1856 Florida Ltr: Mary Hart On Dull Society, Election Cakes & 3rd Seminole War
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1856 Florida Ltr: Mary Hart On Dull Society, Election Cakes & 3rd Seminole War:
Great 1856 Florida letter: Mary Elizabeth Adams Hart, Palatka, Florida to Richard J. Adams, Boston, Massachusetts. It has an actual cover which has a three cent imprinted stamp. Addressed to "Richard J. Adams Esq. Care F. H. Sprague, Esq No. 138 Pleasant Street Boston, Mass." [Franklin H. Sprague (1825- after 1898) had been orphaned as a young child and bound out to a family in Cavendish, Vermont [hometown of Richard and Mary]. In 1839, he had chosen to live with the Joseph Adams family in Cavendish which was related to Richard and Mary. By 1849,he opened his own provisioning store in Boston and lived at 138 Pleasant Street. Its possible Richard is just living there but he may be working at the store. Sprague sold the store in 1857 and got into real estate. He served on the Boston City Council in the 1860s and also in the State legislature. He was very active in organizing troops in the Civil War. He was also a well known butterfly collector. The recipient Richard J. Adams (1833-1912) was born in Cavendish, Vermont and despite his sister's warnings came south to Palatka in October 1856 to assist Hubbard H. Hart [brother-in-law and Mary's husband] in his stage line, mail route and transportation business. At the outbreak of the War, Vermonter Adams joined the Confederate Army and was immediately dispatched to get blockade goods from Indian River inland as he knew roads in the area. He was officially part of the 2nd Florida Cavalry but mostly moved supplies and machinery. He was ordered to Tallahassee in July, 1862 to work for the Quartermaster Department as a wagon master. In 1864, he joined a company of Independent Cavalry at Silver Springs, Florida known as Co. H 5th Battalion Florida Cavalry. After the War he was a steamboat captain on his brother-in-law boats and eventually went into business for himself. The author of the letter appears to be Mary Elizabeth Adams Hart (1828-1880) She was the sister of Richard and had married another Vermonter Hubbard H. Hart ( 1827-1895) [see #5 from internet]. In 1848, they moved to Savannah, Georgia where Hart had a transport business between Savannah and Darien, Georgia. Hubbard and Mary and their new daughter Mary moved to Palatka, Florida in 1855 as he had gotten a contract to carry the mail from Ocala to Tampa. Palatka already had some vacationers coming mainly for health reasons and Hart believed folks would come to escape the cold northern winters. He bought a boat in 1860 and carried people from Palatka to Silver Springs. He also had to clear the Ocklawaha river. [see #6 and #7 from internet] Hart had to switch gears in 1861 as there were no tourists and so he carried blockade goods for the Confederates. After the War, he carried goods for the Union troops and proved his allegiance to the United States. Hart's business boomed after the War and he designed a new boat to navigate the Florida rivers. Tourists came and came to pick oranges at his groves, see and shoot alligators. marvel at the unique Florida scenery and swim in Silver Springs. He also built luxury hotels like the Putnam House [see #8 from internet] which burned in the Palatka Fire of 1884 and was rebuilt. Although he lost his commercial business to the railroads, he continued to ferry tourists. He died in 1895 in Atlanta when he fell off a trolley car. His business folded in the 1920s with better roads and automobiles. Note postmark #4-Palatka is spelled Pilatka. The original spelling was Pilatka, a shortened form of the Seminole Pilo-taikita but in 1875 the Post Office changed it to Palatka. Note Mary Hart uses the Palatka form. Although Palatka was a fair size community for 1850s Florida, Mary Hart was a newcomer far removed from family and friends having been there only a short time. She seems to be living alone with her daughter, no servants or slaves mentioned. Her husband is away being involved at this point in mail delivery from Tampa to Ocala. Datelined Palakta March 26th. No year but it is probably 1856 but could be 1857. She has received a letter from her brother when she was in Savannah and learns he was "having pretty good times" . Of course, she then talks about her daughter Mary whom she calls "Sissy" -(1855-after 1882) " ...'Sissy' is not quite as well for a few days -- is getting her eye-teeth she is pretty fretful sometimes she has got to be quite a talker can say a good many words - tries to say everything she has to be quite a large girl and full of mischief.". " I am having a warm spring weather suppose it is hardly the case with you- gardens planted and a good many things up now." She then expresses her opinion that it is best for Richard to stay north. "Am very glad to hear that you have concluded to stay [with] Frank - think it will be better for you in the end - as for business here there is nothing to entice a young man to come here and little or no society when he gets here although I have found some very pleasant ladies but it is a very dull place." She thinks Palatka is "very dull" but she is an outsider with an absent husband so social life is limited. She then discusses relatives and a cousin she hears has gotten married which she feels is "smart". She then talks about her lack of books and desires Richard to get some for her. More selection in Boston than Palatka. First she wants a copy of the speech of Edward Everett (1794-1865) [see #9 from internet] famous American statesman. politician and orator "Life and Character of George Washington" delivered in a number of places though she mentions Baltimore, Maryland. Everett traveled around giving the "same" speech all across the country. She expects it to come out in a pamphlet. Secondly she wants Mrs. Southworth's India: Pearl of Pearl River. E.D.E.N. [Emma Dorothy Eliza Neville] Southworth (1819-1889) [see #10 from internet] was an American novelist who wrote for women. The story is about a girl from the Pearl River in Mississippi and slavery and abolition. Certainly might appeal to a Vermonter in the deep South. Finally she wants a copy of Bayard Taylor's "Views Afoot or Europe seen from a knapsack" Bayard Taylor (1825-1878) [see #11 from internet] was a poet, literary critic and travel author. It was published in 1842 but had gone through a number of printings. Her reading interests were 1) historical, 2) romantic and 3) travel. She hopes he will send them and she will pay him when the family gathers this summer "for two weeks". [Probably Vermont] She cautions that the timing of the trip north depends "on how hot it gets and how Sissy bears it." She then writes rather matter of factly " Suppose you have never heard that we are to have an Indian War in Florida. I do not know when it will be." She is speaking of the 3rd and last Seminole War. Palatka had been burned in the 2nd Seminole War but now any fighting was to the south. Remember ante-bellum Florida was a frontier state just a different frontier The 3rd Seminole War 1855-1858 was primarily a series of raids by both sides with the Army using basically Florida militia. In March, 1858, Billy Bowlegs and his band agreed to go to the Indian Territory. A small number of Seminoles remained in the Everglades. Mail service in and out of Tampa was suspended for a time which would have affected the Hart business. Mary then mentions a Mr. Long and Mr. Henry " are still both with us. Mr. Long has had several attacks of Chill and fever but is well now. Although she advises her brother there is nothing to entice young men to Palatka she says "Business has been very good thus far" for Hubbard Hart. Back to separation again, she mentions "Hubbard has promised to write this time but do not know as he will get about it" After that she discusses a letter "from home" and that they were having " a very cold winter". As with any mother alone with her young child, Mary mentions "'Sissy' has waked up and is eating a boiled egg. She has got to be a pretty big eater" Towards the end of the letter where she gives love to people she says " Have just taken out two loaves Election Cake with raisins in it" It appears she is doing her own baking. [Election cakes where light yeast cakes with different kinds of fruit often baked on election day initially as food to go with the drink given to voters who arrived at the polls. It had its roots in 18th Century New England. [see #11 from internet]. It is signed "with this love Lizzie" [Mary Elizabeth Adams Hart]. A fabulous 1850s Florida letter by a northerner living alone with her young daughter as her husband is in business far away. Covers four small pages with small print. Sent folded.