R.K. Call vs. Harris
About This Case
In 1845, the Territorial Court of Appeals considered the case of Richard K. Call, Governor of the Territory of Florida, for the use of George W. Harrison and David Raney v. Isaac R. Harris. The case involved the settlement of the estate of Samuel B. Wilson and originated in the Gadsden County Circuit Court, located in Quincy.
The names involved in this case are perhaps more interesting than the trial itself, at least as far as what remains of the case file. Richard Keith Call, twice governor of the Florida territory, moved to Florida in the early 1820s. Call had previous experience in the region, having served under General Andrew Jackson during the Red Stick War (1813-1814). Jackson planted Call and other loyal officials in important positions in the new territory. Before he was governor, Call worked in the land office, as an attorney, and invested heavily in plantations, railroads, and banking.
David Raney came to Florida from Virginia in the 1830s. He established himself as a cotton merchant in the thriving port town of Apalachicola. George W. Harrison was Raney’s partner in a trading firm referred to as “Harrison & Raney” in the case documents.
Isaac R. Harris resided in Gadsden County, where he served as a judge at the time of this case. He was also a Commissioner, along with Call, named by the territorial legislature in “An Act to Incorporate the Leon and Gadsden Plank Road Company” (1850). Harris also shows up in variety of documents related to banking, railroads, and other business ventures in the Florida territory.
The substance of this case appears to be connected with Robert Harrison, administrator of the estate of Samuel B. Wilson. The case files reference debts owed by Wilson to the firm of Harrison & Raney totaling $10,000, plus $100 in damages. Given the era in which the case came before the court, this figure was a substantial sum indeed. Unfortunately, the nature of this debt is not specified. Contextual evidence suggests that the debt had something to do with the cotton and/or shipping businesses.
The judge in the case ordered Harrison to “pay over to George W. Harrison and David G. Raney…the sum of $1,987.” At this point, Harrison “wholly failed and refused to pay” this or any other amount.
The connection between Robert Harrison and Isaac Harris is not entirely clear. Subsequent pages in the case file reveal that “we Robert L. Harrison, Isaac R. Harris, and James M. Nueon [?] are held and firmly bound unto R.K. Call…in the just and full sum of Ten thousand Dollars [capitalization in original].” More research is necessary to determine the nature of this debt and its connection with the political and economic activities of the parties involved.
The court eventually found in favor of Harris (on behalf of Wilson). The plaintiffs moved to appeal the case, at which point the case file runs out. Although incomplete, this case demonstrates the intertwined nature of business and politics in territorial Florida.