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A Tour of Central Florida and the Lower West Coast

by George Franklin Thompson



Copyright © 1999 University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries

November 22, 1865 through December 21, 1865

[On inside front cover in pencil]

Journal of Geo. F. Thompson, as Inspector, Bureau Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands, on a tour of central Florida and the Lower West Coast, Dec. 1865

G.ville--p. 7
Paines Prairie--p. 21
Silver Springs--p. 40
Tampa--p. 54, 100
Manatee River--p. 59

[On first leaf in pencil]
Summerlin--p. 80
McKay--p. 79
Ft. Myers--p. 91

[in pencil]
(Journal of)
[in ink, the beginning of Thompson's handwriting]
Geo F. Thompson.
Tallahassee,
Florida

[no page number]
[added in pencil]
1865

Left New York on 22nd Nov for Savannah on steamer "Euterpe" [Enterprise?] arrived Savannah on 25th 10:30 p.m., staid at Pulaski Hotel until 29th when I took Steamer "City Point" at 4 p.m. for Jacksonville where I arrived 30th at 9:30 a.m.  There found Captain G.W. Beach C.S. with whom I staid untill December 2nd at 4 a.m. when I took the train for Tallahassee arriving there about 8 p.m.  Stopped at the City Hotel a miserably kept house, it had very poor fare and very high charges.  Here found Captain Demington C.S. who, with Captain S. L. McHenry for adjt. Genl., Capt W.H. Burtow A.G.M.. for Quartermaster, constitute the staff of Col. J. W. Osborn, Asst. Commissioner, Bureau F.R. & A.L. for Florida.  Reported to Col. Osborn on 3rd Dec when he assigned me as Inspector for the 5th District of Florida, consisting [constituting]


[no page number]
of the counties of Volusia, Orange, Polk, Hillsboro, Manatee, Munroe, Dade & Broward.  Mr. [?] W. H. Gleason of Eau Claire, Wis. was appointed Special Agent to accompany me on the tour, and we made our arrangements to travel together, obtaining horses & equipments of Capt. Burlow A.G.M. for the purpose.


[1]
Left Tallahassee for Jacksonville on Wednesday Dec 6th at 8 a.m. arrived at Jacksonville at 10 p.m. delayed two hours by train getting off track.  The most noticeable thing on the way from Tallahassee to Jacksonville is the excessive stupidity and lack of a spirit of enterprise and accommodation on the part of the employees of the Rail Road.  The train was advertised to start at 7 a.m. and knowing my peculiar weakness to over-sleep myself in the morning, I solicited [of] the landlord to wake me as early as 5 a.m. in the morning that I might have plenty of time to get in readiness for the train.  This I felt to be more than usually important as I had to see that the three horses (Gleason's the orderlie's and my own) were put in a car to be transported


[2]
to Baldwin.

As good fortune would have it I awoke shortly after daylight and supposing it to be quite late, jumped out of bed, and taking a hasty glance at my watch thought it was past 6 o'clock.  Hurrying on my clothes I hastened down stairs and feeling some what enraged with the remissness of the landlord commenced giving vent to my feelings in expressions of disgust with the neglect and want of promptness on the part of the Hotel Keeper.

After berating him somewhat sourly with the strongest language I could command, and sending the first colored American citizen I could find to arouse the landlord and Mr. Gleason, my travelling companion, I turned to a very quiet man seated on a bench on the porch and directed


[3]
my conversation to him in particular when he very quietly [?] observed "You will get used to such things after you have lived in this country awhile."

Never! I said, I would rather die than be so stupid.

I thought so once myself, "said he."

Then you are not a native of Florida, are you?

Oh, no.  I was from New Hampshire and came to this country fourteen years ago and have learned to get along with all the delays and this lack of business habits.

His first expression convinced me that it was [his] a [expression] matter [?] of his own experience, and then I commenced to make inquiries in regard to the country, people, land, and especially the political [feeling] condition of the state.  I informed him that I was from


[4]
Massachusetts, which seemed to unloosen his tongue, and looking first to the right and then to the left to see if any one was watching him or listening to the conversation, he said

"Come this way, I don't like these people to see me talking of these things for the fact is, the Election is but just over, and they are like a hive of bees or nest of hornets which has been stirred up with a large stick and they are buzzing around trying to find victims upon whom they can vent their spleen, and I do not care to become one of their victims.  I am now living in Florida.  I came from Georgia to avoid the Rebel Army as the alternative was given me, either to go into the Army or leave the state


[5]
and leaving the Union I chose the latter."  After conversing with this gentleman several minutes, the landlord came out rubbing his eyes with his fists looking more like a half-grown bear than a gentlemanly and accommodating Hotel Keeper, when I began to open my battery of invective upon him for his want of fidelity and the danger of my being left by the train.

