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The Effects of Storms on Ships

Shipwrecks Along the Florida Coast

The steamship Gen. Sherman, Capt. Blanchard, which left New York for this port, on Saturday, the 15th inst., arrived at her wharf yesterday. She passed through one of the heaviest gales of the season, but – staunch and well built and ably officered as she is – she stood the tempest nobly. One of the passengers, an old sea captain, kept a diary during the voyage, from which we are permitted to make the following extracts:

effects of storms. Among those going South we recognize the steamship DeSoto.

NEW YORK, Saturday, Oct. 15, 5 P.M. – The shout of “all on board” is heard, and five minutes later we are steaming down New York harbour. The German dramatic troupe and other passengers are on board. The Gen. Sherman is commanded by the courteous Capt. Blanchard, well known to many of our citizens as the former commander of the popular steamship Star of the Union, and more recently of the United States. Next morning we are in company with a fleet of steamers, several steaming in our direction, while others pass rapidly by and are lost in the distance. Among those going South we recognize the steamship DeSoto. Two days later we sight a steamer to the eastward, and as she draws nearer we again recognize the DeSoto, and again she disappears ahead.

Morning of the 20th. – As we come on deck we find it blowing a fresh gale. Jupiter Inlet Light-House, coast of Florida, is in sight. Ship making good progress along the coast. About 10 A.M. we see a vessel high and dry upon the beach. As we draw nearer we see a flag flying, and we make out her name the Marion; she is a brigantine of 300 or 400 tons burden. From the tents on shore and stripped appearance of the mast, we judge she has been several days upon the beach, and her crew seem anxiously waiting for the arrival of the wreckers to remove them from their isolated position. At 12 A.M. the gale is rapidly increasing, and the order to batten down the hatches and sky-lights is speedily executed, and the ship rapidly prepared, under her efficient officers, Messrs. Richdale and Hand, to meet the dangers of the now increasing gale. At 2 P.M. the ship is hove to, and an hour or two after the violence of the wind has become terrific. The sea is blown over the ship, enveloping her as it were in a sheet of water. Pieces of woodwork are torn off and hurled away with terrible force. Crew clinging here and there, vainly endeavouring to execute orders which the violence of the wind makes impossible to understand and as impossible to execute.

effects of storms. her crew seem anxiously waiting for the arrival of the wreckers to remove them from their isolated position      

The scenes in the cabin at this time will be effaced from the memory of those who witnessed them. Men and women clinging to anything that would hold them. Tables and seats, loose from their fastenings, were hurled first to one side then the other. The briny element forced in around the skylights and the deadlights, forced through every possible crevice, came in showers into the cabin, and rolling around added to the terrors of the scene. Discomforts were all forgotten, and only prayers were heard for the staying of the tempest. From 4 till 8 P.M., the violence of the wind and fury of the waters cannot be described. The ship behaved nobly, but all felt that nothing made by human hands could long withstand the violence of such a wind and sea. Fortunately it was of short duration. A cry the engines were broken gave us such a shock of terror, as we hope never again to experience. We rushed into the engine-room, and found our able chief engineer, Mr. Johnson, holding on at his post, and his ready reply to our question, “what is wrong?” “All is right here as yet,” gave us renewed courage, though our only hope was in an abatement of the tempest. At 8 P.M. the wind suddenly shifted to the N.W., and at once began to decline, and morning broke upon a rapidly abating sea, which, before noon, looked as if it had never been disturbed. We looked over the ship in the morning, and were really astonished to find how little she had suffered. Rails were broken, skylights torn away, and pilot house somewhat damaged. These were the only visible signs of the tempest in the ship.      

But as we approach the coast of Florida we begin to see at once the effect along the shore. There lies a large schooner high on the beach. Her crew seem to have escaped ashore. Her torn sails and rigging are floating about. We did not lose sight of this schooner until we saw another vessel, which proved to be a large, fine looking ship or bark. Main and mizzen masts are gone. She appears to have been driven hard on to the beach, and the sails are hanging in fragments from her only remaining mast.

effects of storms. Main and mizzen masts are gone.       

Florida light-house came now in sight. Another wreck lies directly opposite this one, apparently another large schooner. She is bilged and sunk to her decks; as she struck the reef her main mast fell, and catching against the foremast, still hangs in that position. We fear few of her crew escaped death. Another schooner on shore in sight – this one apparently small – perhaps one of the wreckers’ vessels. And now we have got another in view; as we pass on, she turns out to be a large ship, of 1000 tons or more. Her sails are also hanging in tatters from the yards, and her crew are looking over the side as if wondering how they came there. We see a steamer behind, and we are all wondering if it can be the DeSoto; later in the day we find, sure enough, it is our old companion, and as she runs along by close to us we discover she has more outward signs of damage than ourselves, and from the beds and bedding hung out to dry, we judge the elements have not treated her cabins any better than they have ours.     

Another large vessel in sight – mizzen mast only standing. There are several wrecker’s vessels just in shore of her, ready, we presume, to commence their operations in the morning. Darkness now comes on, covering the reef from our view. Carysfort Light is near us, and from this point, we see no more of the reef, but we feel convinced there are many more unfortunates. Next morning we pass pieces of freshly torn and painted wood.       

With strong winds from southeast across the Gulf of Mexico, we arrived safely at Southwest Pass.    

We publish elsewhere a card of thanks to the officers of the Gen. Sherman from the passengers.

 

marsanneMarsanne Petty conducts historical research about 19th 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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Early Expedition into the Everglades

A Wilderness in Florida Where Freedom’s Edict Has Never Penetrated.

SLAVERY’S STRONGHOLD.

A Wilderness in Florida Where Freedom’s Edict Has Never Penetrated.

