remain by his patient's side at the patient's re-
quest for $2.00 per hour and would stay in town at a patient's
request except on emergencies for $10 a day. Once the physician


56 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
reached his patient's home and made his diagnosis the fee for
his verbal directions and advice was $1.00 to $5.00 and written
advice from $5.00 to $10.27
Considering the value of a dollar and its general purchasing
power in 1826, medical services were far from cheap. As for
operations, amputation of a leg or thigh was $50, an arm $40.
Removal of a female's breast was $100 and repairing a cleft lip,
$20 to $40. It only cost $1.00, however, to have a tooth pulled,
a wound dressed, gum lanced or be bled from a vein. For
errant citizens it cost from $5.00 to $30 to be treated for gonor-
rhea, and $25 to $100 for treatment of syphilis. These services
and charges were underwritten by Tallahassee's first physicians:
A. W. Coleman, C. A. Watkins, Edmund Tucker, R. S. R. Wilson,
and Lewis Willis, whose sister Catherine had just married Achille
Murat. George W. Call, R. K. Call's brother, and Thomas Orr
were also physicians then but must have had their own ideas
about the practice of medicine for they did not subscribe to the
posted charges.
The town's doctors were well qualified. Most of them were
college trained and were not the usual office apprentice type
as were so many frontier doctors. Dr. Orr said he was educated
at the Universities of Glasgow, Dublin and Edinburg. Dr. W.
W. Waddel, a South Carolinian who began his practice in Talla-
hassee around 1833, had been graduated with honors from the
University of Pennsylvania's Medical School in 1828.29 Two
early physicians were also planters. Virginia-born James H. Ran-
dolph, son of wealthy planter Thomas E. Randolph, graduated
from a Philadelphia medical school. He began practicing medi-
cine in town around 1839 while operating his large plantation,
Ashton, about four miles north of the old town.
North Carolinian Dr. Edward Bradford, ante-bellum Talla-
hassee's most noted physician had come to Leon County in 1831.
Bradford was a graduate of Jefferson Medical College in Phila-
delphia. He married Governor Branch's daughter, Martha. Brad-
ford left the territory with his family when the yellow fever epi-
demic struck the city. He returned to build and operate the
beautiful 3,200 acre Pine Hill and Horseshoe Plantations about
10 miles north of town on the road to Thomasville. Here his
daughter, Susan Bradford Eppes, was raised. Her two books, The


The Scourge of a Plague 57
Negro of the Old South and Through Some Eventful Years, give
a poignant moonlight and magnolia picture of one of Tallahassee's
best known plantations.
Dr. Miles Nash was not only a successful physician in Talla-
hassee, but the town's Methodist minister for a number of years.
For training and qualifications, probably none could match
Dr. C. C. Van Wyck, who had been a professor of surgery at the
Franklin Medical College. He practiced for a short time in
Tallahassee around 1833. The fact that five of the 10 doctors
comprising the first permanent State Medical Board of Exam-
iners in 1845, were Tallahasseeans speaks much for the quality
of the city's medical men.30
Although the physicians in Tallahassee doubled as dentists,
the town had the services of trained dentists as early as 1830.
In September, 1830, Dr. J. H. C. Miller, surgeon dentist, an-
nounced his availability to Tallahasseeans. It was the practice
of Miller and several other dentists to make periodic visits to
the capital, usually during the convening of the Legislative
Council, when the capital was crowded with people, the race
track in full swing and balls and parties every night. The city
was not to have a permanent dentist until October 1838, when
Dr. W. Cross began the practice of dental surgery.31
An idea of the services rendered by these early dentists
can be found in an advertisement of Dr. S. W. Comfort, tempo-
rarily in Tallahassee in June 1832. During that time he per-
formed dental surgery and treated diseased gums. He also made
and fitted false teeth. Natural teeth he scaled, cleaned and filled.
He also drilled and made fillings, extracted old roots and "fangs,"
and pulled teeth with what he termed "caution and skill."32 In
1835 Dr. R. H. Harrison advertised that he had just visited most
of the Atlantic cities to note improvements in dental surgery. He
proudly announced that every operation would be performed,
"in the most improved, elegant and substantial manner."33 Dr.
Harrison was so confident of his ability that he wrote, "If any
former operations have not succeeded perfectly, no charge will
be made for repairing."34
Dental charges were considerably lower than the fees of
Tallahassee's physicians. Extraction of adult teeth cost $1.00 and
children's 50g. Filling teeth with gold was $1.50 and with silver


58 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
500 each. A bridge cost $5.00 and a plate $10. All dental oper-
ations were usually guaranteed and, contrary to the local medical
practices, dental examinations and advice were free.36
Dr. P. L. Palmer, not only practiced dentistry in the town
in 1850, but operated a daguerreotype studio in the rooms above
Bull and Praetorius at the old office of the Sentinel." The most
professional and modem of all of the capital's dentists was Dr.
P. P. Lewis, who moved from Thomasville, just over the Georgia
border, to Tallahassee in 1850. He was not only the longest
dentist in residence, but was the first to use chloroform and
ether in dental extractions and operations. One fascinating in-
novation of Dr. Lewis was the use of electricity to avoid the
use of chloroform or ether in pulling teeth. At the moment of
extraction Dr. Lewis sent a charge of electricity through the
patient's tooth producing a local anesthesia. "They experienced
little or no pain," he proclaimed."3


6. The Fire and After

BY MAY OF 1843 the village of Tallahassee had ex-
panded to a town of 1,500 persons with a thriving business dis-
trict. There were at least 11 general stores, five groceries, four
drugstores, two newspapers, two auction rooms, two jewelers,
two bookstores, at least three tailors and probably more, a bak-
ery, two confectionaries, shoe saddlery and cabinet shops, sev-
eral blacksmiths, and professional businesses.'
From time to time as the city grew from a few stores in
the beginning to 50 or more establishments in 1843, Tallahas-
seeans had given passing thought to the possibility of a fire, and
various citizens had made half-hearted attempts to arouse the
public to the danger. In 1829 Editor Billy Wilson warned the
townspeople of the fire hazard the business section presented.
The wooden buildings were crowded closely together within
a few blocks and many of the stores contained barrel upon
barrel of gun powder. All of this, combined with the town's
total inability to put out a serious fire, was asking for trouble.2
In May 1830, a fire in Magnolia, the river port 15 miles below
Tallahassee, stirred a weak response in a few Tallahasseeans to
raise a volunteer fire company, but little came of this.8 Nine
years later, when two fires broke out in the same day-one in
R. J. Hackley's auction room, and the other among books and
papers in the new courthouse-there was a belated public hue
and cry again for some form of fire protection.4 There was talk
in the City Council of buying a fire engine and getting an ade-
quate water supply, but nothing came of it.5 In February 1843,
not quite four months before the great disaster that was to come,
a fire was discovered on the roof of the two-story house of
Richard Hayward. Only the frantic efforts of the citizens kept
it from spreading.

I __


60 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
There is a tradition in the family of Gov. Thomas Brown
that on the morning of May 25, 1843, Mag Brown, youngest
daughter of the governor, woke up from a dream which she
told to her older sister. "Mary, I had a dream. There was a
great triangle suspended in the air over Tallahassee and on it
were written these words, 'Cursed of the Lord.' At about five
o'clock in the afternoon of the same day a curse appeared to
have truly fallen on the town. The Star of Florida was the only
newspaper to survive the tragedy and to report in its most mem-
orable issue the extent of the disaster, the like of which Talla-
hassee had never seen before nor since:

DREADFUL CONFLAGRATION: On Thursday last, there
occurred in this city, one of the most sweeping fires, that per-
haps ever overwhelmed any city with perfect and entire ruin.
The fire commenced at the house known as the Washington
Hall, on the eastern side of the capitol, and in the South
Eastern quarter of the city-The wind was very fresh at the
time, and the flames spread northwardly with fearful rapidity.
A vacant lot, and the fire proof dwelling of Mr. Cutter pre-
vented its extending southwardly. To its progress on the north,
the narrow street called LaFayette street, presented no barrier.
It soon caught the low buildings occupied as a carriage maker's
shop, the dwelling of Mr. Watson, Judge Gibson, and ap-
proached the red store of Capt. Bond. The efforts made to
arrest its progress, were impotent and futile. The terrible ele-
ment had arisen in its power, and the feeble strength of man
was as nothing before it. It crossed Pensacola street, swept
the entire block occupied by the Messrs. Hackley and E. W.
Dorsey, Auctioneers, by the Floridian Office, and others. Every
exertion, which the means within reach, and the time allowed
were used to prevent the flames being communicated to the
buildings on the West side of Monroe street, but in vain; many
roofs were fired at once, and the fire fully established itself
in the block between Monroe street on the East, Adams street
on the West, and the entire business portion of the city before
it on the north. And such was the fearful rapidity with which
the flames were driven forward, that but few goods could be
saved from the numerous stores which lined both sides of
Monroe Street and the cross streets, Jefferson and Clinton
streets. Owing to the great protection which the trees on both
sides of Adams street furnished, the citizens were enabled by
great exertion, to prevent the fires crossing this street west-
wardly. The two story brick dwelling of R. Hayward, Esq.,
the three story brick building of C. E. Bartlett, the Union
Bank, and the Bank of Florida, were all in great danger and