"Oh!  You have plenty of time, it's only half past five now, plenty of time! Plenty of time!!"

Upon taking a calm view of my watch I found I had made a mistake of only one hour, which [was] proved to be very fortunate, as I doubt if he would have awakened untill now if some one had not aroused him.  After partaking of a break-


[6]
fast such as Kings seldom have, vis "hog & hominy" we started for the Depot some half a mile distant and on arriving there were doomed to another trial of patience and good nature.  The train should have started at 7 a.m., but by dint of the masterly inactivity of the agent, conductor, and every other employee of the road we started about 15 minutes past 8 and then I presume it was by the consent of the baggage master or some brakeman.

After taking a seat in the car and composing myself a little I began to look around for objects of interest and was not long in finding two.  One was the dilapidated, dirty and uncomfortable condition of the car, and the other a young lady


[7]
from the country, whose attire and general appearance indicated her origin, as being from the "poor white trash."  After she had taken a full survey of all the passengers, she pulled from her pocket a red handkerchief, or what there was left, of what once was one, and commenced tearing it into strips about an inch wide.  My fears were at once excited, as thoughts of suicide flushed through my mind.  I [at once] determined, if she should attempt such an act, that I would become a hero by saving her life and returning her to her parents unharmed.  After she had deliberately arranged the strips, under my eagle eye she stooped over and gently raising the lower extremities of her crinoline


[8]
she placed them upon some part of her person not visible to me and as I saw no signs of strangulation concluded that these could be no immediate danger.

We arrived at Lake City, distant from Tallahassee 105 miles about 4 p.m., and here we were doomed to another disappointment.  The car containing our horses could not or rather would not go forward any further untill the next day on account of the road from Lake City to Jacksonville being under the control of another Corporation, and neither company being any agents to labor for the interest of the corporations and the accomodation of the travelling public.  The agent promised that the


[9]
car should come forward with the horses the next morning and we concluded to proceed to Jacksonville and meet our horses at Baldwin to go to Gainesville on Saturday morning.

We arrived at Jacksonville about 10 p.m. after being delayed about two hours by another train being across the track about 10 miles from Jacksonville.  On arriving at J. I proceeded to the Quarters of Captain Griest C.S. who welcomed me to his home, with the usual commisary honors.

Jacksonville, December 7th

This is the National Thanksgiving and of course I devote myself to the usual rejoicings of the day.  The people of this place are cognisant that there is such a country


[10]
as the United States and though they do not all close their places of business yet there is a strong indication that a large part of the business men here are disposed to recognise the national authority.  About two thirds of the places of business are closed, only the small two-cent-stores and few shops being open for trade.  It is remarkable how the Jew finds his way into every nook and corner of the country, large enough to squeese a three cent piece into it.  I think if you should drop a penny into the crevice of a rock ten thousand feet below the surface of the Earth and should examine the place twelve months afterward, you would find a


[11]
Jew or his shadow there with a store 6 x 8 filled with every conceivable notion trying to get it by trade.  This place has a full store of this class of trades people, whether they are a desirable population for any country is a point upon which I have very decided opinions but as my opinions on this matter cannot be law I forbear their expression.  Thermometer today 64 to 70.

8th December

We find no train leaves Jacksonville for Baldwin before tomorrow morning consequently must remain here untill tomorrow morning at 4 o'clock.  The train runs from Jacksonville to Tallahassee only every other


[12]
day, this is owing to the want of two things, one of which being supplied, the other would soon come to exist, vis, 1st want of Rolling stock 2nd want of enterprise and business capacity.  The distance between these two places is 165 miles and there is no difficulty in arranging a daily train provided they had a reasonable amount of enterprise.  We spent most of the day in making arrangements for our tour by purchases and setting the route which we would travel.  We went into one store and in making our selections of the different articles naturally engaged the man in conversation about the country, soil, rivers, and in fact everything which might be important or gratifying to our curiosity.  We were thus pushing our inquiries when in turn


[13]
the man made of us the usual inquiry of a Southerner, vis "What part of the country are you from?"  I answered for myself, that I was from Massachusetts, when from that moment he turned from me and seemed to feel that he had nothing further to say.  The change in his manners was so marked that my companions concluded that the way to silence a rabid secessionist was to hail from Mass.  He was a sort of Mongrel New York Dutchman who had emigrated to Florida years ago and managed to crawl down lower and get slimier than any native born Southerner could do.  There is a degree of despicable meanness which a renegade Northerner can and does reach which a native Southerner can never degrade himself to.


