Researching Escambia County at the State Archives and State Library of Florida

Looking for books, photographs or historical records on Escambia County and its communities? The State Archives and State Library of Florida can help! The State Archives collects and preserves unpublished materials, including records from government agencies and from private citizens, businesses, families and organizations. These documents take many forms, including diaries, letters, meeting minutes, reports, photographs, audio recordings, films, memoranda, maps, drawings and more. The State Library is home to thousands of books, maps and other published materials relating to Florida’s history and culture. It’s also the official repository for published documents created by Florida’s state government agencies.

Many of these historical materials may be helpful for studying the history of Escambia County or the families who have lived there. The following is a selected list of materials from the State Archives and State Library that may be especially useful for this topic. It’s by no means an exhaustive list–just the highlights. Try searching the State Library’s online catalog or the State Archives’ online catalog to find more items relating to your research.

 

Available Online on Florida Memory

Florida Memory is free to use, requires no login and offers a robust search engine for finding what you need quickly. You can choose to search the entire site at once, or search or browse a single collection. Here are some of the best collections for researching Escambia County on Florida Memory:

 

Florida Photographic Collection – More than 205,000 digitized photos from the collections of the State Archives and State Library, including more than 5,300 images from Escambia County! Try searching for specific towns or landmarks, such as Century, Molino, Palafox Street or the USS Massachusetts.

Florida Map Collection – More than 300 maps of Florida dating from the 1500s to the 20th century. Some of the earliest maps in the collection show Pensacola, including a 1700 map of North and Central America drawn by cartographer Guillame de L’Isle, as well as a number of nautical charts showing Pensacola Bay.

Selected Documents Collection – These are items selected from collections throughout the holdings of the State Archives and State Library of Florida. More than 120 types of media are represented in the collection–everything from recipe cards to invitations to restaurant menus to paper currency, stocks and bonds, playbills, poems, posters and sheet music. In almost all cases, each item is drawn from a collection that has not yet been digitized on Florida Memory, so the records in this collection can be an excellent gateway for further research. Each item provides a description of its source to help you locate its parent collection in the State Archives or State Library. More than 30 items in this collection involve Escambia County, including a 1944 booklet for service members stationed in the area, titled Guide to Pensacola, Florida: The Annapolis of the Air.

1845 Election ReturnsFlorida held its first election for state officers in 1845. A total of 262 Escambia County voters participated, including 178 voters from Pensacola.

Confederate Pension Applications – The State of Florida granted pensions to thousands of aging or disabled Confederate veterans and their widows starting in 1885. This series contains the forms and correspondence associated with each Confederate veteran or widow who applied for a pension in Florida. A total of 431 applications are from Escambia County. That number doesn’t include Confederate veterans who may have lived in Escambia County during the war but later moved and applied for their pension from some other county.

Florida Auto Registrations, 1905-1917 – Did you know Leslie E. Brooks, who operated a real estate and mortgage business on Palafox Street in Pensacola, was the first person from Escambia County to register an automobile with the state? Would you have guessed that it only had 6 horsepower? Use these records to research some of Florida’s earliest automobile owners, including 627 from Escambia County.

World War I Service Cards – At the end of World War I, Congress ordered the military to create a brief service record for each person who served during the war and submit them to the adjutants general of each state. Florida Memory has digitized these service record cards—all 42,412 of them! More than 1,700 records document the service of soldiers who lived in Escambia County before the war.

WPA Church Records – The Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided employment for millions of Americans during the Great Depression by establishing all sorts of useful public works programs and even research and writing projects. One of the WPA’s Florida projects was a complete inventory of every church in the state, along with a listing of available church records. WPA field workers completed 145 reports on individual churches, but there is also a list of church incorporation dates that may include additional places of worship.

 

State Archives Collections Available for In-Person Research or Phone/Email Requests

Florida Memory is growing every day, but it offers only a tiny fraction of the material available for research at the State Archives in Tallahassee. A complete research facility is open to the public, including a full staff of archivists to help researchers find the resources they need. In many cases, if your request is specific enough the Reference Desk staff can locate the records or information you are looking for and make scans or copies without you visiting the Archives in person. Staff members must limit their research to 30 minutes per request, however, so this may not be possible for more detailed inquiries. Visit archivesflorida.com to learn more about the State Archives’ policies, procedures and fee schedule for copy/scanning services.

The following is a list of archival collections containing a significant amount of material on Sumter County. Each link will take you to the collection’s catalog record in the State Archives’ online catalog, where you can view a listing of the boxes and folders it contains.

 

County and State Officer Directories, 1845-1997 (Series S1284)Since Florida first established a territorial government in the 1820s, the Secretary of State (Secretary of the Territory prior to 1845) has maintained a directory of state and county officials. The records for county officials are generally organized by county name, so it’s easy to quickly locate a list of the individuals who held county offices such as sheriff, county commissioner or justice of the peace at any given time in your county. In many cases, the State Archives also holds copies of a county officer’s commission from the governor, written oath and bond (if one was required). Read our blog, “Researching State and County Officers,” for more details on finding records documenting the service of individual county officers.