The Fire and After 61
saved only by extraordinary efforts. To the northward, the
flames rushed on without impediment, till they found nothing
further to prey on, in the vacancy of Court House square.
On the Eastern side of Monroe street, everything was swept
till it reached the dwelling of Dr. Randolph, where its further
progress was arrested. The Court House was several times
on fire, but those on the alert were fortunate enough to ex-
tinguish the flames before the had gathered strength. The fire
broke out about 5 o'clock, P.M. and was arrested before 8,
so that all this destruction occurred in the short space of
three hours.8
The fire raged northward and consumed eight blocks of two-
story wooden buildings in front and warehouses behind until
it reached 200-Hundred Foot Street, which formed a natural fire
break.9 The Tallahassee Guards were called out at once to patrol
the town and prevent looting. For some miraculous reason the
old Planters Hotel stood untouched on its lonely corner with
everything around it burned to the ground. Everything else in
the block north of Capitol Square to 200-Hundred Foot Street
was consumed by the flames. Perhaps even more miraculous
was the fact that not a single life was lost in the fire.
On the following day a public meeting was held at the
county courthouse. Intendant Francis Eppes was appointed
chairman, and at the same time two committees were formed,
one on losses and one on relief. The Committee on Losses was
to determine who was burned out and the amount of losses and
report back to the intendant.10 The Committee on Relief was
to search for means for relieving the sufferers of the fire and to
estimate the cost of emergency relief measures.'1
The Committee on Loss estimated that over a half million
dollars damage had been done by the fire to the buildings and
another $150,000 in goods and furnishings. Only two business
firms in town were covered by fire insurance, the combined total
of which was only $18,000. This was in spite of the fact that
druggist E. B. Perkins had been a Hartford Fire Insurance agent
since 1831 and fire insurance had been well advertised in all
of Tallahassee's papers for years prior to the fire.12
At the suggestion of the Committee on Relief, Mayor Eppes
wrote an address to the whole American nation on the subject
of the Tallahassee fire. Copies were sent to the mayors of all
the large cities and to all of the major newspapers in the country
to announce the distress of the town.'1 Eppes reminded the

C~ --C --I

62 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
businessmen throughout the country that before the fire Talla-
hassee each year exported around 32,000 bales of cotton worth
well over $1,200,000. The shrewd mayor added that Tallahassee
imported from northern merchants goods over twice that of her
own cotton exports. The message put its point across and got
results. Relief money poured in from New Orleans, Augusta,
Petersburg, Virginia, and many other cities. It was three years
before the relief money was completely distributed. Not every-
one helped the capital in her time of trial, however. Mobile
ignored Tallahassee's hour of need in spite of the fact that Talla-
hassee had aided that city when it was nearly destroyed by fire
in 1839.
It was a general opinion that the fire was the work of some
arsonist, and soon afterwards, several suspects were dragged
before city officials. One was a Negro who had worked in the
Washington Hall Hotel. His only accuser was the hotel owner
who charged him with seeking personal revenge for some past
wrong. On the Fourth of July, John Daly, a white cook at the
hotel, was arrested when Lawrence Russ, perhaps too full of
holiday cheer, swore he heard the cook bragging about setting
the fire. Russ reversed his story under oath and was arrested
for perjury. All the suspects were eventually released. The final
conclusion of city officials was that Tallahassee had definitely
and deliberately been set afire, but by whom was to remain for-
ever a mystery.
As if one fire were not enough, a few days after the great
fire a number of warehouses near the railroad depot in the
southwestern part of town burned to the ground. Now the task
was to rebuild the town. The City Council immediately passed
an ordinance which made it illegal to rebuild burned buildings
out of wood. Only brick or stone were permissible. Almost im-
mediately, with official consent, the burned out merchants set
up makeshift shanties in the four public parks and on 200-
Hundred Foot Street, and business was resumed.
Much of what was left of the town's business centered
about the City Hotel and Bartlett's Corner. Here Bartlett pub-
lished the Star of Florida in a three-story brick building on the
southwest corner of Clinton (College Avenue) and Adams
Streets.14 This building had been saved by men and boys who
took positions on the roof of the building, wet it with water and

P' -i -;--- -- ------------ I

_ IU

The Fire and After 63
beat out the sparks that swirled from the raging inferno across
the street.15 Poor Colonel Sibley of the Floridian, whose luck
always seemed to be bad, did not fare so well. He had just gone
to press and run off one side of his issue when the fire struck.
Bartlett graciously permitted his rival to use the facilities of the
Star office to keep going for a while.16 Sibley in desperation
begged his customers to pay their bills so that he could start
again or he would be forced to close his business.17
Two days after the fire, druggist D. H. Ames set up a
temporary drugstore, with what stock he had been able to
save, at D. P. Hogue's office opposite Bartlett's Corner. Here
he anxiously awaited a fresh supply of drugs and medicine.18
Commission merchants H. and M. Starr and James R. Gamble
moved into Bartlett's building with goods saved from the fire.
D. C. Wilson, predecessor of modern day Wilson's Department
Store, removed part of his stock of groceries and drygoods to
a wooden tenement on Adams Street near Bartlett's Corner. Dr.
Hayward took his rescued drugs, medicines and supplies to the
front room of the building occupied by the surveyor general,
second door south of Brown's City Hotel.19 Old timers R. J.
Hackley and R. H. Berry buried their rivalry and formed a
partnership in a building next to the City Hotel, and Samuel
Clift reopened his machine shop under the City Hotel where
he resumed his manufacture of horse powered grist mills and
cotton gins for nearby planters.20 W. L. Baker took what was
left of his drygoods and grocery stock and set up temporary
headquarters in the bar of the City Hotel. Most were less for-
tunate. The owner of the billiard room opposite the northeast
corner of Capitol Square salvaged only his pool table. He ad-
vertised: "One of the best billiard tables ever in this territory
for sale."21
The citizens of the capital learned little from their ex-
perience, for there was still no effort after the fire to establish
a fire fighting system. At the end of July 1853, P. B. Brokaw's
livery stable was burned to the ground. Brokaw had no insur-
ance and there was no fire brigade to come to the rescue. Brokaw
had just built this new building when he claimed that one or
two of his hired Negroes set fire to it. He rebuilt the stables
with brick six months later on the corner of Washington Square.
The guilt of the Negroes was never proved.

64 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
In March of the following year J. G. Anderson's roof caught
on fire and there was still no fire department to respond to the
emergency. Some of the citizens tried to point out the crying
need of some sort of fire equipment. "A few hundred dollars,"
pleaded the Floridian, "might save thousands."22
The business community was considerably altered by the
disaster. Some disheartened merchants left Tallahassee while new
names and businesses appeared. In February, 1844, the first pro-
fessional undertaker, Francis Wienker, took over a room formerly
used as a dining room of the City Hotel and carried on the
business of undertaker and upholsterer.23 Hackley and Berry
moved their auction house and commission merchant business
to the Bartlett Building under the Star office, and B. C. Lewis
reopened his drugstore on the corner of Clinton and Adams,
opposite the auction rooms. A year later Lewis, later to become
a banker, moved his drugstore to Monroe Street opposite Wash-
ington Square. And so it went. Not long after the fire the house
of Mr. C. Hutchinson was ablaze. It was only saved by a grand
turnout of the entire state legislature then in session. The members
formed a bucket brigade and doused the fire. There arose a
plea for at least a hook and ladder company, if the citizens
were not willing to spend tax money on a fire engine. This ap-
peal also went unheeded.
Houses continued to burn frequently in Tallahassee until
after the Civil War. The most that the townspeople were willing
to do was to raise occasional contributions for fire victims in
particularly desperate situations. Such was the case of a Mr.
Scott, whose house near the railroad depot was burned to the
ground in November 1859, and probably rebuilt by contributions.
Old businesses shifted from place to place, old merchants
died or retired and new businesses and partnerships took over.
Robert Hackley died and his old partner, Berry, carried on with
another partner, Rowles. Twenty-five years after the town was
established there were two drug stores, that of Ames and Lewis,
and Edward Barnard's. The town had three full time tailors and
five fairly successful general stores, one of which was still op-
erated by T. R. Betton, and another by George H. Meginniss.
There appeared around 1850 a carriage repository or new car-
riage sales room as a sideline of the livery stable trade of P. B.
Brokaw, who advertised "fireproof brick stables." Here he sold


