July 22, 2013
For what was comptie used?
Known by its botanical name as Zamia floridiana, comptie, or coontie, comptie had to be carefully processed to remove the plant’s toxic qualities. Comptie was dug up and its roots soaked and chopped to a pulp with a grinder, which usually consisted of a pine log spiked with nails, rotated by a horse or mule. The comptie pulp was then washed several times. The water being drained off, the remaining was dried on canvas trays, completing the process. Packed in barrels, the substance was then shipped to and marketed in Key West.
Comptie quilt block made by Claudia Van Essen, 1996. HistoryMiami Object Collection.
Answer: A starch or thickening for cooking, principally used in puddings, breads and cakes.
July 15, 2013
Name one function the "slave quarters", originally erected in the late 1840s near the mouth of the Miami River, was never used for.
The building, circa 1904. HistoryMiami, x-0657-1-detail.
Originally from South Carolina, Richard Fitzpatrick purchased substantial tracts of land on both sides of the Miami River, with the intention of establishing a plantation, mainly devoted to raising sugar. With the advent of the Second Seminole War and its attendant dangers, Fitzpatrick vacated the area in 1836. In the 1840s, he sold the land holdings to his nephew, William English, who, using slave labor, began construction of two rock buildings, one a house for his family; the other for the slaves' living quarters. English envisioned not just a plantation, largely devoted to the production of lemons and limes, but also laid out plans for a future village, to be named Miami. Then, before his building efforts were completed, English heard about the discovery of gold in California and joined the rush to these western riches, taking his family and slaves with him, never to return. At the beginning of the Third Seminole War in 1855, the army occupied the plantation site, completed the buildings and constructed additional facilities. The slave quarters remained at their original site until 1925 when, in order to preserve it, the building was moved to Lummus Park. Over the years, the building served as a barracks, a trading post and Miami's oldest courthouse. It also served as a post office, a tea house, even a bordello.
Answer: It was never used as a saloon
July 08, 2013
Who was the only man in U.S. history believed to have died defending a lighthouse?
Lighthouse attack. HistoryMiami, 1985-223-3.
With the advent of the Second Seminole War, South Florida’s few settlers, during the spring of 1836, fled to the comparative safety of Key West. The first keeper of the Cape Florida Lighthouse, John Dubose, sent his wife and children there as well. Along with his assistant and a black servant, Dubose remained on duty at the lighthouse. In July, however, he sailed down to Key West to visit his family. During his absence, on July 23rd, the Seminoles attacked. The assistant and the servant just had time to reach the lighthouse and secure the door. During the course of the day, the defenders kept the Indians at bay with musket fire, but at night they closed in, pouring in a heavy fire which pierced the door and perforated the tin tanks of oil. The oil was soon ablaze, forcing them up the wooden stairs of the lighthouse. Both men were by now wounded, but managed to make it to the top, destroying the lower stairs along the way. The fire's heat was intense, and the lantern was soon aflame, with the glass of its lamps "bursting and flying" in all directions. Both men, badly burned, were forced out onto the narrow platform around the top of the lighthouse. Believing them dead and having accomplished their mission to disable the lighthouse, the Seminoles departed. They were half right. One survived, eventually to be rescued, but the other died of his wounds, reputedly the only man ever to die defending a U. S. lighthouse.
Answer: The black servant, Aaron Carter
July 01, 2013
What fraction of those men who voted for Miami's incorporation in 1896 were black?
African Americans in Miami, 1896. HistoryMiami, 1962-024-185-detail.
In a room over the Lobby Pool Hall on what is today South Miami Avenue, eligible voters met, on July 28th, 1896, for the purpose of affirming a desire for Miami's incorporation as a city. With 368 registered voters, the community managed a turnout of 344. To be incorporated as a "city" and not just a "town," the participating electorate had to number 300 or better. Ever a community booster, John Sewell was determined that Miami should, right from the start, have the more prominent municipal status. Sewell had a very good relationship with the black workers who labored under his supervision in preparing a site for the Royal Palm Hotel and enlisted their participation to swell the electorate to over 300. Black participation in politics was to go no further, however. Florida state statutes of 1897 and 1901 effectively excluded blacks from the Democratic Party and, thus, from engaging in Democratic primaries which, in the Solid South, determined all political outcomes for many years to come. In Florida, Republican Party membership was available to black Miamians, but the feeble political presence of that party made voting in general elections largely meaningless.
June 24, 2013
For most of its history Miami-Dade County has simply been known as Dade County. After whom was it named?
Here’s a hint. HistoryMiami, 1974-024-3.
It was named
after a soldier who, together with his command were ambushed and most of them,
including him, killed by a Seminole War party in December 1835, as they
proceeded from Ft. Brooke near Tampa into the interior. This hostile act had
much to do with igniting the Second Seminole War and gave the martyred soldier's
name to our county, formed shortly thereafter (1836). Other historical figures connected with early
Miami-Dade County history include Commodore Alexander Dallas
who commanded the United States naval forces in the Caribbean and it is
after him that a military post that installed in 1836 at the mouth of the Miami
River was named (Ft. Dallas), Lt. Col. William S. Harney who, in December of
1840, led an expedition, the members of which were disguised as Indians, into
the Everglades, there surprising and killing the Indian
leader Chakaika and Richard Fitzpatrick that attempted to establish a
plantation at the mouth of the Miami River in the 1830s, an effort cut short by
the Second SeminoleWar.
Answer: Major Francis Langhorne Dade.
June 17, 2013
Who purchased most of what is now Fisher Island and planned a resort for African Americans?
