American History and Genealogy Project

Florida Territory

Florida, territory, is bounded n. by Alabama and Georgia; e. by the Atlantic; s. and w. by the Gulf of Mexico. It lies between 25° and 31° n. lat., and between 80° and 87° 44' w. long., and between 3° and 10° 44' w. from W. It is 385 miles long, and from 50 to 250 wide, containing 57,000 square miles, or 37,000,000 acres. The population in 1830, was 34,723; in 1840, 54,477, of which 16,456 were white males, 11,487 females; free colored persons, males 398, females 419; slaves, males 13,038, females 12,679. Employed in agriculture, 12,117; in commerce, 481; in manufactures and trades, 1,177; navigating the ocean, 435; do. canal and rivers, 118; learned professions and engineers, 204.

This territory is divided into 20 counties, which, with their population in 1840, and their capitals, are as follows:

County, Population, Capital

West Florida
Escambia, 3,993, Pensacola  
Walton, 1,461, Euchee Anna  
Middle Florida
Gadsden, 5,992, Quincy  
Hamilton, 1,464, Jasper  
Jefferson, 5,713, Monticello  
Leon, 10,713, Tallahassee  
Madison, 2,644, Madison  
East Florida
Alachua, 2,282, Newmansville  
Columbia, 2,102, Lancaster  
Duvall, 4,156, Jacksonville  
Hillsborough, 452, Fort Brooks  
Leigh Reed, 73, New Smyrna  
Nassau, 1,892, Nassau C. H.  
St. John's, 2,694, St. Augustine  
South Florida
Dade, 416, Key Biscayune  
Monroe, 688, Key West  
Appalachicola District
Calhoun, 1,142, St. Joseph  
Franklin, 1,030, Appalachicola  
Jackson, 4,681, Marianna  
Washington, 859, Roche's Bluff  

 Tallahassee, in Leon county, 22 miles n. of St. Mark's, is the seat of government.

The face of the country is uneven, but has no mountains or high bills. A large portion of it is covered with pine forests, the trees of which, standing at a considerable distance from each other, without brush or underwood, afford an opportunity for grass and flowers to spread luxuriantly over the surface of the earth during the whole year. The borders of the streams are usually skirted with hammocks, or hillocks, of hard timber, covered with grape and other vines. A large portion of Florida consists of pine barrens, much of which has a very poor soil; still there are many extensive tracts of table land, hammock, and swamp, of the richest soil, and well adapted to the cultivation of sugar, rice, cotton, Indian corn, tobacco, and fruits. A considerable quantity of the pine lands is equally rich; and the barrens themselves afford extensive ranges of grazing land, usually intersected with streams of pure water. Many parts of the territory abound in yellow pine and live oak timber. Majestic cedars, chestnuts, magnolias, with their large white flowers, and cy-presses, with a straight stem of 80 or 90 feet, are found. The fig, pomegranate, orange, and date, are among the fruits of Florida. Cotton forms the chief agricultural production. The peninsula, which constitutes the southern portion of the district, presents a singular alternation of savannahs, hammocks, lagoons, and grass-ponds, called altogether the everglades, which extend into the heart of the country for 200 miles n. of Cape Sable, and are drained northwardly by the St. John's River.

There were in this territory, 1840, 12,043 horses and mules, 118,081 neat cattle, 7,198 sheep, 92,680 swine; poultry valued at $01,007. There were produced 412 bushels of wheat, 13,829 oats, 898,974 Indian corn, 264,617 potatoes, 7,285 pounds of wool, 1,197 tons of hay, 124 pounds of silk cocoons, 75,274 tobacco, 481,420 rice, 12,110,533 cotton, 275,317 sugar. Value of the products of the dairy amounted to $23,094; and of the orchard, $1,035.

The exports in 1840 were $1,858,850, and the imports were $190,728. There were 23 commercial and 21 commission houses in foreign trade, employing a capital of $542,000; 239 retail dry-goods and other stores, with a capital of $1,240,380; 92 engaged in the lumber trade, with a capital of $61,050; 67 persons were employed in the fisheries, with a capital of $10,000. Home-made or family articles manufactured to the amount of $20,205; hats and caps manufactured to the amount of $1,500; 3 tanneries employed 15 persons, and a capital of $14,500; 10 other manufactories of leather, as saddleries, &c, manufactured articles to the value of $6,200, employing a capital of $4,250; 136 produced bricks and lime to the amount of $37,600; 15 persons manufactured carriages and wagons to the amount of $11,000, with a capital of $5,900; 62 grist, 65 saw, and 2 oil mills, employed 410 persons, and produced to the amount of $189,650, with a capital of $488,950. Ships were built to the amount of $14,100. The whole amount of capital employed in manufactures was $669,190.

