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.

Creature from the Black Lagoon Released (March 5, 1954)

On March 5, 1954, Universal International Pictures released Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Still from Creature from the Black Lagoon, Wakulla Springs, ca. 1953

The creature emerges from Wakulla Springs, ca. 1953

The film’s plot centered around an Amazonian expedition gone awry when a scientific team encountered the mysterious “Gill Man.” The creature became enamored with a member of the team, played by Julie Adams, and kidnapped her after escaping from the scientists’ grasp.

Film crew at Wakulla Springs, October 18, 1953

Film crew with 3-D camera at Wakulla Springs, October 18, 1953

The filmmakers visited Wakulla Springs, south of Tallahassee, while scouting locations for the film. They were introduced to a young FSU student and part-time lifeguard at the springs named Ricou Browning. Director Jack Arnold eventually cast Browning to play the part of the creature during underwater scenes. Browning parlayed this experience into a subsequent career in film and television.

Ricou Browning becoming the Creature, Wakulla Springs, ca. 1953

Ricou Browning becoming the creature, Wakulla Springs, ca. 1953

The filmmakers used Florida’s natural beauty again as a backdrop while filming the sequel, Revenge of the Creature (1955). Revenge featured footage shot at Silver Springs, Marineland, and along the St. Johns River. Scenes from the third and final installment in the series, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), were also filmed in the Sunshine State.

Ginger Stanley in the grip of the creature, Silver Springs, ca. 1955

Ginger Stanley in the grip of the creature, Silver Springs, ca. 1955

Tallahassee Established as Territorial Capital (March 4, 1824)

On March 4, 1824, Governor William P. Duval designated Tallahassee as the capital of the Florida territory.

"View of the City of Tallahassee," by Norris, Wellge & Company (1885)

“View of the City of Tallahassee,” by Norris, Wellge & Company (1885)

The map above, published by Norris, Wellge & Company in 1885, provides a bird’s eye view of the city fifty years after its designation as capital of the Florida territory. According to a census taken in 1825, 996 peopled lived in Leon County. The city’s population at that time probably did not exceed 200.

By 1890, Leon County’s population reached nearly 18,000, while the city limits contained about 2,200 residents. Like many other communities in the late 19th century South, the majority of Tallahassee’s population lived in the rural areas surrounding the city.

Today, the City of Tallahassee is home to almost 182,000 people, with a metropolitan area population of about 375,000.

Tallahassee CORE Flier (July 1963)

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series highlights African-American history in Florida.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) formed in 1942 with the purpose of challenging segregation laws in the United States through non-violent protest and civil disobedience.

CORE played a central role in several of the largest peaceful integration campaigns during the Civil Rights Movement, including Freedom Rides from the 1940s to the 1960s, the March on Washington in August 1963, the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, and numerous sit-in demonstrations throughout the United States in the 1960s.

CORE leadership in Tallahassee created this flier in July 1963 (click thumbnails below for larger images). It summarizes the accomplishments of the movement in Tallahassee and the ongoing efforts by activists to defeat segregation in Florida’s capital city.

Tallahassee CORE pamphlet page 1

Reproduced in the flier is a telegram written by local CORE chairperson Patricia Stephens Due to President John F. Kennedy. Due asked the president to stop federal grants from funding St. Augustine’s 400th anniversary celebration.

Due wrote that government support for these events would amount to a “celebration of 400 years of slavery and segregation.” Other prominent civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., raised similar concerns that the celebrations planned for St. Augustine in 1964 would marginalize the African-American role in Florida’s colonial history.

Tallahassee CORE pamphlet page 2

Two months before this flier appeared, over 200 student demonstrators, mostly from Florida A&M University, were arrested for picketing in front of segregated theaters in downtown Tallahassee. The flier also notes the latest campaign against pool segregation, and that Priscilla Stephens, sister of Patricia Stephens Due, had been arrested for attempting to integrate a city pool.

The Stephens sisters organized the first Tallahassee chapter of CORE in 1959. Throughout the early 1960s they played a prominent role as organizers, participants, and spokespeople for the movement.

