“An engaging series of commentaries and vignettes about life in Florida in the antebellum period. A must-read for understanding frontier Florida.”—James G. Cusick, author of The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida
“The letters of George Long Brown, a New England merchant who plied his business in antebellum Florida, open up perspectives on business practices, social contexts, and Florida’s development during this period.”—Theresa Strouth Gaul, editor of To Marry an Indian: The Marriage of Harriett Gold and Elias Boudinot in Letters, 1823–1839
“This thoughtfully edited collection of letters reveals life on the frontier was not for those of faint heart or frail constitution. Those seeking insight into the transformation of Florida society, politics, and economics and concurrent observations on the national scene in the 1840s and 1850s will be well served by this fascinating volume.”—John M. Belohlavek, author of Broken Glass: Caleb Cushing and the Shattering of the Union
In 1840, twenty-three-year-old George Long Brown migrated from New Hampshire to north Florida, a region just emerging from the devastating effects of the Second Seminole War. This volume presents over seventy of Brown’s previously unpublished letters to illuminate day-to-day life in pre–Civil War Florida.
Brown’s personal and business correspondence narrates his daily activities and his views on politics, labor practices, slavery, fundamentalist religion, and local gossip. Having founded a successful mercantile establishment in Newnansville, Brown traveled the region as far as Savannah and Charleston, purchasing goods from plantations and strengthening social and economic ties in two of the region’s most developed cities. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, Brown married into one of the largest slaveholding families in the area and became involved in the slave trade. He also bartered with locals and mingled with the judges, lawyers, and politicians of Alachua County.
The Letters of George Long Brown: A Yankee Merchant on Florida’s Antebellum Frontier provides an important eyewitness view of north Florida’s transformation from a subsistence and herding community to a market economy based on cotton, timber, and other crops, showing that these changes came about in part due to an increased reliance on slavery. Brown’s letters offer the first social and economic history of one of the most important yet little-known frontiers in the antebellum South.
James M. Denham is professor of history and director of the Lawton M. Chiles Jr. Center for Florida History at Florida Southern College. He is the author or editor of several books, including Fifty Years of Justice: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Keith L. Huneycutt is professor of English at Florida Southern College. Together, they are the coeditors of Echoes from a Distant Frontier: The Brown Sisters’ Correspondence from Antebellum Florida.