Florida’s Most Colorful Surveyor

Land surveying is a precise business, at least most of the time. The goal of the surveyor is to show as accurately as possible the boundary lines of a person’s property, usually in relation to a written legal description. Surveyors will readily tell you that is both a science and an art, but there’s one Florida surveyor who took that idea to a whole new level. Take a look at this survey plat drawn by Robert McHardy in 1818:

Survey plat drawn by Robert McHardy in 1818 depicting a parcel of land claimed by John Bolton in the vicinity of New Smyrna Beach. Click or tap the image to view all of the documents Bolton used to support his claim. This and more than a thousand additional claims for Spanish land grants are documented in records at the State Archives. This particular dossier is found in Box 4, Folder 23 of Series S990 (Confirmed Spanish Land Grant Claims).

Survey plat drawn by Robert McHardy in 1818 depicting a parcel of land claimed by John Bolton in the vicinity of New Smyrna Beach. Click or tap the image to view all of the documents Bolton used to support his claim. This and more than a thousand additional claims for Spanish land grants are documented in records at the State Archives. This particular dossier is found in Box 4, Folder 23 of Series S990 (Confirmed Spanish Land Grant Claims).

If you’ve seen a modern survey plat, you’ll recognize that this goes above and beyond showing someone where the boundaries and corners of their property are. That begs the question, who was Robert McHardy, and why did he take such an elaborate, colorful approach to land surveying?

Robert McHardy was born in Montrose, Scotland in 1776. As young adults, he and his brother James worked for a mercantile business, sailing back and forth between Scotland and Charleston, South Carolina and the West Indies. In the late 1700s, the two brothers decided to strike out on their own. They moved to Nassau in the Bahamas and set up their own firm. Business was good for the McHardys until around 1800 when a family friend failed to repay a fairly large loan. Robert, having just married and looking to get his finances back in order, decided to take advantage of a trend that was taking place just across the water in Spanish Florida.

Excerpt from Doolittle's Map of the West Indies (1796). Click or tap the image to view a zoomable version of the complete map.

Excerpt from Doolittle’s Map of the West Indies (1796). Click or tap the image to view a zoomable version of the complete map.

Since taking Florida back from the British in 1783, Spanish authorities had been trying to convince settlers to move into the province and make it profitable. They offered to let the people who moved in during the period of British ownership keep their land, but they had to take an oath of fidelity to the Spanish Crown, which at the time also meant converting to Catholicism. Many of the British settlers chose not to accept these terms, and instead moved north into Georgia or to British islands in the Caribbean, especially the Bahamas.

Seeing that the religious requirement was the main stumbling block, the Spanish tried offering Florida land to Irish Catholics, but only a few families took advantage of the program. In 1790, the King issued an order inviting non-Spanish individuals to settle in Florida regardless of their religion. New immigrants would be offered “head rights,” meaning they would receive free land based on the number of persons–slave or free–that they brought into the province to establish a plantation. That offer was awfully tempting for British nationals like Robert McHardy in Nassau. In 1802, he and his wife Mary and their young family moved to Spanish Florida with their nine slaves, which entitled them to a sizable chunk of land to begin farming. The McHardys initially settled with a cluster of other Bahama transfers near New Smyrna, but they later acquired property near Mary’s father around present-day Tomoka, where they set up their main planting operation.

Excerpt from an 1845 survey plat of Township 13 South, Range 32 East, showing Robert McHardy's land just north of a parcel belonging to his father-in-law, John Bunch. Both are located in the vicinity of the Halifax and Tomoka rivers in what is now Volusia County. Click or tap the image to view a zoomable version of the excerpt. Image courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of the Interior.

Excerpt from an 1845 survey plat of Township 13 South, Range 32 East, showing Robert McHardy’s land just north of a parcel belonging to his father-in-law, John Bunch. Both are located in the vicinity of the Halifax and Tomoka rivers in what is now Volusia County. Click or tap the image to view a zoomable version of the excerpt. Image courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management, United States Department of the Interior.

