Front Cover
 Half Title
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Title Page
 Florida after the war
 The Freedmen's Bureau
 Adjustment to freedom
 The Freedmen's Bureau and justice...
 Negro labor and occupations
 The negro farmer
 Negro religion
 The Freedmen's Bureau and negro...
 Education under 'carpetbag'...
 Military rule and the provisional...
 Military reconstruction and the...
 Lawlessness in Florida
 Negro politicians
 An evaluation of 'radical'...
 The end of an era
 Index to the negro in the reconstruction...
 Back Cover

Group Title: Florida State University Studies - Florida State University ; 46
Title: Negro in the reconstruction of Florida, 1865-1877
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AM00000056/00001
 Material Information
Title: Negro in the reconstruction of Florida, 1865-1877
Series Title: Florida State University Studies - Florida State University ; 46
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Richardson, Joe M.
E. O. Painter Printing Company ( Printer ; binder )
Publisher: The Florida State University
Publication Date: 1965
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: AM00000056
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Florida A&M University (FAMU)
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: notis - AAA1486

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front cover
    Half Title
        Page viii
        Page xi
    Title Page
        Page xii
    Table of Contents
        Page ix
        Page xi
    Title Page
        Page xii
    Florida after the war
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
    The Freedmen's Bureau
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    Adjustment to freedom
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
    The Freedmen's Bureau and justice for the Florida Negro
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
    Negro labor and occupations
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
    The negro farmer
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
    Negro religion
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
    The Freedmen's Bureau and negro education in Florida
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
    Education under 'carpetbag' rule
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
    Military rule and the provisional government
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
    Military reconstruction and the constitutional convention of 1868
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
    Lawlessness in Florida
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
    Negro politicians
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
    An evaluation of 'radical' reconstruction
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
    The end of an era
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 249
        Page 250
    Index to the negro in the reconstruction of Florida, 1865-1877
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
    Back Cover
        Back cover
Full Text


I I ~ I* I

The Negro in the
Reconstruction of Florida, 1865-1877



Copyright 1965 by Florida State University
Library of Congress Catalogue Card No. 65-64224

Printed and Bound in the United States
of America by E. O. Painter Printing Company
DeLand, Florida


Published under the Auspices
The Florida State University

James Walters, Chairman

Karl Dittmer
Thomas A. Gleeson

William A. Paton, Jr.
John S. Simmons

Joseph A. White, Jr.

James A. Preu



I Florida after the War 1
II jXmancipation 8
III The Freedmen's Bureau 19

IV /Adjustment to Freedom 26
V The Freedmen's Bureau and Justice for
the Florida Negro 40

VI Negro Labor and Occupations 53

VII The Negro Farmer 71

VIII lNegro Religion 83

/-/IX V'he Freedmen's Bureau and Negro Education
in Florida 97

SX A/ducation Under "Carpetbag" Rule 112
XI Military Rule and the Provisional Government 125
XII Military Reconstruction and the Constitutional
Convention of 1868 139

XIII Lawlessness in Florida .- 161

XIV Negro Politicians 177

XV An Evaluation of "Radical" Reconstruction 199
XVI The End of an Era 225
Bibliography 241

Index 259


Studies of Reconstruction in Florida have usually ignored the
Negro or have portrayed him as shiftless, incompetent, and if a
politician, corrupt. Certainly the ex-slaves were ill trained for
their status as free men, but they made remarkable adjustments
and progress within a decade. Several Negro politicians, though
unprepared for their new positions, were surprisingly able. This
book is not a thorough history of Reconstruction. It is an attempt
to picture the role played by the freedmen in the State from 1865
to 1877, and to show how they reacted to the many problems
encountered after emancipation.
The assistance of the staff of the following institutions is
gratefully acknowledged: The Robert Manning Strozier Library
at Florida State University, Tallahassee; The P. K. Yonge Library
of Florida History, Gainesville; The Library of Congress and
National Archives; the Florida State Library, Tallahassee; the
Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina,
Chapel Hill; the Flowers Collection at Duke University, Durham;
the David S. Walker Library, Tallahassee; Fisk University Library,
Nashville, and the University of South Florida Library, Tampa.
I wish to thank the clerks of circuit court of Leon, Jefferson,
and Gadsden counties, and the Departments of State, Education
and Agriculture for their co-operation. I am indebted to Professor
Weymouth T. Jordan, Professor James P. Jones, Jr., and Dr. Doro-
thy Dodd, all of whom read the manuscript and made useful sug-
gestions. Such errors as appear are my responsibility.

Florida State University Studies
Number Forty-six

OF FLORIDA, 1865-1877
Joe M. Richardson




Florida, once called the "smallest tadpole in the dirty pool of
secession," had the smallest population of any Confederate State.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Florida had little more than one-
third as many free people as the city of Cincinnati.? In 1860 the
State had 140,424 inhabitants and by 1870 they had increased to
only 187,746. The 1870 census listed 96,057 whites and 91,689
Negroes.2 Eight of the thirty-nine settled counties had a majority
of freedmen.3 The two largest, Alachua and Leon, with 17,328 and
15,236 residents respectively, contained almost one-fifth of the
total population.
Most of the citizens were concentrated in North Florida, with
almost half of them dwelling in the seven northern counties.4 One
traveler said it was difficult to realize just how sparsely settled
Florida was until the towns were examined. Key West had the
largest number of whites of any city with a total of 2,241 while
Tallahassee, the capital city, could count only about 2,000. Talla-
hassee was described by a newspaper correspondent in August,
1865, as having unpretentious public buildings, and generally poor
and neglected private dwellings and stores. The walks were dilapi-
dated and broken, he said, but the town was, "in its location, sur-
roundings and appearance, cheerful and pleasant."5 Florida's
population of less than 200,000 was scattered over an area of
nearly 60,000 square miles. Agriculture had been the primary
pursuit of Floridians, and there had been little disposition to
settle in villages and communities, but rather a tendency toward
a dissipation of population.6 Florida was an unsettled frontier

I Whitelaw Reid, After the War: A Southern Tour (New York, 1866),
2 Eighth Census of the United States, 1860, I, 54; Ninth Census of the
United States, 1870, I, 19.
sAlachua, Duval, Gadsden, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Madison, and Marion.
These eight counties had Negro majorities by 1870, but General John G. Foster
reported that in 1866 only six counties had a majority of freedmen. J. G. Foster
to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1866, in Records of the Freedmen's Bureau,
Florida, National Archives, Washington, D. C. (Cited hereafter, Bureau Records,
4 Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, I, 19.
5Reid, op. cit., 159-60; New York Times, August 1, 1865.
6 Florida, Its Climate Soil and Production With a Sketch of Its History,
Natural Features and Social Condition (Jacksonville, Florida, 1868), 9.



state. An observer declared in December, 1866, that the frontier
extended from the Tampa Bay area east to St. Augustine. That
portion of the State, he asserted, was "infested with bands of
renegades and desperados" who stole from and murdered other
Florida was a poor state and before the war had been dominated
by a few wealthy planters. Indeed, it has been said that until
1868 the State was in the "hands and pockets of a baker's dozen"
of such men as David L. Yulee and David S. Walker.8 After the
war several of the former leaders claimed they had opposed the
war, but had felt obligated to follow their State.9 An "original
secesh" was hard to find, a Marianna man wrote in August, 1865.
Even former Governor John Milton, he added, who "was the
secesh leader" denied he was in favor of secession shortly before he
committed suicide.10 In May, 1865, acting Governor Abraham K.
Allison informed General Edward M. McCook, Union Commander
at Tallahassee, that citizens of Florida recognized the require-
ments of the Constitution of the United States, and were ready to
"resume the duties and privileges created by that instrument in
a spirit of perfect good faith, with the purpose to abide therein.""'
Allison, Yulee and "other prominent citizens" accepted the termi-
nation of the war with apparent cheerfulness, and were gratified
with the policy followed by the military.12 A Union captain failed
to understand how the State had seceded, so many people claimed
to be Unionists.13 Acquiescence did not necessarily mean that all
Floridians agreed with the outcome of the war. According to a
contemporary the young men and women were especially de-
termined never to surrender, but by the time Union forces arrived

7 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, December 31, 1866, in Bureau Records,
8 New York Tribune, February 20, 1868.
9 M. A. Williams to W. Marvin, August 9, 1865, in David L. Yulee Papers
P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida.
10 Milton was governor of Florida during the war but assumed office after
secession. E. Philips to J. J. Philips, August 2, 1865, in James J. Philips Papers,
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North
"A. K. Allison to E. M. McCook, May 13, 1865, in Governor's Letterbook,
Florida State Library, Tallahassee, Florida.
12 U. S. Department of War, The War of the Rebellion: a compilation of
the official records of the Union and Confederate armies (70 vols., Washington,
1880-1901), I Series, XLIX, pt. 2, 747.
13 E. Philips to J. J. Philips, August 2, 1865, in James J. Philips Papers.


"one and all had come to the conclusion-that Yankee military
government was better than none."14
Former leaders of the State appeared to be more reconciled to
the outcome of the war than the population at large. Some of
the young men believed they could not live "under yankee rule."
There were frequent bitter comments about Northerners in Florida.
A former resident of Jacksonville wrote that the city would be a
"worse yankee hole than ever," and swore he would never live
there again. He intended, he added, to leave the United States.
Lake City was "beset with yankees," another Floridian said, and
with Southerners who were worse.15 Several observers declared
that Floridians were not reconciled. A visitor to Jacksonville in
late 1866 found Southerners "universally very bitter" against the
current Congress and Northern correspondents, while a Bureau
agent asserted, that Unionists could not "freely express their love
or admiration" for the country without incurring displeasure and
sometimes actual enmity of the whites. As late as 1867 Northern
people were said to be safe, but not welcome in certain sections of
The citizens of the State were bitter against the government,
two Floridians testified before the Reconstruction Committee, and
they had no regard for the Union. They talked treason, the
testimony indicated, and felt beaten but not conquered.7 Ac-
cording to reports, women were more bitter toward the United
States than men. There was a "certain number of reasonable
individuals" among the better class of Floridians, a Bureau agent
wrote in 1866, but the female members of the same families were
not included. Another agent said most of the men were "well
disposed" toward the government, but the "old women, silly girls,
and men" who remained at home during the war were less willing

14 Ellen Call Long, History of Florida, 345. Unpublished manuscript in
the Florida Historical Society Collection, University of South Florida, Tampa,
15 F. P. Fleming to M. Seton, May 3, 1865, in Fleming Papers, Florida
Historical Society Collection, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; F.
F. L'Engle to E. M. L'Engle, June 26, 1865, in Edward M. L'Engle Papers,
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
North Carolina.
16 A. B. Hart to B. H. Hart, December 18, 1866, in A. B. Hart Letters, P. K.
Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida; U. S. Congress, House
Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 57, 77.
17 U. S. Congress, House Reports, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 30, pt. 4, 1-2;
Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, March 20, 1866.


to submit.'8 It was not surprising that antagonism toward the
Union still existed such a short time after the war. Many prob-
lems of Reconstruction can be attributed to bitterness and mis-
understandings that were present before Reconstruction began.
The variations in attitude toward the Union can be found in
the interests of different classes. General Israel Vogdes, Union
Commander at Jacksonville, divided Florida whites into three
classes, the wealthy and best educated, the partially educated, and
the poor whites. The first class, he said, was small and had lost
much of its wealth during the war and through abolition, but
was anxious to recover its lost position, and as a body would
comply with rules adopted by the United States. The partially
educated were more numerous and less submissive. They admitted
defeat but were not loyal, Vogdes maintained, and would cause
trouble whenever an opportunity occurred. The partially educated
included nearly all of the subordinate Confederate officers, and
had the sympathy of the women of the better class, he added. The
third group, poor whites, Vogdes continued, was tired of war,
but hated the freedmen, was idle and vicious, and was but little
in advance of the ex-slaves in intelligence and education. This
class appeared to be more opposed to the Negro than to the
Union. It felt little sympathy for former state leaders whom it
was reputed to hate.19
\ The so-called poor whites composed a considerable portion of
Florida's population, and lived on a level little, if any, higher
than the Negro. The whites were as dirty, poor, and destitute as
the freedman, a white lady wrote from Jacksonville in February,
1865. They had, she added, a "hopeless, listless appearance" and
were not averse to begging. Another observer expressed hope that
when slavery was dead and the "spirit of caste" banished, poor
whites might "arise" and "be equal to the colored people."20 The
area around Palatka, a visitor wrote, was a pine forest containing
"miserable little log cabins" with numerous "dirty children and
lean-porkers." The residents demonstrated no signs of energy,

18 J. E. Quentin to T. W. Osborn, April 24, 1866, H. W. Wessells, Jr. to
E. C. Woodruff, April 1, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
19 I. Vogdes to O. O. Howard, July 31, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida.
20 The Freedmen's Record, I (March, 1865), 39; E. B. Eveleth to L. L.
Jocelyn, February 4, 1865, in American Missionary Association Archives, Fisk
University, Nashville, Tennessee.


he added, and everything betokened "poverty and wretched shift-
People ate, talked, slept, and existed. In the richer counties
of middle and West Florida, conditions might be a little different,
but not much, the visitor continued.21 In Volusia County citizens
reportedly lived in log shanties, and were so poor three-fourths of
the women went barefoot half of the time. Several of the county
officers were illiterate and unfamiliar with their duties. There were
no justices of the peace or magistrates, thus marriages were slighted,
with partners marrying or remarrying "to suit their fancy." One
man had two wives in the same house, with six children by one
and seven by the other.22 It was the poor whites who were, as a
group, most bitter in their hatred of the Negro. Their hatred was
undoubtedly based on economic, as well as racial and caste motives.
The large class of poverty stricken whites was not created by
the war, though the war did cause hardship. The assessed value
of real and personal property excluding slaves declined from
$47,000,000 in 1860 to $27,000,000 in 1865.23 However, all of the
decline was not caused by destruction. Planters had been injured
by the Confederacy's economic policy and many of the estates had
decayed from lack of care.24 Disjuption of the economy was more
responsible for the decline in property values than was destruction
of war. Some of the loss was caused by Union men who abandoned
their homes for safety. Florida was so far removed from the scene
of war, that little devastation occurred. As the Gainesville New
Era reported in August, 1865, the condition of Florida was "vastly
superior" to the rest of the South. With the exception of slaves,
the paper added, "the loss of property in Florida during the four
years of war" was "a mere cipher compared to other States."25 A
newspaper correspondent said "the suffering in the State during
and after the war was relative only. Florida was too far from the
theater of strife to feel the terrible blows that brought down the

21 W. N. Hart to M. Hart, February 18, 1867, in Walter N. Hart Letters, P.
K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida.
22 Jacksonville Florida Union, September 14, 1867.
23 Kathryn T. Abbey, Florida Land of Change (Chapel Hill, 1941), 293.
24 In 1862 the Confederate Congress "passed a joint resolution that abso-
lutely no cotton ought to be planted in 1862." A traveler in Florida reported
that "little cotton" had been raised in Florida in keeping with desires of the
Confederacy. A. E. Kinne to T. W. Osborn, October 15, 1866, in Bureau
Records, Florida; Frank L. Owsley, King Cotton Diplomacy (Chicago, 1931), 47.
25Quoted in Jacksonville Florida Union, August 19, 1865.


revolt."26 Moreover, little property was confiscated in Florida, and
the small amount seized was rapidly returned.27
Conditions in Florida were not as bad as generally painted by
contemporaries. Farming had been disrupted, and trade was some-
what paralyzed, but by August, 1865, "large quantities of goods"
were being sold, and people were reportedly "gradually assuming
a business-like and cheerful attitude." Trade was stimulated by
the United States government, which repaired some Florida rail-
roads.28 Some Floridians appeared to be more interested in sound
investments than in the war. In April, 1865, Samuel A. Swann, a
native white businessman was hoping for an honorable peace,
and looking for something in which to invest a few thousand
dollars. Many holders of Confederate currency were investing their
money in cotton, and some, who apparently had not given up
the idea of slavery, in Negroes, Swann said.29 By June Swann was
acting as a cotton agent, and considered business prospects
promising. Lumber mills were being erected, turpentine planta-
tions opened, and timber operations were being put under way
by "dozens of men." Turpentine farms and steam saw mills were
"all the go" around North Central Florida.30 Many sawmills were
opening near Cedar Keys, according to a report made to Yulee in
August. Silas L. Niblack, a political cohort of Yulee, wrote that
Florida had "good signs of prosperity," with trade opening in East
and Middle Florida. Cotton was bringing a good price, and money
was circulating freely in the interior, Niblack continued.31
Even the railroads were making money. From June 1 to August
1, 1865, the Florida Railroad Company earned $9,059.69. The
railroad company in Jacksonville was doing a larger business than
even during the war with an income of about $1,000 per day.32

26 New York Tribune, February 20, 1868.
27 Paul S. Peirce, The Freedmen's Bureau (Iowa City, Iowa, 1904), 129;
J. G. Foster to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
28 Jacksonville Florida Union, August 19, June 3, 1865.
29 S. A. Swann to (?) Sprott, April 25, 1865, in Samuel A. Swann Papers,
P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida.
30 S. A. Swann to R. Erwin, June 10, 1865, S. A. Swann to G. Savage, June
22, 1865, S. A. Swann to F. Dibble, June, n.d., 1865, S. A. Swann to D. McRae,
June 23, 1865, S. A. Swann to (?) Sprott, June 27, 1865, in Samuel A. Swann
31 R. D. Meader to D. L. Yulee, August 13, 1865, S. L. Niblack to D. L.
Yulee, August 18, 1865, in David L. Yulee Papers.
32 Statement of Earnings and Expenditures of the Florida Railroad; S. A.
Swann to D. L. Yulee, August 27, 1865, in David L. Yulee Papers.


Business was still unsettled, Swann wrote a friend in Cuba in
August, but he thought the resources of the State would "soon be
more fully developed than ever before."33 Business prospects were
still improving in September. According to a Jacksonville news-
paper, 6,000 bales of cotton, 380,000 feet of sawed timber, 1,027
barrels of tar, 20 barrels of spirits turpentine, 222 barrels of crude
turpentine, and some timber had been shipped from Jacksonville
since the port had been reopened.34 Many other comments were
made concerning the general prosperity in Florida soon after
the war.
These harbingers of prosperity were too optimistic. Though
Florida suffered less from the war than other states, it did have
many problems. Considerable economic dislocation had resulted
from the war, numerous productive men and potential leaders
had been killed, a new labor system had to be devised, and the
State experienced some poor crop years. Furthermore, Florida
was a frontier state with a small, poor population. Railroads had
to be built, roads constructed and repaired, and capital brought
into the State. The early optimism began to decline long before
Radical Reconstruction, which has been used as a scapegoat for
Southern economic problems. As early as 1866 a shortage of cur-
rency had caused the beginning of later evils. It was said that in
1866 at least two-thirds of the planters were under mortgage or
other obligations to merchants for advances. Planters were com-
plaining of the merchants' unreasonable prices. By April, 1867,
Swann, who had been one of the most optimistic about recovery
in Florida, became "every day more and more impressed with
the idea that capital alone" could and would control business in
Florida,35 and capital proved to be scarce in the State for several
years. In such an underdeveloped area any government, Demo-
cratic or Republican, was destined to encounter serious problems
in an attempt to bring prosperity to the State.

33 S. A. Swann to R. Perez, August 3, 1865, in Samuel A. Swann Papers.
34 Jacksonville Florida Union, September 9, 1865.
35 S. A. Swann to D. L. Yulee, April 5, 1867, in Samuel A. Swann Papers.



The first attempt to emancipate Florida's slaves came on May
9, 1862, when Major General David Hunter, Commander of the
Department of the South, proclaimed the freedom of slaves in
Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. His order was overruled
by President Lincoln, and most Florida Negroes probably were
never aware of the proclamation. A majority of Florida slaves re-
mained on their plantations during the war. Before Appomattox,
the disappearance of a number of slaves usually indicated the
presence of a Union Army in the vicinity. Florida was little
traversed by troops, but a few Negroes were freed by soldiers. On
March 7, 1865, a small colored detachment left Jacksonville, pene-
trated the interior through Marion County, and rescued ninety-one
Negroes from slavery.1 In this way enough Negroes left their
homes to cause comment. Brigadier General Thomas J. McKean,
Commander of the District of West Florida, wrote in January,
1865, of large numbers of refugees of all colors at Barrancas, and
on April 20, 1865, the commander of Confederate forces in Florida
asked Governor A. K. Allison to call a portion of the State Militia
into service to protect against deserters, "and to retain and main-
tain proper subordination among the slaves." There was a slight
accumulation of freedmen at Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St.
Augustine, towns held by Union Troops, but "as a general thing
they were at their homes on the plantations." Even Florida whites
insisted that the Negroes generally remained loyal to their masters,
and stayed on the plantation caring for the families and crops of
Confederate soldiers.2

1 The Union Army recruited 1.044 Negroes in Florida. Official Records,
III Series, V, 662; John Hope Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom (New York,
1945), 289; H. B. Greely to G. Whipple, March 18, 1864, in American Missionary
Association Archives.
2 In a study of Negroes during the war Bell I. Wiley concluded that most
of the slaves were neither loyal nor disloyal, but simply awaited the outcome
of the war. Bell I. Wiley, Southern Negroes 1861-1865 (New Haven, 1938), 83;
T. J. McKean to L. Thomas, January 1, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands,
Florida, National Archives; Oficial Records, I Series, XLVII, pt. 3, 819; T. W.
Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 1, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida;


As soon as it became evident the war was over, a few owners
began to free their slaves. On April 16, a Tallahassee planter
called his slaves to the house and told them: 'you are my people
no longer; the fortunes of war have taken you out of my hands-
you are free men now.' "3 However, many of the masters were
hesitant to give up their Negroes. The Jacksonville Florida Union
\claimed some planters around Tallahassee clung to the hope they
could keep their slaves, and have some kind of gradual emanci-
pation. They were disappointed, "some even bitterly," when on
May 14, JJnion Major General Quincy A. Gilmore issued an
emancipation proclamation in Florida.4 As late as May 19, Briga-
dier General Edward M. McCook, Union Commander at Talla-
hassee, believed it necessary to issue a statement, "in order to
avoid further importunities from citizens of this vicinity," that
the Negro was no longer a slave.5 On the next day the various
commanders in Florida received orders to inform those lately held
in bondage of their freedom.6 The soldiers and "yankee followers,"
said one contemporary, then "penetrated to our kitchens and
plantations informing the negroes who in wonderment left hearth
and field to hang around the Yankee camp to know more about
'dis here freedom.' "7
The Negro reaction to emancipation was varied. When the
slaves of Susan Bradford's family were informed of their free-
dom "some of the men cried, some spoke regretfully only
two looked surly and had nothing to say. .. ." That night the
maid came as usual to see Miss Bradford safe in bed and after tell-
ing her mistress goodnight the former slave declared: "I'm always
going to love my child .' "s Some of the ex-slaves, especially
those who lived on plantations, appeared to think an apology due
the master "for such summary appropriation of property." The
town dwellers were more ready for the change. Ellen Call Long
wrote in her diary on the day of emancipation that,

Florida, House Journal, 1865, 32-34.
3 Susan Bradford Eppes, Through Some Eventful Years (Macon, Georgia,
1926), 271.
4 Jacksonville Florida Union, May 27, 1865; New York Tribune, June 20,
5 Ellen Call Long, Florida Breezes (Jacksonville, Florida, 1883), 382.
6 I. Vogdes to B. C. Tilghman, May 20, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands,
Florida, National Archives.
7 Long, op. cit., 381.
8 Eppes, op. cit., 271-72.


a saturnalia was held by the Negroes. There was a
broad grin on every countenance; shaking of hands, and a
general air of extreme satisfaction, but no outbreak, no
offensiveness; nothing to indicate a feeling of triumph, or
joy of escape from thraldom.
"As a matter of history it should be recorded," Mrs. Long wrote
years later, "that the Negroes of Florida except under evil in-
fluence conducted themselves with remarkable patience and good
sense." "While freedom was welcomed by them," she added, "there
was .no indecent outburst of congratulations ."9 A former
slave reported the Negroes "were happy at the news, as they had
hardly been aware that there was a war going on." Other ex-slaves
were described as "jubilant, but not boastful."10 It is generally con-
ceded that although Florida Negroes greeted emancipation with
obvious satisfaction there was little offensiveness on their part.
Native whites were surprised at the ex-slaves' reaction. Former
Senator David L. Yulee received a letter from his wife in June
saying "the Negroes are all doing better than could be expected,"
and an ex-Confederate soldier wrote in the same month that the
freedmen "are all conducting themselves much better than was
Some of the Negroes were merely bewildered at the reception
of freedom. At first the ex-slaves could not comprehend emanci-
pation, W.E.B. Dubois wrote with characteristic color, "but
slowly, continuously, the wild truth, the bitter truth, the magic
truth came surging through."12 A Confederate soldier returning
to Florida in early May "found the Negroes on the plantations and
while there was some suppressed excitement, there was no indica-
tion that they were going to assert their freedom by abandoning
the plantations." Indeed "they had not grasped their situation as
freedmen ." he said.'3 A New York Tribune correspondent
thought Florida freedmen "hardly knew what to do with them-
selves or with the boon of liberty." "The first and general
anxiety was to do something on their own account," he added.

