Sunday, December 18, 2011

Remembering author Caroline Hentz - in 1892

Caroline Lee Hentz was a popular American writer of the ante-bellum era. A Massachusetts native, she married a Southerner and lived the last few years of her life in Marianna.  Although she wrote several successful novels, today she is remembered mostly in academic circles for The Northern Planter's Bride, her rebuttal to Uncle Tom's Cabin.  The following 1892 piece from a Thomasville, GA newspaper shows, however, that decades after the war, Mrs. Hentz was still remembered with great affection. 
FROM: (Thomasville, GA) Daily Times-Enterprise, Jan. 20, 1892

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

John Quincy Dickinson and Civil War and Reconstruction Memory

The regimental history of the 7th Vermont Vols., written by William C. Holbrook, contains some pages remembering John Q. Dickinson. The description of Dickinson's time in Florida is not attributed to any witness or first person source and, consequently, is more significant for the impressions it conveys, rather than any factual information contained.  First the excerpt with my comments following:

by William C. Holbrook (New York, 1882)

On September 13th, [1864] Lieut. John Q. Dickinson, who for some time had acted as regimental Quartermaster, was commissioned as such. He discharged the duties of that office, which were by no means light, very acceptably to the regiment and with much fidelity and ability. He was subsequently made Captain of Company F, and was honorably discharged for disability October 10th, 1865. Upon leaving the service, like many other of the Union soldiers, he elected to cast his lot with the people of the South. For a time he was engaged in the lumber business in Florida in partnership with Col. D.. B. Peck. But after a little they relinquished that business and Col. Peck returned to the North. Capt. Dickinson, however, remained in Florida, and entered somewhat into politics, and finally secured a public office at Mariana, I believe. He was an educated gentleman, and a facile and pleasing writer. In disposition he was as agreeable as he was amiable, and was the last against whom it would be expected that any one would harbor harsh or hostile feelings. Nevertheless, it seems that his superior attainments did occasion much hatred and jealousy on the part of the Floridians of the neighborhood, who wanted no "Yankees" to administer their affairs, or to hold office in their State. A trifling newspaper article, or something of the kind, was seized upon as a pretext to inform Mr. Dickinson that his presence was not wanted at Mariana, and accordingly a notice, emanating from that most fiendish and hellish of all organizations, the Ku Klux Klan, was served upon him in due form, whereby he was warned to depart under the penalty of death. To this threat he paid no attention.


His friends, however, were so apprehensive of the great danger he incurred, that they entreated him not to let it pass unheeded, and urged him to return home. But he was not willing to retire, as he expressed it, "in the face of the enemy," and would not have it said that he had been driven from his post by any such menaces, and he determined to remain where he was, notwithstanding he received two or three subsequent warnings that his life would surely be taken if he did not depart. Finally, one evening, after he had closed his office, a message was sent to his house that he was wanted there on important business. Not suspecting danger he started to comply with this request. It was then dark. Shortly the report of guns was- heard. Either that evening, or the following morning, his dead body was found beside the road riddled with bullets. He was murdered by the Ku Klux. His remains were sent home, and on their arrival at New York a meeting of a few of his old comrades and friends was held, at which appropriate resolutions were passed. Although he escaped the rebel balls on more than one battle field, he at last fell a victim to rebel hate, which was as unrelenting for years after the war as it was during its progress. He believed that every man was privileged to reside where he pleased, and that, in the South as well as at the North, the right of free speech was not to be abridged or taken away. In seeking to maintain these principles of liberty he died. He was as much a martyr as though he had fallen in full armor, and in the thickest of the fray."

Holbrook, a colonel in the 7th VT, likely knew his brother officer well, and the description of JQD’s ability as an officer and general observations about his personality suggest they derive from personal acquaintance. Certainly, the recollection of JQD’s education and amiability are consistent with the accounts of his friends. Holbrook does not state the source for his account of JQD's post-war career, but a clue is found in his introduction where he thanks the comrades who assisted him in his research. First on his list of acknowledgements is Col. David B. Peck, one of JQD’s closest friends and post-war business partner. Peck’s condolence letter to JQD’s parents suggests that the two men were frequent correspondents. For example, the details about the warning notes must have come from JQD’s letters to Peck.

Holbrook’s reference to the newspaper article is puzzling. JQD wrote sporadically for the Republican Tallahassee Sentinel about politics, usually under a pseudonym. The “article” is probably not an allusion to property auction notices, since I doubt JQD would report to his friends that his role in tax lien sales precipitated threats against him. Nor do we have records of the specific written warnings to JQD to depart to save his life that Holbrook mentions. JQD’s receiving such notes, however, makes sense: Purman reported receiving a warning signed “Ku Klux” as early as the April 1868 and Malachi Martin in Gadsden Co. received similar notices shortly after JQD’s murder.

The assertion that JQD refused to leave Florida in the face of threats, despite the urging of his friends, is entirely consistent with existing correspondence. The detail, however, that on the evening of his death JQD received a note stating he was wanted on important business is startling and confusing. None of the other accounts, including extensive grand jury testimony, mentions such a note. Since JQD was departing his office and was reportedly murdered close to his home, why was this note sent to his house? Could he have arrived home safely and been called out? Frank Bryan, a freedman from Greenwood, was supposedly involved in the murder plot. Could he have been a decoy, delivering such a note to draw Dickinson outside within range of the assassins? (BTW, according to NASA at the moon was nearly full that night). There is no eyewitness report to account for JQD’s whereabouts between the time he left his office and the discovery of his body, so these possibilities can be entertained, although they change nothing substantive.

And who would have conveyed to Peck the detail about the note on the night of the murder? Maybe A. J. Dickinson, when arriving in Marianna the month after his brother’s death, heard such a rumor and reported it to his family and Peck? Holbrook wrote his account about a decade after JQD’s death, not many years later, so the story of the note may have some basis in reality and not just stem from invented memory. This detail can only be speculated on.

If, for the sake of argument, we believe in the note and accept the implication that the assassination was connected to KKK threats, then John R. Ely is arguably removed as a prime suspect in the murder. The allegation, common in the Jackson Co. black community, that Ely was the murderer stemmed from Ely’s fury over impending auctions of his family’s property. These reports of notes and threats suggest a planned plot, not an impulsive slaying. In fact, Ely vigorously denied (in a remarkably contemptuous and condescending letter to the Tallahassee Floridian) having a hand in JQD’s death. Also, the illiteracy of the Ku Klux note that Malachi Martin received from Jackson County in early 1871 precludes that anyone as eloquent as Ely was involved in such threats. Again all this is idle speculation.

One additional interesting aspect of Holbrook’s account is its decidedly non-reconciliationist tone. In Race and Reunion, David Blight argued that the opposing sides in the war put aside their differences over the war’s causes and emancipation, to fuse a unified American identity (at the expense of African American rights). One aspect of this reconciliation, according to Blight, was northerners conceding to the southern narrative of a cruel and misguided Reconstruction. Holbrook will have none of this. Fifteen years after the close of the war, Holbrook still wrote of “rebels” not former Confederates brother soldiers. Holbrook saw “rebel hate” as “unrelenting” for years after the war as during the conflict itself. Rather remarkably Holbrook portrayed JQD as championing, and the “rebels” as opposing, free speech, the right to live wherever one chose, and the “principles of liberty.” And most stridently, Holbrook declared that JQD’s death in the service of Reconstruction made him just as much a martyr as though he had fallen in the war itself. Granted Holbrook was writing early in the Reconciliation process and this tone would have been more startling years later, but it is noteworthy that Holbrook defied the Reconstruction memory narrative that prevailed for nearly eighty years.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marianna High - Class of 1860

I’ve mentioned to a few readers that I’ve been compiling a database derived from the 1860 and 1870 Jackson County censuses.  So far, I’ve included every adult white male as well as female property owners and some prominent African Americans.  Along with each name, I’m tracking a number of categories: profession, property valuations, acreage owned, slaves owned, etc.  My first goal is to get a sense of the impact of the War on this community which, I think, is in many ways representative of a cotton belt Southern county. 

