Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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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.

 

Friday Finds April 23, 2010

Map & Imagery Library at the University of Florida– Visit the University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Library. Here you can view images of historic maps of Florida. If you like cartography be sure to check out this link.

Florida History Links– This link leads you to the Florida Department of State, State Library and Archives of Florida. It has links about archaeology, African-American history, Cemetery Records, Civil War, Documents, Historic Buildings and Sites, Historical Information, Historical Organizations, Libraries and Archives, Maps, Museums, Native American History, Newspapers, People, Photographs & Visual Images.

Do you know these people? – Florida Memory State Library & Archives of Florida needs your help. If you like mysteries check out this link and see if you can identify any of the unidentified people in these photographs.

If you can identify any of the individuals, structures or events that remain unidentified, contact us at Archives@dos.state.fl.us. Please include any documentation that might substantiate your information.

Historic Flags of Florida– “Many flags have flown over Florida since European explorers first landed here in the early sixteenth century. Among these have been the flags of five nations: Spain, France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Confederate States of America. Numerous other unofficial flags also have been flown on the peninsula at one time or another. Only a written description remains of some of these banners.”

Florida Governors– Learn about all 49 governors of Florida from Andrew Jackson before he became President to Charlie Christ. Includes links to images and biographies of each governor. Good resource for students.

WWI Induction Cards– Are you creating your genealogy or just interested in WWI history? This is the link for you. Here “the World War I service cards provide name; age; serial number; race; place of birth; and residence; for service men and women who were either from Florida or who entered service in Florida.”

 

Friday Finds March 5, 2010

1. Florida History Online– Is an online reference for professional and amateur historians and history teachers. It covers New World in a State of Nature: British East Florida, Florida and the Civil War, Virtual St. Augustine: Documents and Narratives of the Ancient City, and Guides for Teaching Florida History Online. I will add a permanent link in my Links to the Past section for future reference for those interested.

2. St. Augustine, Florida History– From the website:  Browse a timeline, written history and enjoy a virtual tour of many of St. Augustine’s historical sites and landmarks. Browse augustine.com’s private virtual book collection and interactive maps.

3. South Florida Ecosystem History Project– The USGS South Florida Ecosystem History Project, part of the USGS South Florida Ecosytem Program, is designed to integrate studies from a number of researchers compiling data from terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems within south Florida. They are studying the Biscayne Bay and Southeast coast, Florida Bay and the Southwest coast, and Terrestrial & Freshwater Ecosystems or Southern Florida. It has an interactive kids’ section and online posters that were presented at recent scientific meetings.

4. Naples Florida History and Culture– Read about the history of the town of Naples Florida including its downtown area, Crayton Cove, and Marco Island.

5. The Complete History of Florida Gators Football– This interactive graphic shows the history of the Florida Gators Football team from 1906-2008.

6. History of North Brevard-Titusville– Read about the city of Titusville located in North Brevard county. The table of contents include: various chapters about the Spanish settlers, the Second Seminole War, important settlers, incorporation of the town and the space industry.

 

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 Florida.com 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.