9 Long, op. cit., 382; Ellen Call Long, History of Florida, 346.
10 Federal Writers Program, Florida Slave Interviews, 5-6.
11 N. Yulee to D. L. Yulee, June 8, 1865, in David L. Yulee Papers; S. A.
Swann to R. Erwin, June 10, 1865. in Samuel A. Swann Papers.
12 W. E. B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction (Philadelphia, 1935), 122.
13 W. S. Simkins, "Why the Ku Klux," The Alcalde, IV (June 19, 1916),


"They could think of nothing better than to go somewhere without
asking leave or having a pass."14
After the first shock, the ex-slaves were inclined to test their
new state. It was natural for a people who had been closely re-
stricted to leave their former homes to demonstrate their freedom,
and they began to wander. "The Negroes don't seem to feel free,"
a former slave owner wrote, "unless they leave their old home-just
to make it sure they can go when and where they choose."15 Soon
"not less than a thousand of the dirty, ragged, jolly fellows" were
in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, and Gainesville. Other towns also
had an influx of Negroes.16 A New York Times reporter noticed
large numbers of Negroes at every railway station. "The large
portion were females," he said, "decked in their gayest attire, and
in a style that would throw the most ridiculous caricature in the
shade.""7 Thomas W. Osborn, assistant commissioner of the
Freedmen's Bureau in Florida, reported to his superior that "when
the Negroes were first freed they exhibited a strong tendency to
leave their homes and wander about the country," but the migra-
tory spirit lasted only four to eight weeks. In his opinion the
wandering of the freedman was due not to inclination alone, "but
in a considerable degree to the disposition shown by his former
owner and the unwillingness of the owner to adapt himself to the
new conditions of the Negro."'1 The Gainesville New Era spoke
of the "hundreds of colored women without husbands, roving about
the country in penury and want ," This disgraceful state, the
editor said, was due to the "false impressions instilled into the
Negro mind at his first reception of freedom by the false friends
and crazy fanatics."19
Quick action was taken by military authorities to stop Negro
migration. On June 13, 1865, a military patrol was established
throughout the State to apprehend idlers and vagrants. "In case
of Negroes found loitering about the country," the order read,
"the cause of their absence will be inquired into, and if not satis-

14New York Tribune, June 20, 1865.
15 E. Philips to J. J. Philips, January 21, 1866, in James J. Philips Papers.
s1 New York Tribune, June 20, 1865.
17 New York Times, August 1, 1865.
s1 T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 1, 1865, in Bureau Records,
19 Gainesville New Era, November 11, 1865.


factory, they will be returned to their homes." If such freedmen
could not find employment they were to be sent under guard to
the provost marshal, who was to turn them over to the superin-
tendent of Negro affairs.20 Colonel William Apthorp, commander
at Jacksonville, received orders on June 18 to investigate the in-
crease in the number of ex-slaves arriving in Jacksonville, and to
cause all those unemployed to be sent out of town.21 The Freed-
men's Bureau also took steps to halt the roving freedmen. Assistant
Commissioner Osborn ordered his subordinates to prevent as far
as possible the congregation of Negroes about army posts and
towns, and to disabuse them of the "impression they have that
they will be fed. We must of course give some of them rations but
I wish the number to be as small as consistency and humanity will
Not all of the freedmen wandered about the country after
emancipation. A former slave, Louis Napoleon, said when the
slaves on his plantation were notified of their freedom some of
them left, but others remained deciding it was best to stay until
the crops were harvested. These earnings helped them in their
new venture in home seeking.23 Another report stated that upon
emancipation most of the "intelligent and those who had families
almost immediately asked if they were compelled to leave." Those
who had been well treated were eager to remain on the planta-
tion.24 The more intelligent Negroes, a white contemporary wrote,
accepted freedom "with conscious sense of its responsibilities-
while the more ignorant seemed awed and even fearful of a change.
. ."25 Some of the ex-slaves seemed to have a vague idea of their
independence but "little change in their relations to their old
masters is perceptible," a traveler in Florida wrote. "In the back
country they remain, as usual, on the little cracker plantations, and
neither masters nor negroes succeeded in more than making a rude

20 General Orders No. 26, quoted in Gainesville New Era, November 11,
21 S. L. McHenry to W. L. Apthorp, June 18, 1865, in U. S. Army Com-
mands, Florida, National Archives.
22 T. W. Osborn to D. P. Hancock, September 24, 1865, in Bureau Records,
23 Federal Writers Program, Florida Slave Interviews, 5-6.
24 Jacksonville Florida Union, May 27, 1865.
25 Ellen Call Long, History of Florida, 347.
26 Reid, op. cit., 173.


Whether the freedmen roamed or remained at work their
attitude toward their former masters was generally respectful.
Even few native white Floridians complained of the Negroes' be-
havior. Indeed, the Negroes frequently retained affection for their
former owners. One ex-slave, James Page, wrote the family of his
former master several affectionate letters. One such epistle was
headed "Miss Harriet My Dear Young Mistress," and closed with
"ever your kind old servant and friend until death."27 However,
one Northerner traveling through Florida said, "the Negroes
seemed deficient in love for the old masters, to whom we have been
told that they were so much attached .. ."28 Even when they had no
devotion to their former owners, the freedmen, whether through
fear or respect, were usually inoffensive. Most of the disturbances
between the races were initiated by whites.
The white reaction to emancipation was, of course, disapproval.
It was difficult for many of them to comprehend, and some re-
fused to give up the idea of slavery even after manumission was an
existing fact. Floridians could not seem to believe the Negroes
were really free, a native white wrote in later years. After the
proclamation by local military officials such remarks were heard as
"'Negroes free? Free Negroes? I never heard of such a thing. I
don't believe it.' "29 General Vogdes reported in July that the whites
were "as a body opposed to the freeing of their slaves, and many
still have a lingering hope that some compensation will be awarded
to them or that a system of apprenticeship will be established."30
The desire for slavery died hard, for in August the Gaines-
ville New Era said,

that there are quite a number of persons who seem to hope
that the next Congress will reestablish slavery. Their hopes
for future happiness and prosperity are wrapped up in this
idea, instead of making up their minds to dismiss it at once
and go to work manfully to make other arrangements for
the future.

27 James Page to Harriet Parkhill, January 9, February 17, March 23, 1866,
in John Parkhill Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
28 Reid, op. cit., 162.
29 Long, History of Florida, 346.
30 I. Vogdes to O. O. Howard, July 31, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida.


Major General John G. Foster, Commander of the Department of
Florida, encountered the same idea. There were a large number
of ex-slaveholders in Florida, he said in 1865, "who still hug the
ghost of slavery, and hope that the State may get back into the
Union with so loose guarantees upon that subject, that the insti-
tution may be revived by State laws at some future favorable op-
portunity." Whites in Florida "have so long and so selfishly re-
garded the Negro as created to be their slave-only that and
nothing more-that their minds are cast in that mold." another
observer reported.31 A newspaper correspondent wrote:

if Adam and Eve, when earning their bread by the sweat
of their brows, had any deeper or sadder longing for a lost
paradise than our planters have for a restoration of the
institution of slavery, they must, indeed, have been unhappy
and entitled to all the pity which misery could inspire.
These men did not look upon slavery as evil, but saw in it "nothing
but personal ease and pleasure, political power and social po-
sition." In the absence of slavery they saw "poverty, lowliness,
weakness, disgrace and ruin."32 Florida whites in 1865 were already
perpetuating the myth of the "good old days."
Some of the whites who accepted emancipation wanted, and
in fact planned, to restore slavery under another name. One
plan was to place a price upon labor without the consent of
the laborer, and another was to authorize the employer to
use the whip and other devices of the slave owner. Many
planters discussed a scheme to enter into an agreement to employ
only their own ex-slaves, thereby forcing the freedmen to remain
on their old plantations and work on terms prescribed by their
former masters.`4jlmplementation of such designs was prevented
by the Freedmen s Bureau, though the Bureau did frequently co-
operate with the planter in forcing the freedmen to work at low
Most whites apparently opposed emancipation, but their atti-
tude toward their ex-slaves varied. That some of them retained

alGainesville New Era, August 5, 1865; J. G. Foster to G. A. Forsyth, Sep-
tember 20, 1865, H. H. Moore to T. W. Osborn, February 25, 1866, in Bureau
Records, Florida.
32 New York Tribune, September 5, 1865.
33 Ibid.


affection for their former chattels is demonstrated by an entry in the
dairy of Susan Bradford of Tallahassee. "Nellie went away
today," she wrote, "and the parting between her and Sister Mag
was pitiful." Nellie had been Mag's nurse for years and the two
girls had grown up together. When the former slave started to
leave she "knelt on the floor and put her arms about sister, both
were sobbing and both faces were wet with tears." Miss Bradford's
younger brother was also "sorely distressed" at the parting, but "it
is nothing as compared to his mother's grief. ."4 Sometimes
the whites' kind feeling for the Negroes was evidenced in an even
more striking way. James Weldon Johnson, the Negro author, was
born in Jacksonville in 1871. His mother was too ill to nurse him,
and a white neighbor who heard of the unfortunate circum-
stances took the young Negro and nursed him "at her breast"
until his mother had recovered. Thus, it appears in the land
of black mammies at least one Negro boy had a white one.3"
Another white woman from Marion County wrote in her diary in
February, 1867, that she went to some Negro houses and the church
to attend the sick.36
According to many observers of the period the greatest hostility
toward the Negro came from the poorer whites. General
Vogdes wrote in July, 1865, that the "poor white" hated "the
planters and the Negroes, envying the first and fearing the last."
The white man's "hatred of 'yankees and niggers,' a Union soldier
stated, "seems to be in direct proportion to the depth of their ignor-
ance, and the length of time that has elapsed since they last saw a
newspaper." The feeling toward the freedmen "among the little
planters, lawyers, the cracker and other small fry" was "con-
temptible while the substantial planters" had "a degree of con-
sideration for the former slaves that could hardly be expected,"
Assistant Commissioner Osborn reported in January, 1866.37
The antagonism between the freedmen and poor whites con-
tinued throughout Reconstruction and after. A Bureau agent in
Holmes County, which had a small indigent population about one-

34 Eppes, op. cit., 285-86.
35 James Weldon Johnson, Along This Way (New York, 1933), 9.
36 Maria Baker Taylor Diary, Typescript in P. K. Yonge Library of Florida
History, Gainesville, Florida.
37 I. Vogdes to O. O. Howard, July 31, 1865; T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard,
January 10, 1866, W. L. Apthorp to A. H. Jackson, September 10, 1867, in
Bureau Records, Florida.


sixth Negro, made an acute observation. "In those isolated back-
woods counties the freedmen are still regarded as only 'niggers,' "
he wrote, "and the most worthless white man will persist in treat-
ing them as such, that they may have the satisfaction of thinking
themselves superior to at least some living creature ." Human
nature in all its grades, he continued, "is ambitious of some sort
of superiority."38 Unfortunately, even those who had affection
for the Negro exhibited it only as long as the freedmen kept
"their place." Miss Bradford, who was touched by the parting with
a former slave, tolerated no insolence. While sitting in her house
one day a group of Negro boys and girls passed singing "We'll
hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree." She seized a whip,
"and rushed into their midst and, laying the whip about me with
all the strength I could muster I soon had the whole crowd flying
toward the Quarters screaming as they went." It amused the
family to think that Miss Bradford was nineteen and had never
before struck a Negro.39
Whether white Floridians were fond of Negroes or detested
them they generally considered the Africans inherently inferior,
and intended to hold them in a subordinate position. The editor
of the Gainesville New Era, on June 8, 1865, announced his policy
as one of fairness and independence, but, he continued 'this is
a government of WHITE MEN,' and "'inferiority of social and
political position for the Negro race, and superiority for the white
race, is the natural order of American Society.' "40 Whites are bound
to treat the Negroes as free men, the editor said in August, 1865,
but "we are, and always will be the superior race."41 Benjamin C.
Truman, a New York Times correspondent who was usually fair
to the South, discovered a class of people in Florida who pom-
pously claimed to be Caucasians and who disparaged every effort
made by the freedman. They raved about his being totally unfit
to care for himself, and insisted he was "but a few removes from
brute creation...."42
The claim that the Negro was of a lower order appeared fre-

38 W. J. Purman to A. H. Jackson, April 30, 1865, in Bureau Records.
39 Eppes, op. cit., 280.
40 Fritz W. Buchholz, History of Alachua County Florida (Saint Augustine,
1929), 130.
4'Gainesville New Era, August 19, 1865.
42 New York Times, December 25, 1865.


quently in the press and personal correspondence. A letter to the
New Era from a seemingly educated man tried to demonstrate
the reason for the Negroes' inferiority. The Moors, who were the
"sons of Ham" went to Africa where their "minds became imbecile,"
he said. In Africa they had no human companions, but the baboon,
ape, and orang-outang were suitable to their taste, "and long
familiarity" brought about a resemblance between the animals
and the descendants of the Moors. He suggested that the Moor
interbred with the orang-outang, "the doctrine of the infecundity
of hybrids" not being applicable in this instance. The Negro was
"scarcely a whit" above the orang-outang in intelligence, he con-
Such extravagant ideas were prevalent throughout the State.
"The freed people are looked upon as an inferior and distinct race,"
a Bureau agent said, "and the difference, which is made is almost
as great as in other parts of the civilized world, the difference
between man and beast."44 Even the clergy gave currency to such
theories from the pulpit. A minister in Pensacola, in May, 1868,
preached a discourse on the true gentlemen and lady. The sermon
contained one undeniable thing, a member of the congregation
said, "that a man of a certain cast could never be a true gentle-
man or lady."45 The belief in the innate inferiority of the Negro
was not restricted to the ignorant. An educated man from Florida,
Emory F. Skinner, whose father was an abolitionist, believed the
mulatto was a hybrid, "a cross which degenerates and devitalizes."46
Florida newspapers approvingly quoted Dr. Josiah C. Nott, of
Mobile, Alabama, who said the Negro had never shown any ca-
pacity for civilization or self government, and attained his nearest
approach to civilization serving in a subordinate capacity. The
brain of the African was inches smaller than the white, Nott
added, and the large headed had always been the repository of true
civilization. The Negro intellect could not be developed even by
education continued through generations, and slavery was the

43Gainesville New Era, July 5, 1866.
44 J. E. Quentin to C. Mundee, August 1, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
45 Warren Q. Dow Dairy, in P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Gaines-
ville, Florida.
46 Emory F. Skinner, Reminescences (Chicago, 1908), 282.


normal condition of the Negro, Nott believed. Indeed, servitude
was advantageous to him.47
Many Floridians sincerely believed freedmen were of a lower
order, but the theory was also used to rationalize unjust treatment.
The privileges of voting and holding office were not considered
"essential rights of freedom." The dark man was supposed to be
incapable of exercising the right of suffrage.48 Since the freedman
was considered inferior, special laws were passed for his control. He
did not receive the same treatment in courts of law, and his word
was not good against a white man. The Negro, it was believed,
should exist primarily to serve the whites. In the words of a
Floridian, "no thinking man will doubt but that he will ever
remain where he was intended, as the hewerr of wood and drawer
of water,' to the sons of Japhet."49 Implicit obedience was to be
rendered by the freedman. He was expected to "take the grossest
insult with the calmness of a dumb brute," and the contradiction
of the white man's word was "sufficient to warrant a blow."50 In
short, the Negro had been emancipated, but he was by no means
equal, neither socially, politically, nor in the courts. White
Floridians pretended to support such theories as the dignity of
man, and the idea that all men were "endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights," among which were rights to "life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But these rights for the most
part were to apply only to themselves.

47 Gainesville New Era, May 11, 1866; Weymouth T. Jordan, Ante-Bellum
Alabama Town and Country (Tallahassee, 1957), 84-105; William S. Jenkins,
Pro-Slavery Thought in the Old South (Chapel Hill, 1935), 242-284; Arthur
Y. Lloyd, The Slavery Controversy (Chapel Hill, 1939), 228-242.
48 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, October 27, 1865; N. Yulee to D. L.
Yulee, October 3, 1865, in David L. Yulee Papers.
49 Gainesville New Era, October 28, 1865.
50 J. E. Quentin to C. Mundee, August 1, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.



It was obvious that the newly emancipated Negro needed help
in adjusting to freedom. Suddenly the slave was free without the
training and experience necessary to live successfully in a free so-
ciety. Since the Negro was liberated by the United States govern-
ment, a majority of congressmen believed it had a responsibility to
supervise the transition from slavery to freedom. On March 3,
1865, after two years of congressional conflict, an act was passed
creating the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands.
The new organization was placed under the War Department,
and was to continue during the war of rebellion, and for one
year thereafter.' The Bureau was authorized to supervise and
manage all abandoned lands, and to control all subjects relative
to freedmen and refugees in the Confederate States. The Bureau
was placed under the management of a commissioner appointed by
the president with the consent of the senate. An assistant com-
missioner could be placed in charge of each state declared to be
in insurrection.2
The specific duties assigned the Bureau were few. The secre-
tary of war was authorized to issue provisions, clothing, and fuel
for the "immediate and temporary shelter and supply" of destitute
freedmen and refugees. In addition, the commissioner was per-
mitted to set apart abandoned and confiscated lands for the use
of loyal refugees and Negroes. Every male freedman could be
assigned a plot of land of not more than forty acres, on which he
was to pay an annual rent not exceeding 6% of the value of the
land as appraised by the State in 1860 for purposes of taxation.
At the end of three years the land could be purchased by occupants
on payment of the value from which the rent had been ascertained.3
No provisions were made in the original act for Negro education,

1 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII, 507.
2 Ibid., 508.
3 This clause of the act was partially responsible for the unfortunate
forty acres and a mule myth. The freedmen came to believe that they would
be given land and a mule, which caused some to be hesitant to go back to
work for their former masters.


which was to be one of the more meritorious accomplishments of
the Bureau. Authorization to supervise labor, organize Bureau
courts, and establish freedmen's hospitals was not specifically
given.4 The responsibility of originating many of the policies
necessary to protect and aid the freedmen devolved upon the
The man selected to guide Bureau activities was General Oliver
Otis Howard. Howard, a West Point graduate, became colonel of
the 3rd Maine Regiment in June, 1861, and was soon promoted
to brigadier general. He participated in the first battle of Bull
Run and the Peninsular campaign, suffering the loss of his right
arm at Fair Oaks. His personal bravery was undisputed and he
gained a reputation as "a great Biblical soldier" and humani-
tarian. Howard's experience seemingly equipped him to handle the
complex duties of supervising the freedmen, and "so far as good
intentions, humanitarian passion, and religious enthusiasm were
concerned," he was a good choice. Many observers, however,
believed "Howard left much to be desired as an executive."5
General Howard, appointed commissioner May 12, 1865, immedi-
ately assumed management of the Bureau, and soon had it in
operation. The most pressing problems, he believed, were to re-
habilitate labor, guarantee actual freedom for the Negro, secure
justice for him in the courts, supervise labor contracts, aid benevo-
lent societies as much as possible in their educational work, and
raise revenue by rent on abandoned property to meet operating
The Bureau was not at once organized in Florida. On June 13,
1865, Major General Rufus Saxton was made assistant commis-
sioner of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, with headquarters
at Beaufort, South Carolina.7 During this time the Bureau ac-
complished little in Florida. The military still bore the primary
responsibility of caring for the freedmen. The actual genesis of

4 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII, 507-509.
5 Dictionary of American Biography (22 vols., New York, 1928-58), IX,
6 Oliver Otis Howard, Autobiography (2 vols., New York, 1907), II, 225.
7 Florida had five assistant commissioners, but one of them, Rufus Saxton,
never served in the State. The other four, Thomas W. Osborn, John G. Foster,
John T. Sprague, and George W. Gile, were all respected by Florida whites.
New York Times, June 25, 1866; U. S. Congress, House Executive Documents,
39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 11, 46.


the Bureau in the State was marked by the appointment, in Sep-
tember, 1865, of Colonel Thomas W. Osborn as assistant com-
missioner.8 Osborn was a native of New Jersey and a graduate of
Madison University in New York. He gave up the study of law on
the outbreak of the war to join the Union Army as an artillery
officer, in which capacity he was seriously wounded several times.,
Osborn served as Howard's Chief of Artillery at Gettysburg, and
was described by his superior as "a quiet unobtrusive officer of
quick decision and pure life."'0 He was familiar with conditions
in Florida as he had campaigned in the State with the 24th Mas-
sachusetts Infantry.11
Osborn was a man of much energy and executive ability, and
within three months he had the Bureau in reasonably effective
operation, though he was greatly hampered by lack of assistance.
In October, 1865, he lamented that he was absolutely alone, with-
out even a clerk, and had a large accumulation of work on his
hands.12 By the end of 1865 only seven persons in Florida had
Bureau work as their primary responsibility.13 Osborn arranged
to secure some part-time employees by issuing an order on Sep-
tember 30, 1865, directing all post commanders within the Depart-
ment of Florida to report to him for duty in conducting Bureau
affairs. The post commanders were not full-time agents. They
were not excused from any of their military duties, and were not
required to perform Bureau services if it in any way interfered
with their activities as army officers.14 On November 21, 1865,
Osborn relieved the commanders of their responsibility to the
Bureau, and made the judge of probate in each county a Bureau
agent. In the absence of the judge the clerks of circuit court were
ordered to act as agents for the Bureau and to "conduct its affairs
within the limits of their civil jurisdiction."15

8 Ibid., 57.
9 Rowland H. Rerick, Memoirs of Florida (2 vols., Atlanta, 1902), I, 306.
10 Howard, op. cit., II, 218.
11 William Watson Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida
(New York, 1913), 380.
12 T. W. Osborn to W. W. Maple, October 27, 1865, in Bureau Records,
13 George R. Bentley, A History of the Freedmen's Bureau (Philadelphia,
1955), 73.
14 T. W. Osborn to C. Mundee, September 30, 1865, in Bureau Records,
Florida; General Order, No. 23, September 30, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands,
"ITallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, November 7, 1865; U. S. Congress,
House Executive Documents, 39th Congress, 1st Sess., No. 70, 86-88.


