FLORIDA'S FORGOTTEN FRONTIERSWOMEN
PART 2: REBECCA of Madison County's OAKLAND
Florida history often remains a mystery because notable frontierswomen have been left out of the State’s true-life story. Such is true throughout Florida, but especially apparent in the State’s Panhandle, home to courageous women who of course counted among the Territory’s earliest founders even before Statehood in 1845.
A family of Dozier women are prime examples. Nine miles south of the city of Madison, along Sundown Creek Road, there exists a tiny rural cemetery doubling today as a cow pasture. Of those buried at the two acre cemetery was the landowner, Honorable John C. McGehee. An Attorney, plantation owner, and Florida statesman. McGehee served as President of Florida’s 1861 Secession Convention.
McGehee’s notoriety however obscures a noble family this man married into. In fact, he might not have moved to Florida had it not been for his in-laws. Mrs. McGehee, also buried at Old Oakland Cemetery, was Charlotte (Dozier) McGehee, born at Abbeville, SC. Charlotte died in 1858 at Madison County.
Old Oakland Cemetery, Madison County, FL
Prior to Statehood, Florida’s Panhandle had become home to kinfolk relocating from a present day Ghost Town of Hamburg, SC. Located across the Savannah River from Augusta, Benjamin F. Whitner I, a prominent Hamburg, SC businessman, relocated to Madison County in the 1830s. Today, a Madison County Ghost Town of Hamburg is testament to a South Carolina clan who had attempted to tame this wilderness.
Whitner’s wife was a sister of Rebecca (Spann) Dozier, the mother of four children, one son and three daughters, all of whom settled as adults at Madison County, Florida.
In a demanding wilderness of Florida’s Panhandle, the youngest Dozier, Rebecca, had owned in excess of 500 acres southwest of the town Madison. Her sister, Amelia Ann Dozier, died soon after arriving in Florida. Amelia was the first wife of James E. Broome, Florida’s 3 Governor. A third Dozier daughter, Charlotte, married Florida Secessionist, John C. McGehee.
Florida’s forgotten frontierswomen were as important players in this developing State as their male counterparts. While most gals married and took on a new surname, pioneers such as Rebecca Dozier, a single women and owner of a 500 acre homestead, provide a surname and pathway to uncovering the rest of Florida’s story.
Spreading out from Florida’s Panhandle, lineal descendants of Dozier and Spann moved to many other parts of the developing State. Traces of this family, for example, are found in post-Civil War Central Florida. Attorney John Dozier Broome, son of Governor James & Amelia (Dozier) Broome, had settled at Volusia County, in De Land, by the 1880s.
Oakland Cemetery is surrounded by rural land once farmed by Rebecca Dozier and her sister Amelia’s father-in-law, Rev. John S. Broome, the father of Florida’s 3rd Governor, James E. Broome. At this exact remote country location, during the year 1840, a son was born to the brother of Governor James E. Broome.
That boy, Robert W. Broome, became a Lake City, Florida Attorney after the Civil War. In 1875, this Broome travelled deep into the heart of yet another Florida wilderness. At age 35, he followed a dirt trail 22 miles south of Lake Monroe, called together the local landowners, and incorporated the 18 year old village of Orlando. After incorporating the town, Broome vanished from central Florida.
The village of Orlando had been established October 5, 1857 – the final day in office of Florida’s 3 Governor, James E. Broome.
The history of Florida is far more than merely a series of dated events. Amazing people, courageous men and women alike, took on a challenge of their life - to build a home in a difficult land. Very often, the challenge cost them their life. Amelia Ann Dozier died at age 25, two years after arriving in the Florida Territory. Despite Yellow Fever and the harsh surroundings, younger sister Rebecca Dozier refused to give up on her dream. She and many others like her forged a new land in Florida’s Panhandle.
Their proud descendants then continued the story all throughout the 27 State in our Union of States.
Watch for the story of HAMBURG, FLORIDA, coming soon to my Ghost Towns Blog.
The role of women in history is not easily found, but it’s a challenge gladly undertaken by this author of CitrusLAND books. The true-life American story can only be told through the lineal descendants of the earliest pioneers, men and women alike. Each of twelve chapters in my CitrusLAND: Curse of Florida’s Paradise begins with a dedication and brief biography of a Florida Frontierswoman. Telling the story of Florida through its people, CitrusLAND books are described in detail here at my website.
Available at BOOKMARKIT ORLANDO bookstores; Winter Garden Heritage Foundation and Central Florida Railroad Museum in Winter Garden, Florida, and Amazon.com
#Rick's Blog resumes October 19, 2016
Part 3: Irene of Sanibel Island