THE CLIMATE OF THE STATE.
A Home for Invalids.
[Correspondence of the Evening Post.]
ST. JOHN'S RIVER, April, 1868.
Assuming from the predominant spirit I find in the diverse classes here, that Florida will soon rest upon a political basis satisfactory to the lovers of equal rights, there no longer remains any reason for the non-development of her natural resources. And inasmuch as material wealth finally depends upon the moral and mental elevation of those who people a town or a state, we have every reason to expect Florida to become one of our wealthiest, in natural products, as well as the fairest, of all her sisters.
She is our southern Italy--new-born of the sea--but more favored by geographical position than Italy, since she lies almost in the very fountain of that gulf-stream whose waters are ever freighted with genial atmosphere for Southern and Western Europe; and also, because her winter climate is comparatively free from that depressing humidity which debilitates the healthy and exhausts the invalid both in Italy and Cuba. This is a point of such vital importance that you must bear with me while I insist upon it. To find a climate which shall at once be mild and dry is the first requisite for all who are suffering under chronic rheumatism and pulmonary affections. On this point there can be no disagreement among physicians, unless it be on the question of the exact degree of temperature; and to those who have personally tried both the cold and the warm dry climate, the theory of the greater good from the greater amount of oxygen in the cold will very generally yield to the greater attractions which keep one out of doors in the warm climate. The theory of the cold dry air is right for those who can resist the cold, but the practice in nine cases out of ten is wrong. For instance, one begins to cough or expectorate a light blood, and straightaway his medical adviser hastens him away to Minnesota or some other dry, frosty region. Of this one would not complain during the pleasant autumn, when a friend can join in the fine wild sports, but when the intense winter cold shuts down upon him it rarely brings with it the moral key which opens the door for daily exercise in the open air, and the poor soul is actually more miserable than he would be in his eastern home.
WHAT CONSUMPTIVES NEED.
Let it be understood, then, once and for all, that if the consumptive is to live at all he must be in the open air. This understanding will lead us to a second thought before condemning one to a change of climate. Many a homeless invalid has shortened his days by crouching over a fire during the bleak, sterile months of a northern winter--and this while his friends were fondly expecting that the change of climate would restore him to health.
This is not theoretical--it is what I have seen, and I have seen such invalids desperately increase the popular prescription of whiskey till a habit was formed, which made life less desirable than death. Let us then, I repeat, choose a temperature for consumptives which shall not be so low as to exhaust in resisting the cold. If, with such temperatures, we can combine a dry, elastic, genial atmosphere, which permits flannel clothing so light that the surface of the body can be freely acted upon, or bathed in the surrounding air, we shall have supplied one of the first conditions in the successful treatment of pulmonary affections.
Does the peninsula of Florida offer this desirable climate? I unhesitatingly say yes, and I assert this at the risk of standing in your estimation as the advocate rather than the simple narrator. But when one comes here in midwinter from the North, where he has been imprisoned by the pitiless cold, and straightaway begins to breathe and live again, you will pardon something to the sunny influences that fill him with enthusiasm. Besides, I find here hundreds of hopeful health-seekers, full of joy at their liberation; and many who came years ago, as a last resort, and who now give every evidence of restored health. I question and cross-question, percuss and auscultate every consumptive I can lay my hands on, and find all benefited who were not already in the last stage of disease before leaving home. And here I would write a word of caution for those who are unable to sit in the saddle or to pull an oar or to walk daily in the open air. For such, it seems to me that home is the best place on earth. Why one should make a tedious journey to a strange land for the sake of a few weeks or months of additional suffering, I do not know, and I think the family physician could often make the last days of such patients less anxious and more serene by resolutely assuming the unpleasant responsibility of stating the most probable results. It is always sad to see one die among strangers, but it becomes especially so when there seemed no good reason for it.