McHardy’s luck was hard in the decade that followed. Five of his six children died, as did his wife Mary. The one child who survived, John Bunch Bonnemaison McHardy, was sent to live with his mother’s relatives in Nassau. In 1812, McHardy became embroiled in the disturbance that came to be known as the “Patriot War.” A group of Georgians, with the tacit approval of the United States government, invaded Spanish Florida aiming to seize it and transfer it to United States control. The effort failed, but not before the so-called Patriots caused plenty of damage to the plantations of settlers who didn’t join their cause. McHardy was British and had a lot in common with the Americans, but he chose to support the Spanish administration in St. Augustine rather than endorsing the rebels’ plan to annex Florida to the United States at that time. In return, the Patriots ransacked his plantation at Tomoka, knocking down his fences and destroying his crops. They also took McHardy prisoner, although he was later released. McHardy would later be awarded damages from the United States government for his trouble, although he had been dead for years by the time the litigation was complete.

Excerpt from a document in the Supreme Court case file relating to the litigation over Robert McHardy's compensation for property damages during the Patriot War of 1812. Click or tap the image to view a description of the case and 241 pages of records relating to it.

Excerpt from a document in the Supreme Court case file relating to the litigation over Robert McHardy’s compensation for property damages during the Patriot War of 1812. Click or tap the image to view a description of the case and 241 pages of records relating to it.

Things began looking up for Robert McHardy after these trying years. In 1816, he remarried to Caroline Williams, one of his neighbors in the Tomoka area. He also began surveying for the Spanish government, who by this time was giving away land grants for a variety of reasons. The old head rights system was still in play, but a person could also obtain land grants for government or military service, or for starting a mill or cattle ranch. Once a person had applied for one of these kinds of grants, they had to present their paperwork to the public surveyor, who would then lay out the boundaries and corners of the land. George J.F. Clarke was the public surveyor at St. Augustine from 1811 until the end of Spanish rule in Florida, but he had a number of surveyors working under him at his direction. McHardy was one of them.

Hand-colored survey plat drawn by Robert McHardy in 1817 showing a parcel of land claimed by John B. Gaudry. Click or tap the image to view a zoomable version of the map and the dossier of records in which it is located.

Hand-colored survey plat drawn by Robert McHardy in 1817 showing a parcel of land claimed by John B. Gaudry. The land was located along the St. Johns River near present-day DeLeon Springs. Click or tap the image to view a zoomable version of the map and the dossier of records in which it is located.

McHardy’s survey plats are the most colorful and detailed maps found in the Spanish land grant records at the State Archives. Surveyors were given a detailed set of instructions explaining exactly what was supposed to be included in the plats, but McHardy went beyond just showing the compass bearings and distances that defined a piece of land. He used color and illustrations to convey the shape of the terrain, marking out forests, swamps, pine uplands, buildings, roads and canals.

Excerpt of a map drawn by Robert McHardy in 1816 for his neighbor, John Addison, whose property was located along the Tomoka River in what is now Volusia County. Click or tap the image to view the complete map and the full dossier of documents relating to Addison's claim.

Excerpt of a map drawn by Robert McHardy in 1816 for his neighbor, John Addison, whose property was located along the Tomoka River in what is now Volusia County. Click or tap the image to view the complete map and the full dossier of documents relating to Addison’s claim.

Marking the location of corners was particularly important. Today’s surveyors use metal rods or concrete monuments to mark corners, but this system was impractical in the 1810s, long before modern metal detectors and measuring devices were available. Instead, surveyors like McHardy used trees for property corners. They would shave the bark off one or more sides of the tree and carve letters into it. On the excerpt from the survey plat below, for example, you can see the phrase Pino Marcado B, meaning “pine marked B.” This enabled the landowner (John Bolton in this case) and his neighbors to know exactly where the corner of the property was located. Pine trees appear to have been the most common boundary marker, but in looking through the records you also see oak trees and even royal palm trees on occasion.

One corner of a map drawn by Robert McHardy depicting a parcel of land claimed by John Bolton in the vicinity of what is now New Smyrna Beach. Click or tap the image to view the complete map and the full dossier of records relating to Bolton's claim.

