Tag Archives: tallahassee history

A Look into the History of a Tallahassee Church

Page from Parish Register, 1832-1923, 1940
Page from Parish Register, 1832-1923, 1940

The St. John’s Episcopal Church Records includes administrative records; member registries; meeting minutes of the Vestry and church circles; Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, hymnals, and other liturgical works; documentation of the history of St. John’s Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Florida; service bulletins and other periodicals; sermon transcripts; photographs; and motion pictures. We recently completed digitization and making available some of the registers from the collection. These materials give you a look into parish life from 1832 to 1953. In particular, these registers track baptisms, burials and marriages in the Church over that time period.

St. John’s is the mother church of the Diocese of Florida. It was founded as a mission parish in 1829, and the church’s first building was erected in 1837. The Diocese was organized at St. John’s in 1838 and Francis Huger Rutledge, who became rector of St. John’s in 1845, was consecrated the first Bishop of Florida in 1851. The original church burned in 1879; a new church was built on the same site and consecrated in 1888, and it is still the parish’s principal place of worship.

For more information about the collection, visit its finding aid and to see the digitized materials, visit its digital collection home.

Many Happy Returns to the Prince of Tallahassee

On January 21, 1801, Charles Louis Napoleon Achille Murat was born to Joachim and Caroline Bonaparte Murat, Napoleon Bonaparte’s youngest sister. Through the family’s connections with the Emperor, Joachim was eventually made King of Naples, hence the Prince Murat title. Upon the Emperor’s second defeat in 1815, Achille’s father was executed and his mother fled with her children to Vienna.

Achille would emigrate to America upon his 21st birthday in 1821 and became a naturalized citizen fairly soon after, renouncing all his titles. After roaming the country, he settled in Washington DC where he happened to become friends with Richard Keith Call, Florida’s territorial delegate to Congress who told the young man of the many opportunities in the newly acquired territory.

Murat settled first in St. Augustine but later purchased his Lipona Plantation outside Tallahassee after much prodding from the Marquis de Lafayette.  It was in Tallahassee that Murat met his future wife, Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray, great grandniece of George Washington. Murat was also a part of Florida’s militia and would hold the rank of colonel for the rest of his life following the Seminole Wars.

Illustration of Murat and Emerson from A Prince In Their Midst
Illustration of Murat and Emerson from A Prince In Their Midst; The Adventurous Life of Achille Murat on the American Frontier

A man of many interests, Murat was a writer. He, along with his fellow countryman Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote much on American culture and lifestyle during his lifetime though Murat’s writing never became as popular as Tocqueville. He also had a close friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson whom he met in St. Augustine in 1826.

After an attempt to regain some of his family’s fortune in the July Revolution of 1830 and several unsuccessful years in New Orleans, Murat and his wife moved back in Tallahassee in the mid 1830s and Murat would remain here the rest of his life. Murat died in 1847 and is buried  in the St. John’s Episcopal Church cemetery in Tallahassee.

Recently, through the efforts of a local group, the historic marker outside the cemetery where Murat and his wife are buried was restored after mysteriously vanishing a year ago. You can read about the new marker and those who helped get it back in place on the Tallahassee Democrat’s website.

 

Celebrating Civil Rights History in Tallahassee

With the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech today, we revisited the collections we hold regarding the Civil Rights Movement right here in Tallahassee. Among our most popular and unique is The Tallahassee Civil Rights Oral History Collection, which chronicles the experiences of nineteen individuals who were involved in the civil rights movement in Tallahassee during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

March 27, 1964, an estimated 1,500 march near the Florida State Capitol urging the passage of the Civil Rights Act
March 27, 1964, an estimated 1,500 march near the Florida State Capitol urging the passage of the Civil Rights Act

The interviews were conducted and donated to Special Collections by Dr. Jackson Lee Ice, a professor of religion here at FSU. Ice arrived in Tallahassee in 1955, nine months before the Tallahassee bus boycott. He was a witness to and a participant in the civil rights activities and social changes that affected Tallahassee during those years.

Ice came under heavy criticism from local political figures for his statements supporting the rights of African-Americans to demonstrate and perform civil disobedience for their cause. He was almost fired from his FSU teaching position. It was because of his work with the Tallahassee Council on Human Relations that he became acquainted with many local African-American leaders and participants and familiar with the issues and problems they faced.

Through this experience, Ice became convinced of the importance of the activities of the Tallahassee Civil Rights Movement in our nation’s history. Primarily, he wanted to record these events, as told by individuals who witnessed them, before they faded from memory. He also wanted to enlighten his students about what took place during this era of racial tension, courage, and sacrifice and the role that Tallahassee played nationally in the civil rights struggle.