Civil officers were advised by Provisional Governor William
Marvin to comply with Osborn's request. Some of the civil agents
did not seem to have the best interests of the freedmen in mind,
but most of them accepted their duties in good faith. Though
there were several complaints about the civil agents, Osborn re-
ported in January, 1866, that they were generally attempting to
deal justly with the ex-slaves. There were a few cases of partiality
in dividing crops, but they were believed to be exceptions. The
next month Osborn reported that he had been forced to remove
some civil officials and countermand some of their orders. The
service was unpopular, and those who attempted honestly to carry
out their duties were frequently recipients of insults from native
In July, 1866, Congress overrode a presidential veto to extend
the Bureau two more years. The new bill authorized Commis-
sioner Howard to retain officers of the Veterans Reserve Corps
already in the Bureau at the same compensation they received
before being mustered out of the service. This made it possible
to increase the number of Bureau employees, though the number
of agents in Florida was always relatively small. By 1866, Bureau
officials were scattered throughout the State. Local officials were
titled sub-assistant commissioners and had jurisdiction over sub-
districts composed of two to four counties.17 In November, 1866,
the Bureau in Florida employed twenty officers and five civilians.18
The act of 1866 which increased the personnel of the Bureau
also extended its power. The sum of $6,994,450 was appropriated
to be used for food, clothing, schools, and asylums for freedmen.
In addition to the appropriation, the Bureau was authorized to
use confiscated property for school houses.19 The amount ex-
pended in Florida was never large. In 1866 the Bureau spent $15,-
589.62 in the State. Expenditures increased to $27,435.09 in 1867,

16 Ibid., 88, 275; U. S. Congress, Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong.,
2nd Sess., No. 6, 43; T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, January 10, 1866, February
n.d., 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
17 Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 6, 43; U. S.
Statutes at Large, XIV, 174-77.
18 U. S. Congress, House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 1,
pt. 1,753.
19 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIV, 174-77; Bentley, op. cit., 134.


and to $57,993.84 in 1868.20 Aid rendered to the Negroes by the
Bureau was not limited to money.
In July, 1868, the Bureau was again extended for one year.
It could be discontinued in any State fully restored to the Union,
except the educational division, which was not to be affected until
the State had made adequate provision for Negro education.21
In April, 1869, Commissioner Howard issued orders to assistant
commissioners to discharge all agents and civil employees of the
Bureau to take effect April 30, except the superintendent of educa-
tion, one clerk, and agents who were helping Negro veterans col-
lect their mustering out bounty.22 By April 30, 1869, only George
W. Gile, the superintendent of education, remained in Florida. By
the end of 1870 the Bureau had been discontinued in the State.23
While the Bureau was in Florida it rendered significant assist-
ance to the freedmen. The Bureau was a flexible organization
which enabled it to adapt to and meet local needs. Therefore, its
value in any locale depended to a large extent on the character
and competency of the assistant commissioner and local agents.
The Bureau officials in Florida were, in general, a creditable group
and their accomplishments worthy of praise. A New York Times
correspondent wrote in June, 1866, that both whites and Negroes
spoke highly of Florida Assistant Commissioner Osborn. Not only
was he an "upright and efficient officer," they said, but as a general
thing his subordinates were men of "honor and respectability."24
The Steedman-Fullerton investigation of early 1866, which was
clearly intended to discredit the Bureau, gave Florida a favorable
report.25 The editor of the conservative Tallahassee Floridian
wrote in May, 1866, "we doubt whether the duties of the Bureau
could have been administered by anyone more acceptably, alike

20 J. G. Foster to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1866, J. T. Spraguc to O. O.
Howard, October 1, 1867, October n.d., 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida;
Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 6, 47.
21 U. S. Statutes at Large, XV, 83.
22 Circular letter issued April 13, 1869, by O. O. Howard, in Bureau Records,
23 Statement in Special Orders and Circulars, April 30, 1869, in Bureau
Records, Florida; Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, November 19, 1870.
24 New York Times, June 25, 1866.
25 On April 11, 1866, at a time when congress was attempting to strengthen
the Bureau, President Andrew Johnson sent two "carefully selected" men,
Generals J. B. Steedman and J. S. Fullerton, to investigate Bureau activities.
The investigation uncovered some abuses and corruption, but Florida received
a favorable report. Bentley, op. cit., 125-30.


to the blacks and whites, than they have been by Col. Osborn ....
Few could have done better-many might have done worse."26
Other agents received praise from native whites. When John
T. Sprague and John G. Foster were in charge of the Bureau they
usually maintained friendly relations with civil officials, and a
majority of the whites. Local agents were generally considered
fair also. When George B. Carse resigned as adjutant general in
1870, it was said that "when he had it in his power, as agent of
the Freedmen's Bureau, to deal harshly with us, he did not abuse
his privileges. On the contrary, his conduct was generally com-
mended as just and fair."27 In February, 1866, former Governor
Abraham K. Allison claimed the Bureau interfered "but very
little" in the affairs of citizens and he had not heard of a single
"instance of injustice" being done by it in the State.28 Many of
the complaints about the Bureau were politically motivated and
came at a later date when it was no longer in existence.
All agents did not receive the approval of local whites. That
such an agency existed to aid and protect the freedmen was irri-
tating to the many whites who claimed it was unnecessary.29 In
protecting the Negroes, Bureau agents sometimes came in conflict
with whites, which caused unfriendly sentiments. In July, 1866,
a white physician wrote: "we are cursed with one of those pests
that remind us daily of our degradation," a Bureau agent. The
agent had encouraged the freedmen in such "reprehensible" activi-
ties as celebrating the anniversary of their emancipation.30 Citi-
zens of Marianna complained because the local agent, Captain
Charles Hamilton, had not accepted invitations to visit them. "He
seemed to prefer," they said, "the freedmen and certain white
men of no social standing, and kept himself aloof from the more
respectable portion of the community."31 It was also disturbing
to white Floridians when Republican agents gave political instruc-
tion to freedmen.

26 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, May 25, 1866.
27 Ibid., June 8, 1866, April 30, 1867; Tallahassee Weekjy Floridian, February
22, 1870.
28 A. K. Allison to D. L. Yulee, February 22, 1866, in David L. Yulee Papers.
29 W. Marvin to A. Johnson, February 20, 1866, in Andrew Johnson Papers,
Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
30 E. Philips to J. J. Philips, July 2, 1866, in James J. Philips Papers.
31 T. T. Flint to C. F. Larrabee, September 9, 1867, in Bureau Records,


Repeated attempts to discredit the Bureau with charges of cor-
ruption were unsuccessful. Agents were accused of selling rations
that were supposed to be distributed to needy freedmen and
refugees. Investigations always proved such accusations groundless,
though rations were sometimes given to Negroes and refugees who
could have cared for themselves.32 Commissioner Howard, who
was extremely sensitive to any accusation of corruption, exerted
considerable energy in keeping his own house clean.33 Agents in
Jackson County did charge fees for drawing up labor contracts, un-
til a War Department order in February, 1867, prohibited such
The Bureau, as will be seen, was able to provide freedmen
much needed relief, education, a free labor system, and equal rights
before the law for a short time. It created a small independent land-
owning class of Negroes, and guided them politically. But what
the freedmen really needed after their emancipation was some-
thing no federal agency could secure for them, a change in the
attitude of the white South. The Bureau failed to solve the im-
portant, and perhaps impossible, problem of establishing good re-
lations between whites and Negroes, but probably it did as well
as any agency could have done in like circumstances.

32 D. Boyd and G. Brown to J. T. Sprague, June 27, 1867, J. L. Husband
to A. H. Jackson, September 16, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
33 0. O. Howard to T. W. Osborn, February 28, 1866, in Bureau Records,
34 T. T. Flint to C. F. Larrabee, September 9, 1867, in Bureau Records,



The newly freed slave had great adjustments to make to his
new status. The transition from a life of dependency to one of
independent responsibility required some aid. The rendering of
such assistance fell to the Freedmen's Bureau. One of the first
problems faced by the Bureau was feeding the destitute freedmen.
Some of the Negroes left their homes after emancipation, and had
no means of livelihood. Furthermore, some of the ex-slaves, in-
cluding the old and disabled, were ejected from the plantations,
and were facing starvation. The Bureau, at first, could see no way
to feed indigent Negroes as it had no appropriations. But soon
Commissioner Howard discovered a clause in the law establishing
the government agency, which would permit the secretary of war
to issue provisions and clothing to needy freedmen and refugees.'
Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton authorized the Commissary
General of the Army, A. B. Eaton, to provide for destitute Negroes,
as well as whites.2 The Bureau began to issue rations in Florida
in June, 1865. The more than 760,000 rations issued in Florida
from June, 1865 to December, 1868, undoubtedly prevented starva-
tion and extreme deprivation not only among Negroes, but among
whites as well.3
Contrary to popular opinion, the Bureau in Florida did not
support the Negro in idleness, though some of the freedmen, as
well as whites, sought to take advantage of government provisions
to avoid work. General Ulysses S. Grant reported in December, 1865,
that "the freedman's mind does not seem to be disabused of the
idea that a freedman has the right to live without care or provision
for the future," and Assistant Commissioner Osborn wrote in
November, 1865, that in some towns the drawing of rations was

1 Howard, op. cit., II, 256.
2 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 11, 15.
3 As late as 1867, it was reported that 500 whites were dependent on the
Bureau at least six months out of the year. Monthly Reports of the Assistant
Commissioner, July, 1866-December, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida; House
Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 70, 276; Junius E. Dovell,
Florida: Historic, Dramatic, Contemporary (4 vols., New York, 1952), II, 544.


becoming somewhat professional.4 This was remedied by an order
to Florida agents to inform Negroes that rations would not be dis-
tributed after December, 1865, even though such action would
necessarily cause some suffering.5 By 1867, the issue of provisions
was limited almost wholly to those not only impecunious, but in
hospitals and asylums. The Bureau believed it necessary to con-
tinue to give rations to this class of people, since the State was
not caring for them.6 The Bureau did relax its stringent rules
against feeding the freedmen in 1868. That year Florida had an
inferior cotton crop and many supplies were issued, but by 1869
most of the Negroes were on their own.7 By intelligent issuing
of rations the Bureau performed a laudatory service in preventing
the Negro from starving until he could provide for himself, while
at the same time convincing him that he must work if he intended
to eat.
The question of health was another problem faced by the
freedmen after emancipation. The breakup of the plantation
system left the Negroes without proper medical attention. When
in bondage, the freedmen had been cared for by their masters, but
after emancipation the ex-owners no longer bore this responsibility,
and the Negroes were often either unable or too ignorant to care
for themselves. An ex-slave said the Negroes who had been as-
sociated with the "grannies" during slavery had learned how to
cure all manner of ills, with herbs and roots, but such cures were
sometimes more serious than the diseases.8
Moreover, the freedmen sometimes had little conception of
proper sanitation, and diseases tended to assume epidemic pro-
portions. Small pox, cholera, and chills and fever were ills
suffered most frequently. In December, 1865, a few Negroes died
of small pox in Marianna because of neglect, and at the same time

4 U. S. Congress, Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 2,
107; T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 30, 1865, in Bureau Records,
5 T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 30, 1865, in Bureau Records,
6 U. S. Congress, House Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No.
1, 677.
7 House Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 3rd Sess., No. 1, pt. 1, 1027.
s Federal Writers Program, Florida Slave Interviews, 7; Weymouth T.
Jordan (ed.), Herbs, Hoecakes and Husbandry The Daybook of a Planter of
the Old South (Tallahassee, 1960), 72-114.


there were some small pox cases in Jacksonville.9 This disease was
controlled only by a sytematic campaign of vaccination by the
Freedmen's Bureau. Thousands of Negroes received inoculations
against this dread disease at vaccinating stations set up throughout
the State.10 Cholera also appeared among the Negroes in malignant
form. On September 11, 1866, a Bureau agent reported twenty
cases in Cedar Keys, mostly among the freedmen. Again this
disease was controlled, but primarily by the Bureau. Citizens of
the area were so panic stricken three white victims were left lying
where they died, the agent said. He buried the deceased and en-
couraged sanitation." The freedmen suffered more widely from
malaria. Fully one-third of the population in northeast Florida, a
Bureau agent wrote from Fernandina in September, 1867, had
been prostrated with intermittent and congestive chills and fever.
Some of the cases were fatal. Nothing seemed to prevent a recur-
rence of this illness except protracted rest, generous diet, and
freedom from exposure. The Negroes, ignorant of hygienic laws
and living in poverty, were "peculiarly disqualified for taking such
care and precaution as is essential to restoration of health," the
agent added.12 Some of the freedmen suffered, not from any par-
ticular disease, but from malnutrition and neglect. There was
among the freedmen, a Bureau agent wrote, "a great deal of
suffering from want of proper food, and medical attention-some
of them among the aged and infirm, who are not able to pay
for medical attendance. ."13 Largely because of this neglected
class, the Freedmen's Bureau opened a hospital.
The Freedmen's Hospital was established on November 14,
1865, at Jacksonville with a capacity of fifty beds. The hospital was
not intended for all freedmen, but for infirm Negroes and refugees,
and those who could not secure medical treatment otherwise.14

9 E. Philips to J. J. Philips, December 12, 1865, in James J. Philips Papers;
Webster Merritt, A Century of Medicine in Jacksonville and Duval County
(Gainesville, Florida, 1949), 64.
10 William T. Cash, History of the Democratic Party in Florida (Talla-
hassee, 1936), 51.
11 H. H. Kuhn to J. G. Foster, September 11, 1866, in Bureau Records,
12 D. M. Hammond to J. T. Sprague, September 5, 1867, D. M. Hammond to
A. H. Jackson, October 7, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
13 W. D. Dodge to C. L. Larrabee, May 31, 1867, in Bureau Records,
14 J. W. Applegate to J. H. Lyman, October 28, 1866, in Bureau Records,


The medical staff in Florida was always small. In February, 1866,
the State had only four medical officers, three regimental surgeons,
and one acting assistant surgeon.15 From the time the hospital was
opened to June, 1869, 2,718 people were treated, 89 of whom died.16
By the end of 1869 no Bureau physicians remained in Florida. Only
a relatively small number had been treated in the Bureau Hospital,
but it had rendered valuable service in providing for the aged,
who had no one to care for them. The Bureau also helped support
an orphanage for Negro children.
Adjustment to family life was another important problem
encountere-d'by t-e newly emancipated Negro. Through no fault
of their own some of the freedmen had little conception of marital
and family obligations. Slavery had "a degrading, dehumanising
influence upon the slaves," and induced "a laxity in sexual re-
lations" that carried over into freedom.17 Generally speaking,
"slave marriage did not exist as a legal institution, and chastity"
was said to be "a rare virtue among the blacks."18 The ex-slaves
saw no particular reason for changing the practice by which they
had always lived. However, whites, both Northern and Southern,
decided that cohabitation among the Negroes should be legal since
they were free, but there were complications in forcing the freed-
men to go through legal ceremonies. Many of the ex-bondsmen
had more than one mate while slaves, and a problem of selection
arose. Furthermore, after emancipation some of the freedmen dis-
carded husbands and wives selected for them by their masters, and
chose their own. If they were to be forced to marry, which selec-
tion was the proper one?
To cope with the problem, General Saxton in August,
1865, sent down an elaborate directive naming those freedmen
who could be married or divorced. Authorized by the Bureau to
marry were those never before married who were of age, all those
who could furnish acceptable evidence of divorce or death of all

15 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 70, 281.
16 U. S. Congress, House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 1,
pt. 1, 720; 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 1, pt. 1, 631; 40th Cong., 3rd Sess., No.
1, pt. 1, 1024; 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 142, 1024.
17 Alrutheus Ambush Taylor, The Negro in the Reconstruction of Virginia
(Washington, D. C., 1926), 203.
8s James G. Randall, The Civil War and Reconstruction (Boston, 1953),


former spouses, and married persons who could prove they had
been separated three years from their partners by slavery and had
no evidence their former mates were alive, or if alive, would be
restored to them. Ordained pastors and civil officers were author-
ized to grant marriage permits to all who met these qualifications.
All persons whose marriage was only a mutual agreement without
a ceremony were required to have their marriage confirmed by a
minister, and to obtain some kind of wedding certificate.19
The freedmen did not immediately rush to ministers after
General Saxton's directive. In October, 1865, the Gainesville New
Era spoke of "the present immoral state of universal concubinage
in which they were living ."20 It was difficult for some ex-slaves
to understand why marriage was so important when one year earlier
it had been of so little consequence. The Bureau promptly began
to try to combat such attitudes. Bureau agents were instructed to
inform their charges of the necessity of a legal ceremony, and in
1866 the State Legislature passed a law requiring marriage of those
living together.21 Freedmen were soon being married in large
numbers. A newspaper reported in July, 1866, that the Negroes
who had been living together as husband and wife were "coming
forward promptly, and obeying the law upon the subject." Civil
officials were marrying as many as twenty couples a day.22 In June,
1866, Superintendent of Schools for Freedmen, The Reverend Mr.
E. B. Duncan, visited a plantation at Waukeenah, where he married
fifty-three couples, and married enough on a neighboring planta-
tion to bring the number to one hundred. He formalized marriages,
he said, in the fields or roads, anywhere, explaining the necessity
of the solemn vows.23 In accordance with state law, one man
reputed to be one hundred and six years old and a woman eighty
were married in Madison County. They had lived together many
years during slavery, but had never been legally married.24 In order
to expedite marriages, mass weddings were sometimes held.
Florida Negroes were married by the hundreds, but still many
of them had little conception of the obligations of the vows. "I

19 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 70, 108-9.
20 Gainesville New Era, October 11, 1865.
21 J. H. Durkee to S. L. McHenry, July 1, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
22 Gainesville New Era, July 13, 1866.
23 E. B. Duncan to T. W. Osborn, June 31, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
24 Tallahassee Sentinel, September 11, 1866.


am sorry to represent," an observer wrote in August, 1867, "that
the marriage relations between persons of color-is not properly
understood nor regarded in its sanctity." He said that many of
the Negroes had asked for permission to separate and marry again
after only three months of marriage, and many men kept both
wives and concubines.25 Numerous observers commented that in-
fidelity existed to a considerable degree. Many of the ex-slaves, it
was said, thought it necessary only to "say quit" and they were
at liberty to marry again.26 Such a cavalier attitude toward marital
vows was due to "the peculiar relations which they bore to one
another before their emancipation."27 There is little doubt that
many of the marital problems of the freedmen had "their origin
in the indiscriminate cohabitation which existed" during slavery.28
The ex-slaves could hardly be expected immediately to become
model husbands and wives.
The feeling of family responsibility did develop. As early as
June, 1866, Duncan found the moral condition of the ex-
slave improving daily.29 Even if marriage relations were not
what they should be, the Negroes soon began to appreciate
their responsibility to law and society. The freedman had only
recently been invested with the rights and responsibilities of
marriage, and like his white neighbors did not measure up to
professed white ideals. Though the freedman was not "fully up to
the standard even of the class known as 'poor whites,' an observer
wrote in September, 1868, his "behavior thus far in the mixed
condition incident to his 'previous relations' gives promise that he
will soon rise far above their level." This progress was at least
partially due to the churches. Religious societies, according to a
contemporary, exercised "a constant scrutiny into the lives of their
members; they punish with expulsion the profligate and unworthy,
and cast much odium upon immorality and especially the absence

25 A. B. Grumwell to A. H. Jackson, August 31, 1867, in Bureau Records,
26 J. A. Remley to A. H. Jackson, July 31, 1867, J. T. Sprague to O. O.
Howard, October 1, 1867, D. M. Hammond to A. H. Jackson, September 10,
1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.
27 J. A. Remley to A. H. Jackson, May 31, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
28 J. A. Dickinson to A. H. Jackson, September 17, 1868, in Bureau Records,
29 E. B. Duncan to T. W. Osborn, June 31, 1866, in Bureau Records,


of virtue."30 In 1872, Harriet Beecher Stowe claimed many of
the Negroes were not legally married, but they were faithful in
family relations.31 There were those who denied the reported im-
provement in the freedmen's morals. One minister wrote in 1871
that separations between Negroes were so frequent he had de-
termined "to celebrate the Rites of Matrimony but seldom between
Infidelity was not the only problem marring family relations.
There were many reports of wife beating. Hardly a day passed,
wrote a transplanted Northerner, but that some freedman beat his
wife, "frequently laying her up for a day or two."33 Bureau agents
also reported several complaints of wife beating, though one
thought it was no more common than among the lower class of
whites in the State.34 The ex-slaves reputedly had so little feeling
of family responsibility it was deemed necessary by the Bureau to
define the responsibilities of the male to his wife and children.35
Infanticide was said to be high especially among young women, and
Negro mothers were accused of neglecting their children.36 Some
of the negligence was due to ignorance rather than lack of affection,
because even when the relationship between husband and wife was
not understood, both mates seemed to want the children. The
Bureau had numerous requests to help locate children who had
been lost during slavery.37
Despite early shortcomings, the family relationship rapidly im-
proved. The freedmen soon began to appreciate their responsi-
bility for the "maintenance and proper training of their children."
"The industry of the freedman," wrote an observer in 1868, "ju-
diciously caring for themselves, together with a personal pride in
all that relates to his family, have been apparent this season far

30 J. A. Dickinson to A. H. Jackson, September 17, 1868, J. T. Sprague to
0. O. Howard, October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
31 Harriet Beecher Stowe, Palmetto Leaves (Boston, 1873), 291-92.
32 Journal of the Proceedings of the Twenty-Eighth Annual Convention of
the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Florida, 1871 (Tallahassee,
1871), 31.
33 A. B. Hart to Mary Hart, July 31, 1870, in Ambrose B. Hart Letters.
34 A. B. Grumwell to A. H. Jackson, July 31, 1867, September 14, 1868, in
Bureau Records, Florida.
35 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 70, 110.
36 J. H. Durkee to A. H. Jackson, August 5, 1867, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Tampa Florida Peninsular, July 7, 1866.
37 F. E. Grossman to T. W. Osborn, October 1, 1866, in Bureau Records,
Florida; The National Freedman, I (September 15, 1865), 256.


more than at any former period" This change, he added, was the
result of the churches and schools.38 Even when the obligations of
the family were understood, the women were not usually equipped
to be housewives. Many of them had worked in the fields, and had
no other training. Sewing schools were sometimes set up for
women, and the teacher in one such school complained of the
deplorable "ignorance of house and home life" among Negro
women. "They have the simplest things to learn," she stated, and
however rapidly they might acquire knowledge their early habits
and associations would be difficult to overcome.39 Moreover, most
Negro families were further burdened with poverty.
Living conditions of the Negroes were not calculated to promote
harmony even if misunderstandings did not exist. Most freedmen
were poverty-stricken as evidenced by their quarters, apparel, and
food. Rude huts, abandoned buildings, or any type of shelter was
inhabited. In Jacksonville three-fourths of the Negro dwellings
were reputedly worse than a respectable New England farmer
"would consign a pig to. ... .Some contain only one room in
which live a whole family, in dirt and misery." There were some
neat cottages, but they were exceptions.40 Everything resembling
a "house, hut or hovel" was crowded to overflowing. In some
families as many as five people slept in one bed. Every abandoned
magazine in old fortifications in Jacksonville was said to be occu-
pied by a family.41 Some of the houses were without floors, fur-
niture, and window panes. Many families were forced to build
fires for cooking out of doors. A Florida citizen complaining about
Negro housing in Tallahassee unkindly said, "you can tell how
near you are to the city better by the smell than by the mile post."42
Clothing and food were sometimes as pitiable as housing. Ap-
parel was often not only coarse, but inadequate to provide protec-
tion from exposure. The primary diet was "hog and hominy"

35 M. L. Stearns to A. H. Jackson, September 18, 1868, in Bureau Records,
Florida; J. W. Alvord, Fifth Semi-Annual Report on Schools for Freedmen
(Washington, 1868), 30.
39 The National Freedman, I (July 15, 1868), 180-81.
*-40 John Francis LeBaron Diary, in Jacksonville Public Library, Jacksonville,
41 T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, February 19, 1866, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Jacksonville Florida Union, September 16, 1865; E. Philips to J. J.
Philips, October 27, 1865, in James J. Philips Papers.
42 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, November 7, 1865.


mixed with greens in season.43 Roots and sweet potatoes were also
eaten. The sweet potato became such a constant part of the Negro
diet that in portions of Florida it was known as the "nigger choker."
Naturally, the freedmen did not live in such misery by choice,
and conditions were altered as rapidly as possible. They were
anxious to improve their condition, educate their children, provide
homes for their family, and accumulate savings; and a few were
successful, at least in a minor way. A few years after emancipation
some Negroes had comfortable and neat, though rough, houses. As
early as 1865, Whitelaw Reid saw in Key West dozens of new frame
homes, built and inhabited by freedmen.44 In 1874, the commis-
sioner of lands and immigration in Florida reported that "the
large body of our colored citizens have already acquired means
enough to build houses, purchase property, and surround them-
selves with most of the comforts of home."45
Perhaps the commissioner's report was an optimistic picture,
but the freedmen had made progress. They refuted those critics
who claimed they would degenerate "into vicious and indolent
vagabonds." They acquired habits of thrift and forethought equal
to any other race of similar economic standing, and, indeed, they
had made great strides in the acquisition of wealth within a decade
of emancipation. They were not wealthy, a majority of them were
not even in comfortable circumstances, but they had made re-
markable gains considering their sudden independence and lack
of training, their poverty, ignorance and continued oppression.
Some of the freedmen were extravagant and squandered what small
amount of money they acquired, but others were thrifty and
In 1874 a New York Times correspondent speaking of Florida
freedmen said: "many of them have become well educated, and
have given a good and proper direction to the sentiments of the
lower class of Negroes. Starting out with mere instincts of liberty,"
he continued, "they have come to accept the conditions of law
and order, and of mutual dependence, as essential to their own
progress in the path which events have marked out for them."

