Florida Historical Markers Programs - Marker: Nassau





You are currently viewing Nassau

Nassau

FLORIDA'S FIRST ATLANTIC TO GULF RAILROAD
Location:Atlantic Avenue & Front Street
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: The Florida Railroad Company was incorporated January 8, 1853, with David L. Yulee as president. The line received both federal and state land grants. Despite early financial difficulties, construction was begun from Fernandina, where the main office was located, in 1856. The Final trackage to Cedar Key was lain March 1, 1861, and Florida had its first cross-state railroad.
ST. PETER'S CHURCH (EPISCOPAL)
Location:801 Atlantic Avenue
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: The church was organized as a mission in 1858 and was consecrated the following year by the Rt. Rev. Francis Huger Rutledge, first Bishop of Florida. During the War it was used by Federal forces occupying Fernandina and many of its interior possessions were lost. The building was restored to sacred use during the Reconstruction Period, but was destroyed by fire in 1892. The present neo-Gothic church was completed in 1893.
FERNANDEZ GRANT
Location:N. 4th Street.
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: During the Spanish and English periods of Florida history, many large tracts of land were granted primarily to induce settlement. All that remains of the Don Domingo Fernandez Spanish Grant is the family cemetery and this park. Royal title to this property was granted August 9, 1807. This land was once a part of the Earl of Egmont property on Amelia Island, which included the present site of the City of Fernandina Beach. On January 1, 1825, the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida passed "an act to incorporate the city of Fernandina." Little development resulted until 1853 when the Florida Railroad Company announced that Fernandina would form the eastern terminus for the first cross state railroad in Florida. This stimulated the growth of Florida by making a portion of the interior more accessible for further development and population growth.
Sponsors: The People of Saint Michael's Parish in Cooperation with Department of State
BATTLE OF THOMAS CREEK
Location:on U.S. 1 at Thomas Creek
County: Nassau
City: South of Callahan
Description: When the American War of Independence began, the new British colonies of East and West Florida did not seek separation from England. East Florida remained comparatively free from serious fighting throughout the course of the Revolutionary War. In the summer of 1777, however, Americans initiated an invasion aimed at capturing St. Augustine. The expedition was composed of Continental Army troops and Georgia militia forces under the command of Lt. Col. Samuel Elbert. Preparations for the defense of east Florida involved the East Florida Rangers, a force of mounted provincials, British Regulars, and Indian allies. On may 17, 1777, a portion of the invading American expedition was attacked by a detachment of British Regulars under Maj. J.M. Prevost assisted by Rangers under Col. Thomas Brown and Indians. The battle took place at a site on Thomas Creek south of its confluence with the Nassau River. After suffering heavy casualties, the Americans, already discouraged by lack of supplies and the heat, began their retreat from Florida. Only one more unsuccessful invasion of East Florida occurred during the remaining years of the American Revolution.
Sponsors: Sponsored by florida society, children of the american revolution in cooperation with department of state
PLAZA SAN CARLOS
Location:Estrada st. near White St.
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: This land high above the Amelia River was a campsite for Indians in pre-historic times, as early as 2,000-1,000 B.C. In the early history of the state, it assumed military importance because of the fine protected harbor on the northern boundary of Spanish Florida. In the first Spanish period, a village of Franciscans and Indians was established here by 1675, and a Spanish sentinel's house was documented in 1696. From 1736 to 1742, James Oglethorpe stationed Highlanders on this site. After the withdrawal of Oglethorpe's troops in 1742, the area served as a buffer zone between the English and the Spanish until 1763 when Flroida became a British possession. When Spain regained possession of Florida in 1783, this harbor was an embarkation point for British Loyalists leaving Florida. The U.S. Embargo Act of 1807, which closed all U.S. ports to European trade, made the border town of Fernandina a center for smuggling. On March 17, 1812, a group of Americans known as the Patriots overthrew the Spanish battery, but the U.S. flag replaced the Patriots' standard after one day. Spain regained control in May, 1813, and completed Fort San Carlos in 1816. As the fort's parade ground, this site was named Plaza San Carlos.
