Skip to Search

A Guide to the Frederick C. Cubberly Papers

Finding aid created by Anna Bjornsson

University of Florida Smathers Libraries - Special and Area Studies Collections
April 2008

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Cubberly, Frederick, 1869-1932
Title: Frederick C. Cubberly Papers
Dates: 1906-1929
Abstract: Includes Cubberly's research on Florida history as well as documents and correspondence from peonage cases he was involved in while he was the United States Attorney for the North West District of Florida.
Extent: 0.2 Linear feet. 1 box.
Identification: MS 244
Language(s): English
Online Content Items from this collection have been digitized and are available online in the UF Digital Collections. For more information please see the note below.

Biographical/Historical Note

Frederick C. Cubberly was born in Chillicothe, Missouri, in 1869. He was educated in Marion, Indiana before moving to Florida in 1895. Cubberly studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1898. The same year he was appointed U.S. Commissioner for the Northern District of Florida, first of many public offices Cubberly held. In 1902 he was appointed as the customs collector for Cedar Key. He was based in Gainesville and was judge for the municipal court of Gainesville from 1914-1916 and the city attorney from 1916-1917. Cubberly served as U.S. Attorney for Northern Florida from 1908-1916 and again from 1923 to his death in 1932. In addition, he was secretary of the Florida Republican Convention in 1927 and served twice as a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

As a lawyer Cubberly is best known for his efforts to end peonage, a forced labor system created in the South to provide cheap labor after the abolition of slavery. African Americans were the main victims, although immigrants were also targeted. Although illegal, peonage survived well into the 20th century. Owners of turpentine and lumber companies often had agreements with corrupt sheriffs and judges. Black people frequently were arrested on false charges, often vagrancy, and then the companies would offer to pay their fine in return for labor. Once a person was in debt and relocated to a camp, they were essentially used as slave labor and not allowed to leave. Because of the corruption of law enforcement, peonage was very hard to prosecute. Cubberly was involved in ending the practice, however, and brought national attention to the issue.

In addition to his legal work Cubberly was also a historian. His interest in the Dade Massacre, the 1835 ambush of Major Francis Dade's troops by 180 Seminoles during the Second Seminole War, led to his appointment to the state commission that established Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Sumter County. He also was involved in the Florida Historical Society, publishing historical articles and serving as the organization's vice president and president.

Scope and Content

This collection includes three different types of materials: papers related to Cubberly's historical research, documents from peonage trials, and certificates of his appointments to various government positions. There are many typewritten copies of short articles Cubberly wrote about various topics in Florida history, as well as a manuscript of the history of Archer, Florida, from 1880-1900. Also included is correspondence documenting his search for information about Judah P. Benjamin, a Confederate politician who fled the United States after the Civil War and escaped through Florida.

The legal documents are from two different peonage trials, Clyatt v. United States and Alston Brown and Mose Brown v. United States. The Clyatt case was tried in 1901 and was the beginning of Cubberly's involvement with peonage. This collection includes correspondence from writers from McClure's Magazine and Appleton's Magazine, both of which were doing research for articles on peonage. Also included is a letter from Alexander Irvine, a writer from Appleton's Magazine, to Theodore Roosevelt praising Cubberly and recommending him for the position of Attorney for the North District of Florida due to his work on peonage. Roosevelt's reply also is included.

The documents relating to the Brown case are more extensive. There is correspondence between Cubberly and investigating agents in the Justice Department, as well as numerous affidavits from the investigators. Also, there are letters and telegrams between Cubberly and Howard P. Wright of the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, the predecessor of the FBI. Copies of affidavits from victims of peonage and documentary evidence used in the Brown trial are included, as well as two newspaper clippings regarding the case. One of the clippings is a letter from the accused Brown professing his innocence.

The final group of documents in this collection includes certificates Cubberly received after his appointments to various government positions.

Access or Use Restrictions


The collection is open for research.

Related or Separated Material

The Florida Historical Society has a collection of Cubberly papers that contain biographical information, Mrs. Cubberly's correspondence, and handwritten copies of historical articles he authored. Records of the Florida Historical Society dating from the time when Cubberly held office also might be of interest.

Administrative Information

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Frederick C. Cubberly Papers, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Contents List

Historical Research

Box Folder
1 1 "History of Archer 1880-1900"
1 2 Typed copies of historical articles (various Florida subjects)
1 3 Correspondence regarding Judah P. Benjamin. 1929

Clyatt Case

Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence with H.L. Anderson and Richard Barry of McClure's Magazine re: peonage and Clyatt case. 1906
1 2 Correspondence with Alexander Irvine of Appleton's Magazine re: peonage and Clyatt case. 1907
1 3 Correspondence between Alexander Irvine and Theodore Roosevelt re: Cubberly. 1908

Brown Case

Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence with investigating agents in Justice Department re: Brown case. 1921
1 2 Affidavits from investigators re: Brown case. 1921
1 3 Affidavits from investigators re: Brown case. 1921
1 4 Affidavits from investigators re: Brown case. 1921
1 5 Affidavits from investigators re: Brown case. 1921
1 6 Correspondence with Howard P. Wright of U.S. Bureau of Investigation re: Brown case. 1921
1 7 Affidavits and documents used in Brown case, newspaper clippings re: Brown case. 1921


Box Folder
1 1 Certificate of appointment as St. Marks customs officer. 1906
1 2 Certificate of appointment as attorney qualified to practice before the Supreme Court. 1904
1 3 Certificates of appointment as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. 1909, 1921
1 4 Commissions as notary public. 1917, 1921
1 5 Certificate of appointment to the Dade Memorial Commission. 1921

Selected Subjects and Access Terms

Archer (Fla.) -- History -- 19th century
Convict labor -- Florida -- History
Historians -- Florida -- Obituaries
Judges -- Florida -- Obituaries
Lawyers -- Florida -- Obituaries
Prisoners -- Florida -- History

For further information, please contact: Special Collections Access Services.

University of Florida Home Page