Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ante-Bellum Tallahassee

From Ante-Bellum Tallahassee, published in 1971, by Bertram Groene:
Tallahassee's existence depended upon its official status as capital of the territory and later the state.  Its prosperity rested upon its merchants and the fortunes of the surrounding plantations and farms, and the labor of their slaves.  By 1860 there were over 300 farms and plantations and over 9,000 slaves.  The 3,000 white people of the Tallahassee country were to be outnumbered three to one by Negroes by the beginning of the Civil War...
In this year before the great war Tallahassee had only 997 white persons, 889 slaves and 46 free Negroes.  About one white family in 10 in town had slaves.  The county on the other hand had 2,197 white persons and 8,200 slaves.  The statistics show without much question that the great majority of the people in the Tallahassee country were farmers who lived in the county and not the town, and that they were massively outnumbered by the thousands of black slaves on the great plantations.  Tallahassee was the political center of the territory and state, but to her merchants and planters it was a cotton town and a cotton country first, last and always...
In the last 10 years before the Civil War the city grew little... A list of the more important 1860 general store merchants included liveryman P.B. Brokaw, D.C. Wilson, wealthy Arvah Hopkins, old pioneers G. and J. Meginnis, George W. Scott who later endowed Agnes Scott College, D.B. Maxwell, Alex Gallie, R.A. Shine and M.F. Papy, A.F. Hayward, and Charles West...
During the whole ante-bellum period, Tallahassee business was never to emerge from the small merchant class.  Manufacturing was never successful.  Business was still centered about plantations and politics from the great fire* to the great war. 
*Just twenty years after the founding of the Florida state capital, Tallahassee, a fire that began in the Washington Hall boarding house destroyed more than half of the city. Although volunteers saved the new capitol building under construction, and miraculously no one was killed, every downtown business burned in the great fire of 1843. 

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