“INJUNS’ NIGGER NO FREE ’

The New Orleans “Times-Democrat” About to Explore the Everglades of Florida.

NEWSPAPER ENTERPRISE THERE.

Since the New York Herald sent the steamer Jeannette to discover the North Pole, journalistic enterprise in the direction of geographical discovery has had no such illustration as that which the New Orleans Times-Democrat is preparing to furnish. The enterprise now almost ready to be carried into operation is an expedition of discovery in the wonderful everglades of Florida. The nature of such a voyage may be judged from the following editorial article in a recent issue of the Times-Democrat announcing the progress of preparations for the journey:

early expedition. an expedition of discovery in the wonderful everglades of Florida

AN UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY.

Florida may almost be said to have been discovered during the last 15 years, for it is within that time that the State has come to be the resort and abode of thousands of northern people, and the orange culture has grown into a great industry. During this period the State has steadily grown in resources, and the growth bids fair to be continuous. Nevertheless, a barge part of the Southern portion of Florida remains an “undiscovered country.” In December last the Times-Democrat sent out an expedition, which succeeded in passing down the Kissimmee River into Lake Okeechobee and thence through the Caloosahatchie River into the Gulf of Mexico. This expedition made valuable discoveries. It is now our purpose to send out another expedition to explore the famous Everglades, which are now quite as unknown to the civilized world as were the wilds of Africa previous to the expedition of Stanley in quest of Livingstone. Several attempts to explore this country have been made by the United States government, and, during the Seminole war the troops frequently attempted to follow the Indians into the Everglades, but they never succeeded in penetrating beyond the borders of the Everglades proper. When the general government sought to remove the Indians to their reservations, many of the different tribes fled into the Everglades, and it is estimated that 700 or 800 are now living there. Only 80 appear upon the rolls of the census, because no census officer has been able to penetrate the wilderness. Indian-hunters come out with bear, deer, and panther skins, showing that the Everglades must contain good hunting-grounds. A number of negroes, say 30 or 40, are known to be held by the Indians. They speak the Indian tongue, wear the dress of Indian women and are made to do the women’s work. These negroes are evidently the progeny of runaway slaves, who escaped before or during the civil war, and are still held in slavery.

“INDIAN’S NIGGER NO FREE.”

Only one missionary ever attempted to carry the news of Lincoln’s proclamation into the Everglades; he left the borders of the Indian country with great speed. A few months ago Chief Tiger Tail became displeased with one of his colored servants, and brought him into Fort Myers to offer him for sale. When informed that the negroes were all free he ejaculated: “White man’s nigger mebbe free, but Indian’s nigger, no.” Whereupon Tiger Tail grasped his darky by the nape of the neck, pushed him into the canoe and paddled back to the Everglades. The Seminoles are quite jealous of any interference with their domain, and will not serve as guides through their country. So strictly Is this rule maintained that an Indian boy who has been raised by Col. Hendry, under an agreement with the Indians that he may stay six months of each year with Col. Hendry and six months with his people, could not be prevailed upon, for any consideration, to guide white men into the country.

early expedition. Indian-hunters come out with bear, deer, and panther skins, showing that the Everglades must contain good hunting-grounds.

The Times-Democrat expedition will assemble at Jacksonville on October 15, and proceed by rail to Cedar Keys, thence by steamer to Fort Meyers [sic], and up the Caloosahatchee River, through canals to Lake Okeechobee. A camp will be established for one week on “Observation Island,” until preliminary surveys shall have been made and everything is in readiness for the trip. A direct course will be taken for Whitewater Bay, on the Gulf coast. When the center of the Everglades shall have been reached a camp will be established for two weeks, and surveying parties will be sent out in easterly and westerly directions. The Everglades in their entire extent will be penetrated.

THE EXPEDITION.

The personnel of the Times-Democrat expedition will be as follows:

Major A. P. Williams, the Times-Democrat ‘s representative in Florida. Major Williams was born in 1844, in Rapides parish, was a pupil of “Stonewall” Jackson at the Virginia Military Institute, and of Gen. W. T. Sherman at Alexandria in this State. During the civil war Major Williams was Inspector-General to Major-General A. P. Bagby.

Col. C. F. Hopkins, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a naval officer. Col. Hopkins was the Colonel of a Florida regiment in the Confederate army, and is now the leading Civil Engineer of Florida.

Dr. James Kellum, a native of Virginia, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and surgeon in the United States Navy. Dr. Kellum was Medical Director to Gen. Walker in the Nicaraguan expedition and Medical Purveyor to Lieut.-Gen. Longstreet.

Col. F. A. Hendry, “The Cattle King of Florida,” who has lived for many years on the borders of the Everglades, and who is better acquainted with that section them any other man in the State.

SIX CANOES.

The expedition will take with them the canoes Susie B., Daisy W., E. A. Burke, P. M. Baker, W.H.H. Judson and A. W. Cockerton. These canoes were built by the Racine Canoe Works, and ordered through Katie & Co. of Chicago. Susie B. and Daisy W. are 18 feet in length, 41 inches beam, with air-tight compartments, with sails and center-boards, and rigged for oars and paddles. The remaining four canoes are 14 feet in length, 36 inches beam and rigged similarly to the others. The six canoes will be manned by eight colored men, uniformed by the Times-Democrat, each of whom is over six feet in height, selected from 60 applicants.

marsanneMarsanne Petty conducts historical research about 19th 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.

Pensacola’s Grand Welcome

A hearty welcome

The people of Pensacola, with one voice, extend a hearty welcome to their honored guests from all sections of the state, who have come to witness the evidences of the progress that has been made in recent years in the development of one of the finest regions of Florida from a howling wilderness into a land flowing with the milk and honey of a productive prosperity.

pensacolas grand welcome. The pleasing picture of happy homes

To those whose good fortune it is to reside in this favored region, the story of the opening up to civilization and prosperity of the counties composing West Florida is entirely familiar. The pleasing picture of happy homes, and smiling, fruitful fields and busy, prosperous towns and villages that now greets the eye of the traveler from the Apalachicola to the Perdido, and from the Gulf coast to the state line, is one that testifies truly of the magic influence of modern civilization.