One corner of a map drawn by Robert McHardy depicting a parcel of land claimed by John Bolton in the vicinity of what is now New Smyrna Beach. Click or tap the image to view the complete map and the full dossier of records relating to Bolton’s claim.

The level of detail in Robert McHardy’s survey plats was especially helpful because in those days there was no reliable grid system to use to describe the exact location of land. Latitude and longitude could be calculated, but not with anywhere near the kind of precision needed for land surveying. The land measurement system we use today–the Public Land Survey System–was only established after the United States acquired Florida, so that wasn’t available either. In the absence of anything better, McHardy’s careful representation of the physical appearance of a piece of property helped the government, the owner and his neighbors understand where the property was in real space.

Monument in Cascades Park in Tallahassee marking the point of beginning for the Public Land Survey System in Florida. Virtually all land in the state is measured in relation to a grid system that originates at this single point (2014).

Monument in Cascades Park in Tallahassee marking the point of beginning for the Public Land Survey System in Florida. Virtually all land in the state is now measured in relation to a grid system that originates at this single point (2014).

All that being said, McHardy’s plats are far from perfect. Since his time, the terrain has changed considerably and many of the parcels of land shown on his maps have been transferred many times and divided into pieces. So if you’re a genealogist, a local historian or just plain curious, how can you tell where a former Spanish land grant was located? The State Archives is working to make it easier to do just that!

When the United States acquired Florida, one of the first priorities was to start selling land to settlers so they could move in and develop the territory. That meant measuring the land into some kind of system so pieces of it could be accurately described. The government had a system in mind already, but there was a problem. In acquiring Florida from Spain, the Americans had promised the Spanish that they would respect any legitimate land titles granted to individuals during the time the Spanish owned the territory. Those grants came in all kinds of crazy shapes and sizes–nothing like the grid-based parcels the Americans planned to sell. To avoid accidentally selling off land that rightfully belonged to landowners left over from the Spanish period, the American government surveyors had to show exactly where those Spanish land grants were in relation to the new grid system. Accordingly, many of the township plats around Pensacola and northeastern Florida look like this:

Survey plat for Township 4 South, Range 27 East (1851), located just south of Jacksonville. Note that part of the township is surveyed into regular one-mile sections, while other sections are irregularly interrupted by private land claims dating back to the Spanish era. Click or tap the image to view a larger version. Image courtesy of the Bureau of land Management, United States Department of the Interior.

Survey plat for Township 4 South, Range 27 East (1851), located just south of Jacksonville. Note that part of the township is surveyed into regular one-mile sections, while other sections are irregularly interrupted by private land claims dating back to the Spanish era. Click or tap the image to view a larger version. Image courtesy of the Bureau of land Management, United States Department of the Interior.

Many records relating to the Spanish land grants have been available on FloridaMemory.com for years, but up to this point they have only been searchable by the name of the person claiming to own the land as of the 1820s, plus geographic terms typical for that time period. We’re now in the process of cross-referencing between the Spanish land grant records, township plats like the one above and a variety of other documents to pinpoint exactly where each of the 1,000-plus Spanish land grants were located. Soon, you’ll be able to browse a modern map of Florida, zoom in on whichever area you like and see the Spanish land grants located there. You’ll also be able to search for grants by county, the nearest town and other criteria. These changes will make it easier to use the collection for family and community history research. We hope you’ll also take some time to simply enjoy the colorful maps in the records, like those drawn by Robert McHardy.

 

 

A Merritt Island Beach Palace

It was 1964. More and more of Brevard County’s Merritt Island was being developed by NASA to build the nation’s first “moonport.” On the edge of all this futuristic construction, however, stood the fading remains of a majestic old house. Its octagonal rotundas gave it a rather unique appearance for Florida, and locals even called it a castle. Dummitt Castle, to be exact.

Dummitt Castle after it was relocated to Parrish Park near Titusville in Brevard County (circa 1965).

Dummitt Castle after it was relocated to Parrish Park near Titusville in Brevard County (circa 1965).

