Love & War

It’s said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. The experience of Floridian Confederate soldier Albert Symington Chalker and his sweetheart Martha Bardin certainly illustrates the point well. Albert and Martha (or “Mattie”) were from Middleburg in Clay County. Either before or during the Civil War, they became acquainted, and the long-distance courtship that followed produced one of the most heart-warming series of letters held by the State Archives of Florida.

Albert Chalker to Martha Bardin, May 8, 1864. This is the earliest letter in the Chalker Collection held by the Archives (Collection M72-11).

Albert Chalker to Martha Bardin, May 8, 1864. This is the earliest letter in the Chalker Collection held by the Archives (Collection M72-11).

In his first letter to Bardin (that we have), Chalker describes what it was like to arrive at Camp Finegan near present-day Lake City, and how the soldiers went about setting up their tents and equipment with an air of joviality. Chalker, however, was missing his dear sweetheart:

“I am sitting here alone thinking how hapy I might be if I was with my dear Mattie. Yes, if I was with you this evening I would be hapy. I did not know what it was to love, or how much I loved you untill now. I will quit writeing in this tone for I fear I am getting two sentimental, and you will think I am crazy.”

Chalker continued to write letters to Mattie through the end of the war, almost always saying he had no interesting news to share, although he does indeed provide some interesting tidbits about the everyday life of a Confederate soldier in Florida. He often ended his letters with bits of poetry. Some of the verses appear to come from established poets of the day, such as Bayard Taylor and Edward Everett. The origins of some of the poems are unknown. Either way, Chalker attempted to make up for his absence by writing the most loving bits of verse he could find into his messages. Here’s one poem that appears to have been taken from the text of a Valentine’s Day card from 1840:

Excerpt of Albert Chalker's letter to Martha Bardin, November 20, 1864 (Collection M72-11, State Archives of Florida).

Excerpt of Albert Chalker’s letter to Martha Bardin, November 20, 1864 (Collection M72-11, State Archives of Florida).

Fondly love my heart is beating
With affection warm and true to thee;
And timely I would send this greeting
Where I fain would wish to be.

 

Martha did her share of writing as well. In one letter, she chides Albert for not writing as much as he should:

Martha Bardin to Albert Chalker, January 18, 1865 (Collection M72-11, State Archives of Florida).

“I have written to you before nearly two weeks since, and have not heard a word from you yet. Now for your scolding. I want to know why it is you have not written. Have I offended you in any way? If so let me know and not keep me in suspense as I am. I sometimes think you have gone home sick or to the hospital or that I said something in my last letter you did not like, and sometimes I think like the Dutch man’s boy.”

We can be sure this was quite gentle criticism, because this Florida love story has a very happy ending. Albert Chalker was honorably paroled on May 17, 1865 after Florida’s Confederate forces formally surrendered to General Edward M. McCook of the United States. He returned to Clay County and married Martha Ann Bardin in December 1865. Martha’s father, William Sims Bardin, gave his Middleburg residence to the couple as a wedding gift. Albert and Martha Chalker settled and remained there for the rest of their lives. Albert Chalker served for 17 years as Middleburg’s postmaster, and as tax collector for Clay County from 1881 to 1885. He was also a prominent businessman, and operated both a private ferry on the south prong of Black Creek and a general store in Middleburg.

The historic Clark-Chalker House at 3891 Main Street in Middleburg, Clay County (circa 1988).

The historic Clark-Chalker House at 3891 Main Street in Middleburg, Clay County (circa 1988).

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the letters from this romantic exchange in the Albert S. Chalker Papers. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Retirement is for the Birds… Especially Turkeys

Have you ever known someone who retired and quickly became bored with their new freedom? Some retirees solve this problem by traveling, spending more time with the grandkids, or taking up a hobby. Mrs. W.G. Butler of Havana, Florida found quite an unusual hobby when she became a little dissatisfied with retired life in the 1950s. Skipping the more conventional retirement activities, Mrs. Butler decided to raise turkeys.

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

That’s right – turkeys. Mrs. Butler turned her 12-acre plot in Gadsden County into Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm, home to literally thousands of gobbling birds destined eventually for holiday tables across America. Mrs. Butler explained that after decades of moving around the country for her husband’s construction career, she thought settling down would be relaxing. But it wasn’t. Her husband was often out hunting and fishing, and she was alone at home.

