Koreshan Unity Collection (Part Four)

The Koreshan Unity Collection: An Inside Look into Processing a Large Archival Collection

We now know a bit about Cyrus Teed, founder of the Koreshan Unity, and about the collection of records and papers accumulated by the Unity and its members. But how do we transform that collection from the initial state of near-chaos in which we found it into an organized, accessible collection that is easy and inviting for researchers to use?

In addition to generous financial assistance from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) which allowed us to hire a full-time Project Archivist, it has taken a lot of planning and hard work that began long before the Koreshan Unity collection arrived in Tallahassee.

The work began in September 2008 with a visit to the College of Life Foundation, the Estero, Florida headquarters of the successor organization that continues to administer the Koreshan Unity’s remaining business affairs.

Koreshan image

One lower room of the building housed the Koreshan Unity archives. All four walls of the room were completely shelved from end-to-end and floor-to-ceiling, and all the shelves were filled with envelopes of various shapes and sizes crammed with records and papers. Looking back at the room as we first saw it, we can see three of these walls in the left foreground and the center and right background.

Koreshan Collection

The records in this room included everything from late 19th century Cyrus Teed writings, to financial records and State Park records from the 1970s, to piles of disorganized photographs of every time period, subject and image quality. What to do?

Here’s what: We began a preliminary inventory of the collection by numbering every shelf in the room and preparing a rough listing of the contents of each shelf based on envelope descriptions and a cursory review of their contents. Koreshan State Historic Site staff were very generous with their time and helped complete the preliminary inventory after our visit, packing the records in boxes labeled to coordinate with our assigned shelf numbers, and preparing a rough list of the records already stored in boxes. Months later, the bulk of the packed collection was stacked in what had been the College of Life library awaiting transport to the State Library and Archives. Looks better already, doesn’t it?

Koreshan Collection

Following the May 2009 transfer of the collection to the Archives, staff conducted an initial sort of the boxes and envelopes of records into general categories based on the information from the preliminary shelf and box inventories. We expected that these general categories – administrative records, Cyrus Teed papers, member family papers, subject files, tracts and articles, photos, etc. – would form the initial basis of record series that would be more fully identified during detailed processing of the collection.

Koreshan Collection

So here we sat with stacks and stacks of boxes in rough groupings that we hoped to transform into logical, well-organized record series. Where do we go from here? To the next post in this series, of course! Keep an eye out for Part Five.

British Intrigue and the Events at Prospect Bluff

Although not part of the United States during the War of 1812, Florida witnessed its share of fighting between Spanish, British, American, African and Native American belligerents involved in the protracted conflict.

Conventional histories of the War of 1812 end the conflict with Andrew Jackson’s campaign against Pensacola and New Orleans in 1814 and 1815. However, for African and Native American peoples in the southeast, the war continued after the fighting ceased between the British and the Americans.

In the summer of 1814, several British vessels arrived at St. George Island along Florida’s Gulf Coast. They carried supplies for the construction of a fort along the Apalachicola River. In the waning stages of the War of 1812, the British hoped to continue the conflict in Spanish Florida with the help of Native Americans and Africans hostile to the United States.

Map of the Forbes Purchase (ca. 1820). In the lower left portion of the map is St. George Island. The “Negro Fort” was located on the Apalachicola River near Prospect Bluff.

Map of the Forbes Purchase (ca. 1820). In the lower left portion of the map is St. George Island. The “Negro Fort” was located on the Apalachicola River near Prospect Bluff.

Prior to the War of 1812, several agents of the British Empire, most notably William Augustus Bowles, attempted similar schemes to enlist black and Indian allies in armed struggle against the Americans with the goal of wresting control of Florida away from the Spanish. Bowles seized the Panton, Leslie & Company trading post on the Wakulla River in 1792. Panton, Leslie & Company, a Scottish-owned firm, enjoyed a monopoly over the Indian trade in West Florida. The Spanish granted the firm these rights as they were unable to satisfy Creek and Seminole demands for trade goods themselves. The Spaniards apprehended Bowles and sent him to a prison in the Philippines.

William Augustus Bowles (ca. 1795)

William Augustus Bowles (ca. 1795)

The intrepid Bowles escaped incarceration and returned to Florida in 1800. This time he besieged Fuerte San Marcos de Apalache, forcing the Spanish to withdraw. Shortly thereafter, an expedition sailed from Pensacola and expelled Bowles. He was later captured by the Spanish, who imprisoned him in Havana, Cuba, until his death in 1805.

Read more »

Needs More Salt

The Union naval blockade of the South severely limited the Confederacy’s overseas trade. While swift moving blockade runners managed to evade Union warships throughout the war, these vessels could not possibly bring in enough goods to make up for the loss of trade. This loss was especially glaring for one crucial commodity: salt.

Although there were large salt mines in Virginia, cheap foreign-produced salt had been the South’s major source of the mineral before the war. Within months of the war’s outbreak, the Confederacy faced a salt crisis as its armies, which required massive supplies of salted pork, and citizens quickly used up stocks of the vital preservative. The South soon turned to Florida to make up its sodium deficit.

