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Who donated the land on which the present Miami-Dade Courthouse is located?

In 1904 a 300 feet square site was donated as land for the 1904 Courthouse. Since 1890, the county seat had been up at Juno, which was then still part of a much larger Dade County. By the end of the 19th century, with the arrival of the railroad in 1896, Miami was growing rapidly and had the population and votes to recapture the distinction of county seat. In the opening years of the 20th century, the County Courthouse in Miami was a very unprepossessing two story wooden structure on the Miami River's north bank. Agitation almost immediately arose for a finer, more fitting facility, which was realized in the beautiful 1904 Courthouse designed by William Augustus Edwards. It resided on land on which the present Courthouse now stands.  


Dade County Courthouse, 1921. HistoryMiami, 2007-447-1.

Answer: Henry Flagler 

Posted at 06:00 AM on July 29, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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.

Posted at 06:00 AM on July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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


Posted at 06:00 AM on July 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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


Posted at 06:00 AM on July 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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.

Posted at 06:00 AM on July 1, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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