Edmund Cottle Weeks

The nation’s existential crisis of civil war brought to the forefront many individuals who were mature, tested, and ready to act as leaders for both sides. After four years of trial by combat, many U.S. officers chose to remain and to make a life in the South. They brought to the former Confederacy a leavening of Union sentiment, Republican politics, and a strong desire to enforce the Reconstruction and Civil Rights Acts which followed their victory.

Edmund Cottle Weeks, a merchant seaman and officer, U.S. Navy and Army officer, and Republican politician, was among those tasked with wrestling Florida back into the Union. His life in Florida would be clouded by a charge of murder, but also by an ascent to the pinnacle of state politics during the era known as Reconstruction.

E.C. Weeks

Born in Massachusetts in 1829 and educated at private schools in Connecticut, Weeks was a world traveler prior to his enrollment at Yale College, where he spent less than a year. He then studied at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. After three years he failed to finish the course there as well.

Three years experience before the mast earned Weeks the billet of ship’s Master in the trading firm Wallace, Sherwood, and Company. In this endeavor Weeks now followed his father’s trade.

When the Civil War began Weeks enlisted and was assigned as an acting officer in the U.S. Navy. His conduct under fire earned positive mention in reports. In 1863, repairs idled his ship and brought orders to lead amphibious raiding parties in Louisiana. His transfer to the Army soon followed.

In the summer of 1864, Army officials at Key West raised a regiment of U.S. volunteer cavalry for service in Florida. Week was placed in command of the unit, however, a delay in his commissioning allowed for a period of dissent to arise in the regiment. The resulting problems culminated in a court martial for Weeks, who was charged with murdering a soldier under his command while encamped at Cedar Key. Even though the court martial brought to light charges of drunkenness against Weeks, he was eventually exonerated. The murder charge followed him for the rest of his days in Florida.

His cavalry unit, the 2nd Florida Cavalry, was brigaded with the Second Infantry Regt USCT during the events surrounding the Battle of Natural Bridge, which occurred south of Tallahassee in March 1865. This combined force attempted to take the bridge at Newport but was repulsed, which necessitated the movement to the “natural” bridge further upstream on the St. Mark’s River. The battle ended in a Confederate victory that ultimately prevented Union troops from capturing Tallahassee during the war.

After the war, Weeks returned to the vicinity of Tallahassee where his attempt to run a cotton plantation ended badly. The debt he acquired from this investment soon soured his reputation, with many locals claiming he was in default on his loans.

E.C. Weeks

Weeks operated as a Republican politician and garnered the attention of powerful Republican officials in the Reconstruction government. The struggles among and between Republicans and Democrats resulted in frequent changes in government as state officials jockeyed for position. In one battle, Governor Harrison Reed lost his Lieutenant Governor and appointed Weeks to that vacant post.

This appointment created a fire storm in the Florida Senate, and Weeks left the position but continued to be politically active. Later, he served as a Leon County commissioner and sheriff, and as a Representative in the Florida House. During this period, he unsuccessfully campaigned for Governor and U.S. Senate.

After U.S. forces supporting Reconstruction withdrew from Florida, the Republican government, and its officials, fell to the Democratic Party. The Army had provided former slaves and federal officers with protection while they exercised or enforced their newly won civil rights. These people were now exposed to the backlash created by the loss of the war and the armed occupation that followed.

In 1890, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Florida resigned in frustration, citing an inability to enforce the laws of the United States in Florida. Weeks accepted appointment to the position from President Benjamin Harrison. In that same year the widowed Weeks married a Tallahassee widow, Elisabeth Hunt Craft, and made his residence in the house now known as The Murphy House on Park Avenue in Tallahassee. This home became a refuge for freedmen and whites seeking sanctuary from gangs and mobs seeking to drive them back into subservience.

Murphy House, Tallahassee, 2006

Murphy House, Tallahassee, 2006

In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt appointed Weeks Surveyor General of Florida. Two years later ill health forced him to resign. He died in Tallahassee on April 12, 1907.

For an archivist, it was an engrossing opportunity to become familiar with such a character from our nation’s Passion play. We are all familiar with Lincoln, Davis, Lee, and Grant as the towering figures of those years. To be responsible for the archival preservation of one man’s history, slight as it may be in terms of the written record, as he enacted his part in that epoch has been rewarding.