But I want to furnish you with some statistics to corroborate my opinion of this climate. The early Spanish reports on the beauty of the country and the marvelous effects of the climate were full of romance and exaggeration. No very accurate information can be gathered from their statements. Ponce de Leon was certain that the fountain of perpetual youth was inviting him to bathe in its waters, to give him endless life on earth--but, like many a poor soul of the present day, who, instead of trusting God and trying to live within the Divine law, follows some ignis fatuus of a specific for his ills, he one day saw his folly, and died.
Fortunately one good thing grew out of that long, tedious war upon the Seminoles, and that was a variety of statistics relative to the climate, soil and productions of Florida. Much, however, had previously been written by English colonists which is not at this moment within my reach. Carner remarks in a general way, in writing of the winters of the Peninsula, that "so mild are winters in East Florida that the most delicate vegetables and plants of the Caribbee Islands experience there not the least injury from the season; the orange tree, the banana, the plantain, the guava, the pineapple, &c., grow luxuriantly. Fogs are scarcely known there, and no country can be more salubrious."
In a series of letters written in 1860 by Dr. Byrne, an old surgeon in the United States army, I find interesting climatic statements covering the observations of many years. He says: "The winter in Florida resembles very much that season which in the middle states is termed the 'Indian summer,' except that in Florida the sky is perfectly clear, and the atmosphere more dry and elastic." Rain but rarely falls during the winter months in Florida; three, four, and not infrequently five weeks of bright, clear and cloudless days occur continuously. This is one of the greatest charms of the winter climate in Florida, and in this respect it forms a striking contract with almost every state in the Union, and especially with Texas, California and Oregon.
My own experience in the late winter and spring of 1863, and again during the last six weeks, corresponds with that of Dr. Byrne.
Since my arrival here in February, the days have been like those in New England during the first week in October--cool nights and mornings, and the most delightful air through the day. My thermometer has ranged from 38 degrees to 90 degrees, thus indicating greater changes within a few weeks than some writers have admitted for the whole year. These changes have occurred on the St. John's between its mouth and Lake Jessup. Since, however, the ground is never cold here, one suffers comparatively little from the changes. A rise of the mercury from 38 degrees to 65 degrees within five or six hours does not tax the vital powers like the variations which range from 10 degrees or 20 degrees to 32 degrees in the same length of time, besides the uncomfortable addition of the most penetrating dampness in the atmosphere.
General Lawson, Surgeon-General of the army, in his official report on the climate, diseases, &c., of Florida, remarked that "the climate of Florida is remarkably equable and agreeable, being subject to fewer atmospheric variations, and its thermometer ranges much less than any other part of the United States except a portion of the coast of California. For example, the winter at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, is forty-eight degrees colder than at Fort Brooke, Florida, but the summer at Fort Brooke is only about eight degrees warmer. *** In the summer season the mercury rises higher in every part of the United States, and even in Canada, than it does along the coast of Florida. This is shown by meteorological statistics in this Bureau." The sea breezes which daily fan the Peninsula from the Atlantic on the east, and the Gulf of Mexico on the west, explain why the summers are so agreeable.
Dr. Byrne says: "Frequent showers occur during the months of March, April, May and June, and about the 1st of July what is termed the rainy season, commences, and continues till about the middle of September. *** One of the great virtues of the Florida climate is, that nearly all the rain falls during the productive season of the year; and that during the winter months, when rains are but little required, they seldom fall." You know it is this merit which has given to Minnesota its reputation as a resort for consumptives. Before closing this letter I must make one more quotation from Surgeon-General Lawson. General Lawson says: "Indeed, the statistics in this bureau demonstrate the fact that the diseases which result from malaria are of a much milder type in the peninsula of Florida than in any other state in the Union. There records show that the ratio of deaths to the number of cases of remittent fever has been much less than among the troops serving in any other portion of the United States. In the middle division of the United States the proportion is one death to thirty-six cases of remittent fever; in the northern division one to fifty-two; in the southern division, one to fifty-four; in Texas, one to seventy-eight; in California, one to one hundred and twenty-two; in New Mexico, one to one hundred and forty-eight; while in Florida it is but one to two hundred and eighty-seven."
