Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Birth of Tallahassee

"The citizens of Tallahassee wanted a modern City Hall so they bought the old Post Office Building and remodeled it."
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,; Constructed about 1892/93 on the southeast corner of Adams and Park. It was demolished in 1964.
A page from one of Senator Hodges' Scrapbooks, 1920s:
We do not know whether it was a bright day of sunshine or a dark rainy day, but it was an April day in 1824 when a wagon accompanied by six white settlers first arrived on the site of what is now Tallahassee.
The location of the capital city of Florida had been chosen about a year earlier by Dr. William H. Simmons of St. Augustine and John Lee Williams of Pensacola, appointed by the second Territorial Council of Florida to select a central point between the then inconvenient capitals of East and West Florida, St. Augustine and Pensacola.
Dr. Simmons left St. Augustine for St. Marks, their tentative meeting place on September 26, 1823, and traveled on horseback.  He reached St. Marks on October 10th.  The record does not give the date of Mr. Williams' departure from Pensacola, but staes that he took the sea route in an open boat.  After weathering several storms he completed his trip to St. Marks in twenty-one days.
 After the two men arrived at St. Marks they visited the Indian Villages of present-day Wakulla, Gadsden and Leon counties, and eventually selected Meamathla's Village* at Tallahassee as the seat of government for territorial Florida.
In Mr. Williams' History of Florida, written in 1839, he explains that he and Dr. Simmons chose the site of Tallahassee because of a then existing beauty-spot which he described as: "A pleasant mill-stream, the collected water of several fine springs, which winds along the eastern border of Tallahassee, until it falls 15 or 16 feet, into a gulf scooped out by its own current, and finally sinks into a cleft of an opposite hill."
This picturesque waterfall, which exists no more, was later called the Cascade* and was located slightly eastward, just beyond the present Seaboard Railway underpass at the foot of Monroe Street.  But its subterranean water supply has since disappeared.
The first wagon which wended its devious way through the wilds of what was then known as the Middle Judicial District of Florida, carried a party of two men, two women, two children and a mulatto man.  The afternoon of the same day they began the first house ever built in Tallahassee.
During the second day Judge Robinson and S. M. Call, Esq., arrived with hands and put up three buildings to accommodate the Legislative Council which expected to meet the following May.  A small store was also erected several days later.
But very little improvement was made for some time after that as the expected session of the Council was postponed and Tallahassee was not incorporated as a municipality until the following year, 1825.
Although Tallahassee's development has been slow in certain respects, Twentieth Century visitors now find it a dome-tipped city of natural beauty with a population of almost fifteen thousand*, not counting the legislators who make it their home for two months every other year while formulating the laws of Florida.
*Meamathla:  an alternate spelling of Neamathla.  This area was already the seat of government for Neamathla and his followers, of the Creek and Seminole nations.  One version of the story is that Neamathla, after having put up fierce resistance in the Seminole Wars of 1817-1818, agreed to let the whites have the site where the first capitol, a log building, was erected in 1824.  With his eloquence and influence, he convinced his people to not accept the government plan to move.  Governor Duval refused to accept Neamathla as the leader of the Seminoles.

State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

*The Cascades:  
Lithograph from a drawing by Comte Francis de Castelnau, 1839
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

*The growth of Tallahassee (chart from Wikipedia)  

Historical populations


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