Tallahassee CORE pamphlet page 3

Tallahassee CORE pamphlet page 4

To learn more see, Tananarive Due and Patricia Stephens Due, Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights (New York: Ballatine, 2003) and Glenda Alice Rabby, The Pain and the Promise: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Tallahassee, Florida (Athens: University of Georgia, 1999).

FAMU Hospital

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series highlights African-American history in Florida.

Emancipation, and the period of Reconstruction that followed, brought civil rights to freed slaves throughout the former Confederacy for the first time. Black communities organized and built churches, schools, hospitals, businesses, and civic organizations. These institutions developed separately from their white counterparts during the era of legal segregation known as Jim Crow.

The legal gains of the 1860s and 1870s proved short-lived, and full equality remained only a dream until the triumphs of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Dr. R.L. Anderson and nurse Lillie Mae Chavis with a patient, 1953

Dr. R.L. Anderson and nurse Lillie Mae Chavis with a patient

The Florida A&M University Hospital symbolized efforts by the black community to provide for its own health and wellness during segregation. Officially dedicated as a hospital on February 7, 1951, the institution first opened as a sanitarium in 1911. Before integration led to its closure in 1971, FAMU Hospital served as the only facility of its kind for African-Americans within 150 miles of Tallahassee.

Nurse Grace Kyler working with polio patients, 1953

Nurse Grace Kyler working with polio patients

Teacher Christine Jenkins with patients, 1953

Teacher Christine Jenkins with patients

The photographs featured in this blog post show scenes from FAMU Hospital in September 1953. These images are part of the Tallahassee Democrat Photographic Collection, which is currently in the process of digitization.

Want to learn more? This Friday, February 28, 2014, Florida A&M University and the Florida Division of Historical Resources will unveil a historic marker commemorating FAMU Hospital. The ceremony begins at 10 AM at the intersection of Palmer Avenue and Adams Street on the campus of Florida A&M University.

Nurse Idelle Anderson using an autoclave, 1953

Idelle Anderson operating an autoclave

Nurse station, 1953

Nurse’s station

Lincoln School, Tallahassee

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

Emancipation, and the period of Reconstruction that followed, brought civil rights to freed slaves throughout the former Confederacy for the first time. Black communities organized and built churches, schools, hospitals, businesses, and civic organizations. These institutions developed separately from their white counterparts during the era of legal segregation known as Jim Crow.

The legal gains of the 1860s and 1870s proved short-lived, and full equality remained only a dream until the triumphs of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Lincoln School, ca. 1929

Lincoln School, ca. 1929

Miss Lincoln High School, Ivella Landers (center), and her attendants, Gloria Arnold (left) and Delores Austin, 1957

Miss Lincoln High School Ivella Landers (center) and her attendants, Gloria Arnold (left) and Delores Austin, 1957

One of the schools founded by African-Americans in Tallahassee during Reconstruction was known as Lincoln Academy (later Lincoln High School). Opened in 1869, Lincoln initially served children in grades 1 through 12. Several prominent local citizens attended or taught at Lincoln, including educator and community leader John G. Riley.

Lincoln High co-captains Willie Powell (left) and Robert Lindsey, 1960

Football team co-captains Willie Powell (left) and Robert Lindsey, 1960

Originally located at the intersection of Lafayette and Copeland Streets, the school moved to near Macomb and Brevard Streets in the 1920s. Lincoln closed in 1969 when Leon County implemented district-wide integration. A portion of Old Lincoln High School now serves as a Community Center in the historic Frenchtown neighborhood.

Unidentified prom-goers at Lincoln High School, 1959

Jacqueline Owens (left), ? Brown, Hattie Brown, and Jessie Drew at prom, 1959

The photographs featured in this blog post show scenes from Lincoln High School in the 1950s and 1960s. These images are part of the Tallahassee Democrat Photographic Collection, which is currently in the process of digitization.