The Pine Lands--Influence of the Climate--The Season for Emigration.
ST. JOHN'S RIVER, May, 1868.
On review of my last letter it seems possible that its unqualified commendation of the pine lands of Florida may lead you to impute more intrinsic wealth to this class of lands than they actually possess. Unlike the western farmer, who disdains all nourishment for his plants save that he chances to find in the soil itself, the genuine Puritanic New Englander would be a little unhappy in the consciousness of backsliding from the economies of his fathers unless he annually supplied the soil with an equivalent for what he had taken away. Of course our western farmers would sneer at this earthly application of religion, but many of them are already beginning to learn that the "inexhaustible wealth of soil" upon which they have drawn so largely during the late years, is not without its limitations. A few years more and they must either fall into the old southern habit, and abandon their exhausted lands, or adopt the eastern system of compensation.
ADVANTAGES OF THE PINE LANDS.
Now, you ask which are better lands for northern people to cultivate in Florida--those which from the beginning require the system of economy practiced in New England, or those which permit a postponement of such economy? I prefer the pine lands: first, because one can live on them without exposure to the malarial poison sure to emanate from the vegetable mold of the richer hummock; and a second, because I best like that kind of land which constantly demands a return for what it yields, requiring the presence of live sock--without which farm-life is unbalanced and unsocial, and lacking in intellectual stimulus.
The best farming in the world--and consequently the most profitable--is that most evenly balanced by rendering an equivalent for benefits received. This foundation principle of all permanent success in business operations ought to be eminently apparent to the practical farmer, but from its almost universal absence results the usual pitiable scramble for such lands as favor the least present exertion. In view, then, of these reasons, I trust you will advise such of your friends as propose to make homes on the Peninsula to carry with them the cardinal virtues of a good New England farmer--industry, economy and compensation.
INFLUENCES OF THE CLIMATE.
You have asked, Who should seek a home in Florida? That question is already more than half answered in what I have written of the climate and its influence upon consumptives. I wish to add, however, that Florida offers a beautiful home to any and all intelligent and industrious agriculturalists who prefer a climate admitting a little mannal labor every day in the year, to one that compels the performance of nearly all the labors of the year during one-third of its days. In this freedom from the extremes of labor and inactivity we may expect as a logical sequence very marked modifications of the angularities and inequalities of mind and body incident to the sharp climate of the North and its rigid demands. Future generations in the more genial climate may be less acute in intellect, but are they not likely to be broader in intellectual character?
SEASON FOR IMMIGRATION.
With a view to agriculture October seems the most desirable month for immigration. During the summer months the growing and ripening of the vegetation is to be watched, but during the autumn the ground is to be prepared and planted again so as to realize a second crop in the spring. These semi-annual returns are not to be expected with every product, but they hold true of many species.
In northern eyes the absence of close turf to hide the sand is an unpleasant loss. At first it seems as if nothing could supply the want of that delightful green covering of the earth which comes to you in the North with the songs of birds and the warmth of spring. But at most, here we have only the scattered tufts of the wild grasses to relieve the eye, save now and then a beautiful green field of oats or rye.
Among the pines, however, where the annual burning of the old stubble has lately taken place, I find a charming effect in the fresh new grass as I look across it, so far as the eye reaches. At first sight in the distance I thought it a field of rye. And in the midst of the grass the wild flowers are everywhere yielding up their beauty and perfume. In a walk of an hour among the pines a few days since I found, besides violets, azalias, houstonias, mitchella upens, and some other flowers common to the month, fifteen kinds unlike any I have seen in New England.
The cattle, roaming at will, are attracted by the fires in the woods, and often within twenty-four hours after the fires are extinguished large herds gather to enjoy the new growth. The herdsmen frequently turn this habit of the animals to their own advantage.