[14]
About 4 o'clock p.m. I was surprised to see Mr. Foster come into the room and was glad to see him for the purpose of arranging for my monthly papers.  I advised him in reference to my business.  Saw Mrs. Foster who appeared in excellent health.  The thermometer today stood at 69 without varying much through the day or evening.  Tomorrow morning we start for Gainesville via Baldwin where we expect to find our horses.

Dec 9th
I arose this morning at 3 o'clock and made my toilet and reached the Depot about 4 o'clock with Mr. Gleason and Mr. Rowley, a young man from Conn. and formerly connected with the 7th Regt from that state, as private, but from his


[15]
appearance and intelligence would have honored a commission.  In getting into the car I thought I had left my transportation papers in my room & stepped out and asked the conductor how long before the train would start.  He informed me very shortly.  10 minutes.  I immediately started for the room ¼ of a mile distant running through the sand and bush and just made the time almost entirely exhausted and not finding my papers at the room, commenced a more thorough search in my pockets and succeeded in finding them; and felt not a little vexed with myself for being so negligent in putting them up as not to have remembered where they were put.  However, it was a lesson, hereafter to be more careful in arranging such things.


[16]
We arrived at Baldwin, distant from Jacksonville about 20 miles about 7 a.m. and found our orderly with the horses.  The conductor in the Gainesville road informed me with an air of dignity which would appear more appropriate to a rich man like "Uncle Samuel" than a subordinate on a Florida Rail Road, that he could not take the horses for want of a car.  I told him that it seemed to me that it was his business to get a car if he had none.  Or at any rate to provide the transportation in some way, but he replied with his usual dignity that he couldn't and that was the end of the controversy."  I then determined to send them through the country to [that] for Gainesville the distance being only about 50 miles


[17]
and they would be required to wait at Baldwin untill the next Tuesday before they could be transported over the road.  We took Breakfast at this place and concluded to take the train for G'ville at 8 o'clock arriving at that place about 12. M., where we found Mr. W. Root formerly private in 2'# Indiania Vols. In Army Potomac.

The country from B. to G. is level & sandy, covered with a growth of pine not heavy enough for timber in any great quantity, but suitable for the Turpentine business and noticed several rude manufactories for this article on the way.  The country is very sparsely settled and the appearance of the inhabitants indicates that common schools and churches of a high order do not exist in great numbers if at all.


[18]
We remained at Gainesville untill Monday morning.  The weather was cloudy and rainy during our stay which did not add to the beauty of the place.  It is a settlement of about 500 inhabitants with a church and stores.  Here we saw a Mr. Sanchez [Nichols] who owns a tract of land of about 6000 acres covered with live oak in the neighborhood of Indian River which he offers to sell for 8 dollars per acre.  He is laboring under the impression that the stock of live oak is nearly exhausted and that it will be a necessity for the government to purchase this tract at his price for the building of its ships.  But this idea only indicates how [curious?] are the views entertained as to the extent and productions of this coun[page break]


[l9]
-try.  An occurrence happened here showing the grade of civilization which prevails.  A Dr. Clay, said to be a cousin of Henry Clay, had an altercation with a defeated political candidate in the last election when the argument of Dr. Clay became demonstrative upon the face and head of the defeated candidate and if it did not produce conviction at least produced a liberal flow of blood highly mixed with a poor quality of whiskey.

Here also I saw for the first time the operation of ginning cotton.  The cotton gin is a machine which separates the seed from the staple and is the invention of Eli Whitney an ingenious Yankee of Westborough, Mass.  This mill had seven pins and was operated by a Yankee 14 years from Taunton, Mass.


[20]
The average amount of clean cotton turned out per day by such machine is about 150 lbs and this man received 4 cents per pound for ginning besides the seed which is worth about 25 cents per bushel.  It required a man to each machine who receive about one dollar per day for their labor.

Dec 10th Sunday
We had heard much said here about some "sinks," as they are called, small bodies of water with no visible outlets, situated about 3 miles from Gainesville, being filled with dead fish and alligators, so we decided to appropriate this day to their examination.