Gathered in the appointed place our visitors find an immense and varied collection of the chief products of this wonderful region. These are to go to the great exposition at Atlanta, there to be viewed by the assembled throngs of visitors from all parts of the world. The story they will tell of West Florida’s greatness, its fertility, its attractions and resources, and of the industry and intelligence of its people, will be repeated again and again and spread, broadcast throughout the habitable globe.

pensacolas grand welcome. The people of West Florida will have no occasion to be ashamed of their representation at Atlanta         

The people of West Florida will have no occasion to be ashamed of their representation at Atlanta, and they may confidently count upon the unnumbered benefits that will be certain to accrue from this exhibit of what West Florida is and what her people can do.    

THE NEWS cordially joins the people of the city in tendering a hearty welcome to the city’s guests, and wishes them a pleasant and profitable visit, and a safe return to their respective homes.

 

marsanneMarsanne Petty conducts historical research about 19th 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.

Changes Wrought by the Railroad

Found South Florida

A Wire Grass Wilderness Almost Uninhabited.

PROSPERITY HAS COME BY MR. PLANT.

Tampa Bay Harbor the Most Magnificent on Earth—Through Its Channel’s Will Glide the Commerce of Many Nations.

Editor Tampa Tribune: — Remembering with profound gratitude your many kindnesses and being possessed of feelings befitting a generous nature, I am persuaded that it will not be amiss for me to give expression through the medium of your widely circulated journal of what South Florida is to become in the near future. With the close of 1896 South Florida ends fifteen years of unparalleled prosperity in the annals of states. Arid if the future copies fair as the past she has entered upon another decade of prosperity that will by far surpass the past. Fifteen years ago South Florida, proper, lay almost a terra incognito to the outside world of tourists and homeseekers, not because it was so far away, but it was so inaccessible. Twenty years ago Jacksonville was considered Florida, and was the ultima thule of travel. A trip by boat up the St. Johns river was an undertaking to be duly considered. But, how changed now? About that time a man of great sagacity and capital, with a prophetic eye, came on the scene, he saw at a glance what so fair a land might be if the proper appliances were furnished so as to draw public attention to it. He knew that it only remained to make the remotest corner accessible, and the then wilderness, would he changed to the most inviting country on the North American continent. Presto! Railroads began to gridiron all of that part of the state. The tale and no telling for it is now a living fact. Its history is written on bars of steel; and of all countries in the world that have been blessed by railroads that section pre-eminently, stands foremost, for they found it a waste, a howling wilderness, and caused it to “blossom as the rose.’’ They found it accounted as the rubbish of the continent, and gave it a setting as one of the precious jewels of the union. They found it in squalor and almost uninhabited, but by their benign influence, luxury, intelligence, happiness and contentment have clothed its people in garments of prosperity that stands without a precedent in any new country except California, and owing to its contiguity to the thickly settled portions of the union, with its susceptibilities in many respects far greater in producing remunerative products, and its vast phosphate deposits of wealth makes it far a more desirable country for homeseekers than California, and especially so, when it is taken into account that in point of health it stands unequalled in all the world.

changes wrought. in point of health it stands unequalled in all the world

Yes, railroads found South Florida an unknown quantity, save in name, but how changed? Today, it is the great winter residence of the wealthy, and the national sanitarium for those who have lost their health in the rigorous regions. Its palaces are the envy of the civilized world. Its shining parallel bars of steel has made and opened an era of unheard of prosperity. Tourists, homeseekers, sportsmen and investors are pouring in. Jacksonville has become only the gateway, where but a comparative few of leisurely disposed tarry. Where stood log huts in the country now stands stately homes of permanent settlers. Where once the owl hooted in lonely solitude now screams the whistle of the locomotive. Where once the coot and heron inhabited the silver waters of the placid lakes now steams the dainty naphtha launch or stately rides the floating palace, gathering the products from the various wharfs to be delivered at the nearest railroad depot. We are bidden to render unto “Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” So it is but just and true to say that all that South Florida is in the way of advancement and progress at the close of 1896, she owes more to the sagacity and capital of Mr. H. B. Plant than to any and all other persons put together. He it was who first recognized her capabilities and set about developing them. It was he who opened up new channels for the inpouring of wealth into the peninsula part of the state, and made new industries possible for those who followed in his wake. Others following, have come, have seen, have been tempted to keep on the rush of progress; but to Mr. Plant alone, is due the honor of building [up] South Florida to its abundant prosperity. The past is but half an earnest of what the future is to be. Fifteen years ago no man could have foretold with any degree accuracy of the vast improvements and numberless new industries that are to fall to the lot of your city — Tampa — by this time. Then there were in round numbers 800 people, and now I see it stated that Tampa has a population of 26,000. This is a phenomenal, but as nothing, to what the next fifteen years will demonstrate if our national legislation should be governed by wisdom and prudent forethought in securing or even encouraging in a judicious way an increase of trade from the Central and South American countries, to this country, for it is a conceded fact that Tampa harbor is the nearest deep water approach on this continent to those countries, as well as the shortest, safest and most economical route to the Cuban-American countries. It has plenty of deep water on its bar, and its channel is perfectly straight, through which any mariner can pass without the aid of a pilot. South America is undoubtedly the field for our trade. Why should the trade supplies from these countries intended for the Northwest go to New York for distribution, when Tampa can offer facilities of immediate and direct shipment to those points with the distance and time greatly lessened both by land and water? This great change or transformation of trade channels is now only one question of a short time. Indeed, it is right at your doors. Granting it to be so, then what must Tampa’s future be? No man can well imagine. It will be like a snowball rolling down a steep hillside, with every revolution it gathers fresh impetus and its size increases. So it will be with Tampa, except she will gather as she rolls uphill. Let it grow, and may Mr. Plant live to see his fondest anticipations fully realized and consummated in all the wonders his work will unfold to growing Tampa and Peninsula Florida.