From W. Barber, the "cattle king," who claims thirty thousand head, or more, I learned some curious facts relative to the loose system in vogue among large cattle owners. The range is unlimited, except by the herdsmen who are employed to watch the cattle, and who, once or twice in the year, pen all they can, and cut the notch of ownership in the ears of the young. This, and the regular raids for market purposes, employ large numbers of persons; but the most constant result of the whole system is wretchedly poor beef in the Florida market, and the entire absence of milk from hotel and boarding house tables, save that which is sent condensed from the North. This is a degree of shiftlessness which would be intolerable were there no prospect of a change for the better. Already a few enterprising persons have proved that the roots and forage essential to the well being of milch cows can be more easily grown in Florida than further north, where the frost is more troublesome, and within a very few years we may expect an entire change in this respect. With milk at twenty cents per quart in Jacksonville it would undoubtedly be a good operation to combine more dairies with market gardening in the immediate vicinity of the town. The thoroughbred Ayrshire crossed with the native cows would probably give the most satisfactory results.
THE NEW SETTLERS
White on a recent exploring tour up the river I had repeated talks with Solomon Robinson and others relative to the northern immigrants who are steadily coming here. The isolated condition of those who settle down regardless of social and intellectual needs, impressed us all unpleasantly. Young persons, in their zeal for desirable locations, too often slight the demands of human nature; and so, later in life, suffer for their thoughtlessness. Doubtless the wisest course, whenever feasible, would be the formation of colonies, either here or at home, and it just now occurs to me that Mr. C. L. Robinson, of Jacksonville, is one of the best persons in Florida for immigrants to consult upon this matter of purchasing lands on the St. John's and settling upon them. I knew Mr. Robinson in war time, after his consistent loyalty to the old flag had made him not only a sad witness to the rebel destruction of his warehouses and their valuable contents, but while he was yet a fugitive from rebel wrath. To-day this gentleman is justly trusted by the freedmen and respected by those who once sought his life. Let us add, as in the care of Dr. Lunquen, the former rebel, that genuine loyalty was also costly, and that those who seek business advice should never forget the old adage.
PURCHASE OF LANDS.
But to return to our subject. Ten or twenty families could easily unite in the purchase of a large tract on the River or Lakes, and to be then divided as desired by each. Thus they could at once establish a school and have church services, thus opening the way to all that makes civilized life. In adopting this method there would be no necessity of community of interest beyond the social, and without this, one recedes toward barbarism.
Again, there are at present political reasons for association in preference to isolation--reasons which are sometimes felt in proportion to one's remoteness from thickly settled towns.
The more intelligent of the southern people themselves are beginning to form colonies. On the southeastern shore of Lake Jessup--until recently an unbroken wilderness--we found a body of Georgians and South Carolinians building a warehouse for the accommodation of their colony, which is formed about two miles out in the pines. They brought with them what they could gather for the well being of their colony, and already they number between twenty and thirty families. With these people may be found calloused hands which before the rebellion had never felt the dignity of labor. Such hands are generally hacked by heads--often hearts--that welcome the northern immigrant.
At Lake Jessup, however, it was evident that northern capital would be more acceptable without northern people. This lake is over two hundred miles from the mouth of the St. John's, and beyond the present head of steamboat navigation. I see here no special attractions for northerners, and suppose they would be better content lower on the river, where mosquitoes and sand flies are also less annoying.
SCENERY AND INCIDENTS.
Between Lake Monroe and this lake is an almost continuous marsh along its banks. Between Lake Monroe and Lake George, the Cypress Swamps are here and there interrupted by a mile or two of bluffs; but there are very few habitable points near the river. One of our party aptly said this part of Florida is unfurnished. The huge alligators basking in the sunshine on the low banks and shores help one to this conclusion. Indeed, one cannot watch these extremely earthy reptiles without a shrinking consciousness of gliding back into the old Saurian epoch.
Standing on the river bank one day, I saw a manifestation of the "Gater's" appetite for dogs. While a couple of these were fighting a large reptile swam rapidly toward them, but so soon as they ceased yelping he floated lazily down the river. Thereupon I pulled the ears of one of the dogs, thus causing another outcry which brought the reptile again in line, when he advanced until the cry ceased. Again he drifted till the steady aim of my friend, C. L., placed a rifle ball--at long range, through one of his eyes and through his brain, thus setting him afloat on one of his sides and causing him to turn a deaf ear to canine sounds.