43 Mrs. H. B. Greely to G. Whipple, March 1, 1865, in American Missionary
Association Archives.
44Reid, op. cit., 187.
45 Sixth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Lands and Immigration of
the State of Florida, 1874 (Tallahassee, 1874), 17-18.


According to the census of 1870, Florida had 147 persons being
supported at public expense. Only 62 of the 147 were Negroes. By
this time there were many comments about the neat and orderly
appearance of many of the freedmen. In July, 1871, a group of
Negroes from Tallahassee made an excursion to Savannah. The
Savannah Republican claimed to 'have never seen a more decent,
orderly and well dressed crowd of colored people' and congratu-
lated Tallahassee 'upon the character of her colored citizens.
S. "46 By 1874 some of the ex-slaves were even in a position to
aid the more unfortunate of their own race. Negro women in Ocala
organized a benevolent society to attend the sick, hold sacred
services for those with lingering illnesses, and inter those whose
families were unable to provide decent burial.4
Despite their depressed condition, the freedmen were generally
able to make the best of the situation, and enjoy themselves.
-. Since the Negroes had not been accustomed to anything better they
were not always fully aware of the depressed conditions in which
they lived. Furthermore, they were able to adjust to existing cir-
cumstances in such a way as to permit them to get the most out of
what they had. A former New Yorker, homesteading in Florida,
wrote in 1867 that the Negroes laughed and sang from morning
until night, and every evening they indulged in the "most constant
string of stories and guffawes it is possible to imagine."48 On
Saturday the freedmen went to town in great numbers, where
they visited the stores and each other. "They go marching about
the streets," an observer said,

orderly as a procession and file into the stores until there
is scarcely standing-room, getting on very quietly until late
in the day, when some of them, while under the influence
of badly-adulterated whiskey, become noisy and obstreper-
ous-thus ending their day's frolic in the lock-up.49
However, there was not much intemperance among the freed-
men, according to commentators, at least in the first few years

46 New York Times, October 29, 1875; Ninth Census of the United States,
1870, I, 568; Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, July 11, 1871.
47 Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, July 21, 1874.
48 A. B. Hart to Mother, January 23, 1867, A. B. Hart to Emily Hart,
February 6, 1867, in Andrew B. Hart Letters.
49 Abbie M. Brooks, Petals Plucked From Sunny Climes (2nd ed., Nashville,
Tennessee, 1885), 330-31.


after emancipation. Although Negroes outnumbered whites three
to one, an agent wrote from Monticello in September, 1868, few
instances of intoxication were seen among them. This was not al-
ways because they did not drink, he said, but because they could
not afford liquor. Other agents noticed little intemperance among
the ex-slaves, though apparently it was on the increase by 1868,
in part because of the freedmen's tendency to ape the whites.50
Intoxication was reportedly no more frequent among Negroes than
whites, but in order to combat the vice, and also to provide social
organizations, many temperance societies were organized by the
freedmen. Few towns of importance were without such a society,
and reputedly they were effective. Whatever vicious habits may
be attributed to Florida Negroes, one contemporary said, intemper-
ance was not one of them.51
The freedmen engaged in organized social and recreational
activities other than temperance societies. Baseball became popu-
lar, and games between neighboring towns were frequent. Volun-
teer fire companies served as social institutions as well as being a
credit to the community. Parades, picnics, and barbecues were
other popular pastimes.52 Some of the freedmen were more am-
bitious. At least six Negro Masonic Lodges were organized in
Florida as early as January, 1868. A general assembly was called
in Jacksonville for January 17, 1870, to organize a Grand Lodge
of Masons in the State.53 TIle freedmen emulated whites in still
other ways. In March, 1870, the Negroes of Tallahassee held a
"grand tournament and gander pulling," complete with gallants
and fair ladies. Mounted dusky knights attempted to spear rings
with a lance, and pull the head off a greased gander.54 There was
considerable controversy in the papers over the pretensions of the
Negro and the barbarous practice of gander pulling, the whites
seemingly forgetting the Negroes learned both from them.

50 D. M. Hammond to A. H. Jackson, September 10, 1868, W. G. Vance to
C. F. Larrabee, May 31, 1867, L. M. Shute to A. H. Jackson, July 8, 1867, A. B.
Grumwell to A. H. Jackson, September 14, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.
51 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records,
52 J. A. Remley to A. H. Jackson, July 31, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
53 The first three Grand Masters were Harry Thompson, 1870-72, Alonza
Jones, 1872-73, and John R. Scott, 1873-79. The Florida Sentinel. Tenth Annual
Number, 1880. Pensacola, Florida (a magazine published annually depicting
Negro life in Florida).
54 Tallahassee Floridian, March 19, 1870.


Another important adjustment to be made by the Negro was
his relation to the law. He had been ruled by his master, and
when the owner's authority was terminated, he sometimes seemed to
believe all restraint had been ended. The Negroes' relation to the
law was further clouded the first two years after the war because
it was used by whites to persecute him. Fairness to the freedmen
did not seem to be a characteristic of Florida courts, with the
result ex-slaves came to regard the law as an enemy. Many petty
crimes were perpetrated by freedmen, stealing being the most
common. The Negro had owned no property, and had little con-
ception of proprietorship. Moreover, he was frequently hungry,
and was inclined to satisfy his appetite wherever he could find
food. Complaints of cattle and pig stealing were common. Nearly
all of the Bureau agents received charges of Negro and poor white
thievery. Hog killing became so widespread several farmers
threatened to quit raising livestock.55 A Bureau agent reported
in October, 1868, that forty head of cattle had been killed on
Amelia Island in the previous two years. About two weeks
earlier, he continued, a Negro constable had attacked the problem,
apprehending three of the perpetrators, whose confessions impli-
cated a large number of freedmen.56 The Bureau co-operated with
civil authorities in attempting to stop the killing of livestock, and
petty pilfering, with good effect. The Tallahassee Floridian, in
October, 1868, noticed "with pleasure the generally good deport-
ment of the colored people in this county." Few important cases,
the editor added, had come up for trial. He believed Leon
County would contrast favorably with any other in the State "for
the observance of peace and good order."57
The most common Negro crimes were killing livestock and
petty theft. An examination of court records for Florida reveals
that most crimes of violence were committed by whites, but Negroes
were sometimes guilty. When freedmen perpetrated such acts they
were usually against other Negroes.58 Assaults on whites by Negroes

55 D. S. Walker to D. L. Yulee, September 12, 1868, J. S. Perviance to D.
L. Yulee, October 8, 1865, in David L. Yulee Papers; J. A. Remley to A. H. Jack-
son, October 31, 1867, T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 30, 1865, in
Bureau Records, Florida; Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, February 1, 1867.
56 D. M. Hammond to A. H. Jackson, October 2, 1868, in Bureau Records,
57 Tallahassee Floridian, October 20, 1868.
58 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, February 7, 1868, in Bureau Records,


were rare. On at least one occasion when a freedman allegedly
committed a violent crime against a white person he was sum-
marily dealt with by a lawless group of his own race. In July,
1868, a white woman was murdered near Ocala. Suspicion soon
came to rest upon a Negro neighbor. The suspected man was ap-
prehended by a number of freedmen, who whipped him until he
confessed to the crime. The case was submitted to an impromptu
jury of twelve men of his color, who adjudged him guilty and
hanged him.59 The Negro was killed by a lawless lynch mob in
an area and time when lynching was considered a prerogative of the
white to be used against freedmen. Whether the Negroes murdered
the suspect because they were afraid he would escape justice, or
in order to protect themselves against a white lynch mob is open
to question. The crime for which the Negro was supposed to be
most feared, rape of white women, was extremely rare in Florida,
though a few Negro males broke a state law by living openly with
white mates.60
Several cases of miscegenation were reported in Florida. Ac-
cording to a Bureau census of 1866 seven white women were living
openly with Negro soldiers in Jacksonville.61 In December, 1865,
a traveler wrote of finding in central Florida "a rude, leaky, shanty
with a white man, a big wench, and some half dozen Mulatto
children for occupants."62 Two white brothers in Madison County
married Negro women. Fraternization between whites and freed-
men sometimes led to disturbances. In June, 1872, a group of Negro
men were fired upon by whites at Hawkinsville. The freedmen
were accompanied by some "low white women" which supposedly
caused the difficulty.63 Miscegenation was illegal in Florida, but
punishment for such offenses was usually meted out extra-legally.
In 1874 a white man living with a Negro woman near Brooksville
was forcibly taken from his home and hanged. Robert Crawford
was taken from his home in March, 1876, and severely beaten
evidently because he had married a Negro.64 The law against

59 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, July 31, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.
60 F. W. Webster to T. W. Osborn, February 7, 1866, in Bureau Records,
61 Ibid.
62 George F. Thompson Journal, December 12, 1865, in Bureau Records,
63 Tallahassee Sentinel, June 22, 1872.
64 Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, May 19, 1874, March 7, 1876; Jacksonville
Daily Florida Union, March 8, 1876.


intermarriage was never strictly enforced. In 1875 a white woman
married a Negro at Milton, and at least two Englishmen married
Negro women in Florida.65
Despite their lack of preparation and considerable difficulties
the Negroes as a whole adjusted rapidly to freedom. They quickly
learned they had to work to live, they realized they had to obey
laws, they learned the responsibilities involved in rearing a family,
they strove to improve their economic condition, and attempted to
improve their education. By the end of Reconstruction they were
probably as good citizens as any race of similar economic standing.

65 Tallahassee Sentinel, July 10, 1875; Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, August
11, 1874, May 16, 1876.



The miscarriage of justice in state courts was one of the most
disgraceful aspects of Florida Reconstruction. Some white Flo-
ridians, believing the Negro to be inferior to the whites, advocated
two standards of justice. When traveling in the State in late 1865,
Commissioner Howard observed that the white majority did not
treat the Negro fairly.' After the hanging of a white citizen for
murder, and while the trial of another for shooting a Negro was
pending, military authorities received letters from some Floridians
saying they would not "live in a country where a man must be
hung for resenting an insult with arms," and where "a man must
be tried for his life for shooting a nigger." Some whites did leave
the State for Texas and Brazil.2 In June, 1865, a New York Tribune
correspondent wrote of cases of shooting and violence, and said
Negroes were still severely flogged with whip and paddle.3
Town and county officials were determined to make the Negro
feel his inferiority, Colonel Sprague noted in 1866.4 They accom-
plished their aim by arresting freedmen for petty offenses and by
the imposition of large fines. Sprague feared this habitual in-
justice would call forth violence and retaliation from the ex-slaves.5
An officer from Lake City gave an example of the Florida brand of
justice. A Negro woman was convicted of assaulting another after
she had discovered the latter in the act of committing adultery
with her husband. The court fined her fifty dollars, which she
could not pay; therefore she was hired out for the payment and
had to work for one year. The woman had not been informed by
the judge of her right to seek counsel.6 Punishment for whites in
civil courts was of a much different character. Ashley B. Hamilton
was tried in the Marianna Circuit Court for whipping a Negro
to death in December, 1865, and found not guilty. In April, 1866,

1 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 70, 355.
2 Ibid.
3 New York Tribune, June 20, 1865.
4 House Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 57, 86.
5 Ibid., 87.
6 Ibid., 81.


James J. Denton was tried for the murder of a Negro man in
Marion County. Denton was found guilty, fined $250 and sentenced
to one minute imprisonment. Negroes were given larger fines for
petty stealing.7
This extraordinary concept of justice provoked immediate
interference in behalf of the Negro by the Freedmen's Bureau. On
May 30, 1865, Commissioner Howard issued an order stating:

in all places where there in an interruption of civil law, or
in which local courts, by reason of old codes, in violation
of the freedom guaranteed by the proclamation of the Presi-
dent and the laws of Congress, disregard the Negroes' rights
to justice before the law in not allowing him to give testi-
mony, the control of all subjects relating to the refugees and
freedmen being committed to this Bureau, the Assistant
Commissioners will adjudicate, either themselves or through
officers of their appointment, all difficulties arising between
Negroes and whites, or Indians, except those in military
service so far as recognizable by military authority, and not
taken cognizance of by other tribunals, civil or military, of
the United States.8
Howard suggested the use of a court composed of three persons,
a Bureau agent, a representative of the native whites, and a repre-
sentative of the freedmen. Such courts were given authority to
hear and determine civil cases between freedmen and whites not
involving more than three hundred dollars. They could also try
offenses committed by or against Negroes, provided the punishment
imposed did not exceed a fine of one hundred dollars, or imprison-
ment at hard labor for thirty days.9 These courts were used, but
Florida agents frequently retained a single judge court supported
by the military.10 The white reaction to such courts was hostile.
A citizen of Jacksonville after hearing of Howard's proposal wrote,

a Negro court; one man of it to be selected by the whites, one
by the Negroes, and one by the 'freedmen's bureau,' all of
which out Negroes the Negro, all to pieces. That is to say,
there will be in the court, two out-nigger Negroes, and one

7 C. M. Hamilton to J. H. Lyman, October 24, 1866, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Proceedings of the Union Republican Club of Jacksonville (1867),
typescript in P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, Gainesville, Florida.
8 Howard, op. cit., II, 222-23.
9 0. O. Howard to J. G. Foster, September 19, 1866, in Bureau Records,
10 Bentley, op. cit., 153.


white man, they would say; (but I would say the blackest
Negro of all:)-Two to one. Howard's proposition! Two
to none, or one Negro alone, would be just as well; and just
as just and proper.1
Despite the opposition of native Floridians, the Bureau inter-
vened in behalf of the freedmen. In November, 1865, Assistant
Commissioner Osborn issued a directive forbidding discriminatory
penalties for Negroes guilty of vagrancy and other crimes. Negroes
were to be permitted to testify, and stripes and corporal punish-
ment were to be abandoned with persons above fifteen, except by
authority of the courts. Since civil authorities were not trusted,
all cases of personal violence or murder were to be reported to
the nearest military commander. Floridians seemed to be es-
pecially incensed at the prevention of sentencing the freedmen to
whippings. The Gainesville New Era angrily accused the Bureau
of taking a strange position when it interfered "to prevent the
execution of the laws of the State, under some absurd and fanatical
principle that a black thief must not be whipped for robbery or
larceny, because forsooth, it smells of old slavery."12
The reorganization of the state government posed the question
of how Negroes would be treated in state courts. Provisional
Governor William Marvin saw no danger in permitting the Negro
to testify before the courts, even against white people, for a white
jury would determine the validity of the testimony.'3 The editor
of one of Florida's most important newspapers seemed to agree
that Negro testimony should be admissible though he felt the
freedman's affirmation would be unreliable.14 There was a good
possibility the whites could rid the State of Bureau interference
with civil courts, if they passed laws guaranteeing the protection
of the ex-slaves.
The leadership of Governor Marvin, in regard to the Negro,
was not accepted by a majority of the legislature. On January 3,
1865, a law was passed authorizing freedmen to testify in cases
involving their own race, but they were not allowed to give

11 0. M. Dorman, Dairy and Notes, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
12 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 70, 87; Gainesville
New Era, February 10, 1866.
13 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, October 27, 1865.
14 Ibid., October 24, 1865.


evidence against whites.15 The lawmakers followed this same
conservative trend when passing other statutes pertaining to Neg-
roes16 Over the protest of the assistant commissioner of the Freed-
men's Bureau, laws popularly called black codes which frankly
differentiated between the races were enacted. Special penalties
were prescribed for the freedmen. In lieu of fine and imprison-
ment they could be sentenced to the pillory or whipping with
thirty-nine stripes." To imprison a delinquent Negro would mean
his withdrawal from the plantation, but whipping meant a speedier
return to work.18 A death sentence was decreed for the rape of a
white female, but no mention was made of punishment for the
assault of a colored woman. It was unlawful for white women and
Negro men to marry or live in adultery, but no amercement was
decreed for sexual relations between the white male and the Negro
female.19 In addition, provisions were made for the segregation of
freedmen at public assemblies and on public conveyances.20 Laws
were passed, applying special measures to the Negro in regard to
vagrancy and labor contracts.21 Freedmen were also forbidden to
carry arms of any kind.
This legislation insured the intercession of the federal govern-
ment. The Freedmen's Bureau took immediate action against the
discriminatory laws. In early February, 1866, the commanding
general of Florida, on behalf of the Bureau, announced that laws
permitting the use of the pillory and whipping would not be
tolerated.22 This announcement was followed in a few days by an
order to the same effect by Assistant Commissioner Osborn, who
said there must be no difference in treatment before the law be-
cause of color.23 The state attorney-general, upon protest of Gen-
eral Foster, declared unconstitutional the law forbidding the
Negroes to carry arms.24

15 Florida, Acts and Resolutions, 1865-1866, 35-36.
16 T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, December 30, 1865, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Abbey, op. cit., 302.
17 Florida, Acts and Resolutions, 1865-1866, 23.
18 Davis, op. cit., 421.
19 Florida, Acts and Resolutions, 1865-1866, 24-25, 30; Tallahassee Semi-
Weekly Floridian, February 16, 1866.
20 Florida, Acts and Resolutions, 1865-1866, 25.
21 Abbey, op. cit., 302.
22 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, February 6, 1866.
23 Davis, op. cit., 405.
24 U. S. Congress, Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 2nd Sess., No.
6, 45.


The state criminal courts began operation in April, 1866, and
the Bureau transferred cases previously taken before its courts to
state tribunals. When in May, 1866, a Bureau agent reported
some unjust decisions in his locality, Assistant Commissioner
Osborn claimed inability to take official action in relation to sen-
tences pronounced upon offenders convicted by county criminal
courts.25 In June, 1866, Osborn told Commissioner Howard he
had "endeavored so far as practicable to transfer the control and
protection of the rights of the Freedmen to the regularly authorized
State Courts ."26
In many instances state tribunals handed down fair decisions,
but just as frequently they did not. In June, 1866, the judges in
Alachua and Marion Counties sentenced a number of Negroes to
receive lashes.27 Later in the summer a seventeen year old freedman,
Alfred Jefferson, was caught riding his employer's horse without
permission. He was taken before the Bradford County Court and
fined two hundred dollars and costs. He was unable to pay, so he
was "sold at public outcry to Mr. Allen Thomas of Bradford
County who became responsible for the fine and who now claims
the services of Alfred Jefferson for three years."28 The Bureau agent
at Enterprise, Florida, noted that Milton Busby, Negro, was sold
at auction for twelve months for assaulting his wife, and another
Negro was sold for forty days for taking a drifting log out of the
river and selling it.29 Two Negroes at Lake City, convicted of
stealing two boxes of goods from a railroad company, were fined
five hundred dollars, which they could not pay. The system in
Lake City, a Bureau agent said, was to sell the services of the
freedman to the highest bidder when they could not pay their
fines. There were a great many freed people serving such sen-
tences throughout that part of the State.30 An agent from Marion
County indicated that Negroes usually had small chance of re-
ceiving justice in the civil courts. "I have very little faith in
juries," he stated, "where Freedmen are concerned as against

25 S. L. McHenry to W. G. Vance, May 8, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
26 T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, June 1, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
27 New York Times, July 4, 1866.
28 F. E. Grossman to J. H. Lyman, October 19, 1866, in Bureau Records,
29 W. S. Apthorp to T. W. Osborn, May 29, 1866, in Bureau Records,
30 A. Mahoney to S. L. McHenry, May 1, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.


the white man in this community, and I fear, it will be some time
before the prejudices of the white people will be so eradicated"
the Negro "will be able to receive justice at the hands of Florida
In addition to extreme sentences, the Florida freedmen suffered
many injustices in state courts. Civil officers and justices of the
peace usually demanded costs in advance from the Negro. This
practice prevented the impecunious freedman from being able to
procure justice. Even Governor David S. Walker believed some of
the civil officials were charging more fees than the law permitted.
"I should like to be informed of any such cases," he said, "so that
I might have the officers prosecuted for extortion and put a stop
to the practice."32 In May, 1866, Florida's Attorney General, John
B. Galbraith, after investigation at the request of the Bureau, de-
clared that the practices of the officials were not based on any
principles of justice, but "on the contrary it appears to me that
such a practice would in many cases effect an absolute denial of
justice and prevent the punishment of offenders."33 Despite the
attorney general's decision, the practice of demanding fees in ad-
vance continued, even in cases where the guilt of the white offender
was obvious."4
While the Negro received harsh sentences for petty crimes and
in many instances could not get his cases heard, white offenders
were frequently not punished at all, if their offense was against
a Negro. A woman wrote from Gainesville that a white man had
knocked out the eye of an inoffensive Negro with a board, but the
offender was excused on the ground of drunkenness. He was in
town a day or two after the crime but was not arrested.35 In July,
1866, a Negro from Alachua County brought suit against Elias
Earle for assault and battery. The act was sworn to by several
witnesses, but Earle denied committing the act and was found not
guilty. At the same session three Negroes were charged with vio-
lation of contract, and were sentenced, in addition to forfeiture

31 J. A. Remley to S. L. McHenry, July 31, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
32 Gov. D. S. Walker to T. W. Osborn, May 22, 1866, in Bureau Records,
33 Attorney General J. B. Galbraith to Gov. D. S. Walker, May, n.d., 1866,
in Bureau Records, Florida.
34 A. B. Grumwell to C. Mundee, June 21, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
35 Samuel Proctor, "Yankee 'Schoolmarms' in Post-War Florida," The Journal
of Negro History, XLIV (July, 1959), 276-77.


of wages, to be publicly whipped and to pay court costs.36 The
county criminal court at Marianna, in March, 1866, tried John
Bate and his son for assaulting a freedwoman, Lucinda Doges, who
still had not recovered from her injuries at the time. The son was
acquitted, but the father was found guilty and fined five cents."7
Sometimes county officials did not even trouble to try guilty
whites. A Negro near Fernandina, who was living with a white
woman, was shot at several times, wounded once, and finally killed.
The murdereds were known to the citizens, but no action was taken
for in their opinion any Negro who would live with a white woman
deserved to be shot.38 In Putnam County, in May, 1866, a freedman
was murdered, stones were tied around his neck, and his body
was thrown into a pond. The local agent said, "the parties that
committed the act have never been arrested and no exertions, from
all that I can learn, have ever been made by the authorities so
to do."39 Twelve Negroes had been murdered in his district by
white men, Assistant Commissioner John G. Foster wrote in No-
vember, 1866, and despite undeniable evidence of guilt in some of
the cases not one offender was convicted. However, a Quincy
Negro killed the sheriff of Gadsden County, and he and three
acquaintances were convicted and executed.40
Under such circumstances Bureau officials considered renewed
intervention imperative. The federal agency at first simply ap-
pealed to Governor Walker for executive clemency in cases where
it was believed Negroes received unjust sentences. Executive
clemency was frequently granted. The Marion County Criminal
Court convicted three Negroes for stealing cotton and sentenced
them to $1,000 fines each. Upon complaint, Governor Walker
reduced the abnormally high fines to $350 for one of the men and
$250 for the others. The governor was generally sympathetic to
the demands of the Bureau, and after its order against the use
of whipping and the pillory, he recommended that Negroes sen-
tenced to special punishment be turned over to military authorities.
General Foster promised that freedmen turned over to him would