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

Mrs. W.G. Butler with turkeys at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm, Havana (1952).

The turkey farm started out merely as something to do. She bought 200 chicks and gave each one a name. Within a few months, however, the enterprise had taken off. A few years into her new-found career, Mrs. Butler was raising and shipping over 7,000 turkeys annually. The hens weighed between 10 and 16 pounds, while the toms weighed between 20 and 23 pounds. She ended up hiring a staff of 30 workers to help feed and inoculate the birds on a regular basis. Turkeys, moreover, love to squabble, and Mrs. Butler reported that she and her workers spent a great deal of time breaking up spats between their charges. So much for a restful and relaxing retirement!

Turkeys feeding at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm (1952).

Turkeys feeding at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm (1952).

Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm is no longer in operation, but the tradition of eating delicious turkey around the holidays still continues for many families across the Sunshine State. What are some of your favorite holiday treats? Share with us by posting a comment below or on our Facebook page!

And… don’t forget to browse the Florida Photographic Collection for more images depicting Thanksgiving traditions in Florida.

 

Creepy, Crawly, Froggy Florida Filmmaking

Does the threat of environmental destruction frighten you?  Are you horrified by toxic waste and fearful of what it might do to the wildlife in Florida’s swamps and forests?   If so, you might consider skipping the trick-or-treat routine and watching a good scary movie like the 1970’s croaker, Frogs. Read more »

National Agriculture Day

Florida’s second largest industry is agriculture and the Sunshine State ranks second in the United States for production of fresh vegetables. So head to your local farmers’ market—we’re celebrating National Agriculture Day.

Picking fruit in John C. English seedling grove - Alva, Florida

Picking fruit in John C. English seedling grove – Alva, Florida

 

African American farmer standing in corn field - Alachua County, Florida

African-American farmer standing in corn field – Alachua County, Florida (1913)

 

Greetings from Florida

Greetings from Florida

 

Pineapples growing near Tampa (191-)

Pineapples growing near Tampa (191-)

 

Seminole Indian cowboys herding cattle in the pasture - Brighton Reservation, Florida.

Seminole Indian cowboys herding cattle in the pasture – Brighton Reservation, Florida (1950)

 

Stanley Thrift checks the new potato harvesting machine - Hastings, Florida (1947)

Stanley Thrift checks the new potato harvesting machine – Hastings, Florida (1947)

 

Aged man picking strawberries - Plant City, Florida (1960)

Aged man picking strawberries – Plant City, Florida (1960)

 

Yamato farmers at railroad siding - Yamato, Florida

Yamato farmers at railroad siding – Yamato, Florida (1911)

 

Peach picking crew - Plant City, Florida (192-)

Peach picking crew – Plant City, Florida (192-)

 

Turkeys at the Tot's Tender Turkey Farm - Havana, Florida (1952)

Turkeys at the Tot’s Tender Turkey Farm – Havana, Florida (1982)

 

Walter Welkener milks his purebred registered Jersey cattle at the Holly Hill Dairy Farm - Duval County, Florida

Walter Welkener milks his purebred registered Jersey cattle at the Holly Hill Dairy Farm – Duval County, Florida (1960)

 

 

Happy New Year!

Baby New Year had a long night, so instead here’s a selection of baby photos to help usher in the rebirth of the year.

Wilhelmina Pearde, Madison, ca. 1890

Wilhelmina Pearde, Madison, ca. 1890

 

Unidentified baby in a stroller, Hawthorne, ca. 1890

Unidentified baby in a stroller, Hawthorne, ca. 1890

 

Brown family child, Eastpoint, ca. 1900

Brown family child, Eastpoint, ca. 1900

 

Arthur Cleaves Jr. and Sarah Louise Spiller, Tallahassee, ca. 1908

Arthur Cleaves Jr. and Sarah Louise Spiller, Tallahassee, ca. 1908

 

Unidentified child in Miami, 1910

Unidentified child, Miami, 1910

 

Fulton W. Boney, High Springs, 1922

Fulton W. Boney, High Springs, 1922

 