Mr. Gleason & myself started out immediately after


[21]
breakfast to visit them.  We found them bordering on the edge of what is called Paines' Prairie, formerly called the Alachua Savana, a low body of land about 15 miles in length and 7 in width.  They number some half a dozen small irregular bodies of water running towards the southwest [northwest] slowly & [into one] from the last one no outlet could be seen except a slight eddying on the outer edge as though the water had found a subterranean passage through a fissure of the rock beneath.  The entire surface of the water was completely covered with dead fish and alligators on the body of water which had the subterranean outlet and upon the surface of the other ponds some half a dozen in number.  There were hundreds of thousands of fish


[22]
with their mouths just protruding into the air gasping in the agonies of death.  So numerous were they that the sound of their gasping resembled the noise of a heavy shower of rain.

There were 20 to 25 alligators floating upon the surface, from 5 to 10 feet in length, in a state of decomposition.  In the ponds were numerous live ones feeding upon the dead fish.  The stench was so intense that it extended its noxious smell for a distance of two miles.  That part of the lake or pond having the outlet is reported to have a depth of more than a hundred feet.  The cause of the fish dying is not understood by the inhabitants.  It appears to be that it is the result of the exhaustion of the oxygen in the water, for I


[23]
can hardly believe that such innumerable numbers of fish could exist for any length of time in so small a quantity of water.  This prairie was overflowed a year ago and it is probably that the fish increased to such numbers as not to be supported in the small ponds to which they were driven when the waters receded from the plain.  The rock formation near and around these ponds is pure limestone.  Indeed so soft is it that you can easily dig it out with a spade.

After gratifying our curiosity and sense of smell here, we returned to Gainesville through the Hammock in which we found many depressions on the surface, in a tunnel shape.  A Hammock is a piece of land covered with


[24]
Hard wood and is always considered the most desirable tracts.  The soil is richer and more productive and more especially adapted to grains and fruits, while the Pine lands are suitable for cotton, cane, and rice.  We arrived at our Hotel about 4 o'clock and after regaling ourselves took a seat in the sitting room and passed the evening in conversation untill we retired to bed to forget our weariness and become refreshed for our journey in the morrow.  Thermometer stood at 64.

11th December Monday
This morning about 11 o'clock we had our horses at the door ready to commence our journey to Tampa.  We left Gainesville and travelled


[25]
southwest towards Ocala crossing Paines' Prairie and found nothing particular interesting untill 8 or ten miles on our way when we passed a low marshy tract about 4 miles in length and from 1 to 2 miles in width and if I should state my belief as to the number of wild ducks there found I feel [?] I should find few to credit my story.

I know that to judge correctly of numbers in such cases requires much experience, and after resolving in my own mind what would be a fair estimate of the number of Ducks in that space I ventured the inquiry of my companions as to the number.  Mr. Gleason, who has travelled extensively, after stopping and surveying the field or as much as could


[26]
plainly be seen said that there could not be less than a million but I had previously fixed my estimate at 300,000 and I believe could they have been gathered and counted the number would have exceeded rather than fallen short of that number.

We rode our horses towards the edge of the water and as they ascended near us, the sound of their flying was like the thunder.  We passed on with the intention of stopping at the house of Colonel McCormick 22 miles from Gainesville but we missed our way and found ourselves at night fall on a narrow strip of land extending into Orange Lake. Finding that the darkness would prevent us from retracing our steps a dis[page break]


[27]
-tance of about four miles we exercised a little philosophy and made the best of our mistake and spread our blankets on the ground in the woods, built a rousing fire, and went to bed supperless.

Our horses found but little better than ourselves for the only feed we could give them was the long bundles of Spanish moss hanging from the trees.  This Spanish moss is found in abundance in the hammocks, and it is suitable after proper dressing, [for] as a substitute for hair in the manufacture of mattresses or stuffed chairs.  The process of preparation is to bury the moss in the soil, or water rot it, and then after drying, the outside covering comes off by threshing and leaves a fine and wiry fibre quite similar to


[28]
horse hair.  It is very abundant throughout the counties of Alachua and Marion and I doubt not throughout the state.

During the night the sky became clouded and the rain came pattering down upon us, but our blankets were sufficient to keep us perfectly dry and the thermometer indicated about 68.  We experienced no inconveniences from cold.  We arose about 7 o'clock [12th Dec] and perambulated the forest which gave us shelter and to our utter astonishment we found it to contain orange groves with the fruit hanging in large and tempting clusters.  We found not less than 20,000 orange trees bearing what is termed the sour ["bitter sweet"] orange.  All that is necessary to make them


[29]
bear the most delicious sweet orange is to graft unto the stock the desired kind, and the third year you have the fruit in abundance.  Without doubt the "bitter sweet," or sour orange is capable of producing a brandy of superior flavor but the better way, and the more profitable, would be to graft in the sweet orange and obtain a fruit which would command a high price in the Northern market.  The cabbage Palmetto also abounds and from an examination of its structure I am satisfied may be profitably manufactured into cordage or paper of superior strength.