36 J. H. Durkee to S. L. McHenry, July 20, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida
37 C. M. Hamilton to S. L. McHenry, March 31, 1866, in Bureau Records,
38 T. Leddy to S. L. McHenry, August 1, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
39 J. A. Remley to J. G. Foster, August 31, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
o4 J. G. Foster to O. O. Howard, November 7, 1866, in Bureau Records,


be punished by hard labor, one day for each stripe or for each two
minutes pillory time. This was generally considered a just settle-
ment, though the conservatives deprecated any interference with
state criminal laws.41
Despite Governor Walker's good intentions, the Freedmen's
Bureau found it necessary to take more positive action on behalf of
the ex-slaves, for all white Floridians did not share the governor's
views. In the spring of 1866, three white men murdered a Negro
named Aaron. He had been shot in the leg, and then taken a
distance from the house and shot twice through the head. The
accused were brought before the court and acquitted for lack of
evidence, even though one man ferried the three whites and the
Negro across the river and later heard shots, and another testified
that he had seen the men kill Aaron. In June, 1866, a white man,
Frank Cheatham, killed a Negro, Simon, in the presence of several
witnesses, when the freedman was too slow in carrying out an order.
Cheatham had met Simon on the road and had commanded the
latter to bring him a sharpened stick. When the Negro hesitated,
the white man killed him. Cheatham was taken before civil au-
thorities who refused to make an arrest.42
Several other Negroes were found murdered and verdicts of
killed by person or persons unknown were rendered. General
Foster, on June 9, 1866, declared martial law in Santa Rosa,
Escambia, Levy, Madison, and Alachua Counties, because of
several murders, attempted murders and other crimes against
Negroes and soldiers. Civil authorities had failed to bring
the criminals to justice.43 At the same time civil officials were
quick to arrest freedmen. One agent admitted that when freed-
men were tried, they were in most cases guilty of violating
some law, but whites were not punished for the same offenses.
"To sentence a Negro to several dollars' fine for carrying a revolver
concealed upon his person, is in accordance with an ordinance of
the town," the agent said, "but still the question naturally arises
to my mind, why is this poor fellow fined for an offense which is
committed hourly by every other white man I meet in the streets."
When the laws failed to define the punishment, but left it to the

41 Bentley, op. cit., 155-57; Proclamation, February 12, 1866, in Records of
the Department of State, Tallahassee, Florida.
42 J. G. Foster to O. O. Howard, November 7, 1866, in Bureau Records,
43 New York Times, July 4, 1866.


discretion of the courts, he added, the freedmen always received
a more severe fine than did a white for the same offense. Juries
appeared to act on the assumption the Negro was intrinsically
wrong and did not deserve liberality.44
General Foster sent Governor Walker, in June, 1866, some
examples of Florida justice. In Madison County, a Negro was tried
for assaulting a white man. The freedman allegedly was innocent,
the assault having in truth been made by the white upon the
Negro in which attempt he was foiled by the latter, who took his
gun and knife from him. Nevertheless, the court sentenced the
freedman to thirty-nine stripes on the bare back, "which sentence
was executed, with undue haste, in a building with barred doors,"
and against the protest of a Bureau agent. The court refused to
try the charge of the Negro against the white man for assault
with intent to kill. At the same session a white man was tried for
beating a colored woman on the head with a club. He was adjudged
guilty and fined one dollar. "Under the circumstances of the
failure to obtain justice in the above cases," as in others, General
Foster said, "I feel it is my duty to renew again the system of
military arrests for the higher crimes. .. ." Prisoners so arrested
would be held for trial before the United States District Court.45
Bureau interference did not deter state courts from handing
down their usual decisions. After citing the acquittal of a man in
Columbia County, who was clearly guilty of assault and battery,
Assistant Commissioner Foster wrote to Governor Walker that,
I bring this matter to your notice with regret, as being an
instance in support of the charge, that many of the courts
of the State cannot be relied on to administer justice in
cases of white men against colored persons. The cases tend
very much to strengthen the belief, especially among the
colored people themselves, that the courts of justice are used
as engines of oppression of their race, and to engender
thoughts of combinations in their own defense against such
injustices, instead of the harmonious feeling of dependence
and promoting security which for the interest of all parties
should prevail.46

44 House Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 57, 83.
45 J. G. Foster to Gov. D. S. Walker, June 12, 1866, in Bureau Records,
46 J. G. Foster to Gov. D. S. Walker, July 7, 1866, in U. S. Army Commands,


For a period the Bureau revived its extra-legal courts, and
when civil officials refused to act, Bureau agents sometimes made
arrests and acted as judges. In June, 1866, the assistant com-
missioner sent the agent of Madison County a detachment of troops
to enable him to make arrests in cases where he considered unjust
decisions had been rendered.47 In Lake City, after the local tri-
bunal had refused to act on an assault complaint, Bureau agent
Captain F. E. Grossman convened a Bureau court to try the case.
The court was composed of Grossman, a representative of the Negro,
and a representative of the defendant. The defendant had two
lawyers, while the Bureau agent acted as prosecutor as well as
judge. After a three day trial the court found the defendant guilty
and fined him seventy-five dollars.48
The Bureau courts, however, were to be used only in instances
where the agent was convinced impartial justice could be rendered
in no other way. More frequently the agents observed the trials
in the county courts, and when they felt a decision to be unjust,
it was appealed to the appellate court. If the verdict of the ap-
pellate court was considered unfair, the case could then be ap-
pealed to the United States District Court, which would be re-
garded as final.49 Bureau courts were seldom used after 1866, and
despite the close surveillance of civil courts by federal agents
there was little intervention. The Bureau, as well as the military,
interfered occasionally, but it acted with great caution.
It was unfortunate for the Negro that the federal agency
stopped intervention, for the freedmen still failed to receive
justice in Florida courts. The civil courts in the State were
nothing but a mockery one agent wrote. Neither the Reconstruc-
tion laws, the Civil Rights Bill, nor the district commanders'
orders were obeyed, he said.50 In 1871 the sheriff of Madison
County testified before a congressional committee that in the
period of over three years he had been sheriff, thirty-seven
murders had been perpetrated in his county and not one person
had been convicted; a few had been prosecuted, but the jury had
refused to convict them. Of the thirty-seven victims, thirty-four
were Negroes.51 According to estimates over one hundred and

47 C. Mundee to J. E. Quentin, June 12, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
48 Copy of the proceedings of the Bureau Court, in Bureau Records, Florida.
49 C. Mundee to J. E. Quentin, June 12, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
so Bentley, op. cit., 166.
51 U. S. Congress, House Reports, 42nd Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 22, Pt. 13, 126.


fifty people were murdered in Jackson County alone in the years
from 1868 to 1871. There were almost no convictions. A Bureau
agent from Madison County wrote in August, 1868, that "assaults
on freed people are as frequent as ever and four have been mur-
dered within the last five or six weeks .. ."52
In November of the same year a resident of Ocala cited a case
of the murder of a Negro, adding that "these murders of freedmen
are very common."53 A Northern man in Jacksonville believed
the courts had been "to a great extent, especially in jury trials,
influenced by personal or local prejudices. There has been a gen-
eral desire in the courts to screen men of Southern sentiment
from punishment." The decisions of the justices were apparently
made in accordance with their own ideas of equality, he added.54
One historian said, "the Conservative whites were determined to
avoid punishing those whites accused of killing or maltreating
Negroes or white Republicans ..55 There is no paucity of
examples of injustice to the freedmen during Reconstruction in
Not all white Floridians favored the unjust treatment accorded
the ex-slaves. Governor Walker's attitude has been cited, and
undoubtedly other whites shared his views. According to an agent
from Fernandina justice had been administered "with a loose hand"
in his district, but with little partiality.56 Most of the unfair
decisions were in petty cases, Colonel Sprague thought, and when
justice was not done the Negro he believed it was attributable "to
combinations outside the court rather than illegal findings and
rulings upon evidence."57 An agent at Tallahassee asserted the
freedmen in his district were fearful they would get "too much
justice. It is just what they do not want. They ask mercy."58 Even
though some whites favored impartiality for the freedmen, the
ex-slave in many cases did not receive equitable treatment in

52 Ibid., 221-23; J. E. Quentin to A. H. Jackson, August 1, 1868, in Bureau
Records, Florida.
53 J. A. Remley to G. W. Gile, November 30, 1868, in Bureau Records,
54 J. H. Durkee to A. H. Jackson, September 24, 1868, in Bureau Records,
55 Davis, op. cit., 605.
56 D. M. Hammond to A. H. Jackson, September 10, 1868, in Bureau
Records, Florida.
57 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, October, n.d., 1868, in Bureau Records,
58 M. Martin to A. H. Jackson, October 22, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.


Florida courts even after the organization of Republican govern-
ment in 1868. Several counties in 1867 and 1868 were in a state of
virtual anarchy.59
The Freedmen's Bureau not only attempted to protect the Negro
from unfair Florida courts; it also volunteered its services to civil
authorities in catching and restraining delinquent freedmen. Many
were placed under guard of the military by officials of the Bureau,
while they were awaiting punishment. Agents also occasionally
punished Negroes for petty crimes without orders of the court.
Freedmen who indulged in violence were subject to reprimand by
federal agents. A Negro in Madison who sold liquor to his friends
and then tried to encourage a riot was sentenced to six months
hard labor by military authorities.60
In the process of securing justice for the Negro, the Bureau
sometimes treated the white man with something less than fair-
ness. The "white man could expect nothing but oppression, and
the black man nothing but partiality," ran a popular saying in
Florida.61 In communities where bitterness existed between Neg-
roes and whites, the Quincy Commonwealth stated in late 1867, it
was frequently due to Bureau officers who discriminated "in favor
of one class to the detriment of another."62 General George G.
Meade, Commander of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, said some
of the agents, believing civil courts would not dispense justice,
refused to give them an opportunity.63 Without doubt the Bureau
courts were sometimes partial to the Negro, but a close examination
of the Bureau Records for Florida indicate a majority of the agents
made every attempt to be fair to native whites. In fact, some of
them were openly prejudiced against the ex-slaves. Assistant Com-
missioner Sprague expressed the sentiments of many agents when
he wrote in 1867 that,

without stringent laws, and these enforced with promptness
and efficiency, the freedman will become a profligate bar-
barian. His gross physique, degraded intellect, grovelling
pursuits, habitual slothfulness, and licentious habits, tend

59 J. A. Remley to A. H. Jackson, October 1, 1868, in Bureau Records,
o6 E. S. Rigney to J. S. Rauson, September 14, 1865, in Bureau Records,
86 Rerick, op. cit., I, 299.
62 Quoted in Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, September 6, 1867.
63 Bentley, op. cit., 166.


to make him a terror in society which can only be governed
by stringent laws faithfully administered.64
The Bureau had only limited success in its attempt to secure
justice for the Negro. Its courts were of great value in seeking
to obtain equal rights for the freedmen in an area where two stand-
ards of justice were commonly practiced, but, the Bureau was able
to extend protection to the ex-slaves only for the short time it was
in existence, and left little permanent benefit. Yet the attempt was
not wholly in vain. The federal agency had forced the termina-
tion of the use of the pillory and of whipping. Moreover, the
threat of Bureau intervention probably encouraged civil courts
to be fairer. But, most of the agents were aware, even before the
Bureau left the South, they "had not gained for the Negro court-
room protection from the violence of white people."65

64 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records,
65 Bentley, op. cit., 168.



One of the most pressing problems encountered in the post-
war period was that of labor. The Negro had been the chief
source of labor in Florida, as well as the rest of the South, and the
breakdown of slavery necessitated the contrivance of a new system.
Many white planters wanted to keep the freedmen on the plan-
tation on terms similar to slavery., Whites realized the Negro
had ceased to be property, but many believed he still existed
specifically to work for his "superiors."2 General Vogdes wrote in
July, 1865, that it would take "some time to eradicate the per-
nicious idea," that the labor of the freedmen belonged "to the
community and not to himself," that he was chattel to be "bought,
sold or whipped at the will of an irresponsible master."3 The late
masters in Florida had little conception of the Negro as anything
other than a slave, it was reported in June, 1865, and severe beat-
ing had not completely disappeared.4
A "literary gentleman" of the State expressed his view of the
ex-slaves as follows: "There is now nothing between me and the
nigger but the dollar-the almighty dollar-and I shall make out
of him the most I can at the least expense." This lingering desire
for unrequited and poorly paid Negro labor was widespread.5 The
prevailing sentiment in the South was that freedmen would not
work without physical compulsion. Florida planters were "gen-
erally irreconciled" to the new order of things, and believed it was
"impossible to succeed by free labor."6 Whites were handicapped
by past experience and training. They were usually convinced
without a trial that the Negro would not work.7 Carl Schurz
made a trip through the South and discovered that nineteen of
every twenty men he spoke to insisted the ex-bondsmen would not

1 New York Tribune, September 5, 1865.
2 Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 2, 21.
3 I. Vogdes to O. O. Howard, July 31, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida.
4 New York Tribune, September 5, 1865.
5 Ibid.
6 New York Times, August 1, 1865.
7 C. W. Tebeau. "Some Aspects of Planter-Freedmen Relations, 1865-1880,"
The Journal of Negro History, XXI (April, 1936), 135.


labor of their own will.8 I have "little faith in the successful
working of this free-labor for a long time," a Floridian wrote in
July, 1866. "I am not planting this year," he added.9 A white man
at Key West told a traveler the freedmen were "saucy and worth-
less," would not work more than necessary; charged high prices
for their labor; would rather steal than work; would "dance all
night and be good for nothing" the next day; "were fearfully
licentious"; and were, in short, "an unmitigated nuisance."10
The white Floridians' lack of faith in the Negro under a free
labor system led to an attempt to secure immigrant white workers.
A Marianna resident said he was "much inclined to white servants,
Dutch or Irish," adding that those who knew the Negroes best
did not expect them "ever to do much more work of any kind.""
A majority of the planters around Gainesville reportedly were
determined to go to New York in an endeavor to secure white labor.
The Board of Immigration received many letters from the South
requesting authorities to bring in immigrant labor, especially East
Indian coolies.12 Other Floridians suggested the Negro be given
a chance to prove himself first, and if he was ineffective, then im-
migrant labor should be secured. A few planters believed the ex-
slaves would work if handled properly. The whites had to induce
the Negro to labor, where they had once forced him, a Jackson-
ville newspaper wrote. The freedmen required "kindness, guid-
ance, and instruction" from the superior white race, the paper
added.13 The attempt to bring in immigrant labor met with little
The actions of the newly freed Negroes gave the planters some
cause to be apprehensive about a free labor system. Many of them
had an inaccurate conception of liberty. In writing about the
Negro during Reconstruction, a Florida freedman, John Shuften,
said, "in thousands of instances, it was their solemn belief that

8 Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 2, 16.
9 There were many comments in newspapers and correspondence indicating
the planters lack of faith in free labor. W. G. Branch to Dear Sir, July 8, 1866,
in Branch Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North
Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; George F. Thompson Journal, in Bureau
Records, Florida; Jacksonville Florida Union, May 27, September 30, 1865.
10 Reid, op. cit., 186.
11 E. Philips to J. J. Philips, October 27, 1865, in James J. Philips Papers.
12 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, December 1, 1865; House Executive
Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 66, 6.
13 Jacksonville Florida Union, October 4, 1865.


freedom meant a total exemption from toil, the hardships of life
and every kind of responsibility."14 In addition to their peculiar
concept of freedom, laziness was said to be a characteristic of ex-
slaves. Schurz said many of them were lazy, but, he added, "the
propensity to idleness seems to be rather strongly developed in
the south generally, without being confined to any particular
race."15 Forced labor ha-lIdone little to encourage industriousness
among the Negroes, but with adequate rewards, they appeareadto
be no more or less lazy than any other race.
One reason why some freedmen were hesitant to go immediately
back to the plantations was the false rumor that lands of their
former masters would be divided among them. Schurz and General
Grant made tours of the South in 1865, and both said the freed-
men believed they would be given land.16 ,The overseer on David
L. Yulee's plantation reported that Yulee's former slaves had been
led to think they could remain on the plantation "unmolested in
possession" of some of the land as long as they pleased." According
to Assistant Commissioner Osborn, the rumor was propagated by
soldiers when the State was occupied, and was given currency by
Negro troops, who had come to Florida from the South Carolina
coast where ex-slaves had been allowed to settle upon abandoned
plantations. The Negroes thought the land distribution would be
made after Christmas, 1865, and many of them were reluctant to
make contracts providing paltry wages until after that time's The
myth of land distribution was so widespread the Bureau found it
necessary to inform the freedmen to the contrary.19
By June, 1865, nine-tenths of the freedmen were at work on the
plantations in spite of the unfortunate rumor they would be given
land.20 By May, 1865, "nearly all" planters in the vicinity of Talla-
hassee had made arrangements with the freedmen to remain on
the plantations and cultivate the crops.21 Many of the Negroes

14 John T. Shuften, A Colored Man's Exposition of the Acts and Doings of
the Radical Party South From 1865-1876 (Jacksonville, Florida, 1877), 7.
15 Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 2, 27-28.
16 Ibid., 31, 107.
17 J. S. Perviance to D. L. Yulee, November 25, 1865, in David L. Yulee
Is T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 1, 1865, in Bureau Records,
19 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 11, 12-13.
20 New York Tribune, June 20, 1865; I. Vogdes to O. O. Howard, June 18,
1865, in U. S. Army Commands, Florida.
21 Jacksonville Florida Union, May 27, 1865.


never left their former homes. Planters usually refused to promise
to pay them wages, but some told the freedmen they would give
them a share of the crops. The portion of the harvest the Negroes
actually received ranged from nothing to one-half. Military
officials encouraged the ex-slaves to work for shares, telling them
their former owners were unable to pay wages.22 Comments were
frequently heard that the Negroes were doing "much better" than
was expected.23
Those freedmen who were reluctant to labor on plantations
were pressured to do so by military authorities and the Freedmen's
Bureau. Upon emancipation freedmen were told they would be
required to work. On June 3, 1865, General Vogdes again reminded
the freedmen that "orderly and industrious habits" were "essential
to the preservation of society" and that "idleness, vagrancy and all
marauding pilfering" would be "promptly and severely punished."24
Commanding officers of local posts were ordered, on June 10, 1865,
to make frequent inspection of towns and to send patrols through-
out the country to apprehend idlers. Ex-slaves who could not
explain their absence from plantations were arrested and returned.
A concession was made to the Negro when the order prohibited
the use of firearms and cruel punishment to coerce laborers.25 A
later order stated that persons who remained idle would be sent
to plantations and "compelled" to do the same amount of work
required of other laborers.26 A Tallahassee correspondent wrote
in June, 1865, that the United States forces had taught freedmen
that freedom was not synonymous with laziness.27 Freedmen were
forced to return to the fields, but at the same time military officials
forbade any person to "expel from his premises" any Negro
"formerly domiciled with him without due cause" and without
military consent.28

22 E. Philips to J. J. Philips, August 2, 1865, in James J. Philips Papers; I.
Vogdes to O. O. Howard, June 18, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands, Florida.
23 S. A. Swann to R. Erwin, June 10, 1865, in Samuel A. Swann Papers; N.
Yulee to D. L. Yulee, June 8, 1865, in David L. Yulee Papers; I. Vogdes to
0. O. Howard, July 31, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands, Florida; T. W.
Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 1, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida.
24 I. Vogdes to B. C. Tilghman, May 20, 1865, General Orders No. 24,
June 3, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands, Florida.
25 Ibid.; General Orders No. 26, June 13, 1865.
26 Ibid.; General Orders No. 5, June 29, 1865.
27 Jacksonville Florida Union, June 24, 1865.
28 General Orders No. 9, July 3, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands, Florida.


The Freedmen's Bureau relieved military authorities of the
burden of supervising Negro labor, in September, 1865, when
Osborn was appointed assistant commissioner for Florida. The
Bureau attempted to solve the labor question by removing the
distrust between ex-slaves and ex-masters. Florida agents made
many speeches in addition to sending out printed circulars to
inspire mutual confidence. Agents insisted freedmen must be free
to choose their own employers, and substitute slavery would not
be tolerated; but at the same time they told the Negro he must
fulfill his duties as a citizen, and must work and not be idle.29 In
his first instructions on labor, Commissioner Howard said no agent
was to "tolerate compulsory unpaid labor," except for the legal
punishment of crime.30 In a circular of July, 1865, he ordered
the negotiation of written agreements stating wages or interest in
land or crops. The agreements were to be approved by a Bureau
agent who would keep duplicate copies to make enforcement pos-
sible. No fixed wage was set by Howard, who left the matter to
the discretion of individual agents.31 Osborn believed the price
of labor should be governed by supply and demand, so there was
no set wage in the State.32 According to Bureau orders contracts
were to provide for a minimum of food, which should be no less
than one peck of meal and four pounds of bacon a week for each
worker. The head of the family could contract for all members
of his family under twenty-one.33
The Bureau also revised some contracts already made with
freedmen. Military officials had recommended the use of contracts,
but in many cases the Negro had been swindled.34 The freedmen
generally were to receive four to fourteen dollars a month, or one-
fifth to one-fourth of the crop, and in unusual cases one-half. But
contracts were made to give the worker one-eighth and even less of
the harvest. Commissioner Howard talked to a Florida freedman
who was paid fifteen bushels of corn, one hundred pounds of pork
and a few peas for one year's work. Others contracted for as little

29 U. S. Congress, House Reports, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 30, 6.
30 Howard, op. cit., II, 225. P
31 Walter L. Fleming, Documentary History of Reconstruction (2 vols.,
Cleveland, 1906), I, 330-31.
32 T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, February, n.d., 1866, in Bureau Records,
33 Circular No. 9, November 15, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida.
34 General Orders No. 9, July 3, 1865, in U. S. Army Commands, Florida;
New York Times, October 29, 1873.


as thirteen bushels of corn. A planter in Madison County delayed
until his crop was harvested and then forced his laborers to leave
with two to fifteen bushels of corn. Others were given nothing.35
The Bureau revised some of the unfair contracts, and helped divide
crops where no contracts had been made. ". We were greatly
surprised to find the planters really received more than they had
expected," one Floridian said.36
The introduction of the contract system did not prevent some
idleness among the Negroes in y1865 iy of them still believed
land would be distributed to them after Christmas, and others were
hesitant to go back to the plantations which were so closely as-
sociated with slavery. In the face of continued slothfulness by some
freedmen, Commissioner Howard urged the use of vagrancy laws
that would be applicable to Negroes and whites alike. "A little
wholesome constraint could not in many cases be avoided," Howard
said later.37 In keeping with the suggestion of his superior, Osborn,
on November 15, 1865, ordered the use of the "usual remedies for
vagrancy, breaking of contracts, and other crimes."38 He had earlier
decreased the number of rations issued to prevent the freedmen
from gaining the impression the government would support them
in inactivity.39 In September, 1865, Osborn threatened to move
forcibly some indolent Negroes from Jacksonville to Tallahassee to
labor on plantations. No discrimination was made between male
and female. All who were able to work were included in the order.
According to a student of the Freedmen's Bureau, Florida and
Georgia agents took more drastic measures than those in any other
state to coerce the freedmen to labor.40
The Bureau policy of coercionwas effective. A Northern ob-
server reported in December, 1865, that "nowhere in this state is
to be seen that staggering indolence and filth which is so pain-

35 E. L. Rigney to T. W. Osborn, October 9, 1865, D. M. Hammond to T.
W. Osborn, October 20, 1865, H. Stewart to T. W. Osborn, December 18, 1865,
A. A. Gifford to T. W. Osborn, January 7, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida;
House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 70, 355; House Reports,
39th Cong., 1st Sess., Rept. 30, pt. 4, 8.
36 Eppes, op. cit., 305.
37 Howard, op. cit., II, 247.
38 Circular No. 9, November 15, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida; Talla-
hassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, November 21, 1865.
39 T. W. Osborn to D. P. Hancock, September 24, 1865, in Bureau Records,
40 Special Order No. 15, September 13, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida;
Bentley, op. cit., 84.