To show the war's impact on this small community, let’s examine one group: white 18 year olds males in 1860, or what I think of as Marianna H.S. Class of 1860.  (I’m not including African Americans because only the two dozen or so free black or “mulatto” males living in Jackson Co. were listed by name in the 1860 census.)  Now, of course, most of these young men didn’t attend the local academy or any school for that matter.  The sad truth is that public education barely existed in the ante-bellum South and many whites, perhaps most from poor families, grew up illiterate, even unable to sign their own names.   For the sake of trying to make sense of the War, let’s suspend our skepticism and imagine the all the young, white men the census taker recorded as 18 years old when he knocked on their parents’ doors in the summer of 1860 as a high school seniors about to go out to begin their lives, working on daddy’s farm, venturing out West or even for a select few, going to college.    Marianna High “graduated” about 66 men that last peaceful spring before the cataclysm.  I say “about” because I don’t entirely trust the census takers’ reliability, and, truthfully, many poor homesteaders weren’t completely sure about their own ages as evidenced by variations from census to census.

What became of these 66 boys?   Well, for 12 (18%), I’m not sure what happened. Several of these 12 served in the Confederate Armies, so there is the possibility that some never returned.  Of the remaining 54 young men, 17 (26% of the total; or 31% of the 54 verified names) died in the war.  Like most Civil War soldiers, most died in hospitals from disease. Several, however, died in battles, including Chancellorsville, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Of the remaining 37? Only 11 show up in the 1870 Jackson Co. census.  Another boy died in 1869 and one more moved to Brazil with his family.  The remaining 26 can be verified through ancestry or other databases or genealogy lists as suriving the war.  Interestingly, as many as 4 young men served in the Union army.

So we know that at least 26% of the male 1860 18 year olds died in the Civil War. The percentage is probably higher as it is not a stretch to assume that an even greater rate of the unaccounted for died in the war.  For example, if we guess that half of the unknown 12 died in the war, which is certainly plausible, that would bring the death rate up to an astounding 35%. Of course, I'm not even listing those survivors whose lives were marred by war wounds, physical or mental. This is just intended to give a sense of my preliminary findings from the database. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pre-judging a book by its cover

The Jackson County War book won't be out for a few more months, but here's the cover. I worked on the concept with Mira who designed the image. Isn't she a talented artist?  Univ. of Alabama pretty much recreated her work.  This is one situation where I hope the book proves worthy of its cover. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Jews of Jackson County: Part VII - Simon Straus's War

During the taking of the 1860 census in the summer of 1860, the only Jewish residents established in Jackson Co. were the Fleishman family. Five young German-born men of likely Jewish backgrounds also lived in the county, but these salesmen and merchants were probably peddlers temporarily settling in Marianna which served as a base for their routes into the countryside. Consistent with their peripatetic lives most of these men had moved on from the Panhandle by the time war broke out in the spring of 1861. Samuel Fleishman was in his early forties at the war’s beginning and not required to serve in the military. When the age for compulsory service was extended in 1863 to 45 which included Fleishman’s age, he left for New York to work with his in-laws. Prussian native Aaron Davis joined Company E of the 5th Florida Cavalry Regiment late in the war when he was 22 years old but he soon departed and was reported in his service file as deserting in Dec. 1864. Simon Straus, listed in the 1860 census as a 23 year old German-born watchmaker also stayed in the Jackson County area but had a very different war-time experience.

Described as having a “fresh complexion” with auburn hair and grey eyes, Simon stood five foot five and a half inches. He joined Capt. Lawrence Attaway’s Company F of the 6th Florida Regiment at the Apalachicola Arsenal on May 21, 1862 (Attaway, a Jackson County native, would be dead of illness within two months at Columbus, Georgia – his widow Catherine operated Marianna’s hotel where Maggie McClellan was murdered in 1869). The 6th Florida operated in the Tennessee theater and in December Straus was detailed to the Knoxville, TN police force. By May 1863, Straus returned to his unit, but in July was listed as sick in an Atlanta hospital. Unlike many of his comrades, Straus did not succumb to illness and he returned to police and jail guard duty in Knoxville in August. Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner, however, shortly abandoned Knoxville which was taken in September by Union troops under General Ambrose Burnside. Straus’s war ended soon afterwards when he was wounded and captured on Nov. 25, 1863 during the battle at Missionary Ridge near Chattanooga.

Upon being taken prisoner by Union forces, Straus was initially placed in a military hospital at Chattanooga. In early January he was dispatched to the military prison at Louisville KY, but a few days later was forwarded to the prison at Rock Island, Illinois where he arrived on January 17, 1864 and where he spent the rest of the war. At some point during his captivity, Straus contemplated taking an oath of allegiance to the Union as a route to get out of prison. His service file notes that his home was in the North and that he was the “only support of [his] widowed mother.” (I particularly like Straus getting his mother involved!). But for whatever reason, Straus remained in prison at Rock Island and was released only after taking the oath of allegiance after the close of the war on May 9, 1865. Straus, then 28 years old, apparently remained in the North and took up residence in Chicago.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Reconstruction Era Blog

I recently asked if there were any other blogs primarily oriented toward Reconstruction. In fact there is an excellent new blog from Dr. Al Hester focusing on the Athens, Georgia area during Reconstruction, found at  .  In addition to his blog, Al's website is both aesthetically appealing (as opposed to this blog's lame google "blogger" template) and interesting to explore.  I look forward to checking back in with Al's posts and encourage others to do so.

I believe that as the sesquicentennial progresses, more people will realize that the Civil War's issues weren't neatly wrapped up at Appomattox and will start asking questions, exploring, and inevitably turn toward Reconstruction. The fact is that almost no Americans, even college history majors, have more than the slightest knowledge about Reconstruction. The field desperately needs narrative type works that are accessible to the educated, history audience - the kind of person who will pick up books by Goodwin or McCullough.  There isn't yet a popularly accessible grand narrative for the Reconstruction Era similar to the works of Bruce Catton or Shelby Foote. The handful of excellent, modern (i.e., post-Dunning) histories (Foner's Reconstruction, of course, is the unparalleled, giant and may have intimidated other scholars into looking for other fields) are scholarly and thematically organized, and will not be read by the general, non-academic reader with an interest in history - unless assigned in class. The major exception I can think of is probably Nicholas Lemann's Redemption , which, however, deals only with Mississippi and Louisiana and, considering the subsequent absence of Reconstruction books being issued by major publishers, may not have sold that well and definitely did not start a trend.  A lot of the great, popular narrative Civil War work in recent years has focused on specific battle or campaign studies (there are a lot of superb examples such as Stephen Sears and our own Dale Cox).  Supplementing good, scholarly, state Reconstruction survey books (e.g., Cimbala, Shofner), I expect to start seeing accessible work focused on the experiences of communities, similar to the "battle books." Lane and Keith's separate "Colfax Massacre" books are examples. Al Hester's Enduring Legacy  - I admit I haven't read his book yet - points in the same direction as does The Jackson County War.  There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of Southern communities with dramatic and fascinating experiences during the Reconstruction years that are untold. I hope, and expect, that other researchers will be writing and publishing those stories soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

770 Miles From Home: Jackson County men at Gettysburg

Googlemaps show that a straight line from Marianna to Gettysburg is 770 miles.  Surprisingly, Gettysburg is slightly further than even Chambersburg, making Seminary Ridge the greatest distance Marianna men in the 2nd and 8th Florida regiments traveled from home during the War.   After spending the first day marching east along the Chambersburg Pike, the Florida brigade was  not involved in that day's action.  They were deployed to an area along Seminary Ridge around the Spangler farm.  