The Fire and After 65
new buggies, rockaways, peddler's wagons and the like.24 Fred-
erick Towle was still not only the pioneer jeweler of the capital
but the principal one, outlasting such early competitors as Ger-
ardin and Wuy.25 Bookseller P. A. Hayward had died at 34 and
left the book business to ex-Editor Billy Wilson.26 By 1855 the
bookstore business passed to J. McDougall. Henry Kindon was
still the town baker and leading confectioner with his business
on Jefferson Street opposite the auction rooms of R. H. Berry,
where he sold peppermint, cinnamon, wintergreen and lemon
drops as well as "plain loaf bread and the most exqui ite cakes
and pies."
The burned blocks in the center of town very slowly began
to fill with brick buildings and the public squares were gradually
rid of their store shanties. The scars of the fire began to disap-
pear. It was well past the Civil War period before all of the
burned blocks were filled with new stores and businesses. A
well known drawing of Tallahassee dated 1885 still showed many
vacant lots in the heart of town that had once held buildings.
At the time of the fire the population of Tallahassee was
around 1,600. By mid-century it had actually decreased to around
1,400. Most of this depopulation was due to the lure of the
California gold fields and to the availability of millions of acres
of practically free land to homesteaders in Texas and beyond.
Some of Tallahassee's decline, however, must have been due to
disappointed townspeople whose dreams of a bright future in
the Tallahassee country went up in smoke on the 25th of May
in 1843. Even though the planters with their thousands of bales
of cotton were traditionally the very soul of the Tallahassee
country, the town's tradesmen handled imported goods twice
the value of its cotton exports.
After the fire, Tallahasseeans even made a feeble effort at
manufacturing. There was a cotton twine factory on Meridian
Road and an iron foundry called the Leon County Iron Works
started in 1854 by J. M. Shine. Here Shine made a variety of
plows, kettles, steam mills, iron railings and a number of other
items that Tallahasseeans would not have to import from New
York. Later John Cardy bought this establishment, advertising
that he could make "steam engines from 6 to 35 H.P. . as
cheap as can be purchased in New York or any northern city ...
as well as castings for saw mills, grist mills, gin gearing .

_I 1__

66 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
sugar mills, etc., and some beautiful patterns of iron railing for
grave yards, etc."27 In April 1856, "Practical Gunmakers" Atwood
and Brown advertised that they were manufacturing "double
barrelled shotguns, rifles and pistols which they warren to be
equal to any made. Our increase twist rifles for target shooting
are warranted to shoot with precision from 100 to 400 yards."
Their shop was at the "sign of the rifle" next to Monroe House.28
In August 1857, Thomas White was manufacturing self-sealing
cans for food.
In the last 10 years before the Civil War the city grew
little. The drug firm of Ames and Lewis was still in operation,
although the name had changed to Ames and Lively. B. Cheever
Lewis, after 20 years as one of Tallahassee's leading druggists
and a 12 year partnership with Ames, sold his interest in the
oldest Tallahassee drugstore to Matthew Lively and went into
the banking business.29 R. H. Berry, the surviving partner of
the old firm of Hackley and Berry, was still operating his 30-
year-old auction and commission establishment, but he had to
compete with five other auctioneers.30 Frederick Towle was
still the chief jeweler, but with stout competitors in Myers and
Gorman, Incorporated, and P. L. Warden.31
A list of the more important 1860 general store merchants
included liveryman P. B. Brokaw, D. C. Wilson, wealthy Arvah
Hopkins, old pioneers G. and J. Meginniss, George W. Scott who
later endowed Agnes Scott College, D. B. Maxwell, Alex Gallie,
R. A. Shine and M. F. Papy, A. F. Hayward, and Charles West.32
Now, as in the past, there were several large tailoring businesses
in Tallahassee. N. Praetorius, formerly of Praetorius and Bull,
was still operating. His chief competitor was merchant-tailor
Joseph Weber. The town was also supporting a marble head-
stone business and an undertaker, T. J. Rawls. Considering the
amount of advertising that undertaker Rawls put into "Fisk's
Patent Metalic Burial Cases" over a ten-year period, there must
must be a sizeable number of metal coffins buried in the ceme-
tery grounds of the city.83
The chief restaurant by now was the Florida Exchange of
James Rogers. This was probably a successor to the Tallahassee
Exchange of the 1840's. The market place, where the city hall
stood in 1971 (also called "Rascal's Square") was open from
daylight until 8 o'clock from the first of October until the first



The Fire and After 67
of March and from daylight until 7 o'clock from the first of
March until the first of October.34 Each morning the city marshal
appeared from daylight till 8 o'clock to examine the beef to be
sold. A farmer who failed to check with the marshal paid a
$10 fine or had his beef confiscated.35 This was for health reasons
and to prevent cattle rustling. An ordinance passed 20 years
previously that remained in effect until the war prohibited mer-
chants and shopkeepers from doing business on Sunday with a
maximum fine of $20 for violation of the ordinance.86
During the whole ante-bellum period, Tallahassee business
was never to emerge from the small merchant class. Manu-
facturing was never successful. Business was still centered about
plantations and politics from the great fire to the great war.

I ,

I 1


7. The Mails! Where Are the Mails?

CAPTAIN JOHN DUVAL, one of Governor DuVal's
eight children,1 remembered that when he first saw Tallahassee
the governor's fields were surrounded by primeval forest; and
there were about 15 or 20 families, mostly from Virginia and
Georgia, gathered around the public square. Almost up to the
very edges of the square there was unbroken wilderness ex-
tending in every direction. "Deer, panther, and other wild animals
were not infrequently killed within the corporate bounds. One
of the largest panthers I ever saw was killed between town and
the cascade near the old Butler place. There were only three
dimly blazed roads connecting the city with the outside world,
one going east to St. Augustine, one west to Pensacola, and the
other to St. Marks on the Gulf."2
According to popular tradition, there was a Camino Real,
or Royal Road, over which Spain was to have connected St.
Augustine with her Mexican viceroyalty and the mission points
in between. In reality there was no such road.3 There was at
one time a Spanish road between St. Augustine and the San
Luis Mission in Apalachee,4 but only a trace was left by the
time of the American Revolution. One authority wrote that there
was little regular communication by land between St. Augustine
and Pensacola. The early maps of the Creek and Choctaw coun-
try did not show any trails eastward from Pensacola. The sea
route was preferred.6 So Captain DuVals "dim road" leading
west from Tallahassee had no romantic Spanish history beyond
the San Luis Mission, a few miles to the west. The road to the
east and St. Augustine, however, was once in a very real sense
a Camino Real.
The man most closely associated with the early roads lead-
ing out of Tallahassee was Capt. Daniel E. Burch, a United

_. _

70 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
States Army engineer acting out of the quartermaster's depart-
ment. He made a survey from Pensacola to St. Augustine in the
fall of 1823.6 The Congress, acting on the captain's recommenda-
tion, approved the building of a military road from Pensacola
to St. Augustine on February 28, 1824, and appropriated $20,000
for the work.7 Captain Burch, working with Gen. Thomas S.
Jesup, contracted for the work among private citizens of the
territory, though much of the western end was actually com-
pleted by the 4th Infantry stationed at Fort Clinch near Pensa-
cola.8 The road in the immediate vicinity of Tallahassee was
built by the slaves of planter and pioneer John Bellamy, who
had established his plantation east of Tallahassee near Miccosukee
several years before the site was chosen for the capital. Bellamy
sought out Governor DuVal on August 31, 1824, to offer to build
a road from Pensacola to St. Augustine in one year for $23,000.
Bellamy apparently thought the matter over and modified his
offer. He wrote Burch in December 1824 that he would build
a road from the Ochlockonee to the St. Johns River and St.
Augustine for $13,500.9 Bellamy's offer was accepted and work
began on the first American-built road in and out of Tallahassee
in the winter or early spring of 1825. It was opened in 1826.10
From the first there were bitter complaints about Bellamy's road.
John Rodman complained to Secretary Calhoun in April 1825,
that the road was only 16 feet wide and was a sorry job at best,
and would not last a year. "The stumps of the trees on the road
are left standing to a great height instead of being 'cut off as
low to the ground as possible.' An ordinary rain must make the
road absolutely impassible .. . The causeways and bridges
constructed on this road from the Ocklockny to the St. Johns
are absolutely good for nothing.""
In a letter to General Jesup, Burch defended his narrow
and stump-ridden roads. He wrote that experience of the southern
country side showed that wide roads were not necessary, for
if opened to the air and sun an almost impenetrable growth of
oak bushes would spring up in the first season afterward. The
width in a road in Florida was not important, for wagons could
turn out at any place to pass each other.12 "And in opening a
road of this kind it is altogether unnecessary to dig or cut off
the stumps level with the ground."13 In further defending his
road Captain Burch revealed the true nature of Florida's first