fully noticeable in portions of Georgia and Alabama." On the
contrary, he said, "there is a manifest disposition among the freed-
men to work and to faithfully carry out their part of the terms
of the contracts."41 A visitor to Tampa in late 1865, found that
Negroes devoted themselves to labor "with commendable as-
siduity."42 Osborn, who toured the Gulf Coast from St. Marks to
Key West in October, 1865, said the freedmen were "working well
and receiving very little assistance from the Government" except
in Hernando County. The Negroes were no more indolent than
whites, Osborn concluded. In a report to congress in December,
1865, Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas were singled out as having
"an admirable condition of affairs," with freedmen "industriously"
at work. The instances in which the cotton crop of a single planter
would be as valuable as any previous year would not be rare, it
was reported.43
There were dissenters to the optimistic reports of the success
of free Negro labor. The workers frequently objected to being
hurried or driven. Anything that smacked of slavery was resented.
Some planters claimed they could not get "half work" out of the
ex-slaves. An agent for Yulee wrote on November 5, 1865, that
the freedmen had labored well the month before, but had not re-
turned to the drudgery.44 Ex-bondsmen were generally working
well in 1865, but it was evident some of them had not yet ad-
justed to their recently attained status as free men.
There were complaints by the planters at the interference of
the Freedmen's Bureau in their affairs, but the compulsory con-
tract system was probably as beneficial to them as to the freed-
men. The Bureau literally forced some of the freedmen to work
on plantations, and the contracts approved by the agents often
specified inadequate payment to the worker. The average wages
in 1866 were about twelve dollars a month for first-class males,
nine dollars for women, and five for children. Farm laborers fre-
quently made less, and timber and railroad workers more. Many
of the freedmen worked for a division of the crop, usually one-

41 New York Times, December 25, 1865.
42 Reid, op. cit., 186-87; George F. Thompson Journal.
43 T. W. Osborn to O. O. Howard, November 1, 1865, in Bureau Records,
Florida; U. S. Congress, Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess.,
No. 43, 13.
44 J. S. Perviance to D. L. Yulee, October 8, 1865, E. J. Lutterloh to D. L.
Yulee, September 20, 1865, R. D. Meader to D. L. Yulee, November 5, 1865, in
David L. Yulee Papers.


third. Their earnings were often paid in neither money nor
a share of the harvest. Several of them were forced "to take
the orders of their employers upon stores for such necessaries as
they required." Full value was frequently not received when the
workers secured their goods on the "order system."45
Bureau agents not only approved contracts stipulating low
wages, but tolerated agreements worded in such a manner the
Negro would get nothing in the event of a poor crop year. In a
contract approved by the Bureau in Leon County the laborers
agreed to mortgage the entire crop for security for the payment of
rent on the land and any advance provisions. The workers pledged
themselves to dispose of no part of the crop until four hundred
pounds of lint cotton for each ten acres of land, and four hundred
for each mule used had been given to the owners. Another contract
signed in Leon County promised four and three pounds of pork per
week to each man and woman respectively, and one peck of meal
a week. The laborers were to receive one-fourth of the crop. They
agreed to work diligently, paying for all lost time at the rate of
forty cents a day, which together with all advances made by the
employer would be taken out of their share of the crop. The
workers agreed to comply with all orders and begin work not later
than sunrise, taking no unnecessary time for meals.46
In addition to advance provisions, planters frequently deducted
from the Negroes share of the crop such items as bagging, ropes,
and the state poll tax. By the time the planters were through de-
ducting, workers sometimes had just what they had as slaves,
nothing.47 Records from a plantation in Madison County for
1867 graphically demonstrate the inadequacy of some of the con-

45 Senate Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 6, 43-44; W. J.
Purman to E. C. Woodruff, February 28, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
46 Records of Deeds, Leon County, Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court,
Leon County Court House, Tallahassee, Florida.
47 Kathryn T. Abbey, "Documents Relating to El Destino and Chemonie
Plantations, Middle Florida, 1828-1874," Florida Quarterly Journal, VIII
(October, 1929), 84.
48 J. E. Quentin to A. H. Jackson, January 1, 1868, in Bureau Records,



Fleming Green
Susan Wheeler
Lawrence Andrews
(2 hands)
Jerry Only (4 hands)
Jim Holland
(2 hands)
Ben Wood
Anthony Cobb
(2 hands)
Wesley Partlow
(2 hands)

Share Accounts In Debt
in Crop & Charges to Planter

36.28 83.61 47.34
27.21 48.72 21.51

40.82 126.04
45.58 160.89

63.49 165.02
27.21 71.45

63.49 108.07

72.56 153.75





Such contracts which left the freedmen in debt to the planter,
and in his power tend to substantiate the report of Generals James
B. Steedman and Joseph S. Fullerton, who said the contract system
in the South was slavery in a modified form, enforced by the
Freedmen's Bureau.49
The somewhat vicious share crop and crop lien systems were
so disadvantageous to the freedmen, they were advised by the
Bureau in 1868 to attempt to contract for a monthly wage. In
1867, the cotton crop was destroyed by the caterpillar, and not
only did the freedmen have small harvests, but some planters
showed a disposition to make up their own losses by cheating their
croppers. "Many" planters who had been willing to make a fair
settlement during good years, a Bureau agent reported, were
turning out to be "perfect swindlers and rascals, unwilling to pay
any debts whatever and generally making away with the crop."50
Only a few freedmen realized anything beyond bare subsistence
and a small amount of clothing. Some of the Negroes bore partial
responsibility for ending the year in debt. In 1867 they sometimes
purchased more than absolutely necessary. The cotton crop in
1868 was poor, but the misfortunes of the freedmen were lighter,
because they had learned to be more frugal.51
49 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, August 27, 1866.
so J. E. Quentin to A. H. Jackson, December 16, 1867, W. G. Vance to A. H.
Jackson, December 2, 1867, J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, October, n.d., 1868,
in Bureau Records, Florida.
ex A. B. Grumwell to A. H. Jackson, November 3, 1868, J. T. Sprague to
O. O. Howard, February 7, 1869, in Bureau Records, Florida

Due the


Freedmen frequently suffered from unfair and inadequate
contracts, but they would have fared even worse if the agreements
had not been supervised by the Freedmen's Bureau. By 1866 the
Bureau was becoming more unpopular with Florida whites, testi-
fied L. M. Hobbs, State Superintendent of Freedmen's Schools,
because agents had been obliged to restrain whites from per-
petrating injustice on the Negroes by "cheating them of their
wages, and withholding remuneration from them."52 Charles M.
Hamilton, Commander of the Western District of Florida, forced
the revision of some contracts in 1866 because he believed the
existing ones were "outrageous."53 Between 1865 and 1868 the
Bureau supervised thousands of contracts in Florida. One agent
said during the contract season his office was crowded from early
morning until late at night, while another agent approved con-
tracts involving 314 freedmen in one month in 1867.54
Not only did the Bureau supervise the making of contracts,
but it forced planters to make settlements in accordance with the
the terms of original agreements. An agent in Marianna once re-
quested and received soldiers to force planters to make just pay-
ments to their employees.55 Usually military force was unnecessary
for settling labor disputes. Individual agents settled differences and
decided cases involving division of crops. Generally the decision
of the agent was acceptable to both laborer and employer.56 In
order to insure an equitable division of crops, Assistant Commis-
sioner Sprague in January, 1867, directed that all labor contracts
provide for a board of arbitration to settle disagreements between
employers and employees. The board was to be composed of two
citizens, one selected by each of the contracting parties, and a
Bureau agent. The decision of the board was final.57 In cases
where freedmen worked without contract the Bureau could afford
them little protection since such contingencies came under juris-
diction of civil courts. Court costs were required in advance, thus
the freedmen were seldom able to begin a suit. When they did

52 House Reports, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 30, pt. 4, 8.
53 Ibid., 42nd Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 22, pt. 13, 281.
54 Bentley, op. cit., 137, 150; J. A. Remley to E. C. Woodruff, February 28,
1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
55 Ibid., 149.
5s A. B. Grumwell to J. H. Lyman, November 30, 1866, in Bureau Records,
57 Circular No. 1, January 15, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.


get their cases before civil courts, the decision usually favored
the employer.5s
The Bureau found it necessary to force freedmen as well as
planters to adhere to the terms of contracts. Some ex-slaves did
not yet appreciate the necessity of keeping their agreements. In
the opinion of Assistant Commissioner Foster, the contract sys-
tem was necessary not to protect the Negroes, but to keep them
from deserting their employers "at a critical time" and causing
crops to fail. Another Florida agent said in May, 1866, that there
were some "well-grounded complaints" made against the former
slaves for breaking contracts, idleness, and disregard of the interests
of their white employers.59 One Floridian complained he used
sixteen Negroes in a business which his predecessor, during slavery,
had operated with nine, and his forerunner had been able to do
twice as much work.60 "Wages are very high. Common, poor,
unreliable, lazy Negroes have to be paid $1 per day and found,"
wrote a New Yorker turned Florida lumberman, and "just about
the time I can get a man thoroughly acquainted with his duties he
wants to go home." The working man in Florida, white and Negro,
reportedly refused to do more than was necessary to secure food
and clothing.61 There were many complaints about the refusal of
Negro women to work in the field. Former Acting Governor
Allison wrote in 1866 that the freedmen were making good progress
but there were few women in the fields. They were, he said,
"playing lady."62
As time passed, Negro labor became more efficient and re-
sponsible. When the ex-bondsmen did not work well the cause
could frequently be traced to the oppression of the employer or
inadequate wages. Negroes were opposed to working in gangs
and having "drivers" as during slavery. They resented being
cursed and threatened, and planters unable to adjust to a new

58 R. C. Lowery to J. T. Sprague, May 1, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
59 House Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 57, 77.
so Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, March 12, 1867.
61 Dovell, op. cit., II, 545; A. B. Hart to Father, March 29, 1867, in Ambrose
B. Hart Letters.
62 In 1870 over 13,000 Negro women listed their occupation as housekeeper in
their own home. Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, unpublished popula-
tion schedules for Florida; A. K. Allison to D. L. Yulee, March 22, 1866, in
David L. Yulee Papers; T. Leddy to S. L. McHenry, March 31, 1866, in Bureau
Records, Florida; Gainesville New Era, April 27, 1866.


system discovered their laborers were often inefficient.63 Other
employers expressed surprise at the industriousness of the freed-
men. One planter raised as much cotton in 1866 with seventeen
hands as he had with thirty-seven slaves. Another Floridian who
was generally unfriendly toward Negroes asserted that indigent
whites did not work as well as freedmen.64 A settler from North
Carolina wrote from Madison, Florida, in 1866, that he had twenty
of the best hands he had ever seen, and had no trouble with them
at all. One Negro, who a week before had never cut but two
turpentine boxes in his life, cut 160 in one day.65 Each year it
was reported the freedmen worked better than ever before.66
When the Negroes did not work, the Bureau took vigorous ac-
tion. If freedmen wilfully broke their contracts without cause,
they were arrested and returned to their job. A Bureau agent in
Monticello had a "contrary case" whom he put in jail on a diet
of bread and water for six days after which time the laborer was
"very willing to return" to the field. Incidents of contract breaking
by Negroes were rare.67 Penalties for contract violations were more
serious for freedmen than planters. An employer was subject only
to civil suit, but the Negro was faced with strict vagrancy laws
which existed for the express purpose of controlling him as a
laborer. One historian, writing of the earlier policies of the Bureau,
stated that "on the whole its policies, both in the administration of

63 House Reports, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 30, pt. 4, 2; New York Times,
June II, 1866; Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, October 30, 1866; The
American Missionary, X (February, 1866), 42; A. B. Grumwell to A. H. Jackson,
December 31, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
64 E. Philips to J. J. Philips, September 5, 1866, in James J. Philips Papers;
J. A. Remley to J. G. Foster, August 31, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida; J.
S. Perviance to D. L. Yulee, December 31, 1865, January 29, March 6, April 1,
1866, A. K. Allison to D. L. Yulee, February 22, 1866, in David L. Yulee Papers.
65 Prior to 1901 the box method was usually employed for gathering turpen-
tine. A cavity was chopped into the base of the tree for the purpose of receiving
the resin which flowed from the scarred face of the trunk above it. D. H.
Hamilton to wife, January 28, 1866, in the Ruffin-Roulhac-Hamilton Papers,
Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
North Carolina.
66 Jacksonville Florida Union, June 29, 1867; Tallahassee Semi-Weekly
Floridian, April 30, 1867; A. B. Hart to W. Hart, April 19, 1868, A. B. Hart
to E. E. Hart, April 7, 1871, in Ambrose B. Hart Letters; Tallahassee Weekly
Floridian, February 20, 1872; New York Times, October 29, 1873; Jacksonville
Tri-Weekly Florida Union, May 5, 1874.
67 A. B. Grumwell to A. H. Jackson, April 30, 1868, in Bureau Records,


relief and in the supervision of labor had been those that planters
and other businessmen desired.""6
The federal agency established to safeguard the Negroes ex-
tended considerable protection to the supposed oppressor at the
expense of ex-slaves; nevertheless, the supervision of labor was
valuable to the freedmen. Planters were forced to keep their con-
tracts and to pay higher wages than they would have otherwise.
Peonage would probably have been the freedman's destiny if the
Bureau or some federal organization had not supervised his re-
lations with Southern whites. As it was, in the long view, the
foundation was laid for a free labor system.
The system of labor established under the Bureau was con-
tinued throughout Reconstruction and after. Sharecroppers, Negro
and white, were exploited, the money by one means or another
finding its way into the pocket of the landowner. The cropper
frequently ended the year in debt and was forced to give the
owner a lien on the next year's crop. When they were able, many
of the freedmen turned to renting land, but even then they were
dependent on landowners or merchants for advances, and com-
pelled to pay interest rates of twenty to ninety percent.69 Since
the share cropper knew he would receive little or nothing in the
settlement he often became something less than efficient.
Those who worked for wages fared better than the cropper.
When the laborers were paid money wages, rather than a share in
the crop, they, as well as the planter, seemed to be more satisfied,
and the freedmen were usually more industrious.70 Whatever
system was used it was as effective as slave labor. The commissioner
of lands and immigration reported in 1874 that in areas where
they were still being raised, as much cotton and sugar were pro-
duced as before the war. In 1874 the corn crop in middle Florida
was larger in area of land and growth than any previous season,
and it was said the "cotton crop was never finer.""1 Practical ex-
periments according to the commissioner, had demonstrated the

68 Bentley, op. cit., 86.
69 Henderson H. Donald, The Negro Freedman (New York, 1952), 15-18;
Ulrich B. Phillips and James D. Glunt (eds.), Florida Plantation Records From
the Papers of George Noble Jones (St. Louis, 1927), 583-84.
70 New York Times, October 29, 1873.
71 Sixth Annual Report of Commissioner of Lands and Immigration of
the State of Florida for the Year Ending December 31, 1874 (Tallahassee, 1874),
143; Jacksonville Tri-Weekly Florida Union, May 5, 1874.


superiority of Negro labor. Immigrant white labor had rendered
"more clear and incontestable," he said, the efficiency of the
freedmen. The industry of the Negro had been proven and was
constantly increasing.72 By the end of Reconstruction the reliability
of freedmen labor was firmly established.73
A semi-free labor system developed in Florida during Recon-
struction, but a species of slave labor existed in the convict lease
system. Under the constitution of 1865, the labor of Negro vag-
rants could be sold to pay fines and court costs, and later con-
victs in the state penitentiary were leased to the highest bidder.
The first lease was made in 1869 when fifty inmates were con-
tracted for three years. In August, 1870, fifteen convicts were
leased to cut timber at $1.25 per day each. A work day for the
inmates consisted of the time it took one man to chop down and
trim two hundred "superficial feet" of timber.74 In 1874 forty
prisoners were leased for $12.50 each per month to work on a rail-
road. Their work consisted of ten hours a day, twenty-six days
a month.'7 The convict lease system was retained and extended
by the State after the end of Reconstruction, and became even
more brutal. The state prison in Florida earned the title con-
ferred upon it by a prison officer, "The American Siberia." The
first law formally establishing a convict lease system in Florida
was passed in 1877.76
Despite the large number of freedmen engaged on plantations,
about 23,000, the Negroes followed many other occupations. Some
of the freedmen were highly skilled as demonstrated by the
following table, based on the census of 1870.77

72 Ibid., 7, 45; Denis Egan, "Colored Labor," The Florida Agriculturist, X
(January 3, 1874), 7.
73 Tallahassee Sentinel, February 5, 1876.
74 American Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events for the
Year 1869 (14 vols., New York, 1862-75), IX, 272; Minutes of the Board of
Commissioners of Public Institutions, in Florida State Library, Tallahassee,
75 Tallahassee Sentinel, May 2, 1874.
76 Blake McKelvey, "Penal Slavery and Southern Reconstruction," The Journ-
al of Negro History, XX (April, 1935), 159; Florida, Acts and Resolutions, 1877,
77 The table is based on an analysis of the Ninth Census of the United
States, 1870, unpublished population schedules for Florida. The 1870 census
contains many inaccuracies, but adequately shows that Negroes were important
in many occupations other than farming.


Baker . .
Barber . .
Basket Maker .
Blacksmith .
Boatman . .
Brickmaker .
Brickmason .
Butcher . .
Butler . .
Cabinet Maker .
Cashier . .
Carpenter .. .
Cemetery (supervisor
and workers) .
Cigar Maker .
Clerk (store) .
Cobbler . .
Cook . .
Cooper . .
County Officials .
Dairy Maid .
Distiller . .
Drayman . .
Driver . .
Engineer . .
Farmer . .
Farm Laborer .
Ferryman . .
Fireman . .

S 12
S 27
S 2
S 25
S 2
S 1
S 6
. 179
S. 365

S 4
S 19
S 13
S. 519
S 7
S 3
S. 95
S 7
S 14
S 5
S 17

Fisherman .
Fruit Stand Keeper
Gardener . .
Gardener (truck) .
Grist Mill Worker .
Grocer . .
Gunsmith .
Horse Collar Maker .
Hospital Orderly .
Hostess . .
Hostler . .
Hotel Servant .
Housekeeper .
Huckster . .
Icecream Dealer .
Icecream Maker .
Jailor . .
Janitor . .
Justice of the Peace
Laborer . .
Laundress .
Liquor Dealer .
Liveryman .
Lumber Inspector .
Machinist .
Mail Contractor .
Mattress Maker .
Mechanic .

78 On the basis of property holdings, the census indicates that blacksmiths
were among the more affluent Florida Negroes.
79 The bank cashier, William Stewart, was employed by the Freedmen's
Saving Bank in Tallahassee. Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, July 11, 1871.
so According to travelers' reports there was more than the one huckster listed
in the census. A visitor said in 1871 that at railroad stations one encountered
hoardes "of tattered freedmen" selling food and other produce. New York
Times, January 27, 1871; Frederick Trench Townshend, Wild Life in Florida,
With a Visit to Cuba (London, 1875), 31.
s8 There was more than one mechanic in the State. As early as 1866 it was
reported that there were "a number of excellent" Negro mechanics in Marianna
who directed their own activities and were doing well. C. M. Hamilton to S.
L. McHenry, June 30, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.

S 31

S 1
S 1


Merchant .
Midwife . .
Minister . .
Musician . .
Nurse . .
Painter . .
Penitentiary Guard .
Physician . .
Pilot .
Plasterer . .
Policeman .
Porter . .
Post Office Employee
Railroad Laborer .
Raftsman . .
Restaurateur .
Root Doctor .
Saddler . .
Saloon Keeper .
Salt Maker .
Sawmill Worker .
Sawyer . .
School Teacher .

. 782
S 7
S 1
. 1
S 5
. 366
. 1
. 3
S 6
. 1
. 297
S 2
. 38

Sailor .
Seamstress . .
Servant . .
Shinglemaker .
Shipbuilder . .
Spinner and Weaver .
Steamboat Worker
Stevedore . .
Steward . .
Stocktender . .
Stone Mason .
Surveyor . .
Tailor . .
Tanner . .
Teamster . .
Timber Worker .
Turpentine Worker .
Typesetter . .
Wagoner . .
Waiter . .
Watchman . .
Welldigger . .
Wheelwright .

82 Negro merchants apparently were usually successful. By 1870 a Suwannee
County merchant had accumulated $1,700 of property, and a Jacksonville
merchant had $1,000 personal property.
83 Only one Negro was listed as a musician in the census but freedmen were
frequently retained to perform for whites. A man who attended a masked ball
in Fernandina in 1873 said that about nine o'clock three Negroes "started up
the music on three fiddles and the fun commenced." George W. Parsons Diary,
September 10, 1873, in P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History.
84 Most of the Negroes classified as nurses were mere babysitters. Usually
they were not trained to care for the ill.
as Two of the postoffice employees were post masters, one in Jefferson and
one in Madison County.
8s The root doctor was Jeff Martin, a 102 year old African born Negro living
in Jefferson County.
87 Some of the seamstresses were highly skilled. There were two families
of seamstresses in Key West of whom it was said no New York or London tailor
could equal "in making the linen shirts and white duck suits worn by the
elegant gentlemen of the day." Jefferson B. Browne, Key West: The Old and
the New (St. Augustine, 1912), 171.
88 One was a stewardess fondly known as "Commodore Rose." Rose was a
well-known character around the Jacksonville wharves for years. She reportedly
had complete "charge of provisioning and running" the steamer Darlington,
and no one "could get ahead of her in a bargain or resist her will in an
arrangement." It was said that "nowhere in Florida" could one "sit at a more
bountifully-furnished table" than that of "Commodore Rose." Stowe, op. cit.,
250; Edward King, The Southern States of North America (London, 1875), 385.

. 8887
S 2
. 5
. 2088
S 7
S 7
S 3
S 7
. 1
. 121


Negroes in Florida were engaged in occupations not listed in
the 1870 census. The first Negro to practice law in Florida, Henry
S. Harman, was admitted to the bar at a term of the Alachua
Circuit Court in 1869. In 1873 two other Negroes, Josiah T. Walls,
and Joseph H. Lee, were admitted to the bar.89 The number of
Negro lawyers remained small throughout Reconstruction. Florida
even had a Negro inventor. In 1867 Elijah Williams received a
patent on a boat propellor to be used on boats in streams prev-
iously innavigable by steam vessels. Williams had conceived his
idea while a slave and began work on it as soon as he was freed.
He completed his invention by March, 1867, and it was patented
the next month.90
Most occupations paid more than plantation work. Harriet
Beecher Stowe claimed her trained house servant left her, and
secured a job as hotel cook for $40 a month. Servants usually made
only $10 to $12 and board a month, but trained servants were at
a premium, and the work was easier than in the field. An army
lieutenant engaged four carpenters at $2.50 each per day when
farm hands were making less than 500 a day even when they were
paid.91 A traveler had a Negro construct a boat for him, and was
charged $26 for one weeks work. While using the boat the
visitor met two Negro fishermen who claimed they sometimes made
as much as $20 a day. He was surprised at the shrewdness of
the freedmen.92 The lumber industry paid about the highest wages
in Florida, $20 to $40 a month. One lumberman in 1867 was
paying his employees one dollar a day and board. Railroads and
the turpentine industry paid almost as good wages as the lumber
A few of the Negroes, aware of the value of their labor, tried
to improve their conditions by striking. Negro workers struck in
eight sawmills in 1873 when their employer refused to reduce the

s9 Tampa Florida Peninsular, June 10, 1869; Tallahassee Weekly Floridian,
April 15, 22, 1873.
o9 C. M. Hamilton to J. G. Foster, May 31, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida;
U. S. Congress, House Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 96, pt. 1,
768; Ibid., pt. 2, 434.
91 Stowe, op. cit., 314; New York Times, October 29, 1873; W. L. Dodge to
W. Logan, November 26, 1866, in U. S. Army Commands, Florida.
92 John Francis LeBaron Diary, January 3, 7, 8, 1869, in Jacksonville Public
93 A. B. Hart to Mother, January 2, February 18, 1867, in Ambrose B. Hart
Letters; A. Mahoney to T. W. Osborn, March 1, 1866, in Bureau Records,


work day to ten hours. Stevedores had earlier struck at Fernan-
dina for higher pay. Both strikes failed. Public opinion in Florida,
as well as the rest of the United States, had little tolerance for
strikers during Reconstruction.9
In general Negro laborers were effective in postwar Florida,
and were willing to work hard for adequate payment. About
33,000 freedmen were engaged in productive labor in 1870. Evi-
dence indicates that the free labor system was a success. When
the freedmen did not work satisfactorily it was usually because
the system used was too much like slavery. Not only did the freed-
men work, but they were as industrious as any other people. By
1870 they were purchasing their own homes and land, sending
their children to schools, and saving money. Five years after
emancipation they had accumulated about $521,000 of personal
property, and over $355,000 real estate.95 When the Freedmen's
Savings and Trust Company failed in 1874, the Florida branch had
2,374 depositors, and deposits of $70,010.35.96 Despite numerous
obstacles, Negro laborers made significant progress during Recon-
struction in Florida.

