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                                                      Slavery, Succession

 And Success

 

 

The Memories of a Florida Pioneer

By

 

John Francis Tenney

 

Southern Literary Institute

San Antonio, Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 1934

By Southern Literary Institute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Printed In The United States Of America

 

 

 

foreword

 

   John Francis Tenney was a pioneer of the old school—

the school of the empire builders, through whose deter-

mination and energy the present greatness of the United

States, as a whole, was made possible.

   Even before Plant and Flagler he sensed the future

growth and development of Florida, and played a vitally

important part in laying the foundations of the great state

which now exists.

   He first became identified with Florida during a most

difficult period—as a Yankee, among slaveholders in the

explosive days immediately preceding the Civil War.  It

was then that his philosophy of broad tolerance, which

marked his intercourse with his fellow human beings

throughout a long life, stood him in good stead.  That

when, at the outbreak of hostilities, he departed from his

adopted home he left friends and not enemies is amply

evidenced by the fact that on his return, at the end of the

war, he was accepted as a Floridian and  not as a

"foreigner."

   For considerably more than half a century John Francis

Tenney contributed heavily in energy and wisdom to the

development and advancement of Northern Florida.  He.

knew intimately the hardships which attended Florida life

in early days, but his keen sense of humor enabled him to

turn even hardship into enjoyment and to forge steadily

 

 

 

ahead, building step by step and carving out of the

wilderness a prosperous community of which he was the

acknowledged head until he passed to his final reward in

his ninety-third year.

   John Francis Tenney was that rare type of man who

left the imprint of his personality on all who earner

contact with him:  To have known him was a privilege;,

to have been accepted by him as a friend was an accolade.

To his insight, which enabled him to see Florida as a

diamond in the rough; to his courageous energy, which

enabled him to take the leadership in reclaiming the wilder-

ness, and to his broad understanding, which enabled him

to attract and encourage the type of settlers certain to make

the most valued citizens, Florida owes an irredeemable

debt

                        JOHN M. TAYLOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Several people have requested me to write

           my personal experiences and impression of

          Florida commencing with the year 1859.

          Having kept no diary or memorandum, what I

         shall be able to write will naturally be wander-

         ing recollections that have no historic interest

         for the delver into the past, and only serve to

        amuse those who delight in personal experiences and observations.

 

      JOHN FRANCIS TENNEY

 

 

                        Federal Point, 1910

 

 

 

   CHAPTER I

    ANTE-BELLUM FLORIDA

THE writer came to Florida in the winter of 1859 by

steamer from New York, his first landing being in

the City of Savannah, Ga., where he saw for the first time

negro slaves at work on the wharves.  Their movements

were so slow and listless; so entirely unlike those of the

men we were accustomed to see that it attracted our atten-

tion at once.  From Savannah we took an inland steamer

for Jacksonville.  The steamer ran inside the coast islands

until it reached Florida, when we put out to sea for the

 mouth of the St. Johns River. To say that the trip was

 delightful fails to tell one-half the story.  The immense

 salt marshes, with here and there groups of palmetto trees,

 the abundance of aquatic birds, and occasionally a huge

 alligator, with the ever varied scenes as we wended our

 way down the crooked channel, made an impression never

 to be forgotten.

   After we had crossed the bar at the mouth of the St.

 Johns River a fellow-passenger, pointing to the shores in-

 formed me that I had "seen all Florida," meaning the

 whole State was flat and uninteresting, like what I saw.

   In due time we reached what they called "The City of

 Jacksonville," but what was simply a little village—and

 a poor one at that.  There was one good hotel—the

 Judson House—run by 0. L. Keene; two saw mills, two

 good stores—one was built of brick, the only brick build-

                                             [7]

 

   SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

 ing in the city, and run by C. L. Robinson; a few scattered

 dwelling houses here and there; a post-office; bar room;

 but had not arrived to the dignity of sidewalks or paved

 streets.        - ,

   In fact, few if any streets but Bay street were clearly

 denned, and a person could follow a cow path into any

 quarter of the city he desired to go.  All beyond the little

 St. James Park was a wilderness, with no settlements north

of the present viaduct across the railroads.

   We were received with a "hail fellow well met air" by

 every one.  There was evidently plenty of room for us

 without inconvenience to any one.

   After a few days' rest in Jacksonville, we started on a

 trip to the Ocklawaha River country to procure from a

man named Ward cypress timber that grew on Six Mile

Creek.  We spent the first night at Orange Mills, at that

 time a thriving place, with a large saw mill that was run

 at its full capacity.  Here we got the best meal we ever ate.

 We had our breakfast in Jacksonville and did not get an-

 other meal until nearly sunset of the next day.  We had

 killed some fox squirrels, a duck, had procured some flour,

 potatoes and onions, with which we made a "dumpling

stew" over a fire on the ground.  Our long fast, the exer-

 cise of hunting and the excellence of the stew, made a meal

 fit for a king.

   We made the trip from Orange Mills to the Ocklawaha

 River country on foot, crossing the river in a "dug-out,"

 passing through the City of Palatka.  I believe they called

 it a city then, but it was actually not much but a hamlet.