Dec 12th Tuesday
The early part of the morn-


[30]
ing was spent in "prospecting" the narrow strip of land upon which we made our bed the night previous and about 11 o'clock resumed our saddles for the journey to Col McCormicks with empty stomachs and enthusiastic hearts instead.

After following several trails in the dense wood in hope to find a shorter route to our goal we finally reached the main road and shortly afterward met a citizen going to Micanopy of whom we inquired the most direct route to Col McCormicks.  We parted from him but little wiser as to the course, but kept on our way relying more upon our own judgement and the information we could gather


[31]
from the negroes then anything we could get from the white people, not because the whites are disinclined to give all the information they have but our principal difficulty was in appreciating all the crooks and turns they would mention, while as a general thing the negro was more direct in his statements & could confine himself to the point.

[overwritten with the words  The day before]  (We arrived at Micanopy at 12 M.  This is a "southern town" and as I am in a hurry to get to my destination for the day cannot stop to describe its dingy stores and houses, its loafers and hangers on and universal appearance of shiftlessness but will leave this part of my task for a future time).

After pursuing a zig-zag route for about 12 miles we came to the plantation of a late Dr. Paine where


[32]
we found an old colored man busily at work surrounded by his family of children and a lot of hogs.  On coming up to him he laid aside his adze and readily communicated his wrongs.  He said that since 'Freedom came in" his old mistress (Mrs. Paine) had been very exacting and severe with them, requiring of them every chicken & pig and delaying the payment of the wages which she had promised.  After directing him to make known all his wrongs to the judge of Probate, whom he knew, we rode on past the family mansion towards Col McCormicks, arriving there about 3 p.m.

On entering the house we took the first opportunity to inform the Mistress of the house that we had excellent appetites when she very cheerfully gave


[33]
directions to have a dinner prepared for us.  While the dinner was in preparation we engaged a lively conversation with the Mistress of the house (Miss Carman) in regard to the country, its products, the people, their habits manners customs, &c.  We found her to be a very careful observer of passing events and capable of forming a correct judgement of men & things.  She iterates the story we had heard so much in regard to the negro, that he would not work except under compulsion but yet, could see that the whites and especially the former owners do not try to alleviate the difficulty but rather rejoice in the evil because it proves their old theory that the negro is incapable of caring for himself and that slavery is the natural condition of the race.

She informed us that the


[34]
Emancipation of the negro had wrought a great change already and instanced the case of the killing of a negro by one of her neighbors as a case in point.  It seems that Marion Paine, one of the family previously referred to, had an altercation with a negro boy and becoming exasperated threw a knot of wood at the boy striking him down senseless and shortly after expired.  Under the old system Marion might have gone before a magistrate and made a statement of the case and been released, but now, knowing that under the new order of things the negro boy had a right to life and that he (Marion) was amenable to the military authorities for one of the worst of crimes he felt the cord chafing his neck and fled and I believe to this day has not been


[35]
found to answer for his crime.  Unquestionably his friends are knowing as to his whereabouts and provide him with the necessary means to evade detection.  On inquiry of Miss Carman if there had ever been any cases where the owner had killed a slave without being molested by the civil authorities under the old system, she answered very readily, "yes, indeed."

Dinner was now announced and we readily repaired to the dining room where we appeased our appetites on the feast set before us.  About 4:30 we left McCormicks and proceeded on our journey and had not gone far before it commenced raining, but forward was our word and through forest and in the rain we travelled untill about 8 o'clock we espied a light off at our right and we made for it.


[36]
After wandering some time in the darkness we came to a fence which obstructed our progress but the fence soon gave way and on we went to the light.  When within about 300 yards of the house we were saluted by half a dozen big dogs and warned to approach no further but our case would not allow us to heed their warning voices and up to the house we rode drenched with rain.  The house proved to be a rude, leaky shanty with a white man, a big wench, and some half dozen mulatto children for occupants.

Can you keep some of us here tonight, was my inquiry.  "No I cannot nohow" was the answer and after surveying the premises we concluded he was right in his meaning.


