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The Settling of Federal Point
by E. Stuart Hubbard
Two young men, John Francis Tenney and his future brother-in-law, John Folsom, from Vermont came down to Florida before the Civil War to see this fabulous state. The War broke out so they returned North without deciding where they should purchase land and settle.
When the war ended they returned. Mr. Tenney wrote that he stayed at the Simpkins’ Mansion at Orange Mills at the request of Mr. Simpkins since he feared pillaging if the house were unoccupied.
Some five miles north of Orange Mills, Cornelius DuPont was living at what was called DuPont’s Landing. At the close of the War he was destitute. He sold a considerable tract of land, including his house, the only one there except for a few slave cabins. Tenney and Folsom renamed it Federal Point from a surveyor’s notes on the County map.
Walter Nichols Hart and his brother, Ambrose Burnam Hart of Poughkeepsie, New York, fought in the Union Army down through the South as far as New Orleans. They were charmed with the country.
Their father, Benjamin Hart, needed little encouragement to go with his sons to see the St. Johns River country since his adventurous spirit had taken him twice to California during the ’49 gold rush.
They hired a sailboat at Jacksonville, went south as far as Deland and liked, best, the land and location at Federal Point. They purchased a tract of land from Tenney and Folsom and home and grove sites near the Tenney and Folsom homes.
Soon other members of the Hart family and relatives secured grove sites: son Edmund Hall Hart, brother-in-law Gideon Nichols, cousins Samuel Searing, William Evans and Lydia Evans Dorr, niece Caroline Clowes and Edmund’s sister-in-law, Lina Howland, bought grove sites and planted groves. All but Ambrose and Caroline built houses or cabins on their land.
When the Hart family first came down, while the house at three Oaks was being built. the father and sons lived in one of the former slave cabins while daughters Louisa and Emily occupied another. The first night when it rained the roof leaked, so, the girls slept with an open umbrella over them, much to the amusement of the neighbors.
As the community grew, the steamboat wharf made it the shipping point for the Point and the backwoods communities of Moccasin Branch and Merrifield.
A tall, slender Connecticut Yankee, Captain Edwin Smith, who had been a sailor and later, a produce dealer in New York City, found his way to the Point. He purchased a building lot next to the Tenney house and across Commercial Avenue from the Folsoms, also grove and farmland down the Avenue. He built a large house on the lot and opened a general store and trading post where he bought and traded for farm produce and cane syrup, which he shipped to different markets.
As Captain Smith’s business grew, he needed help in his store and on his farm. First he sent money North for a brother and sister, distant relatives, to come and join his enterprise. This did not prove satisfactory, so they left him. He then arranged for his nephew, Edwin Smith Hubbard of Maromas, Connecticut, to come down and go in business with him. So Edwin, who had finished high school, came down and helped with the store and the truck and fruit farm and orange grove.
About this time, Mr. Tenney took Lizzie and Becky, the teen aged daughters of Ephram Taylor, to be raised as his wards and to help with the care of his only son, little Frank. It is from Lizzie, now in her 94th year, that I can, in 1959, secure much of the details of this record and from the memory of what my father told me.
Two young men of English descent, George and Harry Wilkinson, came to the Point. As small boys they had come to Bridgeport, Connecticut, from Sussex, England. George bought home and grove sites north of the Clowes’ grove on Commercial Avenue. Harry settled north of Seminole Street near deep Creek swamp. They bought brides to the Point from Lake City.
About 1881 Mr. Tenney learned from his scout in Palatka that a caravan of farm people from Illinois, traveling in five covered wagons, was camped outside the city. They were looking for home and farm land. So he hitched his horse to his wagon, hurried to Palatka, ferried across the St. Johns and found the travelers. His friendly, enthusiastic personality so charmed them that they went back with him, saw the land, returned for their wagons, ferried across the river, drove the eleven miles to Federal Point and camped on the avenue opposite the Tenney, Smith and Folsom houses.
Young Edwin, Lizzie and Becky were greatly excited and interested to see the great caravan—canvass-covered prairie schooners, pulled by many mules, roll to a stop, the travelers alight and gaze at the beautiful river.
Mr. And Mrs. William Boynton, three daughters, Hattie, Nettie and Laura, and son Charles and driver lived and rode in two wagons. A fourth daughter, Helen and her husband, Leslie David Brubaker, had their wagon. The other two wagons carried Edward Lieurance, and son and Mr. And Mrs. Wham.
They brought with them their furniture, implements and tools ready to build and start their groves and farming.
These people liked the land and the community. The Boyntons bought acreage at the north end of Commercial Avenue on the west side on the point of Deep Creek. Cove. The Brubakers were opposite the Boyntons. The Lieurances were on the corner of the Avenue and Seminole Street. The Whams were next to the Boyntons, apposite the Lieurances.
The Leslie Brubakers later bought land opposite the Hart place, Three Oaks.
Mr. And Mrs. Leslie Blachley built a fine house and started a grove next to Edmund Hart‘s land on the river shore. Later this was the home of the Weltons and Jones, then of Walter Atkinson.
Charles Clarke built a house on the corner of Prospect and School Streets adjoining Miss Clowes and the Wilkinsons but did not return after the ’99 freeze that killed his orange trees.
Men named Martin, Able an others bought grove sites but did not develop them after the freezes. These lots were acquired later by potato planters who added them to their holdings.
Thus was the point of land between Deep Creek and the Orange Mills district named Federal Point and settled by people coming from many states.