 We reached our man on the Ocklawaha about midnight,

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           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

 

after getting lost in the woods for a time, as there was not

a single settlement on the road we traveled.

   The next day we took a mule-back ride over the coun-

try, and my mule having fallen to his knees allowed me to

proceed over his head for about twenty feet on all fours,

ripping my pants leg in twain for two-thirds of its length.

As there was neither store, seamstress, needle or thread in

any part of that country, we were forced to board the

good steamer Darlington at Welaka in that unconventional

attire.   As the boat was crowded with well dressed men

and women, we took a back seat, as much out of sight as

possible, where we sat in sorrowful contemplation of the

vicissitudes of life, and torn pants in particular.

   I will stop here to mention more fully Captain Brock

and his steamer Darlington.  Captain Brock was the

pioneer steamboat man on the St. Johns River, and navi-

gated his steamer Darlington between Jacksonville and

Enterprise.   The boat was a comfortable craft of light

draft, and capable of handling all the freight and passenger

traffic between the two points and intermediate landings

for many years.  Captain Brock was a rough spoken man,

but a kinder hearted or more congenial man never walked

a deck or told a story.  His boat had a most powerful and

harsh whistle, that he blew by hitting a lever with a stick,

and it was one of his most enjoyable jokes to get his pas-

sengers huddled round it, all absorbed in one of his stories

and surreptitiously blow the whistle to see the crowd jump

and hear the women scream.

   Having secured the right to cut cypress timber in the

swamp bordering Six Mile Creek, we moved our family

                           [9]

            SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

(wife and child) to a deserted logging camp (a comfort-

 able shelter), and spent the first winter in making cypress

 shingles.   Three of us made five hundred thousand that

 winter, which we sold for six dollars per thousand, to go

 to the West India Islands.  That winter was perhaps the

 happiest time of my life.  The wife who was troubled

 with weak lungs grew strong and healthy.  The creek was

 full of fish and the woods full of game; turkey, bear,

 panthers and deer were in abundance—for we were in an.

 entire wilderness, with no neighbors and only a few scat-

 tered settlements anywhere in that whole region. We were

 young, strong and healthy men, that enjoyed the sports

 of the chase with a zest unknown in these modern days

 of the higher civilization.  What few white people we

 met were living as rudely as we were.  They lived in pole

 shanties; some with puncheon floors, others with simply

 hard beaten earth instead.  They usually had nailed to a

 post in their yards a barrel mill for grinding corn, which

 was their principal article of food.  They usually culti-

 vated a little patch of corn, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and

 a few garden vegetables,—depending largely on what fish

 and game they could get, and their stocks of cattle and

 hogs that roamed the forests at will.

    Picolata was the nearest post-office, and was the seaport

 landing for St. Augustine. All the supplies and passengers

 were hauled across the eighteen miles of wilderness to St.

 Augustine by coach and wagon.  When spring came we

 went to lumbering—floating our logs into Tocoi Creek;

 and here let me tell you that that creek was literally full

 of snakes and alligators.  The like has never been seen be-

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           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

fore or since.   I am not going to write any particulars,

lest I be accused of romancing.

   In our logging business we employed slave labor, hiring

them from their masters—a common practice in those

days.  The slaves we employed were strong, lusty men,

and were given what we called "task work."  A chopper

was given the task of cutting ten logs per day, and all over

that he was paid for—-for his own use.  A good axman

could cut twice his task in a day if so disposed.  Although

we were in the wilderness, far from any white man's aid,

we had little trouble with our numerous hands and very

seldom had occasion to use corrective measures.  If one of

them did "run amuck" it was up to us to make all the

corrections needed, as there was no law in such cases but

our own.  We were in this business but a short time when

one of the partners was killed and another nearly so in a

railroad wreck, causing us to break up and seek new. em-

ployment.

   We rented a hotel at a railroad crossing that was

patronized by the two roads that crossed each other at

that place, stripped off our woods garments and became

philanthropists to the traveling public, and there we stayed

until the notes of war admonished us that Yankees were

neither needed nor popular in the limits of the Southern

Confederacy, causing us to put to sea for New York on

the last regular steamer that left for that port before the

attack on Fort Sumter.

                                                (11)

                                  

                                    CHAPTER II      

                           SLAVERY AND SECESSION

 Our occupation as landlord of a hotel gave us excep-

tional facilities for observing the people of the South

 and their cherished institution of negro slavery. As far as

 our observation and experience went the institution of

 slavery was far from being the "horror of horrors" that

 the people of the Free States imagined it to be.  The slave

 came out of a state of complete savagery, with none of the

 finer sentiments that the educated and refined white man

  possessed.  In this country he was kept in that condition

 as far as possible, only learning to do the white man's

 bidding and rougher work.

   The family ties, the separation of mothers from their

 children, the separation of husbands and wives that were

 dwelt upon and held up by the Abolition agitators before

 the eyes of the Northern people were not the horrors that

 they represented. The negro was a chattel, a piece of prop-

erty to be bought and sold.  He had no sentimental ties;

it was in the interest of his owner to increase his stock as

far as possible, and the marriage ties that bound them, to-

gether were not of their own choosing, but were in obedi-

ence to the will of their owner.  They had no sentiment

or care about it.  Those that were born and raised here

knew of no other conditions and accepted them as perforce

they must.