Election Returns by County, 1824-1926 (Series S21) – These are official election returns sent to the Secretary of State by individual voting precincts. The documents often show the names of the individuals who voted at each precinct. This is another tool for locating specific ancestors in specific places over time. Boxes 11 and 12 of this series contains scattered returns for Escambia County from 1826-1926.

Election Return Canvasses, 1865-2004 (Series S1258) – This series contains national, state and county canvassing reports for the State of Florida dating back to the end of the Civil War. These records are a valuable tool for studying the political history of a community because they show how many votes each candidate received in each election–the winners as well as the losers. The records are arranged chronologically, so canvassing reports relating to Escambia County elections will be located throughout the volumes.

First Bank and Trust Company of Pensacola Records, 1914-1998 (Collection N2000-21) – This series contains the records of the Banking, Savings and Trust Company of Pensacola (established in 1914), which was later renamed First Bank and Trust Company of Pensacola, and in 1966 became affiliated with Barnett Banks. The materials include historical records, financial ledgers, daily statements, draft registers, meeting minutes from the Board of Directors dating back to 1914, stockholders’ meeting minutes, stock certificates and a variety of other records.

Governors’ Records (Multiple Series) – The correspondence and subject files of Florida’s governors are excellent sources for understanding what was happening in a Florida community at a specific point in time. County and state officials, as well as everyday citizens, often write to the governor to discuss their concerns or ideas about important subjects or events. These records are typically organized alphabetically by topic or county in each governor’s records. The correspondence and subject files of Governor Farris Bryant, for example, contain four folders of material relating specifically to Escambia County. Governor LeRoy Collins’ papers contain another seven folders. There’s a separate collection (or series, in archives-speak) for each governor. Visit the State Archives’ Online Catalog and search for a specific governor to find the records you’re looking for, or visit our Guide to Florida Governors and the Florida Cabinet on Florida Memory.

State Defense Council Subject Files, 1940-1946 (Series S419) – The State Defense Council coordinated civilian defense activities in Florida during World War II. Every county and many major cities and towns had their own local defense councils, which worked closely with the state entity to manage tasks such as blackout preparedness, scrap collection, bond drives, food conservation, enemy aircraft observation teams, auxiliary policing and more. Box 17 of this series contains folders relating specifically to Escambia County, although the records are organized by topic as well as by county, so there’s likely much more useful information scattered throughout the records.

Tax Rolls (Series S28)These records document the taxable property of each household in the state over time. The records include tax rolls for Escambia County from 1845 to 1880, with some years missing.

 

State Library Resources

The State Library collects a variety of published resources relating to Escambia County and its communities. Items available online include links; items without links must be viewed in person. Those items may also be available at other libraries near you.

Ephemera File – This collection contains brochures, information booklets, fliers, programs, advertisements and other documents. Many relate to tourist attractions or special events and festivals. Three folders of material in this collection relate to Escambia County.

Vertical File – The State Library maintains an extensive collection of news clippings and other miscellaneous documents on a wide range of topics. The file includes folders for each of Florida’s 67 counties, including a large file on Escambia County.

Selected Books and Documents:

Bense, Judith Ann. Archaeology of Colonial Pensacola. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.

Bliss, Charles H. Pensacola Harbor: Beautiful Views and Pertinent Facts Regarding the “Deep Water City” of the Gulf of Mexico; Pensacola Navy Yards, Pensacola Shipping, and Pensacola Fortifications. Pensacola: Charles H. Bliss, 1904.

Brown, Alan. Haunted Pensacola. Charleston: Haunted America, 2010.

Bruington, Lola Lee Daniell. Rural Cemeteries in Escambia County, Florida, 1826-1950. Pensacola: L.L.D. Bruington, 1985.

Chipley, William D. Pensacola (The Naples of America) and Its Surroundings Illustrated: New Orleans, Mobile, and the Resorts of the Gulf Coast. Louisville: Courier-Journal Press, 1877.

Clune, John J. Historic Pensacola. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009.

Coker, William S. The Spanish Censuses of Pensacola, 1784-1820: A Genealogical Guide to Spanish Pensacola. Pensacola: Perdido Bay Press, 1980.

Davis, Charlie. Growing Up in Pensacola: Personal Narratives. Gulf Breeze, FL: East Bay Publishers, 2009.

Florida Legislature. Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Florida. 

Hoffman, Carl Timothy. The Early History of Pensacola. Pensacola: Pfeiffer Printing Co., 1980.

Hoskins, Frank W. The History of Methodism in pensacola, Florida: Its Rise and Progress. Nashville: Methodist Episcopal Church South, 1928.