Yours truly,

JOSEPH TILLMAN.

 

marsanneMarsanne Petty conducts historical research about 19th 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.

The Beauty of Biscayne Bay

Pleasure and Sport Amid the Beauties of the Extreme Southern Coast of Florida

ON BISCAYNE BAY.

Pleasure and Sport Amid the Beauties of the Extreme Southern Coast of Florida.

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Yacht clubhouse on the river at Jacksonville, Florida. Via Florida Memory.

To the Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle:

Away to the extreme end of the Florida peninsula, and yet but thirty-six hours from New York, is the new seaport city of Miami, the most southern town on the mainland of the United States, close to the very tropics, lying as it does between 25 and 26 degrees north of the equator. Biscayne Bay has been familiar to the yachtsman through many years of southern cruising and to the fisherman by successive seasons of sport, but to the ease loving and fastidious tourist, he of the Pullman car and palatial hotel, Biscayne Bay is a new land or enchanting beauty, a pleasure pot ripe for his enjoyment, with the most salubrious climate to be found anywhere in the world. Except for the occasional visit of a yachting party or the tedious sea trip by some small coaster from a Georgia, or northern Florida port this region was quite inaccessible until within a year ago. Then the Aladdin like influence which had opened the whole east coast of Florida to the tourist and settler found further opportunities to add to the domain of both pleasure and business by extending the Flagler system south, to Miami and thus founding a city and establishing a new seaport for the nation.

beauty of biscayne. Biscayne Bay is a new land or enchanting beauty, a pleasure pot ripe for his enjoyment, with the most salubrious climate to be found anywhere in the world.

In traveling south, after leaving the orange growing section about the Indian River, the railroad skirts along the shores of the broad, lagoons, the scene varying each moment with the movement of the train; past the wide lying pineapple plantations, over the many inlets of the sea and through the new towns, everywhere gaining fresh evidence of tropical latitudes by the rank luxury of the natural growth. After passing Lake Worth and the massive hotels at Palm Beach a new country is traversed; now because, until two years ago, the foot of a white man had rarely been set upon it. It had been the popular fallacy that everything in Southern Florida was a wilderness of everglades, but to visit the region of the pineapple and to see the graceful cocoa palm, with its load of cocoa nuts growing In great clusters among the foliage, is to refute the idea, and, instead, proclaim it & country bountiful.

All trains reach Miami, which is the terminus of the railroad, after dark and one gains but a faint idea of the manifold beauties of the spot, except from the moonlit waters of the bay, as the carriage rolls up the boulevard to the Hotel Royal Palm.

beauty of biscayne. one gains but a faint idea of the manifold beauties of the spot, except from the moonlit waters of the bay

Miami is situated on Biscayne Bay, at the point where the Miami River joins its waters with the bay. In early years it was an Indian trading station, and at various times prior to 1856 United States troops were stationed here, the port being known as Fort Dallas. The land about the river mouth — and, in fact, all up and down the broad waters of the bay — were taken up as homestead rights many years ago, and the natural growth of the oranges, bananas, sapadillos, limes and cocoanuts has been encouraged to the point of high class cultivation. Biscayne Bay is one of the most charming spots anywhere on the coast from Bar Harbor south. The enthusiastic yachtsman will rejoice in the expanse of blue waters, land locked by the Florida Keys, but having many inlets to the tempting Atlantic beyond. He will fraternize with the members of the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club and enjoy the hospitality of Commodore Kirk Munroe, who is an author when he’s not a yachtsman.

The eager fisherman will have his hands full in trolling for the gamy kingfish, the dolphin or sea bass and other varieties, both weighty and sporty. The tarpon runs up the bay and is taken with a rod and reel on an ordinary line. The largest ever taken on the east coast was caught here and weighed 187 pounds.

beauty of biscayne. The eager fisherman will have his hands full in trolling for the gamy kingfish, the dolphin or sea bass and other varieties, both weighty and sporty.

The Hotel Royal Palm is of massive and yet thoroughly harmonious architecture. Built on a neck of land, there are pretty water views on three sides, the banks being fringed with the tall and graceful cocoa palms.

The more beautiful of the varied species of palm growth here is the royal palm, after which the hotel is named. Although indigenous to the West Indian Islands it flourishes here and is one of the sights. Bamboo trees and other exotics aid in the beauty of the landscape gardening.

From Miami the Flagler system operates two steamer lines, one to Key West, along and inside the coral reefs and keys which secures a smooth, quiet trip, and is a means of a very agreeable excursion. To Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, the Florida-Bahamas Steamship Line has just put into commission the new steamship Miami, especially built for this service by the Cramps. In marine beauty and artistic modeling she surpasses any like steamer of her class, while her staterooms and general furnishings are more generous than are found on many of the ocean liners. The pleasure of a visit to Nassau and the interesting sights and scenes of its native population will thus become intensified, for good fare and mellow comforts should keep company with the beauties of tropical foliage and the iridescent tints of the sea gardens.               

JEROME.

Miami, Biscayne Bay, Fla., February [9], 1898.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) 14 Feb 1898

marsanneMarsanne 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.

Taming the Wilderness with Rails

A Tribute to Railroads

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Florida Southern Engine. Via Florida Memory.

