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Location: Jacksonville Florida

Where were Cape François and the May River?

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Scholars have long assumed that Cape François was either present day Cape Canaveral They have also assumed that the May River was the St. Johns River.  However, the distances between these points and Beaufort, SC (Port Royal Sound) don’t seem to correlate with the time that French fleet spent to travel. De Laudonniére’s memoirs state that the fleet sailed directly from Cape François to the outlet of the May River in two weeks.  They spent two weeks more exploring a series of islands and rivers between the May River and Port Royal. They stopped to explore inlets and rivers. Late 16th century and 17th century French maps generally show Cape François to be north of the mouth of the St. Johns River. The numbers just don’t add up.  Jacksonville is 138 miles from Cape Canaveral (9.8 miles per day) and 27 miles from St. Augustine (1.9 miles per day.)  Jacksonville is 163 miles from Beaufort, SC (11.6 miles per day.)  If the May River was the St. Johns River at Jacksonville,  the time required to reach Port Royal Sound (Beaufort) should have been more like three weeks.  Furthermore, de Laudonniére’s memoirs state that the ships became lost in a fog as they approached Port Royal, losing much time. The question is significant because for well over...

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Slave Narrative of Frank Berry

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Pearl Randolph Person Interviewed: Frank Berry Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 78 Frank Berry, living at 1614 west Twenty-Second street, Jacksonville, Florida, claims to be a grandson of Osceola, last fighting chief of the Seminole tribe. Born in 1858 of a mother who was part of the human chattel belonging to one of the Hearnses of Alachua County in Florida, he served variously during his life as a State and Federal Government contractor, United States Marshal (1881), Registration Inspector (1879). Being only eight years of age when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, he remembers little of his life as a slave. The master was kind in an impersonal way but made no provision for his freedmen as did many other Southerners–usually in the form of land grants–although he gave them their freedom as soon as the proclamation was issued. Berry learned from his elders that their master was a noted duelist and owned several fine pistols some of which have very bloody histories. It was during the hectic days that followed the Civil War that Berry served in the afore-mentioned offices. He held his marshalship under a Judge King of Jacksonville, Florida. As State and Federal Government Contractor he built many public structures, a few of which are still in use, among them the jetties at...

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Slave Narrative of Acie Thomas

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Pearl Randolph Person Interviewed: Acie Thomas Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 79 Mr. Thomas was at home today. There are many days when one might pass and repass the shabby lean-to that is his home without seeing any signs of life. That is because he spends much of his time foraging about the streets of Jacksonville for whatever he can get in the way of food or old clothes, and perhaps a little money. He is a heavily bearded, bent old man and a familiar figure in the residential sections of the city, where he earns or begs a very meager livelihood. Many know his story and marvel at his ability to relate incidents that must have occured when he was quite small. Born in Jefferson County, Florida on July 26, 1857, he was one of the 150 slaves belonging to the Folsom brothers, Tom and Bryant. His parents, Thomas and Mary, and their parents as far as they could remember, were all a part of the Folsom estate. The Folsoms never sold a slave except he merited this dire punishment in some way. Acie heard vague rumors of the cruelties of some slave owners, but it was unknown among the Folsoms. He thinks this was due to the fact that certain “po white trash” in...

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Slave Narrative of Samuel Simeon Andrews

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Rachel A. Austin Person Interviewed: Samuel Simeon Andrews Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 86 For almost 30 years Edward Waters College, an African Methodist Episcopal School, located on the north side of Kings Road in the western section of Jacksonville, has employed as watchman, Samuel Simeon Andrews (affectionately called “Parson”), a former slave of A.J. Lane of Georgia, Lewis Ripley of Beaufort, South Carolina, Ed Tillman of Dallas, Texas, and John Troy of Union Springs, Alabama. “Parson” was born November 18, 1850 in Macon, Georgia, at a place called Tatum Square, where slaves were held, housed and sold. “Speculators” (persons who traveled from place to place with slaves for sale) had housed 84 slaves there – many of whom were pregnant women. Besides “Parson,” two other slave-children, Ed Jones who now lives in Sparta, Georgia, and George Bailey were born in Tatum Square that night. The morning after their births, a woman was sent from the nearby A.J. Lane plantation to take care of the three mothers; this nurse proved to be “Parson’s” grandmother. His mother told him afterwards that the meeting of mother and daughter was very jubilant, but silent and pathetic, because neither could with safety show her pleasure in finding the other. At the auction which was held a few days later, his...