[37]
if not in his grammar for there was but one room to the shanty and a very large part of that intruded upon by the fire place.  The white man however volunteered to pilot us to "General Owens" who, he said, had a large house and would gladly welcome us to his hospitalitie, so, calling two or three of his mulatto boys to bring a pitch pine torch we followed on Mr. Owens about ¼ mile distant.  On arriving at the "Generals" house I knocked, but he had retired and I repeated the summons some half dozen times when at last I heard the sound of footsteps inside and soon the door was slowly and furtively opened, and a bushy Indian head presented itself.

"What do you want and who are you!" inquired Mr. Owens.


[38]
Four travellers, I answered, would like shelter for ourselves and feed for our horses.  "Where are you from?" again inquired Mr. Owens.  I am an officer of the U.S. Army.  One is a soldier & one from Wisconsin and one a native Floridian.  Are any of you of the 1st or 2nd Regt Florida troops in the Federal service?  No sir: I answered.  I would rather have a pole cat in my house than one of those d__d scoundrels, and never, when I know it can one of them enter, replied Mr or "General" Owens.

After he was satisfied that we did not belong to that class which he detested above all others, we were invited to come in and were offered all the comforts his home afforded.


[39]
Dec 13th Wednesday
In the morning we were bountifully served and after breakfast had a long conversation with Mr Owens in regard to the country, soil, climate, negroes, free labor &c &c.

He informed us that the desire was almost universal among the old planters & slave holders to sell their estates and remove to some more congenial section.  He was among that class, and would like to sell his property at once.

He said that the object of their special hate was the man who, during the war had joined the Federal service and fought the Confederacy.  That the old organization called Regulators would attend to all those cases and that if they attempted to settle in this county [country ?] they would


[40]
be disposed of summarily.  That "they would under no circumstances whatever be allowed to live here."  Indeed so full and free was information on these points that we were partially satisfied that it was the serious intention of the returned rebels to make war upon those who had adhered to the Union through all the trials of the rebellion.

After bidding Mr Owens good morning we proceeded on our way to Ocala via Silver Springs.  We arrived at this place about 1 p.m.  This is one of the most enchanting natural scenes I have ever seen.  The spring is at the head of Ocklawaha river in Marion County 5 miles North East of Ocala.  It forms a Pond or small Lake [about]


[41]
and I should judge at the deepest point would measure 45 feet.  The water is very clear so that you can easily discern the bottom at any place in passing over it in a boat.  The fish as well as any object in the water has the appearance of silver and probably from this peculiarity it derives its name.  Could the spring be located in New York or some place where its beauty and perhaps medicinal properties be appreciated it would be a popular place of resort.

We left the spring at 3 p.m. and proceeded on our way towards Ocala and after making 3 or 4 miles stopped at a cabin by the road to inquire the most direct route to that place, when we were overtaken by a man on horseback who appeared to be


[42]
travelling to the same point.  On making known to him that Brookeville was our objective point, he told us it would be nearer to go by his house and if we chose to do so could be entertained at his house for the night.  We gladly accepted his information and invitation, (for which we paid $6.- the next morning) and followed him home.  His name was McGahajan and we found him [a] very pleasant and communicative on all matters of our inquiry.

He, as well as Owens with whom we staid the night before, was a Captain in the rebel army and his views and sympathies were all with that class of men.  He had no faith in the disposition or capacity of the freedman to take care of himself, and despaired of employing them to any advantage.  He related to us several instances of negro theiving which were really remark[page break]


[43]
-able.  One case, was of a negro preacher whom he had owned, and while a slave had never had occasion to suspect his honesty, but since he became free, had detected him in stealing an axe, a hog, and most positively denying having had anything to do with, or knowledge of the theft, but as two of Mr McGahajan's boys had witnessed the whole transaction there could be no doubt about the theft or the perpetrator.

Mr McG has no faith in free negro labor and is anxious to sell his property.  The land is a rich hammock soil and capable of producing cotton, corn, sugar cane, sweet potatoes and oranges and other fruits in abundance.  He holds the lands as worth from 10 to 15 dollars per acre and I should judge were well worth the money, as they produce form 150 to 175 pounds of the long staple or Sea Island cotton, or 1200 to 1500 pounds of sugar & 250 gallons of syrup, or from 300 to 400 bushels sweet potatoes.


[44]
per acre.  He also confirmed our opinion in regard to the purpose of the "Regulators" as related to us by Mr Owens.  His sympathies are fully with the "regulators" but does not appear at all like a man who would resort to extreme measures, such as murder to accomplish his purpose.  He is an instance of what a bad tool the system of slavery can make out of a naturally good man.