There are many bays on the western side of the peninsula, which form good harbors; the principal of which are Perdido, Pensacola, Choctawhatchee, St. Joseph's, Appalachicola, Appalachee, Tampa, Carlos, and Gallivans. There are none on the eastern side; but rivers, inlets, and sounds, afford harbors for coasting vessels. The principal capes are Canaveral, Florida, Sable, at the southern extremity, Romans, and St. Bias. There are many islands scattered along the coast, particularly a cluster off the southern extremity, denominated the Florida Keys, extending, in a curved form, 200 miles. Key West, on one of these, named Thompson's Island, is a naval station, has a good harbor, which is well sheltered, and admits the largest vessels.

The principal river on the eastern side is the St. John's, which rises within a short distance of the coast, and flows northwardly, in a very crooked course, through several lakes; it is often from 3 to 5 miles wide, and at other times, not one fourth of a mile. It passes through a fine healthy country, and vessels drawing 8 feet of water enter Lake George and Dun's Lake, 150 miles from its mouth, which has a bar of 12 feet, where it is only 1 mile wide. The Appalachicola River is formed by the union of Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, about 100 miles above the Gulf of Mexico, to which place vessels drawing 8 feet water can proceed. The other principal rivers are the Escambia, Suwannee, Withlacoochee, Oscilla, Ocklocony, and Choctawhatchee. Rivers sometimes start out of the ground in a stream sufficient to turn a mill, which seem to come from subterranean reservoirs, and sometimes suddenly sink into the ground and disappear.

The principal towns are St. Augustine, the oldest town in the United States, which was settled by the Spaniards, in 1564, and is the chief town in East Florida; Pcnsacola, 10 miles from the sea, on Pensacola bay; Tallahassee, the capital, and St. Mark's, its port, 22 miles south of it, are the principal places in the western part of Florida.

This territory has no college. There were in 1840, 18 academies and grammar schools, with 732 students, and 51 common and primary schools, with 925 scholars, and 1,303 white persons, over 20 years of age, who could neither read nor write.

The Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Roman Catholics, have each a few congregations and ministers.

At the commencement of 1840, the district had 5 banks and branches, with an aggegate capital of $3,976,121, and a circulation of $418,778. At the close of 1840, the debt of the territory amounted to $3,900,000.

The governor is appointed by the President of the United States. The legislative council is composed of a senate of 11 members, elected for 2 years, and a house of representatives, composed of 29 members, chosen annually by the people in October. The legislature meets annually at Tallahassee, the seat of government, on the first Monday in January, and its sessions are limited to 75 days. The pay of the members is $4 per day, and $4 for every 20 miles travel to and from the seat of government.

A railroad extends from Tallahassee 22 miles to St. Mark's. One also extends from Lake Wicomico 12 miles to St. Joseph, and another from St. Joseph 30 miles to Iola, on the Appalachicola. Several other railroads and canals have been projected.

Florida was discovered by Sebastian Cabot, sailing under the English flag and patronage, in 1497. Ponce de Leon, a Spanish adventurer, from Hispaniola, explored the country in 1512 and 1516. In 1539, Hernando de Soto, who had been an officer under Pizarro, sailed from the island of Cuba, of which he was governor, with an armed force, with which he overran the peninsula, though his followers were mostly cut off a few years after, and himself died. The French attempted to establish a colony in 1553, which occasioned contests between the French and Spaniards, in which, after alternate successes, the latter were victorious. In 1763 Florida was ceded to Great Britain by Spain, in exchange for Havana. The Spanish re-conquered it in 1781, and it was confirmed to them at the peace of 1783. In 1821 the Spaniards ceded it to the United States, as a compensation for their spoliations on the commerce of the United States. Since it has been in possession of the United States, it has been extensively the scene of warfare with the Indians. The Seminoles were subdued in 1818 by the Americans, under General Jackson. A portion of this tribe, who refused to emigrate to the lands assigned to them beyond the Mississippi, have recently carried on a tedious and expensive war with the United States.

Florida, cape, a promontory on the s. e. coast of Florida, situated on the s. w. end of an island called Key Biscayune. A light-house was erected here to mark the entrance of Hawk's channel, which was burned by the Seminoles. It was situated in 28° 15' N. lat., and 3° 22' w. Ion. From W.

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Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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