   We never saw nor heard of the great cruelties that were

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           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

reported as being practiced here, and the very nature of the

institution made unusual severity impossible.  A NEGRO

WAS PROPERTY. He was worth all the way from one

hundred dollars at his birth to two thousand dollars in

his prime manhood.  In a word, he was a valuable asset,

and was treated accordingly.

   If the mother was incompetent or feeble the mistress

would take the youngling into her own care and nurse it

to health and strength.   It was the same with adults;

were they sick or disabled the master attended them with

his best care and skill.  True, if they became fractious or

misbehaved it was incumbent on the master to correct

them.  There was no law to take them in hand; it was

simply the master's duty; the same as to correct his horse

or dogs.  Of course, there was occasionally a "hard case,"

an unruly darkey that could not be controlled by ordinary

means, and we have in mind one such a case.

   The treatment of this case was not only unique-but

effective.   The darkey was taken .to a secluded room .in

an out-building, where he was stripped to entire naked-

ness ; his hands and feet were securely tied together, and

being thrown on his back on the floor, his knees were

forced upward and his arms were looped over them; a

smooth stick was thrust through under his knees and over

his arms; and there he was a perfectly helpless ball of

humanity.  A stick with a short strap about one and one-

half inches wide fastened to it, was used as a castigator.

The whipping was done coolly and carefully by one old

negro driver, who would roll the poor devil about with

his foot so as to be able to hit the most tender spots.  The

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            SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

 culprit was so completely hobbled that all he could do

 was to yell as each of the twenty licks descended on his

 naked body.  The culprit deserved all he got and his

 whipping was entirely justifiable.  Such cases were very

 rare, and it was very seldom that corporal punishment was

 necessary for the adults.  In fact, in thousands of cases

 there was a genuine affection existing between master and

 slave.

    In some of the more northern states regular traders in

 slaves were common.  These slave traders would purchase

 the incorrigible negroes, and occasionally purchase from a

 man who had got into financial straits, but none of this

 traffic ever came under our observation.

    In these modern days the people of St. Augustine have

 tried to disgrace their ancestors by claiming that what was

 used as a fish market was a slave market. The slaves owned

 in St. Augustine were not sold or bought in the open

 market.  Many of the slave owners hired out their slaves

 to responsible parties, but seldom bought or sold them,

 Of course there was much romance imbibed by the North-

 ern Free-State people, and the abuse of the Southern slaves

 was greatly exaggerated.  The sympathies of the people

 were greatly aroused by these tales, industriously spread

 abroad and by no doubt kindly intended agitators.      .

  . In fact, the institution of human slavery had become

 unpopular among all the civilized peoples of the world,

 and if the subject could have been treated in a proper spirit

 slavery could have been abolished in this country without

 the terrible war of secession.  The people of the North and

 the South had gradually drifted apart, until neither side

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           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

fully understood the other.  The average Southern man

deemed the average Northern man a sneak and a coward—

a fellow that wouldn't fight; in fact, that one Southern

man could whip ten Yankees with ease; while the North-

ern man as far under-rated the ability of the Southerner.

The great dragon of slavery was infinitely a greater curse

to the whites than to the blacks.

   Every industry was made subservient to slave labor,

which retarded the advance of the people.  It also, created

two distinct social classes—the wealthy and the very poor.

The poor, which was naturally the great majority, were

poor indeed.  They were too proud to labor, for slaves

labored.   They had not the means for educating their

children nor to help themselves up in the scale of culture

or comfort.  The wealthy had every luxury and comfort

without lifting a finger in progress.  A slave stood ready

to provide every whim and every want.  Their lives were

truly ideal, and it is no wonder that they desired to retain

an institution that afforded them nothing but ease and the

gratification of every wish.

   Florida voted herself out of the Union along with the

other states, but would not have done so if a fair election

could have been held. There was an undoubted majority

 of the people who desired to remain in the Union.  The

 secession craze carried everything before it.   The election

 machinery was all in the hands of the secessionists, who

 manipulated the election to suit their end.  As a sample,

 I will relate an incident of the election that came near get-

 ting the writer into serious trouble. There were five voters

 at work in a "shingle swamp" five miles down the railroad

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            SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

 track, that an enthusiastic secessionist desired to bring to

 the polls.  He took a hand car and brought them up.  As

 there were no printed tickets for "The Union" to be ob-

 tained, they came to me for written tickets, which I wrote

 out and gave them at their request.  Four of these men

 voted their Union tickets!  At the final count these tickets

 were found and my hand-writing was recognized. Suffice

 to say, there was trouble for me and pistols were drawn

 but not fired.

   There were strenuous days that followed the ordinance

 of secession.  A passenger train would drive up to the

 station, all hands would leave the coaches for the platform

 and listen to a fiery speech by some prominent passenger,

 and resuming their seats go on.