Sponsors: sponsored by General Duncan Lamont Clinch, Historical Society of Amelia Island in cooperation with the Florida Department of State
FORT SAN CARLOS
Location:Corner of Estrada and White St.
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: On this bluff overlooking the Amelia River, Fort San Carlos was completed by the Spanish in 1816. The fort was made of wood and earthworks and was armed with eight or ten guns. As the Spanish Empire disintegrated, Fort San Carlos became increasingly vulnerable to foreign intervention. Commissioned by representatives of revolting South American countries to liberate Florida from Spanish control, Sir Gregor MacGregor seized the fort in June, 1817. After his withdrawal in September, the Spanish attempt to reassert their authority was repelled by forces led by MacGregor's lieutenants, Jared Irwin and Ruggles Hubbard. Somewhat later, the pirate Luis Aury gained control of the fort. Because Aury's privateering threatened negotiations concerning the cession of Florida, United States troops occupied Fort San Carlos in December, 1817. Although upset by U.S. interference at Fort San Carlos, Spain did cede Florida in 1821, and the U.S. abandoned the fort shortly after the transferral. Archaeologists estimate that two-thirds of the area has disappeared through erosion.
Sponsors: sponsored by general duncan lamont clinch historical society of amelia island in cooperation with department of state
MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Location:NE Corner of Centre and Sixth Streets
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: Methodism first came to Amelia Island in 1822 when the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church appointed the Reverend Elijah Sinclair as the first minister to East Florida. Sinclair arrived within months of Florida being ceded to the United State by Spain in 1821 and was welcomed by Protestant Scotch and English settlers who opened their homes to him for services. The congregation continued to worship in homes and the Pioneer Hotel after the town was relocated in the 1850s from Old Town, about a mile north of the present site of Fernandina Beach. In the mid-1800s a wood frame church was built on the northwest corner of Broome and Sixth Streets. The old church was torn down after it was replaced by the building on Centre Street. Construction of the brick Classical Revival style building began in 1926 on property donated by E.W. Bailey and John W. Simmons. The sanctuary was complete by 1930 and the first services were held on the second Sunday in February. Fund raising to complete work on the church was difficult during the Great Depression of the 1930's, and the three-story classroom section at the rear of the building was still unfinished when Bishop Paul Kern dedicated the church in 1940. The work was finally completed in 1951. It is the oldest United Methodist congregation in the Florida conference.
Sponsors: florida heritage sitesponsored by the General Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Societyof Amelia Island and Florida Department of StateSandra B. Mortham, Secretary of State
THE LESESNE HOUSE
Location:Corner of Centre and 5th St.
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: This Classical Revival style residence, built by Dr. John F. Lesesne circa 1860, is one of the oldest homes in Fernandina Beach. Lesesne left Fernandina during the Civil War and did not return. In 1868 the house became the property of the family of Judge John Friend, who had been appointed district tax commissioner after the war by President Andrew Johnson. Friend was a lawyer and served as a county commissioner and judge. At the time of his death in 1878 he was state senator-elect from Nassau County. The descendents of the Friend family still occupy the home. This double galleried home, constructed of hand-hewn lumber fastened with wooden pegs, is one of the major points of interest in the Fernandina Beach Historic District which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Sponsors: The General Duncan Lamont Clinch Historical Society of Amelia Island and Angel Starke Davis, Ernest and Marie Davis Chaplin Family, Davis and Dee Chaplin, Saxby Caroline Sperau and Florida Department of State.
HISTORIC AMERICAN BEACH
Location:Lewis St. at Ocean Blvd.
County: Nassau
City: Amelia Island
Description: American Beach was established in 1935 under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln Lewis, one of seven co-founders of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company, and one of Florida’s first black millionaires. His vision was to create a beach resort as a benefit for company executives and as an incentive for employees to exceed in sales. Florida’s beaches were racially segregated until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Because of this, American Beach became regionally popular since it was one of the few beaches in the Southeast open to African Americans. Other sites in American Beach trace their history to the Civil War era. Amelia Island was home to several Sea Island cotton plantations, including the Harrison Plantation. In 1862 Union Forces captured Amelia Island and the freed slaves founded Franklin Town at the south end of this island. The Franklin Town cemetery, which had been given by the Harrison family to their slaves as a burial place for their families, still exists today on the west side of Highway A1A. In 1972, encroaching development forced Franklin Town residents to move north to American Beach. Their Methodist Church, built in 1949, was also moved here where it now serves as the church’s fellowship hall.
