Beyond Tourism: America's Yesteryear

A blog of American History

July 4, 1868: Florida becomes a full-fledged member of the United States again July 4, 2012

July 4th most think of the founding of our country when the thirteen colonies fought Britain and became an independent country. Florida at that time were two colonies under British control that chose to remain loyal despite the invitation to join the Patriots’ fight for independence. You can read more about that in this blog post.

The Republican Party, whose nominee was Ulysses S. Grant, held a Presidential campaign in Tallahassee. “The [Tallahassee] Floridian reported that the Republican Party held a Presidential campaign rally to celebrate this auspicious occasion and that the crowds from all over the state, particularly newly enfranchised freedmen, made up ‘Probably the largest crowd here, ever before at any time.'” source.

Won the Presidential election of 1868 with the help of Florida

Grant due to his popularity in the North for ending the Civil War with the surrender of General Robert E.  Lee at Appomattox and his popularity in South among the newly enfranchised slaves won the election against Democratic nominee Horatio Seymour. He won Florida which gave him three electoral votes and won him the Presidency. Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas were not reinstated into the Union and were therefore unable to participate in the Presidential election.


The first white settler of Lake Worth July 16, 2010

A. Oswald Lang, first white settler of Lake Worth

Augustus Oswald Lang was the first white settler of Lake Worth. You first read about him on my blog in this post about Protecting Florida’s Coasts during Times of War. He was working as an assistant lighthouse keeper at Jupiter Inlet when the war broke out and he sided with the south and forced the head lighthouse keeper, Jose Francisco Papy aka Joe Papy to leave the lighthouse via his personal craft and return to Key West. He and his cronies then disassemble the lighthouse just enough to keep it out of commission and bury the parts.

Why were the parts not buried and the lighthouse only disassembled rather than

An Original First Order Fresnel Light

destroyed like other east coast Florida lighthouses? It is because it is a Fresnel light the best of it’s kind at the time. It’s light on a clear night could be seen all the way out to the Bahamas which was 20 miles out to sea. It costs $5,000 in 1830. If the same lens were bought today it would cost approximately $99,377.03. The missing parts were later found and sent to Key West for safe keeping until 1866 when it was sent back to Jupiter Inlet and put back into the lighthouse. The Jupiter Inlet lighthouse was out of commission from 1861- 1866 for five years.

He joined the Confederate Army in 1862. A little over a year later in 1863 he deserted. Wanted by the Confederacy for desertion and wanted by the United States for destruction of the lighthouses he went to the most isolated place he could think of to avoid both governments, Lake Worth. Lake Worth was named after Colonel William Jenkins Worth who is considered responsible for ending the Second Seminole War. It was so isolated due to the difficulties of reaching it by boat due to the serpentine river system that could only be steered by pole barge. During the summer,  mosquitoes made their home here due to plenty of standing water and the Florida heat, perfect conditions for the spreading of malaria and other mosquito carrying diseases.

While living along the shores of Lake Worth in a palmetto hut Lang returned to his old occupation of gardening. It is said that he used to be the former gardener to the King of Prussia and that he immigrated from Germany. It is here that he renewed his interests in gardening and came up with many exotic trees and plants that future settlers of the area would eventually use. He stayed there until 1866 when according to The First Arrivals on pbchistoryonline “Michael and George Sears of Biscayne Bay were sailing along the coast in 1866 when they discovered a new opening from Lake Worth. Sailing into the lake, they met Lang, who had dug the inlet. Reportedly, Lang was surprised to hear the war had ended, and soon left the area for St. Lucie to the north.” Once he left it was said that he returned to Lake Worth from time to time to check on his horticulture experiments.

Lang eventually married and had one child. His wife was just 14 and he was 35.  But it does not end happily for Lang. According to Mary Collar Linehan who wrote about Lang for the Lake Worth Pioneer’s Association Lang was murdered in 1874 two months before his only child was born and his wife not even 18.  Here is an account by witness named Hendry.

