Thank you

Sunday, 24 February 2660 - Cambridge, UK

I know I usually blog about things I’ve discovered in my travels, but this blog I would like to do something different. I would like to write about you.

As much as I love my work, it can get very lonely out in the Field. I’m really not allowed to get too close to anyone in the past least I influence them in some way. Think about it, how have your friends influenced you over the years? My impact on another human being could distort history in some way.

For nearly four years now I have been using TimeTweets to communicate with you folks back in the 27th century. You have given me someone to talk to, besides Samantha, my teapot, on those cold lonely nights. I treasure every tweet you send me, letting me know I’m not alone.

Unfortunately TimeTweets is still in the experimental stage, even after four years. The Institute of Time Travel is so conservative. It took them six years to decide what color to paint their walls. They went with grey again. It will be nice when they finally decide that TimeTweets is safe so other Temporal Anthropologists can use it. Maybe some day.

In the mean time I am the only one fortunate enough to be able to Tweet from the Field. I think it would be unbearably lonely were the Enforcers to pull the program from me. Let’s hope that day never comes.

In closing I would just like to say thank you to all of you for your continuing support and friendship. You have become a part of my life.

And always remember, tea is excellent for time paradoxes.


America's First Free Black Settlement

Wednesday, 9 March 1892 - St. Augustine, Florida

Lincolnville is the section of St. Augustine where the citizens of African descent reside. Since the end of the Civil War, segregation has slowly gotten stronger until personal prejudice is making it’s way into actual laws. These are dangerous times for people with dark complexions and they are only getting worse.

The inhabitants of Lincolnville do their best to keep their neighborhood neat despite the lack of street paving or any other help from the city. There is a great sense of community here with the church serving as the heart. Preachers have a special respect here. Perhaps that is why in 1964 when another preacher named Martin Luther King came to town, folks listened.

The blacks of one of the most segregated cities in the country joined in the peaceful protest, daring to eat at white lunch counters and not fighting back as police dragged them away. Their non-violent civil disobedience in the face of violent opposition made the rest of the nation question the stupid inequality and the lack of fairness and side with the oppressed. St. Augustine was the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and helped push the Civil Rights Act through Congress.

Demonstrators in the St. Augsutine Movement
Perhaps it isn’t surprising St. Augustine would be the final stage of the struggle. This was after all where the fight for freedom had started.

I had been recording Lincolnville a bit at a time, not wanting to make the locals nervous, wondering why this white chap was nosing about. I think they had finally concluded I was just a naïve tourist, an Englishman who didn’t share his Southern American cousins attitudes towards non-whites. Today I dared to ask about, “Can anyone tell me where Fort Mose is?” Most just looked at me quizzically.

Finally an elderly gentleman pulled me aside. “Are you talking about the Fort that had colored soldiers?” (“Colored” is the politically correct term of the day.)

We introduced ourselves. His name was Obadiah Watkins. He told me he had heard old folks talk of a Fort “Mossa” when he was a kid. They said escaped slaves went there and built a fort to keep their masters from coming after them. Lot of folks said that was just a fairy tale, but he believed it and had looked for it.

"Did you find Fort Mose?” I asked.

Obadiah shook his head. “There is one spot north of town that might have been it once. Nothing there now. How did you hear of Fort Mossa?”

“It’s a matter of historical record,” I assured him.

“If it is, it ain’t public record.” He shook his head.

“Yes, I imagine here it would be shoved into a desk drawer and locked away, if not outright burnt. Luckily the Spanish took the record with them when they left.”

“I‘ll show you the spot if you tell me what you know about Fort Mossa.” Obadiah’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

Never ask a historian a question like that. I regaled him as we walked two miles north of town. Obadiah would only interrupt with eager questions.

As early as 1687, slaves running away from the British colonies up north were offered asylum in Florida by the Spanish. Besides giving the struggling outpost much needed workers, it also helped undermine the British plantations. So in 1693 the Spanish Government made it official. All they required was that the refugees swear fealty to the Spanish Crown, convert to Catholicism and serve in the militia for four years. The last stipulation meant they would have to fight their former masters if they attacked--which the former slaves would have agreed to anyway.

Despite the dangers of wilderness and slave hunters, by 1738 so many runaways had come to St. Augustine, the town decided to build a fort just outside of town for the recruits. The land around it was given to them to farm and create a settlement. At least 38 families lived at Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé, better known as Fort Mose (pronounced Moh-say.) They were not segregated, but were always welcomed to come into St. Augustine, where they were viewed as the city’s first line of defense.