Looking north along Seminary Ridge from the Spangler farmhouse where the Florida brigade was initially positioned.

The view east toward Cemetery Ridge from the fields just north of the Spangler Farmhouse.  The Florida Brigade more or less traveled this route toward objectives on the right portion of this image (toward the Pennsylvania monument's whose white dome if just visible on the right).

 View from the Emmitsburg road toward Cemetery Ridge where the Florida Brigade drove back the 1st & 11th MA and 26 PA regiments on the 2nd Day.  In the middle, stretching to the right, are the trees of the Codori Thicket shading Plum Run, where the Floridians were repulsed on the 3rd Day

 View from Cemetery Ridge toward the Codori Thicket where Vermont troops drove back the Floridians .

 View from Cemetery Ridge toward Seminary Ridge

Looking south west from Cemetery Ridge toward the Codori Thicket in the direction of the route taken by the 14th and 16th VT in driving into the Floridians' left. 

View across fields from swale east of Seminary Ridge with the Codori farmhouse's cupolas barely visible. The Floridians approached Cemetery Ridge by moving to the right (south) of the Corodi farmhouse on both the 2nd and 3rd day.

 View from Seminary Ridge toward Cemetery Ridge

Looking back toward the launching point near at Seminary Ridge around the Spangler Farm. 

I was intending to walk the route of both days' advances, but rapidly approaching thunder clouds dissuaded me from risking lighting and becoming the last casualty of Pickett's charge.  Hopefully I'll have better weather (and better maps) for the next visit to complete this exploration.

Friday, August 05, 2011

More Letterheads and Stationery

[Coker invoice courtesy of Joe Rubinfine]

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Old Jackson County Stationery and Letterheads...

From the Florida Confederate Pension Files.  I'll be adding more as I find these. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Jews of Jackson County: Part VI - Julius Solomon and the Jacoby Family

      In addition to the Fleishman, Brash and Edrehi families, two more Jewish families settled in Jackson County during the 19th century. Julius Solomon, German born, first appears in the 1880Census  listed as a 23 year old retailer living with a brother G. Solomon, about five years younger, next door to James P. Coker, of all people. Five years later, Julius is living alone. At the same time, at least two more Solomon families appear in Jackson County, both headed by men claiming German born fathers, although with American born mothers and spouses. There is no indication that these Solomon families are Jewish. In fact, C. Davis Turner does not mention any Solomons, including Julius, in his chronology of the panhandle Jewish presence. [“JG Solomon,” a farmer, also lived with a German-born sister, Molly. Molly and JG’s American-born widow, Eva, still lived in Jackson County in the same household twenty year later with Eva’s four children.] Shofner mentions Julius Solomon as operating a dry goods store in Marianna in the 1880s. Evidence of Solomon’s connection with Marianna’s Jews, admittedly scanty, includes a newspaper item that finds him traveling with Henry Brash to Columbus, Georgia [Columbus Daily Enquirer, Jan. 28, 1880]. Julius left Marianna around the turn of the century after about twenty years in the community. He was a well-known and affable traveling salesman, familiar throughout the Panhandle and gained a reputation as a political pundit.

       The last of Jackson County’s 19th century Jewish families, were the Jacoby’s. Mitch Jacoby (b. 1855), his wife Bertha (b. 1862), both born in America of German born fathers, and daughter Liliian (b. 1892) arrived in Jackson County in the mid-1890s. Jacoby operated a tavern, sold liquor in various places in the county, and advertised widely in the newspapers with good-humored ads. His congeniality is hinted at in the following passage: “Mr Mitch Jacoby of Marianna was a pleasant caller at our office last Friday, he was full of politics and good natured as always ” [Chipley Banner April 15, 1900]. About 1902, Jacoby was elected as a Jackson County representative to the state legislature where he served one term. The Jacoby family, however, did not stay long in Jackson County, moving to Pensacola around 1905, where he was described as a “well known and popular citizen.” Mitch died in 1913 and Bertha in 1927. Upon Mitch Jacoby’s death a Pensacola newspaper recalled that “his jovial and kindly nature caused him to be liked by everyone with whom he was acquainted. He was popular with the masses and took a great interest in politics, working in every campaign for the election of his friends and never giving up hope until the last ballot was counted.” [Pensacola Journal , Aug. 13, 1913 from ].

      The departure of Mitch, Bertha and Lillian Jacoby ended the continuous presence of Jewish families in Jackson County that began nearly fifty years earlier when Samuel Fleishman brought his bride, Sophia, to Marianna. The only long-time Jewish residents remaining in Jackson County after 1905 were widower Solomon Brash and Estelle (Edrehi) Alderman, who had embraced Christianity by this time. According to C. Davis Turner, no more Jewish families took root into Jackson County until the 1920s.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Jews of Jackson County: Part V: The Brash Family

As mentioned in the previous post, the 1870 census listed teenage David Edrehi living with a young man, Benjamin Brash.  Benjamin Brash does not appear in the census a decade later, but the Brash family was well established in the Marianna before 1880 (the Florida Memory website of the Florida State Archives cites the Project Mosaic to state that the Brash family arrived in Jackson County in 1874). Solomon Brash, born in Germany in 1828 was married to Henrietta, born about 1833, also in Germany or, more specifically, Prussia. The 1880 census shows Solomon and Henrietta living with two sons, Henry, born 1857 (Florida Memory), and James born about 1860, both in Prussia. There was possibly a third son, Isaac, who died in 1880 at the age 20, and is buried in Bainbridge, GA (unless “James” is an Anglicization or mistaken transcription of “Isaac” and, in fact, Isaac and James are the same person).

To make matters more confusing, C. Davis Turner, writing in the 1940s recalled that Solomon Brash had two sons that lived with him in Marianna: Henry and Mannie (or Marnie). Turner wrote that this Mannie moved to Jacksonville, but I can’t find any other record of this Mannie Brash. There was also a Brash daughter not mentioned by Turner or listed in the census, Bertha, who married Isadore Kwilecki of Bainbridge, GA in Feb. 1880. The ceremony was conducted at the Brash family home by P. Dzialynski. [Columbus Enquirer, 2/26/80]. This must have been Philip Dzialynski, who is profiled in Canter Brown’s article “Philip and Morris Dzialynski: Jewish Contributions to the Rebuilding of the South,” American Jewish Archives 1992). C. Davis Turner wrote in his Temple Beth El notes that a wedding held at the Marianna Air Field during World War II was the first Jewish wedding ever conducted in Marianna, but the Kwilecki-Brash ceremony was certainly the first, and for more than sixty years, the only Jewish wedding held in Jackson County.

Solomon Brash was a dry goods merchant , operating the firm of “S. Brash and Son.” In addition, H. Robert, a young man described as a nephew to Solomon Brash, also born in Prussia, worked as Brash’s clerk and lived with the family in 1885 (Turner also wrote that Brash had a second young Jewish clerk named Newmark). Solomon’s son Henry (not to be confused with a cousin also named Henry Brash who was a Confederate veteran and established merchant in Apalachicola, where the “Henry Brash house” stands to this day – Robert Rosen mixes up the two men in his excellent Jewish Confederates) clearly integrated into his new community with great speed and success. Marianna elected Brash mayor three times in the 1880s – Rachel Heimovics has written that Brash was the first Jew elected major Florida. I have not confirmed the dates of Brash’s terms. If anyone in Marianna would check out the courthouse records, I would be grateful.