But the dog is not the only lean meat craved by the alligator. The Peninsula is remarkable for a little black-and-tan breed of nomadic hogs, and the great reptile lies like a dead log upon the bank, in wait till his victim comes within range of his powerful tail, one curving sweep of which takes the poor hog into the jaws of death. The adjective poor I use advisedly, since a cook informed me that he always resorted to the northern pork barrel for a slice to make frying feasible for the native steak. In this climate it seems a bit of good fortune that the hogs do remain lean, and it is to be hoped that the northern system of fattening will not prevail here.
THE BEST PARTS FOR INVALIDS
The Air, Temperature, &c.
ST. JOHNS RIVER, May, 1868.
Before entering upon the discussion of the soil and productions of Florida, her second great gift, I will detain you a moment over one or two peculiarities noticeable in the climate at different points on the St. Johns.
This name, St. Johns, by the way, is unsatisfactory to me, since the original name given to the river by the Indians was so full of significance. Welaka was their name for it, and it signifies the charm of lakes. Could any name be more appropriate?
At the mouth of the river I find a delicious climate for lungs not easily irritated by breezes direct from the ocean, while at Jacksonville, twenty miles from the ocean, the climate is greatly modified by the intervening pine forests. In passing through them and over the sandy surface the air becomes dry, fresh and elastic.
As we pass up the river the peculiar softness increases til it is not uncommon to find very feeble persons living comfortably at Pilatka, who coughed inordinately at Jacksonville. Still further up, at Enterprise, I have found invalids so weak that the gentleness of the resinous atmosphere alone seemed to give new lease of life. But in sleeping at different points on the river banks I observed another feature above Pilatka which must be seriously injurious to the health of those who live near the water. Owing, I suppose, to the fact that the river runs from south to north over a course of more than three hundred miles, the water never finds a low temperature till it mingles with that of the sea. Consequently when the atmospheric temperature falls to forty degrees during the night, one is liable to open his eyes in a dense fog in the morning. The bright sunlight usually dispels this fog by eight or nine o'clock, and thus it is pleasantly forgotten. But I am confident it must be injurious to those who dwell habitually in it, and especially so if the lungs are unsound.
Below Pilatka the fogs lessen in frequency just in proportion, I think, from the tidal commingling from the cooler waters of the ocean. I have been thus specific upon this point that you might show good reason for advising those who find themselves more comfortable in the warmer climate to go high up the river and thence back from its banks two or three miles among the pines. The cultivated of the native southern people rarely make their homes immediately on the water courses, but living among the pines more or less remote from them they preserve that ruddy countenance which is in such contrast with the waxy, pasty, sallow faces of those who are subjected to the fogs and malaria along the river banks. Nothing this contrast in appearance of face I have often inquired relative to the healthfulness of the locality I chanced to visit, but generally needed the tact of a lawyer to elicit the truth. Not, however, because the good people intended to willfully lie; but here, as in other malarial districts, the poison itself extends, I fancy, to the moral and mental perceptions, so that one can scarcely obtain the facts.
Among the pines, away from rivers, creeks and marshes, it seems superfluous to inquire for the general health. One's senses are completely satisfied by the rosy hue everywhere present. This often in spite of the miserably shiftless mode of living entailed by slavery, and the almost universal munching and smoking of tobacco among the "Crackers," or poor whites. In this last-mentioned filthy habit, if in no other, the women have equal rights, but the little children bring Murillo's ruddy angels before my eyes.
From my sombre statement you are not to infer that everybody is of necessity sickly near the water courses. I recently found a man who served five years in the Seminole war, and who during the last twenty-seven years has been living alone on the shore of Lake Monroe. This man was born in Pennsylvania--is tall, lean and sallow--slow of speech and motion, but he declared to me that he had never been ill with fever a day in his life, and I think he meant to state the truth. At his residence the pines grow down to the shore, though at a short distance on either side the cypress was thriving in its native swamps. Even last summer, when so many were made ill by the very exceptional heavy rains, which raised the water of the lake more than five feet, and my informant was driven back among the pines to build his palmetto cabin, and could for weeks visit his log house only in a boat, yet he was not rendered ill. Such men seem to grow tough and corrugated like their neighbors, the alligators.
It would, by the way, have been gratifying to find a "character" in this solidarity mortal, and so garnered the material from which to weave a bit of romance; but I could only find the plodding hermit out of whose isolated life there had chiefly grown a yearning to sell his real estate and then return to his early home. In this you will doubtless charge me with a want of spiritual perception; and while I plead guilty you must allow me to urge that the finer perceptions not infrequently get strangely obscured by the sensuous influences of this wonderful climate. But the life of this settler in the wilderness has taught him the skillful use of firearms, and his exhibition of the skins of wild beasts made me feel that those strange shrieks and howls which have often awakened me at night in the forest did really proceed from animals of savage nature--not, however, I am told, sufficiently ferocious to attack human beings.
You ask, How could this man live here all these years undisturbed by the Indians, and, more recently, by the rebels? I answer that all through the South you may find a class of negative, inoffensive men with enough of earthly wit to feebly pray "Good Lord and good Devil," and thus save the body and its poor possessions.
By way of contract I must mention that on the opposite shore of the lake there is a beautiful sweet orange grove, in the midst of which I found its owner seated upon a ladder, not as of yore surrounded by slaves, yet a "high-born" native of South Carolina, who, through fidelity to the fallacious Calhoun doctrine of state sovereignty, had lost most of his worldly goods. The future home of this man is Florida. His residence lies two miles back along the pines, as his fresh countenance, contrasting so well with his gray hair, very naturally suggested. But I was also attracted by an air of cheap Kentucky jean and the high manners seasoned with that frank promptitude peculiar to a native of the impetuous Palmetto state. This facility of adaption to circumstances, without loss of harmony, gave me a new thrill of reverence for those fine manners, which, seen from a low social standpoint, have so often made our public officers forgetful of their duties towards the lowly and despised.
But I am wandering away from the soil and its products, which I proposed to make the subject of this letter. And here permit me to remark that these delightful sunny days, and this bright luxuriant foliage, and the innumerable wild flowers that so lovingly quiet one among the pines--all these sweet influences of out-door life very naturally dissipate one's though and put an end to the concise forms of statement incident to the cold climate. While almost incredible letters from the North were telling of repeated snow storms, and of the mercury lingering near zero, I daily witnessed here among northern visitors a toning down of those sharp angularities of disposition--angularities begotten by disease and fostered by the piercing climate of the North. It is good for these people to live awhile in this restful haven, where they can partially realize again the beautiful harmonies of youth. And if, perchance, after years of suffering, one feels "How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream, With half-shut eyes ever to seem Falling asleep in a half-dream," do not, I pray you, call him sentimental, but be thankful, rather, for the divine influences which surround and hold him.
The peninsula presents so great variety of soil that one must be difficult to please who could not select such as suits him. There lies all along the water courses the "low hummock" land, heavily timbered with the live and water oak, cherry, bay, sweet gum, magnolia and other find forest trees. A little way back from the river or lake the pine land succeeds the other, and one indulges in deeper respiration as he enters this healthgiving region. The grandeur of the pines, the solemn chant of the light winds through their leaves, the sunlight everywhere streaming down, and the elastic, resinous atmosphere, all these are natural helps to the best of life.
