I enjoy researching and writing about Central Florida of the second half of the 19th Century. A remote wilderness evolved into hundreds of tiny settlements between the years 1850 and 1895. The Census of 1850 found fewer than 500 individuals living in counties known today as Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia. But the area’s population remained extremely low until after the Civil War, when in the 1880s, this scarcely populated region quite suddenly became known as America’s Paradise – “the land of health and wealth.”
Today, Central Florida of that era continues to be a land of mystery and intrigue. Most of the people and events contributing to the building of America’s Paradise have, for the most part, remained vague and uncertain.
An excellent example is a fellow born 1825 in Wilson County, Tennessee. By 1850, Isaac Newton RUTLAND had found his way to Florida, and opened a mercantile business in OCALA, where he then met, and soon after married, Margaret STANTON.
Margaret’s sister, CINDERELLA (I do not fib), married into a long established Florida family named STEWART. Matthew & Cinderella STEWART then relocated to APOPKA, arriving around 1853, migrating there with his parents, as well as Isaac & Margaret (Stanton) RUTLAND.
The Rutland family did not stay at Apopka, but rather settled instead closer to present day SANFORD, near where State Road 46 currently crosses the Wekiva River. Merchant Isaac N. Rutland established a store at that location, and named the place RUTLAND’S LANDING.
In 1856, Isaac N. Rutland joined Aaron JERNIGAN’S Volunteer Militia, organized so as to protect settlers of Orange County. A few months later, in September, 1856, Aaron Jernigan was relieved of command, and Isaac N. Rutland took charge of the regiment.
Despite the town of ORLANDO being crowned as County Seat in 1857, political power in this region remained mostly in the FORT REID area, an early settlement along the old forts train, a community that predated present day Sanford. Fort Reid’s political clout became apparent in late 1860, when the State of Florida called together delegates for a Secession Convention to be held at Tallahassee.
69 delegates would determine the State’s fate, representatives selected as follows: Each State District Senator would be a delegate, and have one vote. In addition, each Florida County was also to select one delegate, so that in all, there would be 69 votes.
Orange County selected William W. Woodruff of Fort Reid to be its delegate. Orange County was then part of the 19th Senatorial District at that time, and in 1860, the State Senator representing the 19th district was Isaac N. Rutland, a resident of nearby Fort Reid.
A final vote on whether or not to secede was taken on January 10, 1861. Of the 69 delegates, 62 voted in favor. 7 voted NO.
Attorney Joseph J. Finegan, later to become Florida’s General Finegan during the War, voted in favor of secession. Finegan at that time owned 20,000 acres in Orange County, including 12,000 acres that separated Fort Reid from Isaac N. Rutland’s ferry crossing. One actually had to cross Finegan's land to get to and from Fort Reid and Rutland's Ferry.
William W. Woodruff, of Fort Reid, on the east side of Finegan’s property, and Isaac N. Rutland, bordering Finegan’s west property line, both voted NO, opposing Secession.
After the Civil War, Orange County history remembered William W. Woodruff. Isaac N. Rutland on the other hand was removed from most all of the post-war archives. A roster of Florida Lawmakers dating to 1822 is revised routinely, the most recent being in 2015. Woodruff is included in each roster, Rutland is never included.
At the University of Gainesville, the George Smathers Library maintains an online list of all State District Senators, and for the year 1861, the name James D. Starke, a resident of the OCOEE area, appears rather than Isaac N. Rutland.
All of the information mentioned thus far was gathered from an exhaustive search of the Rutland family in Florida. I began the research for a historic Novel, and in the process, uncovered a long buried file folder telling of Rutland’s demise, and explains much, much more. That file folder, created by the military in 1865, was titled, ‘The Rutland Mule Matter’. I borrowed that title at the completion of my Novel. Click on the book cover to visit my MULE webpage.
The facts found in that file, along with other resources, are all historic in nature, and prove existing historic records to be wrong. For that reason, I have gathered together these historic documents, and dispatched a letter to the guardians of Florida’s history along with a request they amend their records for the sake of Florida history.