Weeks resurfaced at the State Archives of Florida when his descendant brought to us several of Major Weeks’ commissions as a Florida or United States official. These recently donated materials have joined State Archives Manuscript Collection M74-22, which contain boxes and volumes of official and family correspondence, and operations records, that provide some small insight into the life of a sea rover, naval/army officer, “radical” politician, law enforcement officer, and family man.

Thank You to Our Friends at the Riley House!

The African-American photo identification event, held yesterday at the State Archives, was a great success. Several folks from the community helped us identify images of African-American life in Tallahassee from the 1950s and 1960s. Special thanks to Althemese Barnes and the John G. Riley House and Museum for helping to organize this important event!

Over one hundred images were identified. For example, we learned that future NFL star and Chicago Bears legend Willie “The Wisp” Galimore (far right) appears in this photo along with three still unidentified Florida A&M football players.

Willie "The Wisp" Galimore and three unidentified Florida A&M football players, Tallahassee, 1953

Willie “The Wisp” Galimore and three unidentified Florida A&M football players, Tallahassee, 1953

… And this photograph of Griffin Junior High School beauty queens, including Althemese Barnes (passenger seat), Founding Executive Director at the John G. Riley House & Museum.

Griffin Junior High School beauty queens: Pauline Houzell, Yvonne Cofield, and Ida Holloman (back row), Edwina Martin (driver), and Althemese Barnes (passenger seat), Tallahassee, 1957

Griffin Junior High School beauty queens: Pauline Houzell, Yvonne Cofield, and Ida Holloman (back row), Edwina Martin (driver), and Althemese Barnes (passenger seat), Tallahassee, 1957

New Accession Spotlight: 1926 Miami Hurricane Letter

Collections Management staff at the State Archives of Florida spends much of their time bringing new collections into the Archives and readying them for public access. Though the majority of our holdings document the activities and functions of Florida’s territorial and state government, the Archives also preserves and makes available papers, journals, photographs, sound recordings, and other materials created by private individuals and organizations.

Despite the fact that our most recent manuscript donation consists of only one item, its provides a strong first person account of significant events in Florida history. This prompted staff to quickly digitize and transcribe the item for inclusion on the Florida Memory website.

Excerpt from a letter describing the 1926 Miami Hurricane

The donation consists of a single hand-written letter describing hurricanes that hit southern Florida on September 18 and October 21, 1926. Written by “Kaye” from the Floridian Hotel, Miami Beach, to Louise Webber (d. 1993) of Bangor, Maine, the twelve page account details Kaye’s activities both during and in the aftermath of the storms.

Excerpt from page 3: "There was a barge smashing against the viaduct and a beautiful yacht right under our window being dashed to pieces on the sea wall in the lull we could hear the men aboard shouting, finally the lights went out and we could hear no more. I suppose they abandoned her when the water got inside."

Excerpt from page 3: “There was a barge smashing against the viaduct and a beautiful yacht right under our window being dashed to pieces on the sea wall. In the lull we could hear the men aboard shouting, finally the lights went out and we could hear no more. I suppose they abandoned her when the water got inside.”

Kaye began with a brief account of the October 21st storm before plunging into the events of September 18th and the days that followed. While it is known from the letter that Kaye was a resident and employee of The Floridian Hotel, her exploits detail conditions beyond the Floridian, especially during her walk across the causeway and to Hollywood in search of “her folks.”

Do you have original materials related to significant people, places, or events in Florida history? Learn more about donating them to the State Archives of Florida.

Digitizing the Governor Milton Letterbook (Part One)

Reunited, and It Feels So Good…

On July 10, 2013, volume one of Governor John Milton’s letterbooks returned to Tallahassee. The mostly dis-bound, fire-damaged letterbook resided in Florida’s capital city on at least two separate occasions prior to this year when the Florida Historical Society lent it to the State Archives for digitization.

The State Archives holds part two of Milton’s letterbooks, which covers the period from 1863 to 1865, but this is the first time in a long time that both volumes have been in the same location. The story of how these two letterbooks were reunited in Tallahassee reveals the often circuitous route taken by historical documents, from the time of their creation until they find a permanent home.