This structure was a real anachronism in a place dedicated to launching Florida and the United States into the Space Age. The damage done by years of neglect and vandalism didn’t help. Local historians and preservationists hoped, however, that somehow the old house could be saved.

As it turned out, convincing the right people of Dummitt Castle’s historic value was the easy part. The house and its surroundings were part of a story that dates back to the Spanish colonial era. In 1807 or so, Colonel Thomas Dummitt (originally spelled Dummett) of the British Marines sailed past Merritt Island while on his way to St. Augustine. According to local legend, Colonel Dummitt and his son smelled wild orange blossoms as they passed through. They were curious, but they had already had big plans to develop a plantation farther north.

In 1825, Dummett purchased the plantations of John Bunch and John Addison, the former of which included a sugar mill. These plantations had been built on land near the Halifax River, which the Spanish granted to Bunch and Addison prior to the United States’ acquisition of Florida in 1821.

A map from the Spanish Land Grant of John Bunch. This land later passed into the possession of Thomas Dummett (Dummitt).

A map from the Spanish Land Grant of John Bunch. This land later passed into the possession of Thomas Dummett (Dummitt).

When Colonel Dummett’s son Douglas came of age, his interests turned to citrus. He acquired a significant amount of land through the Florida Armed Occupation Act of 1842, owing to his military service during the Second Seminole War.  He established an orange grove on North Merritt Island, budding trees from wild sour-orange trees from St. Augustine and sweet-orange trees from New Smyrna. The resulting hybrid was particularly hardy as it managed to withstand even the Great Freeze of 1894-95. The Dummitt, Indian River, and Enterprise seedless varieties of oranges are descended from this lineage.

Douglas Dummett eventually grew old and passed away, but his orange grove continued to impress visitors and provide stock for new citrus ventures. In 1881, the property was sold to an Italian duke, Eicole Tamajo, Duke of Castlellucia. The duke and his wife decided to upgrade the living quarters of the grove, and so they built what was later known as Dummitt Castle. A penciled notation under one of the staircases explained that the architect was J.J. Conwar of New York, and that the structure was completed on December 15, 1881. Building materials for the house came in part from timbers off a shipwrecked vessel that met its demise off Daytona Beach.

The United States government acquired the property some years after the duke and duchess had died, and it eventually became part of the massive 90,000-acre plot reserved for the nation’s space program at Cape Canaveral. Given the historical significance of the old house and the surrounding orange grove, locals felt something ought to be done to preserve this unique relic of Brevard County’s past. The house, alternately called either “Dummitt Castle” or the “Duke’s Castle,” was moved in 1964 to nearby Parrish Park, just east of Titusville, with help from the Brevard County Historical Society.

Visitors take in Dummitt Castle at its new location in Parrish Park near Titusville in Brevard County (1967).

Visitors take in Dummitt Castle at its new location in Parrish Park near Titusville in Brevard County (1967).

Unfortunately, Dummitt Castle burned in 1967 before it could be turned into a museum. Brevard County is home, however, to a number of other excellent historic sites and museums. Visit the Brevard County Historical Commission’s Historic Landmarks page to learn more.

And on Florida Memory, you can always find images of historic sites in Brevard County and across the state by searching the Florida Photographic Collection. You might also be interested in learning more about the Spanish Land Grants, one of which eventually passed into the Dummett family’s possession.

 

Here Comes… Columbus?

At this very moment, two 15th-century Spanish caravels are tied up at St. Marks about 20 miles south of Tallahassee. Most folks will recognize their names – the Niña and the Pinta – because these were two of the ships used by Christopher Columbus and his crew to sail that proverbial ocean blue in 1492.

You can put down the phone, though – there’s no need to raise the alarm. The Spanish haven’t come for a third colonial occupation of Florida. Rather, these ships are replicas created by the Columbus Foundation as floating museums dedicated to educating the public about Christopher Columbus and the ships he used to explore parts of the Western Hemisphere.

The Columbus Foundation's replicas of Christopher Columbus' ships Nina and Pinta. Photo courtesy of the Columbus Foundation.