Working for the Florida State University Center for the Study of Southern Religion and Culture with funding supplied by a Rockefeller Foundation grant, Ice taped a series of interviews with people who were residents of Tallahassee during that era. He selected a representative sample of civil rights advocates and their opponents and interviewed them during the summer of 1978.

Reverend C.K. Steele accepting a check given to him by Reverend Raymond Henderson.
Reverend C.K. Steele accepting a check given to him by Reverend Raymond Henderson.

In 2003-4, the audiocassettes were transferred to CDs with help from a National Historical and Publications Records Commission grant. Three of the interviews are currently available online: Reverend C. K. Steele, Charles U. Smith and King Solomon Dupont. Detailed descriptions of the interviewees and summaries of the interviews can be read in the full finding aid for the collection here.

Through these interviews, we discover how Tallahassee was both being affected and contributing to the civil rights movement of the early 1960s, a volatile time in the south during which Dr. King delivered his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Photo credits: Florida State University Office of Multicultural Affairs Records, Special Collections, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida.

Smokey Hollow: Recovering Lost History

Colin and poster 1

My name is Colin Behrens, a freshman here at FSU.  I am a work study student working for Eddie Woodward in Heritage Protocol, a part of Special Collections and Archives. The reason why I pursued this job is because of my love for historical research: more experience in an archival setting can only help me in my ambition to become a historical scholar.

Today, I have met the first milestone in my goal to be a historian. Strozier Library hosted the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, a symposium dedicated to undergraduates at FSU who are pursuing either independent research or are aiding faculty members in their own research. I am, in addition to being an assistant at the Heritage Protocol, the research assistant to Dr. Jennifer Koslow in the History Department. Dr. Koslow is working on reconstructing data from the lost community of Smokey Hollow, located here in Tallahassee.

Smokey Hollow was an African-American Community located in what is now Cascades Park. It was founded in 1893 and was eventually wiped off the map in the 1960s. During the 1960s, a movement called ‘urban renewal’, which aimed to replace poorer areas of urban settings with more affluent commercial and residential zones, spread to cities all across the country. This movement spread to Tallahassee and led to the death of Smokey Hollow.

We do know some things about life in Smokey Hollow. The federal government has recognized Smokey Hollow as a historical heritage site due to its unique architecture. One of the most famous residents of Smokey Hollow was “Famous” Amos, of Famous Amos cookies. In addition, we know that the community valued education and that it was an extremely tight-knit community. Everyone was either related to each other or was at least treated as family if no blood-ties between two members actually existed. One of the more prevalent stories tells of how if a poor member of the community was jailed, whether rightfully or wrongly, an affluent member of Smokey Hollow would bail that poorer member out, no questions asked. This kind of loyalty was prevalent throughout the community and was one of its signature qualities.

Despite this knowledge, there’s quite a lot that is unknown about Smokey Hollow. We don’t have numbers on things like employment, education level, and ages. In order to solve this problem, Dr. Koslow aims to use the 1940 census to gain the data and then use statistics to glean insights into Smokey Hollow’s demographic makeup. My role in the project is first to transcribe the census records into Excel spreadsheets and then to begin the statistical analysis of the census data. It should be noted that white people lived in Smokey Hollow’s boundaries and are therefore included in the census, but because Smokey Hollow is by definition an African-American community, they will not be included in the study.

I have not yet finished transcription; it will be completed this weekend. I have, however, been able to eyeball the data available to us and make some general observations. Despite the fact that, in 1940, the Great Depression still plagued the country and that Smokey Hollow was an African-American community (which typically have lower employment than comparable white neighborhoods), employment was high. This can be ascribed to a myriad of factors.  First is the fact that there was a coal plant nearby, which would have hired the workers (and indeed, did). Secondly are New Deal programs, such as the PWA, the WPA, and the CCC, that employed a significant number of workers (though not near a majority by any means). Finally are the bonds of kinship and solidarity that the community held dear to their hearts. With such a vibrant community, with every member loyal to the others, it can easily be seen how the community would pull together in order to help everyone keep themselves employed in order to keep food on the table.

As a freshman at FSU, it is an odd thing for me to involved in a project of such high caliber. The reason why I am involved at all is due to my luck at being accepted into the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), which is in its pilot run this year. UROP aims to teach undergraduates how to perform academic research, and part of that process is assigning each and every student to a research assistantship, so that we may learn from successful members of our fields. That’s how I met Dr. Koslow and how I got the chance to work on such a wonderful project.

It’s important to note that research is one of the fundamental goals of FSU, and one that Special Collections fulfills very well. While my assistantship has not required the use of Special Collections, I have frequently seen my friend John Handel in the Special Collections room, performing research on his own. It is my hope that other undergraduates will follow our examples and participate in FSU’s undergraduate research community, as well as using Special Collections to the maximum benefit.