Letter from John Milton to Jefferson Davis, November 1861

Letter from John Milton to Jefferson Davis, November 1861

The most obvious distinguishing feature about volume one of Milton’s letterbook is the fire-damaged pages. The fire in question occurred at the residence of William Hall Milton, grandson of John Milton, in Marianna, Florida, in about 1912. According to W.H. Milton, the fire burned many family papers, but a tin box preserved the letterbook and a few other documents tucked safely inside.

In 1937, W.H. Milton came into contact with Daisy Parker, a student at the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee (FSCW). Parker was in the process of writing a senior paper on John Milton and somehow became aware of the singed papers in Marianna.

Kathryn Abbey, a professor at FSCW, wrote to Watt Marchman, a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, about Parker’s discovery. Marchman, a member of the Florida Historical Society (FHS), contacted W.H. Milton about adding the letterbook to their collections. Milton agreed to the proposal, and promised to have the letterbook forwarded to Jacksonville (then the home of the FHS) upon the completion of Parker’s research.

The letterbook arrived in Jacksonville on July 1, 1937. It is not known whether Parker consulted volume two of Milton’s letterbooks, which at the time resided at the State Library in Tallahassee, or if she ever submitted her senior paper.

And so it was that one Milton letterbook left Tallahassee for the second time since its creation during the early years of the Civil War.

By 1979, the FHS collection, including volume one of Milton’s letterbooks, had been transferred to the University of South Florida in Tampa. Archivists overseeing the FHS collections contacted the Bureau of Archives and Records Management (BARM) in Tallahassee about exchanging copies of the letterbooks to aid researchers at both institutions. In the summer of 1979, an agreement was made and the two repositories swapped photocopies of their Milton letterbooks.

Since the exchange of photocopies in 1979, researchers at both institutions (FHS later moved to Cocoa, Florida) have enjoyed access to the complete John Milton letterbooks, though with one volume at both sites being in the form of photocopies.

Because of the fragile nature of the fire-damaged portions of the letterbook, few researchers have had access to the volume one originals. This will remain the case, but through digitization researchers can now see the originals online, burnt edges and all.

Careful high-resolution scanning of the originals will ensure the continued integrity of the documents as well as make them available online via the Florida Memory website. The digitization of this project is ongoing and should be completed in the summer of 2014.

Stay tuned for future posts on interesting finds in the charred pages of John Milton’s first letterbook…

FHS Digitization in Progress…

Each year, the Florida Memory team selects one large archival collection for digitization and addition to the website.

This year, our friends at the Florida Historical Society in Cocoa loaned us two collections from their holdings for digitization. The first is Governor John Milton’s letterbook from 1861-1863. The second collection includes correspondence and other documents related to two-time territorial governor Richard Keith Call and his daughter Ellen Call Long.

We will scan the original documents, such as the one below, and make them searchable through an online database. This process will take about one year, with the collection going live in the summer of 2014.

Image from John Milton's Letterbook, 1861

Image from John Milton’s Letterbook, 1861

This series of blog posts will chronicle the digitization of these remarkable collections and highlight significant documents discovered along the way.

Stay tuned for the second installment, which examines the journey of Governor John Milton’s letterbook to Tallahassee… for the third time.

The Koreshan Unity Collection: A Final Look Back (Part 11)

In December 2011, we began a 15-month journey with the Koreshan Unity, a journey that carried vestiges of New York State’s mid-19th century “burned-over district” west to the bustling streets of late 19th century Chicago, and then south to the untamed frontier of southwest Florida at the turn of the 20th century.

The journey was guided by an extensive collection of archival records created and maintained by the Koreshan Unity for over a century; personal letters and journals, religious writings, legal and financial records, publications, and many thousands of photographs documenting the Unity’s founding and founders, their beliefs, and their dream to establish a New Jerusalem against seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Koreshan Deed, 1895

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The Koreshan Unity Collection (Part Ten)

In previous posts, we’ve discussed how we approached processing a large, very disorganized collection, talked about the nature of the collection and some of the interesting items found in it, and looked at the background and some of the beliefs of the Koreshan Unity as revealed in the collection.

National Historical Publications and Records Commission logo

Full-time processing of the collection has continued in the meantime, so let’s take a look at the very significant progress our archivists have made in transforming the collection into an easily-accessible research resource, supported in large part by National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant funding (www.archives.gov/nhprc).

We have largely completed processing of the Koreshan Unity’s administrative records and operating records, including general accounting and transactions, payroll, stocks, taxes, attorney fees, legal cases, insurance, will and estate records, and other records documenting the administration and operations of the organization and community.