  Map of northwest Florida, including Alabama and Mississippi, ca. 1861-1865


Map of northwest Florida, including Alabama and Mississippi, ca. 1861-1865

Florida’s long coastline made it ideal for salt production. The process involved boiling kettles of seawater and refining the salt though a process of repeated dipping, pouring and drying.

While salt-making occurred on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, most of the salt works were on the Gulf from Tampa Bay north through the Florida Panhandle, with the biggest concentration along the St. Andrews Bay in Washington County and St. Joseph’s Bay in Gulf County (Calhoun County before 1925).

These bays were ideal for salt-making, containing all the resources needed for production: salt marshes, pine forests for firewood, and relative seclusion, which made it difficult for Union raiding parties to approach undetected. Salt works ranged from a few kettles to makeshift factories fired by steamboat boilers.

Along with the many Floridians engaged in the work, Alabamians and Georgians poured in to make salt. Their states also established government-owned works to supply their citizens with salt at reduced prices—the price in Atlanta, for example, was sometimes as high as $140 a sack—to compensate for rampant speculation in the trade. Florida Governor John Milton denounced the “vile spirit of speculation and extortion.” He removed from sale public lands in the most lucrative salt-making areas, where speculators were buying up land to sell at exorbitant prices, and proposed a tax in-kind on in-state manufactured salt to provide for poor families. The Confederate government tried to limit speculation by establishing its own works at St. Andrews Bay, where large state-run factories produced salt for the Confederate Army.

Many of the Confederate deserters who sought refuge in Florida were joined by shirkers who claimed to be salt makers but were actually using the trade as an excuse to avoid military service.  Confederate conscription laws exempted salt makers from the draft. Public outcry against phony salt makers resulted in legislative approval of Governor Milton’s call to form salt workers into a militia to defend the works against Union raids. Those salt makers who refused to join the militia faced exclusion from future salt production.

Destruction of a rebel salt factory on the Florida coast (September 15, 1862)

Destruction of a rebel salt factory on the Florida coast (September 15, 1862)

Union raiding parties did not discriminate between fake and real salt makers: the United States considered anyone engaged in the trade in the South to be an active Rebel. In 1862, the U.S. Navy began operations against salt works in Florida. The Union created two operational commands for the blockade of Florida’s coast: the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, which also covered the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, and the East Gulf Blockading Squadron, which covered the Gulf from Key West to a line just east of Pensacola. Union gunboats shelled salt-making plants and landed raiding parties to destroy the works and supplies of salt.

Hundreds of slaves worked in the salt business. Many of them built the works, supplied them with wood, stoked the fires and produced salt. While initially leery of the Union raiders, slaves eventually provided important intelligence information regarding the location of salt works. Slaves also fled to Union ships, making their way individually to gunboats or escaping the coast with Union raiding parties. Many of these “contrabands,” the Union’s legal term for escaped slaves, joined the U.S. Navy or enlisted in the U.S. Army. As soldiers and sailors, they joined the ranks of the salt raiders.

In November 1861, James Boyd, an engineer aboard the Union gunboat U.S.S. Albatross, wrote to his wife about some of the St. Andrews Bay raids in which he participated. A portion of Boyd’s letter, which can be found in the Louis James Boyd Papers at the State Library and Archives of Florida, is quoted (except for paragraphs and periods, without editing) below:

“. . . .Well we left Pensacola on the 14th of this month, for this place [St. Andrews Bay], we arrived here on the 16th. The object of this Expedition was to destroy Salt-Pans, which the Rebels have to make Salt in. Since we have been laying here we have fit out some four or five Small Boat Expeditions, which has proven very successful. We have destroyed more Salt-Pans than all the other Expeditions put together. The Salt-Pans that I speak of are generally Situated in Small Creeks and Swamps. We cannot get to them in the Steamer [the Albatross], therefore we have to go in small Boats.

The manner in which those Expeditions are arranged are that we would leave the ships about four o’clock in the morning, and proceed up the Bay until we would discover Smoke, for that is the only way that those pans can be found by a stranger. As soon as we would get near enough we would then fire at them with a Small Cannon we have and such Skidaddeling you never seen in your life. They would leave everything behind them. We went in Several of there camps and found there Breakfast cooked and on the Table ready for eating, which our boys would soon demolish, after rowing So early in the Morning. We would then set about breaking up their pans and works. . . .”

The U.S. Gunboat Mohawk chasing the rebel steamer Spray into the St. Marks River (1862)

The U.S. Gunboat Mohawk chasing the rebel steamer Spray into the St. Marks River (1862)

Boyd’s account is typical of the irregular war waged on Florida’s coast. Despite their frequency, the salt raids were never enough to stop Confederate salt production in Florida, which historian Robert Taylor has called “Florida’s most important contribution to the Confederate economy.”

See Taylor’s Rebel Storehouse (University of Alabama Press, 1995), the definitive account of Florida’s economic role in the war.

