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History: Gadsden County

1800-1850

1821 - U.S. took possession of the Floridas in July

1821 - Escambia and St. Johns counties created July 21

1822 - Florida granted territorial government March 20

1822 - Jackson and Duval counties created August 22

1823 - Gadsden County created June 24

Major General Andrew Jackson was appointed Governor of the two provinces in the newly formed territory of Florida in 1821. Soon after he was appointed, Governor Jackson created the two original counties, Escambia to the west and St. Johns to the east. The white population was less than 5000, with most of it centered in the cities of Pensacola and St. Augustine. Territorial status was granted on March 30, 1822 and a Legislative Council was formed. The first session of the Legislative Council met in Pensacola in August of 1822 and proceeded to organize two new counties, Jackson and Duval. Gadsden County was formed on June 24, 1823 at the second session of the Legislative Council in St. Augustine. During this session two commissioners were given the task of selecting a site for a territorial government “equidistant from St. Augustine to Pensacola”. The commissioners chose the Gadsden County town of Tallahassee as the seat of territorial government. Gadsden County held this distinction until December 29, 1824 when Leon County was formed and took the title.

1825 - First census taken in Gadsden County

The first census of Gadsden County showed a population of 1374, composed of 813 white residents and 561 negro slaves.

1825 - Quincy was approved as the site of the county seat on May 10.

1825 - First recorded Gadsden County post office was established at Quincy December 28

Mail was delivered by stage lines in the days before the railroads. The pioneer roads were mere muddy trails and rivers and streams had to be crossed by ferry. Mail service was uncertain, expensive and often took weeks or months to reach its destination. The first recorded post office in Gadsden County was established in Quincy in 1825 and was overseen by Hector McNeil, its first postmaster.

1828 - The culture of Tobacco was introduced to the county by pioneers from Virginia

Settlers from Virginia introduced their knowledge of tobacco culture to Gadsden County in the spring of 1828. Before then cotton was the most commonly grown crop in the county. After many trials and tribulations, new growing techniques and leaf varieties were developed and Gadsden County tobacco became known worldwide. Shade grown wrapper leaf tobacco, which was originated in Gadsden County, became highly sought after in the cigar industry and was a dominant factor in the social and economic development of the county. The Civil War ended the pioneer “Golden Days” of tobacco.

1835 - United States Arsenal erected in Chattahoochee

The red brick arsenal was built by the United States Army and served as an arsenal of deposit from 1835 until the Civil War began in 1861. During the war it was seized by the Confederacy and used as an induction center. After the war the federal government deeded it to the state and it became Florida's first penitentiary in 1866. In 1876 it was placed into service as a mental institution.

1835-1842 Seminole War

1840 - McLane Massacre

The worst Indian attack in the history of Gadsden County took place in 1840 when a band of Creek warriors from Georgia killed four members of the McLane family at their homesite about five miles south of Greensboro. A marker was erected in 1940 on the site of the attack to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragic event.

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1850-1900

1861 - Florida becomes the second state to leave the Union

1861-1865 Civil War

1868 - Florida readmitted to the Union

Tobacco
Wrapper leaf tobacco being grown beneath slats in Gadsden County, ca. 1900. Photo courtesy Florida Photographic Archives

1887 - Revival of the tobacco industry

Gadsden County was economically devastated after the Civil War. Tobacco was only being grown on a small scale by a few planters who sold it in the form of cigars wherever the opportunity arose. Among the planters that helped bring about the renaissance of the tobacco industry were the Nicholson brothers, Angus and Archibald, sons of the wealthy and prominent pioneer, Dr. Malcolm Nicholson. The Nicholson brothers shipped some of their tobacco to New York, where it found its way into the hands of large leaf dealers and cigar manufacturers, Straiton & Storm. These dealers invested heavily in Gadsden County tobacco plantations and, after a twenty-year dormant period, the tobacco industry was reborn.

1893 - Fuller’s Earth was discovered

In 1893 a soft, bluish gray clay, known as Fuller’s Earth was accidentally discovered on the site of the Owl Cigar Company north of Quincy. Samples of the clay were sent to the geological laboratory in Washington where it was found to be of superior quality. The property was surveyed and millions of tons of the clay were found on the site. The clay was mined and sold to the petroleum industry. In 1910 a group of Pennsylvania oilmen purchased the Owl properties and formed the Floridian Company.

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1900-1950

1906 - Havana's first town officials are elected

Havana was made up of only two buildings, a school and a small railroad depot, when the Florida, Georgia and Alabama Railroad was completed in 1903. The town was named for its association with the principal crop of the area-Little Cuba tobacco. The railroad facilities encouraged growth of the town and within just a few short years Havana became quite prosperous. The town's first town officials were elected in a meeting of the unincorporated community's qualified electors on December 5, 1906. Henry M. Lott was the first mayor.

1907 - The town of Greensboro was incorporated

The Gardners, Inmans, Greens and Fletchers were among the first families to settle in the Green Community and were all instrumental in the movement to locate a railroad depot on J.W. Green's land when the Apalachicola Northern Railroad was being completed in Western Gadsden County in 1907. The town of Greensboro was also incorporated in 1907 and developed into the largest trade center and principal shipping point between Apalachicola and Chattahoochee.

1914 - The cooperative extension program for work in agriculture and home economics was established

The cooperative extension program for work in agriculture and home economics was established under the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, to help people improve their farms and homes. Miss Ruby McDavid began work as Gadsden County's first full-time home demonstration agent on January 11, 1917. Home canning demonstrations were among her many duties.

1921 - The Tobacco Experiment Station established in Quincy

In the 1920’s the tobacco industry was threatened by blackshank, a plant disease that could quickly wipe out the multi-million dollar shade tobacco industry. The Tobacco Experiment Station was established near Quincy in 1921 to study the tobacco plant disease in Gadsden County. In 1936 the work at the station was expanded to include all farm crops that were raised in north Florida and the name was changed to North Florida Experiment Station.

1920-1950 Cattle breed improvement resulted in a million dollar plus industry

Cattle have always been a big part of Gadsden County’s history. The native cattle of the area were brought here from Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia by the first settlers. Oxen helped to clear the land and cattle, though scrubby and small-boned, provided the pioneers with meat and milk. Interest in cattle breed improvement began in 1920 and resulted in a million dollar plus industry over the following decades. The West Florida Livestock Association was organized in Quincy in 1945 and was dedicated to the promotion of the livestock industry west of the Suwannee River.

Some of Gadsden County's prominent pioneers:

Colonel Henry Yonge, Major Jonathan Robinson, Edward A. Robinson, John and Richard Carnochan, Henry A. Yonge, Michael Harvey, Robert and William Forbes (no relation to John and Thomas Forbes for whom the Forbes Purchase is named), David L. White, Joshua Harley, Collin Wooten, Dr. Malcolm Nicholson, Samuel McCall, Jason Gregory, Hector McNeil and John Lines.

REFERENCE:

Avant, David A., Jr., 1985. Illustrated Index: J. Randall Stanley’s History of Gadsden County 1948. L’Avant Studios, Tallahassee, FL. 248pp.

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This page was last modified on : 03/10/2005

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