__~_1~~1_1 1_ _

L. I

The Mails! Where Are the Mails? 71
highways: "The general practice of opening roads in the new
southern states is to trace out a trail by blazing the trees on the
most eligible ground and clear away any of the largest tim-
ber ... .in opening the road from Pensacola to St. Augustine
it has been staked out in straight stretches 10 feet wide and
all timber cut down and removed . and although this road
does not pass through the settlements of the country general-
ly . their proximity to it enables them all to use it."14 And
so it was that Captain Burch set the road building policy that
was to be the burden of the territory and the complaint of
travelers and visitors to Tallahassee for years to come.
The road started from Pensacola in the spring of 1825
reached the area of Tallahassee nine to ten months later.15 A
letter from Burch to John Bellamy dated February 26, 1826,
informed Bellamy, "From the Ocklocknee to the Ausillee the
work on the road is for the most part complete. . But
the bridge on the east side of Tallahassee at the foot of the
hill must be covered."1" While this road was under construction,
congressional delegate Richard Keith Call made an effort to have
Burch open a road from St. Marks to Tallahassee.17 Burch eagerly
agreed and asked his superiors for the use of the U. S. Infantry
at Fort Clinch to build the road. This plan never materialized,
however, for in the Leon County police regulations published
September 1, 1826, William Campbell, Thomas Chamberlin and
Joseph Cameron were appointed commissioners to survey a road
from Tallahassee to St. Marks.18 Two months later another news-
paper notice called on all able bodied men within the area of
the proposed road to meet at the Cascade with tools and five
days' rations to cut a road out of the 20 miles of tangled wilder-
ness that stretched between Tallahassee and her only outlet to
the sea.19 This peculiar public conscription was based upon a
law of the times that made all able-bodied free white males
and slaves between 16 and 45 subject to work on the public
roads and highways in the territory.20 How often or successfully
this law was enforced is not known. It is perhaps a fair guess
that, considering the independent nature of the average fron-
tiersman and later failure in attempts to conscript Tallahasseeans
for street labor, the law was probably useless. The road from
St. Marks as late as 1835 was still rough and crude.
On Christmas day 1828 an anonymous "Baron" from the


72 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
West Indies debarked at Key West for a trip to Tallahassee and
then on to Lipona, Prince Murat's plantation east of Tallahassee.
The Baron, who perhaps may have fancied himself to have been
an author, has left with us his very personalized account of con-
ditions that existed on the trip from St. Marks to Tallahassee:
It was late in the evening when we left St. Marks in an
old dirty looking vehicle and a sorry Rosinante intending to
pass the first night at the first house which was A---'s.
Not more than three or four miles I found extremely pleasant
entiree nous, the Tallahassee miles are the longest I ever en-
dured and I am happy to say they shorten as one approaches
Lipona). Everything was new to me. The innumerable pine
trees . the little basins of sparkling water . the squat-
ter's deserted huts, the fires still burning had been kindled
by the wagoneers to cook their food and temporary shelter
to repose themselves, all formed a scene of wild and fantastic
beauty . nor must I forget the serpentine roads-so serpen-
tine, indeed, like Mr. Sterling's walls, 'they were all zig-zag-
crimkum, crankum, in and out, to and again, twisting and
turning like a worm,' one could hardly see beyond ones
nose . . The roads were deep and heavy which made it
difficult for Rosinante to drag the cumbrous 'ne'er do weal'
carriage. Misfortune, they say 'never comes singly.' In the
next instant it broke down . .. Well, we must go on. I'll
lead the way. H----- alighted and we could just discern
his figure in the surrounding gloom sufficiently to follow it
and keep in the right path. 'G-d d--n it!' furiously exclaimed
H- 'What's the matter?' inquired W--- anxiously. 'These
d- d stumps. I had nearly broke my leg' .... Rosinante
[stopped] every ten minutes. At length, thank fortune!
Finally the Baron and his party arrived at A------'s:
We ate a hearty supper of bacon, eggs and corn biscuits . .
[finally] everyone had retired except myself and H--- and
the old lady [who was the hostess]. 'Yes, sir,-that there bed
you see is yours and this here's mine,' pointing to two beds
opposite each other. I'll sleep with my poor little son ...
don't mind us, we are only old people . . The lady had
no intention of leaving the room . but cooly commenced
undressing herself and was soon reduced to the aerial dress
of Nannie in Tam O'Shanty, after which she simply slipt into
In 1827 still only three roads led from Tallahassee. As the
road led west toward Pensacola it passed through Quincy, Fort
Scott and Fowl Town, with branches to Chipola and Apalachi-


The Mails! Where Are the Mails? 73
cola Bay. To the east toward Jacksonville and St. Augustine was
the old Spanish road. Some 15 miles along this road a branch
led into Georgia toward Early Court House and the Georgia
capital of Milledgeville. To the south was the old St. Marks
path. From St. Marks a road stretched to the east to the great
Alachua Savannah and Micanopy, then on to St. Augustine. By
1845 the roads leading from Tallahassee had more than doubled,
not to mention a railroad that connected Tallahassee to St. Marks
and the bay.
Though the roads multiplied, their quality always seemed
to be poor. Moderate rains made them almost impassable and
freshets washed bridges away in short order. An exasperated
editor of the Floridian wrote in March 1832, as he had done so
often in the past and would in the future: "Another failure of
northern mails. The present route is circuitous and crosses sev-
eral streams that are always impassable during freshlets."22 The
Englishman, Charles Latrobe, who traveled to Tallahassee in
1833, gave a graphic picture of the hazards on the route to
Tallahassee along the Jacksonville or Old Spanish Road:
The "bad bridge" over a powerful stream [Suwannee River]
was said to have been carried from its position by the flood,
and to be totally impassible. [But] the danger diminished as
we advanced, and the vehicle, lightened as far as was prac-
ticable, was conducted safely through the waters upon the
disjointed and submerged bridge . . The same day we
crossed the Osilla by ferry . found miserable quarters about
twenty miles from Tallahassee, borrowed a second pair of
horses, and finally reached the end of our journey . . In
this town we had to sit down again for six days, from sheer
impossibility of getting farther."23
Latrobe and his companion just missed the Georgia stage-
coach so decided to travel and see:
Everything that was worth looking at . . We prevailed
upon a emigrant Northumbrian . to lend up his horse Tony
and another "carry-all"-one which only broke down eight
times before our return, ejecting us on each occasion
into the road-to make a day's visit to the ancient port of St.
Marks . . The country immediately about Tallahassee I
have described as finely undulating, covered with a growth of
exuberant forests. It is so, and so far is much more beautiful
than anything we had seen in East Florida: and this beauty
is augmented by numberless fine sheets of water . spread-


74 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
ing among the hills. A little farther to the southward, however,
the country sinks to the ordinary and monotonous level of
the barrens, covered with the long-leaved pine . . Through
these we drove to Magnolia, over a road which our canny
borderer had described to us as "a very fairish sort of road,-
one in which the stumps are cut pretty nigh level, that is
within two feet o' the groundl"4
Though the roads were bad for Latrobe in 1833, the trip
of the Bishop of Mobile, Michael Portier, six years earlier along
the western road from Pensacola to Tallahassee and on to St.
Augustine, was an agonizing experience. By the time he had
gone as far as Chipola, the bishop wrote, "I was pale, broken
down, half dead from want of food."25 The trip from Pensacola
took 12 days and "I had come a distance of 300 miles."26
Jeremy Robinson on government business in early 1832 was
given orders to travel to Tallahassee, meet with Richard Keith
Call, then proceed to Havana, via Pensacola.27 Robinson went
by way of Norfolk and Fayetteville to Tallahassee, a journey
of a thousand miles in 18 days, "with as much speed as the
mails and other conveyances will permitt."8 He arrived in Talla-
hassee on May 28, 1832, tired and ill. Once in Tallahassee he
found that there was no regularly scheduled boat to Pensacola
and, "the journey the whole way by land, is, or seems to be
the only alternative. [It is] a route of nearly 300 miles," he wrote
wearily, "where no stage travels, lonely, at this season hot, and
always expensive-[the] great part of the journey is without reg-
ular roads, habitations or conveyances."29 After waiting several
days in Tallahassee, Robinson boarded a stage at the Planters
Hotel which took him to Marianna where the rough stage ended
its journey. From there he followed the mail route on horseback
until he reached Holmes Valley. He waited on Santa Rosa Bay
for a boat to carry him the remaining 200 miles. His alternate
land route, had the bridges not been washed out at Marianna,
was described to him as "running through an almost uninhabited
swampy country . in some places without a house for sixty
miles."32 From Tallahassee he finally reached Pensacola 19 days
later. Some of his delay was due to his being shipwrecked on
Santa Rosa Island "in a gale of wind."23
In the winter of 1837-38, six years later, Castelnau traveled
the same land route that Robinson had taken from Charleston
to Tallahassee. "These roads," wrote Castelnau, "are ordinarily