Manuel, Dale. Pensacola Bay: A Military History. Charleston: Arcadia Press, 2004.

Oaks, Frank J. The Port of Pensacola, 1877-1920. N.p., 1970.

Parks, Virginia. Pensacola in the Civil War. Pensacola Historical Society, 1978.

Parks, Virginia. Underground Pensacola. Pensacola Archaeological Society, 1989.

Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas. Industrial and Economic Survey of Pensacola, Prepared for the Junior Chamber of Commerce and Senior Chamber of Commerce, Pensaola, Florida. New York: Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas, 1927.

Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. Pensacola on the Florida Gulf Coast: A Delightful Year-Round Resort. Pensacola: Chamber of Commerce, 1925.

Pensacola City Company. The City of Pensacola, Florida: A Future Commercial Emporium of the Southern States. Pensacola: The Company, 1870.

Pensacola Commercial Association. Pictures and Pointers about Pensacola: Best Place in Florida or Anywhere Else. Pensacola: The Association, 1911.

Robinson, Celia Myrover. Jackson and the Enchanted City: Stories of Old Pensacola. Pensacola: Pensacola Printing Company, ca. 1900.

Rucker, Brian R. Encyclopedia of Education in Antebellum Pensacola. Bagdad, FL: Patagonia Press, 1999.

Southern States Lumber Company. The Perdido Country: The Region Embracing the Highlands of Escambia County, Florida and Baldwin County, Alabama, Adjacent to the Gulf Coast. Pensacola: Southern States Lumber Company, 1903.

Strohl, Evan R. Cemeteries of Escambia County, Fla. Pensacola: West Florida Genealogical Society, 1986.

Thompson, Keith. Pirates of Pensacola. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2005.

United States Post Office Department. Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971.  (This National Archives microfilm publication shows the dates of establishment and discontinuance of post offices, name changes, and appointment dates of postmasters. Escambia County’s post offices are on reel 1 of 3.)

United States Post Office Department. Reports of Site Locations, 1837-1950. (This National Archives microfilm publication includes applications for new post offices and periodic reports giving detailed descriptions of where post offices were located in relation to railways, roads and bodies of water. Escambia County post offices are included on roll 91.)

Wilson, Jacquelyn Tracy. Remembering Pensacola. Nashville: Trade Paper Press, 2010.

 

Researching Sumter County at the State Library and State Archives

Looking for books, photographs or historical records on Sumter County and its communities? The State Archives and State Library of Florida can help! The State Archives collects and preserves unpublished materials, including records from government agencies and from private citizens, businesses, families and organizations. These documents take many forms, including diaries, letters, meeting minutes, reports, photographs, audio recordings, films, memoranda, maps, drawings and more. The State Library is home to thousands of books, maps and other published materials relating to Florida’s history and culture. It’s also the official repository for published documents created by Florida’s state government agencies.

Many of these historical materials may be helpful for studying the history of Sumter County or the families who have lived there. The following is a selected list of materials from the State Archives and State Library that may be especially useful for this topic. It’s by no means an exhaustive list–just the highlights. Try searching the State Library’s online catalog or the State Archives’ online catalog to find more items relating to your research.

 

Available Online on Florida Memory

Florida Memory is free to use, requires no login and offers a robust search engine for finding what you need quickly. You can choose to search the entire site at once, or search or browse a single collection. Here are some of the best collections for researching Sumter County on Florida Memory:

 

Florida Photographic Collection – More than 205,000 digitized photos from the collections of the State Archives and State Library, including about 200 images from Sumter County! Try searching for specific towns or landmarks, such as Bushnell, Center Hill, or Dade Memorial Battlefield.

Florida Map Collection – More than 300 maps of Florida dating from the 1500s to the 20th century. The earliest map in the collection showing Sumter County dates to 1855, two years after the county was officially established. Sumter County place names on that map include Adamsville, Abrahamtown, Lake Eustis, Lake Yale, Lake Griffin and Pineboro.

1845 Election ReturnsSumter County was still part of Marion County when Florida held its first election for state officers in 1845. A total of 136 Marion County voters participated, including some from the region that would later become Sumter County.

1867 Voter Registration Rolls – In order to rejoin the Union following the Civil War, Florida was required by law to register all of its eligible voters (males over 21 regardless of race) and hold elections to choose delegates to a statewide convention, who would then frame a new state constitution. A total of 280 black and white individuals registered to vote in Sumter County.

Confederate Pension Applications – The State of Florida granted pensions to thousands of aging or disabled Confederate veterans and their widows starting in 1885. This series contains the forms and correspondence associated with each Confederate veteran or widow who applied for a pension in Florida. A total of 158 applications are from Sumter County. That number doesn’t include Confederate veterans who may have lived in Sumter County but later moved and applied for their pension from some other county.

