HISTORIC ST. AUGUSTINE PRESERVOON BOARD
October 25, 1974
TO: John D. Eailey, Chairman
FROM: John W. Griffin, Director
SUBJECT: Missing Watch
On the afternoon of October 23, Mrs. Jessie Porter Newton of Key West came to my office.
Mrs. Newton is the granddaughter of Dr. Porter, the original owner of the watch which was
stolen from the Spanish Military Hospital. I had assumed that either the Florida Medical
Association or the people from the State Board of Health had informed Mrs. Newton of the
loss of the watch. I should not have assumed this. Mrs. Newton discovered that the watch
had been stolen when she visited the Spanish Military Hospital on the date mentioned, on
a return trip from Virginia to Key West. Mrs. Newton was highly disturbed about the
watch, she is a very voluble person, and our discussions continued for three hours.
I imagine that she will be trying to get in touch with you, at least she so indicated, and
I thought I should try to summarize some of her concerns in the event she does reach you.
In the first place, Mrs. Newton never wanted the watch to leave the family. It was ap-
parently her brother who was responsible for giving the watch to the state. Her own
version of the matter was that on a public platform at a medical meeting in the south part
of the state that she was put into the position of being "forced" by Governor Askew to
present the watch. This belief led her into statements that we, the Preservation Board,
should get the Governor to get in touch with her and to make things right.
In connection with this point, I am making further inquiries as to the situation regarding
the transfer of the watch, first from the family to the State Board of Health and, secondly,
from the State Board of Health to us. We have absolutely no documentation in our files.
I talked to Carl Calkin last evening. He was present at the presentation when Governor
Askew accepted the watch, but knows nothing of the background of how this came about. His
next knowledge of the affair is when the watch was actually brought down to St. Augustine
by Dr. Sowder and placed in the museum. In a sense, it is not even certain whether the
watch was ours or the property of the State Board of Health at the time it was stolen. Of
course both of these are parts of Florida State Government.
I don't know what can be done to sooth Mrs. Newton's feelings, although she did leave my
office in a comparatively calm mood. I am afraid that only the recovery of the watch would
really satisfyher,and in this connection I talked to Dick Watson to be brought up-to-date
on the case. The thief was, of course, sentenced this week to three years, and it is my
understanding that this lower sentence was secured because he named the fence to whom he
sold the watch. Apparently, however, the only evidence against this other man is the tes-
timony of the convicted man and, on that basis, Mr. Watson does not feel that he has a
I wanted to have this memorandum in your hands early on Monday, since I feel that you may
very well receive a phone call from Mrs. Newton during the day. We should discuss this
at our first opportunity.