The Columbus Foundation’s replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ships Nina and Pinta. Photo courtesy of the Columbus Foundation.

The two ships and their crews are currently on a tour of the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Seaboard this winter and spring. At each port of call, they offer tours of the ships, which describe how the ships were sailed in the 15th century, what life was like for the sailors, and how the ships operate today in their replica form.

The Niña and the Pinta will remain in port at St. Marks until February 22nd, and will then sail on to Marco Island, where they will be in port from February 27th to March 1st. The ships will be anchored at Vero Beach on the Atlantic Coast from March 6-11, and then at Ponce Inlet from March 13-17. These dates are subject to change, of course – we recommend you visit the Columbus Foundation’s website at thenina.com for full details about the ships, their schedule, and tours.

With this fine-looking pair of Spanish caravels in port so close by, we at the State Library and Archives cannot help but think about some of the excellent resources we hold from the Spanish colonial era, several of which are available through Florida Memory. The oldest object in the State Archives, for example, is a 1589 map depicting the English privateer Sir Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St. Augustine. This hand-colored map is the earliest-known depiction of a European settlement in what is now the United States. It was created by Baptista Boazio, an Italian cartographer working for the English at this time.

Baptista Boazio's map of Sir Francis Drake's 1586 raid on St. Augustine. This is the oldest item held by the State Archives of Florida (1589).

Baptista Boazio’s map of Sir Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St. Augustine. This is the oldest item held by the State Archives of Florida (1589).

The Archives also holds a large collection of original records used by settlers to defend their titles to their land following the official transfer of Florida to the United States in 1821. One of the conditions of the treaty between Spain and the U.S. was that the United States government would honor existing land grants given by the Spanish Crown. The U.S. Board of Land Commissioners was established in 1822 to review claims and verify titles to these land grants, which claimants supported through deeds, correspondence, maps, and other materials establishing their ownership. These dossiers of material were retained by the Commission, and are now in the possession of the State Archives. The colorful maps and drawings alone make the collection worth a look, but for families with ties to these original claimants they can be great for genealogical research as well. Florida Memory has digitized the Spanish Land Grant collection in its entirety, and the images are available online.

Map from the land grant of John Bolton, part of the collection of Spanish land grants at the State Archives of Florida (Series 990). These grants are also available in digital form on Florida Memory.

Map from the land grant of John Bolton, part of the collection of Spanish land grants at the State Archives of Florida (Series 990). These grants are also available in digital form on Florida Memory.

Students of the Spanish colonial era will also find the East Florida Papers a very useful resource. A complete copy of the original records of East Florida held by the Library of Congress is available at the State Archives, along with an index. The documents include an index to Royal Decrees, financial records, and correspondence between Spanish officials on matters such as runaway slaves, the militia, religious authorities, and the transfer of the Florida Archives to the United States. The collection’s catalog record contains a fuller description of the contents.

These are just a few of the resources on the Spanish colonial era available to you through the State Library and Archives. Check out the State Library’s bibliography of resources relating to the Spanish colonial era, and  contact us with any questions about the Archives’ holdings.

Staying at the Ormond

New Year’s Day is a holiday in itself, but New Year’s Day 1888 was especially sweet for
Ormond Beach. That’s because it was opening day for the grand Ormond Hotel, a grand resort
for wealthy Northerners looking to escape the chilly winters back home.

Hotel Ormond - Ormond Beach (1900).

Hotel Ormond – Ormond Beach (1900).

The name “Ormond” had been associated with the area since James and Emanuel Ormond had
settled a 2,000-acre plantation called “Damietta” in the area during the late Spanish
colonial era. In the 1870s, a group of men from New Britain, Connecticut arrived to seek a
place for establishing a colony of workers from their business, the Corbin Lock Company. At
first they named the area after their hometown, but they decided to change the name to
something more reminiscient of local history. The first post office named Ormond appeared
in 1880, and by 1886 the settlement was a stop along the new St. Johns & Halifax Railroad.