The Tampa (Fla.) Herald says: In no direction has the hand of improvement made itself more distinctly felt in South Florida than the gradual and radical change for the better, brought about by the development of the great transportation lines that have made the State what it is today. Fifteen years ago this section was almost a terra incognito to the average tourist, who sought, winter by winter, either in the foothills of Southern California or along the vine-clad slopes of the Riviera, the genial climatic conditions that might easily have been found nearer home.

taming the wilderness. No factor has played in this problem of development a part more important than that enacted by the famous Plant System.

No factor has played in this problem of development a part more important than that enacted by the famous Plant System. Fifteen years ago the, total railroad mileage of the peninsular was but one hundred and seventy-five. Today Florida ranks sixth in this direction. Fifteen years ago South Florida was a wilderness, given over to the cowboy and plume hunter. Its “cities” were unborn and its “towns” were little more than cross-roads settlements. Today, thanks to the well-directed efforts of such public benefactors as H. B. Plant, the entire Southern peninsular presents a picturesque panorama of verdant orange groves, rapidly recovering from the effects of the “big freeze,” of thriving truck farms and prosperous towns and villages.

marsanneMarsanne 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.

Sneaky Serpents

In Florida’s Flatlands

SNAKE HEADQUARTERS OF THE STATES.

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Herbert G. Brown, who lived to be 100 years, 7 months, holding a Diamondback Rattler. Via Florida Memory.

“It is all very well for Northerners in a general way to talk about Southern snakes and their dangerous characteristics,” said an orange grower of Palatka to a “New York Times” reporter the other day, “but unless they are familiar with some particular locality, they do not know of what they are talking. There are spots in Georgia and the Carolinas where it would be impossible to find a snake of any kind in a radius of 50 or more miles. In scores of other regions there are a few perfectly harmless snakes, and in others only one poisonous species is found. But there is one stretch of country in our State where I’ll warrant the average man will find a dozen species of snakes, all poisonous, all well known to us, but which he cannot recognise or name. It is the real snake headquarters of all the States. I speak of the Florida Flatlands, as we call the great waste of prairie, swamp, and water which comprises the greater part of Southern Florida. In that wilderness dwell thousands upon thousands of really dangerous serpents. Many of our names will puzzle the scientists, but they designate the reptiles sufficiently well for us, and, as an old planter neighbour of mine puts it, “We uns ain’t havin’ enny too much time, I reckon, ter call er puff adder Latin names when he’s reachin’ for we uns with his eye full er mad!’

sneaky serpents. There is the thunder snake, blow adder (or puff adder), cotton-mouth moccasin, diamond-back rattler, prairie rattler, and spotted or ground rattler, pilot snake, milk sn

THE MOST DEADLY REPTILE

“In one big marsh where I hunt every autumn there are at least a score of different kinds of snakes. There is the thunder snake, blow adder (or puff adder), cotton-mouth moccasin, diamond-back rattler, prairie rattler, and spotted or ground rattler, pilot snake, milk snake, green-grass snake, whip snake, chicken snake, head snake, water moccasin, copperhead, flat-head adder, blue racer, prairie runner, king snake, corn snake, black snake, grass snake (many people don’t believe there is any such, but I’ve seen ‘em), and horn snake. This last is also doubted, but I know of three killed within a year in one patch of cane brake. The moccasins of different species are the most common tribe, and include what is probably the most deadly poisonous and wantonly vicious snake in the country – the cotton mouth. One of the greatest dangers connected with this variety is that they will lie close hid in a bunch of fern or under a big frond, and the passer-by may almost tread on them before he is aware of their presence. They strike like lightning and give no warning. As they dart forward, the head flattens and the jaws are opened until the upper is at a right angle with the lower, exposing the dull white throat lining which has given them the name. Like all the moccasins, they are very thick through the body, a snake five feet long being from seven to ten inches in girth at the largest part. Luckily, their fangs are very delicate and not so long as those of the rattlers, so that we hunters, wearing stout leather or rubber boots, never give them a thought. The only chance for a bite is in stooping to pick up a killed bird or to pluck a curious flower.

sneaky serpents. The only chance for a bite is in stooping to pick up a killed bird or to pluck a curious flower.

RATTLE SNAKES

“Our rattlers are far larger around than those in the north and west. The largest, fiercest, and most deadly is the diamond-back. It is, very fortunately, quite infrequent, but one is equal to six of the little chaps. Generally the warning is ample to allow the traveller to prepare for or escape from the attack. The clear, loud, metallic rattle – a sound that always sends a chill to the vitals of even old hunters for an instant – can be heard several rods away. Specimens ten feet long have been killed in the Everglades, and weighing up to 20lbs. The low whites (and nothing is lower than the Florida low white, and the Georgia cracker not even being comparable) eat these big rattlers, and say the meat is white and sweet, and more delicate than chicken. When these diamond-backs strike, they lengthen out from a compact coil with an energy and force which often sends them at least six or eight feet. Some people insist that they never leap, but only stretch out, but I have seen them jump too often to believe any such trash. The little ground rattlers never grow to more than three feet in length, and their bite, though poisonous and apt to make a bad sore, is almost never fatal. Their social instincts make them most dangerous, for they love to crawl under a tent flap and sleep cuddled up by the hunters. They can’t be kept out either. Long ago the horse-hair lariat scheme was given up as a complete failure. It was for years said that no snake would cross one. But I’ve seen moccasins glide over one as easily as you please, just lifting the body enough at that one spot to clear the irritating hairs.

sneaky serpents. Their social instincts make them most dangerous, for they love to crawl under a tent flap and sleep cuddled up by the hunters.