December 14th Thursday  Therm. 64  7 a.m.
We left Mr McGahajans' this morning about 8:30 and made Sumterville our objective point, distant about 25 miles.  We found nothing particularly interesting or noticeable on our route except the sinks or Ponds which are small bodies of water formed for a Tunnel shaft by a depression of the surface of the ground and in which the water is held.  Many of them


[45]
are fed or made by springs in their center.  They are circular and vary from  40 to 75 feet in diameter and from 10 to 75 ft in depth.  These furnish a supply of water for cattle and for use of the people who live in their neighborhood.  The land passed over today seems to be of a poorer quality as we get into Sumter County and is covered with a growth of small pine, too diminutive for lumber.  There is however occasionally a hammock covered with a fair growth of white, red & water oak and some bay trees.  We arrived at Sumterville at 5 p.m. and obtained shelter and subsistence for ourselves and horses with a Mr Brunch.  Therm. 64  6 p.m.

December 15th Friday  Thermometer 51  6 a.m.
Left Sumter this morning about 8 o'clock and proceeded direc to to Munroes Ferry


[46]
distant about 12 miles where we arrived about 11 a.m.  We here crossed the Withlacoochee River on a Ferry boat kept by Mr. Munroe.  The river at this point is about 100 yards in width and 10 feet in depth.  The channel below and above the crossing is almost completely filled with what is called "Water Lettuce" and would prove a serious obstruction to the advance of a boat,  There is an abundance of game [in the river] such as ducks and snipes or plover [?] in this section.  After we crossed the River the land for 5 or 6 miles appeared to be poor and sterile with an occasional exception of a small amount of Hammock.  Timber not very plenty.  Pine very small and generally unfit for anything except firewood.

As we came nearer Brookeville however the soil seemed to assume a darker hue


[47]
and the surface of the county more undulating untill you reach Brookeville which sits upon quite an elevation of land, such as in New England would be called a hill.  The water too seems to find vent [?] from the hill sides in springs and looks as cool and clear as could be desired. In fact I have seen no soil or surface in Florida which has better or more encouraging appearances than this in Brookville & vicinity.

On reaching Brookville about 4 p.m. we made inquiry for Judge P.G. Wall to whom I had a letter of Introduction form Colonel Osborne, and found that his residence was 5 miles west of the town.  We pushed forward and arrived at the judge's at 5 p.m., where we were welcomed to the hospitalities of his house.  The Judge is a very plain man in appearance but you cannot be in his presence long with-


[48]
out being impressed with his intelligence and candour.  He is a positive man & has decided opinions on all topics to which you direct his attention.  His opinion seems to be, that if the negro is left to himself will in course of time become extinct; but he is not the kind of man to see them go to destitution without making an effort to better their condition.  Though formerly owning about 60 slaves he has not treasured up a feeling of bitterness toward the negro because he is emancipated as a majority of slave holders seemed to have done; but desires to have them educated and made useful to one another and the community.

He has a plantation of about 1500 acres on which he resides and as he is getting well into years desires to sell or lease the same.  He is also Executor of


[49]
an Estate of about 2500 acres which he would like to lease on the most liberal terms.  As it is stocked with mules cattle & hogs with plenty of tools and appurtenances for making sugar it affords an enterprising man a good chance for making $13,000.
Thermometer 7 p.m.  56

December 16th Saturday Therm 6:30 p.m. 65
After partaking of a bountiful breakfast Judge Wall accompanied us to a part of his Plantation to view the quality of the Hammock soil and the timber.  We found a dark, sandy soil of great depth covered with white, red & water and an occasional live oak. Red bay, Persimmon & Magnolia.  The sight was truly refreshing after having seen so much small and useless Pine


[50]
during our journey from Gainesville.  It seemed to me to be better soil and to present more encouragement to a man disposed to become a farmer than any lands I had seen in the state, and were I disposed to become such should up to this time have no hesitation in locating myself in Hernando County.

After viewing his premises to our gratification we returned to the house and made arrangements to continue our journey and here it is necessary to speak of a little incident having a bearing upon a loss we suffered today, if it may be called a loss.  Before leaving the Judge's I procured about 24 pounds of sweet potatoes so that in case it became necessary to camp out we might have something to eat, and


[51]
gave the orderly accompanying us, directions to distribute them in our several saddle bags, but after bidding the Judge & family good morning and mounted my horse I noticed there were no potatoes in my saddle bags and asked the orderley what he had done with them when he said he had them on his horse.