Sponsors: AMERICAN BEACH PROPERTY OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION, INC. AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE
PHELAN - VEROT HOUSE
Location:N. 4th St between Alachua St. and Broom St.
County: Nassau
City: Amelia Island
Description: The marker text reads as follows: "On February 5, 1875, Jean-Pierre Augustin Verot, Bishop of Saint Augustine, purchased this cottage from Sarah Phelan. The Sisters of Saint Joseph lived here in the year 1877, when a devastating epidemic of yellow fever swept over the Amelia Island community. From this place, for three weeks as the epidemic raged, the small coterie of sisters risked their lives, night and day, as they nursed the stricken of every race, Catholic, non-Catholic, rich and poor. They offered comfort and prayers for the sick and dying, and even helped bury the dead. Grateful citizens thereafter called them "Angels of Mercy." Mother Celenie and Sister de Sales, young French nuns far from their motherhouse in LePuy, France, died of the fever. They rest in Bosque Bello Cemetery, their graves marked with simple stone crosses bearing the date 1877."
Sponsors: Amelia Island Fernandina Restoration Foundation and the Florida Department of State
NEW ZION BAPTIST CHURCH
Location:10 South Street, Amelia Island
County: Nassau
City: Amelia Island
Description: New Zion Baptist Church, the second oldest and largest black Baptist Church on Amelia Island, was founded on May 15, 1870 under the leadership of Reverend Lewis Cook (1834-1880). He and 69 parishioners held their first meeting in a stable on First Street and later in peoples’ homes. The 69 parishioners, supported by “Father Cook,” purchased the land for the church on April 1, 1878. The original wood church, built in 1881on the present site, was destroyed by fire on the morning of February 11, 1907. The current structure, built on the same site and completed by November 1907, was constructed of cement brick veneer and remains unchanged today. William “Billy” Rivers, a well-known black contractor, supervised the project. Reverend P.A. Callaham, Bachelor of Divinity, served as Pastor. New Zion has a historical, cultural and spiritual significance, particularly during the segregation era, when it was the leading and largest church used for graduations and other community events. Under the leadership of 22 pastors, New Zion has for over 100 years contributed to the community and remains a cherished historical site in the historic district of Fernandina Beach.
Sponsors: CITY OF FERNANDINA BEACH AND THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF STATE
MARTHA’S HIDEAWAY
Location:Ervine ST.
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: American Beach, founded in 1935, was a renowned beach for Blacks during the segregation era when African Americans could not go to public beaches. In the early development of American Beach, a few private homes were built, including one hidden deep in the woods at the end of Ervin Street. The Colonial Revival house, built for local African-American business owner and community activist Martha Hippard, is an unusual example of high style architecture in the beach resort community. Detached from the main house is a separate party house that some say was a gambling house. Others say it was used to host dances, club parties, and other civic and social activities. Both houses are constructed of hand-made concrete blocks from truckloads of crushed coquina shells hauled from American Beach and hand-molded bricks manufactured on the premises. The 1938 structures were built on nearly an acre of land, larger than any other parcel in the area. In January 1961, Elmo and Annette Myers of Fernandina purchased the house from its second owner, eduator Lottie O. Harris of St. Marys, Georgia. Martha's Hidaway, also called Hippard's Hideaway, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 12, 2001.
Sponsors: Nassau County and the Florida Department of State
A DUNE SYSTEM CALLED "NANA"
Location:Ocean Blvd.