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Slave Narrative of Young Winston Davis

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Rachel Davis Person Interviewed: Young Winston Davis Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 62 Occupation: Preacher Young Winston Davis states that he was born in Ozark, Alabama, June 28, 1855 on the plantation of Charles Davis who owned about seven hundred slaves and was considered very wealthy. Kindness and consideration for his slaves, made them love him. Reverend Davis was rather young during his years in slavery but when he was asked to tell something about the days of slavery, replied: “I remember many things about slavery, but know they will not come to me now; anyway, I’ll tell what I can think of.” He tells of the use of iron pots, fireplaces with rods used to hold the pots above the fire for cooking peas, rice, vegetables, meats, etc.; the homemade coffee from meal, spring and well water, tanning rawhide for leather, spinning of thread from cotton and the weaving looms. “There was no difference,” he states, “in the treatment of men and women for work; my parents worked very hard and women did some jobs that we would think them crazy for trying now; why my mother helped build a railroad before she was married to my father. My mother’s first husband was sold away from her; shucks, some of the masters didn’t care how...

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Slave Narrative of Irene Coates

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Viola B. Muse Person Interviewed: Irene Coates Location: Jacksonville, Florida Immediately after slavery in the United States, the southern white people found themselves without servants. Women who were accustomed to having a nurse, maid, cook and laundress found themselves without sufficient money to pay wages to all these. There was a great amount of work to be done and the great problem confronting married women who had not been taught to work and who thought it beneath their standing to soil their hands, found it very difficult. There were on the other hand many Negro women who needed work and young girls who needed guidance and training. The home and guidance of the aristocratic white people offered the best opportunity for the dependent un-schooled freed women; and it was in this kind of home that the ex-slave child of this story was reared. Irene Coates of 2015 Windle Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was born in Georgia about 1859. She was close to six years of age when freedom was declared. She was one among the many Negro children who had the advantage of living under the direct supervision of kind whites and receiving the care which could only be excelled by an educated mother. Jimmie and Lou Bedell were the names of the man and wife...

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Slave Narrative of Florida Clayton

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Rachel A. Austin Person Interviewed: Florida Clayton Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 82 The life of Florida Clayton is interesting in that it illustrates the miscegenation prevalent during the days of slavery. Interesting also is the fact that Florida was not a slave even though she was a product of those turbulent days. Many years before her birth – March 1, 1854 – Florida’s great grandfather, a white man, came to Tallahassee, Florida from Washington, District of Columbia, with his children whom he had by his Negro slave. On coming to Florida, he set all of his children free except one boy, Amos, who was sold to a Major Ward. For what reason this was done, no one knew. Florida, named for the state in which she was born, was one of seven children born to Charlotte Morris (Colored) whose father was a white man and David Clayton (White). Florida, in a retrogressive mood, can recall the “nigger hunters” and “nigger stealers” of her childhood days. Mr. Nimrod and Mr. Shehee, both white, specialized in catching runaway slaves with their trained bloodhounds. Her parents always warned her and her brothers and sisters to go in someone’s yard whenever they saw these men with their dogs lest the ferocious animals tear them to pieces. In regards to...

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Slave Narrative of Claude Augusta Wilson

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: James Johnson Person Interviewed: Claude Augusta Wilson Location: Sunbeam, Florida In 1857 on the plantation of Tom Dexter in Lake City, Columbia County, Florida, was born a Negro, Claude Augusta Wilson, of slave parents. His master Tom Dexter was very kind to his slaves, and was said to have been a Yankee. His wife Mary Ann Dexter, a southerner, was the direct opposite, she was very mean. Claude was eight years old when Emancipation came. The Dexter plantation was quite a large place, covering 100 or more acres. There were about 100 slaves, including children. They had regular one room quarters built of logs which was quite insignificant in comparison with the palatial Dexter mansion. The slaves would arise early each morning, being awakened by a “driver” who was a white man, and by “sun-up” would be at their respective tasks in the fields. All day they worked, stopping at noon to get a bite to eat, which they carried on the fields from their cabins. At “sun-down” they would quit work and return to their cabins, prepare their meals and gossip from cabin to cabin. Finally retiring to await the dawn of a new day which signaled a return to their routine duties. At Sundays they would gather at a poorly constructed frame building...

