TOWN FOLK:. In contrast to the rural Cracker were the townfolk, who provided centralized services in small towns cross the farming belts and in the port cities. There were few towns of large size. The Spanish military centers of Pensacola, St. Augustine, and Key West, were soon surpassed by Jacksonville, the Eastern gateway, and Tallahassee, as key towns.

Andy Jackson, as a Southerner, wanted Florida to remain two territories, but Northerners controlling Congress opposed the development of two slave states. They insisted upon one slave state, and both Pensacola and St. Augustine made bids to be the capital city. . The logical solution was a new, more centrally located town, and, in 1823, Governor DuVal sent John Williams of Pensacola and William Simmons of St. Augustine to select a spot halfway between their port villages. Fortunately, their selection was in the Tallahassee Hills, the most fertile plantation region.

Agriculture and the shipment of farm goods determined the growth of most Florida towns. Jacksonville grew out of the King's Road crossing near Cowford, a boat transfer spot of the St. Johns River. Middle Florida was soon dotted by cotton markets: Quincy (1825), Monticello (1828), and Marianna (1829). Apalachicola (1830), at the mouth of the river of the same name, became the third largest seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. It was temporarily rivaled by a man-made port, St. Joseph (1836).


Florida was the least industrialized region in the agricultural South. The townsfolk remained professional and service people. The major industry was still the lumber industry with its related naval products of tar, pitch, turpentine and resin. Lack of railroad services did not allow this asset to complete successfully with forestry industries closer to the urban North. In order to increase the price of local cotton, Tallahassee and Madison constructed small cotton mills, but there was no attempt to build cotton cloth factories, a more expensive investment.

Towns in Florida gained their status as central market centers and political headquarters. Florida's few public and private schools were located in towns, but the wealthiest of the planters and merchants choose to ship their children to schools in Savannah and Charleston. It cost nine to twenty dollars per year for the tuition of rhetoric, botany, Latin, geometry, surveying, moral philosophy, chemistry, and algebra. Rural children could not afford this tuition let alone boarding their kids in town, so basic reading and writing by someone who could read was the school system for the working farm child.


TOWN LIFE. Recreation in town centered around the church and official celebrations. With few theaters and no opera houses, simple entertainment like supper, parties, picnics, and dances prevailed. An occasional drama company from New Orleans or Charleston, or a traveling orator, filled the cultural docket of Jacksonville and Pensacola. The townfolk and the farmers favored amusement of a more physical nature, such as cockfighting, horse racing, and jousting tournaments.

Every large community had its own festivals. St Augustine's Minorcan minority maintained the Spanish custom of holding a Posey Dance once a year. Single girls lit a candle in a window to summon potential suitors to ask them for a date. Each gentleman left a small gift. At midnight, the men-folk left and the girl choose her date by placing all but the chosen man's gifts outside on the front doorstep. Pranksters, however, enjoyed taking the objects of the ugliest bachelor in town, thereby creating an unfortunate conflict of interest the night of the dance.


Pensacolans held a festival known as the paud-gaud, or paper turkey. The turkey was a rifle target made of hard cypress root and decorated with dozens of ribbons each representing gifts from the town's single ladies. Bachelors attempted to shoot off their favorite maiden's ribbon, thus winning a picnic date the festival. The town's worst shot not only got the ugliest girl, he and his date were chosen the king and queen of the paud-gaud as the last matched couple. Equally unusual was the popular harassment known as the sherivaree, where locals celebrated the marriage of a widow or widower by clanking pots and pans under their honeymoon suite. If the newlyweds were clever, they fled town.

Rural communities were more reserved about such rowdy activities, which required a congested population and a few taverns for good measure. Pastors forbade drinking and horse racing in many fundamental churches. Despite bans on gambling and ten pin bowling, the growth of towns diluted some of the organized opposition to these wilder amusements.

PROVINCIAL WALLS. Even without the development of organized opposition to slavery in the Northern states, there was a wall of provincialism and anti-intellectualism across the Florida frontier. The small farmer was too busy in surviving than reading books or debating politics. Libraries were non-existent, and a large segment of the population resented anything that smacked of elitism or change.

In the 1840's when romanticism in the North fostered societal dreams for a better world and reforms for society, Florida's educated population viewed the romantic movement as a way to look at the past for a verification of its institutions. . Ministers and writers in the South reinforced this version of romantic thought. Few women in the South were educated past finishing schools, and even they spoke for management estates and families, not for more women's liberties and opportunities. Because most feminist leaders in the North supported abolitionment of slavery, women's rights were not strong issues in Florida.

Of all the reform movements spreading across the country by the 1840's, only the temperance movement developed strong support in Florida. Most Church leaders beloved the attack on alcohol was imperative to purge their flock of bad habits. Even here, Northern temperance leaders were not welcomed, since many of them accepted abolitionism.

Florida was unfortunately an ideal environment to crush any intellectual movement. There were few towns and schools. The communications media was controlled by the planters and their allies. Agrarianism was conservative by tradition and time-consuming by life style. It was impossible to renounce the basic institutions without attacking the political and economic leaders. There were a few radicals even in Florida as noted by the efforts of Quaker Jonathan Walker of Pensacola who was caught smuggling slaves to the Bahamas. Until 1845, most Floridians were consumed by the goal of making Florida a state.

