Encouragement for Prospective Florida Gardeners

Florida Photographic Collection
Colonel H.L Hart’s Garden via Florida Memory

Interesting letter from the South

Slave Labor and Slave ??? – Planting and Raising Cotton – Collection of the Sweet Potatoes – Climate, Soil and Productions of Florida – Sugar Cane – Tobacco – Fruit – Gardening, &c, &c

They have been planting cotton on this plantation since we have been here. My curiosity has led me, often, to go out and see the negroes work. They always seem pleased with our visits, and treat us with the greatest deference. The children appear to be special favorites with them. One was heard to say: “I wish Mistress would sell me to Miss Lizzie.” But I do not intend to write about the negroes this time, as I intend to tell how they raise cotton.

encouragement. They have been planting cotton on this plantation since we have been here.

The first thing that would attract your attention, would be the superficial manner of preparing the ground. You spend more labor in fitting one acre for wheat, than they do three for cotton. The soil is sandy, and easily cultivated. They first mark a field, or “list it,” as they call it. The lines are made with a how, about six feet apart: then turn a furrow on each side of the line with a plow, forming beds, on which the cotton is planted in hills, about six inches apart, so that the rows have a space of some five feet apart. You would think they might double the crop, by planting all the land, and planting the rows nearer together. I inquired why they left so much space. They gave several reasons; the first was, they have so much land there is no need of crowding. They do not use fertilizers, so they must allow more room for a given crop. Then there is a necessity for space between the rows of cotton and corn, so that the air may pass through freely, otherwise the hot sun would crisp the leaves, or “fire it,” as the negroes call it.

They tell me a cotton field requires attention from the time it is planted, in March, until it is all gathered, in October or November. The weeds must be all kept down with a hoe, as the side branches shoot out so near the ground a plow would injure them. The seeds of weeds will spoil the cotton, so they must all be destroyed before the bowls or buds of the plant begin to open. The bowls ripen first on the lower branches, and open successively, like the pods of the milk weed. We saw the short cotton in the Carolinas, as it was not all gathered when we passed through. The Sea Island, or long staple cotton, which they raise here, is far superior to that.

An agent of some of the manufacturing companies in England has been here lately. He says they consider the Florida cotton the best in the world. They use it for the finest fabrics, and the supply has never been equal to the demand. He urged the planters to raise more cotton, and to gather it in a perfect condition, and he said they could demand from seventy-five cents to a dollar a pound for it. One acre of good land planted to cotton, and well tended, will yield from three to four hundred pounds of the first quality, and as much more of the second. It will be very strange if the northern men leave Florida a wilderness many years longer.

encouragement. It will be very strange if the northern men leave Florida a wilderness many years longer.

I will tell you now how they cultivate  sweet potatoes – they are planted in the month of February in rows about five feet apart. The sprouts come up and run on the ground like a vine, from six to eight feet long. In June, their vines are cut off and laid on beds formed by turning two furrows together, as they do for cotton. The earth is then hoed on them in places about six inches apart. The potatoe vines thus covered take root, and make hills of large potatoes. The yield is astounding – often three and four hundred bushels in the acre.

I could tell you much more that would astonish you, for I observe something new every day. But I want to give you some condensed extracts from a report of the president of the Florida Railroad Company, Mr. [D. D. Yulee].

He gives information that is reliable and interesting – particularly that which relates to climate, soil and production. He says the meteorological statistics published by Surgeon General Lawson show that the climate of Florida is more equitable in temperature than any other part of the United States – that it even surpasses Italy. As regards healthiness, the vital statistics collected by the Government with the census of 1850, show that the Peninsula portion of Florida exceeds every part of the Union. The soil, he says, is generally very productive, and yields all the richest [staples]; that that portion of Florida lying east and south of Swanee River, he believes to be the most desirable planting country in the South. It produces the long staple, or Sea Island cotton of commerce, with a productiveness surpassing the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia. And for the cultivation of the sugar cane, he thinks the climate superior to that of Louisiana or Texas. He says there are sugar lands enough in Florida to supply a large part of the consumption of the United States.

The tobacco grown here, is peculiar to this climate and soil; and commands in market from fifteen to seventy-five cents per pound.

encouragement. ripe tomatoes and green corn in April and May, and ripe peaches and mellons in June!