   Military companies were rapidly organized. One morn-

ing the conductor of a passenger train led up to me by a

rope around his neck a poor ragged, coatless and hatless

specimen of humanity, with orders to forward him on_

out of the country—as a dangerous abolitionist and Union

man.  The poor devil looked to be half-witted.  I took

off his rope, gave him a hat and a coat, a good breakfast

and sent him along as directed.  I never heard from him

afterwards, but presumed he never went back to the place

from whence he came.

   Everything was at fever heat, and one night when

Governor Perry, who was frequently my guest, explained

to me the orders he had given for the attack and capture

of Pensacola, I decided that my best plan was to get out

if I could with my family,  which I succeeded in doing

without trouble or delay.

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           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

   It may be interesting to the great army of prohibi-

tionists of the present day to state that in those days

every one drank more or less intoxicating liquors.  Not

the poor, depraved class, but the ministers of the gospel,

deacons, church members—in fact, it was the common

practice of all classes, and I will venture to say there was

no more drunkenness than there is in the State of Maine

or any other prohibition state.  To take a glass of intoxi-

cant was a social custom, and refusal was deemed an

affront.   And my long experience with the world and

men fails to reveal to me that the present high class of

total abstainers are any better men or any more decent.

braver or stronger than these old fellows that first broke

into the wilderness of Florida.

   The four years of the terrible war were spent by the

writer on a New Hampshire' farm, taking no part in the

awful struggle only to pay taxes and watch the list of

killed and wounded.

   To show the lack of knowledge of these Southern

States and their preparedness for war, it may be necessary

to state that the first call of the United States Government

for seventy-five thousand volunteer troops was deemed by

many intelligent men to be sufficient to march right down

through the Southern country, and when I told them that

these troops would not be able to advance a dozen rods

into the Southern States, I was simply laughed at, and it

took the first battle of Bull Run to convince them of their

error.

   We plodded along in New England as best we could

during that war, just killing time until it should cease,

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                      SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

until the winter of  1865,  when we again sailed for

Florida. We had traveled in the West but were not pleased

with that part of the country.  The balmy air, the natural

beauty of the forests and streams of Florida all appealed

most strongly to us and drew us back to this Land of

Flowers and supreme content.

                            (18)

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         CHAPTER III

              WAR-RUINED FLORIDA

 As before, we landed first in Savannah and boarded the

steamer City Point for Jacksonville, where we arrived

in due time and secured quarters at a house kept by Mrs.

Shad.  It was to that house a few days later that Mr.

Merrill came, with his wife and three or four little

children.   Mr. Merrill was a blacksmith, I think from

South Carolina, and was the founder of what is now

the immense establishment called "The Merrill-Stevens

Engineering Company of Jacksonville."

   We found Jacksonville in ruins.  Nearly everything

that had been of value before, the war had been destroyed

during the conflict.  The city was under the control of

the military authorities; hundreds of forlorn, ragged and

destitute negroes were camped in the open air near the-

city limits, without shelter or any comforts, but food fur-

nished them by the military forces.  These negroes had.

either deserted their old masters or been driven away by

them, and had sought the protection and support of the

troops.  A more destitute set of human beings could not

be imagined.  The clothing they wore was just sufficient

to cover their bodies.  A few dirty bundles of rags com-

prised the limit of their wealth, and there they sat in the

sand—an ignorant, homeless, poverty-stricken set of

wretched humanity.  What was to be their ultimate fate

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          SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

was a problem we were totally unable to imagine.

   The white people we met—the few old residents that

were left—appeared almost as forlorn and despondent as

the negroes.   No wonder,  for there was little left of

their homes, their business or their ambition.  The whole

scene was one of desolation and sorrow.

   We did not remain there long, but purchased a ship's

yawl that was rigged with sails and oars; put in a month's

supply of provisions, and started up the St. Johns River

on a tour of exploration.  Our first effort was to procure a

few sweet potatoes, and we hunted in vain for them for

two days, but finally found an old negro who had a little

patch and induced him to part with a few.  The old

 settlers along the banks of the river deserted their homes

 during the war and had not returned to them. The whole

 country was a scene of desolation—an uninhabited wilder-

 ness.  We found two or three families at Mandarin, who

 warned us to guard our boat well, and especially our sails,

 lest they they be stolen, to be made into clothing.

   When we reached Orange Mills we found the big saw-

 mill a heap of ashes, the large wharf gone, and only two

 families living there—that of Colonel F. S. Dancy and

 Mr. John B. Hazel.  Col. Dancy had just returned to his

 home after a sojourn in the interior of the state during the

 war.  Mrs. Hazel had bravely remained at her home with

 her little brood of children while her husband was fighting

 in the cause of the Southern Confederacy.

    We found another family living a few miles back from

 the river, near what is now called Hastings, by the name

 of Carter, that is worthy of notice.  George Carter had a

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           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

young family of fifteen or sixteen children, none of them

old enough to properly provide for the others, and Mr.

Carter deemed it a greater duty to remain at home and care

for his numerous family than to enter the ranks of any

war party, and did so, but at great hazard, as he was

hunted by conscription parties, and had to hide in the

woods at night without fire, despite the inclemency of

the weather.  He managed to elude the conscription offi-

cers and provided for his wife and children, who have

grown up to respected citizens.  Mr. Carter always spoke

of his experiences with great bitterness, as well he might.