Florida Auto Registrations, 1905-1917 – Did you know J.O. Fleece, founder of the Fleece Telephone Company, was the first person from Sumter County to register an automobile with the state? Would you have guessed that it only had 18 horsepower? Use this collection to research some of Florida’s earliest automobile owners, including over 70 from Sumter County.

World War I Service Cards – At the end of World War I, Congress ordered the military to create a brief service record for each person who served during the war and submit them to the adjutants general of each state. Florida Memory has digitized these service record cards—all 42,412 of them! Over 250 records document the service of soldiers who lived in Sumter County before the war.

WPA Church Records – The Works Progress Administration (WPA) provided employment for millions of Americans during the Great Depression by establishing all sorts of useful public works programs and even research and writing projects. One of the WPA’s Florida projects was a complete inventory of every church in the state, along with a listing of available church records. WPA field workers reported on 80 churches in Sumter County, the oldest being the Adamsville Methodist Episcopal Church, reportedly established in 1850.

 

State Archives Collections Available for In-Person Research or Phone/Email Requests

Florida Memory is growing every day, but it offers only a tiny fraction of the material available for research at the State Archives in Tallahassee. A complete research facility is open to the public, including a full staff of archivists to help researchers find the resources they need. In many cases, if your request is specific enough the Reference Desk staff can locate the records or information you are looking for and make scans or copies without you visiting the Archives in person. Staff members must limit their research to 30 minutes per request, however, so this may not be possible for more detailed inquiries. Visit archivesflorida.com to learn more about the State Archives’ policies, procedures and fee schedule for copy/scanning services.

The following is a list of archival collections containing a significant amount of material on Sumter County. Each link will take you to the collection’s catalog record in the State Archives’ online catalog, where you can view a listing of the boxes and folders it contains.

 

Sumter County Tax Assessment Rolls, 1892-1931, 1934-1935 (Series L31)

This series contains the tax assessment rolls from 1892-1931 and 1934-1935 maintained by the Tax Collector’s Office of Sumter County, Florida.  The ledgers contain a statement on all persons and property within Sumter County that were subject to taxation.  The records include the following information: description of the land to be taxed, the name of the owner, and the amount of tax due. Tax rolls can be very useful for verifying that an ancestor lived or at least had business in a certain county at a certain time.

Diaries of William Terrell Eddins, 1901, 1908-1915, 1937-1942 (Collection M99-1)

William Terrell Eddins (1887-1959) moved with his family from Mississippi to Florida in 1894 or 1895, 10 years after the railroad was extended from Wildwood to Tampa.  They settled on a farm near Edenfield, a railroad siding about two miles north of Bushnell, living in a wood slab house which was a typical home for Florida pioneers of that time. As a young man, Eddins worked on the family farm and at the sawmill in Edenfield and aspired to became a teacher and a writer. He taught school at Barberville (1910-1911), White City, near Fort Pierce (1911-1913), and Green Cove Springs (1916-1917).  Following his army service in World War I, he was elected Superintendent of Schools for Sumter County, serving in that post for 12 years. Later he served as Postmaster in Bushnell until his retirement in 1957.

This collection consists primarily of personal pocket diaries kept by William Terrell Eddins from 1908-1915 and again from 1937-1942.  Eddins began keeping daily diaries in January 1908, just prior to his 21st birthday.  The brief entries mostly discuss the daily activities of Eddins and his family and friends and Eddins’ observances of people in Edenfield and Bushnell communities. Subjects discussed include working the farm and at the sawmill; teaching school; playing ball; hunting; church and prayer meetings; picnics, dances, and other social events; courtships of Eddins and his siblings; treatment of illnesses and injuries; and local weather conditions. Occasional entries note incidents perhaps indicative of local racial tensions; other entries contain terse references to national or worldwide events. In addition to the daily diaries, the collection includes one volume consisting of brief notes concerning Eddins’ experiences and acquaintances during his army service in Europe, ca. 1918-1919.

County and State Officer Directories, 1845-1997 (Series S1284)Since Florida first established a territorial government in the 1820s, the Secretary of State (Secretary of the Territory prior to 1845) has maintained a directory of state and county officials. The records for county officials are generally organized by county name, so it’s easy to quickly locate a list of the individuals who held county offices such as sheriff, county commissioner or justice of the peace at any given time in your county.

Election Returns by County, 1824-1926 (Series S21) – These are official election returns sent to the Secretary of State by individual voting precincts. The documents often show the names of the individuals who voted at each precinct. This is another tool for locating specific ancestors in specific places over time. Box 40 of this series contains scattered returns for Sumter County from 1853-1926.

Election Return Canvasses, 1865-2004 (Series S1258) – This series contains national, state and county canvassing reports for the State of Florida dating back to the end of the Civil War. These records are a valuable tool for studying the political history of a community because they show how many votes each candidate received in each election–the winners as well as the losers. The records are arranged chronologically, so canvassing reports relating to Sumter County elections will be located throughout the volumes.

