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Tallahassee Becomes the Capital

A History of Florida


Capital Surveyed. Tallahassee was surveyed in 1824, and the first house was built that year. Patriotism was shown in naming the streets for Monroe, Adams, Calhoun, other statesmen. A square was named for Greene, of Revolutionary fame, and another for Jackson, while the streets McCarthy, Gadsden, Bronough, and Call were named for members of Jackson's staff.

What success did they meet? How were the commissioners entertained? When was Tallahassee surveyed?

The Log Capitol. A log house was hastily built on the southeastern corner of the Capitol Square for the meeting of the Legislative Council, and around that square, fifteen or twenty houses "sprang up like mushrooms," an old settler said. All around this little settlement the unbroken wilderness stretched in every direction. Deer, panthers, and other wild animals were often killed within the limits of the town, and the red men came to the very doors of the houses, looking wonderingly upon the white strangers but offering no violence.

Settlers Arrive. Settlers came in rapidly from the older States to make homes for themselves and their families in Tallahassee or on plantations near by, and among these persons were many of culture and refinement. Soon the little log houses gave way to large and comfortable homes, churches were built and schools opened. The corner stone of the capitol was laid in 1826, though the building was not finished until many years later.

Prince Murat. Among others to come to Florida at this time was Prince Achille Murat, nephew of the great Napoleon of France and son of the king and queen of Naples. His father having been driven from his throne and shot, Prince Achille, after much adventure and wandering, found a home in Florida. He dropped the title of Prince, and was known in Florida as Colonel Murat. He practiced law a little in Tallahassee, but spent most of his time at his plantation some miles from the town, for he was much interested in planting.

When was the corner stone of the permanent capitol laid? Who was Murat?

He wrote a book called "America and the America" in which he spoke so fairly and even affectionately of country and its people that it is hard to realize he was an American. At one time he went as General Call's aid on an expedition against the Indians, and he was ready to give his services in defending the white settlements against their red foes.

He never complained of his lost throne and fortune, but always cheerful, seemed perfectly contented with the life of a Florida planter. Many amusing stories are told of his peculiar habits, but his friends liked him none the less for them. His wife was a Virginian, the daughter of Colonel Bird Willis, and was admired and beloved by all who knew her. At the country home of the Murats hospitality was constantly exercised, not only to the rich and fashionable, but as often to the poor and unhappy and to those who had but few friends.

Travel. The members of the first Legislative Council that met at Tallahassee journeyed from their homes of horseback, in little companies of twos and threes, making their way through the lonely forests. Even the Indian villages were few and far between. The greater part of the Territory had not even wagon roads. Only on Indian trails had the early inhabitants of the country moved from one region to another, except when they made their way up and down the streams in their canoes.

"The St. Augustine Road." One of the first things Congress did for the benefit of Florida was to appropriate money for making a public road from Pensacola through Tallahassee to St. Augustine. Other roads were afterwards made, and thus traveling became safer and easier, and mails more regular.

What were the difficulties of travel? What did Congress aid of the Territory?

First Railroad. In 1836, scarcely more than ten years after Tallahassee was laid out, the first railroad in the State, the third in the United States, was built from Tallahassee to St. Marks by General R. K. Call. St. Marks was then an important port, and a great amount of business was done by the railroad.

Early Towns. During those early days of the Territory a number of towns were founded. Among them were Quincy, Monticello, Marianna, Key West, and Apalachicola. Palatka had been founded still earlier in 1821, and in 1822 the name of Jacksonville was given to the town begun in 1816, first known as Wacca Pilatka, and called by the English "Cow Ford."

The Lafayette Grant. Every one who reads this knows of the gallant General Lafayette of France, who so nobly proved his friendship for us during the Revolution in aid us in the struggle for independence. In token of gratitude for his services, Congress granted him a township of land, the township selected lying just east of and adjoining Tallahassee.

In December, 1825, at the request of the Legislative Council of Florida, General Duval wrote to General Lafayette expressing to him the reverence and affection of the People of the Territory, and their appreciation of his services. The great Frenchman was also invited to visit Florida, or to make his home here should be ever wish to live anywhere but in France.

Tell of the first Florida railroad. Name the towns founded about time or earlier. The Lafayette grant and official invitation.

French Immigrants. General Lafayette never saw for himself his possessions in Florida, but he sent out a large number of his countrymen to make a settlement. They settled in and near Tallahassee, and, being people of excellent moral character, and industrious, they were good citizens, and did their part in helping to build the common wealth.

Excerpt from Part Two, Chapter Two, "The New Capital" A History of Florida, 1904. Next Section; Table of Contents.


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