   We explored both sides of the river as far as Welaka.

Welaka was the end of the world for us.  There were a

few tumble down cottages, a wharf and a warehouse. The

population consisted of a half-breed Indian with his

squaw and two or three children, all camping in the ware-

house.  We spent one night in their company, and then

started on our return trip to Jacksonville. In all our travels

and exploration we had found not much but desolation

or an unbroken forest.  If there was anything beyond or

south of Welaka it was so remote and desolate that we

had no desire to isolate ourselves and family in their

solitudes.

   During our trip we had run across Mr. Simpkins, who

owned a beautiful residence at Orange Mills, and desired

that we move into it to protect it from further depreda-

tions, which we eventually did.   On our way down we

got caught in a tremendous squall a few miles before reach-

ing Mandarin that proved to be the forerunner of a heavy

downpour of rain that continued all night. The rain fell

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           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

in torrents, and the night came on as black as ink, so we

decided to land at Mandarin and seek shelter in some one's

house or shed, and applied at one or two places for such

accommodations, but were flatly refused.  We suppose

they were afraid of us; it was the first and only time that

the writer was ever received in an inhospitable manner by

any Southern born people.  We took our sails ashore,

rigged them as a tent, built an enormous fire, and spent the

balance of the night in peace and .tolerable comfort, per-

haps better than a shed would have afforded.

   The next day we reached Jacksonville none the worse

for our trip, and soon after moved our family into Mr.

Simpkins' house at Orange Mills.  That winter we spent

our time in doing odd jobs here and there and making fre-

quent trips to Jacksonville for supplies.

   On one of these trips a white flag was displayed on the

bank of the river at Federal Point, then called Dupont's

Landing, that contained just one house occupied by Mr.

Cornelius Dupont and family.  We answered the flag

and were requested to bring from Jacksonville num-

erous articles of food, which we did, and thus began our

negotiations for the purchase of .their property.  Mr. Du-

pont was a man in feeble health, who, before the abolition

of slavery, owned several slaves, whose hire afforded him

ample support.  When we found him his slaves were

gone; he had but little land under cultivation.  He had

lost all his large deposits by the failure of his bankers in

Charleston, S. C.  With several small children to support,

with wholly insufficient health and strength to clear land

or perform the arduous labors of the field, he was glad to

                           [22]       

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 find a purchaser for his—to him—useless acres.

   During the war nearly all the residents near the banks

 of the St. Johns River left their homes and fled to the in-

 terior for safety, and it was our fortune to arrive in this

 part of the country before their return.  It was while

 residing at Orange Mills that one of the most pathetic

 scenes that came to our notice was enacted.   One cold,

 dark, rainy night a steamer blew for the landing, and as

 we were living not far away we lit our lantern and went

 to take her lines as she tied up.  She landed Dr. R. G.

 Mays and wife, an aged couple, who were coming home

 for the first time after the close of the war.  Their house

 stood about one-half mile from the landing, and to reach

 it they had to cross a foot bridge through a small swamp.

 Their house had been shelled by a Union gun-boat during

 the war and robbed of nearly all its furniture.  They were

 formerly wealthy people, owning many slaves and a large

 cotton plantation, besides an interest in the big saw-mill

 that lay in ashes.  The night was very dark, cold and

 stormy, as I have written.  We gave them our lantern and

 saw them start off through the gloom unattended, with

 feelings too deep to be written in cold type.

   It seemed to us then, and does now, that much of the

 destruction of property during that war was entirely use-

 less, uncalled for, doing neither combatants any good.  To

 wantonly destroy private dwelling houses, wharves and

 other property failed to embarrass the enemy or add to

. their own resources.  It was simply done to gratify a feel-

 ing of wanton destructiveness without any compensating

 results.  One old general has designated "war as hell," and

                           [23]

             SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

  came very near (he mark in every possible respect.

    As Orange Mills and all the east side of the St. Johns

  River country in its vicinity was a part of St. Johns

  County, we had more or less business in St. Augustine.

  making numerous trips on foot. as there was no public

  conveyance to that city in those days.  The country be-

  tween the St. Johns River and St. Augustine had suffered

  no material injury during the war. The principal sufferers

  were the cattle owners, whose stock had been gathered up

  and transported north for the use of the Union troops.

  There were only a few settlers in that part of the country;

  a small settlement at Moccasin Branch and another at

  Cowpen Branch were the only settlements we found. St.

  Augustine had not been injured at all but retained its old-

  time appearance and methods of living and doing.