Fort Mose
In 1740, Georgia Governor James Oglethorpe brought 1,620 soldiers against the 100 settlers of Fort Mose. The inhabitants were able to escape to the main fort, Castillo de San Marcos in town and the British took over Fort Mose. Once their families were safe, the black militia came back with reinforcements and drove the British out. Just for spite, the Georgians burnt down Fort Mose on their way out.

Fort Mose was rebuilt, but in 1763 the fort was again abandoned. When Florida came into British hands, the inhabitants of Fort Mose, as well as the other Spanish citizens, all packed up and headed for Cuba.

Obadiah brought me to a copse of trees surrounded by marshy ground. There was no trace of the earthen bank that would have surrounded the fort. No surprise there, for earth to fill in swamps is a high commodity in this country. I do know that in 1986 archaeologists did find Fort Mose’s location. I will have to wait and see if Obadiah guessed right.

Obadiah's best guess as to the location of Fort Mose
I offered my guide some monetary compensation for his trouble but he refused it. He said my history lesson was payment enough. On the way back into town he told me how Lincolnville was founded. During the Civil War, while Florida joined the Confederacy, St. Augustine was occupied by Union troops. It was the only town in the south where the Emancipation Proclamation actually freed slaves--Obadiah being one of them. So in 1866 all those now ex-slaves started their own community and named it for the man who had freed them.

When we got back to St. Augustine I thanked Obadiah for his assistance. I wished him luck and tried to sound optimistic, for I knew the coming years will not be easy for him or his family. But they shall overcome someday.

Fort Mose Historic State Park

St. Augustine Movement


Showcase of the Gilded Age

Saturday, 27 February 1892 - St. Augustine, Florida

Perhaps the best way to beat the competition is to be your own competition! Right across the street from Henry Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel is Flagler’s Alcazar Hotel. He construction on his second hotel as soon as the first was finished. I checked into the Alcazar yesterday so I could record the building as a guest.

The Alcazar Hotel as seen from the Ponce de Leon Hotel
I believe I told you last week of the Methodist Church Flagler built? That was to replace the one he bought and tore down to build this hotel. He gave the Methodists a much grander church for being such good sports.

Flagler also demolished a roller rink and filled in a creek. He bought a farm north of town so he could dig up dirt to fill in the Maria Sanchez Creek. The farm he dug up had been the site of the historic first Fort Mose, a community of free black settlers back in 1738. Flagler didn’t let expense, history or God get in his way of his schemes.

The Alcazar Hotel was opened in 1888, built with poured concrete and coquina stone just like the Ponce de Leon Hotel. It was designed by Carrère and Hastings, who also designed the Ponce de Leon. They will go on to design numerous other buildings including the New York Public Library. That famous building will not be as grand as this one.

Parlor of the Alcazar Hotel
The hotel has a three-story ballroom, steam room, massage parlor, sulfur baths, gymnasium, a casino and the world’s largest indoor pool. Just last year they added another 40 rooms as well as electricity. Edison installed two of his direct current dynamos to light the hotel.

Alcazar's indoor swimming pool
The Alcazar attracts many wealthy patrons, including former and future American president Grover Cleveland. He came here in 1889, between his two terms in office, to check out the casino. That same year Secretary of State Thomas Bayard took a few laps in the pool. At $3.50 a night, most people could never afford to stay here.

By 1932, those heady days will be gone. What with the Great Depression and the waning tourist trade moving further down the coast, the hotel had to be closed. In 1946 Chicago publisher Otto C. Lightner bought the Alcazar Hotel do house his vast collection of Victoriana. What better place than one of the former luxury hotels of the Gilded Age? The building itself would be part of his collection. He not only had art, furniture, and glassware from the period, but glass and polished wood museum cases full of stuffed animals, minerals and artifacts that Victorians loved to collect. Lightner would later donate his Museum to the City of St. Augustine.

Bridge across the fish pond in the courtyard
I will have to visit the museum when I get back to the future. For now I am enjoying the restaurant, the gardens, the swimming pool, the Turkish bath and a couple of massages. All in the name of historical research, of course.

The Lightner Museum

More photos of the Alcazar Hotel

The steam room - Turkish or Russian Bath


The Minorcans of St. Augsutine

Tuesday, 23 February 1892 - St. Augustine, Florida

Today I visited the Minorcan Quarter in the old section of St. Augustine. The Minorcans are one of the oldest ethnic groups here and have helped build this city.

Minorca in the light blue
If you have never heard of Minorcans, it is because they come from a small island in the Mediterranean. Minorca is only 29 miles long and 10 miles wide. It’s strategic location on the sea lanes has made it a target for larger nations (as well as pirates.) Too small to defend themselves against conquerors, Minorca has learned to roll with the punches.