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Slave Narrative of “Father” Charles Coates

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Viola B. Muse Person Interviewed: “Father” Charles Coates Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 108 “Father” Charles Coates, as he is called by all who know him, was born a slave, 108 years ago at Richmond, Virginia, on the plantation of a man named L’Angle. His early boyhood days was spent on the L’Angle place filled with duties such as minding hogs, cows, bringing in wood and such light work. His wearing apparel consisted of one garment, a shirt made to reach below the knees and with three-quarter sleeves. He wore no shoes until he was a man past 20 years of age. The single garment was worn summer and winter alike and the change in the weather did not cause an extra amount of clothes to be furnished for the slaves. They were required to move about so fast at work that the heat from the body was sufficient to keep them warm. When Charles was still a young man Mr. L’Angle sold him on time payment to W.B. Hall; who several years before the Civil War moved from Richmond to Washington County, Georgia, carrying 135 grown slaves and many children. Mr. Hall made Charles his carriage driver, which kept him from hard labor. Other slaves on the plantation performed such duties as rail splitting, digging...

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Slave Narrative of Margrett Nickerson

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Rachel A. Austin Person Interviewed: Margrett Nickerson Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 89-90 In her own vernacular, Margrett Nickerson was “born to William A. Carr, on his plantation near Jackson, Leon County, many years ago.” When questioned concerning her life on this plantation, she continues: “Now honey, it’s been so long ago, I don’ ‘meber ev’ything, but I will tell you whut I kin as near right as possible; I kin ‘member five uf Marse Carr’s chillun; Florida, Susan, ‘Lijah, Willie and Tom; cose Carr never ‘lowed us to have a piece of paper in our hands.” “Mr. Kilgo was de fust overseer I ‘member; I was big enough to tote meat an’ stuff frum de smokehouse to de kitchen and to tote water in and git wood for granny to cook de dinner and fur de sucklers who nu’sed de babies, an’ I carried dinners back to de hands.” “On dis plantation dere was ’bout a hunnerd head; cookin’ was done in de fireplace in iron pots and de meals was plenty of pea, greens, cornbread burnt co’n for coffee – often de marster bought some coffee fur us; we got water frum de open well. Jes ‘fore de big fun fiahed dey fotched my pa frum de bay whar he was makin’ salt; he...

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Slave Narrative of Mack Mullen

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: J. M. Johnson Person Interviewed: Mack Mullen Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 79 Mack Mullen, a former slave who now lives at 521 W. First Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was born in Americus, Georgia in 1857, eight years before Emancipation, on a plantation which covered an area of approximately five miles. Upon this expansive plantation about 200 slaves lived and labored. At its main entrance stood a large white colonial mansion. In this abode lived Dick Snellings, the master, and his family. The Snellings plantation produced cotton, corn, oats, wheat, peanuts, potatoes, cane and other commodities. The live stock consisted primarily of hogs and cattle. There was on the plantation what was known as a “crib,” where oats, corn and wheat were stored, and a “smoke house” for pork and beef. The slaves received their rations weekly, it was apportioned according to the number in the family. Mack Mullen’s mother was named Ellen and his father Sam. Ellen was “house woman” and Sam did the blacksmithing, Ellen personally attended Mrs. Snellings, the master’s wife. Mack being quite young did not have any particular duties assigned to him, but stayed around the Snellings mansion and played. Sometimes “marster” Snellings would take him on his knee and talk to him. Mack remembers that he often told him that some...