In a quarrel amongst Lang, Drawdy, and a man named Padgett, Drawdy and Padgett killed the old man Lang, and cut up the body and placed it in some alligator holes, the ‘gators destroying the corpse.

The two murderers were found and brought to trial in Ocala and served 8 years each.

To learn more about Lang click on the various link in this post. To learn more about the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and the history Jupiter Inlet read “A Light in the Wilderness: The Story of Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & The Southeast Florida Frontier” by James D. Snyder.


Today in Florida’s History April 27th April 27, 2010

1863 Major General Dabney H. Maury was placed in command of the Confederate District of the Gulf today by the Confederate War Department.

1864 The U.S.S. Honeysuckle captured the British schooner Miriam in the Gulf of Mexico today.

1865 The U.S.S. Pontiac was dispatched to the eastern coast of Florida today to prevent Confederate President Jefferson Davis from escaping to Cuba.

Orange Blossom - State Flower of Florida

1909 The Florida House of representatives approved the orange blossom as the official flower of Florida today.

1929 Barbara Bancroft, the first licensed woman airplane pilot on the East Coast of Florida, today visited her hometown of Melbourne.

1929 The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was chartered today in Jacksonville. The organization had first been organized in 1883.


Protecting Florida’s Coasts during times of War March 2, 2010

Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was dismantled instead of destroyed because it was be too expensive to fix if destroyed

Florida is a peninsula that lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. According to State of it has 1,800 miles of coastline and of that 1,200 miles are sand beaches.  That’s a lot of shoreline to protect. How does Florida protect all it’s shoreline. While perusing Florida Memory I came across two original documents that the organization posted for public reading. The first one is from the Civil War and the second document is from World War II. Both documents speak about how attempts of Florida’s coastline was protected during these wars from the enemy.

Florida was the third state to secede from the Union on January 10, 1861.  While it was controlled by Yankees it’s civilian population was full of secessionists and southern sympathizers.

Report on the Dismantling of Florida Lighthouses Upon the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1861 is a four page letter signed by James Paine, A. Oswald Lang, and Francis A. Ivey who were southern sympathizers. It was written to the governor of Florida Madison Starke Perry. They tell him how they walked “a journey of about 140 miles. 90 of it on foot, being exposed to a burning Sun and drenching rains, and with a very scant allowance of food– ”

They did this because they felt it was their duty to the south to try and stop the north as much as they could and to do that they dismantled the Jupiter Inlet lighthouse and destroyed the Cape Florida lighthouse.  According to the letter A. Oswald Lang was the Assistant lighthouse keeper of the Jupiter Inlet light house and resigned when he found that the Keeper was a Yankee posing as a secessionist.

There are much more interesting bits to this short four page letter. While the handwriting is very clear there is no need to worry about being able to read the original document as a typed text is included along with it.

Blackout orders for Palm Beach, Florida

This is a short one page document issued by the governor of Florida, Spessard L. Holland, who was governor in 1942 and the commanding officer of Key West. They are blackout orders for Palm Beach so that the lights from the town, beach, and amusement parks do cause Allied merchant ships to become targets of German U-boats. It goes into detail that all lights within two miles of the beach were either to be turned off or screened so as not to be seen from off shore.

An interesting note about both of these documents is that it doesn’t mention the west coast of Florida at all. In fact in the Blackout orders for Palm Beach, Florida it says,

It is requested that you immediately take steps to have extin- guished all street lights on water front streets and highways at once, and those actually on the ocean front, not those on the west side.

I’m not sure if this is talking about the west coast or just the west side of Palm Beach. No matter with the east coast facing the Atlantic it is much more vulnerable to attack and hurricanes than the west coast which faces the Gulf of Mexico and is much more sheltered.

Perhaps this is why there is a difference in cultures between the east coast and the west coast. Do you readers who have visited Florida or live in Florida think that the culture differences between the east coast and west coast is partly due to the west coast being more sheltered against storms and naval attack than the east coast?