94 D. M. Hammond to A. H. Jackson, October 2, 1868, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, June 10, July 1, 1873.
95 Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, unpublished population schedules
of Florida.
96 Davis, op cit., 392.



To possess land of their own, or at least to be independent
farmers, was one of the strongest desires of the freedmen. Wage
labor which remained closely supervised was too much like slavery,
and financial rewards appeared to be greater for the independent
farm operator. Many former bondsmen became sharecroppers
thereby gaining more independent working conditions, but share-
cropping sometimes turned into vicious exploitation. One Bureau
agent predicted that many freedmen would be poorer than when
they started, and in many cases he was correct.1 Despite its short-
comings, the freedmen at first generally seemed more satisfied
working for shares than for wages. Most observers thought the
Negroes worked better when sharcropping, since there appeared
to be a greater reward for initiative and industry. The freedmen
soon learned, however, they often earned no more, and had little
more freedom. Plantation owners seemed to prefer the share-
cropping system for it was the method which "would produce the
most constant supply of submissive labor at the lowest cost."2
,A few former slaves were able to rent land outright, which was
more satisfactory than sharecropping. In 1868, near Tallahassee,
Simpson Coswell rented 175 acres, Peter Copeland 100 acres, and
Ichabod Barrow 160 acres.8 Most freedmen were not so fortunate,
but many of them were able to rent and operate on their own.
Occasionally a group of Negroes would co-operate to secure land.
In 1868 four ex-slaves rented 120 acres of W. H. Branch's Live Oak
Plantation, for twelve bales of cotton and twelve bushels of corn.4
A Bureau agent who visited several of these plantations in June,
1868, reported that with few exceptions the freedmen were working
well and their crops showed evidence of "careful and faithful toil."
If the renters enjoyed a favorable season, he said, their crops would
equal that of any previous year.5

IF. E. Grossman to S. L. McHenry, July 31, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
2 Fred A. Shannon, The Farmer's Last Frontier: Agriculture 1860-1897
(New York, 1945), 87.
s Records of Rations Issued, in Bureau Records, Florida.
4 Contract Made March 13, 1868, in Branch Family Papers, Southern His-
torical Collection, University of North Carolina.
5 G. B. Carse to A. H. Jackson, June 1, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.


The number able to rent land was always small because the
cost of rent, mules, equipment and seed was almost prohibitive.
Some of the former slaves settled on abandoned lands. They were
assisted in this endeavor by the United States government. On
January 16, 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered cer-
tain lands between Charleston, South Carolina, and the St. John's
River in Florida to be set aside for settlement of freedmen.6 The
directive included abandoned and confiscated lands. After the
Freedmen's Bureau began operation such lands came under its con-
trol. The act of March 3, 1865, which created the Bureau author-
ized the commissioner to assign plots of not more than forty acres to
the freedmen. They were to have an option to purchase within
three years.7 With the encouragement of various government agents
the ex-slaves located on some of the land and planted crops. But, on
May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson granted amnesty and
pardon, with restoration of all property rights, except slaves and
except where legal proceedings had been instituted by the govern-
ment for confiscation. The Bureau was slow to implement the
President's order to restore property, but finally in September,
1865, a circular was issued ordering confiscated property returned.
The freedmen were to receive the benefit of their still unharvested
Other Negroes, without legal right, merely squatted on land
abandoned at the moment. Confederate soldiers returned to find
their vacated plantations occupied.9 Railroad lands were also taken
by squatters. Supposed friends of the Negroes in Fernandina ad-
vised the former bondsmen to settle on railroad lands, and tracts
purchased by the government at tax sales. Local Bureau agents
cautioned the settlers against costly improvements and erection of
expensive buildings to no avail. When the land was restored to
former owners and the railroad demanded their land be relin-
quished the freedmen were the losers.10 A few Negroes were able
to buy land but most of them had little or no money, and planters
were not inclined to dispose of their land at prices ex-slaves could

6 House Executive Documents, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., No. 11, 10.
7 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIII, 508.
8 Circular No. 15, September 12, 1865, in Bureau Records, Florida.
9 New York Tribune, August 8, 1865.
10 A. A. Cole to A. H. Jackson, June 30, 1867, D. Richards to O. O. Howard,
April 30, 1867, A. Mot to A. A. Cole, June 27, 1867, F. Suhrer to A. A. Cole,
June 27, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.


pay. When they did manage to purchase land it was usually of an
inferior quality.
More important to Negro farmers than abandoned and rented
lands was the passage of a legislative act on June 21, 1866, which
opened government owned lands in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama,
Louisiana and Florida to homesteading. The fee at the time of
patent issue was only five dollars. Discrimination on account of
color was prohibited. All who had borne arms against the United
States were forbidden to enter on public lands before January
1, 1867, which permitted freedmen time to secure farms before
the "rebels" could legally homestead.11 The Bureau made every
effort to aid the freedmen. Locating agents assisted in finding the
plots, and free transportation to the homestead and subsistence for
one month was provided.12 Negroes quickly began to take advan-
tage of the Homestead Act. One agent reported that as a general
thing the freedmen's "greatest ambition is to get a lot of ground
for themselves."13 The freedmen usually went in small groups to
settle new lands. Meetings were held in churches to inform the
congregation of the opportunity to own land to make plans for
settlement.14 The land office opened in Florida on August 25, 1866,
and by October of the same year 32,000 acres of land had been
entered, and it was reported the freedmen's interest in homesteads
appeared to be increasing.15 Between October 19 and November 1,
1866, a Bureau agent helped Negroes enter on 5,000 acres in
Madison, Taylor and Lafayette Counties alone. By October, 1867,
ex-slaves had secured 2,012 homesteads covering 160,960 acres, and
within the next 60 days 419 more entries were made.16
These numerous entries by freedmen met with considerable op-
position from whites. Negro homesteading was opposed for two
primary reasons; the possible loss _of labor, and the fear of som
whites that the ex-slaves would become. tooa-indeptendent and
refuse to accept the role of second-class citizens. Some whites re-

11 U. S. Statutes at Large, XIV, 66-67.
12 O. O. Howard to J. G. Foster, August 22, 1866, in Bureau Records,
13 T. Leddy to S. L. McHenry, March 31, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
14 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, October 16, 1866.
15 J. G. Foster to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1866, in Bureau Records,
16 J. E. Quentin to J. G. Foster, November 1, 1866, J. T. Sprague to O. O.
Howard, October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.


fused to give their former slaves necessary information and freed-
men were sometimes intentionally misguided. In a few instances
Negroes were directed to private lands where they settled, cultivated
the land, made improvements, and then were compelled to move
or purchase at high prices. Where there was no open opposition by
whites, Assistant Commissioner Sprague reported, there appeared
to be a "silent compact" to retard Negro homesteaders.17
Attempts were made to intimidate ex-slaves from making
settlements in some cases. A freedman, Thomas Hailey, and nine
other Negroes left Tallahassee on September 3, 1866, to locate lands
in Lafayette County. They were informed by a resident of the
county that whites had organized to prevent homesteading. They
went on, but encountered another white man "who kindly and
in a friendly manner" told them he knew of twenty-five men who
had signed an agreement to drive away any Negroes who came to
settle, and he expected twenty-five more to sign the agreement that
very day. The white resident advised the freedmen to go no
further or they would be murdered. Bodies of three dead Negroes
had been found in the Suwannee River recently, he added. Be-
lieving the white man was advising them as a friend, the ex-bonds-
men turned back.s1 Assistant Commissioner Foster wrote in
October, 1866, that residents of some sections were opposed to
Negro settlers, and had made threats, but the obstruction had de-
creased "upon a proper representation of the futility of such an
illegal course and of the consequences that must follow."19
Homesteaders also suffered from either fraud or incompetence
at the hands of at least one land agent. Several complaints were
lodged against Dr. A. B. Stonelake, Register of Public Lands at
Tallahassee. Stonelake overcharged numerous freedmen, but after
being questioned, insisted it was a mistake and the money would
be returned. Some of those who paid their patent fees never re-
ceived land, and a Bureau agent from Marion County, who sent
money and applications to Stonelake for some Negroes, complained
that over two months elapsed and no reply had been received.
Stonelake claimed he never received the money. Bureau officials,

17 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records,
18 Statement sworn before Major J. L. Denniston, Tallahassee, September
17, 1866, by Thomas Hailey and four others, in Bureau Records, Florida.
19 J. G. Foster to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1866, in Bureau Records,


as a result of complaints, began closer supervision of homestead
entries.20 Despite fraud, incompetence, and white opposition,
nearly 3,000 Negroes, more than in any other state, eventually
entered on homesteads in Florida.21
Not all of the homesteads were settled by Floridians or indi-
viduals. Approximately 19,000,000 acres of public lands in Florida
were open for settlement and though much of it was of little value,
Florida became something of a Mecca for Southern Negroes. At-
tempts were made to place Negro colonies on government lands in
Florida. In 1867, General Ralph Ely arrived in Volusia County
with about 1,000 freedmen from South Carolina. Ely settled at
New Smyrna where .difficulty was encountered from the beginning.
Planning had been inadequate. The colony lacked subsistence,
the homesteads had not been located, and the land was often
poor. As soon as planters from the interior heard of the colony,
they hastened there and hired away entire families. By the last
of February only about 200 remained in the colony, and they
had to be fed by the Freedmen's Bureau. Another attempt to
colonize in Florida was made by the Florida Land and Lumber
Company under the leadership of Dr. J. M. Hawks. This group
located at Port Orange and was also a failure as a colony. Resi-
dents of the area described the plight of the freedmen as pitiful.
They dwelt in palmetto huts, and lived on fish, oysters, and game.
They were without bread, and occasionally begged corn to be
ground with a handmill for meal from earlier settlers. Some of
the Negroes went to work for white farmers, but several took
homesteads near Port Orange, and were successful though the land
was uncleared.22
Many other freedmen attracted by homesteads, migrated to
Florida between 1865 and 1867. A majority of them came from
Georgia and the Carolinas. In its last three trips the steamer
Dictator had brought about 2,000 Negroes to Jacksonville, it was
reported in January, 1867.23 At about the same time, 117 mi-

20 A. H. Jackson to A. B. Stonelake, January 15, 1867, J. A. Remley to E.
C. Woodruff, February 28, 1867, A. B. Stonelake to J. T. Sprague, March 11,
1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
21 House Reports, 40th Cong., 2nd Sess., No. 30, 16.
22 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, February 28, 1867, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Pleasant Daniel Gold, History of Volusia County Florida (DeLand,
Florida, 1927), 95-96.
23 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, January 29, 1867.


grants reached Monticello where they were employed on a
plantation. A man from Fernandina once counted twenty-seven
wagons in one group containing immigrants and their household
goods going to Marion County. All were from South Carolina.
On January 4, 1867, a South Carolina paper told of 1,000 ex-slaves
seen in one week on the way to Florida.24 Assistant Commissioner
Sprague estimated in October, 1867, that between 2,500 and 3,000
freedmen had arrived in Florida in the past year.25 It is neces-
sary only to glance at the unpublished census schedules of 1870 to
see how many Negroes came from out of state. Most came to
homestead, but many accepted jobs with Florida planters. A con-
siderable decline in the number of Florida freedmen who were
willing to work for wages had resulted from the Homestead Act.
The influx of Negroes from other states prevented a serious labor
shortage, as well as providing many homesteaders.26
Despite several outstanding successes, many of the homesteaders
were destined to fail. The reasons for their failure are evident.
The plan to place the freedmen on homesteads was more idealistic
than realistic. When the Negroes first began locating on home-
steads, Assistant Commissioner Foster said much of the land was
of poor quality and questioned whether it would ever be of benefit
to the freedmen financially. Many of the homesteads were located
in inundated and swampy lands. Not more than a half dozen
persons in his district, one agent reported, had procured land "fit
to live upon."27 Furthermore, much of the land was uncleared, and
the freedmen needed money for purchase of implements and pro-
visions for at least one year to be successful under such circum-
Whether or not the land was cleared, there were certain basic
necessities for success on a homestead. Some kind of shelter, food,
wagon, a horse or mule, fencing, and implements were needed. This
added up to more than most Negroes could save in years working at
the average wage of seven to twelve dollars a month. Some of
the freedmen attempted to remain on their land by working for

24 Ibid., January 11, 1867.
25 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records,
26 J. A. Remley to A. H. Jackson, July 31, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
27 J. G. Foster to O. O. Howard, August 10, 1866, J. T. Sprague to O. O.
Howard, February 7, 1868, A. B. Grumwell to A. H. Jackson, December 31,
1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.


neighboring planters during the day to earn subsistence, and culti-
vating their own land at night or at intervals. Often the father
worked for wages and the wife and children cared for the home-
stead.28 Even with food, the homesteaders had a difficult time
for they usually lacked tools. A Bureau agent who inspected the
New Smyrna colony found the ex-bondsmen without implements
and mules. The ax and hoe were the primary farm tools. The
land was cleared with the ax, then holes were dug for the seed with-
out plowing. Naturally such planting yielded small crops. More-
over, the acreage under cultivation was small, usually no more than
five to eight acres. It was difficult for them to reduce any larger
acreage from the "jungle of Hammock and palmetto" to a tillable
state with no help but the ax and hoe.29 That some of the freedmen
strove mightily to succeed on their homestead under almost im-
possible conditions is illustrated by The Florida Agriculturist. Two
Negroes from Gadsden County, Handy Griffin and Ed Harris,
worked through the day for a planter, and on their own farm after
hours. They had no mule so one pulled the plow while the other
held, and where the ground was especially difficult, their wives were
called upon to fill the role of mules. In this manner five acres
of corn and four of cotton were planted, and were reported to be
as good as any in Gadsden County.30 Unfortunately such methods
were less successful for others.
By 1868 it appeared that many freedmen would have to give
up their homesteads. In this crisis, the Freedmen's Bureau in
Florida attempted to assist by providing food. According to Circu-
lar No. 3, issued February 5, 1868, the Bureau would give rations
to Negroes who had within their control and were living upon ten
acres of fenced, tillable land.31 This order did not apply solely to
homesteaders, but they were the primary beneficiaries. Many freed-
men were able to remain on their homesteads, when otherwise they
would have been forced to work for wages to provide for their
families. Furthermore, others now found it possible for the first

28 W. W. Armstrong to A. H. Jackson, June 30, 1868, in Bureau Records,
29 D. M. Hammond to A. H. Jackson, February 19, 1868, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Bentley, op. cit., 145-46.
30 The Florida Agriculturist, I (July 25, 1874), 237.
31 Circular No. 3, Special Orders and Circulars, in Bureau Records,. Florida.


time to locate on public lands.32 There is little doubt the nearly
6,000 rations issued in 1868 at a cost of over $102,000 rendered
considerable aid to Florida homesteaders.33
The issue of rations proved valuable to some homesteaders, but
it was not enough to keep many of them from failing. Even with
food they lacked proper agricultural implements. Inexperience as
independent operators also injured the ex-slaves. Assistant Com-
missioner Sprague stated in 1867 that those who worked for them-
selves sometimes were less successful than the ones who worked
under the supervision of a white man.34 Furthermore, nature ap-
peared to be against the struggling freedmen. In early 1868, there
were many reports of fine crops being raised by freedmen, but
1868 proved to be a bad season as far as weather and the cater-
pillar were concerned. Fields that had looked good and had shown
every evidence of a good crop were left with hardly a leaf, an
agent reported in August, 1868.35 The large number of failures can
be demonstrated in Marion County. In 1868, 900 homesteads were
entered by the freedmen in that county. According to the census
of 1870 only 163 freedmen controlled land there. Nearly 3,000
homesteads were located by Negroes in Florida by 1868, but only
about 1,000 owned land in 1870.36 Approximately one third of
the homesteads failed, which makes the Bureau's attempt to turn
freedmen into independent farmers something less than a success.
Many of the homesteaders who were able to stay on their lands
failed to prove them. It was reported in November, 1874, that
"either through carelessness or ignorance of the law" many farms
were reverting to the government."' Others failed because of white
opposition, and some were driven off their lands by white ruffians.38

32 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, March 31, May 31, 1868, J. W. Childs to
A. H. Jackson, July 1, 1868, J. H. Durkee to A. H. Jackson, July 8, 1868, in
Bureau Records, Florida.
33 House Executive Documents, 40th Cong., 3rd Sess., No. 1, 1042; Monthly
Reports of Assistant Commissioner, July, 1866-December, 1868, in Bureau
Records, Florida.
34 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, March 31, 1867, in Bureau Records,
35 M. Martin to A. H. Jackson, August 15, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.
36 J. A. Remley to A. H. Jackson, October 1, 1868, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, unpublished population
schedules of Florida.
37 The Florida Agriculturist, I (January 17, 1874), 20; Jacksonville Tri
Weekly Union, January 8, 1874.
38 Jacksonville Daily Union, February 8, 1876.


Though many Negroes lost their farms, the homestead move-
ment should not be written off as a complete failure. Even though
only about one-third of the freedmen had retained their home-
steads up to 1870, the existence of over 1,000 Negro land holders
demonstrated considerable progress since 1865 when none owned
land. In 1870 there were slightly over 10,000 farms in Florida, with
one-tenth of them owned by Negroes.39 Many of the freedmen's
farms were marginal, but some ex-slave farmers were notably suc-
cessful. Among the many pessimistic reports of Bureau agents in
regard to homesteaders were several favorable ones. By 1867
numerous ex-bondsmen had some land under cultivation, were
thriving, and had constructed "comfortable huts."40 Even with
the poor cotton crop of 1867 some Negro homesteaders were
successful, more so than sharecroppers. Those who were more
industrious had a supply of corn and sweet potatoes, plus thriving
gardens of turnips, radishes, peas, and cabbage. The share-
cropper was more limited to cotton and one crop failure was
A large number of homesteaders, Assistant Commissioner
Sprague wrote in July, 1868, had ten to forty acres, well-plowed
and fenced, and were able to obtain a livelihood from year to year.
Though the cotton crop was not good in 1868, the state enjoyed a
sufficiency of such products as corn and sweet potatoes due in large
part to small Negro farmers.41 S. F. Halliday, employed to locate
Negroes on public lands, gave some specific examples of successful
homesteaders in October, 1868. James McCartin, had settled a
homestead of 80 acres near Newnansville in 1866. By 1868 Mc-
Cartin had forty cultivable acres under good fence, a dwelling
house, stable, corncrib, and a well. McCartin produced in 1868,
an abundance of corn and potatoes, and two bales of sea-island
cotton. He was reported to be "comfortable and independent."
Charles Williams, who had a homestead near Archer, with the aid
of his son and daughter, produced 500 bushels of corn and 3 bales
of sea-island cotton in 1868. The cotton crop had been estimated

39 Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, III, 340.
40 S. C. Osborn to T. W. Osborn, June 1, 1866, J. T. Sprague to O. O.
Howard, July 31, 1867, J. E. Quentin to A. H. Jackson, November 2, 1867, in
Bureau Records, Florida.
41 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, August 31, 1868, D. M. Hammond to
A. H. Jackson, August 31, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.


at six bales before being attacked by caterpillars. Halliday sug-
gested that the industry of the Williams family should be an
example for both white and colored Floridians.42
Other Negro homesteaders enjoyed similar achievements. In
late 1869 a white homesteader described Negroes near Enterprise
who had good cotton crops, and were "doing well."43 Even the
Tallahassee Floridian, which was never overly optimistic about
the Negro, reported that most of the ex-slaves had "shown a com-
mendable industry in acquiring property, especially land, mules,
stock and farming utensils." By hard and continued work, the
editor said, farms and homesteads had been secured.44 Several
homesteaders were successful enough by 1868 to employ freedmen
as laborers.45 In the 1870's the area under cultivation in Florida
was increasing with a rapidity never before known in the State,
and the freedmen deserved much of the credit.46
Other freedmen purchased farms outright. As early as 1865,
a Negro, Sandy Cornish, was known as the best farmer on Key
West. In the midst of surrounding waste land Cornish had a
flourishing fruit grove, tobacco patches, and a garden. He was one
of the wealthiest and most respected citizens of the area.47 Other
ex-bondsmen were eager to purchase land. If they could buy land
it would in many cases already be cleared, which enabled them to
raise full crops at the start. A teacher from St. Augustine wrote
in 1866 that about six families were living in houses which they
had purchased, and several others had saved enough money to buy
land. Negro soldiers mustered out in Florida also invested their
pay in small farms at a time when land was cheap.48 July Thomas
owned sufficient land in December, 1866, for a Monticello court

42 S. F. Halliday to G. W. Gile, September 26, 1869, in Bureau Records,
43 C. B. Chipman to G. W. Gile, September 26, 1869, in Bureau Records,
44 Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, July 19, August 2, 1870.
45 J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard, January 10, 1868, J. A. Remley to J. T.
Sprague, February 29, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.
46 New York Times, October 29, 1873.
47 Browne, op. cit., 172; Reid, op. cit., 183, 189.
48 Mary M. Harris to T. W. Osborn, February 27, 1866, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Eppes, op. cit., 327.


to seize enough of it to satisfy a $200 debt. The court records
mentioned goods and chattel, land and tenements.49
Some Negroes were able to compete favorably with white
settlers. John Donaldson went to Pinellas County in 1868, where
he worked for wages until 1871 at which time he had saved enough
to purchase forty acres. Donaldson cleared the land, planted sugar
cane, sweet potatoes, garden truck, and an orange grove, besides
raising cattle and hogs. Within a few years, he was considered one
of the wealthiest settlers, and was a man "universally respected and
one who really kept pace with his white neighbors."50 Apparently
Cornish and Donaldson were not exceptions. "I wish all the
people at the North," wrote a school teacher from Gainesville in
1870, "who doubt the ability ... of the Freedmen to secure homes
for their families, would visit .a colored family about a mile
from here." The family had nine children, had kept six of them in
school and had still saved enough money to purchase a house and
a small plot of land after three years of wage working. All of
their land was under cultivation, the teacher said. She claimed
other families had experienced similar success.51
In 1872 the editor of the Palatka Herald told of a freedman
who raised 9 bales of sea-island cotton and 150 bushels of corn. The
Negro had purchased the land on credit, had paid for it, and was
was enjoying "a handsome competency."52 The editor of the Talla-
hassee Floridian wrote in February, 1872, of a "great many" freed-
men who had rented land or otherwise farmed on their own re-
sponsibility, and by "close attention and economical management"
had cleared from $600 to $1,000 a year.53 Around 1870 Caesar
Bryant had purchased twenty acres of "raw pine land" near Jack-
sonville with money saved from sharecropping. Some of the land
was marshy so he ditched and drained it. By 1874 he had a "re-
spectable cottage," barn, storehouse, a fine horse, and several cows,
and pigs. He grew grapes, oranges, peaches, and vegetables for
sale. His crops of corn, rice, and sugar cane were reported to be

49 Records in Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, Jefferson County Court
House, Monticello, Florida.
so John A. Bethell, Pinellas: A Brief History of the Lower Point (St. Peters-
burg, Florida, 1914), 19-20; Karl H. Grismer, The Story of St. Petersburg (St.
Petersburg, Florida, 1948), 188.
51 The American Missionary, XIV (October, 1870), 121-22.
52 Quoted in Tallahassee Sentinel, November 23, 1872.
53 Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, February 23, 1872.


a credit to any farmer. In 1874 he employed several laborers to
assist him at crop time. He had been offered $2,000 for his farm,
but refused to sell.54
Bryant was not the only Negro with valuable property. Ac-
cording to the census of 1870, one Negro owned property valued
at $8,000, and another held $7,000 worth of property, and others
owned land appraised at $5,000, $4,000, and $3,00 Five freedmen
had property valued at $2,000, eleven had land assessed at between
$1,000 and $1,500, and eighteen held land worth $1,000. Many
ex-slaves had land appraised at $600 to $1,000 for purposes of
taxation.55 The above figures indicate remarkable progress by
Negro farmers in the five years after emancipation. Florida
had a better record than most Southern states with independent
Negro farm operators. In 1900, there were 5,607 Negro farm owners
and 851 part owners in Florida.56 There is little doubt that many
of these farms came into the hands of Negroes during Reconstruc-

54 The Florida Agriculturist, I (September 12, 1874), 292.
55 Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, unpublished population sched-
ules of Florida.
56 Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900, V, pt. 1, 6.