The following is the letter I sent off to Tallahassee earlier this week:
Bob Ward, Clerk
Florida House of Representatives
513 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
RE: The People of Lawmaking in Florida (1822 – 2015)
Isaac N. Rutland, 19 Senatorial District (1861)
Dear Mr. Ward,
The name Isaac N. Rutland has long been missing from a comprehensive list of all Florida State Lawmakers. I believe this man’s name had been removed from the State roster nearly 150 years ago. I believe too that State archives should now be corrected, and the name Rutland should be included to properly reflect the history of Florida.
The Rutland name has been absent as well from a list of Florida’s 19 District Senators maintained at the George Smathers Library at the University of Florida. I am contacting the university as well under separate cover letter, but including with that letter the same documents I am submitting here, information substantiating the mysterious Senator from Orange County, Isaac N. Rutland.
People of Lawmaking, page 167, lists James D. Starke as the 19 District Senator for the years 1860 and 1861. Then, on page 151, W. C. Roper is listed as the 19 District Senator for the years 1862 – 1863;
§ Isaac N. Rutland attended Florida’s Secession Convention as a delegate. In fact, Rutland was present January 3, 1861, the first day of the convention. The gathering adjourned that same day because not all delegates had arrived, but hand-written minutes of that first day (Exhibit A and B), a document on file in Florida’s archives, list all of the delegates present on the 3, including: “19 Senatorial District, Isaac N. Rutland.”
§ The minutes of January 3, 1861 contradicts that of the roster given in ‘The People of Lawmaking.’ James D. Starke could not have been the 19 District Senator for the year 1861, as Isaac N. Rutland held that position on January 3.
§ Isaac N. Rutland was one of the signers of Florida’s Secession Ordinance, and his signature appears on the Ordinance itself. For your convenience, I’ve included a copy of Rutland’s signature as it appears in our State’s Archives and online at the Florida Memory Project. I labeled this item Exhibit C;
§ A photo of Isaac N. Rutland is included in a collage of delegates who attended the Secession Convention. This photo, dated January, 1861, is also from Florida’s State Archives. Exhibits D (Photo) and E (Names) are both part of State archives. In the Exhibit D photo, Isaac N. Rutland is number 14, second row down from the top. His identity is known from Exhibit E, listing number 14, in the second row, as “Isaac N. Rutland, Orange County”;
§ ‘Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida,’ (1913) by William Watson Davis, PhD, included the complete Minutes of Florida’s Secession Convention. On page 64, (Exhibit F), the names of all seven delegates who voted against Secession were included, one being that of, “Rutland of the 19 Senatorial District.” The minutes also state: “Woodruff of Orange Co.”
§ William W. Woodruff is properly identified in The People of Lawmaking as serving in the ‘Secession Convention, Orange, 1861’ (Exhibit G). Isaac N. Rutland and William W. Woodruff both voted against Secession. Woodruff made into the list of lawmakers, Rutland did not. The reason for Rutland’s removal from the list long ago had to do, I believe, with the man’s unpopular actions after the 1861 Convention. Still, Rutland is deserving of his proper role today.
§ George Smathers Library maintains a list of District Senators online, and one portion of that list stating District 19 Senators is attached as (Exhibit H). Isaac N. Rutland, as you will see, is not included on that list.
To correctly reflect Florida history, ‘The People of Lawmaking in Florida’ should add the name “Isaac N. Rutland, Secession Convention, 19 Senatorial District”, and also, adding, “Senate, 19 District, 1861.” James D. Starke should be amended to reflect that he was the 19 District Senator for only the year 1860.
In addition, I am requesting that the George A. Smathers Library, at the University of Florida, also amend their list of 19 District Senators in the same manner.
I came across this information while researching a Novel based upon true events, a book entitled, The Rutland Mule Matter. Additional information regarding Isaac N. Rutland can be viewed at my website, or should you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to contact me either by mail or email ME.
Richard Lee Cronin
Central Florida Author, Historian
Attachments: Exhibits A thru H
I’ll post whatever response I receive to keep you informed.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE A COPY OF THE COMPLETE LETTER, INCLUDING EXHIBITS, EMAIL ME AT [email protected] AND I WILL SEND YOU A PDF COPY.