A native of Long Island, New York, Daniel H. Wiggins was living in Annapolis, Maryland in the 1830s with his second wife Wilhelmina Welch and their five children, where he worked as a millwright and wheelwright. In 1838, apparently at the urging of Thomas Randall, an Annapolis acquaintance who was then living near in Jefferson County and serving as a judge, Wiggins left Maryland for greater economic opportunities in north Florida. He sailed from Baltimore to Savannah, which he reached on October 15, 1838, and then traveled overland to Monticello. Wiggins reached his destination after an eleven day journey. He initially lived at Belmont, Randall's plantation south of Monticello, but he also traveled extensively through Jefferson, Leon, and Gadsden counties, working as a machinist and experimenting with a cotton press. Wiggins remained in Florida at least until the latter part of 1841. He eventually returned to Annapolis, where he was living in 1850. Shortly thereafter he traveled with Randall to the California gold fields. Unfortunately, while there he contracted an unspecified illness and died.
Wiggins' diary, which he regularly maintained during his years in Florida, is a remarkably detailed description of life in the new territory. He commented extensively on the region's geography, climate, and population. Wiggins also made observations on the institution of slavery and on the ongoing Second Seminole War. The November 5, 1838 entry reproduced here is particularly detailed, with comments on farming, soil conditions, economic opportunities in the territory, and his fear of the Seminoles, and the visit of a group of soldiers to Randall's plantation.
Nov. 5 The past week has been pleasent-- the first part some what cool one night a white frost