These records include foundation documents such as original constitutions, corporation records, and early minutes of the organization. The pages below, taken from minutes in 1893, document the Unity’s adoption of a constitution in which an Archivist and an Assistant Archivist were designated as two of the seven members of the Board of Directors. It is thanks to the work of these first Koreshan Unity archivists that today’s archivists have such a valuable collection to process and make available.

"A Form for the Constitution of the Koreshan University"

"A Form for the Constitution of the Koreshan University"

"A Form for the Constitution of the Koreshan University"

 

 

We have also completed processing the files of Hedwig Michel, a German immigrant who joined the Unity in 1941 and was the last remaining member upon her death in 1982. Processing the papers of “The Last Koreshan” was complicated by the extensive intermingling of personal and organizational records. The three items below are examples of the wide variety of materials found in Michel’s files.

National Audubon Society membership

Letter from John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Fort Myers News-Press Article
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Koreshan Unity Collection (Part Nine)

What did the Koreshans believe exactly?

Up to this point we have discussed Cyrus Teed’s illumination and subsequent events that led to the formation of the Koreshan Unity. We’d like to continue to delve further into the Unity’s core principles. This time, we move from the realm of Cellular Cosmogony to a much more basic idea: equality.

Among the truths that Teed derived from his illumination was the belief that God existed as both male and female. Teed believed that while God drew from his masculinity, it was not his permanent state. In order to maintain equilibrium in the spiritual sense, he would eventually assume his female side. If God captured both sexes evenly, Teed believed his followers should as well. As a result, Teed called for equality of the sexes within the Koreshan Unity, a notion largely unheard of at the end of the 19th century.

Female members were not valued solely as wives and mothers, but for their intelligence, resilience and work ethic. Koreshan women held officer positions within the Unity, often outnumbering men. In addition to traditional officer roles, seven women made up the governing body known as the Sisters of the Planetary Court. Living together in a building of the same name, these sisters helped to manage the Unity.

Sisters of the Planetary Court

Sisters of the Planetary Court

Teed acknowledged the difficulty of both attaining and sustaining equality. This reality is apparent in his manuscripts and speeches. Teed explained, “I speak now for the human structure. If the two were now placed side by side as equals in government, there would still be no equality, because men have ruled so long there will be no righteous government until a woman stands at the head of affairs.”

This belief is most readily shown in the role of one Koreshan in particular: Annie G. Ordway. Ordway, one of the earliest followers of Koresh, acted as the first President of the Koreshan Unity. She operated as Teed’s counterpart in the managerial and supervisory senses, and in 1891 Teed pronounced her Victoria Gratia, Pre-Eminent of the Koreshan Unity. He believed Victoria was destined to be his successor. Despite Teed’s overwhelming faith in Victoria, not all Koreshans were convinced. After Teed’s death, many opposed Victoria’s continued leadership. This led to her eventual resignation in 1909.

Cyrus Teed and Victoria Gratia in the Executive Chamber of the Koreshan Unity

Cyrus Teed and Victoria Gratia in the Executive Chamber of the Koreshan Unity

While Koreshan women received equal treatment, the struggle for women’s rights beyond Koreshan grounds did not go unnoticed. Victoria Gratia spoke to the disconnect between the sexes before the Koreshan Convention in her 1888 address titled “Woman’s Restoration to Her Rightful Dominion.” She explained,

“Woman, a natural born citizen of the cosmos, evolved through the same agencies which bring into being her brother, equally expert in all that pertains to juvenile sports and pastimes, as active in the discernment of specific means to any given end, as fertile in inventive genius, as dominant in will, more righteously and kindly disposed, more compassionate and humane than her masculine counterpart, finds herself at her majority the technical bondwoman of the most arbitrary and tyrannical prestige possible to conceive.”

In her speech, Victoria Gratia urged women to acknowledge the disparity between women and men. Both possess characteristics inherent to their sex. Only when the rights of women are protected can we truly benefit from our differences.

Title page of Woman’s Restoration to Her Rightful Dominion, 1893

Title page of Woman’s Restoration to Her Rightful Dominion, 1893

The State Archives of Florida’s in-depth processing of the Koreshan Unity Papers allows for a greater understanding of the Koreshan Unity’s convictions. Look to future posts for more on the fundamental beliefs of the Unity!