MADISON COUNTY (Florida) in 1850

What was the Cotton Kingdom of Florida like in 1850? Using data compiled from the Census of 1850, Elizabeth Sims included this data in her fine A History of Madison County, Florida (Madison County Historical Society, 1986)

: Population: 2,802 whites 2,688 blacks


406 farmers (76%) 6 shoemakers 1 saddler

38 laborers 5 public workers 1 engineer

36 carpenters 5 tailors 1 stage driver

8 physicians 4 teachers 1 painter

7 bookkeepers 4 blacksmith 1 bootmaker

7 lawyers 4 ministers 1 harness maker

6 merchants 3 brickmen 6 carriage makers


48% born in Georgia; 34% born in South Carolina; 5% born in Florida


264 farms with 35 farms over 500 acres; 16 farms over 1,000 acres

256 farms had milk cows

259 farms had hogs

113 farms had only one horse

3 farms had no horses


EARLY RAILROADING. Since the wealth of Territorial Florida was centered in the hills of Middle Florida, the desirability of building a transportation system extending to the Atlantic port of Jacksonville as well as southward to the Gulf of Mexico was imperative to bolster the state's population. As early as 1826, Southern politicians had proposed a Federal cross-state canal, connecting the Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. Northerners would only finance the necessity of developing a lighthouse syetm from Amelia Island to the Florida Keys, a plan that also benefitted Northern shipping firms.

In 1831, Florida's first railroad was chartered. The state government gave on-half million acres to the Tallahassee Railroad Company to construct a mule-driven tram between Tallahassee and Port Leon on St. Marks Bay, a distance of only 22 miles. The tiny firm did make Tallahassee an ideal ready port for cotton and lumber products.



More significant was the Lake Wimico and St. Joseph Canal Railroad, nine miles of track connected the Apalachicola River to St. Joseph Bay. Overnight St. Joseph, now part of Port St. Joe, stole river trade from the older port of Apachicola at the mouth of the river. These railroads only benefited limited reas.

It was Senator David L. Yulee's work in Washington that fostered the Federal Swamp Land Act, which granted thousands of acres to the Florida Internal Improvement Commission to promote transportation. The gift of 29 million acres helped the Florida, Atlantic, and Gulf Central Railroad connect Jacksonville with Lake City. Yulee's greatest political success was his Florida Railroad Company, which gained over three million dollars in guaranteed bonds from the F.I.I.F. Yulee needed only $345,000 to complete his cross-peninsular railroad from Fernandina to Cedar Key.


More important than even good transportation was more population, necessary to gain Florida statehood. The United States Congress helped this cause with the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. This law granted 160 acres of land in the unoccupied regions of Floirda to any settler willing to bear arms to defend the property for five years. While the program was not the major cause of southern migration from Georgia and Alabama, it certainly provided a needed incentive. The Act remained in force only nine months, but 1,184 homesteading permits were issued. many of them to the first pioneers to Central Florida. The end of the Seminole Wars would be the other vital factorn making Florida a state.

The 1842 Act was short-lived. not due to Northern opposition, but due to the resentment of planters and land speculators who feared the Act would foster an unmanageable land boom. The planters hoped to convert the Florida swamplands into rice and sugar plantations once the Seminole menace was silenced. The arrival of thousands of small farmers, few of whom owned slaves, was a hindrance to the overall development plns of the planter aristocracy.


When statehood appeared years distant, the planters supported a liberal immigration policy, but now that Florida was nearing its ultimate achievement, the planters revised their assessment of the the demographic situation. An influx of poor small farmers might oppose and would delay needed taxes for transportation projects favored by the planters..

THE ISSUE IS STATEHOOD. Aside from the Seminole Wars, covered in Chapter 9, no event so divided Territorial politics more than the battle for statehood. It was more a question of "WHEN", not whether. The planters wanted to unite Florida to the economic and political interests of neighboring Georgia and Alabama, but this required a massive building program of railroads and canals. The interests of the small farmers, the cattlemen in the peninsular, and many Northern investors was to delay statehood, until they had better control of their political destinies.

In 1837, the planters prematurely passed a bill to obtain a census and referendum for statehood. It was discovered the state did not yet have enough population for two representatives to Congress, an original planter promise. Nevertheless, enough Floridians voted to set up a constitutional convention that the first statewide meeting for a new government met in the boom town of St. Joseph. The meeting, in December of 1837, revealed the division over statehood, taxes, and land development.


There was much hope over Florida statehood, since at that time it was expected that Kansas would soon be ready as a free state. The small farmers delayed the main vote to bring up all their serious oppositions. They wanted a revision of Florida's bank charters to offer loans for small farmers, since they claimed the state's three existing banks - the Union Bank of Tallahassee, the Bank of Pensacola, and the Southern Life Insurance and Trust Company - were owned and operated by planters, Europeans, and Northerners. When the planters brought up bank financing of a new railroad project, the small farmers tried to utilize anti-bank sentiment to delay Florida's statehood bid.

In January of 1839, the first Constitution for the State of Florida was passed at St. Joseph, but only after some realistic compromises on the issues of bank policy and state loans. In the statewide referendum later that year, the Constitution passed by a vote of 2,070 to 1,953. The large planter population of Middle Florida barely offset the negative vote from Pensacola and Jacksonville. Enough small farmers were tempted by compromises on banking and stricter laws against the freedmen to modify the results of their vote.

The vote on statehood did not grant Floridians their immediate wish. Six years would pass as the United States Congress considered Florida's application for statehood. There was a reevaluation of the census data. Territorial Delegate Levy was a strong proponent against Northern opposition. In March of 1845, Florida's application for statehood was accepted, in part, because Iowa was prepared to enter the nation as a state. Thus, Iowa and Florida became sister states in the continual  game of sectional politics in Wa