A BEAUTIFUL SNAKE

“Really the most beautiful snake in the whole State is the green grass snake. It is small and absolutely harmless, very timid, and so shy as to be seldom seen. It is aided in concealing its presence by the fact that it can change colour almost as readily as the chameleon. Their colour is a greenish brown, varying to palest green when under full sunlight in the grass. They love damp meadows and woods, and will live by a spring for years. The blue racer is well known, and from his habit of running alongside a team or a man has earned his name. His bite is a bad one, but never fatal. The darkies dread them, and consider it an omen of approaching death to be ‘raced’ between ‘sun-up’ and ‘sun-down.’ Of course, snakes are seldom seen except in the daytime, being great sun lovers, so the racer is a continual source of fear. Glass snakes are very pretty, being of a bright green (but darker than the grass snakes), and resemble perfectly a semi-transparent green glass. The ridiculous stories about the pieces of broken glass snakes coming together again as good as new are only told by ignorant or romantic people. When a glass snake is broken, he is dead, and, what is more, he stays dead. Hit sharply with a switch, one of these fragile creatures will fly into a score of pieces and die at once. Of course, the muscles will twitch and the tail wriggle a little, but this is true of all snakes for hours after they are dead or practically dead. The old superstition is, you know, that a snake never dies before sun-down.”

marsanneMarsanne 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.

Making a Fortune in Oranges

A Resident Who Objects to Any Implied Reflections on Florida

Postcard Collection
Oranges in Florida. Via Florida Memory.

He Holds His State Fully Equal to the “Glorious Climate of California.”

Admitting There Are Some “Tired” People There, the Majority Are Very Industrious.

To the Editor of The Inter Ocean.

KE-U-KA, FLa., May 18. – I have no time to write for the press, and am only driven to it now by a letter which appeared in THE INTER OCEAN recently from a correspondent in California. The objectionable portion of his letter is the following comparison: “The advantage of California over Florida is, the people of the former State do not lose any of their life, activity, or energy as they do who take up their homes in Florida.” This information must be valuable, as it comes from a person who has sojourned three whole weeks in the land he applauds, and no time or word shows that he had for a moment enjoyed what the most celebrated medical men in the world have repeatedly asserted and declared the most delightful climate in the universe.

I would shrink from anything that might undervalue the El Dorado State, for it has many blessings for the human family whose lot has cast them on its genial shores, but with equal pleasure I rise up before THE INTER OCEAN audience and deny – emphatically deny – that a residence in Florida robs a soul of the life, spirit, activity, or energy he inherited.

THE WRITER OF THIS HUMBLE DEFENSE has worked up fifty-four winters and has just started in on his fifty-fifth summer. He was brought up in a printing-office and editorial-room, and never worked outdoors a day in his life except on fishing excursions before coming to this State, yet last summer he worked every week day in his grove. Two years and a half ago the writer called to bid the editor of THE INTER OCEAN good-by. You will remember you said, with a wee bit of sarcasm in the northeast corner of your eye, “Florida is a magnificent lazy man’s country.” The writer agreed with you, as it was an expression universally used in the North; but he has never worked so hard in his life, nor is he the only one who works. This settlement, which is located nineteen miles west of Palatka on the Florida Southern Railway, is made up of people from Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and Connecticut; and they all work, men, women, and children, building houses, making fences, cutting timber, setting out groves, cultivating flower, fruit, and vegetable gardens. They work as many hours and many more days than in the North. As an evidence of the mildness of our winters, one could pick ripe tomatoes on my place any day from November to date. So you see that the climate is in favour of your working every day in the year.

vertical sun. Florida is a magnificent lazy man_s country.

NOR ARE THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA, the natives and long residenters, lifeless, lazy, or inactive. Of course there are people born tired in Florida as well as in Illinois, but the per cent is no larger.

As an illustration of the spirit and energy of the people, look at the city of Palatka. The sun went down on the night of the 7th of November, as was his custom. The bright red orb lit up one of the handsomest cities in the South, if not in the Union. The morning sun of the 8th rose on its ashes. Her immense hotels, with reputations co-extensive with the world; her large mercantile establishments, filled with the necessities and luxuries of life; her banks, her post-office, and the magnificent orange trees that lines her business streets had vanished into thin air. The morning was a chilly one, and the tired and begrimed citizen, who had through the long night fought the fire fiend, stood face to face with misfortune. It was a short acquaintance, quickly shook, for ere the sun went down the music of the saw and hammer was heard in every direction, and on the 7th of May, five months from the day of disaster, the city was nearly rebuilt. Forty-one stores, the buildings two and three stories high, built of brick and finished with plate glass and costly fixtures, wrought from our native woods, stand on the burnt district.

THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE the warehouse built of iron and a hundred wooden houses erected beyond the fire limits. What does this read like, as though the people became lifeless, inactive, or lazy by a residence in Florida. To my mind it displays activity, energy, and pluck, when compared to wealth and population, superior to Chicago or any other city in the world.

Three years ago when the Florida Southern Railway started westward from Palatka, it was twenty-five miles to the first house, now all along the line can be found prosperous villages, handsome houses, and charming groves and gardens.

Florida is a wilderness country. There is no mistake about that. It is the reverse of Illinois. In 1856 the writer located in Central Illinois. He rode all day looking on and over a broad expanse of treeless prairie. “A land, unbroken save by undulations as graceful as the waves of a peaceful ocean,” said some one – think it must have been “Siva.” One can ride all day in Florida amid stately pines, magnificent oaks, and fragrant magnolias. Look where you will, ride where you may, you are surrounded by a forest “unbroken save by clear lakes and as occasional orange grove.” It is to some a delightful land.

making a fortune. One can ride all day in Florida amid stately pines, magnificent oaks, and fragrant magnolias.