    It must be remembered that the days of which I write

  were before the discovery of germs, mosquitoes, pestiferous

 flies, hookworms, appendicitis and numerous other things

 that serve to make humanity wretched and promote the

 cause of science.  Had all these things been known at that

 time St. Augustine would have been uninhabitable, for a

 more unsanitary city could not well be found. The streets

 were narrow, with narrower back streets, into which was

 placed the garbage of the households.  These streets, with

 their earth closets, surface wells and other unsanitary sur-

 roundings, would at the present day be condemned as un-

 fit^for human habitation; but despite all this the city had

   gained the enviable reputation of being the most salubri-

 ous and healthy city in America.  It seems almost too bad

 that the old city should be modernized as it is.  Those

                           [24]

           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

old settlers were happy in their surroundings.  If they had

an attack of stomach ache they took a dose of calomel and

were relieved without the aid of the surgeon's knife. They

enjoyed their religion unmolested by Mental Science,

Christian Science, Spiritualism or any of the distracting

isms of the present day. Prohibition-W. C. T. U.'s were

unknown.  They drank their social glass in peace.  May

their souls rest in peace!

   The whole country was under military rule in these

days, but it was a mild rule.   There was little for the

soldiers to do except go through their daily drills and

draw their pay, as the country was very peaceful.  There

were no disturbances—no overt acts, as what few people

that were left were bravely at work recuperating their lost

 fortunes, rebuilding their homes and quietly resuming

 their old-time avocations.   It was the more noticeable to

 witness the deportment of the old Confederate soldiers that

 had survived the clash of many battles coming home and

 quietly resuming the duties .of civil life.  There was no

 animosity of feeling apparent in them.  They had put up

 the biggest fight that history records, had lost and now

 determined to make the best of their opportunities.

   The state of the country was indeed a serious problem.

 Every enterprise and industry had been destroyed or ex-

 hausted.  The whole people were impoverished.  Their

 former slaves had become paupers; their fields had grown

 up to forests, and they had to begin life all over again.

 None but those who were here to witness it can fully

 realize the conditions that confronted the people of not

 only Florida but all these Southern States.  The task set

                           [25]

           SLAVERY. SECESSION AND SUCCESS

before these people was a Herculean one—one of great

perplexity and annoyance.

   It was against the policy of our central government to

hold these seceded states as conquered provinces under

military rule; they must be brought back into the Union

of States with constitutions and laws corresponding with

the changes the war had produced.  The negro had been

declared a free man, and to protect him in his rights of

citizenship he was given the right of suffrage; the only

effective weapon it was safe to put into his hands for self-

defense.  Nearly all the white men were disqualified from

active participation in the remodeling of their state con-

stitutions by their sympathy and active aid in the war

that was ended, which left the great task to a much abused

set of men from the old Free States to come in and assist in

the work.   These men were stigmatized as  "Carpet-

Baggers," and no doubt many of them were corrupt and

put unnecessary burdens on the people; yet they aided the

states out of military domination and set them on the road

to self-government and prosperity.  The greatest wrong

—if wrong there was—lay at the hands of the central

government.                ,

   It is not my province or intention to say what might

have been, but simply to tell what I saw and knew.

Knowing the Southern people as I did, I imagine I would

not have reconstructed these states just as it was done, but

I might have done worse.  In the beginning, I would not

have resorted to arms, and had as little influence at the

beginning as I had at the ending.

   It was in the month of March, 1866, that we moved

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    SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

to Federal Point.  As the question has been asked a great

many times—how the place came by its name, we will

state that in searching the records we found that the U. S.

surveyors, who made the first survey of the state after it

was acquired from Spain designated the place by that name

on their field notes.  We thereupon went back to the first

name it ever had and from no other reason. We found it

with only one dwelling house and a few negro shanties.

A few acres had been cleared but had grown up to weeds

and bushes.  The nearest post-office was at Jacksonville,

sixty miles away.  The surrounding country was almost

one unbroken forest.  Game of all kinds was abundant,

while the river and creeks were alive with fish and

alligators.

   Our first venture was to procure mule teams and cut the

pine timber on our land, and when that was completed

we started in to clear land and set out orange trees. We

were not left alone but a few months, as people began to

come in, all infected with the orange fever that had become

chronic all over the state.  The climatic conditions were

the greatest attraction, and the few orange groves that

were already in bearing were a guarantee of the quality of

 the fruit, and we soon had a thrifty little settlement of

industrious people.  Then followed schools and churches,

 with other conveniences and comforts.

   In the earlier days of which I have written there were

 but two railroads in the state—one from Jacksonville to

 Tallahassee, the other from Fernandina to Cedar Keys.

 Since then our railroads are numerous, opening up sections

 of the state for habitation that would otherwise be useless

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          SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

                                                  ')

territory.   As the state becomes better known it is more

sought for by home-seekers.  Its past history has been one

of disaster and trouble.  Even in the writer's school days

the state was represented in his school geography'as "a

low, ^swampy territory, infested with disgusting reptiles

and noxious insects."  The facts were that these old geog-

raphers did not know the state.  It was a "terra incognito"

to them, and it is only since the great war that it has be-

come known as possessing the most salubrious climate in

the world, with untold resources of wealth and all that

goes. for human comfort and happiness.