Dorothy and Dock Wilson in driver training class, 1957

Dorothy and Dock Wilson in driver training class, 1957

Lincoln High School homecoming parade, 1957

Homecoming parade, 1957

Battle of Olustee (February 20, 1864)

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Olustee, also known as the Battle of Ocean Pond.

In February 1864, the Union launched what would be the war’s largest military campaign in Florida. Designed to interrupt the supply of cattle and goods from the state that were destined for Confederate armies outside of Florida, add more escaped and freed slaves to the ranks of the U.S. Army, and possibly bring Florida back into the Union as a reconstructed free state, the northeast Florida campaign of 1864 consisted of some 7,000 Union troops, including three black regiments: the 1st North Carolina Colored Infantry, the 8th U.S. Colored Infantry (USCT), and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.

The 54th had already distinguished itself on the ramparts of South Carolina’s Fort Wagner during the unit’s now famous assault on that Confederate bastion in July 1863. Unlike the 54th, however, the two other regiments had never been in combat, and the 8th USCT had not even completed its training when it arrived in Florida along with the rest of the Union troops on February 7, 1864.

Soldiers of the 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers

Soldiers of the 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers

Leaving about 1,500 men to secure Jacksonville and conduct other missions, the main Union force of 5,500 troops under the command of Brigadier General Truman Seymour began marching on February 20 west towards Lake City and the Suwannee River beyond. East of Lake City the Federals ran into advanced elements of a Confederate force of 5,000 men that established defensive positions outside of Lake City at Olustee, a station along the Florida, Atlantic & Gulf Railroad. The battle, which lasted through the afternoon of February 20, was a particularly bloody encounter that ended in a Confederate victory and a humiliating Union retreat back to Jacksonville.

The more experienced 54th Massachusetts as well as the 1st North Carolina played an important role in the battle by holding back the Confederate advance as the rest of Seymour’s regiments withdrew. One of those regiments, the 8th USCT, experienced some of the day’s heaviest fighting. Its untested ranks were ordered forward and ran into a storm of Confederate fire.

At the end of the battle, the 8th USCT lost more men than any other Union unit: 49 killed, 188 wounded, and 73 missing. Of these missing, several became prisoners and were eventually transferred to the infamous Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Others may have faced an even worse fate. Several postwar accounts, mostly from Confederate sources, recalled that individual Confederate soldiers killed some of the wounded and captured black soldiers.

Kurz and Allison lithographic print of the Battle at Olustee

Kurz and Allison lithographic print of the Battle at Olustee

After Olustee, black troops continued to play an important role in Union operations in Florida. In September 1864, they made up part of the force that attacked Marianna, Florida, and on March 6, 1865, black soldiers formed the mass of the Union troops that engaged the Confederates south of Tallahassee at Natural Bridge. The Union lost the battle and was denied the opportunity to capture Tallahassee during the war. A little over two months later, however, black troops marched into Florida’s capital as part of the Union occupying force that received the formal surrender of Confederate Florida on May 20, 1865.

Today, while the operations of black troops are better known in theaters of the war such as South Carolina (the assault on Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863) and Virginia (the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864), the actions of black troops in Florida, although less famous, were just as crucial to establishing the importance of black units in the Union war effort. Although the direct path to Union victory and black freedom pointed to Atlanta and Richmond, the route included many detours, like Florida, which ultimately led to emancipation.

The Beatles are Coming!

Fifty years ago this week the Beatles arrived in Florida for the first time in order to begin rehearsing for their second appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

The Beatles in Key West, 1964

The Beatles in Key West, 1964

Their performance was broadcast live from the Deauville Hotel’s Napoleon Ballroom in Miami Beach on February 16. About 3500 people saw it live, and approximately 70 million watched on television. The Beatles were the opening act, and dancer and singer Mitzi Gaynor was the headliner. Beatle mania was in full swing.

Postcard view of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach

Postcard view of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach

After the show the Beatles enjoyed some much needed rest and relaxation in the balmy climes of South Florida. On February 18, they flew from Miami to London. As a band, the Beatles only visited the Sunshine State one more time, in the fall of 1964.