The establishment of independent churches for the freedmen
was one of the most significant results of Reconstruction. Religious
freedom was provided for the Negroes for the first time and such
churches "opened up to Negro leadership at least one field of
social endeavor."1 The church became many things to the ex-bonds-
men: a house of worship, a social center, the forum, the theater,
and the gathering place of the Negro community. Of special im-
portance, affiliation with an independent Negro church became a
symbol of freedom. The church was one area in which the freed-
men seemed to desire segregation.' With their own organization,
the Negroes would not be relegated to an inferior status, and it
would provide a better opportunity for them to gratify ambitions to
become ministers.2 The Negro preacher became a man of con-
siderable consequence as a social and political leader.
Church attendance was not new to the freedmen. As slaves
they had attended services with their masters, and were usually
of the same denomination. In the Tallahassee district of the
Methodist Florida Conference the slave members outnumbered the
whites, though they were not permitted in the church on an equal
basis, and their individual services were closely supervised to
prevent inflammatory statements by Negro preachers.3 As a result,
slave membership began to decline in 1863. In that year the
Methodist church in Florida lost 987 slave members, in 1865 the
loss was 560, and in 1866 it was 2,505. By 1871 the white Methodist
Church had no Negro members.4 Other white religious organiza-
tions underwent similar experiences The ex-members drifted into
independent Negro churches.

1 Francis Butler Simkins, A History of the South (New York, 1959), 307.
2 Taylor, op. cit., 206; Hunter D. Farish. The Circuit Rider Dismounts: A
Social History of Southern Methodism 1865-1900 (Richmond, Virginia, 1938),
s Charles T. Thrift, Jr., The Trail of the Florida Circuit Rider (Lakeland,
Florida, 1944), 95-96.
Ibid., 160.


SNegro churches came into being even before the war ended,
usually under the guidance of Northern whites. The Freedmen's
Aid Society of Syracuse, New York, had established schools in
Florida as early as 1862, and the schools were usually accompanied
by Sabbath Schools, and religious services. The American Mission-
ary Association had agents in Florida in 1864. By 1865 the
Sunday Schools were thriving in areas occupied by the Union
Army.5 After the war, Southern whites also held services for the
freedmen on the plantations. Formal organization of churches for
the freedmen began in May, 1865, with the appointment of William
G. Stewart as pastor of Florida, by the South Carolina Conference
of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He landed in Jack-
sonville, June 9, 1865, and on the following day organized a
church at Midway, a few miles from Jacksonville, the first Negro
church founded in Florida by an authorized pastor. Stewart soon
organized churches at Quincy, Monticello, Aucilla, and Lake City.
When he arrived in Tallahassee, a Negro, Robert Meacham,
"famous in his day for building houses of worship," already had
116 members to be placed under the formal organization.6
The work of the African Methodist Episcopal Church seemed
to be progressing satisfactorily, but Stewart was only a deacon, so
in February, 1866, The Reverend Mr. Charles H. Pearce was sent to
Florida. Pearce, described by a white contemporary as "a remarkably
fine-looking, middle-aged, yellow-colored man, a good Christian
minister, who would claim respect in any community," was a man
of ability, and began work in earnest.7 With the aid of F. A.
Branch, white pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,
Pearce founded a church in Jacksonville with sixty-four mem-
bers. He then began to travel about Florida inspecting churches
organized by Stewart, establishing new ones, and sometimes
persuading members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,
to affiliate with the African Methodist Church.8 The African
Methodist Episcopal Church became the most important Negro
religious organization in Florida, and Presiding Elder Pearce was

5 The National Freedman, I (April 1, 1865), 84; G. Greely to G. Whipple,
November 8, 1864, in American Missionary Association Archives, Fisk Uni-
6 Charles Sumner Long, History of the A. M. E. Church in Florida (Phila-
delphia, 1939), 73, 195.
7 Tallahassee Floridian, February 20, 1868.
s Long, History of the A. M. E. Church, 57-59.


the most potent force in its rapid growth. One colleague said all
things considered, it was doubtful if African Methodism had ever
produced a man superior to Pearce. Pearce, a former citizen of
Canada, later became a powerful political leader. The spread of
the African Methodist Church was so encouraging the Florida
conference was organized in Tallahassee in June, 1867, with 4,798
members.9 It continued to grow rapidly. By March, 1868, it
boasted 8,000 members. In December, 1871, the organization had
25 traveling elders, 48 traveling deacons, 244 local preachers and
exhorters, and a membership of 11,582. The peak year of member-
ship was 1874-1875 with 13,102.10
The African Methodist Episcopal Church was the most power-
ful religious organization for the freedmen, but by no means the
only one. Several churches were independent, and the Baptists
and other Methodist churches were strong. The Methodist Epis-
copal Church from the North penetrated the South during the
Civil War. It proposed to work among both Negroes and whites,
but was more successful with the freedmen. The work of this
church progressed so rapidly a Florida conference was organized in
1873. The Florida Conference was made up of both whites and
Negroes, and its mixed character posed no handicap at first.
But after 1876 the situation changed and in 1884 the General
Conference authorized a division.11 Another Methodist organiza-
tion was an offshoot of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In
1870 this church began to use the name Colored Methodist Episco-
pal Church in America, for its Negro members.12
The Baptist Church was also important in Florida, but it was
organized locally, and records are scarce. The first Negro religious
organization in St. Augustine was a Baptist Church with 250 mem-
bers.'3 There were several different kinds of Baptist churches, the
Missionary Baptist, the African Missionary Baptist, the Primitive

9 Thrift, op. cit., 108; Dorothy Dodd, "'Bishop Pearce' and the Recon-
struction of Leon County," Apalachee (1946), 6; Benjamin W. Arnett (ed.)
Proceedings of the Quarto-Centenial Conference of the African M. E. Church
of South Carolina, at Charleston, S. C., May 15, 16, and 17, 1889 (privately
published, 1890), 166-67.
o1 Arnett, op. cit., 211.
11 Thrift, op. cit., 125-26.
12 Charles Henry Phillips, The History of the Colored Methodist Episcopal
Church in America (Jackson, Tennessee, 1925), 27-35, 43, 94.
13 A. B. Grumwell to E. C. Woodruff, December 31, 1866, J. H. Durkee to
A. H. Jackson, September 24, 1868, in Bureau Records, Florida.


Baptist, and the Baptist Institutional. One in Jacksonville was
known as the Baptist "Praise House."14 Still other churches were
organized but with less success. The Union Congregational Church
was established in Jacksonville with both whites and Negro mem-
bers.15 The Presbyterian Church reported twenty communicants
in Jacksonville in 1870.16 One of the most outstanding Negroes
in the State, Jonathan C. Gibbs, was a Presbyterian minister, but
the church was always small during Reconstruction. There were
also a few Negro Catholics. It was estimated in 1867, that there
were about 600 freedmen of the Catholic faith in St. Augustine,
Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Key West. A majority of the freedmen
in St. Augustine belonged to this faith.17 The Episcopal Church
also had a few members, but again the number was always small.
The denominations that refused to permit the Negroes to have a
separate organization enjoyed little success. The Episcopal Church
belatedly recognized this fact, and in December, 1875, Bishop John
Freeman Young organized the first Negro Parish in Florida. This
was the beginning of St. Peter's Church, Key West, which for many
years remained the largest congregation composed of Negroes in
the Diocese.18 The more emotional denominations remained domi-
nant. The census of 1870 listed 88 Negro churches, 19 Baptist, 49
African Methodist Episcopal, and 18 Methodist of other varieties,
with a property valuation of $29,950.19
The rapid growth of the Negro churches is not surprising as
the Negroes seemed to have a propensity to religion or at least
church services. The freedmen were "strictly, and peculiarly, a
religious people," a Bureau agent wrote, and were faithful in

14 Jacksonville Florida Union, January 4, 1868.
15 The American Missionary, XXI (March, 1876), 56-57.
16 Sixth Annual Report of the Presbyterian Committee of Missions for
Freedmen, Presented May, 1871, 13, 20.
17 St. Augustine Examiner, May 23, 1874; J. T. Sprague to O. O. Howard,
October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida; J. W. Brinckerhoff to G. Whipple,
November 23, 1864, in American Missionary Association Archives.
18 Journal of the Proceedings of the Thirty-Fourth Annual Council of the
Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Florida 1877, 41; Edgar L.
Pennington, Soldier and Servant: John Freeman Young, Second Bishop of
Florida (Hartford, 1939), 36-37; Joseph D. Cushman, "The Episcopal Church
in Florida: 1821-1892" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, The Florida State
University, 1962), 206-7.
19 Ninth Census of the United States, 1870, unpublished social statistic
schedules of Florida.


attendance of services held in churches and brush arbors all over
the country on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Religious
services were frequent and were held inside and outside depending
on the weather.20 If churches were not available, services were held
in homes, old buildings and around campfires. Nearly all of the
Bureau agents in Florida commented on the religious enthusiasm
of the freedmen. In January, 1867, an agent from Lake City said,
"there is an extraordinary interest manifested by the freedmen in
religious matters," and in October, 1868, another reported that
"religious societies engage much of the attention of the freed
people." "Their faculty of veneration," he continued, "appears to
be such that it is a hard matter to engage their minds in any other
direction.""21 "The height of ambition with the colored children,"
a white Episcopalian declared, "is to possess a Bible and prayer-
book and to know how to read them."22
The religious enthusiasm of the ex-bondsmen led to services
that frequently started early and lasted late. This is indicated in
the request of a white man for a cook. He wanted one, he said,
without children if possible, and not partial to all night prayer
meetings."23 The religious fervor of the freedmen led to a willing-
ness to make great sacrifices to have a church. A congregation in
Brooksville paid a white man $800 per year to preach for them.
They donated their time and money to construct buildings, and
support the church. Festivals to earn money for religious societies
became popular. The Negro Methodist women in Tallahassee
held a two day festival in March, 1866, and realized the handsome
sum of $400.05. Lectures were held, and religious pictures dis-
Few contemporaries denied the religious zeal of Florida freed-
men, but many were critical of the way in which the fervor was
displayed. W. E. B. DuBois' description of the post Civil War
Negro church as one of "intense emotionalism, trance, and weird

20 C. M. Hamilton to J. G. Foster, May 31, 1867, M. L. Stearns to E. C.
Woodruff, December 31, 1866, in Bureau Records, Florida.
21 Jacob A. Remley to A. H. Jackson, October 1, 1868, J. P. Martin to E. C.
Woodruff, January 11, 1867, in Bureau Records, Florida.
22 The Spirit of Missions, XXXIII (February, 1868), 149-151.
23 S. D. McConnell to E. M. L'Engle, December 1, 1869, in Edward M.
L'Engle Papers.
24 W. G. Vance to A. H. Jackson, September 25, 1867, in Bureau Records,
Florida; Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, March 27, 1866, April 27, 1869.


singing,' with some African rites remaining." is applicable to
Florida.25 A traveler in Florida referred to the Negro church as
"a full-developed institution, attended with its peculiarities and
noisy accompaniments, where the colored zealots could give
vent to their religious enthusiasm by howling their emotional
feelings among others equally excited.""26 The freedmen seemed to
be a naturally devotional people, a Bureau agent said, but their
services were so mixed with barbarous forms the idea of worship
appeared to be lost. In St. Augustine and Jacksonville, a traveler
in 1870, saw "shocking mummeries, which belonged to the fetish
worship of savage Central Africa, and not of Christian America."
At least one missionary despaired of ever improving the old people
because of their superstitions, but had hope for the young.27
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a description of a Negro service
which she thought illustrated the African influence. The men
formed a ring outside the altar, she said, and the women began to
form into lines. To the rhythm of singing "the first sister in the
female procession shook hands with the first brother, singing the
chorus, and concluding with a short curtsy, and then passing to
the next repeated the same." In a short time, Mrs. Stowe added,
"there was a double file of men and women moving and singing,
and shaking hands and curtsying, all in the most exact time and
with the most solemn gravity." The songs were "wild and full of
spirit, the words simple and often repeated." Soon, she continued,
"there was a rhythmical column extending up one aisle, down the
other, and slowly moving out of the house at one end." The singing
and movement was continued until all were out of the church.
"When the fervor was at its height, the wild commingling of
voices, the rhythmical movement of turbaned heads, the sense of
time and tune that seemed to pervade the whole procession, was
quite wonderful." Mrs. Stowe reported.28
A transplanted Northerner in Florida, A. B. Hart, also re-
corded a Negro ceremony. The service, he said, began at sundown

25 Ruby F. Johnston, The Development of Negro Religion (New York,
1954), 32.
26 Brooks, op. cit., 40.
27 J. H. Durkee to A. H. Jackson, October 1, 1867, in Bureau Records,
Florida; G. W. Nichols, "Six Weeks in Florida," Harpers Magazine, XLI
(October, 1870), 662-63; Mrs. H. B. Greely to M. Strieby, May 9, 1867, in
American Missionary Association Archives.
28 Tallahassee Semi-Weekly Floridian, May 21, 1867.


one night, lasted until ten the next morning when it stopped long
enough to take the Lord's Supper, and then resumed and was still
going at eight that night. There were about twenty ministers
present, and each wanted the floor for a time. In another service,
Hart said the Negroes began "screeching, dancing, stamping and
jumping. They got to tearing around in a circle with two
old preachers bobbing up and down in the center They broke
the flooring all to pieces, cracked the sill" and finally the chimney
began to show signs of crumbling before the demonstration was
stopped. Hart believed religious services were held for recreation.
On one occasion, "as a pretext for getting together and having a
big time," a group of freedmen collected to repreach a funeral
service for a child that had been "buried prayed for and preached
over two months ago." That much of the Negro worship service
was devoted to singing was corroborated by Hart's brother. "I
have been hearing," he wrote one evening, "the wild deep-toned
singing of the colored population who are holding a meeting over
half a mile from here. Most of their service is in singing," he added,
"and I hear them as plainly as though they were but a few rods
off."29 As late as 1873, one of Florida's most distinguished Negroes,
Jonathan Gibbs, apologized for the freedmen, saying they "still
preach and pray, sing and shout all night long in defiance of
health, sound sense, or other considerations supposed to influence
a reasonable being." He did say that "many of the things that
shock good taste and good morals, which a few years ago were
so prevalent, have passed away."30
Revival meetings occupied a large place in this emotional
religion. Revivals were frequent and of long duration. In October,
1871, the Jacksonville Courier reported a meeting that continued
for several weeks. The services had been unusually demonstrative,
and since they went on all through the night some of the citizens
were complaining.31 The General Conference of the A. M. E.
Church of 1872 noted that "great revivals" had been held in
Florida and "thousands of souls were gathered into the church."
In 1875 the annual camp meeting of the A. M. E. Church, held

29 A. B. Hart to Father, June 15, 1869, A. B. Hart to Mary Hart, July 31,
1870, in Ambrose B. Hart Letters; W. N. Hart to Carrie Hart, March 27, 1867,
in Walter N. Hart Letters.
so The Florida Agriculturist, I (January 17, 1874), 23.
31 Quoted in Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, October 3, 1871.


near Jacksonville, ran for 11 days with over 100 professing "to
find salvation in connection with the services."32
The preaching at revivals and other services was not always
of the highest caliber. Many of the ministers were ignorant and
bereft of any religious training. They frequently appeared to
think if they did not preach loud and long they had no religion.
Their sermons were not always instructive.33 The following pur-
ports to be a correct copy of an original sermon delivered by a
Negro minister in Jacksonville, on the subject "Lay up for your-
selves treasure in heaven."

My Dear Bredren:-De Lord is here to-day, goin' from de
African to de white folks church, ridin' on a milk-white
steed in de air. He knows all yer hearts and what your'
thinking' about. Ef yer hearts are not right, dey must all
undergo a radical change until dey are made good. 'De
Lord' taught his disciples on de lake of Genesis, and I'm
now telling you all de way to do. I 'spec you all cum to de
house of de Lord just kase yer friends are here. While yer
preacher is trying' to permulgate de gospel, you is looking'
down de street to see what is coming and den you're thinking
about what you will wear tonight when you come to preach-
in', payin' no attention to me, who is trying to save yer
O my bredren, dis is a fine new meetin'-house, but we
should all seek a house whose builder and maker is de
great Lord! Labor not for de perishin' spilin' meat!
Last night was Saturday, and you have spent most of
yer week's wages and earnin's, den put de rest in de Freed-
men Savin' Bank, and you don't know as you'll ever see it
any more in dis world! Somebody may get it, or you may
die, and den you will leave it. How much did you bring here
for de Lord? 0 my bredren when dem jerudic angels come
you will be sorry you haven't done more for de Lord! When
dey come, ef you hasn't dun nothing' for your blessed Jesus,
den dey will not say, 'Come, ye blessed, home'
You must do nothing' wrong if yer want ter git up by
dat great white throne among dem snowhite angels, and be
one yourselves. You must never cuss or drink any whiskey.
Paul told Timothy his son to drink some wine when he had
de stumakake. My bredren, don't think yer suffering' when

32 Long, History of the A. M. E. Church, 102; Tallahassee Sentinel, Sep-
tember 11, 1875.
33 The American Missionary, XIV (March, 1870), 54-55.


yer not, just for an excuse to git a dram. Old Master in
heaven knows when yer sure enuff sick! Can't fool him
about nothin!34
This sermon is probably exaggerated, but other reports are
similar. Mrs. Stowe thought the exhortations "seemed to consist in
in a string of solemn-sounding words and phrases, images borrowed
from Scriptures, scraps of hymns, and now and then a morsel that
seemed like a Roman-Catholic tradition about the Virgin-Mary
and Jesus." The most important image, according to Mrs. Stowe,
was the angel and the blowing of the last trumpet. One of the
phrases used by one of the preachers was, "and he will say,
Gabriel, Gabriel, blow you trump: take it cool and easy, cool and
easy Gabriel: dey's all bound for to come." But, as Mrs. Stowe
wrote, who is to say whether or not they received something from
this type of service? She thought they had. "It was at least an
aspiration," she explained, "a reaching and longing for some-
thing above animal and physical good, a recognition of God and
immortality, and a future beyond this earth, vague and indefinite
though it were."35
Such demonstrations by Negro ministers are not surprising.
Many of them had received neither education nor religious train-
ing. Some of them were unable to read and drew upon scraps of
information gleaned by chance. Perhaps such ministers were more
effective in reaching many of the freedmen than a better educated
preacher would have been. Some of the Negroes were still ignorant
and superstitious. Belief in evil spirits and conjuring was not un-
known. A more intellectual appeal to such people might have been
useless. A white missionary attended a Negro service in Jackson-
ville in 1868 in which the Negro minister "addressed his church
so touchingly and eloquently," that she listened with tears in her
eyes. "That gray haired African," she said, "ignorant though he
was reached my heart in a manner that it could not be in listening
to the most eloquent divines." Perhaps it should be added that
emotionalism in religion was not unknown among white Floridians
during Reconstruction. A resident of Jacksonville wrote of going
by a white Methodist Church, and hearing shouts, groans, howling,
bellowing, clapping, and stamping. Furthermore, not all Negro

34 Brooks, op.cit., 40-41.
35 Stowe, op. cit., 292-94.


services were of an extreme emotional character. A representative
of the American Missionary Association wrote in September, 1865,
of a church in St. Augustine, where the freedmen were not "noisy,
as they are in many places, but are quite consistent in their
manner of worship."36
Negro ministers in Florida were subject to considerable criti-
cism during and after Reconstruction. A freedman, John Wallace,
wrote that one of the greatest dangers to the ex-bondsmen was
immorality, and he claimed it proceeded from the churches. "Num-
bers of immoral and ignorant men," he said, "have invaded the
pulpits of our churches and are using the livery of Heaven to
serve the devil in." Such men had been guilty of every wrong that
could be committed against "innocence and virtue," he declared
"and have violated every moral law and obligation."37 At least one
minister's wife apparently agreed with Wallace. The wife of a
preacher in Gainesville "knocked her liege lord in the head with
a mallet She was provoked thereto by the fact that he was too
extremely polite to the sisterin generally."'3 Another newspaper in
1868 listed three Negro preachers as inmates in the Monticello
jail.39 Such ministers were peculiar neither to the Negroes nor the
Reconstruction era.
Reports of other observers deal not so much with Negro im-
morality as with inability. Bishop Young claimed to have "an
almost hopeless solicitude" for the Negro population because of
their "decided and inflexible preference for attending upon the
ministrations" of their own color. A majority of the ex-slave minis-
ters, he asserted, were utterly ignorant and unfit. Another Episco-
palian, William D. Scull of Midway, agreed. "The greatest ob-
stacle in the way of improving, religiously and morally, the colored
people," he wrote, "is their own ministry. The mischief which
this effects is incalculably great." And, he added, "when we speak
of it as fetish, fanatical, as stupid, exceeding stupidity, and even

36 O. M. Dorman, Diary and Notes; The American Missionary, X (January,
1866), 9; Mrs. E. W. Warner to E. P. Smith, September 3, 1868, in American
Missionary Association Archives.
37 John Wallace, Carpetbag Rule in Florida (Jacksonville, Florida, 1888),
38 Gainesville New Era, February 17, 1866.
39 Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, November 17, 1868.


diabolical, we do it no injustice."40 Scull thought the freedmen
should be placed under the guidance of the white man in all
phases of their development, which may have colored his observa-
tion concerning Negro religious activities, but as late as 1875, an
observer reported that preaching in Florida was of a very inferior
character. He likened it to the blind leading the blind. Intelli-
gent ministers were present in some of the towns, he admitted, but
most of them had no education, and "were it not for the divine
unction depended upon by the devout, degrading indeed would be
the course advised and pursued."41
-Not all of the Negro ministers were ignorant and incompetent.
Even the critical John Wallace said many of them were intelligent
and upstanding men. In 1869 a woman from the North wrote
of encountering a Negro Baptist pastor in Monticello, who ex-
hibited "more earnest good sense" than any she had met previously.
"While his reading is defective," she stated, "he exhorts with a
great degree of intelligence, and his prayers are fraught with
not only pure, humble devotion, but clothed in language wholly
unobjectionable." A white teacher attended the Annual Con-
ference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1874 and
found that "many of the delegates were educated men, and all
were interested in education."42 "Some young men of deep and
ardent piety, and gifts for public speaking" were commended by
a white missionary. As early as 1870, a freedman, Joseph Robert
Love, was admitted to the Holy Order of Deacons in the Episcopal
Church. Love asked for no dispensations from the full requirement.
He "sustained a protracted and searching examination on the full
course of study, including the Latin and Greek languages." Love
was a deacon in the church at Jacksonville, as well as minister to
a Negro congregation.43 There were other Negro ministers of
ability, Jonathan Gibbs, a graduate of Dartmouth College, was one

40 Journal of the Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Convention of the
Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Florida, 26; Ibid., Twenty-Sixth
Convention, 1869, 31; C. B. Wilder to E. P. Smith, August 28, 1867, in Ameri-
can Missionary Association Archives.
41 Eighth Annual Report of the Freedmen's Aid Society of the Methodist
Episcopal Church (Cincinati, 1875), 40.
42 The American Missionary, XIII (February, 1869), 31.
43 Journal of the Proceedings of the Twenty-Eighth Annual Convention of
the Protestant Episcopal Church of Florida, 1871, 38; G. Greely to G. Whipple,
September 10, 1865, C. D. Washburn to E. M. Cravath, January 20, 1875, in
American Missionary Association Archives.

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs