History of Alachua County

History of Alachua County


Settlement of Alachua County by white people was first begun in 1820 by Horatio S. Dexter and Edward M. Wanton, Agents for Don Fernando de la Maza Arrendondo, and enterprising merchant of Havana. Don Peter Mitchell, William T. Hall and Pedro Mirandez were employed to engage people to settle on Arrendondo's land. They hired John Smith and Patrick Lannam as settlers. Smith, Lannam and Hall reached Alachua November 7, 1830, and immediately began clearing land and erecting dwellings one and one half miles east of Payne's Old Town. (On an old map this Indian town is marked as one and one half miles north of Micanopy, east of Fort Crane Head) The first settler who stayed on the land was Edward M. Wanton. He arrived in Alachua April 10, 1821, having moved from Picolata on the St. Johns, under contract with Arrendondo's agent Horation S. Dexter, to settle on the Alachua lands with the consent of the Indians.
Mr. Moses Elias Levy of St. Thomas, West Indies, had bought 36,000 acres of land on Alligator Creek, just south of Lake City, for which he paid $25,000. He traded this to [Arrendondo] & Son for a share in the Alachua Grant. He acquired 20,000 acres just north of Micanopy. He got Frederick S. Warberg of Hamburg, Germany to settle this. Mr. Warberg brought 22 people, including 15 slaves, and began the settlement of the Levy Grant. Although the original settlement of Smith & Lannam was on the property bought by Levy, it seems that they had abandoned their farm, and others who came had made a start elsewhere.
Don Francis P. Sanchez, a cattle man and planter on the Santa Fe, had the contract to deliver the necessary provisions to the [Arrendondo] store at Alachua during the years of 1820 to 1822. He hauled, in the two years, over $4,000 worth of corn and dry goods to the settlement. In 1822 the settlers cut a road to Picolata and some $4,000 worth of goods came in to the Levy settlement through other channels. Dr. William Simmons of St. Augustine, famous as one of the commissioners who selected Tallahassee as a site for the Capital, visited this section in 1822 and again in 1823. Between the times of these visits he found that the settlers had built a road with adequate bridges, wide enough for wheeled vehicles, through to Picolata 45 miles away, that they had established three settlements of which Levy's had some 30 people of whom 8 were white, worked five or six horses, three teams of oxen, with dwellings enough for those who were there, and besides the out house, stable, corn house and blacksmith shop, with a good crop of corn sufficient for his settlers for the year.
In the grant to Arrendondo it was agreed that he was to settle two hundred Spanish families during the period of four years. When the allotted time was up, he had but twenty homes established, but the company had made honest effort, as had Moses E. Levy, to fulfill their contract, as they were well able to prove to the satisfaction of the federal land office at Washington, at the time when the company incorporated its settlers and applied for title. At this time Moses Elias Levy was acquiring property on other parts of the territory. Along the St. Johns and on Tampa Bay he had secured great bodies of land suitable for development and ranks among the greatest empire builders of his day in Florida. Moses' father, a former prime minister of Morocco, became a fugitive upon a change of administration in that country. Escaping to Gibralter, his wife and children awaited him, but he died in Egypt. His Morrish name, Yulee, was dropped for reasons of


State Library of Florida, WPA - Historical Records Survey, County Histories


Brief history of Alachua County, Florida collected by the Works Progress Administration's Historical Records Survey.

Note to Researchers: Though the WPA field workers included extensive citations for the factual information contained in these county histories, it should be noted that these historical narratives were produced in the 1930s by federal government employees, and might reflect the inherent social biases of the era.