The economic, social, political, and racial history of southwest Florida in the nineteenth century
“A major contribution to Florida history.”—Orlando Sentinel
“A sprawling chronicle of the nineteenth-century American frontier.”—Journal of American History
“An excellent contribution to the growing literature of the state’s local history.”—Journal of Southern History
“Brown . . . combines a homebred love of the Peace River valley with a tenacious work ethic to find new documentation and recast old assumptions about the neglected region. . . . A study that likely will define the Peace River region for decades to come.”—Florida Historical Quarterly
“The spirit of the nineteenth-century south Florida frontier, with the intensity of its isolation, struggle, and excitement, comes alive in Canter Brown’s outstanding book. This is a meticulously researched scholarly work that can and will be enjoyed by everyone interested in Florida history and the American frontier.”—Samuel Proctor, former historian, University of Florida
“Brown is a narrative historian who believes in telling a story. This is local history at its best.”—Jerrell H. Shofner, former professor of history, University of Central Florida
For most of the nineteenth century, southwest Florida and the Peace River Valley remained a frontier as unknown to outsiders as the frontiers of the American West. In this book, Canter Brown, Jr. records the area’s economic, social, political, and racial history in an account of violence, passion, struggle, sacrifice, and determination.
The Peace River originates in Polk County’s Lake Hamilton, one of the many lakes that dot the heart of interior Florida. It flows past the towns of Bartow, Fort Meade, Bowling Green, Arcadia, Fort Ogden, and Punta Gorda, finally meeting the sea at Charlotte Harbor on Florida’s southwest Gulf Coast. No great cities line its banks; no commerce passes along its waters. Still, the river has bent and molded events of lasting significance to Florida and to the nation.
Using such primary materials as government records, manuscript collections, and newspapers published throughout the country, Brown documents the presence of Native Americans and African Americans in the area in the aftermath of the First Seminole War. He examines the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, paying particular attention to the Union/Confederate, Republican/Democratic split among the area’s residents. In the final sections of the book he describes the arrival of the railroad and the growth of towns, the phosphate boom, and consequences of the Great Freeze of 1895.
Throughout this account, the author identifies by name hundreds of persons who participated in these events, believing, he says, that the stories of individuals and families are a vital part of the area’s history. Florida’s Peace River Frontier will appeal to readers interested in Florida history, the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, African American history, and the history of the American frontier.
Canter Brown, Jr., retired professor of history and political science at Fort Valley State University, is the author or coauthor of several books, including For a Great and Grand Purpose: The Beginnings of the AMEZ Church in Florida, 1864-1905 and Mary Edwards Bryan: Her Early Life and Works.
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"Surveys a century of South Florida life, spanning the period from the earliest migrations of Seminoles and escaped slaves to the coming of the railroad and dramatic economic changes at the fin de siecle."