Governors’ Records (Multiple Series) – The correspondence and subject files of Florida’s governors are excellent sources for understanding what was happening in a Florida community at a specific point in time. County and state officials, as well as everyday citizens, often write to the governor to discuss their concerns or ideas about important subjects or events. These records are typically organized alphabetically by topic or county in each governor’s records. The correspondence and subject files of Governor Farris Bryant, for example, contain four folders of material relating specifically to Sumter County. Governor LeRoy Collins’ papers contain another five folders. There’s a separate collection (or series, in archives-speak) for each governor. Visit the State Archives’ Online Catalog and search for a specific governor to find the records you’re looking for, or visit our Guide to Florida Governors and the Florida Cabinet on Florida Memory.

State Defense Council Subject Files, 1940-1946 (Series S419) – The State Defense Council coordinated civilian defense activities in Florida during World War II. Every county and many major cities and towns had their own local defense councils, which worked closely with the state entity to manage tasks such as blackout preparedness, scrap collection, bond drives, food conservation, enemy aircraft observation teams, auxiliary policing and more. Box 47 of this collection contains folders relating specifically to Sumter County, although the records are organized by topic as well as by county, so there’s likely much more useful information scattered throughout the collection.

Tax Rolls (Series S28)These records document the taxable property of each household in the state over time. The records include tax rolls for Sumter County from 1853 to 1877, with some years missing.

 

State Library Resources

The State Library collects a variety of published resources relating to Sumter County and its communities. Items available online include links; items without links must be viewed in person. Those items may also be available at other libraries near you.

Ephemera File – This collection contains brochures, information booklets, fliers, programs, advertisements and other documents. Many relate to tourist attractions or special events and festivals.

Vertical File – The State Library maintains an extensive collection of news clippings and other miscellaneous documents on a wide range of topics. The file includes folders for each of Florida’s 67 counties, including a large file on Sumter County.

Books and Documents:

Bushnell Boosters Club. Sumter County, Florida: A Brief Review of Its History, Resources and Opportunities. Bushnell, Fla.: Bushnell Booster Club, 1930.

Florida Daughters of the American Revolution. Pine Level Cemetery, Oxford, Sumter County, Florida. Florida Daughters of the American Revolution, 2001.

Florida Legislature. Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of the State of Florida. 

Greer, William E., Mrs. Graves of Confederate Soldiers Located in Sumter County. Center Hill, Fla.: L. Sumner, 1990.

Looking Back, Sumter County: A Brief Essay on Sumter County. Bushnell, Fla.: Sundial Print Shop, 1981.

Richmond, John F. Sumter County, Florida: Its Situation, Climate, Soil, Productions, People, Transportation Lines, Lakes, Rivers; Its Inducements to Settlers and Tourists, and Its Advantages in General. Philadelphia: Press of McCalla and Stavely, 1882.

Sloan, Russ. Lake & Sumter Counties: Florida’s Heartland. Leesburg, Fla.: Lake-Sumter Community College, 2009.

Sumter County Board of Public Instruction. Teacher’s Manual for the Public Schools of Sumter County, Florida. Sumterville, Fla.: Times Job Print, 1899.

Sumter County Florida Land Company, Inc. New York: South Publishing Co., n.d.

United States Post Office Department. Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971.  (This National Archives microfilm publication shows the dates of establishment and discontinuance of post offices, name changes, and appointment dates of postmasters. Sumter County’s post offices are on reel 3 of 3.)

United States Post Office Department. Reports of Site Locations, 1837-1950. (This National Archives microfilm publication includes applications for new post offices and periodic reports giving detailed descriptions of where post offices were located in relation to railways, roads and bodies of water. Sumter County post offices are included on roll 98.)

 

 

 

 

Researching State and County Officers

Do you have an ancestor who served in public office at the county or state level? Are you trying to determine who was sheriff or tax collector or county judge at a certain point in your county’s history? Good news! The State Archives can help you get some answers!

One of the primary responsibilities of the secretary of state (or territory prior to 1845) is to keep track of who has been officially appointed or elected to each office, both for the state and its various counties. This information is documented in several kinds of records here at the State Archives, which can come in handy if you’re researching a local history topic or the life of an ancestor who was a public servant.

To explain the kinds of records we have available and how to use them to research a specific person, let’s start with an example. Let’s say you know you have an ancestor named J.W. Applegate who lived from around the 1830s to about 1919, and you’ve always heard he was either a member of the school board or the superintendent of public instruction in Clay County, but you don’t know exactly when.

 

Step 1: Consult the State and County Officer Directories (Series S259 and S1284).