Henry married Sarah Zellnicker of Mobile in November 1887. The couple moved to Tampa in 1894 where, according to Rachel Heimovics “they opened a haberdashery, raised five children, and helped found a congregation.” Henry and Sarah Brash were pillars of the Tampa community for decades where Sarah was deeply involved in the United Jewish Relief Society and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (a juxtaposition you don't see every day). Back in Marianna, Henrietta Brash died in 1903 and her husband Solomon followed in 1914. It appears that they continued to live in Marianna until their deaths, but I have not been able to confirm this. Both were buried in Bainbridge, bringing to a close the forty year connection of the Brash family with Jackson County.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Jews of Jackson County, Part IV: The Edrehi Family [updated]

In the 1870 Jackson County census, we find the first mention of the Edrehi and Brash families. The Edrehi’s had the longest residency in Jackson County of any of the 19th century Jewish families. Some descendants, far removed from their ancestral heritage, and perhaps not aware of their Jewish origins, live in the region today. The Edrehi name is usually comically and almost unrecognizably misspelled in various transcriptions and records. Joseph Edrehi, the patriarch, of the Jackson County Edrehi family, was born in 1826 in Hamburg, Germany. The name “Edrehi,” and Joseph’s mother’s name, “Barzilay,” are traditionally Sephardic names: Joseph’s family was probably part of the Portuguese Jewish community which had migrated to Hamburg starting in the early 1600s (likely via Holland) where it continued to maintain a separate identity from Ashkenazic Jews (there is great Wikipedia article about the nearly 350 year history of Hamburg’s Portuguese Jews: . [Note: Sepharad literally means Spain and Sephardic, in the strict sense of the term, refers to descendants of Jews who lived in the Iberian peninsula prior to the expulsion from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1498].

Joseph and his wife, Betty, moved to London where they gave birth to two children: Estelle, born in March 1854 (according to the 1890 census) and David, born in 1857. The next record of the Edrehi family locates them in Marianna in the 1870 census. We have no explanation for their departure from London and choice of Jackson County. C. Davis Turner’s chronicle of Temple Emanu-El claims that the Edrehi’s came from Jacksonville and that Joseph purchased a plantation in Jackson County. In any event, the murder of Samuel Fleishman and the subsequent flight of the Fleishman family in late 1869 did not stymie the Edrehi’s from settling in Jackson County. Joseph is listed in the 1870 census as a merchant and, for some reason, his son David is listed as living separately, but nearby, with Benjamin Brash, a 27 year old Jewish merchant born in Prussia. Both households were neighbors of Benjamin G. Alderman’s family. Joseph also briefly holds the appointment of postmaster at Campbellton in 1871.

In the 1880 census, Joseph is listed as a "retailer/general merchant" living outside of Marianna– perhaps at Campbellton? David is listed as a retail merchant living on his own in Marianna. Estelle resides with her non-Jewish husband, “the boy next door,” Benjamin F. Alderman (the rootsweb census transcription mistakenly calls them “Anderson), the son of prominent Marianna merchant, Benjamin G. Alderman. In the 1880 census, Benjamin F. and Estelle are listed with two children, a girl of 3 Florie or Flora (b. 1877 in the 1890 census) and a baby boy, Frank. Presumably Benjamin and Estelle married about 1876 when she was 22. Benjamin is listed as 9 years older. Betty Edrehi, then in her mid-50s, is listed as living with the young family. By 1885, the Alderman family had grown to include two more young girls: Maggie (b. 1882) and Mable (b. 1884) and a fourth daughter, Lucille was born in 1894. By 1885, Bettie is listed as living once again with her husband Joseph. Strangely, Joseph lists his parents’ birth places in the 1885 census as Spain and Holland. This shows his awareness of his Sephardic heritage but confusion about the dates since the Sephardim left Iberia for Holland around the time of the expulsions, not in the 18th century. Joseph died in Marianna in 1886 at the age of 60 and is buried at Jewish section of the Oak Hill cemetery in Bainbridge, GA cemetery (I haven’t seen any records of any Jewish burials in Marianna).

David Edrehi remained in Marianna and in March 1896, at the age of 39, married 21 year old Ida Levy of Pensacola . The ceremony was conducted by Rabbi Rosenberg at the Pensacola YMCA, being used temporarily by Congregation Beth El after their temple burned down. [American Israelite, March 19, 1896]. Ida Levy Edrehi was apparently very close with her sisters in Pensacola and the American Israelite newspaper records many visits exchanged between sisters Hannah Levy and Mrs. S. Friedman of Pensacola and Mrs. Edrehi of Marianna in the late 1890s. Flora Alderman, who was about the same age as her aunt and her sisters, also shared in some of these visits

Shortly after 1900, perhaps timed with the birth of their son, J. (Joseph after the grandfather?) Montrose, David Edrehi left Marianna after thirty years residence and moved his family to Pensacola. He built a successful insurance firm and is frequently mentioned in the Pensacola newspapers.

Joseph’s widow, Betty (or Bettie) lived until 1903 and is buried in Pensacola’s Temple Beth-El cemetery. She is also listed as dying in Pensacola which suggests that she eventually left Estelle’s home and moved in with her son David’s family. The cemetery website ( ) lists her as 86, but earlier records suggest she couldn’t have been more than 80. She is also listed as born in Bavaria which is strange since other records indicate Hamburg, but may result from the confusion with other Panhandle Jews who were mostly from Bavaria themselves ( did they assume that because she was German-Jewish in origin she was also from Bavaria?).

Estelle Alderman died in 1921 and is buried in Marianna’s St. Luke’s Episcopal cemetery where her inscription reads, interestingly, “in christ I glory.” I did not track down the fate of her five children.

David died in 1930 and Ida died in 1927. They had only one child that I am aware of: J. Montrose Edrehi, born in 1900, a Pensacola attorney who passed away in 1964. David, Ida and J. Montrose are buried with Bettie in the Edrehi plot at Beth El, together with Jeannette Nathan Edrehi, presumably J. Montrose's wife.   Edrehi family Yahrzeits (the Hebrew calendar anniversary of death) are still remembered at Pensacola's Temple Beth El.

Trivia: There is an Edrehi Ave. that intersects with Montrose Dr. in Niceville, FL! [Updated 10/24/13 to correct 1880 census information. Thanks to Linda Epstein for pointing out and solving my errors].

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hamilton article now available for free viewing and download

The Florida Historical Quarterly is uploading issues for free viewing and download five years after publication. Here's a link to my Spring 2006 article "'More Courage Than Discretion': Charles M. Hamilton in Reconstruction-Era Florida."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Jews of Jackson County Part III: the War and Reconstruction

The fate of the Jackson and Gadsden County Fleishmans is recounted in detail in my article "Samuel Fleishman: Tragedy in Reconstruction –Era Florida," Southern Jewish History 8 (2005), pp. 32-75. In brief, Samuel Fleishman left Jackson County in the middle of the war after the Confederate army draft was extended to cover men up to the age of 45. He made his way to New York where he worked with his in-laws, the Altmans. Samuel returned to his family after the war and established the Altman Bros. store in Marianna. During the Reconstruction era, Fleishman affiliated with the Republicans and was murdered at the height of Jackson County violence in October 1869. Almost immediately after Samuel’s murder, his widow Sophia and their six children departed for New York City where they were looked after by Sophia’s increasingly successful brother, Benjamin – later famous at department store magnate “B. Altman.” The Marianna store was immediately closed, although Altman continued to maintain some property interests in Jackson County for a couple of decades.