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: NaNa, the tallest dune in Florida, is a protected landmark due largely to the efforts of MaVynne Betsch (January 14, 1935-September 5, 2005), widely known as the "Beach Lady." Betsch, who once performed opera in London, Paris and Germany, returned to American Beach in 1975 as a full-time resident. Here, she used her resources and talents for the preservation of nature, the environment and the African-American community of American Beach. For this 60-foot dune system that she dubbed "NaNa," and the adjoining property to the shoreline, her efforts resulted in acquiring nearly ten acres as a national park now located in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. The "Beach Lady" also championed efforts that led to the posting of nesting signs for the protection of sea turtle eggs and encouraged residents to plant wildflowers on vacant lots to stabilize the sand as well as serve as hosts for butterfly nestlings and feedings. MaVynne Betsche, devoted the last 25 years of her life as this historic African-American community's most vocal advocate. Beach Lady is lovingly remembered for her mantra, "Getting the most from the least and living peacefully in harmony with nature is the most rewarding lifestyle."
Sponsors: The American Beach Property Owners Association and the Florida Department of State
NASSAU COUNTY HISTORIC COURTHOUSE
Location:416 Center St N
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: The 1891 Nassau County Courthouse is one of only a few remaining courthouses in Florida built in the late 19th century. An excellent example of the Italianate style, it features a square domed tower with cupola, brick corbelling, bracketed cornice, brick pilasters, arched windows, granite sills, and arcaded entrances with cast iron columns. Its architect, A.E. McClure, was from Jacksonville, but designed notable buildings throughout Florida, including the Lake City Agricultural College, forerunner of the University of Florida. The building's cornerstone was inscribed with the date 1891 and was scheduled to be laid on December 16 of that year, but the ceremony was delayed until April 12, 1892. Renovations to the courthouse include the 1926 addition of a vault for the recording office and a bell that was cast by Meneely & Co. of West Troy, New York. The bell served as part of the city's fire alarm until the mid-1930s. The clock was added to the bell tower in 1977. The courthouse is the tallest building in the Fernandina Beach Historic District and has served the county's judicial and governmental needs since its construction.
Sponsors: The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners and the Florida Department of State
ITALIA
Location:S.R. 200 between Gussie Ln and Police Lodge Rd.
County: Nassau
City: Yulee
Description: The town of Italia was founded here in 1882 by Irish-born entrepreneur William MacWilliams. Italia was located at milepost 18 on the Florida Transit Railroad, which ran from Fernandina to Cedar Key. The town began when former U.S. Senator David Levy Yulee, president of the Florida Transit Railroad, convinced MacWilliams to build a brick factory here. Timber businesses soon came to Italia with the openings of a wood-shingle mill and a sawmill to take advantage of nearby forests. By 1885, Italia had about 100 inhabitants and included a depot, post office and general store. Products made here were used in commercial and residential buildings in Fernandina and many other Northeast Florida locations. Thomas J. Shave brought new life to Italia when he built a turpentine still in 1905. By 1910, turpentine was the area's primary business. Italia suffered a fatal blow in the mid-1920s when the railroad was re-routed from Callahan to Gross, leaving the town without a viable link to distant markets. MacWilliams named his town Italia, reflecting a then-popular Florida marketing campaign which promoted the state as 'America's Italy' because of its similar peninsular shape and temperate climate.
Sponsors: Friends of Italia and the Florida Department of State
FRANKLINTOWN CHAPEL
Location:1415 Lewis St
County: Nassau
City: Fernandina Beach
Description: The Franklintown community was a first populated by ex-slaves from the Samuel Harrison plantation. Franklintown Chapel’s congregation was organized in 1880 by Trinity M.E. Church, located in the City of Fernandina at the north end of Amelia Island. The Reverend J.G. Howard served as the chapel’s first pastor from 1880-1885. As the congregation grew, in 1888 ex-slave and Union soldier Gabriel Means and his wife, Edith Drummond Means, donated land for a building. In 1892, Means built the first Franklin Chapel, a one-room unpainted fame structure. In 1949, that building was demolished to make way for the construction of State Road AIA, and a new building was constructed. In 1972, following the purchase of the entire Franklintown tract by the Amelia Island company, the 1949 building along with the original bell from the 1892 chapel was moved the American Beach community. American Beach had been established as an African American ocean playground in 1935 by the Afro-American Life Insurance Company’s pension Bureau under its president Abraham Lincoln Lewis. Today, Franklintown chapel serves as the Gabriel Means Fellowship hall adjacent to the Franklintown United Methodist Church.
Sponsors: The American Beach Property Owners’ Association, Inc. and the Florida Department of State