The Mails! Where Are the Mails? 75
from six to eight feet wide and always are made through pine
woods. The trees are simply cut down at about a foot from the
ground." To avoid the impenetrable hammocks, he continued,
"they often make considerable detours in their roads. Many of
these roads were made by the Indians and have been merely
widened by the whites. . A traveler stops at all the houses he
is fortunate enough to find, which generally occur at great dis-
tances. There he is given corn bread, sweet potatoes and ordi-
narily pork and cabbage. In Georgia and Florida," revealed Cas-
telnau, "the owner of the house usually expects pay in money
while in South Carolina a mere offer of this sort would be con-
sidered as an insult. The ordinary price of a dinner of this sort is
75 cents, and the price of a breakfast or a supper or tea is 50
Government authorities did practically nothing to improve
the roads. The numerous and frequent Tallahassee editorial com-
ments on the ineffective mail service due to poor roads and
bridges around the city from the founding of Tallahassee until
the advent of the Civil War 37 years later indicate that little
official attention was paid to the state of the roads in north
The weakest part of the miserable road system leading out
of Tallahassee was not so much the roads, bad as they were,
but the inadequate ferries and bridges. The bridges, both toll
and free, were flimsy affairs that washed out regularly. For ex-
ample, on March 21, 1829, "The Northern mail was stopped at
the Little River, the bridge washed out."33 On March 6, 1832,
"another failure of northern mail due to streams [the Ochlocko-
nee and Little Rivers] that are always impassable during fresh-
lets."34 On December 3, 1841, "No mails for more than a week..
[for] the abundant rains have swept away the bridges."35
The ferry service was not much better, for besides the
problem of flooding, some of the ferryboat keepers were rather
independent individuals. In February 1838, Castelnau wrote of
an experience he witnessed at a ferry crossing:
At Chattahoutchi on the Apalachicola River some travelers
came up in the evening to the opposite shore of the river,
tired by a long day's journey; they wanted to cross it and
called loudly for the boatman to go and get them; the latter
lying carelessly in his ferry boat heard them for an hour pre-
tending to be asleep and did not condescend to even answer


k I

76 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
them; finally at my urging he decided to do his duty, but hav-
ing been rebuked rather keenly by the travelers, he cooly
seized a pistol and fired it point blank at one of them who
miraculously was not hit.36
In 1823 there was a ferry on the Ochlockonee River run by
William Ellis, the same man who helped Simmons and Williams
locate the capital. In 1825 the Legislative Council granted
William Ellis ferry rights "at the Old Tallahassee Trail," probably
his old stand on the Ochlockonee and granted Drury Vickers
ferry rights "on the road to Tallahassee where the Georgia
line crosses the river."37 The Ochlockonee ferry on the Pensacola
to Tallahassee road was granted to Jacob Murray for 10 years
if he kept repairs up on the ferry.38 The Legislative Council, on
January 11, 1828, set the ferry fees to and from Tallahassee as
Loaded waggon and team 37% cents
Four-wheeled pleasure carriage 37% cents
Jersey waggon 25 cents
Two-wheeled pleasure carriage 18% cents
Horse or ox cart 18% cents
Man and horse or on foot 6 cents39
In 1836 ex-editor Ambrose Crane lost his rights to keep a ferry
"across the Wakulla at St. Marks" due to neglect and Nathaniel
Walker was appointed in his stead, at which time the new ferry
rates were announced as:

Four-wheeled pleasure waggon or waggon
Jersey waggon, cart or gig
Man and horse
On foot
In 1856, 20 years later, the county commis
following ferry rates:
Waggon and 6 horses
Waggon and 4 horses
Carriage and 4 horses
Waggon and 2 horses
Carriage and 2 horses
2 horses
Horse and buggy or cart
Horse and sulkey
Loose horses and cattle (head)
Sheep and hogs (head)

50 cents
25 cents
12% cents
61 cents40
sioners adopted the

25 cents
25 cents
20 cents
10 cents
5 cents
5 cents
3 cents


__ N

The Mailsl Where Are the Mails? 77
Toll bridges also were operated around Tallahassee. In 1831
the Legislative Council granted John W. Levinus permission to
build a bridge over the Ochlockonee River at or near Munday's
Ferry and right for toll payment for 20 years provided he kept
up repairs.42
As late as November 15, 1824, Robert Butler complained by
letter to the federal land agent, George Graham, that there was
"no mail route from this place."5 In February 1825, Butler was
using Indian mail dispatchers.44 This lack was corrected by the
fall of 1825 through the efforts of Gen. Richard K. Call, who
was directed by the postmaster general to "contract for a fort-
nightly mail between Tallahassee and Early Court House
[Georgia], and from there to Hartford, Georgia, and Montgom-
ery, Alabama."45
Sometime prior to April 25, 1825, newspaper editor Ambrose
Crane of the Intelligencer was appointed the first postmaster of
Tallahassee.46 In a letter to the postmaster general in July 1825
Crane wrote that he had provided for immediate service "a
strong portmanteau" for carrying mail on horseback.47 But he
was a poor postmaster and lasted only a year. He sent the mail
in unsealed bags, his regularity left much to be desired, and
his choice of individuals to carry the mail was poor, to say the
least. Once he hired a Dr. Payton as a carrier. The doctor made
one trip to Pindertown, Georgia, dropped his opened mail bags,
bought a slave with what later proved to be counterfeit money
and headed for parts unknown.48
The mail became a bit more regular when Crane contracted
the northern Pindertown mail to David B. Macomb, a well known
Tallahasseean and later judge who had lived in the community
from its beginning. Macomb's contract allowed him $4.50 per
mile paid one way for a year's salary.49 The postmaster general
had no hope of a weekly mail to Pindertown because of the
poor roads."0 By February 1826, the post office department had
agreed to pay Macomb $9.00 a mile one way for a weekly mail
delivery to and from Pindertown.61 It is probable that "Judge
Macomb, superintendent of the northern mails" did not ride the
route himself but hired young men. One such mail rider
on the Pindertown route was 23-year old Henry F. Young, who
died for some unrecorded reason in March 1826.52 The early mail
service remained poor. Pleas in the March and April issues of


78 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
the Intelligencer were for Judge Macomb to go north and get
the accumulated mails at Hartford, Georgia.53 A month later,
April 28, an editorial concluded that "there is a culpable negli-
gence of some of the post offices on the northern route. One
day the letters come regularly through from Boston, New York,
etc., without a paper, and another the newspapers are received
without the letters."54
This faulty mail system was not unique with Tallahassee
and the northern mail. It extended to the eastern mails also.
"The irregularities of the mail [from Tallahassee] must be reme-
died . [the mail] never arrives at the times stated by one,
two and three days and lately by more than a week," complained
the editor of the East Florida Herald in March 1826.66
The first regular mail schedule was published in the May
5, 1826, edition of the Intelligencer. The northern mail left the
Planters Hotel every Friday evening at 6 o'clock. A northern
rider arrived every Monday at 2 in the afternoon. Eastern mail
was due Sunday evening at 6, and a mail left two days later
on Tuesday evening at 6 every two weeks. Western mail came
in at 6 P.M. Monday and left the same day at 8 A.M. every
two weeks.56 On July 22, 1826, the post office was moved to the
store of C. C. and R. W. Williams, and by September 29, I. G.
Searcy was the new postmaster, at which time he placed a notice
in the paper stating that delinquent post office bills would be
placed in the hands of a collections officer and there was to be
no credit in the future at the post office.57
By February 1828, the lone mail rider was obsolete and
the mail was being carried between Milledgeville, Georgia, and
Tallahassee in mail stages. By now a regular miil route was
also established between St. Marks and Tallahassee.68 The mails
east and west to St. Augustine and Pensacola took two weeks,
a week to and a week from these cities to Tallahassee.65 The Post
Office Department in Washington was still trying to bolster effici-
ency of the poor postal service by issuing edicts such as allowing
seven minutes for opening and closing the mails at each office,
charging the mail contractor $5.00 for each 10-minute delay to
mail stations, etc.60 This was a brave attempt but the complaints
that followed throughout later years indicate that the mails were
carried in a fashion that suited the pioneer contractors with no
heed to Washington directives.


