"Floridatown, Beauty Spot Rich in
Historical Lore, Reconstructed by Jim Pace"
By John D. Thomas


We are indebted to Mr. Henry Gilmore, Floridatown, for making this article available to us!
Living Recall History


First then let us consider living links.


There is Mrs. Mary Brown born in the second house south in Floridatown on December 6, 1837, 98 years ago last December, and moved to Milton at the age of three. Her father Steven Whitmire lived in Floridatown but also moved to Milton and lived to be 92 years of age. Mrs. Mary Brown ("Aunt Sis" as she is affectionately called) remembers clearly the activities of the Civil War. She married Levi Brown nearly 70 years ago and had three children, Mrs. John Allen, Mrs. Lavada Dreggars and one son, the late George Brown. One of her prized possessions is a tiny Bible that helped to save her husband's life at the battle of Corinth during the Civil War. The Bible and a 50 cent coin were in his pocket over his heart. A bullet dented both the coin and the Bible.


Then there is Mrs. Jernigan, wife of Silas Jernigan, aged 88, now living at Milton. She lived near Floridatown and raised a large family. Her father built the first house in Milton and also a small water mill from which it is believed Milton got its name "Milltown"; he also made salt there by boiling water to get the residuum. He also made a rolling pin from the historic oak at Floridatown known as Jackson oak because that famous general camped under the Floridatown oaks.


Started Hand Ferry


Then there was Blake Jernigan, who started the hand poled ferry across the bay with raft hands. One Jernigan lost his life in a storm together with his boy and others while at this work. He also dug a canal called Jernigan's Cut after the Civil War. It would have been appropriate to have called the Escambia Bridge "Jernigan Bridge."


Another living link is B. D. Whitmire, born April 14, 1853, and so is 83 years of age. Before the Civil War he had to take the mail from Milton to Floridatown on horseback, across the bay and meet the mail coming from Pensacola at Ferry Pass. Contemporary mail men were William Henry Murphray and Jack Adams. Then before the hack or stage days for passengers Jack Deeds owned the ferry followed by a man named Jones who ran the ferry during Civil War days.


Indian Trading Post


Then we have William Henry Whitmire who was in Jackson's army. Mr. Whitmire did not return to South Carolina, his original home, but settled here and married a Jernigan, raising a family, namely, Steven, Edmond, Henry and Vashti. His grandfather's widow married Samuel Keyser and raised four children and as far back as he remembered he can recall how the people gathered at Floridatown for the Fourth of July celebrations. At one time Keyser and Whitmire built brick houses and there is still a sign of the brick today. During their day there was an Indian wigwam for Floridatown was first founded by a tribe of Chumuckola Indians--date unknown--and used to a great extent as a terminal for trading purposes between Indians and the Spanish.

Floridatown was a trading post during the Spanish occupation of Pensacola. But it is most famous because of its association with General Andrew Jackson.


Jackson Crossed There


Floridatown is the point where Jackson crossed with his army enroute to New Orleans after the battle with the British at Pensacola 1814. 'During the construction of pontoons Jackson established a camp at Floridatown and the grave of one of his officers, who died there may still be seen under an oak tree enclosed with an iron fence. This oak may have a suitable tablet.


Years passed by and Floridatown became known more as the terminal for the hand poled ferries across Escambia Bay, Silas Jernigan being in charge for many years, until the early twentieth century when the late A. P. Hardee built a hotel there. Floridatown next passed into the possession of J. G. Pace who remodeled the hotel with all modern conveniences and building at the same time a spacious dance pavilion whereby Floridatown became known as one of the leading summer resorts in this section of Florida.


This is fragmentary history but enough has been written to whet the appetite for more research on the part of those interested.


Pensacola Journal, April 29, 1936
 

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