Thanks for helping us reach 3,000 likes on Facebook! In honor of the occasion, here’s a collection of photographs featuring the number 3,000 …
Thanks for helping us reach 3,000 likes on Facebook! In honor of the occasion, here’s a collection of photographs featuring the number 3,000 …
On this All Hallows Eve, we’d like to share with you the legend of Spook Hill.
Park your car on Spook Hill in Lake Wales and a strange thing happens… Your car will roll UPHILL! Is it a geographic phenomenon? A curse? Or a trick? You be the judge!
Solons in Gray: Floridians in the Confederate Congress
As late as the 1960s, the Tallahassee Democrat and other Florida newspapers regularly used the term “Solons” to refer to members of the Florida legislature. There were undoubtedly many times when political reporters probably used the term lightheartedly, however. “Solon,” named for Solon, the ancient Athenian statesman, means a wise and skillful law giver or simply a member of a legislative body.
The term was certainly in use during the 1860s, when the original seven seceding Southern states created the Confederate States of America in February 1861. Largely a replica of the United States government, the Confederate Constitution called for a government of three branches. The Confederate Congress, which until February 1862 was known as the Provisional Congress, was divided into a House and Senate and eventually represented all eleven seceded states plus, even though these areas were hardly under Confederate control, Kentucky, Missouri, and the western Territories.
Florida was one of the founding states of the Confederacy, sending five men to serve in the Provisional Congress and six in the First (1862-1864) and Second (1864-1865) regular congresses. The Provisional Congress was unicameral, but the Confederate Constitution called for the creation of a bicameral legislature, which began with the First Congress in February 1862. Each state had two senators and a number of representatives apportioned according to population. As the least populous state in the Confederacy, Florida only had two representatives.
The following list provides the names, congresses, and selected information for Florida’s Confederate congressmen:
James M. Baker (First and Second Congress)
Augustus E. Maxwell (First and Second Congress; a former Florida Attorney General and U.S. Congressman, he served on the Florida Supreme Court after the Civil War)
James P. Anderson (Provisional Congress, resigned in April 1861 to command Florida troops and eventually became a Major General in the Confederate Army)
George T. Ward (Provisional Congress, elected to fill Anderson’s seat; Ward resigned in February 1862 and took command of the 2nd Florida Regiment; he was killed in the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862)
John P. Sanderson (Provisional Congress, appointed to fill Ward’s seat)
Jackson Morton (Provisional Congress)
James B. Owens (Provisional Congress)
James B. Dawkins (First Congress, resigned December 8, 1862)
James M. Martin (First Congress, elected to fill Dawkins’ seat; he also served as a colonel in the 9th Florida Regiment)
Robert B. Hilton (First and Second Congress)
Samuel St. George Rogers (Second Congress; before entering the Second Congress he was a colonel and in charge of conscription in Florida)
The best source for information on the Confederate Congress and the Floridians who served in it is Ezra J. Warner and W. Buck Yearns, Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress (Louisiana State University Press, 1975). The register and a copy of the journal of the Confederate Congress are available in the holdings of the State Library and Archives of Florida.
The Florida Seafood Festival in Apalachicola celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013! The annual two-day festival features royalty (Miss Florida and King Retsyo), fresh Florida seafood, and more.
This series highlights antebellum cases from the files of the Florida Supreme Court and its predecessor, the Florida Territorial Court of Appeals.
In 1850, the Florida Supreme Court considered the case City of Tallahassee v. Justus R. Fortune. The case came to the state’s highest court on appeal from Leon County. It centered on the responsibility of an incorporated body, in this case the City of Tallahassee, for maintaining a public road within its boundaries.
Justus R. Fortune was a resident of Tallahassee. According to the case file, he operated a tin shop along a city-maintained road and owned at least one horse. On October 3, 1848, Fortune lent his horse to George W. Hutchins, who borrowed the animal for an unspecified purpose.
When Hutchins finished his business and returned the horse, he hitched it to a post near Fortune’s tin shop in the customary fashion. At some point, the horse broke loose from the hitching post and escaped. A thorough search of the surrounding area failed to recover the animal.
The next day, Fortune discovered the horse, badly injured, at the bottom of a ditch that crossed the city road adjacent to his property. The horse later died. He blamed the City of Tallahassee for failing to maintain the regularly-traveled public thoroughfare, as evidenced by the “nuisance” ditch, which had resulted in the death of his horse. Fortune sought to recover $125 from the city as compensation for his loss.
Fortune’s case against the city rested on language contained within Tallahassee’s Act of Incorporation. According to the Act, the city had both the power and the responsibility to “prevent and remove nuisances” within its corporate limits. In this case, the section of road in question existed firmly within city limits, and therefore, Tallahassee officials had the responsibility to provide for its maintenance.
Fortune’s legal representation cited various U.S. court cases from other states and English Common Law as precedent for upholding the principal that the City of Tallahassee bore responsibility for maintaining the road and answering for accidents such as that which befell Fortune’s horse. The court agreed: “…that the City of Tallahassee was guilty of a nonfeasance in permitting the nuisance mentioned…to remain…”
The only brief point of contention was whether Fortune had taken all necessary and deliberate care to protect his property. Could he be to blame for not better securing his horse? Whether Hutchins could be charged with negligence did not become an issue.
The court found that: “…if a person should go headlong with his beast upon a nuisance, which (with ordinary care) he might have avoided, he ought not to have damages for his loss in consequence of his own recklessness.” The court determined that citizens daily hitched their horses and other animals throughout the town along public roads. Sometimes these animals escaped. But, these escapes were certainly accidental occurrences, instead of widespread negligence.