I thought no more of the matter untill we had passed on several miles, when we looked back and no orderley could be seen.  Supposing him to be still coming on behind we kept our way untill towards night we became satisfied that it was a deliberate movement of his to desert us.  As there was a courier from Capt. Martin A.L.M. came on with us from Tallahassee and with whom he had been on the


[52]
most intimate terms during the journey and returned this morning, we concluded it was an arrangement to return with him to Tallahassee.

As our business required us to advance rather than retreat we deemed it better to pursue our duty rather than a faithless orderly and without stopping to put on mourning for our loss we hurried on untill at dark we arrived at the house of Mr. Townsend where we were admitted for the night.  Mr T. was absent and we attended to our horses in person and after that duty done we repaired to the shanty for our supper, which being a "short horse" was soon ruined.  I will not attempt a description of our meal but if any one wants to live poor, die poor, and be damned let him become


[53]
poor white trash of Florida.  Thermometer 7 p.m.  68

December 17th Sunday  Therm. 6 a.m.  64
Arose at sunrise and left this dirty uncomfortable place for Tampa, distant 12 miles.  Forded Hillsboro River which was about 3 feet deep & 40 rods in width and after passing through a miserable piece of country arrived at Tampa about 12 M tired, hungry, and not much cleaner than the law allows.  Spent the balance of the day in resting from our labor.
Thermometer at 7 p.m.  74


[54]
December 18th Monday  Therm. 8 a.m.  70
This morning after breakfast we took occasion to examine the town of Tampa and find it a place of about 800 inhabitants, 600 whites and about 200 colored.  The principal business of the whites is trading that of the colored labor and to which they (the negro) seem to devote themselves with commendable assiduity.  There is no suffering among them for they seem impressed with the necessity of providing for themselves by labor and it is difficult to find one without an engagement or prospect of one.  We wanted to employ one to accompany us on a trip to Charlotte Harbor and the Caloosahachee River but found it very difficult to find one and when at last we succeeded


[55]
in doing so we could not arrange with him for less than one dollar per day and found and as the service required was not important enough to warrant the expenditure we concluded to get along without.

We were informed that labor was in such demand that an ordinary laborer was worth one dollar per day.  This is a very important place being the principal Depot of supplies for the country north of Caloosahachee River and west of the Kissimmee but notwithstanding the superior location of the town and the facilities for doing an extensive business there is wanting the energy and enterprise to stimulate production in the interior of those articles of real worth in the market.  Fruits are cultivated to very little extent, scarcely sufficient for the wants of the producer though the climate and soil are specially adapted


[56]
to the production of oranges, grapes, figs &c in abundance.  The soil in and around Tampa is a light sandy formation, extending to a great depth and to a casual observer would appear very sterile, but upon examination will be found to have the qualities necessary for all kinds of vegetables and fruits common to southern Florida.

Our land lady had a small gardens [near?] her house where Peas, turnips & radishes appeared to flourish remarkably for the winter months.  As we desired to be on our journey as soon as possible, and our horses were unfit to proceed we concluded to make a visit to Manatee, Charlotte Harbor & Caloosahachee River in a small boat so we effected our arrangement with Louis Bell who was formerly the Mail


[57]
Carrier between Tampa & Fort Myers and well acquainted with the coast.
Our arrangements being made we only awaited a fair wind to take us down the Bay.  Thermometer 7 p.m.  66

December 19th  Tuesday.   Them   7 a.m.  68
We still remain at Tampa but have determined to start on our trip tomorrow.  Today has been spent in getting our supplies and completing the arrangement for a coast voyage.
Thermometer  7 p.m.  64

December 20th  Wednesday  Therm  7 a.m.  67
Started this morning at 10 o'clock for Charlotte Harbor.  The wind was against us and were obliged to row the boat for about 5 miles.  [when] The channel being narrow


[58]
as the day advanced the wind from the South East increased and we made rather poor headway and as the sun was going down found ourselves at Gadsdens Point, where we landed & fixed our camp for the night.  The musquitoes annoyed us exceedingly and being too warm to cover our heads with our blankets we concluded to make our beds on the beach where we came very near being flanked by the sand flies.  After exercising a little patience we fell asleep and passed the night very comfortably.
Thermometer  8 p.m.  66

December 21st  Thursday.  Therm  6 a.m.  60
Left Gadsdens Point at 6:30 and beat against the wind all day making Teresea [Terra Ceia] Bay at dusk where we cast [59] anchor. Eat a few mouthfuls of Pork and Hard Tack and slept in the boat at night.

[To page 59 cont.]


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