"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
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
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
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
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.
construction of pontoons Jackson established a camp at Floridatown and
the grave of one
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
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