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News from the Courthouse

Greetings from the Wakulla County Clerks Office. Independence Day is just around the corner. What an amazing country we live in, birthed with blood, sweat, and tears by our founders at great sacrifice.

I don't think we usually give them enough credit, most of them realized they would lose not just their homes and other assets but would be hanged if the Independence movement and the resulting war was not successful for the colonies.

Speaking of the Revolutionary War, remember that this event played a role in the story I continue this month on the Forbes Purchase.

As the last segment ended, I shared the trading post company now named Forbes and Company (formerly Panton, Leslie and Co.) had obtained a large tract of land from their primary customers, the local Indians, to satisfy the large accounts on the books of the stores.

The firm had succeeded in converting one asset (accounts receivable) to another more liquid one (large piece of land). But, they still had to convert this to cash, because businesses constantly need to spend in order to survive.

This sale/purchase/grant of land was and still is one of the largest and unusual land purchases in American History.

The firm went about getting various Spanish officials to approve the transfer of land, in order to secure the clearest title possible to this major asset, and this plays an important role in the story of the Forbes Purchase.

The vast acreage was undetermined, but was estimated to be around 1.2 million acres. Of interest was that this did not extinguish all Indian debts, only the balance of the Seminole and Lower Creek tribes in the area.

Forbes and Co. needed to do three things, they needed to have the boundary surveyed to determine a legal description of that northern boundary (all other boundaries to the east, south, and west were bodies of water). Forbes and Co. also needed to survey some of the interior lands into sections that could be sold profitably, and they needed to do this as soon as practical to raise cash.

In need of a good surveyor to help them with these goals, enter Mr. Hartfield (apparently the s was added a few years later). He was a surveyor from South Carolina. He was hired by Forbes to run the boundary lines of their large parcel of land and to help them in determining what property within the Purchase might be the easiest to sell to others.

After remarking the boundary (it was agreed to and marked back in 1804 by the firm and the Indians), he shared with Forbes and Co. that the most desireable piece of land in the Purchase was just west of the Wakulla River!

Mr. Hartfield began a survey of this area that he decided to call the Wakulla Survey, but became known as the Hartsfield Survey. His survey contained just over 59,000 acres (15% of our total county area, 4% of the Forbes Purchase).

But sales did not pick up even after the partial surveying. Strangely enough, Indian credit balance continued to climb at record levels, so in 1811 an additional three smaller, adjacent tracts were added onto the original tract, approved by the Spanish government and with the same restrictions as on the previous property. This entire tract was now known as the Forbes purchase.

The total amount of debt the Indians had run up in purchasing goods at the trading posts amounted to $85,920.

They marketed this land to settlers and speculators, and they put forth a valiant effort, but fortune continued to elude the Forbes co., as there was little immigration during the next few years.

This was due in part to the agriculutural quality of much of the land and to a lack of stability in the area, made worse by open Indian hostility during the period leading up the the War of 1812 (between England and US).

England formed alliances with any Indians that were sympathetic to the British cause, and these Indians began to show hostilities including killing cattle of settlers and freeing Negroes.

Interestingly, the weapons and ammo the Indians were using to destabilize the area in which Forbes wished to sell were being furnished by England during this time, just as the Panton Company had done in furnishing arms to the Indians that were used all up and down the American frontier just 20 years ealier.

The English even built a fort on Forbes property (without permission of course) during the war of 1812, and even after abandoning it following the war, left it in the hands of sympathetic Indians and a large group of escaped slaves.

These two forts remained a serious threat and a destabilizing force until 1816, when US troops, led by General Andrew Jackson, came into Spanish Florida and destroyed the fort that was located on the property of the Forbes purchase.

As you may know, that is not all that Andrew Jackson did here in our area! He also came on over to the St. Marks fort, where he captured, tried, convicted, and executed two British subjects. Another day, another international uproar originating right hereā€¦but that is another story for another day.

For the Forbes Company, it was becoming apparent that the United States would eventually take control of Florida from Spain, there long time "partners".

This caused great concern with the Forbes and Company, because they could forsee problems with liquidating the property. They felt the US government would not offer any compensation for their property and other claims, and could even refuse to recognize the property ownership completely, thus invalidating all the work done and causing a loss of the value of 1.4 million acres.

American control of Florida was not good news for Forbes, so they set about to find ways to avoid or minimize these risks associated with such a monumental change.

There is a lot of interesting information ahead yet, so much so that so tune in next month as I continue this story.

On another note, I am so humbled to be able to serve as your Clerk of Court for another term and for that I am truly thankful. I pledge to strive to continue to serve the public in the roles as Clerk to the Courts and to the Board of County Commissioners to the best of my abilities. I know we will face continuing challenges in the future but I believe in the role of the Clerk in local government. With the continued help of my hard working staff, we can succeed!

As we enjoy the month of July, make sure you fully appreciate the freedom we have and appreciate the price being paid in various ways to keep us free. Free, not just from foreign forces, but from any threat to freedom, our rights to a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

Pray for our leaders. God Bless America, and God Bless Wakulla County! Until next time, this is your news from the Courthouse.