Florida History from Joe Rubinfine Historical Autographs
Florida history from Joe Rubinfine.
Joe Rubinfine, American Historical Autographs, of Cocoa, Florida, has issued a catalogue devoted to his home state: Florida A History Catalogue. This is indeed a catalogue that will appeal to anyone interested in the history of Florida. It is filled with letters and other signed documents that take the Sunshine State from its early days as a Spanish colony, to its East and West divisions, through English possession, back to Spain, then American territory, Seminole Wars, American statehood, Confederate state, back to an American state, and development from distant backwater to winter haven for northerners and full time home for millions of Americans. It is a history unlike that of any other American state.
Rubinfine presents this history through documents. Some are signed by various leaders of the state, but many come from ordinary individuals, resident, visitors, and soldiers who fought the wars, notably against the Seminoles or on both sides during the Civil War. This is a look at Florida history through the eyes of participants more than historians. Here, now, are some of those documents which document Florida's history.
While Florida was primarily settled by Spain in its early days, it was ceded to England after the French and Indian War. It did not participate in the American Revolution, and as British loyalists, particularly from nearby Georgia, found themselves at increasing risk, many immigrated to the safer British possession to the South. Unfortunately for them, the British ceded Florida back to Spain after the American Revolution. Once again, these loyalists found their lives disrupted, their wealth and possessions often lost. The British tried to provide some support for their unfortunate loyalists, but it hardly compensated their losses. Apparently, some believed a rumor that the Governor of the Island of Dominica, John Orde, had promised them free land, 30 acres for each man, 20 for each woman, 10 for each child. It was not to be. Item 10 is a document signed by Patrick Tonyn, a British General and Colonial Governor of East Florida during the American Revolution. Written in 1791, 8 years after the end of the Revolution, Tonyn proclaims that he never heard of such an offer while he was Governor, and due to his position, he surely would have had such an offer been made. Tonyn then cites a letter from Dominca Governor Orde where he says, "I pity them from my soul," and promises to provide small parcels from unsold land to those who are deserving, and other provisions as possible, but no large land offers were made. Priced at $2,500.
In 1819, Spain ceded Florida to the United States, opening the way for Americans to visit the sunshine territory. Some sought out the warmer climes, particularly in winter, for health reasons. One such young man was Ralph Waldo Emerson, still an unknown individual in his mid-20s. Item 23 is a letter from January 1827 from Emerson to his step-grandfather Rev. Ezra Ripley of Concord, Massachusetts. Emerson describes St. Augustine, where he stayed, noting that it has attracted those seeking their fortune based on the expectation that a canal would be cut across Florida at that location, while others are invalids and public officers. There is little for many of them to do, Emerson noting that St. Augustine is "the Castle of Indolence." Nonetheless, he explains, he has found what he sought - "warm weather." $6,500.
Florida History from Joe Rubinfine Historical Autographs
Francis Dade writes his superior shortly before heading off to his massacre.
The Americans fought two wars with the Seminole Indians, and despite the natives' fierce resistance, eventually, sheer numbers and munitions led to their, and all of the other native American tribes', defeat. However, along the way, in the Second Seminole War, there was one overwhelming victory by the Indians. It is what is known (to non-Indians) as the "Dade Massacre," on December 28, 1835. Francis Dade was one of the commanders of the American troops on that day, and like all but three of the 110 Americans who went to battle, he died on the battlefield (two of the three survivors died later from their wounds). Two weeks before the "massacre," Francis Dade wrote this letter to his superior. Dade reports of an order to proceed to Tampa Bay, where his fateful mission started, where he notes some "Indian depredations" have occurred, "calculated to create considerable alarm." Dade was an ambitious man, asking whether he was not entitled to higher command. That ambition to lead would soon be his downfall. However, as some recompense, Florida's largest county (home of Miami) is named for him. Item 36. $35,000.
Item 46 is a rare but odd remembrance of the Seminole Wars. It is a lock of Osceola's hair. Osceola was an Indian warrior who fought the whites that tried to force his people from their Florida homeland to territories west of the Mississippi. He was captured after being invited to truce negotiations, and later died in captivity. According to the wife of Captain Drane, who obtained the lock of hair from Osceola, Drane had given him some ostrich feathers while he was imprisoned, and Osceola asked what he could give in return. $35,000.
Everyone loves Florida. Well, almost everyone. At one time E.E. Cooney was part of the majority, but on further review, changed his mind. Cooney had earlier written a friend, encouraging him to come to Florida, but this letter from 1886 represents a major change of heart. "The only thing we have plenty of here is rain," writes Cooney. "…this letter will be a flat contradiction of my first - Fla is a fraud. I saw the country in its holiday attire when I came here last Winter." Of course, it may also be that Cooney changed his mind about wanting his friend to come to Florida. Item 116. $650.
You may reach Joe Rubinfine at 321-455-1666 or Joerubinfine@mindspring.com.