Daniel H. Wiggins 1838 Diary Entry
From: Wiggins, Daniel H., Diaries 1816-1834, 1838-1841, 1862, Collection M89-32
Photos and text Courtesy, Florida State Library and Archives.
A native of Long Island, New York, Daniel H. Wiggins was living in Annapolis, Maryland in the 1830s with his second wife Wilhelmina Welch and their five children, where he worked as a millwright and wheelwright. In 1838, apparently at the urging of Thomas Randall, an Annapolis acquaintance who was then living near in Jefferson County and serving as a judge, Wiggins left Maryland for greater economic opportunities in north Florida. He sailed from Baltimore to Savannah, which he reached on October 15, 1838, and then traveled overland to Monticello. Wiggins reached his destination after an eleven day journey. He initially lived at Belmont, Randall's plantation south of Monticello, but he also traveled extensively through Jefferson, Leon, and Gadsden counties, working as a machinist and experimenting with a cotton press. Wiggins remained in Florida at least until the latter part of 1841. He eventually returned to Annapolis, where he was living in 1850. Shortly thereafter he traveled with Randall to the California gold fields. Unfortunately, while there he contracted an unspecified illness and died.
Wiggins' diary, which he regularly maintained during his years in Florida, is a remarkably detailed description of life in the new territory. He commented extensively on the region's geography, climate, and population. Wiggins also made observations on the institution of slavery and on the ongoing Second Seminole War. The November 5, 1838 entry reproduced here is particularly detailed, with comments on farming, soil conditions, economic opportunities in the territory, and his fear of the Seminoles, and the visit of a group of soldiers to Randall's plantation.
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Nov. 5 The past week has been pleasent-- the first part some what cool one night a white frost
it is now qite warm but some what cloudy-- we expect rain shortly-- it is much needed-- I have enjoyed myself very well through the week-- but feel the want of religious society no meeting with in reach but I have free access to a great veriety of book-- I have been at work the whole week-- for Judge Randal-- making cuts [?] Mr Clifard [?] and Mr Turney finished the Judge's screw press yester day it works pretty well but slow-- Mr Clifard
charged 100 dollars for the puting it up-- and the timber was heved [?] and brought to the spot and hands furnished for lifting &c. and board fur- nished-- I think that an industrous man would make about 10 dollars per day at such work-- I intend to put up a press upon my own plan which I think-- will do much better then those now used-- if I have my health I calcu- late making my fortune in a little time
I hope I shall have grace and wisdom to make a right use of it-- Mechanics in this country are scarce and those few who are hear and mostly inclined to disapation and as a natural consequence idleness-- may the Lord save me from both the evils-- I have enjoyed peice of mind since I left Maryland-- it is true I some times have some apprehensions of danger from the hostile Indians they have from time to time commited
with in a few miles of this place most shocking cruelties upon indi- vidual families murder- ing the most barberous manner men women and children but (thank the Lord) we have a prospect for hostilities speedily to come to a close There is a great scarcity of mills here water [?] courses are apt to get dry in the summer and fall-- I think a [illegible] mills might do well-- Judge Randal said I may get as much timber on his
place as I chuse free of expense------ Sunday evening it has rained most of the day some times very hard Judge Randall came home on Friday evening and left home again this morning for Tallahassee where court begins on to morrow-- almost every things grows abundantly in Florida except wheat-- corn is one dollar per bu. sweet potatoes 50 cents beaf about 5 dollars per hun.
flour-- about 15 dollars per bar. most of provi- sions are as cheap as in the north and labour about twice as hight plenty of good land at 1,25 per acre timber standing for little or nothing-- horses are high mules are mostly used for plan- tation work-- oxen are also used-- Judge Randall milked this summer 22 cows-- sheep do well goats and hogs are raised in abundance with out feeding
the labour of coloured people is high-- say from 300 to 600 dollars per year Judge Randall has about 1500 acres of land in one body about 300 under cultivation-- and clearing more every year-- makes from 100 to 150 bales of cotton worth now from 4000 to 6000 dollars-- it is prefered in clearing land to cut and burn the under brush and deden the large trees it is said that leaving the large trees standing prevents
the sun from burning the vegetation-- great veriety of timber aare found hear-- I will name some of the most usefull viz live oak white--past [?]--and red oak-- which aare good for cart [?] work-- red bay good for mules [?]-- ash-hickory in aboun- dance. some popolay and siprus and abundance of yellow and pitch pine mulbery and locus-- and the pride of china thrives well wild chery also grow spontanious-- there are
some other thing of timber the names of which I have as yet learnt the soil of Judge Randalls land appears to be mostly a mixture of red clay and sans-- the low ground is of a darker coulor and much richer-- but the high lands are thought to be more healthy so it is hard to find a place where all advan- tages concentrate of two ever [?] chuse the least-- health of the first consideration may the Lord direct
in my choice of a loca tion-- health content ment and competency are the three grand constituents to human happiness-- but religion is the one thing needfull a little after dark a detachment of soldiers stopt here for the night-- they are on their way from St. Marks to Dedmans bay they number about 20 under command of Lieutinant Todd-- I talked with some of them they say they have seen tuff [?] times
for 18 months past in pursuing the indians there is a considerable force collecting at Dedmans bay intending to build a block house and to cut 2 roads, one to st Marks and one to intersect the Augustine road so that provisions can more readly be conveyed through the country-- it is said that about Dedmans bay it is very unhealthy.