Philip Fleishman, who was regularly moving between Gadsden and Jackson, left Florida for New York City around the same time as Sophia. Ferdinand, who together with Philip had taken over Samuel’s store in Quincy, too met a sad fate. He left Florida during the war, but ended up committing suicide in Cincinnati. His widow, Fannie Davis, married Morris Warendolff, a native of Prussia who also lived in Gadsden County. The couple and their children too left for New York. Both Benjamin and Simon served in the 6 FL Inf. Simon was captured at Missionary Ridge, while Benjamin was wounded and captured at Chickamauga. After the war, Benjamin continued to have business interests in Jackson County but died in the mid-1870s. Simon was the only Fleishman male left in Florida by the late 1870s. He was a well-noted and respected businessman in Quincy, living there into the twentieth century.

The Fleishmans were the only Jewish family to settle in Jackson County from the time of Sophia’s arrival in the mid-1850s until close to their departure in late 1869. In addition to the Fleishman men of Gadsden County, a few other Jews had business interests in Marianna, including “B. Cohn” and “D. Cohn” who appear in the 1867 tax rolls only. In the late 1860s, however, maybe even as late as the eve of census taking in the summer of 1870, the next generation of Jackson County Jews had started to arrive.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Jews of Jackson County, Part II: the 1850s

During the 1850s, five, single, young adult men with the last name of Fleishman, all with the occupation of merchant or peddler, settled in Jackson County. Samuel, Philip, Benjamin, Ferdinand and Simon, all immigrants from Bavaria, were presumably brothers and cousins. Samuel, the eldest of this group, recognized opportunity across the river and purchased property in Jackson County by 1853. Small town merchants made frequent trips back and forth to New York to resupply their stock and Samuel returned from one of these excursions with a bride. Just as Samuel Fleishman is the first known Jew to take up residence in Jackson County, Sophia Altman was certainly the first Jewish woman to live there. Sophia was about ten years younger than Samuel and born in the United States, but her background was similar as she was the daughter of German-Jewish immigrants who operated a dry goods store in New York City with her two brothers, Benjamin and Morris. Benjamin Altman would later play an important role in the lives of the Fleishman family as well as in American merchandizing history.

In the years before the war, the Fleishmans were busy. In addition to the Marianna property, Samuel purchased two acres to set up a store in Campbellton. He also operated a seasonal tavern in St. Andrews. The couple enjoyed the birth of three sons, William in 1857, Benjamin in 1859 and Albert in 1861. Brother Philip seems to have had an active presence in their lives and Benjamin Fleishman from Quincy developed some business interests in Jackson County. By 1860, in addition to the Fleishmans, or perhaps because of their presence and the booming economy, several young Jewish men moved into Jackson County. The census lists Samuel Hofheimer, a 25 years old salesman from Bavaria, and Edward Oppenheimer, 23 years old from Hesse, as living together. Another two young men, A. Barnett, a 27 year old merchant, and Aaron Davis, 18, both Prussians, may also have been Jews. Finally there was Simon Straus, a 23 year old watchmaker from Germany (Simon lived with an older man, Moses Morce, a 44 year old tanner born in France). Unlike the Fleishmans, however, none of these other men established a lasting presence in Jackson County.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Story of the Jews of Jackson County, Florida - Part I: Origins

This account of the history of the Jewish community in Jackson County, Florida is a work in progress.  Suggestions and input are encouraged and information will be updated or corrected as necessary.

Part I: Origins

Ante-bellum Florida’s Jewish population was miniscule. At the time Florida achieved statehood in 1845, about fifty Jews lived within its boundaries, spread across the northern tier. The most prominent Jew in territorial Florida was Moses Levy, a land developer and plantation owner, even something of an abolitionist sympathizer, who tried to create a refuge for persecuted European Jewry in Florida. [For the definitive account of Levy's fascinating life, refer to Chris Monaco's Moses Levy of Florida, 2005.]. While Levy was ritually observant, his sons abandoned the faith of their father. One son, David, appended “Yulee” to his last name, derived from Moses Levy's father's name. This David L. Yulee was elected one of Florida’s initial senators upon statehood in 1845, making him the first U.S. Senator of Jewish descent. Yulee remained a fixture in Florida politics for decades.

Moses Levy was Sephardic, born in Morocco, but the small wave of Jews that migrated to Florida in the years between statehood and the Civil war, maybe two hundred in total, were mostly of German origin. These newcomers from Bavaria, the Rhineland and Alsace sought escape from oppressive government policies toward Jews. By the late 1840s, a pattern was established: young men, in their early twenties, or even late teens, came to New York where they obtained merchandise small enough to carry on their backs, and then set out to peddle their wares across the American countryside. Many found welcome in the South where farmers appreciated their useful merchandize and the novelty of their appearance to break the monotony of rural life. Once a peddler built up enough capital, he typically sought to establish a store in some underserved community with stock replenished on trips back and forth to New York.

By 1850, Marianna still had no permanent Jewish presence. But in nearby Quincy about five young German-Jewish men resided, or at least rested between peddling excursions. One of these men, Samuel Fleishman, was born in Bavaria and had arrived in New York in late 1845. It is not known why he chose Quincy, but Samuel appears there in the 1850 census with another, younger man, Philip Fleishman, presumably a brother. Unlike David and Jacob Strauss and Solomon Levi, all listed as peddlers in the Gadsden County census, the Fleishmans had already risen by 1850 to the status of merchants. By 1853, Fleishman had purchased property in Marianna.

Next - Part II: Jackson County's first Jewish family

[Correction 5/10/12:  On the basis of information from Rachel Heimovics of the Southern Jewish Historical Society, I deleted a phrase stating that David Yulee had converted to Christianity.  There is no evidence that he ever took this step.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Edwin W. Mooring is tried for murder and walks...and then runs!

Great excitement built in Jackson County in anticipation of the trial of E. W. Mooring for murdering his brother-in-law, young Charley Nickels.  Mooring’s wife and children returned from Germany and an imposing defense team was assembled on his behalf, including former state’s attorney and county judge William H. Milton and James F. McClellan, a frequent litigator before Florida’s state supreme court and a future circuit court judge. The phalanx of lawyers including T. W. Bernard of Tallahasee and Capt. W. Young of Vicksburg, Miss.   The state, however, convened its own star-powered attorneys to prosecute the case, including former congressman and state supreme court justice George S. Hawkins, former circuit court judge Allen H. Bush and a Mr. McKenzie.

After some trouble picking the jury, the trial commenced in early December 1874. After three weeks, the defense strategy first debated by newspapers months earlier proved correct when the jury, comprised of six whites and six blacks, delivered a verdict of not guilty for reason of insanity “at the time of the homicide was perpetrated.”

According to the report carried in the Columbus Enquirer, Florida law required that such a verdict mandated the defendant’s commitment to an asylum, to jail, or release on bond.  After the verdict was read Saturday, Mooring was remanded to confinement until sentencing on Monday.  That Saturday night, however, the bailiff reported that Mooring was liberated by armed friends and got in a waiting buggy to drive away.   On Monday, Mooring was identified in Alabama, but refused to return and remained at large.  The newspaper’s editor repeated the report of a Jackson County correspondent that the court had not held night sessions “on account of a physician’s certificate” that Mooring “was in exceedingly delicate health” The editor remarked with a wink that Mooring’s health ‘must have been restored very speedily.”  In the ensuing months Mooring continued to move about freely and he was seen visiting Columba, Georgia several times.  [CE: 12/25/74; 1/10/74]

Sunday, April 03, 2011

140 Years Ago: John Quincy Dickinson is assassinated

On the evening of April 3, 1871, at about 9 P.M., John Quincy Dickinson was shot down by a concealed gunman lying in wait outside Dickinson's Marianna home.  Dickinson is one of the central figures of "The Jackson County War" story.  A former Captain in the 7th Vermont Infantry, Freedmen's Bureau agent and clerk of court for Jackson County. Dickinson was thirty four years old. Dickinson was hit on his right side by thirteen or fourteen buckshot, then as Dickinson lay on the ground, the assassin approached and shot him through the heart, ending the life of this brave and devoted public servant. Dale Cox hIs posted a tribute on has Jackson County history blog at


Monday, March 28, 2011

140 Years Ago: John Quincy Dickinson's last week alive

Through the 1870 election, Jackson County African Americans and their few white Republican allies had faced political violence with surprising resiliency. In early 1871, however, the weight of the relentless pressure began to show. Jackson County’s Regulators, undeterred, even spurred by the disappointment in the 1870 election, were plotting even more audacious crimes. Rumors of their plots reached alleged targets in neighboring Gadsden County and even the governor’s office.