Today in Florida History September 16 September 16, 2009

Finally getting back into posting now with things beginning to calm down. I thought I would start things off with a Today in Florida History. It is taken from The Florida Historical Society. There is also a link to the site in my Links to the Past list.

1565: From the account of Pedro Menendez’s expedition to Florida in 1565 by Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, the chaplain to the expedition.  This account is taken from Charles E. Bennett, Laudonniere and Fort Caroline:  History and Documents (Gainesville:  University of Florida Press, 1964).  [We will continue with portions of this account in the coming days and will simply cite it as Laudonniere and Fort Caroline.  In today’s account, Father Mendoza recounts the beginning of Menendez’s expedition against the French at Fort Caroline.–moderator]

“Sunday, September 16, he [Menendez] departed with 500 men with many arquebuses and pikes, each one of the soldiers carrying a twelve pound sack of bread on his shoulders and a bottle of wine for the road.  They took two Indian chiefs who were great enemies of the French, so that they might show the way.  According to the practice of those Indians and by the signs they made, we understood that it was five leagues to the fort of the enemies, but one the road it appeared to be more than fifteen and a very bad road in the very hot sun.  But all have traveled it, according to the letter we received from the General [Menendez] today, the 19th of said month.”

1853: House Speaker A. K. Allison proclaimed himself Acting Governor of Florida when the governor, Thomas Brown, and the Senate President, R. J. Floyd, were both out of the state.  Allison served until October 3 when James E. Broome was regularly inaugurated as governor.

1863: The U.S.S. San Jacinto, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Ralph Chandler, seized the Confederate blockade-runner, Lizzie Davis, off the west coast of Florida.  She had been bound from Havana to Mobile with a cargo that included quantities of lead.

1864: An expedition from the U.S.S. Ariel, with Acting Master Russell in command, captured over 4,000 pounds of cotton in the vicinity of Tampa Bay.

Zora Neale Hurston is the author of Their Eyes were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) is the author of "Their Eyes were Watching God"

1928: The Belle Glade and Palm Beaches area was devastated by a hurricane. This was the culmination of the Great Lake Okeechobee Hurricane struck Florida as a Category 4 storm, with winds pushing lake waters to a storm surge of more than 15 feet.  The area surrounding the lake’s south end, occupied primarily by migrant agricultural workers, flooded.  The Red Cross’s death toll count reached 1,836, but additional bodies and skeletons were discovered after the end of the Red Cross count.  In response to this disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built dikes around the lake to prevent a recurrence.  Florida author Zora Neale Hurston recorded the impact on this hurricane on migrants in her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  (See September 6, Today in Florida History)

1968: The first classes convened at Warner Southern College in Lake Wales.  The college was founded by the Southeastern Association of the Church of God.


The Dry Tortugas and the Lincoln Assassination July 30, 2009

Mudd, OLaughlen, Arnold, and Spangler were imprisoned here after being found guilty of taking part in the Lincoln assassination.

Mudd, O'Laughlen, Arnold, and Spangler were imprisoned here after being found guilty of taking part in the Lincoln assassination.

Ft. Jefferson located on the Dry Tortugas islands 70 miles west of Key West Florida. Construction began in 1846 but was ultimately abandoned 28 years later in 1874. The fort was never completed due to difficulties with numerous construction problems,  bouts of yellow fever and the invention  of the rifled cannon. The Dry Tortugas was discovered by conquistador Ponce de Leon 1513 and was given the name Las Tortugas for the abundance of turtles found on the islands. Due to the absence of fresh drinking water it got the name of Dry Tortugas. In 1935 Franklin D. Roosevelt set aside the Dry Tortugas Islands as a National monument and it was made into a national park in 1992

Just because the fort construction was never completed does not mean that it was not used. During the Civil War it was used as a prison for Yankee deserters. Union forces were able to use this fort because they were able to control Florida’s large coastline rather quickly with their superior naval fleet. While Florida did secede from the Union it had a large population of Union sympathizers. Check out my earlier blog post Today in Florida to learn a little more about Florida’s role in the Civil War.