THEY SEE BEAUTY IN THE TREES, romance in the lakes and rivers, and comfort and enjoyment under the vine and fig tree. To others it is an abomination. It is too woody, too wild, too weird, too sandy, too hot, too wet, and last, that should have been first, too far from mother. The first class has industry and patience, the latter can not adapt themselves to circumstances, and are usually born tired. When we hear of a man talking of coming to Florida, yet is fearful that the climate will cause him to lose his activity, the community will have a brief season of prayer. Shortly afterward we hear of him in some other State, and publishing senseless verbiage about men losing their activity by taking up their residence in Florida. It seems to be natural for some persons emigrating to a new country to set down while the wife is getting the first meal to write to the home paper of the beauties and advantages of the newly found paradise. In most cases this is done because the emigrant feels lonely, sometimes done because he has an interest in that section and expects to increase the size of his bank account. After a residence of two years and a half I would hesitate to advise any one to come to Florida for the purpose of

MAKING IT A PERMANENT HOME until he first visits this land and examines thoroughly its climate, soil, products, manners, and customs of the people and the possibilities of securing a livelihood. Those who are troubled with rheumatism, catarrh, hay-fever, neuralgia, diphtheria, and throat and lung diseases can afford to make the change. But the man who has a large family dependent on him should move slowly and hesitate to go into any new country until he is satisfied that it is for the best.

Florida is full of inducements for energetic men as well as for men of means, especially to the class who prefer four months spring and eight months summer to eight months winter and four months summer. Some portions of the State have never been trod by the foot of the white man, but it will be. Railroads are being built in every direction. The slashes, the prairies, the rolling pines, and the hammocks will soon be pierced by the iron horse, and every section of the State will become accessible to the tourist and emigrant. This county, Putnam, has doubled in population in three years and double in assessed values in two years. Taxes last year was $1.40 on $100.

THE PRINCIPAL PRODUCT IN THIS COUNTY is the orange. According to the last United States census Putnam Country raised one-seventh of all the oranges in the State, and notwithstanding the low price of the past winter, a grove in bearing is a fortune. A full-bearing grove will yield from 300 to 500 boxes. At a dollar a box he can make both ends meet, especially when he is not compelled to spend any money for overcoats, mitts, and firewood.

making a fortune. he is not compelled to spend any money for overcoats, mitts, and firewood

Spears’ grove gave forth last year $9,000 and over, and this year $10,000. It contains six acres, but it is a very old grove. Hart’s grove does much better; last season it went $18,000. This one is opposite Palatka and is visited by thousands annually. Bishopp owns sixty acres in bearing, Harris 100, and there are others equally fortunate. We don’t know what they do with their money.

It is not an easy thing to make a grove. The land has to be cleared, fenced, plowed, and the orange trees set. The cost for this selecting average land, is about $125 per acre. If budded trees are used they will bear some the second year, and the fifth year sometimes pays the whole expenses. To do this, however, thrifty trees must be secured and kept growing by judicious cultivation. Mr. Boyd, of this county, came to this State nine years ago. He walked all the way from his home in Kentucky.

HE HAD CAUGHT THE ORANGE FEVER and came to seek his fortune. He says that if on his arrival whole counties were selling for a dollar a dozen he could not buy ten acres. But the spirit was born in him and he soon found work at 50 cents per day and board himself. As he had no other boarders the bill of fare was seldom changed; it consisted of Indial meal, salt, and water, the latter being cheapest; the two former were adulterated. By thus thinning his expenses he was enabled to pay for a small piece of land in two years. He then commenced to set out his young orange trees and seed, and now he has one of the finest young groves in the State. He has taken care of his grove and it will take care of him, as it places him in a position to enjoy the balance of his life in independence. Another friend picked up the seeds about the hotel that made the trees in his grove, and last year he shipped over 500,000 oranges. These two are not the only illustrations of life, activity, and industry in Florida. There are hundreds of them. All or nearly all of the wealthy orange-growers in the State came here poor, and had similar experiences to Mr. Boyd’s. There are other products besides the orange which promises to be profitable, Irish potatoes and all kinds of truck farming being in “big” pay. But it was not my intention to give the possibilities of Florida when I commenced to write this letter. TO do that would encroach too much upon your space, and am not satisfied that it would be agreeable to you and your readers.

making a fortune. HE HAD CAUGHT THE ORANGE FEVER and came to seek his fortune.

I have taken THE INTER OCEAN since its first issue. We receive it here the second day after its date, and it is more highly prized than when we got it red hot for breakfast.

ED. REMLEY.

marsanneMarsanne 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.

Vertical Sun and Gilded Vallies

A gentleman spent several years in Florida

General Collection
Date palms and orange trees at the home of James E. Hendry in Fort Myers, Florida. Via Florida Memory.

A gentleman who spent several years in Florida, during the Indian troubles here, having collected his observations of the country in a manuscript, which has been obligingly lent to us, we extract from it some passages which we think the reader will find interesting:

“The southern extremity of Florida is over 1300 miles south of us, and the sun in the shortest day in the year has almost the same meridian altitude that it has here on the 1st of March, or the 10th of October. On the 20th of June its appearance in the heavens is nearly a vertical position, shines with a much more resplendent light that in more southern latitudes.

The climate there in the shortest days would be as cold as in this latitude in October; but for the following reasons:

First. They have no mountains or highlands in their vicinity.

Second. The protracted warm seasons have much an influence on the elements that during the short period of the sun’s declination to the south they do not become cold.

Third. Florida, being a peninsula, is nearly surrounded by water, and that too coming in from the Gulf Stream in a current tropical regions passing near the shore, keeps up a high temperature even during the winter months.

To these we may add the prevalence of southern winds, wafting air of high temperature from the vicinity of the equator.