White Republicans began falling out of the ranks. John Barfield resigned his seat in the state assembly shortly after it convened in January 1871. Sheriff Thomas West, beaten on a Marianna street in early February "by a crowd of scoundrels," abandoned his post and Jackson County. In March, James W. Yearty, a state assemblyman from adjacent Calhoun County was murdered, allegedly by outlaw Luke Lott. Yearty's offense was that he "acted with the Republicans.”

John Quincy Dickinson, the highest Republican county official, was depressed by these events, believing his assassination was inevitable. He confessed his despondency to his friends, who received each communication from Dickinson as though it might be his last. Regulators’ defiance and abuse of freedmen was brazen. “Everyone seems inclined to take advantage of the absence" of Sheriff West, Dickinson wrote, and "[i]t just seems as if the devil had possessed the whole community." Dickinson’s pessimism in late March was well placed. He was fated to join the victims soon enough.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mooring establishes a defense: temporary insanity

[Sources: Columbus Daily Enquirer, 7/31/74, 8/1/74, 8/2/74, 8/4/74, 8/21/74, 9/2/74, ; Atlanta Daily Herald 8/9/74]
How could a successful businessman, known for his refinement and poetic sensitivity, coldly shoot down his brother-in-law without provocation? To answer this question, two newspapers pondered Mooring’s state of mind. Tellingly, these Democratic journals ignored Mooring’s reputation for violent outbursts, probably because his targets had typically been Republicans and African Americans. Instead, scrutiny focused immediately on convenient explanations: temporary insanity and heavy drinking. 

As  news of the murder spread, some Mooring ally began laying the groundwork for an insanity defense.  The Columbus (GA) Enquirer learned from “a gentleman living in Florida” that Mooring had previously been “put into an insane asylum in North Carolina, but becoming better was released.”  Re-enforcing the supposition that Mooring had temporarily lost his senses, at least two anecdotes circulated describing Mooring’s utter shock when informed he had killed Charley Nickels.  The Enquirer provides a graphic depiction of the pathetic scene:  “after his arrest a friend approached Mooring, who was wrapped in a sheet and had a wet towel on his head, and asked him why he had killed Charles Nickels. Mooring burst out in a laugh, and regarded the question as absurd. He pretended to believe (or really did so) that he knew nothing of such an act, and had not done it. He asked, “What should I kill Charley Nickels for?”  The Courier presented the scene quite differently: “When told by a lady friend who was visiting him of the crime he had committed, he fainted and fell from his chair.”  Presumably one story and not both are accurate: it would be remarkable were Mooring stunned when hearing on two separate occasions that he had slain his wife’s young brother. Whatever Mooring’s reaction, fainting or incredulity, the examining justices of the peace found Mooring “to be in a condition neither mentally nor physically able to undergo an investigation.”

The Enquirer, in fact, initially voiced some skepticism about Mooring's purported insanity when employing the word “pretend.” In its first reports of the murder, the Enquirer’s editor considered whether Mooring “affected insanity or had really lost his mind.” In these early reports, the Enquirer mentioned Mooring alleged drinking in the days before the murder.  The Courier, presumably more reliable, did not mention intoxication and the Enquirer quickly dropped that theory.  Is this because drunkenness might have prevented pleading insanity as a defense?  

Mooring’s conduct in while in custody began to sway the doubters. He did not partake of food for several days, and became “the picture of emaciation and despair.” He was “so prostrated from extreme nervous excitability and want of food, (which he rejects) that he has been given quarters in a room at the jail under guard, and fears are entertained of his recovery.” While the implication is left that Mooring was horrified at his deed, this is not explicitly stated and there is left room to surmise his distress might actually be over his forthcoming trial and punishment. In any event, the Enquirer shortly was convinced to drop its doubt about Mooring’s insanity. The editor reported receiving a letter from “a gentleman of undoubted veracity who knew Mooring, and he has solved the inexplicable problem by giving us evidence most conclusive of the insanity of Mooring, and this misfortune has tainted his family and comes to him as an inheritance.”

Next: the trial. 

Mooring establishes a defense: temporary insanity

How could a successful businessman, known for his refinement and poetic sensitivity, coldly shoot down his brother-in-law without provocation? To answer this question, two newspapers pondered Mooring’s state of mind. Tellingly, these Democratic journals ignored Mooring’s reputation for violent outbursts, probably because his targets had typically been Republicans and African Americans. Instead, scrutiny focused immediately on convenient explanations: temporary insanity and heavy drinking. 

As  news of the murder spread, some Mooring ally began laying the groundwork for an insanity defense.  The Columbus (GA) Enquirer learned from “a gentleman living in Florida” that Mooring had previously been “put into an insane asylum in North Carolina, but becoming better was released.”  Re-enforcing the supposition that Mooring had temporarily lost his senses, at least two anecdotes circulated describing Mooring’s utter shock when informed he had killed Charley Nichols.  The Enquirer provides a graphic depiction of the pathetic scene:  “after his arrest a friend approached Mooring, who was wrapped in a sheet and had a wet towel on his head, and asked him why he had killed Charles Nickols. Mooring burst out in a laugh, and regarded the question as absurd. He pretended to believe (or really did so) that he knew nothing of such an act, and had not done it. He asked, “What should I kill Charley Nickols for?”  The Courier presented the scene quite differently: “When told by a lady friend who was visiting him of the crime he had committed, he fainted and fell from his chair.”  Presumably one story and not both are accurate: it would be remarkable were Mooring stunned when hearing on two separate occasions that he had slain his wife’s young brother. Whatever Mooring’s reaction, fainting or incredulity, the examining justices of the peace found Mooring “to be in a condition neither mentally nor physically able to undergo an investigation.”

The Enquirer, in fact, initially voiced some skepticism about Mooring's purported insanity when employing the word “pretend.” In its first reports of the murder, the Enquirer’s editor considered whether Mooring “affected insanity or had really lost his mind.” In these early reports, the Enquirer mentioned Mooring alleged drinking in the days before the murder.  The Courier, presumably more reliable, did not mention intoxication and the Enquirer quickly dropped that theory.  Is this because drunkenness might have prevented pleading insanity as a defense?  

Mooring’s conduct in while in custody began to sway the doubters. He did not partake of food for several days, and became “the picture of emaciation and despair.” He was “so prostrated from extreme nervous excitability and want of food, (which he rejects) that he has been given quarters in a room at the jail under guard, and fears are entertained of his recovery.” While the implication is left that Mooring was horrified at his deed, this is not explicitly stated and there is left room to surmise his distress might actually be over his forthcoming trial and punishment. In any event, the Enquirer shortly was convinced to drop its doubt about Mooring’s insanity. The editor reported receiving a letter from “a gentleman of undoubted veracity who knew Mooring, and he has solved the inexplicable problem by giving us evidence most conclusive of the insanity of Mooring, and this misfortune has tainted his family and comes to him as an inheritance.”

Next: the trial. 