But the "high hummock" is of most repute for mere farming purposes in Florida. This is not essentially different from the "low hummock," except in the quality of the dryness, and also a more complete mingling of vegetable mould with the sand. This type of land is seen best in Marion and Ulachua counties, where farming is conducted on a large scale. But the pine lands predominate in Florida, and the most frequent soil type is sandy--a soil which has for centuries astonished those who have witnessed its productiveness; and not, I believe, til quite recently, has it been discovered that finely pulverized shell enters largely into the composition of this soil, thus in part accounting for the luxuriant vegetable growth which follows even the most indifferent culture. In estimating the causes of this productiveness, however, it must not be forgotten that the climate never seriously militates against, but is generally exerting kindly influences upon the earth, and that the rains fall, not as at the North, during the season when vegetation is at rest, but during the months of its activity, when moisture can be assimilated and can most powerfully promote vegetable growth. Sometimes the rainfall is in excess here and the water covers the low lands, as they did last year, but, after much inquiry, I am satisfied that such inundations are exceptional, nothing of the kind having occurred between 1846 and 1867.
So much has been written on the peculiar products of this soil that I am disinclined to go over the usual ground, but prefer rather to give you a summary of what I find here. First of all grows the orange, a fruit I have before plucked from the tree in other countries where it thrives--but never have I found it so solid and with flavor so spirited and delicate as here; and it is of large size besides. These qualities are due, not alone to the semi-tropical climate, but also to a soil containing less of that humus which favors mere growth, and more of those saline constituents essential to quality of fruit. This difference in quality is yet more perceptible in the melon, which grow to enormous size on a surface that certainly does not look soiled enough for such results.
Corn, potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, and all the other vegetables seen in northern fields and gardens, are growing thriftily here.
At Pilatka, on the 5th ultimo, I was invited to dine at a table where new mealy Irish potatoes, green peas and tomatoes, from an adjoining open garden, in part composed the dinner.
In Mrs. Stowe's orange grove, at Mandarin--fifteen miles above Jacksonville--tomato plants were not harmed by the cold of the past winter. It must be remembered, however, that Mrs. Stowe's grove lies on the east bank of the river, and that the temperature of the west and northwest winds are always modified by their crossing three or four miles of water that never becomes very cold.
At Volusia, in the first half of March, I ate of ripe strawberries, grown in the open border by Dr. Lungren, a gentleman who seems to belong to that class especially qualified to develop the natural resources of the peninsula. He was a rebel surgeon who heartily believed in what he practiced, and since the failure of his cause has cheerfully worked for the est interests of his state. Dr. Lungren's present efforts to establish a colony of northern families at Volusia is particularly worthy of attention, but I hope you will remind your friends who write to him for information on this subject, that he lost all his earthly possessions during the war, and that to-day his "time is money."
Camp Life on the St. Johns--Sulphur Springs--The Freedmen, &c.
[Correspondence of the Evening Post.]
In the course of this correspondence reference has been made to my camp life on the St. John's. Without any special design on the sleeping grounds of the alligators, I carried from home my old army blankets and other camp traps, so that nothing could have seemed more natural than to join an exploring party at Jacksonville and take my seat in an open boat to enjoy a few weeks afloat in the wilderness. Supposing every human being contained enough of the savage to feel at home in the woods, I was startled at the outset by certain hopeless signed of civilized degeneracy. It is true that no man even of our party either chewed or smoked tobacco, that there was not even a euchre pack on board our craft, and that whiskey rations were reduced to the minimum. Still, some of us were overdone in civilization, and were not quite at one with the wild.
Uncaged Nature refuses her gifts unless we become as little children, which means simply--put aside your carking cares, your personal whims, your political theories, your dogmatic formulas, and your stove-pipe hats, "and come into me and be filled with gladness." Thus, one may in the forest find the quiet sanctuary where, with bared head, he hears the "still small voice" more distinctly than in temples made by hands.
The Sulphur Springs form a curious feature, bordering on the great highway of the St. John's. The first I saw is at Green Cave--about twenty-five miles above Jacksonville. Gushing up through the white sand and running away to the river is a stream of the liveliest limpidity too large to be forced through an eight-inch pipe. The water of this spring is strongly impregnated with sulphur and magnesia, and has a temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mrs. Eaban, the successful proprietor of the Union Hotel at Green Cave, informed me that the water poured into earthen jars at evening, and kept through the night in the open air, would in the morning be free from the odor and taste of sulphur, and so soft and light as to be peculiarly refreshing at the breakfast table.
