Tuesday, June 02, 2009

June 1869: Secession (to Alabama) Agitation

With the heat of summer, violence waned. The races settled into simmering, but peaceful, co-existance. Meanwhile, the attention of the Jackson County political leadership and business community turned toward renewed discussions between the states of Florida and Alabama over a proposal for Alabama to annex the Florida Panhandle in exchange for financial assistance. Purman, who left Marianna as soon as he recuperated from the February shooting sufficiently to travel, had been appointed by Governor Reed as a commissioner to negotiate on behalf of Florida.

Jackson County residents had long been frustrated by the state's inability to support the building of a railroad to Marianna. The most desirable plan was the extension of the tracks that ended in Quincy to Chattahoochee and over the Apalachicola, thereby finally connecting Marianna by rail with Tallahassee and Jacksonville. Plans included extending this line west from Marianna to Pensacola to traverse the entire state. Democrats already predisposed to despise Gov. Reed's Republican "carpetbagger" administration found further cause for outrage in the state's continuing financial crisis and the backroom deals with politically-connected speculators that later erupted into the Swepson-Littlefield scandal.

In an unique confluence of both Republicans and Democrats, Jackson County residents supported secession of Florida counties west of the Apalachicola to Alabama. Hopes for the eastern route abandoned, plans were floated and companies incorporated to build a rail line north to Dothan and south to St. Andrew's Bay. In the pages of his Marianna Courier, Frank Baltzell enthusiastically endorsed the plan negotiated by Purman, the man he detested most.

Frank Baltzell gave voice to the frustration of his fellow citizens:

"The whole railroad scheme is a sham and humbug, and instead of commencing a road they are squabbling over precedents of incorporations, rights of franchise and other stuff of like nature to postpone beginning until after the election in November. The bills making the appropriations were framed in such a manner that a subterfuge can be sought and obtained, in case extension to the Apalachicola river will better conserve the interest of the Middle and East.
The only hope for facilities and improvement lies in annexation, and we appeal to our citizens to abandon the irretrievably indebted State of Florida, that is unwilling to give them their rightful part of the internal improvement fund and would deceive them in the last breath of connection, and rally to the annexation and Alabama, and our long neglected section will soon see the smoky signals of prosperity and happiness hovering over our valleys and the echo of its pulses throbbing among our lonely hills.
If our aprehensions are unfounded it would behoove our friends to vote for annexation that would at least, make these companies develope their pretended intended intentions."
[Pensacola West Florida Commercial, July 16, 1869]

A public meeting was held in Marianna in August attended by one of Alabama's negotiators, and a referendum was scheduled for the Panhandle counties for October. With the endorsement of both Republican and Democratic leaders, Jackson County residents were certain to approve annexation by a wide majority. In the fall, however, other events intervened to draw attention away from annexation. Marianna did not get its railroad connection to the east until early 1883. [Greg Turner, A Short History of Florida Railroads, 85]

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