" I

The Mails! Where Are the Mails? 79
On March 11, 1832, William Wilson, editor of the Floridian
and Journal, wrote this editorial on the condition of the Talla-
hassee mails:

Another failure of the mails has occurred. The cause at this
time is to be attributed to neither the state of the roads nor
rivers. The horses on the line north of Pindertown did not pay
for their provender and were arrested. . We are to hear
nothing in the meantime of the tariff, the bank, nullification,
affairs of honor, . the cholera morbus, . . It is too bad.
Our editorial vision is limited by the Flint and the Chatta-
hoochee. All beyond is darkness and conjecture and so must
remain until the coach horses be bailed or pay their debts.6

By November 1832, the western stage and mail service be-
tween Tallahassee and Pensacola was speeded up by the use of
steamboats and stages which delivered the mails "twice a week,"
and a line of coaches was established between Tallahassee and
Milledgeville, a distance covered in three days.62 In 1833 the
steamboats Andrew Jackson and Versailles were dropping down
the Apalachicola River to Apalachicola from Columbus, Georgia,
and intersecting the "new land mail and stage line at Aspalaga
from Tallahassee to Mobile."63 The steamers on their arrival
at the bay picked up ocean-going passengers from Pensacola to
Apalachicola, where they then ran north to Aspalaga and the
passengers boarded stages for Tallahassee.64 Around this time
a through fare from Tallahassee to Pensacola cost in the neigh-
borhood of $20 and "way passengers" were charged around eight
cents per mile, and two years later the posted rate for a through
fare on a two-horse stage from Tallahassee to Jacksonville was
$25.65 By 1885 a regular stage ran from the City Hotel in Talla-
hassee to St. Marks every other day in a seven-hour trip that
cost $2.50. Each passenger was allowed 30 pounds of baggage.66
In 1833 the northern mail and stage route was improved
by the addition of new coaches. These new coaches left as usual
from the Planters Hotel, but by now twice a week. A stage
bounded out of the village at 3 o'clock in the morning and ar-
rived at Milledgeville, then Georgia's capital, at noon three
days later.67 The literal truth of this happy picture of the north-
ern mail coaches is highly doubtful, for in that same year the
Englishman Charles Latrobe traveled over this line of "new and
elegant coaches,"68 and reported that "once a week a kind of

_ -- ----------- --r


80 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
stagecoach runs to Georgia."69 In January 1834 the editor of the
Floridian complained that Colonel Macomb's western mails were
three weeks late and that a letter could reach Mobile with no
degree of certainty by way of Milledgeville. He added that the
experiment of using a sailboat to carry the mails across Choctaw-
hatchee Bay was a failure.70
Still trying to improve the speed of the mail services, the
postmaster was greeted with a storm of protest from coach pas-
sengers when, in 1838, he proposed to use two-horse coaches
similar to those on the Jacksonville run for the northern mail
route between Tallahassee and Augusta, Georgia, thereby cut-
ting down the passenger service.71 The mail and stage routes
were gradually improving, for by 1840 Hopkins and Stockton's
Brunswick and Florida Line had an extensive schedule between
Brunswick, Georgia, and Mobile via Tallahassee. Three days a
week, stagecoaches with such impressive names as The Champion
and The Kingston left Tallahassee for Mobile and Brunswick.
The fare from Tallahassee to Brunswick was $30.72 At the same
time the well-known Alligator (Lake City) Stage and Mail Line
had "Horse post coaches and steamboats to Augusta and Mobile
and a daily line of four-horse post coaches between Chattahochee
and Tallahassee," all leaving from Brown's Hotel (City Hotel).'7
A year later this line had a new route which connected Pensa-
cola and Macon to Tallahassee via Marianna.74 In spite of these
new services, on November 5, 1841, the editor wrote, "Our mails
are still irregular. Cannot the evil be remedied?" and again on
December 3, 1841, "No mails for more than a week north of
Macon."75 On May 13, 1842: "We have complained of the ir-
regularity of the mails from the north and west. Where the fault
lays is owing to carelessness of postmasters, or stage drivers . .
the rise of rivers and the destruction of bridges between this
place [Tallahassee] and Macon."76
On November 11, 1842, pioneer I. G. Searcy, after 16 har-
rowing years as postmaster of Tallahassee, was replaced by Rev.
Miles Nash, but a local editor commented, "The mails con-
tinue regularly to fail."" In December 1841, a northern visitor
to Tallahassee, John S. Tappan, wrote, "When we were in Talla-
hassee there were 8 mails wanting."78 Five months after the
Reverend Mr. Nash took charge of the Tallahassee post office
the northern mail route experienced its first and only mail rob-


The Mails! Where Are the Mails? 81
bery. On April 15, 1843, the Tallahassee to Augusta mail stage
was stopped by armed bandits who carried off the mail. A little
over a year later, June 7, 1844, what was left of the stolen mail
was found where the highwaymen had dumped it, in a well in
Warrenton, Georgia. The hold-up men were never caught.79
Even though the roads and mail service were far from what
they could have been, there have been reported remarkably
few accidents. The only accident reported in the papers for the
whole ante-bellum period was on March 19, 1853, when the
Thomasville mail stage was upset climbing a hill a mile from
town, killing one of the two horses and breaking the driver's
During the late ante-bellum period the mail and stagecoach
service was little improved and editorials and letters to the
editor continued.81 A rather critical and unsympathetic English
traveler, J. Benwell, traveled the northern mail route to Macon
in 1852 and remarked that: "[I went] to Macon [from Tallahassee]
in a clumsy apology for a coach [that] more resembled a wag-
gon than a stage coach."82 Tallahasseeans had hopes in 1851 of
finally acquiring a daily stage and mail service from the north,
about which Editor Charles E. Dyke of the Floridian and Journal
We have been deluded into the belief that we were to have
a daily mail and night after night the stage does come in, but
the mails! There is fault somewhere. Faultl Fault! Mr. Post-
master General, if we are not too insignificant, nor too far down
south to have the favor of a little of your attention, please look
it up and set the matter right.83
In August 1855, Tallahassee was supposed to receive at
least six mails per week from the north, but Editor Dyke said,
"Public patience is exhausted. By law we are entitled to six
mails a week from the north but we do not receive on an average
exceeding three out of six. Why is it ... ? As the service is
now performed it amounts almost to a farce."89
In March 1858, after appeals to the postmaster general,
newspapers, and congressmen, for an on-time delivery of the
mail, a few of the more frustrated but crafty citizens resorted
to a plot worthy of a monument. They sought out the delin-
quent driver's greatest weakness and it turned out to be cock
fighting. They prepared a first class fight and sent word to Thom-

I -` -


82 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
asville where the carefree stage driver apparently regularly held
up the mail. The spectacle was to take place at 8 o'clock sharp
in the morning. The driver reigned his horses up in front of the
City Hotel dead on time. "The ice has been broken," wrote
Dyke. "The thing has been done and of course can be done again.
Where there is a will there is a way!"85


8. The Coming of the Iron Horse

TIE MOST WIDELY publicized aspect of ante-bellum
transportation was not its road and bridge complex but its rail-
roads. Six railroad charters were granted by the Florida Legis-
lative Council prior to 1835 but only two were actually Wmlt:
The Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad, and the St. Joseph-Lake
Wimico Railroad.1
The Tallahassee Railroad was first chartered over Governor
DuVal's veto as the Leon Railway Company in 1831,2 re-chartered
in 1832 and finally for a third and last time as the Tallahassee
Railroad Company on February 10, 1834.3 In June 1834,
all one hundred thousand shares of the railroad were sub-
scribed to. All the directors were important businessmen: finan-
cier R. K. Call, planters Willis Alston and Benjamin Chaires,
merchants William Kerr, T. R. Betton and William Maner, auc-
tioneer R. J. Hackley, and promoter Romeo Lewis. The road
was built by John and William Gray of Columbia, South Caro-
lina, who were considered the most able railroad builders in
the South.4 In October 1835, the Grays advertised for 500 laborers
and 200 carpenters to work on the railroad. Laborers were to
get $20 to $25 per month, and carpenters, $35 to $50. As further
inducement they added the convenient lie that the line passed
through dry healthy country and that there was no danger of
Although the Tallahassee Railroad was the first to begin
construction, the first railroad to complete its track and run a
train on a completed line was the St. Joseph and Lake Wimico
Railroad, which connected Lake Wimico and the small town of
St. Joseph. Begun in the fall of 1835, it was finished and operat-
ing by March 1836.6 On December 16, 1837, the newspapers
announced that "The Tallahassee railroad is in operation be-