A great variety of fruit can be grown here, and it is a very fine vegetable gardening region, in winter, as well as summer. The value of this capability of soil and climate, does not seem to be properly estimated here. There are but few gardens cultivated for market. If some of the industrious Dutch or English gardeners we have in Syracuse, would come here, they could make fortunes in a short time, sending early vegetables and fruits to Charleston and New York; green peas in January, new Irish potatoes in March, ripe tomatoes and green corn in April and May, and ripe peaches and mellons in June! to say nothing of the strawberries which blossom and ripen their fruit all winter. If the steamers ran directly from Jacksonville to New York without detention, you might see many of these Florida fruits and vegetables in Syracuse in good condition. – C.

marsanne

Marsanne Petty conducts historical research about 18th century southern United States and environmental history. To get more great updates and original history, sign up at The Southern Sage. To get her to help you with your own research project, email mapetty[at]gmail.com.

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Saving Florida From the Indians

timucua indian chief consults a sorcerer
Timucua Indians via Florida Memory

The late attack and murders committed on Indian Key

FLORIDA. – The late attack and murders committed on Indian Key by the Seminoles of Florida, is an additional and horrible item in the catalogue of woes to which it seems that ill fated country, is destined; and excites, as it should the wonder and astonishment of the people at the cool indifference of the Government in relation to this long pending and costly war.

There seems to be an impression on the minds of some people that every misfortune is attributable to the administration, and those who are opposed to the party in power, really hesitate to complain, for fear that unworthy motives may be attributed to these constant attacks on rulers; but we submit to the Secretary of War, who, as a citizen and a public officer long in the service of his country, has many warm friends, whether the whole manner of prosecuting this war – which is entirely under his direction – is not calculated to do serious injury to the character of his country, as well as his own personal reputation? A handful of savages in Florida has cost the people of this country, in a war of five years, nearly twenty millions of dollars; the arms of the United States have, in a great measure, been sullied by repeated discomfitures with the Indians; and what is worse, they gain strength and boldness, and massacres of a shocking character will render Florida a wilderness in a short time. There appears to be no energy, no activity, no zeal in the department in relation to the only war, and that a small war, which is now carried on in Florida. A few small vessels of war, cruising in the neighbourhood of the Keys, would have protected the inhabitants from invasion, and the division of the present army into squads of one hundred or more, spread over the country, would have kept the marauders in check. At all events, there should be a concert in action between the army and local authorities of Florida: the war never will end if it is the interest of one party to carry it on, and the interest of another party to terminate it. The most effective steps would be to require the Government of Florida to convene the Council, and to transmit to Washington the most efficient plan to terminate the war, and, if feasible, to invest the Governor with ample powers to carry it on to a successful issue. – If militia, or hunters, or marksmen from the West, or bush-fighters, are necessary, employ them and pay them liberally in money and land. Let the people of Florida, friendly to peace, take this matter in hand, and let the Governor come to their aid efficiently – let the entire system of managing this war be changed – recall the Commissaries who are making fortunes, and let the people of Florida procure the supplies at the cost of the Government, and the Indians will soon disappear.

saving florida. the war never will end if it is the interest of one party to carry it on, and the interest of another party to terminate it

The Secretary of War should not permit himself to retire from office, without doing something in this business, to retrieve the disasters we have met with in this contest with the Indians. –  N.Y. Star

marsanne

Marsanne Petty conducts historical research about 18th century southern United States and environmental history. To get more great updates and original history, sign up at The Southern Sage. To get her to help you with your own research project, email mapetty[at]gmail.com.

Advice to Women in the Florida Wilderness

This letter is sensible

arch oak
Arch Oak via Shorpy

This letter is sensible, for the writer, Mrs. A. D. Hill, is carried by her sincerity into the perfectly practical advantages of the move:

“Eve up to Date – I advocate short skirts provided laced-up-at-the-side leggings are worn with them, something like the huntsman leggings ones sees in the gun-store windows, and as my husband wears on outing excursions, only they should be made from a softer fabric than canvas. While living on the Florida coast I wore such leggings on outing occasions and can vouch for their comfort and practical utility; besides, one’s shoes look much smaller peeping out from under the leggings; they are easily put on and fully protect the stockings and shoes from dust and wind, and can be made by any lady, by using one of her old stockings as a pattern, cutting away the foot, opening outside of the leg, and allowing for hem and lap, where it laces. The inclosed sketch gives my idea, as I have tried the short skirt with leggings, but only in the solitude of Florida’s wilderness, as I dared not brave the unchristian criticism of civilization. I found them pleasant to wear, cheaply made and above all other considerations, they are perfectly modest and proper.”

marsanne

Marsanne Petty conducts historical research about 18th century southern United States and environmental history. To get more great updates and original history, sign up at The Southern Sage. To get her to help you with your own research project, email mapetty[at]gmail.com.

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