This spring has already a well-founded reputation for washing away to physical sins of the victims of rheumatism and dyspepsia. There are many others of similar characteristics between Jacksonville and Lake Jessup, and also in other parts of Florida--the temperature varying from 72 degrees to 76 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the most remarkable of these is the great Blue Spring, a few miles north of Lake Monroe. This, however, contains carbonate of lime in amount making it undesirable for bathing, and also for drinking, save in very limited quantities. It is the large volume of water boiling up from the earth within the area of a circle twenty-five or thirty feet in diameter that makes this spring notable. From its source the water flows rapidly down to the St. John's--nearly half a mile away--making a navigable river, in fact, fifty feet wide and from six to fifteen feet deep. The endless play of large fish in this crystal-like water is always attractive, but especially so when a steamer, passing on the St. John's, sends an extensive fleet of them up towards the fountain.
Among the "freedmen" of Florida are many veterans of the First South Carolina volunteers, whose hearty greeting of their old friend would have made even a less genial climate seem tender and tropical. In this greeting, however, there is always a delicate reserve or reticence, contrasting with that of cultivated whites, whose hearts, seen through the medium of social hospitality, apparently rush outside, and show the whole being in warm palpitation; but my thermometer has failed to indicate that one's blood is really warmed for this demonstrative exposure.
Without exception, so far as I saw them, our former soldiers are manly citizens. Every one was cheerfully at work on his own land, or at his own trade, or for a salary, and all seemed hopeful in the free labor which certainly underlies their future success.
THE WAR, &C.
As a general rule slavery in Florida was of a less oppressive and hateful type than in some of the older states; the slaves were less restricted in personal action, and the greater intelligence consequent upon this permits a more graceful turn from chattelism to citizenship. I chanced to meet one of these new-born citizens who has experienced a very curious result of his intelligence. He had been the slave of a man in one of the interior counties, who, like many of the old feudal barons, could neither read nor write, and had authorized the slave to write and sign his own "passes." At one time during the rebellion, while off on business affairs, he was imprisoned several days by the rebels on a charge of forgery, simply because he would not prove himself innocent by betraying his master's ignorance.
It was not unusual for met to meet and converse with men who were active in the rebellion. The more intelligent of them are cordial toward the Yankee, and want him to help develop the resources of the state; still, the belief of state sovereignty is likely to outlive the present generation. A rebel colonel condensed the popular animus into three words when, in reply to my remark that I should enter his name in my note book as a converted rebel, he said, "Yes, you may, but add, if you please, liable to backslide."
Until the last moment of my stay in Florida I was hoping to go up the Ocklawaha River into the heart of Marion county, and see what is represented by Colonel Goss, of Ocala, as the most desirable farming district in the state. The opinion of this gentlemen should have as much weight with those who wish especially to cultivate sugarcane and other heavy staples.
Colonel Goss is a southern man by birth, and is justly ranked among the ablest and most consistent Union men in Florida. Though educated in one of our New England colleges, he was a slaveholder before the rebellion, but from the beginning of the war till the present moment I doubt if the negro has had a wiser friend or an abler defender of his rights at the bar.
In closing these very limited and imperfect letters about Florida, I must assure you that I have tried to give the lights and shades as I saw them; But it, perchance, you should meet statements quite contradictory to mine, you will be generous enough to remember that it is impossible for two pairs of eyes to see even the simplest object precisely alike. Hoe difficult, then, when the dazzling light half absorbs the form and color, thus setting free the wildest hope and imagination of him who possesses these attributes, and by contrast giving the deepest shades for him who is prone to dwell in the dark caverns of the earth.
State Library of Florida: Florida Collection, BR0089
A reprint of a full-page promotional news piece by the DeLeon Springs Company advertising the history and business opportunities of DeLeon Springs in Volusia County.