The earliest settlements show Cretan influences. Carthaginian, Romans, Vandals, Moors, Turks, French and English have all owned Minorca at one time or another. It is now officially Spain’s. The population consists of people from all over the Mediterranean including a large number of refugee Jews. They have melted into their own culture with their own language, Menorqui. They also have their own cuisine. The French might claim mayonnaise as their own, but they stole it from Minorca.

In 1763 when Spain traded Great Britain Havana for Florida, the Brits found the peninsula sparsely populated. All of the Spanish settlers had left for Cuba leaving just the mosquitoes and alligators behind. When Andrew Turnball was given 20,000 acres of land along the coast, he decided to try to do something with it. He wanted to start a indigo plantation but needed workers. Doubting his fellow Scots could weather the heat, he looked to the warmer Mediterranean.

Turnball started with Minorca as his base. He knew Minorcans were hard workers, having had married one. He also recruited a small number of Greeks and Italians and loaded up eight ships. A total of 1,403 colonists sailing to Turnball’s “New Smyrna.” Each recruit was promised 50 acres after working 6 to 8 years, with another five acres added for each child born.

The promised land turned into a nightmare. Turnball and his overseers were hard taskmasters. The colonists were treated badly, fed poorly, clothed and housed inadequately. Add to the hardships of just living in an isolated swamp. Malaria was rampant. About 450 colonists died the first year. When they had served their time and tried to collect their payment, they were beaten and sent back to the fields. The ugly truth dawned on them. They weren’t indentured servants, they were in fact slaves!

In 1777, after nine years of this horror, a couple of the men managed to escape and made their way to St. Augustine to tell the Governor of Florida their plight. Governor Patrick Tonyn was horrified by their account and sent investigators. He liberated the colonists and invited them to come to St. Augustine. The 600 survivors and their children marched to the city. It’s estimated 964 of the colonists had died.

Minorcan Quarter
The tough hard-working Minorcans proved a boon to the struggling community. St. Augustine treated them with far more respect than Turnbull ever did. United by culture and shared adversity, the Minorcans are still a close knit society after 100 years. They fight hard to keep their traditions alive, and I understand they are still proud of their heritage in the 27th century.


Americas First Cowboys

Thursday, 11 February 1892 - St. Augustine, Florida

Where did the first American cowboys come from? Texas? The Dakotas? Kansas?

No. Florida. Yes, Florida, although they are not called cowboys, but cowmen or more often just Crackers. Now Crackers will tell you they got their name because they use whips instead of lassoes and it was the cracking whips that gave them their moniker. More likely it comes from the Elizabethan term for a braggart and blowhard. Shakespeare uses the term in his 1595 play, King John: "What cracker is this ... that deafes our ears / With this abundance of superfluous breath?"

In 1763, when Great Britain gained control of Florida, many English American and Scots-Irish immigrated into the Florida back country as settlers. The more “civilized” folks in the port towns called them Crackers for their boasting. Only the toughest folk could survive the heat, mosquitoes and alligators, so maybe the Crackers had a reason to brag.

By the twentieth century “Cracker” will be used as a derogatory meaning “poor white folk.” Now here in Florida it has come to mean a cowboy. I noticed some of the "Crackers" out here are African-American or Seminole Ameridians.

Cracker Horse
The Cracker Cow and Cracker Horse were already here before the Crackers came in. When the English took over, the Spanish moved out leaving their livestock to roam wild. Descended from Spanish breeds, the Cracker cow and horse evolved into tough, hardy breeds that could survive the harsh conditions of Florida. They are also small so they can navigate the thick underbrush and marshes. In this age cows are allowed to range wild, and the Crackers go out to round them up, thus earning another current moniker, Cow Hunter.

Cow Hunters
I visited a ranch outside of St. Augustine today and watched the Crackers cracking their whips to herd their cattle. Already ranches are experimenting with crossing other breeds with Cracker Cattle, putting the pure breed in jeopardy. In the next century the Cracker Cow and Cracker Horse will be pushed close to extinction. In the 1930s cattle from Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas will be brought to Florida to escape the Dust Bowl drought. Quarter horses will be brought too, to better manage the larger cows. It was only by determination from devoted breeders that the smaller Cracker cows and horses did not disappear all together.

Good thing to. Both the Cracker horse and Cracker cow will be used by off-world homesteaders because of their durability in harsh conditions.

Cracker Cattle

The fight to save the Cracker Cow