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Duval, William P.

A History of Florida


The Legislative Council. As Florida was a Territory and not yet a State, the governor was appointed by the President of the United States. The governor was commander in chief of the militia and superintendent of Indian affairs, and he was assisted by a council of thirteen men, who met once a year. The members of the council were selected from "the most discreet men of the Territory."

Governor Duval. In 1822 President Monroe appointed William P. Duval governor of Florida. Governor Duval came to Florida from Kentucky, but he was a native of Virginia. His father had been a Revolutionary officer, and after the war of the Revolution was over, he lived on his large plantation. It is said that he would have been very wealthy if he had not given away the greater part of his fortune in charity.

How is his name preserved in Florida? How was Florida governed at this time? Who was the second governor appointed? When and by whom appointed?

How Duval left Home. Governor Duval used sometimes to amuse his friends by telling of how he left his father's home for Kentucky. When about sixteen years of age, he was sitting one evening with the rest of the family and some of the neighbors around the blazing dining-room fire. His father coming into the room lectured him sharply for some neglect of duty, concluding by saying, "Get up from that chair, you good-for-nothing fellow, and bring in a back log for the fire!" William went to the wood pile for the log, but suddenly decided that since he was so "good for nothing" he would go away and make something of himself. He had his own horse, and mounting it without a minute's delay or a word of leave-taking, was off for Kentucky. In that new State across the mountains he studied law and was admitted to the bar. He was sent to Congress in 1812, and after serving his country there three years, again practiced law in Kentucky until appointed governor of Florida.

His Return. Just twenty years from the time he left his Virginia home, he returned there on a visit. He rode on horseback, and tied his horse at the back gate. On his way through the yard he stopped at the wood pile, and finding a back log there, brought it into the dining room, and without a word of greeting or explanation, placed it on the fire. His father and the family and neighbors were sitting around the fire as they had been sitting twenty years before. "Father," said the now famous man, when he had placed the log to his satisfaction, "there is the back log you sent me for!' "Well," answered the father, "you were long enough getting it."

Tell of Duval's life prior to the time of his appointment.

Duval's Traits. Governor Duval is said to have been rather short and stout in figure, with a ruddy countenance, and a very genial manner. He was a noted wit, his humorous stories making him the life of social gatherings. Washington Irving was once his traveling companion in a stagecoach, and wrote of him as "Ralph Ringwood," telling many of his stories and adventures. Wit and humorist though he was, in the transaction of business he was dignified and earnest. He was a fine lawyer, wrote both French and Spanish, and spoke well before any audience. He was perfectly fearless in the performance of any duty.

He was governor of Florida for twelve years, keeping always the respect and confidence of the people. Even the Indians, with whom he dealt very boldly, trusted him, for they said he never spoke to them with a "forked tongue." The Territory was fortunate to have such a governor during those early days.

The First Council and the Capital Commissioners. In June, 1822, the first meeting of the Legislative Council was held at Pensacola, and in May of the next year the council met at St. Augustine. But as East and West Florida were now united under one government, it was necessary to select a site for a permanent capital. So the council appointed two commissioners, Dr. William H. Simmons of St. Augustine, and John Lee Williams of Pensacola, to examine different situations and decide upon a site. They were to examine carefully the country lying between the Chipola and the Suwanee rivers, a part of Florida then but little known. Traveling, was no easy matter in those days, and Mr. Williams's voyage from Pensacola to St. Marks lasted twenty-three days. He was met at St. Marks by Dr. Simmons, and the exploration of the country was begun.

Cotton Field
A Cotton Field

What literary character was drawn from him? Describe him. During what years was he governor? Why he so influential among the Indians? What commission was appointed at the first Legislative Council?

Tallahassee Selected. The commissioners soon agreed upon the present site of the capital, the old fields which had been abandoned by the Tallahassee Indians at the time of Jackson's raid on the Fowl towns. "The Ocklockonee and Tallahassee lands," Mr. Williams wrote, "far exceed my expectations. Every vegetable cultivated here is luxuriant, the cotton fields exceed by half any I have seen before; the sugar cane is better than the Mississippi ground affords. Water is good and plentiful."

What place was selected, and for what reasons?

Conference with the Chiefs. It was decided to visit the old chief, Chefixico, whose town was on the shore of the Tallahassee Pond, now called Lake Lafayette, and Enemathla, whose town was a little east of Chefixico's, and to tell these chiefs of the plan, asking for their agreement.

Chefixico. Chefixico was now a very old man, but, though no longer active or strong physically, had a clear mind and a memory filled with the events of many years past. Among the warriors he introduced to his visitors were Little Turtle, Big Snake, Little Snake, Mad Wolf, Mad Tiger, Tiger Tail, and others of similar names. These warriors brought game for the feast given the white men, and Chefixico entertained the company with legends of the country and stories of the old time when the English had destroyed the Spanish fort, San Luis, a few miles away, and of the later struggles between different tribes of Indians. The commissioners would gladly have lingered with him, listening to his stories and his explanations of the old ruined forts, but as they had to have a talk with Eneniathla, they at last said good-by to Chefixico.

Enemathla. By Enemathla, also, they were generously and hospitably entertained. Enemathla is described as "the type of his people, and no common man," honest and bold, of strong mind and character, and of such pride that he would not acknowledge an equal. He was tall and of fine bearing. He had great influence over his people, who loved him as much as they feared him.

What chiefs were visited, and why? How were the commissioners received by each?

Enemathla showed his guests every honor. He had a beautiful feast prepared for them, after which he summoned his young men for a ball play. The guests do not seem to have appreciated the merits of this game, which they described as an irregular rushing to and fro, and throwing and catching of the balls, which were made of light wood. But they admired the activity and skill of the young men in the exercise. After the ball play there was a dance, wonderfully performed by the active young braves.

When the commissioners explained the purpose of their visit, Enemathla listened with dignified politeness, though we cannot suppose him to have been pleased. He said that until Governor Duval called upon him and took him to see the Great Father at Washington to talk about the land, he could not give his consent to anything. He had been told that the governor would call on him in three moons.

After leaving him, the commissioners continued the exploration and examination of the country, but found no site they thought so suitable for the capital as the old fields of the Tallahassee. The next year the new capital was surveyed, and the musical name, Tallahassee, was given to it.

Excerpt from Part Two, Chapter Two, "Governor Duval" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.


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