                             (28)

                             

 

                                 CHAPTER IV

              PUTNAM COUNTY AND PALATKA

        It would be unfair to the section in which I live to close

 these rude memoirs without a more extended notice of

Federal Point and "old Putnam County."  Although we

had passed through the county before the war, we had

 formed no acquaintances therein until the winter of 1865,

when sojourning at Orange Mills. After moving to Fed-

eral Point, which was then a part of St. Johns County,

our business called us quite often to St. Augustine, the

county seat.  There was no means of public conveyance

and no roads, except tracks through the woods, through

ponds of water, and over sand ridges, that must be trav-

ersed either on foot or horse-back, which induced the peo-

ple living along a narrow strip of land bordering the east

side of the St. Johns River to be set off from St. Johns

County and annexed to Putnam County, whose county

seat was in Palatka—a place of much easier access.  In due

time, after this change was made, we transferred all the

records pertaining to Federal Point from St. Johns County

to those of Putnam County, where they can now be

found.

   During the winter of 1865 and 1866 the old residents

of Palatka began to return to their deserted homes. Messrs.

Teasdale and Reed put in a stock of merchandise in their

brick store, near the river, and business began.  There was

no post-office nearer than Jacksonville, but our letters were

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  SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

forwarded for a time to the care of those gentlemen.  In

those days, before a man could hold any government office,

he had to subscribe to an "iron-clad" oath (so-called),

swearing that he had neither sympathy with nor did any-

thing for the cause of secession or the cause of the Southern

Confederacy; and it was found a very difficult matter to

find any resident of Palatka who could or would subscribe

to such an oath.  But finally, after a long hunt, a young

fellow by the name of Dalton had the inspiration that he

could take the oath and was duly appointed postmaster of

Palatka.   He kept the mail in a soap box .for several

months until finally an old fellow from the North came

in, took the post-office and raised it to the dignity of a few

pigeon holes that we had fixed up in a dry goods box, to

the great delight of the patrons.

   Palatka didn't amount to much as a city. Located right

on the banks of the St. Johns River, it was an easy mark

for the Union gunboats, and the inhabitants had largely

deserted the place.  When we first found it in 1865 the

one street was grown up to dog fennel as high as a man's

head; many of the yard fences had fallen into the street,

presenting such a forlorn and desolate appearance as is des-

cribed concerning Sodom and Gomorrah.  It is not a city

that makes the people; it is the people that make the city,

and it did not take long to put Palatka into a habitable

condition.

   The most noticeable thing about those old fellows,

nearly every one of whom had bravely served through the

war, was their cheerfulness and enjoyment of sport.  It

did not take them long to put their places in order and

                         [30]                         

              SLAVERY. SECESSION AND SUCCESS

begin the real duties of citizenship.  County officers were

soon appointed and the start was made for their future

success.  As for the balance of Putnam County, practically

there was none—a few isolated stock-raisers here and there

—located in remote sections of the county, would describe

the conditions as we first found them.

   The county records were all kept in one small safe not

more than three feet square from the outside.  The court

house had been shelled during the war, its brick founda-

tion was crumbling away; the paint on it had long dis-

appeared, if it ever had any.  So in appearance the "Gem

City" seemed anything but a brilliant gem.  The little

towns and villages that have since sprung up still lay in

the unborn silence.

   There were three orange groves in the county—two at

Orange Mills and one at Hart's Point opposite Palatka.

 The groves at Orange Mills were owned by Dr. R. L.

Mays and F. L. Dancy. The grove of Dr. Mays was set

 out by Zepheniah Kingsley soon after the transfer of

 Florida to the United States.  These groves were in full

 bearing, and the excellence of their fruit was the incentive

 for the numerous groves that were subsequently planted.

 The grove of P. L. Dancy was set out by himself, more for

 family use than with an idea of profit; but as it turned

 out it afforded him and family a comfortable support

 during his declining years. Col. Dancy and Dr. Mays were

 prominent figures in the early history of the state and

 deserve more than a passing mention.  Col. Dancy was a

 graduate of West Point Military Academy, graduating in

 the same class with Jefferson Davis, the President of the

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        SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

Southern Confederacy.  Both Col. Dancy and Dr. Mays

were too old for active military service during the war, but

were prominent men in its conduct and councils.  Like

thousands of others, the war. left these men with little but

their beautiful orange groves, and as the fruit sold for large

prices, afforded them comfortable incomes.

   When we at Federal Point had completed our logging

operations we constructed a wharf and commenced to clear.

land for ail orange grove. We had not worked at that long

before others came in, wanting land for the same purpose,

until we found it necessary to survey the land into lots,

lay out streets and otherwise prepare for a numerous

population.  We were most fortunate in getting in our.

community few, but the best and most desirable people

that have remained with us—they and their descendants.

The large majority of the people who came in were people

of moderate means, who have built up nice homes out of

the products of the soil.  Other towns all over the country

have sprung up; so that old Putnam County today ranks

as one of the banner counties of the state.

   Oranges were much the largest product, and when the

trees were frozen in the 'spring of  1895  more value of

property was destroyed in Florida than was in San Fran-

cisco during the late earthquake-and fire; yet no one asked

for outside aid, and none was rendered that I ever heard

of.   Putnam County, like the rest of the state,  "came

down on her feet." 1 She kept right along, despite the ter-

rible blow, and is more prosperous today than ever before.

