WPA County Histories
About These Documents
This collection contains brief county histories and related notes collected or written during the Great Depression by agents of the Works Progress Administration’s Historical Records Survey. The manuscripts are in varying stages of completion and often focus on specific details relating to each county’s formation, courthouses, boundaries, early settlers and so on. The histories were designed to provide context for the WPA’s Inventory of the County Archives of Florida, a county-by-county survey of local governmental documents available in courthouses around the state. The idea was to create a useful guide to these records while providing employment to historians, lawyers, teachers and other professionals whose jobs had fallen victim to the economic downturn of the 1930s.
Field workers began surveying county courthouses for the project in 1935, noting the various kinds of records available and the scope and extent of each collection. They were also tasked with preparing a short historical introduction for each survey. Each county survey was to be published in its own volume. The first volume was released in February 1938, but only 12 volumes appear to have ever been completed. Both the published volumes of the Inventory of the County Archives of Florida and the manuscript histories for those volumes never published are held by the State Library of Florida and included in this collection. The manuscript histories presumably would have been edited and published as other county volumes.
These documents are valuable reference guides for researching the history of particular Florida counties. The manuscripts are in many cases meticulously researched and footnoted and include information obtained from older citizens and records that would be difficult – if not impossible – to reproduce. Furthermore, the field workers emphasized specific dates in their writing, which makes these documents particularly helpful for tracing events in a county’s history, such as when a courthouse was constructed or when a major boundary change occurred.