The easiest way to begin is to look for the person in the State and County Officer Directories. These are a series of bound ledgers containing lists of county and state officials. Series S259 covers the Territorial Era and the early years of Florida’s statehood, while Series S1284 runs roughly from 1845 to about 1989, overlapping slightly with Series S259. Each entry lists the officer’s name, date of commission, election or appointment, and remarks explaining how their term of office ended. Usually their term simply expired according to law, but sometimes the person resigned, died, moved away from the state or was removed from office by the governor. After about 1870, the volumes also list the person’s post office address, which can be very handy if you’re tracking down an ancestor who gave the census takers the slip! Here’s an example of what the ledgers look like:

Volume 7 of the State and County Officer Directories (Series S1284).

Volume 7 of the State and County Officer Directories (Series S1284).

Returning to our example, let’s look for J.W. Applegate. The volumes in Series S259 and S1284 are arranged chronologically, so let’s look at volumes from when he was at about the right age for public service, maybe his 30s and 40s. Lo and behold! Here we find him listed in Series S1284, Volume 7, which covers the period from 1871 to 1889. It looks like he actually held more than one office during this period:

Page from Volume 7 of Series S1284 showing commission data from officers of Clay County in the 1870s. J.W. Applegate shows up with two different commissions, one as county treasurer and one as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Page from Volume 7 of Series S1284 showing commission data from officers of Clay County in the 1870s. J.W. Applegate shows up with two different commissions, one as county treasurer and one as superintendent of public instruction (Click the image to enlarge).

Just from this one record, we can see that J.W. Applegate held two commissions in the 1870s, one as superintendent of public instruction and one as county treasurer. We also can see that he lived in Green Cove Springs at the time. For his commission as superintendent of public instruction, we get the date of his actual commission, as well as the day his written oath of office was filed with the Secretary of State. For his term as county treasurer, we get a little more. Since county treasurers had to be bonded, we can see the date his bond was received by the Secretary of State. In both cases, we get the length of time he was to serve, verification that he had paid his taxes, and some information about how his term ended. Applegate’s term as county treasurer expired according to law, meaning someone was elected to take his place. He resigned, however, from his position as superintendent of public instruction, and in this case we don’t get the date that occurred.

What else can we learn?

 

Step 2: Find the person’s commission.

In many cases, the State Archives has more than just an index entry documenting a person’s public service. We also usually have a copy of the person’s commission, their signed oath of office, and a copy of their bond if it was required by law for them to have one.

Let’s start with the commission. This is simply the governor’s official notice to a state or county officer that they are confirmed in office and can begin exercising their duties. Here’s the one J.W. Applegate received when he became superintendent of public instruction for Clay County in 1874:

J.W. Applegate's commission as Superintendent of Public Schools for Clay County, in Volume 4 of the Secretary of State's Record of Cmmissions (Series S1285), State Archives of Florida.

J.W. Applegate’s commission as superintendent of public instruction for Clay County, in Volume 4 of the Secretary of State’s Record of Commissions (Series S1285), State Archives of Florida.

Commissions for public officers were recorded in different ways over time, so tracking one down can take some digging. Here are the catalog records for the record series where most commissions may be found:

Series S1285: Commissions for State and County Officers, 1845-1900
Series S1286: Commissions for State Appointed Officers, 1898-1964, 1969-78
Series S1287: Commissions for County Appointed Officers, 1901-1951
Series S1288: Commissions for County Elected Officers, 1898-1963, 1969-78, 1989-2004
Series S1289: Commissions for Officers Elected to Ad Interim Positions, 1906-1935
Series S1290: Commissions for Senate-Confirmed Officers, 1913-1963
Series S623: Commissions for Judges, 1935-1942

If you’re looking for a commission that falls outside these categories, contact the State Archives Reference Desk for further assistance.

 

Step 3: Find the person’s oath and bond (if applicable).

All public officials typically had to sign an oath swearing to uphold the state constitution and discharge the duties of their office to the best of their ability in accordance with the law. The signed oaths were filed in the office of the secretary of state, and many are available in the State Archives’ collections. Here, for example, is the one J.W. Applegate signed after he was elected superintendent of public instruction for Clay County in 1874.

Oath of Joseph W. Applegate, Superintendent of Public Instruction for Clay County (1874), in Box 3, folder 2, Oaths and Bonds of State and County Officers (Series S622), State Archives of Florida.

Oath of J.W. Applegate, superintendent of public instruction for Clay County (1874), in Box 3, Folder 2, Oaths and Bonds of State and County Officers (Series S622), State Archives of Florida.

Additionally, in some cases state law required a person to be bonded if he was going to be handling money or financial transactions on behalf of the county. Applegate was not required to be bonded for his position as superintendent of public instruction, but he did need a bond to be county treasurer, and here it is:

Bond of Joseph W. Applegate, County Treasurer - Clay County (1873) in Box 3, folder 2, Oaths and Bonds of State and County Officers (Series S622), State Archives of Florida.

