Gadsden County, Florida

Quincy FL 03-20-2015Friend Shari, like most of my Road Warriorettes, likes to take the backroads. Part of it is that you can see more than on the Super Slab; part of it is that they may not want to be seen with me.

After going through the central part of Florida, we decided to take 90 across the Panhandle outside of Tallahassee rather than I-10. I was somewhat familiar with this part of the state from earlier stories – I documented U.S. 27 from Little Havana in Miami to Havana, Florida, on the Georgia line in 1990 – but I had not been to Quincy.

The homes and landscaping were striking.

“Our Fallen Heroes”

Quincy FL 03-20-2015The city square was dominated by the county courthouse with a large statue to “Our Fallen Heroes” in front of it.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

Those are Confederate soldiers being honored

Quincy FL 03-20-2015

In case you missed the crossed swords and C.S.A. on the front of the monument, the back spells it out directly: “Sacred to the memory of the Confederate Soldiers from Gadsen Co. Florida who died in the defense of their country. Erected by the ladies of the Memorial Association of Gadsden Co. Florida, April 26, 1884.

I asked myself, “How would that monument make a black man feel when he was being hauled into that courthouse in 1910?” Or somebody with New York license plates pulled over in 1965?

World Wars I and II

Quincy FL 03-20-2015On the east side of the courthouse is a monument erected in 1950 by the American Legion “In Memoriam – Gadsden County men of World Wars I and II who gave their all that the world might have peace.

 All other wars

Quincy FL 03-20-2015By May 25, 1998, the county commissioners decided that wars were coming so fast and furious that they’d lump them all together with a marker on the south side of the courthouse: “In memory of Gadsden County veterans who gave their lives during the Korean Conflict, Vietnam Era, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Persian Gulf.

They were optimistic not to leave any space for future wars.

Domestic violence memorial

Quincy FL 03-20-2015There was a surprise waiting on the west side of the courthouse: Two stones dedicated “In memory of victims of domestic violence in Gadsden County – 1990 to present.

There are 19 names listed. One of them is Allen Dixie, born 1917; died 1996. Victoria Yon was born in 1936 and died in 1999. The year 2004 must have been a particularly bad year for Gadsden residents: four died that year.

Either people are behaving better now or interest has waned in keeping the list updated. The last entry was from 2005.

Big money in shade tobacco

Quincy FL 03-20-2015Gadsden County’s website said the county is often associated with shade tobacco, Fuller’s Earth and Coca Cola. That echoes what someone told us down the road: “A lot of those old homes came from tobacco money.”

Only two places in the United States were suitable for the growing of the crop that was used to wrap cigars: the Georgia-Florida Shade Tobacco District, comprised of Gadsden and Madison counties in Florida, and Grady and Decatur counties in Georgia, and the Connecticut River valley in New England. In 1946, the website says, those two districts were producing 95% of American-grown wrapper leaf, and they represented a $100 million industry, of which $25 million was invested in land, equipment, barns, packing houses and operating capital in the Georgia-Florida area.

Fuller’s Earth and Coca Cola

Quincy FL 03-20-2015Fuller’s Earth, a form of clay, was discovered by accident in 1893. It was originally used to clean and bleach cloth, but today it is also used in refining petroleum products and in kitty litter.

The website said “The bottling of Coca-Cola was begun in the county at the turn of the 20th century but its real value to the area came through the purchase of Coca-Cola stock. Many legends circulate about the personal fortunes gained from Coca-Cola investments. Miss Julia Munroe Woodward, daughter of banker M. W. “Pat” Munroe says, “Daddy liked the taste and he figured folks would always have a nickel for a coke.” Prices have gone up but “Mr. Pat” encouraged family and friends to invest in the stock before the beverage attained its world wide prestige. The increase in value resulted in a good many “Coca-Cola millionaires” residing in the county. One estimate says that there were 67 of them and another says that at one time, more Coca-Cola stock was held in Gadsden County than throughout the rest of the country. Whether that is legend or fact, Coca-Cola is the drink of choice of many families in Gadsden County.”