This case established important precedent in Florida law, following English Common Law and decisions made by courts in other states. Overtime, the responsibility (and liability) of incorporated settlements to maintain public property within their boundaries extended far beyond roads to include all types of infrastructure, and even persons employed by cities and towns on official business. Cases like Fortune form the legal basis for the rights of citizens to make cities and towns responsible for maintaining public works and other manifestations of taxpayer-funded infrastructure within corporate limits.
Spaghetti, capellini, ziti, lasagna, cannelloni, manicotti, penne… Is your mouthwatering yet?
October 25th is World Pasta Day! So set your water to boil because we know what you’re having for dinner tonight!
Reunited, and It Feels So Good…
On July 10, 2013, volume one of Governor John Milton’s letterbooks returned to Tallahassee. The mostly dis-bound, fire-damaged letterbook resided in Florida’s capital city on at least two separate occasions prior to this year when the Florida Historical Society lent it to the State Archives for digitization.
The State Archives holds part two of Milton’s letterbooks, which covers the period from 1863 to 1865, but this is the first time in a long time that both volumes have been in the same location. The story of how these two letterbooks were reunited in Tallahassee reveals the often circuitous route taken by historical documents, from the time of their creation until they find a permanent home.
The most obvious distinguishing feature about volume one of Milton’s letterbook is the fire-damaged pages. The fire in question occurred at the residence of William Hall Milton, grandson of John Milton, in Marianna, Florida, in about 1912. According to W.H. Milton, the fire burned many family papers, but a tin box preserved the letterbook and a few other documents tucked safely inside.
In 1937, W.H. Milton came into contact with Daisy Parker, a student at the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee (FSCW). Parker was in the process of writing a senior paper on John Milton and somehow became aware of the singed papers in Marianna.
Kathryn Abbey, a professor at FSCW, wrote to Watt Marchman, a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, about Parker’s discovery. Marchman, a member of the Florida Historical Society (FHS), contacted W.H. Milton about adding the letterbook to their collections. Milton agreed to the proposal, and promised to have the letterbook forwarded to Jacksonville (then the home of the FHS) upon the completion of Parker’s research.
The letterbook arrived in Jacksonville on July 1, 1937. It is not known whether Parker consulted volume two of Milton’s letterbooks, which at the time resided at the State Library in Tallahassee, or if she ever submitted her senior paper.
And so it was that one Milton letterbook left Tallahassee for the second time since its creation during the early years of the Civil War.
By 1979, the FHS collection, including volume one of Milton’s letterbooks, had been transferred to the University of South Florida in Tampa. Archivists overseeing the FHS collections contacted the Bureau of Archives and Records Management (BARM) in Tallahassee about exchanging copies of the letterbooks to aid researchers at both institutions. In the summer of 1979, an agreement was made and the two repositories swapped photocopies of their Milton letterbooks.
Since the exchange of photocopies in 1979, researchers at both institutions (FHS later moved to Cocoa, Florida) have enjoyed access to the complete John Milton letterbooks, though with one volume at both sites being in the form of photocopies.
Because of the fragile nature of the fire-damaged portions of the letterbook, few researchers have had access to the volume one originals. This will remain the case, but through digitization researchers can now see the originals online, burnt edges and all.
Careful high-resolution scanning of the originals will ensure the continued integrity of the documents as well as make them available online via the Florida Memory website. The digitization of this project is ongoing and should be completed in the summer of 2014.
Stay tuned for future posts on interesting finds in the charred pages of John Milton’s first letterbook…
U.S. Representative C.W. Bill Young passed away on Friday, October 18. Young began his political career in 1961, serving in the Florida Senate until 1971. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971 and was the longest serving Republican at the time of his death.
On October 13, 1977, House Bill 58, titled “An act relating to anthropoid or humanoid animals, prohibiting the taking, possessing, harming, or molesting thereof…,” passed through the House Criminal Justice Committee.
Sightings of apelike creatures were booming in the 1970s, particularly in South Florida. In response, Representative Hugh Paul Nuckolls of Fort Myers sponsored a bill to protect the Florida version of these mysterious creatures, the Skunk Ape. Nuckolls introduced the measure after a similar bill (HB 1664) failed to pass during the previous legislative session.
Unfortunately, House Bill 58, also known as the Hugh Paul Nuckolls Skunk Ape Act, died without passing and Skunk Apes remain without legislative protection in Florida.
The Skunk Ape Act stimulated interesting conversation among the legislators who considered legal measures to protect Skunk Apes in Florida. Click on the thumbnails below to read a partial transcription of deliberations concerning House Bill 58.
Every year, staff at the State Archives of Florida gets ready for the Florida History Fair by searching out primary source documents and compiling a list of resources for students and teachers. This year’s theme is “Rights and Responsibilities in History.”
U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy described Gideon v. Wainwright as having changed the course of American legal history.
The decision confirmed the right of the individual to legal counsel, even in cases not involving capital offenses.
The case began when an obscure inmate in a Florida prison, Clarence Earl Gideon, picked up a pencil and began writing his own lawsuit against the Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections.
Before the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, however, the Florida Supreme Court heard the appeal of the original conviction.
Clarence Earl Gideon was convicted of robbery after the judge in a circuit court refused his request for counsel and he was forced to defend himself. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. The Florida Supreme Court confirmed the circuit court ruling, denying Gideon’s appeal for a writ of habeas corpus, which would have freed him on the grounds that he had been imprisoned illegally.
View Gideon’s historic petition for writ of habeas corpus on Florida Memory.
For more resources related to this year’s History Fair theme, see Resources for the 2014 Florida History Fair.
Links to resources related to Gideon include the transcript of State of Florida v. Gideon from the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida and oral histories collected by the Georgetown Law Library.
[UPDATE: Known since its inception in 1980 as the “Florida History Fair,” the program name is changing to “Florida History Day” (FHD) in keeping with the style of other National History Day (NHD) affiliates.]