I - -I--

84 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
tween Tallahassee and St. Marks." Planters had to pay 75 cents
to transport each bale of cotton. Passenger tickets were $1.50,
children half fare.7 Two weeks later on December 28, 1837, with
Gen. R. K. Call on board, the boiler cap exploded with "a tre-
mendous report." But no one was injured.8
The original Tallahassee railroad track, as all of the early
tracks in the United States, consisted of a long thin iron strap
nailed to a wooden track. Solid iron rails were not to come for
another 18 years.8 The railroad depot was near the site of the
present day depot. The first Tallahassee trains were wooden
cars hauled by mules. The passengers coaches were box-like af-
fairs with two benches that held eight persons. The freight cars
were open boxes on wheels.9
Count Castelnau was one of the first passengers to ride on
the wooden-benched cars of the train in the spring of 1888. The
count sketched a picture of the newly built upper, or Tallahassee
Station, and also left a description of the railroad, which he
called "certainly the very worst that has been built in the entire
After the first engine exploded and the second ran down
an embankment, the commissioners abandoned these new ex-
perimental steam engines and turned to slave-driven mules. The
21-mile trip from the fine depot at Tallahassee to the St. Marks
terminal took from five to seven hours at a speed of three or
four miles per hour.
In spite of the poor construction of this first primitive rail-
road Castelnau expressed admiration for it. This artist-traveler
stood in awe of the bold "thought that inspired a project of
such a sort in a country inhabited by hostile savages and through
almost impenetrable forests, which so few years ago were not
even explored by whites."10
Though this tiny wilderness railroad was open for travel
in December 1837, it was not until May 3, 1838, that it was
officially opened along with the first sale of lots for the railroad's
new town, Port Leon." On September 14, 1839, tradesman
T. R. Betton, also secretary of the railroad company, announced
that as soon as the new drawbridge over the St. Marks was
completed the railroad would only pick up and deliver cotton
and merchandise at the new town.12 Port Leon, two and a half
miles below St. Marks by water and on the east bank of the


The Coming of the Iron Horse 85
St. Marks River, was the brainchild of the owners of the Talla-
hassee Railroad. The idea was to establish a deeper water port
than St. Marks, whose channel allowed only the shallowest draft
vessels up the river. At Port Leon the builders hoped that ocean-
going ships could unload directly at the port, which they did
in fact do, until the hurricane of September 13, 1843, destroyed
the tiny port town.13 The hurricane also swept away much of
the rickety railroad to Port Leon, including the pride of the
Apalachee country, its only suspension bridge which Tallahas-
seeans described as "a noble structure."14 The remains of the
bridge were found far up the St. Marks River, a shambles. This
hurricane of 1843 was the death blow to fragile Port Leon. With
its wharves washed away, its warehouses smashed and the rail-
road destroyed, there was no spirit left in its founders to revive
it. All that remains now is the memory. The inhabitants of Port
Leon moved up the St. Marks River and settled Newport on
the west bank where it clings to a precarious existence today.
Prior to the hurricane this primitive little railroad had done
a considerable business. From the completion of the line in 1838
until February 1840, it had delivered 18,000 bales of cotton to
St. Marks and Port Leon, or about half of the 30,000 bales shipped
out of both ports.15 From a passenger point of view it was a
comedy. Young John S. Tappan of the Boston Tappans of abo-
litionist renown made a trip from St. Marks to Tallahassee and
back in the winter of 1841 and has left his impression of the
Tallahassee Railroad. He wrote that, "we arrived [at Tallahassee]
but did not get there until the cars had run off three times ....
We left Tallahassee on the cars drawn with mules for the Engine
had run down a bank 20 feet into the Bushes and was totally
unfit for service.""1 Tappan also wrote one of the few visitor's
comments on Tallahassee's railroad town of Port Leon: "Pt. Leon
is a new town but the houses (about 20 in number) are about
the meanest kind."17 In the winter of 1851-52 a northern visitor,
Charles A. Clinton, passed over the railroad from Tallahassee to
St. Marks:

Cotton is carried by the railroad to St. Marks or by waggon
to Newport. The railroad is an indifferent one and the cars
are drawn by mules. The railroad is laid with flat iron and
is of a very imperfect state. There is one train each way six
times each week carrying about 200 bales of cotton at the

_ 1 __

86 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
rate of four miles per hour. They bring back hay, salt, and
fire brick from New York.18
In March 1855, just prior to the purchase of the Tallahassee
Railroad by the Pensacola and Georgia, Ernest Melvern wrote
that was probably the very best personal description of the
primitive condition of the rolling stock and track of the Talla-
hassee Railroad before it became modernized:
I understood that I was to start by railway, and at eight
o'clock in the morning. In due time a car about as large as an
omnibus was pushed up, and I was asked to get into it. I did
so. Two horses were then attached to it, and we started. The
depot is on the border of a kind of a swamp, where there
is not a building to be seen. I inquired if so much precaution
was necessary in leaving the city, and if locomotives were
dangerous to the inhabitants of the forest that stretched away
interminably before us. 'No,' said the man, who performed
all the responsible functions of engineer, conductor and brake-
man, 'but we go all the way with horses. We have no loco-
motive. They once had such a thing, but it ran away one
day, nobody could stop it. It went straight to St. Marks, and,
roaring and hissing, it dashed plumb into the bay; and since
that they have never dared to try one.
I soon found that I had little reason to regret the absence
of a locomotive. For, on looking down a long line of the road,
it appeared as undulating as the sea. The flat "snake head"
rails had originally been laid on timbers, without any cross
ties. As these timbers rested on the sand, they had separated
so far that the wheels on one side of the car must run off
the track. Now we found a sleeper with no rail, now a rail
with no sleeper, and sometimes both were gone. The rails
were often fastened by a single bolt in the middle, and both
ends were curved in the air, like the ends of a broken hoop.
The wags say that a Negro used to go ahead of the car to
hold down one end of the rail till the car came to it, then he
nailed down the other. A fire in the forest had in one place
communicated to the sleepers, and for two miles they were
more or less in flames. But on we hurried like salamanders.
No effort was made by the driver to save his railroad from
destruction! For, he declared, that with all his honors he was
not a fireman. I was philosophically cogitating on the numer-
ous advantages of this mode of railway traveling, when sud-
denly the omnibus trot of our chargers was arrested. I was
aroused from my reveries when, on looking around, I found
that a long freight train was before us, and, what was worse,
that it was likely to be so for an indefinite time. It was off the
track, and there was no alternative but to help the Negroes


The Coming of the Iron Horse 87
get it on again. In spite of a long delay, I worked eagerly,
with the hope that we could soon pass them at a switch. But,
on inquiry, I learned that there was but one switch on the
road, and that we had passed that already. So we must pa-
tiently follow on as we could. For the benefit of all travelers
who shall wish to follow in my footsteps, let me say that
such delay as this is of almost daily occurrence here. It is
nearly as bad as it is on the New Haven Railroad.19
Melvern finished his description with the discouraging line, "My
patience diminished quite rapidly, and hearing that we were
within three miles of a town called Newport, I resolved to walk
there, thinking I could make the detour and reach St. Marks
before our train."20
In the summer of 1855 the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad
bought the controlling interest in the Tallahassee Railroad and
began at once to rebuild the old track and lay new plans for
a track from Tallahassee to Alligator (Lake City).21 The old
road bed was widened and the grades and curves corrected and
for the first time solid T-iron track replaced the ancient wooden
rails and metal straps. The line went from Tallahassee to Wa-
kulla and then St. Marks.22 By October 1856, Tallahasseeans saw
a completely new railroad leading from the city, including two
new 16-ton Baldwin manufactured steam locomotives bearing
the names H. L. Rutgers, No. 24, and General Bailey, No. 25,
after those two Tallahassee financiers and bankers. The Rutgers
was later changed to the Columbia, but the General Bailey al-
ways retained its name. A proud announcement was made when
the new railroad opened for business:
It gives us great pleasure to announce that our railroad
connection with St. Marks by steam power is now in full
operation. On this day October 11, 1856 a trial trip was made
by the new locomotive H. L. Rutgers and 10 or 12 gentlemen
went down to witness its performance. They speak of it in
the highest terms in every particular. . There was no
effort to attain great speed, but it was apparent that the dis-
stance of 21 miles could easily have been accomplished in
less than an hour. . Goods are now transferred from the
hold of the vessel at once into freight cars and delivered in
Tallahassee mostly in the day they are landed in St. Marks.23
The trip that once required five hours or more at four miles
per hour now took an hour and three-quarters with stops for
wood and water, carrying eight or 10 loaded freight cars and


88 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
one passenger car.24 The Pensacola and Georgia's main object
was to join Tallahassee with Lake City and connect there with
the Florida Atlantic and Gulf Central out of Jacksonville. This
line was completed in the fall of 1861.25
Over the 25-year period of the Tallahassee and the Pensa-
cola and Georgia Railroads' operations there were remarkably
few serious accidents. One night in May 1860 a heavily loaded
excursion train was returning from St. Marks when it struck an
open switch. The locomotive and several cars were derailed but
no one was killed.26 In fact, the only recorded death on the
whole railroad was in January 1837, when a railroad car ran
over and killed a Negro worker.27
In building the line east in the spring and summer of 1857,
pioneer builder R. A. Shine accomplished what many Talla-
hasseeans considered one of the great engineering feats in all
of North Florida to that time. This was the digging of the deep
railroad cut on the eastern edge of the city.