Fisher Island, 1926. Richard B. Hoit, photographer. HistoryMiami, Hoit-A1171.
The purchaser came to Miami from Quitman, Georgia, in the closing years of the 19th century to work as a carpenter on Henry Flagler's railroad. Early on, as means permitted, he began buying land, which at the time was cheap and plentiful, in the vicinity of N.W. 7th Avenue and 19th Street. Black workers, the main source of railroad and urban construction labor, streamed into Miami, but, with segregation, were quite limited in where they could live. He built housing units on his land and rented them to black workers. Through real estate transactions and a growing number of rental properties, he became Miami's first black millionaire. In 1918, he bought two thirds of what became Fisher Island as a resort for blacks, at a time when they were prohibited from using public beaches. The plan eventually fell through and he sold his holding to Miami Beach developer Carl Fisher. A civic-minded business leader, he donated land in the 1920s and ‘30s for a high school, a library and a park, all for the benefit of black citizens for whom, at that time; such amenities were rare, if not non-existent.
Answer: Dana Albert Dorsey
June 10, 2013
Approximately how far back does archeological evidence support a human presence in South Florida?
(Archaeologist Bob Carr, 1993. Credit HistoryMiami, 1993-359-20)
According to former Dade County archeologist Robert Carr, radiocarbon samples dating back thousands of years were obtained from samples of charcoal excavated at the Cutler Fossil Site on the Charles Deering Estate in the southern part of the county. Also unearthed were artifacts of a similar vintage made of bone and stone, in some cases evincing trade with or migration from central Florida. These Paleo-Indians entered on the scene when the landscape's wildlife included mastodons, jaguars, dire wolfs and paleo-horses. The era was one of climate change, however, the last vestiges of the Great Ice age with its cooler, drier weather, giving way to a warmer, wetter environment. Many of the animals, adapted to the earlier Ice Age climate and the conditions it produced, disappeared not long after mankind made his appearance. Indeed, the extinction of some animals may have been partially due to a growing hunter-gatherer presence. Besides humans, deer, dogs, many small mammals, reptiles and birds survived the climatic changes which caused the glaciers and Arctic ice to melt, dramatically raising the level of the oceans, and greater rainfall, turning Florida's dry savannas into flooded areas where plants, not equipped to grow in standing water, died off in great numbers.
Answer: 11,000 years ago
June 03, 2013
What structure near the Miami River was demolished to make way for Flagler's Royal Palm Hotel?
(Royal Palm Hotel groundbreaking, March 1896. Credit HistoryMiami, 1966-001-1)
As Henry Flagler's foreman, John Sewell arrived in the Miami area on March 3rd, 1896, and soon began the task he had been assigned, clearing the site upon which the Royal Palm Hotel would rise. This labor, largely carried out by a staff of African American workmen, necessitated leveling a mound which stood about twenty to twenty-five feet high, one hundred feet long and seventy-five feet wide. The items found inside the mound were stored in barrels in Sewell's tool shed, until the Hotel was nearing completion. At that time, Sewell and some of his "most trusted" African American workmen deposited these items in a large, nearby hole, about 12 feet deep, and then covered it over with sand. He admonished those associated with him in this effort to forget its location. According to Sewell, a fine residence came to stand on the site. As he added in his Miami Memoirs, "The things that owners don't know will never hurt them."
Answer: An Indian burial mound
May 27, 2013
Which was the first 20th century district listed on the National Register of Historic Places?
(Barbara Capitman, circa 1980. Credit Miami News Collection, HistoryMiami, 1995-277-11649)
In 1979, when Barbara Capitman founded the Miami Design Preservation League, that area of Miami-Dade County dominated by Art Deco style hotels had, for some time, been in decline as a resort, much of it looking rather sad and decayed. Capitman and a few others saw these buildings as a vibrant architectural expression of that period spanning the 1930s, from the late 1920s to the early 1940s. A style reflective of the streamlined designs for trains, airplanes and ships of the time, it was dubbed "Moderne" or "Depression Moderne." (Mediterranean Revival had been the favored architectural style during the 1920s.) In any case, the unique vision of Capitman caught hold and many others came to appreciate the unique architectural style of numerous hotels and other buildings inhabiting this section of Miami-Dade County. Renovations began to occur which would eventually turn this area into a major international tourist destination and would earn for it the distinction of being the first 20th century district listed in the National Register of Historical Places.
Answer: Miami Beach's Art Deco District
May 20, 2013
Who is credited with giving Miami the nickname: "The Magic City"?
(Cover of postcard booklet, circa 1920. Credit HistoryMiami)
The creator of the famous nickname came to Florida from New York, initially settling in Lake County, where he raised citrus and propagated the Bible as a Methodist minister. After the devastating freeze of 1895, he headed for Miami, where, the following year, he organized the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Also during the pivotal year of 1896, when the Florida East Coast Railway first arrived in Miami, and the community, so named, was formally incorporated as a municipality, he commenced work as a newspaper correspondent for Henry Flagler, and served as editor of Flagler's Florida East Coast Homeseeker. In the same booster spirit that coined Miami's nickname, "The Magic City," he arranged for the city's first convention, a gathering of tobacco growers, and organized the Mid-Winter Fair, the first county fair in Florida. In his account of our community's early years he related Julia Tuttle's expansive vision which she confided to him in 1896. His initial response: "You have a very active and far reaching imagination." Yet, not too many years later, he had to admit that most of her ambitious predictions had come true.
Answer: E.V. Blackman