The hotel did not perform well in its first two years, but its location and potential lured
the interest (and money) of developer Henry Flagler. He bought the hotel in 1890 and began
a major expansion project that added three wings, a swimming pool, a casino, a pavilion and
a pier extending out over the Halifax River. The hotel quickly became one of the star
attractions along Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway.

Excerpt of a map of the Florida East Coast Railway system featuring Ormond and the Ormond Hotel (1917).

Excerpt of a map of the Florida East Coast Railway system featuring Ormond and the Ormond Hotel (1917).

Like Flagler’s other hotels, the Ormond was a playground for those with enough money to
enjoy it. Activities included horseback riding, wooded excursion paths, bicycling (which
was then still quite new), sailing and fishing. When the automobile arrived on the scene,
the Ormond gained a new favorite activity: driving and racing along the packed sands of the
nearby beach.

Ranson E. Olds in his Olds Pirate racecar on Ormond Beach (circa 1896).

Ranson E. Olds in his Olds Pirate race car on Ormond Beach (circa 1896).

The Ormond enjoyed considerable popularity during the heyday of the Flagler hotels, playing host at various times to the Rockefellers, the Astors, the Vanderbilts and a number of other famous personalities. John D. Rockefeller liked the place so much he bought the house across the street in 1917 and spent the winters there until his death in 1937.

The hotel changed hands several times in the second half of the twentieth century. On November 24, 1980 the structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was destroyed in 1992 to make way for condominiums, but the original 21-foot wooden cupola is now displayed in Fortunato Park near the Halifax River.

The Ormond Hotel in 1982, surrounded by a growing Ormond Beach.

The Ormond Hotel in 1982, surrounded by a growing Ormond Beach community.

What historic structures are located in your Florida community? Search the Florida Photographic Collection to find images of them!

Animated Map Series: Jacksonville

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos with historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Jacksonville.

If you have trouble viewing the video, download it here.

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Jacksonville.

Long before concrete and steel spanned the St. Johns River near downtown Jacksonville, the Timucuan chief Saturiwa (Sat-ur-e-ba [IPA: Sæt-ur-ih-bah]) presided over the area shown on this map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Ezekiel Hudnall. This Westward bend in the St. Johns sits upstream from the French built Fort Caroline, destroyed and then rebuilt by the Spanish and christened Fort San Mateo in the 1560s.

By the 18th century, just decades after diseases and slave raids vanquished the Timucua, Seminole cattlemen drove their herds across the river at this narrow spot along the St. Johns River. Called Waca-Palatka (wack-a-pill-at-ka [IPA:Wak-ʌ-pæl-ɑt-kɑ]) by the Seminoles, and Cow ford by English speaking settlers, the area served as a natural point to wade and ferry cattle to eager buyers. The Americans renamed the area Jacksonville in the 1820s after Andrew Jackson, hero of the First Seminole War and the territory’s first governor.

Jackson’s policies eventually led to the removal of Seminole Indians from the area, and forced those few that remained in Florida into the deep recesses of the Everglades. Jacksonville became the hub of commerce in Northeast Florida by the time of the American Civil War. After the war, Jacksonville continued to grow and expand on both sides of the St. Johns River.

Commercial needs in the 20th century dictated the deepening of the St. Johns. Docks and piers proliferated along the water’s edge, as well as seawalls to hold back the water from the growing city. This Eastward facing point is now the site of EverBank Field—the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Gator Bowl, and the annual Florida-Georgia rivalry game.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Animated Map Series: Key Biscayne

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos with historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Key Biscayne.

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Key Biscayne.

Key Biscayne is a long barrier island that sits just offshore of metropolitan Miami. This map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Mary Ann Davis, shows Key Biscayne long before dredging altered its shoreline, and causeways linked it to the mainland.

From the earliest days of Spanish exploration, the island, whose southern tip is known as Cape Florida, served to warn mariners about the impending danger of shallow water and treacherous reefs. In the early 19th century, shortly before Florida became a territory of the United States, escaped slaves and free blacks, known as Black Seminoles, fled to Key Biscayne. For them, the island served as a point of departure. They sought freedom in the Bahamas and elsewhere in the British Caribbean—removed from the institution of slavery, which was rapidly extending its reach into the Florida peninsula.