Jane Douglas Bruns, Tallahassee, 1924

Jane Douglas Bruns, Tallahassee, 1924

 

Simon A. Kinsey Jr., Lee, 1928

Simon A. Kinsey Jr., Lee, 1928

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a…

Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, ca. 1980

Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, ca. 1980

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Greenwood children sending letters to Santa, 1915

Greenwood children sending letters to Santa, 1915

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

Napping with a manatee, ca. 1970

Napping with a manatee, ca. 1970

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Connie Gowan and Merrily Costello surprised by Santa, Panama City Beach, 1962

Connie Gowan and Merrily Costello surprised by Santa, Panama City Beach, 1962

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

Eight young ladies surround Santa, St. Petersburg, 1952

Eight young ladies surround Santa, St. Petersburg, 1952

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

Santa on the beach, Panama City Beach, 1956

Santa with his reindeer on the beach, Panama City Beach, 1956

“Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

Ringling Circus elephant dressed as "Vixen," Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1963

Ringling Circus elephant dressed as “Vixen,” Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1963

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

Santa and friends, Sarasota, 1965

Santa and friends, Sarasota, 1965

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

Santa in front of the Florida Welcome Sign, Jennings, 1956

Santa in front of the Florida Welcome Sign, Jennings, 1956

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

Santa picking oranges, Sarasota, 1965

Santa picking oranges, Sarasota, 1965

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Christmas Greetings from Florida, ca. 1920

Christmas Greetings from Florida, ca. 1920

Florida Gift List

Stumped about what to get your loved ones this holiday season? We’ve got a few ideas…

Make-up kits are perfect for toddlers. What could go wrong?

Unidentified children playing with make-up at George Brunette's School of Art, Jacksonville, 1949

Unidentified children playing with make-up at George Brunette’s School of Art, Jacksonville, 1949

Little kids love alligators! Although, we’d suggest the fake plushy kind…

Dorothy Hedley Morris with an alligator, Fort Lauderdale, ca. 1940

Dorothy Hedley Morris with an alligator, Fort Lauderdale, ca. 1940

An underwater photography session? Make sure to include diving supplies!

Underwater photography at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, 1963

Underwater photography at Cypress Gardens, Winter Haven, 1963

Who doesn’t want an ostrich for a house pet?

Ellwood and Rolfe Towle at the Casper's Ostrich and Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, 1947

Ellwood and Rolfe Towle at the Casper’s Ostrich and Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, 1947

Mom would love a nice, relaxing pedicure! We hear elephant trainers offer great rates…

Elephant-sized pedicure, Sarasota, 1956

Elephant-sized pedicure, Sarasota, 1956

You can get them a car that’s just like Dad’s… just not as fast.

Different cars for different sized drivers, ca. 1930

Different cars for different sized drivers, ca. 1930

The rattlesnake hat is all the rage.. somewhere.

Woman wearing a stuffed rattlesnake hat, Eustis, ca. 1900

Woman wearing a stuffed rattlesnake hat, Eustis, ca. 1900

Or, you can just get that box of oranges you’ve been promising for years…

Greetings from Florida, postmarked 1952

Greetings from Florida, postmarked 1952

But, seriously, if you really want to get that Florida lover in your life a GREAT present, remember that all of our photographs are available for ordering and make a wonderful addition to any home: http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/refpricelist.php.

Christmas Card Day

Merry Christmas Card Day! Have you sent yours yet?

Aldridge family siblings (Cornelia Ward & John West), Tallahassee, 1915

Aldridge family siblings (Cornelia Ward & John West), Tallahassee, 1915

 

Florida Christmas Greeting, postmarked December 14, 1926

Florida Christmas Greeting, postmarked December 14, 1926

 

Steinmetz family, 1936

Steinmetz family, 1936

 

Emmett Kelly, 1955

Emmett Kelly, 1955

Emmett Kelly, Ringling Circus clown known for his hobo pantomime character “Weary Willie,” used this photograph, taken by Joe Steinmetz, for his Christmas card in 1955. Lois Duncan, Joe’s daughter, shared with us the story behind this photograph.

Seminole Tribe Chairman James Billie and family, 1985

Seminole Tribe Chairman James Billie and family, 1985

James Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. He frequently performed at the Florida Folk Festival in the 1980s.