Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The Frustration of Limited Sources
While there is extensive documentation of the Jackson County War, most of it comes from limited primary sources. Most contemporary information comes from the extensive Congressional KKK Hearings testimony, numerous newspaper reports, and dozens of private letters among the Republican leaders, Hamilton, Purman, and Dickinson. The words of many African Americans are found in the KKK testimony and the later Walls-Niblack hearings testimony. The missing element, ironically, are the words of the native, Jackson County white community, paricularly the Regulators. The views of their sympathizers are presented in Frank Baltzell's Marianna Courier editorials and several anonymous "letters to the editor" reprinted in the Florida Democratic press. I could not find records from James Coker and only a handful of letters from James McClellan, James McLean, or other white leaders in various archives. Also frustrating are the lack of photographs. For example, there are no known pictures of the leader of the Regulators, James Coker, who remained a prominent Marianna merchant until his death in 1888. In fact, there is no record of the location of Coker's grave, although his widow (his much younger, third wife) Ella Holliday lived well into the 20th century. Nor are there any images, or grave location, for his infamous son, Billy Coker. It is very surprising that there are no images or such information about attorney James F. McClellan, who, in addition to be being a successful attorney who argued numerous times before the state's supreme court in Tallashassee, served as a number of years as a Florida circuit court judge based out of Pensacola before his 1890 death. It is much easier to list the photographs that can be found. Among promiment Jackson County citizens, I've received contemporary images of only William H. Milton (a wartime photograph courtesy of Dale) and Charles W. Davis (courtesy of a family member), plus a group photo that includes an elderly William D. Barnes (also from Dale). There are no images found (yet) from the Reconstruction era of Ely, Bond, Barnes, Lott, Myrick, Alderman, Baker, Baltzell, Bush etc.