                                (32)

 

 

CHAPTER V

                       PIONEER SOCIETY  

When one goes back to the earlier days and sees the

country and the people as I saw them, he can but be

filled with astonishment.   To turn loose in a country that

had been completely devastated by war five million souls

who had neither wealth, education or any experience of

self-support, and yet who continued to live and make the

country prosper as no other country has, fills one with awe

and astonishment.  Although an eye witness, right here

on the ground, I am unable to tell you how it was done.

One thing is sure—no other country and no other people

could have accomplished the great feat.

   We had not been a resident of this section for many

months before it was voiced around the country that we

played the fiddle, and our services with that much abused

instrument were demanded to assist in various '"kitchen

junkets" held by the young people.  When a junket was

to be held notice would be sent out to the surrounding

people, who would gather from a distance of twenty miles

or more.  As there were no roads or bridges the effort to

get together for a "good time" was a strenuous one, to say

the least—and in one instance involved the writer in an

unenviable predicament.

   We had engaged to play for a party to be held a few

miles distant, and harnessing two mules to a long lumber

wagon, took our fiddle and a lady passenger aboard and

                           [33]

           SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

started.   All went well until we came to a creek that we

had to ford, which we found badly swollen.  In fact, it

was full of water from bank to bank, and we knew our

wagon would be submerged.  As fortune would have it,

we were accompanied by a young man who rode a tall

horse, who kindly offered to take the lady and fiddle on

the horse and put them across, which he did.

   I left the wagon and got astride the near mule and

started in.  The ford was rather narrow and had a sharp

turn in it, and was grown up on either side by immense

swamp trees, and required pretty accurate driving to get

across with a wagon rig that trailed as far behind as mine.

We got along all right until near midstream, when the

off mule became frightened and crowded the mule I was

on into a deep hole—into almost swimming water, and it

took all the English language and the most strenuous kicks

that the -writer was master of to get that team and that

wagon across. We were wet to the waist, and feared every

instant that the wagon would hitch against one of the

trees, in which event we would be compelled to dismount

and unhitch in water clear up to our neck.  Suffice to say,

we reached the opposite bank in safety, proceeded to the

party and played the fiddle all night.

The party was a large one—they had come in from the

woods—the Lord only knew where, sure we didn't, and

a jollier set of people never got together in this country or

any other.  The most expensive dresses were made of

calico—put together without the slightest regard to fash-

ion, but according to the fancy of the wearer.  And here

let me say a nicer or better mannered lot of people never

             ;           '[34]

SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

assembled together.  .How they had acquired their good

manners was a mystery to me, as most of them lived in

the wilderness, far removed from neighbors or communi-

ties.   No one could think of traveling home in the night

as there were no roads and part of the way not even a

path; therefore the festivities continued until daylight.

The pioneer newspaper man in Palatka was George W

Pratt, who started a little sheet soon after the declaration

of peace.  His paper was small but as full of meat as a nut whose

 items were copied into other papers all over the country.  It was

 Mr. Pratt who first persuaded the writer to send him articles fo

r publication.  We remember one article in particular that caused a

 great sensation all over the country.  It announced the sinking of

 Mosquito (now Orange) County of which news was alleged to

 have been brought by two travelers, who barely escaped with

 their lives;  running  their horses  in advance of  the sinking

 crumbling ground and trees behind them.  It probably took two or

 three bottles of coca-cola to get up the inspiration of the writer,

 but it made a big sensation all over the country—North and

South.

It is a pleasure to revive the memory of those days

and those scenes.  The free life of the wilderness has

charms unknown to the votaries of fashion or the dwellers in cities

 and thickly populated communities.  There comes a feeling of

 self-reliance, of greater strength—a higher will to do and

 overcome; a freedom of thought and action that no other situation

 can give.  We wandered in this wilderness when few others were

 here and linked our fortunes to theirs—watching with the keenest

 interest the country

(35)

      SLAVERY, SECESSION AND SUCCESS

grow out of its savagery.  It is hardly out of its "swad-

dling clothes" even today, but the foundation has been

laid; the work has fairly begun that shall place the good

old State of Florida in the front rank of all the states. She

has seen many and great vicissitudes-—wars, pestilences—

a libelled name that has taken generations to overcome;

but she is in a fair way to overcome them all and take the

proud place her climate and resources demand.

   I have told you a part of what I have seen and done in

the old days.  It would be useless for me to tell you what

you will find here now. You can come and see for your-

self.   You will find Jacksonville the smartest, most wide-

awake city south of Washington.  Its business and popu-

lation is increasing by jumps and bounds.

   When you reach Palatka you will find beautiful paved

streets, concrete side-walks, neat buildings, all as clean and

bright as thrift and energy can make it.  It is true to its

name—"The Gem City."

   Federal Point, that we carved out of the wilderness, is

noted for the excellence of its people; its sober, law-

abiding citizens, with their churches, schools, social and

literary clubs, library, and .the excellence of its soil and

abundance of its productions.  In fact, the whole country,

and especially old Putnam County, is on the steady march

of improvement.  We who have passed our four-score of

years and have watched all this progress with anxious and

pleased eyes, greatly rejoice that our days have, so many

of them, been spent in this country and among these

people."                                              

                          [36]