Bond of J.W. Applegate, county treasurer – Clay County (1873) in Box 3, Folder 2, Oaths and Bonds of State and County Officers (Series S622), State Archives of Florida.

 

Most oaths and bonds for county and state officers between 1845 and the mid-20th century are found in Series S622, with a few exceptions. Oaths and bonds for notaries who held office between 1845 and 1897, for example, are in Series S16.

 

Step 4: Check for related documentation about the person’s service.

While the county courthouse is your best bet for finding records relating to the work a person did while serving in a county office, the State Archives sometimes has a few additional helpful documents. In J.W. Applegate’s case, for example, we see from his entry in the State and County Officer Directory that he resigned his post as superintendent of public instruction, although we’re not given a date. Sometimes we can get a few clues as to why a person may have resigned from their position by determining the date of the resignation and checking to see if their letter of resignation to the governor has survived.

There are two main ways to find out when a person resigned from a county or state office. One is to look at the State and County Officer Directory and see if the secretary of state’s office made a note in the “Remarks” column dating the event. In Applegate’s case, we only get the fact he resigned. The second method is to look for the governor’s acceptance of the resignation. Luckily, governors from 1868 to 1975 kept track of all the resignations they accepted in a single set of volumes contained in Series S260. The 10 handwritten volumes in the series are essentially in chronological order and many have indexes.

Those records can tell us when a person resigned, but what about why? For that information, the best source is the officer’s own explanation in a letter of resignation. Resignation letters can be found in one of several places depending on the time period. For mid-to-late 19th century cases like our friend J.W. Applegate, the best place to start is Series S1326which includes letters of resignation written to the governor and filed by the secretary of state, as well as notices from the governor that he had removed an official by executive authority. This series is far from exhaustive, but it contains some interesting insights into 19th century politics and the lives of public servants from that era, which we explored in a recent post titled ‘I Quit!!!’ In the case of Mr. Applegate, no letter of resignation was available to document his decision to quit the role of superintendent of public instruction, but there is a letter from the governor announcing his decision to remove Applegate from his other job as county treasurer:

Letter from Governor George Franklin Drew to Secretary of State William D. Bloxham announcing several removals from office for Clay County (January 11, 1877). Found in Box 1, folder 3 of Resignations and Removals (Series S1326), State Archives of Florida.

Letter from Governor George Franklin Drew to Secretary of State William D. Bloxham announcing several removals from office for Clay County (January 11, 1877). Found in Box 1, folder 3 of Resignations and Removals (Series S1326), State Archives of Florida.

Even though this document doesn’t give us a clear reason for Applegate’s departure from either the office of county treasurer or superintendent of public instruction, we can use a little historical context to make an educated guess. Notice the date of this removal notice from Governor Drew – January 11, 1877. Drew had just been voted into office as the first Democrat to serve as governor since the end of the Civil War. Applegate, as well as everyone else named in the letter, had been appointed by Drew’s Republican predecessors during Reconstruction.  The political divide between the two major parties was acrimonious during this period, and upon taking office Drew took every opportunity he could to remove his political opponents from power. This caused, as you can imagine, a considerable amount of paperwork in the form of removal notices and new commissions, oaths and bonds, which are well documented in the State Archives collections. Considering J.W. Applegate was removed at the same time as the entire Clay County Board of Commissioners right after Drew took office, he was almost certainly part of this purge. Additional research in the papers of Governor Drew or local sources in Clay County would help verify this hypothesis.

Researching in These Records

The records described in this blog are all open for public research here at the State Archives, or you can contact the State Archives Reference Desk to verify an officer’s dates of service or get copies of their commission, oath, or bond if it has survived. When you call or email, make sure you include the person’s full name, the county they served in, the office you think they served in, and as close as possible to the dates they would have served. If you aren’t sure about the dates, have the person’s birth and death dates ready – that will at least narrow down the search. Consult the State Archives’ fee schedule to find out the cost of receiving copies or scans.

Researching the Homefront

Today’s post is part of the Florida Department of State’s Victory Florida campaign to commemorate the contributions of Floridian men and women to winning World War II. Help us get the word out by sharing this and other related posts on social media using the hashtag #VictoryFL.

Americans nationwide are preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The weekend of August 14-16 will mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s announcement that it would surrender, while September 2nd will be the anniversary of the formal ending of hostilities.

Bird's eye view of the Victory Club of the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee, standing in a

Bird’s eye view of the Victory Club of the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee, standing in a “V for Victory” formation (1942).

Over 248,000 Floridians, including more than 50,000 African Americans, served in the military during the war, while the state itself served as a year-round training center with over 170 military installations. Florida’s population grew by leaps and bounds during and after the war, as many former military personnel decided to make the Sunshine State their permanent home.