The United States built the first lighthouse on Key Biscayne in 1825. On July 23, 1836, during the Second Seminole War, Seminole warriors attacked and burned the lighthouse. It was rebuilt 10 years later. The lighthouse was attacked again during the Civil War, this time by Confederates hoping to prevent Union forces from using the light to guide blockading ships patrolling the coast.

The Northern and middle sections of the island witnessed significant development in the 20th century. The development of homes sites, channels for luxury boats, and a golf course, combined with natural erosion and efforts to deepen the Port of Miami, give the island its present shape. Today, the Southern third of Key Biscayne is part of the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Gregor McGregor (Part One)

In July 1817, McGregor devised a plan to capture part of Florida and sell it to the United States.

Gregor McGregor was born in Scotland in 1786. After serving in the British Army for eight years he sold out of the army in 1810, having attained the rank of major. In 1812, McGregor sailed to South America to join the colonial revolution against the Spanish. He married a relative of Simón Bolivar and campaigned against the Spanish in South America and the Caribbean for several years.

In 1817, he left South America for North America to campaign against the Spanish in Florida. McGregor devised a plan to capture part of Florida and sell it to the United States. He obtained financial backing from an American mercantile company from Charleston, South Carolina, recruited veterans of the War of 1812, and invaded Amelia Island in North Florida.

Map from the Unconfirmed Spanish Land Grant of John McClure on Amelia Island, showing the location of Fuerte San Carlos (upper left) overtaken by McGregor on July 9, 1817

Map from the Unconfirmed Spanish Land Grant of John McClure on Amelia Island, showing the location of Fuerte San Carlos (upper left) overtaken by McGregor on July 9, 1817

Quotation below from Narrative of a Voyage to the Spanish Main in the Ship Two Friends (J. Miller: London, 1819), 87-88.

“On the 9th of July (1817), the little band of McGregor, attended by two schooners and a few row boats, passing the shores of Cumberland island, at the entrance of the river St. Mary’s, anchored in the Spanish waters of Amelia, disembarking in all about 60 muskets, under the very guns of the fort of Fernandina, and two block houses intended as a defense for the rear of the town. McGregor, assisted by Colonel Posen of the United States Army as second in command, led his little band over a swamp, which divided the point of debarkation from the town, plunged up to their knees in mud, exposed to the means possessed by the Spaniards of totally annihilating them… The garrison… did not offer a single coup de canon of resistance from the fort, and only one gun was fired from the Block house and that without the orders of the commandant.”

Genealogy Resources on Florida Memory

Looking for your relatives on Florida Memory? Several of our online collections provide excellent materials for researching genealogy and family history.

Did your relatives serve in World War I? Were they from Florida, or entered the service while in Florida? On Florida Memory, you can search for their World War I Service Cards.

World War I Service Card for Albert McLeod Bethune, son of Mary McLeod Bethune

World War I Service Card for Albert McLeod Bethune, son of Mary McLeod Bethune

 

Did your relatives serve for the Confederate Army during the Civil War? Were they from Florida, or lived in Florida after the war? You can search for their Confederate Pension Applications on Florida Memory.

Confederate Pension Application for Joseph H. Haddock of Duval County, submitted by his wife Martha Haddock

Confederate Pension Application for Joseph H. Haddock of Duval County, submitted by his wife Martha Haddock

Did your family live in Florida before the United States took control of the territory in 1821? On Florida Memory, you can find Spanish Land Grant claims. These records represent claims made for land purchased in Florida from the Spanish government prior to 1821.

Confirmed claim of Reuben Hogan

Confirmed claim of Reuben Hogan

Photographs are a great resource on family history. We have over 170,000 photographs available online, some of which contain unidentified persons. Perhaps your relative is waiting to be identified on Florida Memory? Search the Florida Photographic Collection.

Portrait of an unidentified family: Gainesville (ca. 1900)

Portrait of an unidentified family: Gainesville (ca. 1900)

Found a great photo or document from your family’s history on Florida Memory? Share it with us in the comments.