Emory Fiske Skinner, circa 1873
E. F. Skinner came to Florida in the spring of 1874 and bought a large amount of timber land and the lumber mill at Gull Point in Escambia County, which was later purchased by James G. Pace and moved to the Pace area, whence the community name: Pace.
Mr. Skinner built the first logging railroad in Florida that was constructed with steel rails. He also had the first telephone line in this area, and perhaps in the state. The husband of a cousin of E. F. Skinner was in the lumber business at Bagdad, Florida. In his book, he tells of crossing the Escambia River at Ferry Pass, and landing at Floridatown. Here were the pine lands which he later purchased.
In 1908 Mr. Skinner published his book Reminiscences. It contains many descriptions of the land and people of West Florida, as they appeared to Mr. Skinner.
This biography of Mr. Skinner was written during his lifetime, and is part of the Penton Collection.
Emory Fiske Skinner, president of the Skinner Manufacturing Co. of Escambia, Florida is a native of Sherborne, N. Y. where he was born July 17, 1833. He is the son of Alfred Skinner, a native of Connecticut, who came to Western N. Y. with his father, Stephen Skinner and bought a tract of land in Chenango Co. Ebenezer Caston, the maternal grandfather of E. F. Skinner, was one of Geo. Washington's body guards and accompanied the father of his country when he resigned from the army and returned to his home in Mount Vernon. After reaching maturity Mr. Skinner decided to go west in search of fame and fortune. In 1858 he was graduated from the Mount Pleasant (Iowa) law school, but his necessity led him toward other than legal pursuits. Having located in Wisconsin, he engaged in the lumber business, which at that time was an important industry in that section. Preferring a warmer climate, Mr. Skinner came to Florida in the spring of 1874 and located at Escambia. In the vicinity of that place he bought a large amount of timber land, besides a lumber plant in operation at that time, which he has since greatly improved and made one of the most complete establishments of that kind in the South. He has a tract of more than 100,000 acres in extent, covered with timber, a considerable portion being virgin forest, which is regarded as one of the finest bodies of land in the state. Mr. Skinner owns and operates about thirty miles of railroad and is constantly adding to the mileage for the purpose of improving the property. He built the first logging railroad in Florida that was constructed with steel rails. Only six miles were built the first year, but the trackage has since been increased to about thirty miles of movable iron. Mr. Skinner erected the first telephone line in West Florida and built the first electric light plant. The Skinner Manufacturing Co. was established in 1893 and incorporated with a capital stock of $300,000. They manufacture and export timber and lumber on an extensive scale and have a fine-planing mill with the establishment. Their exports to foreign countries amount to ten million feet a year. In 1882 Mr. Skinner was nominated by the Republican Party as a candidate for congress in his district and though defeated, received a very complimentary vote. He carried his own county, Escambia, by a 600 majority, amply proving his great popularity at home, where best known. In this contest it is estimated that fully three hundred Escambia County democrats voted for Mr. Skinner. In 1888 he was elected to the State Senate, but counted out by unscrupulous party opponents. In 1896 his party sent him as a delegate to the great national convention at St. Louis of that year which nominated. William McKinley for president.
In 1860 Mr. Skinner was married to Miss Ellen M. Hubbard, a native of Maine. She is the daughter of Ebenezer Hubbard, who came to the state of Wisconsin when she was 8 yrs. old. He is a prominent lumberman and grandson of the Ebenezer Hubbard in whose mill at Concord, Mass. was concealed the continental supplies which Major Pitcairn of the British Forces in Boston marched to destroy on the 19th of April, 1775, which led to the battles of that day inaugurating the American struggle for independence. Mr. Skinner's only son E. H. Skinner, was born in Wisconsin in 1861. He was educated at Yale, at which institution he was graduated in 1883, and married to the Miss Marguerite, a sister of Edmund H. Osthaust the famous animal painter of Toledo, Ohio. They have five children: Ellen M., Marguerite, Mary Thompson, Emory Hubbard and Dorothy. Immediately after leaving college E. H. Skinner engaged in the lumber business with his father. Both of these gentlemen are regarded as business men of the first rank, whose energy, skill and capital have done much for the development of Florida Industries. They employ a large amount of labor in their various enterprises and in this way greatly benefit the working classes while adding to the general prosperity. Since his arrival in the state the older Skinner has been one of the principal businessmen of Florida. He is an advanced thinker in all lines, resourceful, energetic and progressive. A member of the old Skinner family of Central New York, he has well sustained their social and intellectual supremacy and proved himself a worthy son of worthy sires. Both Mr. Skinner and his son are members of the Knights Templar and conspicuous in all movements to advance the public welfare. The family is highly esteemed socially not only in Escambia County, but throughout the state of Florida wherever known.
(Photo and biography courtesy of The Penton Collection, Anne Penton Pinckard and Joyce Penton Schnoor)