It goes without saying that Florida’s military contributions to the war were vital, but Floridians on the homefront also played an essential role in achieving victory. Citizens from all walks of life – men and women, whites and African Americans, city dwellers and rural folks – poured countless hours into civilian defense programs designed to keep Florida safe and prepared for any possibility. They took stock of food, water, and medicine supplies, organized carpools and child care services for working mothers, planned recreational activities for the men and women in uniform, and even helped watch the skies and seas for signs of the enemy.

Scrap metal collection was a vital homefront program. Seen here are several Floridians in Pensacola with a large collection of scrap metal and rubber (circa 1943).

Scrap metal collection was a vital homefront program. Seen here are several Floridians in Pensacola with a large collection of scrap metal and rubber (circa 1943).

This organizational chart demonstrates the breadth of the projects undertaken by the State Defense Council and its local branches. Shown here are the various state committees, along with the organizations with which they cooperated (Box 14, Series 419 - State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

This organizational chart demonstrates the breadth of the projects undertaken by the State Defense Council and its local branches. Shown here are the various state committees, along with the organizations with which they cooperated (Box 14, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida). Click to enlarge.

Many of these programs were administrated by Florida’s State Defense Council, a state-level counterpart of the national Office of Civilian Defense. Each county had its own defense council, with committees assigned to take on various tasks associated with civilian defense. Because these entities answered to the State Defense Council, many of their records have been preserved at the State Library and Archives in Tallahassee in Record Series 419. For the local historian working on a history of a particular Florida community or county, these records can be invaluable for understanding how local leaders helped meet the serious challenges of World War II. Genealogists may also find it interesting to learn how various relatives participated in civilian defense work. Here are some examples of the kinds of records available:

 

Personnel Lists & Organizational Charts

Each county and many cities had their own defense councils, administrated by community leaders and supported by hundreds of local volunteers. Many of the committee chairpersons were required to submit oaths of allegiance before their appointments to local leadership positions would be confirmed by the state and made official by the Governor. The local council also had to notify the state if there were any changes in personnel as the war progressed. All of this activity was documented through correspondence and lists of essential defense council leaders. Local and family historians can use this information to determine who was in charge of each area of civilian defense work during the war in a given community.

A leadership roster from the Dixie County Defense Council, showing who was in charge of the various committees. This sort of roster is available for most counties in Florida (Box 16, Series 419 - State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

A leadership roster from the Dixie County Defense Council, showing who was in charge of the various committees. This sort of roster is available for most counties in Florida (Box 16, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

Chart suggesting a method for organizing civilian defense volunteers. Note that the chart provides alternative arrangements for areas with varying population density (Box 14. State Defense Council Records - Series 419, State Archives of Florida).

Chart suggesting a method for organizing civilian defense volunteers. Note that the chart provides alternative arrangements for areas with varying population density (Box 14. State Defense Council Records – Series 419, State Archives of Florida).

 

Local Programs & Advertisements

Local defense councils, especially those in Florida’s larger cities, designed intricate programs to handle basic needs like child care for working mothers, transportation, and spreading information about air raid drills, blackouts, and other safety measures. Many of the child care centers, supply distribution points, and other agencies created during the war disappeared quickly after victory, leaving little trace of their existence. The records in Series 419 can help local historians piece together what these entities were doing, where they were doing it, and who was in charge.

Example: Leaflet describing wartime child care services in Duval County established by the local school board and the Duval County Defense Council (Box 16, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida.

 

Another example:

Flyer produced by the Dade County Defense Council encouraging citizens to volunteer (Box 12, State Defense Council Records - Series 419, State Archives of Florida).

Flyer produced by the Dade County Defense Council encouraging citizens to volunteer (Box 12, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

 

Correspondence

While much of the correspondence between the State Defense Council and the local defense councils consists of routine business, some of the letters contain excellent descriptions of the work being done, and of the challenges local leaders faced in getting the supplies they needed, the information they wanted, and so on. These letters are a must for anyone working on the history of civilian defense work in a Florida community. Here is an example of one such letter to the State Defense Council from Mrs. C.C. Codrington of Lake City, who had volunteered to chair a local campaign to recruit women into the Women’s Army Corps. She describes speaking to local civic clubs about her work, working with local theater managers to show informative films, and starting work in the local high school library. Mrs. Codrington’s oath of allegiance was enclosed with the letter.

Source: Box 12, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida.
These are only a few examples of the many gems to be found in the records of the State Defense Council at the State Archives of Florida. If you or someone you know is working on a history of your Florida community during World War II, visit us and have a look. More information on Series 419 may be obtained from the Archives Online Catalog, or you may contact the State Archives directly by email at Archives@dos.myflorida.com or by phone at (850)-245-6719.

Also, don’t forget to share this post with friends or family who may be interested in learning more about Florida’s World War II contributions. Use the hashtag #VictoryFL to help more people find this and other related posts!