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenters shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson.

Dr. Mudd as he appeared when working in the carpenter's shop in the prison at Fort Jefferson.

Ft. Jefferson’s most famous prisoner wasn’t even a soldier. He was Dr. Samuel Mudd. Dr. Samuel Mudd was accused and found guilty of  conspiracy to murder President Lincoln. He met with John Wilkes Booth in his home and Washington before the assassination of Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre. He was considered part of the conspiracy after setting Booth’s broken leg and giving him crutches to aid him in his movement. He did not report Booth until the next day after Booth left his home in southern Maryland. Mudd at first was considered just a witness until he lied about meeting Booth before the assassination. He was sentenced to life in prison at Ft. Jefferson. On September 25, 1865 he attempted escape when he learned that control of the fort was being transferred to a colored. He was quickly captured and put to hard labor building the fort in leg irons. In 1867 an outbreak of yellow fever occured and Mudd used his skills as a doctor to help end the epidemic. It was this work during the yellow fever outbreak that earned him his pardon by President Andrew Johnson in 1869. He was in prison for four years. After his release he returned home and restarted his practice.

Ft. Jefferson was made into an official National Park in 1992. People can visit the park and even camp on the grounds. For more information please visit the Dry Tortugas National Park (U.S. National Park Service).


Today in Florida- June 24, 1863 June 24, 2009

Background about Florida during the Civil War:

Florida was the third state to secede from the Union on January 10, 1861. They were only preceded by South Carolina which seceded from the Union December 20, 1860 and started the American Civil War and Mississippi which seceded the day before Florida did on January 9, 1861.

At the time right before the Civil War Florida was divided into three separate sections which was based on geographical features. East Florida along the East Coast. West Florida which was along the Gulf Coast and the Panhandle. Then Middle Florida which was the plantation belt and what people commonly think of when they think plantations and the Civil War.

Fourth Governor of the state of Florida October 5, 1857 - October 7, 1861

Fourth Governor of the state of Florida October 5, 1857 - October 7, 1861

East Florida has always been strongly influenced and the Spanish had different policies with their slaves than did Americans. So they were more lax. West Florida which was more cut off and isolated from the rest of Florida due to geography and so slaves were more trusted and even given guns in order to hunt for food. Both of these regions were largely anti-secessionists and pro-union.* It was Middle Florida with it’s traditional view on slavery and being a part of the plantation system along with the rest of the of the South that was secessionist.

Governor Madison Starke Perry who was a plantation owner in Alachua county set up a Secessionist Convention and with most of the political being held in the hands of the plantation owners Florida seceded from the Union. The anti-secessionists who wanted to put it to a popular vote of the people were left out of the convention and did not have the political power to have their voice heard.

1863: U.S.S. Tahoma today captured a confederate flatboat in a bayou near the Manatee River. The flatboat was carrying cargo of sugar and molasses.**

Commissioned December 20, 1861 Decommissioned August 27, 1867

Commissioned December 20, 1861 Decommissioned August 27, 1867

During the first six months of 1863 it blockaded the west coast of Florida. During this time it captured seven blockade runners one of which was the Confederate flatboat carrying sugar and molasses near the Manatee River. It also captured the Silas Henry, the British schooner Margaret, the schooner Crazy Jane, the schooner Statesman, and the British blockade runner the Harrington. It also destroyed the Mary Jane.*** With the capture of of these schooners and sloops the Tahoma acquired along with the flatboat’s sugar and molasses it also acquired cotton and turpentine.

During its time cruising the west coast it also destroyed some important salt works. Salt was a major export of Florida for the CSA. Salt was used in preserving food and kept it from spoiling in a time before refrigeration when was only accessible in winter and only by the rich in summer.

*Gannon, Michael. The New History of Florida. University Press of Florida. 1996. Brown, Jr., Canter. “The Civil War, 1861-1865

**Florida Historical Society

***Washington Civil War Association