[Sources: Columbus Daily Enquirer, 7/31/74, 8/1/74, 8/2/74, 8/4/74, 8/21/74, 9/2/74, ; Atlanta Daily Herald 8/9/74]

Friday, March 18, 2011

Edwin W. Mooring murders his brother-in-law, Charley Nickels, in cold blood

In the summer of 1874, the contradictions of Edwin W. Mooring, a man of great refinement subject to bouts of uncontrollable fury, are shown most dramatically.  Mooring, now about 45 years old, could compose and publish a  lovely, pastoral poem, but was also capable of the most outrageous violence. We’ll let the Marianna Courier tell the story of Edwin W. Mooring’s heinous conduct on July 24, 1874: “On Saturday last, about 5 o’clock P.M., while our young townsman and merchant Charles Nickels was attending the wants of one of his customers, and no doubt little expecting his time of earth so near its close, Mr. E. W. Mooring, formerly of this place but now of New York City, and brother-in-law of Mr. Nickels entered the rear door of the store fronting on the street north of the main business street, armed with a double barrel gun, got within a few feet of Mr. N., and fired, three shots striking him, one passing obliquely through the bowels from which he died in about six hours.” [Marianna Courier in Atlanta Sunday Herald, Aug. 9, 1874]

The Columbus Enquirer, which took great interest in the matter, adds further details, informing us that Mooring then set out kill his father-in-law, William Nickels, “but could not find him as he was behind a door in the store.” According to the Enquirer, “Mooring then proceeded to Mr. Nickols’ [sic] house, where his own sister was spending a vacation, and cursed and abused her terribly, and threatened to kill her.” [Columbus Enquirer, July 31, Aug. 1, 1874].

Mooring was then arrested by the sheriff (probably young James A. Finlayson at this point). There is no indication that he resisted in any way.

Who was the victim, Charles Nickels?  Nickels was about twenty three at the time Mooring killed him. As an adolescent, Charley had already made a name for himself, participating in the Battle of Marianna where he was seized by the federal troops and then released in Vernon during the column's withdrawal to Pensacola. [Dale Cox, Battle of Marianna, 127].  At the time of his death, Nickels was following in his father's footsteps in entering into the mercantile trade. According to the Courier, he had been in business for nearly two years  "and having been an active and energetic young man acquired a good trade, continually increasing and was making rapid strides to being the first merchant of our town." [Atlanta Sunday Herald, Aug. 9, 1874].

Next, we'll review the reaction to the murder, including Mooring's defense.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Edwin W. Mooring, poet

Edwin W. Mooring wrote the following poem for the Columbus (Georgia) Daily Enquirer-Sun, published on July 4, 1874.  [From the Digital Library of Georgia:].

July would turn out to be a very fateful month for Mr. Mooring.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

E. W. Mooring continued: troubles with the in-laws

In 1852, Mooring, about 24 years old, married his 19 year old first cousin, Willie Ann Nickels (their mothers were sisters with the last name of Lawrence). According to J. Randall Stanley, the couple eloped. Later accounts report that Wille Ann's family had opposed the marriage, leading to a "feud..among the opposing elements." Later, the families reconciled "after a fashion" to the extent that the 1860 Census lists the Moorings and their children living in the Nickels household. Willie Ann’s father, William Nickels Jr., was born about 1800 into a wealthy mercantile family in Maine, but had left for North Carolina for his health, marrying there and settling in Marianna in the 1830s. Nickels became a prosperous merchant and tavern keeper - the Nickels family ranked 14th in wealth among Jackson County families in the 1860 census.

Nickels operated a store in Marianna with his partner, Thomas Gautier (whose children make an appearance throwing rocks in T. Thomas Fortune’s After War Times). Mooring had a credit account at his father-in-law's store where he purchased provisions. Nickels also informally served as Mooring’s agent, presumably taking care of his daughter’s finances when Mooring was traveling. When Mooring was seized by the Union column after the Battle of Marianna in late 1864 and imprisoned in Elmira, Nickels again took control of Mooring’s finances on behalf of Willie Ann. Mooring later claimed he had left a large sum of money, perhaps $30,000, in Nickels’ control.

Even though Nickels continued to represent Mooring intermittently after Mooring’s return to Marianna in mid-1865, Nickels’ conduct as agent for his son-in-law apparently was the source of some tension between the two men whom, we can suppose, were predisposed to view each other warily. Nickels’ own statement about the arrangement suggests his casual approach: “I was agent for Mooring for part of the time the accounts were kept, can’t designate the time. I had some Confederate money of Mooring’s in hand; can’t state that amount. I suppose I have of his in hand two or three thousand dollars. I was agent for him at different times. Sometimes could not satisfy him, and I would cease. Can’t say when agencies commenced or closed; have nothing to show this.” Nickels’ informality toward Mooring’s affairs strikingly contrasts with his careful accounting of Mooring’s debts to the Nickels & Gautier firm. Mooring stopped his account with the firm in July 1867, probably about the time William Nickels and Thomas Gautier dissolved their partnership.

The dissolution of Nickels & Gautier was announced in the Marianna Courier in January 1868, along with a notification that William Nickels would settle the firm’s business and accounts.

The Nickels family's standing seems to have fallen in the wake of the war.  William Nickels, now in his 70s, had fallen far in relative wealth compared to his peers, which was typical for planters, but not merchants after the upheaval of defeat and Emancipation. Nickels still managed to buy the enormous Bellamy mansion from Gautier at a steep discount, probably as a result of the same financial distress that led to the end of their partnership.  [For information and pictures of the "Bellamy Nickels mansion, See ].

At the same time, it seems that a wide rift had opened up between Mooring and Nickels. In January 1872, Nickels sued his son-in-law in the Florida circuit court for $1,388 for “goods, wares and merchandise sold and delivered” to Mooring by the now long defunct Nickels & Gautier firm. Lawsuits among neighbors and even friends were common in Jackson County at this time when litigation was a favorite participatory sport. Nickels, however, pursued this claim with particular vehemence.

Mooring apparently argued that the claim had already been paid by Nickels out of Mooring’s finances that he controlled. Nevertheless, prior to trial, Mooring approached Gautier and delivered to him a check drawn on a New York bank for $600. In return, Gautier gave Mooring a receipt on behalf of Nickels & Gautier confirming that this payment settled “all demands” by the firm against Mooring.

Learning from Mooring’s lawyer, D. L. McKinnon, about the settlement with Gautier, Nickels was initially befuddled, then livid. Approached by McKinnon to learn about his intentions regarding the pending litigation, Nickels insisted that he would “fight it out.” Claiming that his son-in-law and former partner had colluded to defraud him, Nickels proceeded with the lawsuit against Mooring. The jury found for Mooring, concluding that Gautier as a partner to the Nickels & Gautier, had the authority to settle the debt owed the firm.

This defeat outraged Nickels. After the circuit court denied his demand for a new trial, Nickels appealed to Florida’s Supreme Court. Here he was represented by powerhouse attorneys: George S. Hawkins, a former congressman and Florida Supreme Court justice, and William H. Milton, a former state solicitor. Eventually, only in January 1877, the court heard the case of Nickels and Gautier v. Mooring. The Supreme Court upheld the circuit court’s ruling in favor of Mooring. [Nickels and Gautier v. Mooring, 16 FL 76 (Jan. 1877 term].

A later newspaper account surmised that the lawsuit had "aroused the old feeling" of hostility between Mooring and William Nickels.  It might also be guessed that the lawsuit was the result of shattered relations.  The same 1874 newspaper reported that "some three years ago from a private difficulty Mooring endeavored" to shoot his young brother-in-law, Charles Nickels. According to the same account, Nickels' sister interfered and "Mooring received the pistol ball in his own arm."  [Columbus Enquirer, Aug. 1, 1874].  This 1871 time period coincided with Mooring's taking his family from Marianna to Europe. The sequence of events (the lawsuit, the shooting, the departure) is impossible to know, but it seems reasonable to conclude that that they were all connected.  In any event, by the time the Florida Supreme Court heard William Nickels' appeal and issued its ruling, relations between Mooring and his in-laws had deteriorated tragically.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Lives of the Regulators: Edwin W. Mooring

If ever there were a man with anger management issues, it was Edwin W. Mooring. Strictly speaking, Mooring was not a Jackson County Regulator: there is no record of his engaging in night riding or acting in consort with the Coker organization during the escalation of violence beginning in 1869.  Nevertheless, he was an early and eager proponent of violent opposition to the Bureau and had little regard for racial reconciliation.