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Slave Narrative of Luke Towns

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Rachel A. Austin Person Interviewed: Luke Towns Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 100+(?) A Centenarian Luke Towns, a centenarian, now residing at 1335 West Eighth Street, Jacksonville, Florida, was the ninth child born to Maria and Like Towns, slaves, December 34, 1835, in a village in Tolberton County, Georgia. Mr. Town’s parents were owned by Governor Towns, whose name was taken by all the children born on the plantation; he states that he was placed on the public blocks for sale, and was purchased by a Mr. Mormon. At the marriage of Mr. Mormon’s daughter, Sarah, according to custom, he was given to this daughter as a wedding present, and thus became the slave and took the name of the Gulleys and lived with them until he became a young man at Smithville, Georgia, in Lee County. His chief work was that of carrying water, wood and working around the house when a youngster; often, he states he would hide in the woods to keep from working. Because his mother was a child-bearing woman, she did not know the hard labors of slavery, but had a small patch of cotton and a garden near the house to care for. “All of the others worked hard,” said he “but had kind masters who fed them well.” When...

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Slave Narrative of Samuel Smalls

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Martin D. Richardson Person Interviewed: Samuel Smalls Location: Jacksonville, Florida Age: 85 A voluntary slave for seven years. The story of a free Negro of Connecticut, who came south to observe conditions of slavery, found them very distasteful, then voluntarily entered that slavery for seven years is the interesting tale that Samuel Smalls, 84 year old ex-slave of 1704 Johnson Street, Jacksonville, tells of his father Cato Smith. Smith had been born in Connecticut, son of domestic slaves who were freed while he was still a child. He grew to young manhood in the northern state, making a living for himself as a carpenter and builder. At these trades he is said to have been very efficient. Still unmarried at the age of about 30, he found in himself a desire to travel and see how other Negroes in the country lived. This he did, going from one town to another, working for periods of varying length in the cities in which he lived, eventually drifting to Florida. His travels eventually brought him to Suwannee County, where he worked for a time as overseer on a plantation. On a nearby plantation where he sometimes visited, he met a young woman for whom he grew to have a great affection. This plantation is said to have...

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Slave Narrative of Shack Thomas

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Martin Richardson Person Interviewed: Shack Thomas Location: South Jacksonville, Florida Age: 102 Shack Thomas, Centenarian Beady-eyed, grey-whiskered, black little Shack Thomas sits in the sun in front of his hut on the Old Saint Augustine Road about three miles south of Jacksonville, 102 years old and full of humorous reminiscences about most of those years. To his frequent visitors he relates tales of his past, disjointedly sometimes but with a remarkable clearness and conviction. The old ex-slave does not remember the exact time of his birth, except that it was in the year 1834, “the day after the end of the Indian War.” He does not recall which of the Indian wars, but says that it was while there were still many Indians in West Florida who were very hard for him to understand when he got big enough to talk, to them. He was born, he says on “a great big place that b’longed to Mister Jim Campbell; I don’t know just exactly how big, but there was a lot of us working on it when I was a little fellow.” The place was evidently one of the plantations near Tallahassee; Thomas remembers that as soon as he was large enough he helped his parents and others raise “corn, peanuts, a little bit of...

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Slave Narrative of Anna Scott

Discover your family's story. Enter a grandparent's name to get started. Start Now Interviewer: Viola B. Muse Person Interviewed: Anna Scott Location: Jacksonville, Florida Anna Scott, an ex-slave who now lives in Jacksonville near the intersection of Moncrief and Edgewood Avenues, was a member of one of the first colonization groups that went to the West coast of Africa following the emancipation of the slaves in this country. The former slave was born at Dove City, South Carolina, on Jan. 28, 1846, of a half-breed Cherokee-and-Negro mother and Anglo-Saxon father. Her father owned the plantation adjoining that of her master. When she reached the adolescent age Anna was placed under the direct care of her mistress, by whom she was given direct charge of the dining-room and entrusted with the keys to the provisions and supplies of the household. A kindred love grew between the slave girl and her mistress; she recalls that everywhere her mistress went she was taken also. She was kept in ‘the big house’. She was not given any education, though, as some of the slaves on nearby plantations were. Religion was not denied to the former slave and her fellows. Mrs. Abigail Dever, her owner, permitted the slaves to attend revival and other services. The slaves were allowed to occupy the balcony of the church in Dove City, while the whites occupied the main...

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