From these causes the thermometer in the southernmost points is seldom seen below 60 degrees. As you move to the northward, the influence of the enumerated causes diminish and the gulf stream diverges from the shore, and yet on the northern confines of Florida most of the tropical fruits flourish, and many winters have passed without frost. At St. Augustine they seldom have more than two or three frosts in a year. Orange trees have never been seriously affected there except in the frost of 1835. Thus the climate of Florida is much modified by its proximity to the Gulf Stream is apparent from the fact that the south parts of Louisiana on a parallel of latitude with the northern portions of Florida are many degrees colder, and the Orange trees have been destroyed in New Orleans by winters that did not materially affect them in St. Augustine or on the same parallel on the St. Johns.

vertical sun. At St. Augustine they seldom have more than two or three frosts in a year.

The inland navigation of Florida lines of more than 4000 miles in the aggregate more than quadruples the inland navigation of New York, including our Canals. There is not a spot in the territory more than 30 miles from navigable waters. The highest ground is less than 200 feet-above the sea, and there is a chain of inland waters, cut off from the ocean by a succession of island, reaching most of the way round the whole of its coast, affording good steamboat navigation.

The soil of the country is peculiar; – you have doubtless heard much of the white sands of Florida. As you sail along the coast the shore and beach very much resemble a snow bank in the distance, and indeed, as you travel over the country much the same appearance is preserved; more than three-fourths of the soil is covered with white sand.

To northern eyes such a soil looks barren and dreary, – and if found on a northern coast, it would in fact be so; because on our coast the sand is mostly formed of sylex, and when mixed with other soil gives no enriching qualities. It will be remembered that the whole surface of Florida has been thrown up from the ocean, and all the sands of the ocean there are formed from the attrition of shells, and are therefore calcareous; when mixed with vegetable decomposition, or when decomposed they constitute a fertilizing substance, and will produce the most luxuriant growth.

The whole country is based on Lime Rock composed also of shells, which mostly preserve their original form. This rock lies in many places very deep, and in other cases near the surface; there is however above the rock a layer of clay, beneath the upper surface.

There is also a loamy soil in Florida found in many parts similar to our chestnut and red oak soil which produce in great abundance.

Another kind of soil is found along the banks of rivers, and at the wet hammocks, which is immensely productive; a soil equal to the Delta of Mississippi – This land lies on clay, then a layer of marl, on the surface of which is a deep vegetable deposit, such a soil is not scarce there; even in our climate it would produce immense crops. Take it altogether the soil of Florida is fully equal to Alabama and superior to Louisiana; but it is unfair to consider the soil of any country disconnected from its climate. Climate is everything with the vegetable as with the animal creation; and a sterile soil under the influence of a genial sun and a soft bland atmosphere will do more for the growth of plants than the most fertilising manure and the richest soil could do under the influence of an October breeze.

But it is not my purpose here to dwell upon the climate of Florida; with the blessing of Providence shed upon the land, a vertical sun to gild their vallies and to ripen their golden fruit with a generous soil and the gentle zephyrs of heaven floating over it, this same country has been, for the last 300 years the cost of rapacity, murder and conflagration, and the bloody footsteps of rapacious man have marked its highways and byeways, until there is scarce a hammock, grove or recess that has not witnessed horrors and cruelties at which humanity bleed.

vertical sun. the gentle zephyrs of heaven floating over it

In March 1822, Congress passed a law organizing East and West Florida into one territorial government. By this organic law a Governor, four Judges, four district attornies [sic] and four marshals were to be appointed by the President, a legislative council to be chosen by the people, which with the Governor, formed the law making power. Public lands were surveyed by the general government and Tallahassee an inland town, about midway between St. Augustine and Pensacola, was made, and still continues the Capital.

The district of Middle Florida soon became thickly populated; – the borders of the St. Johns, Apalachicola, and a country 60 miles west of the St. Johns, called Alachua, New Smyrna, and most of the southern points on the eastern coats were penetrated with settlements, so that in 1835 Florida contained 48000 souls and was increasing most rapidly.

But as the Seminoles possessed 5,000,000 of acres in the heart of East Florida, and along the Western Coast there was a reluctance to settle in their neighbourhood, and a large portion of East Florida remained a wilderness.

Numerous emigrants from the north were beginning the cultivation of the fruits, so that in the years 1835 and 1836 Florida exported more in amount of her own products than the State of New York. It was nothing strange to see $200 worth of sugar or $100 worth of cotton taken from an acre without more labor than is required to produce an acre of corn in the north. St. Augustine, from about 100 acres of Orange trees sold $100,000 worth of oranges; a single tree would produce to its owner $50. But in the winter of 1835 the unparalleled cold weather, which astonished and dismayed all in the north, extended its influence to this region, and on the 13th of February the thermometer sank to 8 degrees below zero. Such a frost was not within the memory of the oldest inhabitants; it cut down orange trees 100 years old, and left scarce a living fruit north of New Smyrna and Tampa Bay. But there was 300 miles south of these points that had not been injured even by this frost.

vertical sun. on the 13th of February the thermometer sank to 8 degrees below zero

The inhabitants at once replanted their groves, and at St. Augustine and on the St. Johns they already begin to export oranges.

But for the war which broke out in 1836, I cannot doubt that Florida would now be furnishing the Northern States with half the sugar they now consume, and in less than 5 years from this time, would have driven all the Sicily and West India oranges out of the market.

But alas! tales of horror and keen distress are yet to be told – War, bloody, brutal war, has ever since desolated the country, blasted its fair hopes, and spread mourning over the land. There are but three plantations in all East Florida that have not been ravaged and burned. There are no families out of St. Augustine and Jacksonville, that have not been forced to fly from the conflagration of their own dwellings or perish under the ruins. More than a thousand families have been driven from their homes and more than a hundred battles have been fought in the last 5 years.

marsanneMarsanne 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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