THE DEEP RAILROAD CUT. An important section of the
road going East has just been completed under the skillful
supervision of Gen. Shine. It embraced one elevation, the ex-
cavation of which measures one thousand feet in length by
forty-five feet in depth. It is a feature in the railroad grading
of Florida that will stand unrivalled in grandeur of depth, on
the entire route from Pensacola to Jacksonville.
The herculean task is now finished, and the deep foundation
will receive in a few days its share of the crossties and iron

This deep cut still exists and can best be seen from the Seaboard
Railroad overpass on Magnolia just beyond the intersection of
Mahan Drive. By September 1858, the railroad east stretched
beyond Capitola and the newly established Station #2, later
given the name of Lloyd.29 On the southern line to St. Marks,
railroad president Edward Houstoun of the Pensacola and Georgia
and Tallahassee Railroad attempted to establish a Sunday ex-
cursion trip by junction of the railroad with the steamer Spray
at St. Marks for a trip to the bay. This venture lasted a little
over a month.30 By now the railroad made daily trips to St.
Marks, was hauling 18 freight cars, and making regular contact
with the Gulf mail service and all other shipping. The infant
Tallahassee Railroad had truly come of age.81 After the H. L.

I_ I_

The Coming of the Iron Horse 89
Rutgers, the locomotives regularly puffing out of the Tallahassee
depot for St. Marks and eastward toward Lake City were the
James Rose (1859), Suwannee (1860), James T. Archer (1860),
F. B. Whiting (1860), David L. Yulee (1860), and the Talla-
hassee (1860).32 The proud day of the Pensacola and Georgia
and Tallahassee Railroad directors came when on November 11,
1861, the newspaper announced through train service would be-
gin on November 2 from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. The Talla-
hassee trains were to go as far as Lake City, where passengers
changed to the eastern bound trains to Jacksonville and the entire
eastern seaboard.33
The high cost of railroading brought about a brief flurry
of interest, starting in 1849, in plank roads about Tallahassee. On
June 23, 1849, there appeared in the Floridian and Journal a
lengthy article concerning plank roads, and a "Plank Road and
Barbecue" was held at Newport on July 15. In the winter of
1850-51 the Florida legislature incorporated the Florida and
Georgia Plank Road Company, with wealthy planters Joseph
and Green Chaires among the organizers. The road was to start
at Newport and lead to Thomasville with branches to Tallahassee,
Quincy and Monticello.34 At the same time the Apalachicola and
Middle Florida Plank Road Company was incorporated to con-
nect Apalachicola with other points in Franklin County as well
as Tallahassee.83
The first plank road in the Tallahassee area, or in all of
Florida for that matter, was started sometime in December
1850 at Wakulla. When finished, it intersected the St. Augustine
Road about seven miles east of Tallahassee and extended to
Monticello.36 By May 1851, the Floridian reported that the "chief
talk of the town for several days has been the project of a plank
road from Tallahassee to St. Marks."37 There were hopes that
this road would extend to Thomasville and another to Quincy.
The Leon and Gadsden Plank Road Company, incorporated
January 7, 1851, began selling stock in August. This road was to
link Quincy and Tallahassee at a cost of $35,000. "Twill bring
health, wealth and comfort," wrote the paper.88 In 1854 the
General Assembly incorporated the Tallahassee and Quincy Plank
Road Company.39 In April of that year there was announced a
meeting in Wakulla to discuss a plank road from Wakulla to
Tallahassee; three weeks later K. N. Moore "contracted for grad-


90 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
ing and laying out timbers" for the Wakulla-Tallahassee plank
Considering all of the legal activity, public excitement and
great expectations over plank roads, it seemed that plank roads
would play a major role in the life of Tallahasseeans and visitors,
and aid commerce in general. Alas, it was not so, and informa-
tion on the projected or completed roads is almost nonexistent.
The encroachment of the modern and efficient Pensacola and
Georgia Railroad put an end to many projected roads. The
known toll plank roads connecting in some way with Tallahassee
ran from Wakulla to the St. Augustine Road and on to Monti-
cello, and from St. Marks to Tallahassee paralleling the rail-
road.41 These wooden toll roads were 20 feet wide and really
consisted of two roads side by side, a wooden platform or plank
road eight to 10 feet wide and a dirt road beside it to allow
for passing.42
The last modern communication system to be used by Tal-
lahasseeans prior to the war was the telegraph. In March 1855,
in Tallahassee it was reported that telegraphic communication
through Florida was "only waiting a grant of right of way
through our state from Macon to Cuba."43 In April 1856, Co-
lumbus and Macon were the telegraphic terminals from the
north and by June 7 Apalachicola was "negotiating for telegraphic
communication with Columbus . Tallahassee and Marianna
must effect an intermediate connection" wrote Charles E. Dyke,
editor of the Floridian and Journal.4" By 1859 Tallahassee had
received its long desired telegraphic communications with the
rest of the nation.46
Tallahassee struggled for 37 years under primitive condi-
tions to improve her communication with the outside world prior
to the Civil War. Her chief enemy was always the weather.
The worst weather and heaviest rains since the settlement of
the capital drenched the Tallahassee country in February 1834.
The St. Marks River overflowed into Lake Lafayette and the
Ochlockonee became a sweeping current a mile in width.46
One year later to the month came the great freeze in Feb-
ruary 1835, which did so much damage to lower Florida but
only little to Tallahassee, even though the temperature on "cold
Sunday, February 8," dropped to four degrees Fahrenheit in
Tallahassee. On that morning Pensacola and Jacksonville regis-


The Coming of the Iron Horse 91
tered 8 degrees, Ocala 11, St. Augustine 10, and Tampa 20.47
One of the speculations as to the cause of the icy weather was
that an iceberg had somehow drifted to Florida and was stuck
on the coast and so chilled the whole peninsula.48
On September 9, 1837, another tropical storm hit Tallahassee
and prostrated trees and fences. This storm smashed the St.
Marks lighthouse and St. Marks was flooded by her two rivers.49
"The water was 8 feet higher than ever known [and] water was
7 feet over the town. Citizens went to the fort for safety and
the cotton crop at Shell Point was a total loss."50
In October 1842, another hurricane struck the Tallahassee
country,51 and in 1843 came the hurricane that destroyed Port
Leon and brought about the founding of Newport.52
The storm of all storms-the great hurricane remembered
by all of Tallahassee's pioneers and a conversation piece for many
years after the war-was that of August 1851. Editor Dyke of
the Floridian and Journal wrote that:
It lasted from an early hour of the morning on Saturday
[August 23], till near the dawn on Sunday-at first the wind
blowing in squalls more or less frequent from the East, then
about noon, Saturday, going around Southward, and increas-
ing in violence and long-continued blasts till it rose to a
furious gale, which was about its worst at two o'clock next
morning, and after that gradually abating, till daylight. It
was raining nearly all the while in great torrents. Trees of all
sorts and sizes were broken down or torn from their roots,
and those that remained were rudely stripped of many of their
limbs and much of their foliage. Houses were unroofed, some
blown down, and others greatly injured, and fences generally,
in whole or in part, were thrown to the earth. Altogether, the
scene as it presented itself here on Sunday morning was a
vast chaos of destruction and of entangled streets and yards.
The tin roofing of the Capitol was torn off, a window blown
in, much of the glass broken, and several of the rooms drenched
with water-but the books and archives were very little in-
jured. Captain Bond's Warehouse was left a complete wreck.
The "Exchange" buildings unroofed. The Hoc building, for-
merly occupied for the Floridian office, partly unroofed and
much injured. The Market House prostrated. Many other
houses sustained damage; and in nearly every store some
goods were wet from leaking-in some of them badly so. We
have found no dwelling-house that was seriously hurt, except
from the intrusion of the rain, which it seemed no roof could

- --


92 Ante-bellum Tallahassee
We cannot undertake to estimate the loss the storm has
caused. All through the country, besides prostrating innumer-
able forest trees, there has been vast damage. Crops of Corn
and Cotton are blown into the unmost confusion, and there
will be immense loss in consequence.63
The storm swept on into Gadsden County and destroyed the
Baptist Church, the Masonic Hall and a number of homes and
buildings in Quincy. From there it swept on into southwest
Georgia and Bainbridge where it continued its violence.54
Another hurricane struck a year later. John Evans, an over-
seer for absentee owner George Noble Jones's Chemonie Plan-
tation, wrote to his employer on October 10, 1852.
Dear Sir: I will inform you that on yesterday they was the
severest storm visited Florida that I ever witnessed in my
life. It just blew everything away nearly. It blew down my
gin house and some of the Negroes houses and the tops of
the balance of the houses . and all the fencing of the
whole plantation is down. . I am getting sick and tired
of Florida. This is the worst country I ever lived in . and
it seems if I make anything on this plantation it is destroyed
by heavy rains and storms. . I have understood that
Tallahassee is tetotialy ruined155


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