11 Replies to “Gadsden County, Florida”

  1. Who knew that…I might have go across on 90 next time and see when the cigar wrappers are made…I thought the wrappers were cellophane, but what do I know. Ken you always bring me something to look at and learn.

  2. Thank you for sharing a great piece about Quincy, FL and Gadsden County. I wish you had shared the nationally accredited Gadsden Arts Center and Museum, the nationallly acclaimed artist Gallery of watercolorist Dean Mitchell and the Quincy Music Theatre.

    1. I do a lot of stopping and starting along the road, but we can’t hit everything. Actually, the last time I was there previously was when I was working on a story in the Panhandle and decided I’d follow up on an article I had seen a year or two earlier about this grant the town or county had gotten to put solar panels up to cut utility bills. Sounded like a great project.

      I cruised all over town, and saw nary a panel on any buildings. Then, just by chance, I passed by a garage and saw stacks of the panels sitting neglected and, clearly, not destined for installation. Gadsen county was way out of our circulation area, so I couldn’t convince anyone to follow up on the story, but I’m sure there was a good one there.

  3. And the only way that Confederate statue would offend a black person is if that black person knew absolutely nothing about history. It honors fallen Confederate soldiers, of which 99.99% of them were NOT slave owners, but if anyone can prove all those fallen soldiers were “racists”, please present the evidence.

    Of course, no blacks seem offended by the many free southern blacks who owned over 20,000 combined black slaves themselves by 1860, a year before the Civil War began, which means percentage-wise per capita, blacks owned more black slaves in the south than whites.

    1. I stand by my comment that I would wonder what kind of justice I could expect from an all-white jury if my skin happened to be black. More than half a dozen lynchings occurred in Gadsden county along, including one at recently as 1941.

      In 1911, A. C. Williams was accused of robbery and the attempted rape of a 12 year old white girl. The account of the details makes the accusation very improbable, but Williams did not live long enough to be tried for the crime. He was kidnapped from jail by a group of white men, and although they both shot him and hanged him, Williams survived. After learning he was alive, the sheriff formed a search party. His family was aware the sheriff had been involved in the lynching, and hid him. Unfortunately, Williams needed medical attention and since the hospitals in the Quincy area would not treat a black person, he needed to be transported to Florida A & M University in Tallahassee. The following day a group of masked men kidnapped him from the ambulance and killed him. His body was dumped on his mothers porch.

      Florida, by the way, had in the highest rate of terror lynchings per capita of 12 southern states between 1877 and 1950.

      You might also want to read up on the Rosewood Massacre, just down the road from Gadsden county.

      Maybe YOU are the one who knows little about history.

  4. The Confederate monument is down now, as of 6/12/20, I believe. There is a lot of upset about it because the people complaining do not see and are unwilling to educate themselves on a perspective other than their own, and theirs is privileged.
    Florida Historical Quarterly can provide Gadsden County slaveholder data, more accurate data than the above (Todd) and is also sourced.

    1. Thanks for the update. Like I mentioned in my blog post, how would you feel as a black man or woman to pass this on the way to the courtroom? What chance would you think you had of getting a fair trial?

      1. Just moved to Quincy in the last little bit, and I’m learning all sorts of interesting stuff about the history. One bit of clarification. You mark 1911 as the date of A.C. Williams’ lynching but all accounts I’ve found say 1941.

        You also mentioned more than half a dozen lynchings in Gadsden County, but I’ve only been able to find indication of 4, and I only have 2 names of people who were lynched in the county (Williams and a man named Will Larkins). I don’t suppose you could point me in the direction of more info regarding others?

        At any rate, it was somewhat happenstance that we came here, and we do love it. We never saw the Confederate statue (thankfully it’s gone), but it’s impossible to be here long at all and not be aware of the racial divisions. Statues crumble but systems persist.

        1. You’re right. The date was 1941, not 1911. I must have fat-fingered it. The 40s were not a good era to be Black in Florida. I’ll have to see if I can come up with my source for the half-dozen number.

  5. My house, built in 1920, is almost right across from the old Shade Leaf building in Quincy, FL. I’ve been desperately trying to find history and old pics of my house and no one seems to know anything. Could you possibly help?

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