 

 

Smallwood’s Store and Chokoloskee

On this day in 1974, Smallwood’s Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Seminole Indians at Smallwood’s Store: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Seminole Indians at Smallwood’s Store: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

The Seminole women pictured here represent members of a family camped near Smallwood’s Store on Chokoloskee Island in southwestern Florida. Their style of clothing and beads indicate that the photograph dates to the early 20th century, probably between 1900 and 1920. The archival record for this photograph identifies “Lena’s mother” on the far left, with “Frank Charlie’s mother” to her right. This photograph can be found at the State Archives of Florida in the Bedell collection.

Ted Smallwood at his Post Office and Trading Post: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Ted Smallwood at his Post Office and Trading Post: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Deaconess Harriet Bedell was an Episcopal missionary who worked with Native American tribes, including the Florida Seminoles. She established the Glades Cross Mission in Everglades City, Florida, which was active between 1933 and 1960.

Deaconess Bedell with Seminole women and a child: Glades Cross Mission, Everglades City, Florida (ca. 1940)

Deaconess Bedell with Seminole women and a child: Glades Cross Mission, Everglades City, Florida (ca. 1940)

Seminoles visited Chokoloskee Island as early as the 1880s to trade at the store owned by C. G. McKinney, opened for business sometime after he arrived on the island in 1886. Ted Smallwood succeeded McKinney in 1906 and established Smallwood’s Store, which catered to a thriving business with the Seminoles in alligator skins and otter pelts.

Ruby Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (ca. 1910)

Ruby Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (ca. 1910)

 

Seminole families camped on a beach near Smallwood’s Store while visiting the island, trading animal commodities for sewing machines, cloth, canned goods and other necessities. They built temporary chickees (“home” in Mikasuki), made sofkee (“corn gruel”), and supplied locals with venison and other wild game.

Other stores in the area frequented by Seminoles in the early 20th century included George Storter’s and Charlie Tigertail’s, both in the vicinity of present-day Everglades City. Charlie Tigertail’s store was the first Seminole-owned trading post in south Florida.

Charlie Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Charlie Tigertail: Chokoloskee, Florida (early 1900s)

Visit the Florida Photographic Collection to learn more about the Bedell collection and to view historic photographs of the Florida Seminoles and Chokoloskee Island.

Miami-Dade Folklife Survey Podcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: MP3

Gynin playing conga drum during Jamaican Independence Day festival: Miami, Florida

Eddie Massena from Rasta Samba Gynin playing conga drum during Jamaican Independence Day festival: Miami, Florida (1985)

As part of their research, the Florida Folklife Program selects and surveys a particular region or tradition. The Dade Folk Arts Survey was conducted from 1985-1986 by folklorists Tina Bucuvalas, Nancy Nusz and Laurie Sommers with the goal of finding folk artists to bring to the 34th annual Florida Folk Festival. Many of the recordings found in the collection are the result of fieldwork conducted by folklorists. Their findings are extensively documented through field notes, sound recordings, photographs and video.

Manolo Franco playing Venezuelan harp during a rehearsal: Miami, Florida (1985)

Manolo Franco playing Venezuelan harp during a rehearsal: Miami, Florida (1985)

This podcast contains a sampling of recordings from the Miami-Dade region as found in the Dade Folk Arts Survey.  While Latin American, Haitian and Jewish cultures were most prominently represented, the survey also covered a wide range of traditions, including shoe rag popping, Middle Eastern music, Jamaican stories and dance, and Irish fiddling.

Klezmer musician Jaime Bronsztein performing at the Traditions Festival: Miami, Florida (1986)

Klezmer musician Jaime Bronsztein performing at the Traditions Festival: Miami, Florida (1986)

We hope you enjoy the variety of traditions captured in the Dade Folk Arts Survey, and look forward to sharing more fieldwork from the Florida Folklife Collection in the future.

More Info: Podcast with Transcript

The United States Formally Takes Control of Florida (July 17, 1821)

The United States signed the Adams-Onís Treaty with Spain on February 22, 1819. The treaty provided for the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States, and established the southern boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.

Map of Florida (ca. 1821)

Map of Florida (ca. 1821)

The formal transfer of Florida took place on July 17, 1821. An exchange of flags occurred first at St. Augustine on July 10, and then on July 17 at Pensacola. Andrew Jackson became governor of the newly created territory of Florida.

Drawing of the exchange of flags: St. Augustine (July 10, 1821)

Drawing of the exchange of flags: St. Augustine (July 10, 1821)

As part of the treaty with Spain, the U.S. agreed to honor Spanish land grants in Florida. Spain encouraged settlement in Florida by offering land grants in order to boost economic activity in the colony. Holders of Spanish land grants could submit claims to the U.S. government for compensation, or to retain their land after 1821.

The Spanish land grants provide information on the settlement and cultivation of Florida during the Second Spanish Period (1783-1821), and the Territorial Period (1821-1845).

Map showing the confirmed claim of John McIntosh along the St. Johns River at Migert’s Point

Map showing the confirmed claim of John McIntosh along the St. Johns River at Migert’s Point

Map showing confirmed claim of John Bolton

Map showing confirmed claim of John Bolton

The collection of Spanish Land Grants on Florida Memory includes many land grant claims with colorful maps depicting the landscape of Florida.