Mooring was born around 1828 in North Carolina, but came to Marianna as a young man, probably first to visit his mother's sister and her family. He was an educated and interesting individual. J. Randall Stanley described his multiple careers: he was a “lawyer, southern representative of a New York wine and liquor house, and … special agent for the New York Life Insurance Co. in Tennessee.” [Stanley, History of Jackson County, 152]. One observer wrote that Mooring was "gentleman of high social position, of more than ordinary ability, intelligence and varied culture."  The Marianna newspaper described him as "a gentleman of fine manners and cultivated mind." [Atlanta Sunday Herald, Aug. 9, 1874].  He dabbled in poetry and  impressed the editor of the Columbus (GA) Enquirer who considered him "a gentleman of culture" and "man of excellent address and a fluent talker."  According to one account, Mooring had profited greatly during the war and around 1871, he moved his wife and children (at least 5) to Germany "for education advantages of his children." Mooring established his own residence in New York City, although his business continued to bring him regularly to Georgia and Florida.

 His military record, if any, is unclear. Although Mooring was certainly within the extended age range of the Confederate army draft, Shofner reports Mooring contracting with a commissary agent to deliver 1,000 gallons of alcohol at $6/gallon to Columbus, GA in the spring of 1864 [Shofner, Jackson County – A History, p. 234]. The war eventually found Mooring. Dale Cox lists him on the roster of the “Cradle to Grave” home guard that assembled to defend Marianna against the invading Union column in late September 1864. Mooring, along with 40 or so other Marianna men, was seized by the withdrawing Union troops and sent North to endure the 1864-65 winter under the miserable conditions at Elmira prison. [Cox, Battle of Marianna, 126].  Eight months later, after his release, Mooring returned to Marianna.

Perhaps ironic, considering his occupation as a liquor tradesman, Mooring could display deep religious faith. Dr. Charles Hentz reported an encounter with Mooring in 1856 outside the town hotel. At the time, Hentz wrote, the preacher Simon Peter Richardson, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was visiting Marianna and inspiring its people.  Mooring stood outside the town hotel owned by Mooring's father-in-law, William Nickels, talking with other men. Mooring saw Hentz pass by and Mooring called out "Hentz, are you a Christian?"  Hentz responded as "almost every one does when asked the same question – ‘I hope I am’" Mooring retorted that "hoping does no good" and proceeded to ask "what do you know upon the subject – are you a Christian?”  This encounter moved Hentz deeply, inspiring him to examine his own casual approach to faith and to rededicate his life toward religion. [Charles A. Hentz, A Southern Practice,  570].

Despite his sophistication and faith, Mooring could be a menacing presence, notorious for his rages. Bureau agent Charles Hamilton considered him a “violent and dangerous character.” Purman described him as “hot and rebellious.” Even an acquaintance sympathetic to Mooring admitted that he was "an excitable man, impulsive, vehement in speech, and of an almost ungovernable temper when aroused.” Mooring was determined to antagonize the Bureau agents whom he habitually and publicly denounced. Certainly Charles M. Hamilton, no shrinking violet himself, felt threatened when Mooring openly carried a weapon to a Bureau organized voter registration rally in Campbellton in the summer of 1867. Mooring was convicted and fined $5 for this offense. On another occasion, Hamilton was so upset by Mooring's "severe abusive language" on the streets of Marianna that he sought to have Mooring charged with "incendryism."

In May 1868, Purman reported a violent assault by Mooring, whom he sarcastically called “a limb of the ‘chivalry’”, on an African American woman whose hoop skirt accidentally brushed Mooring’s knee on a public sidewalk. Mooring struck two severe blows on the woman’s face, and “raved about like a madman.” Mooring’s attack produced “high excitement” in the Marianna black community and a Justice of the Peace had Mooring arrested for assault and battery.  These incidents were a prelude to Mooring’s involvement in one of the most bizarre and infamous murders in Jackson County history, which will be described in subsequent postings. 

Friday, February 04, 2011

Reconstruction Era Blogs: Is this it?

There are hundreds of Civil War blogs, but are there any other blogs devoted primarily to Reconstruction matters?  I haven't found any. Has anyone else?  I would like to link to them if they exist.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Regulator's Miserable End

According to John Q. Dickinson, James A. Chastain of Marianna led the group of night riders who approached the house of Henry Reed in the middle of one night during the chaos of October 1869.  Reed, a free born African American carpenter, barely escaped with his life, evading his persecutors in the darkness and hiding under the Ely house. His son was wounded while attempting similarly to escape. The Reed family went into hiding and were spirited out of Jackson County by unidentified sympathizers, possibly the Chapmans. Samuel Fleishman also reported that Chastain joined the town "committee" at the meeting where James P. Coker instructed Fleishman to leave Jackson Co. immediately or risk losing his life.
Chastain's life did not turn out, or end, happily.  A Georgia newspaper reported in 1881 that Chastain “a noted burglar and penitentiary convict, who bore the alias of Sutton, and while under arrest and being conducted to the barracks by Capt. Martin and officer Jones, attempting to break from custody, was shot twice, from the effect of which he died....  Chastaine, the dead burglar, was well connected, well educated and a man of the world. He married a Miss Myrick, of Mariana, Florida, some ten or twelve years since, a daughter of John T. Myrick, a prominent merchant of that place, and one of the best families in Florida. He is said to have been born and raised in Lee county, Georgia, but it not known certainly where the place of his nativity is.”

[Georgia Weekly Telegraph, April 4, 1881] 

UPDATE: May 24, 2011
Chastaine and Huldah Myrick married on May 1, 1867.   [ ]
Lots more about James Chastain from Elsa Vorwerk's family genealogical website.  Chastain's career in thieving made the news several years earlier than his death:

"The fact transpired more than three weeks since that James A. Chastaine, for several years past cashier for Ely, Harvey & Richardson, had been systematically robbing his employers, but for satisfactory reasons the newspapers consented to temporarily withhold the details from the public. The sums stolen, directly or indirectly, aggregated about $10,000, the greater portion of which it is understood has been secured to the firm through assignment of property owned by Chastaine here and elsewhere. On the 6th instant Chastaine left, ostensibly for Georgia, where he has relatives, but he took the early morning train on the Little Rock Railroad, and was soon heard of in Little Rock and Hot Springs. Meanwhile, it came to light that he had forged the signatureof Mr. Thad. S. Ely, of the firm, to a note or acceptance for $500, and endeavored to sell it to one of his (Chastaine's) most intimate friends; who, however, suspecting that all was not right, declined to purchase. This fact determined the firm to arrest Chastaine. He was overhawled in Hot Springs, a few days since, but before a requisition could reach Governor Garland he was released on a writ of habeas corpus. His first act thereafter was to ship his trunk to St. Louis; his next to "break" for the woods, the better to avoid another arrest. At last accounts he had not been rearrested. Chastaine is a Georgian by birth, and what is known as a "fast man," spending money on himself and friends lavishly, and has been generally esteemed by his friends a "good fellow." It is said that this is not his first crime, but that he stole several thousand dollars from a former employer in Georgia some years ago, but his relatives made up the deficit and stopped the prosecution."
Augusta Daily Chronicle & Sentinel June 19, 1875: [Memphis Avalanche, June 15, 1875]