MARY Catherine influenced her State’s 19 century history not only from her PALATKA home, but in ST AUGUSTINE and ORLANDO as well. At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say again, excluding women from the amazing story of Florida’s founding risks telling an incomplete history of the 27 State. Mary Catherine of PALATKA is merely one example.
104 distinct ORLANDO 1880s deeds, for example, were not official until after MARY C of Palatka had affixed her signature. And while history did record her husband failing in 1850 to develop PALATKA, historians neglected to mention the town venture ultimately prospered thanks to MARY Catherine’s brother-in-law, Henry R. TEASDALE. Mary C’s family clearly played an important role in the story of early Florida.
Born 1825, Mary C was a native of America’s oldest city and a daughter of St. Augustine merchant Pedro J. L. BENET. Of Spanish descent, the Benet family was mentioned in an 1895 journal as “respected St. Augustine citizens.” Mary Catherine BENET married on the 22 of February, 1850, to Robert R. REID III. Born at Augusta, Georgia, Reid was the son of Florida’s Territorial Governor, Robert R. Reid II, who had died while in Tallahassee in 1841 of Yellow Fever.
Robert & Mary Catherine (BENET) REID relocated the year of their marriage, settling 30 miles west of St. Augustine at a wilderness trading post on the St. Johns River.
Robert R. Mary C. REID residence, Palatka, FL
Said to mean “crossing over,” PALATKA was a remote community of fewer than 500 in 1850. Despite losing $5,000 in developing the town, the Reid’s made Palatka a permanent home. All seven of their known children were born at Palatka.
After going bankrupt, Robert R. Reid III started over, entering a partnership with Henry R. TEASDALE, husband of Estanislada BENET, Mary Catherine’s younger sister. The new business, Merchants Teasdale & Reid, flourished, and became an important player in the story 19 century Palatka.
As Florida struggled to rebuild during the wake of America’s Civil War, Teasdale & Reid, in 1867, acquired 120 remote acres well to the south of Palatka. The successful bid of $900 was made to the Orange County Sheriff on the courthouse steps at Orlando. The acreage itself surrounded the tiny log cabin courthouse.
Their investment in Village of Orlando sat idle for the next 13 years before Robert & Mary Catherine (Benet) Reid, “of Palatka, Putnam County, Florida,” platted 80 of the 120 acres in 1880 as an addition to the four (4) acre village of ORLANDO.
The first train to Orlando arrived November 11, 1880, stopping at a depot built on acreage donated by, “Robert R. Reid, and MARY C. REID his wife.” The Reid’s sold 103 parcels, with each and every deed being signed by both Robert and Mary C Reid.
On the 29 of October, 1889, Mary Catherine (BENET) REID died at her Palatka home.
The role of women in history is not easily found, but it’s a challenge gladly undertaken by the author of CitrusLAND books. The true-life American story, including the story of Florida, 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, Second Edition, begins with a dedication to and brief biography of a central Florida Frontierswoman. In addition, the Reid family’s involvement in the development of Orlando is detailed in my First Road to Orlando.
Telling the story of Florida through its people, CitrusLAND is described in detail at my website: www.croninbooks.com
CitrusLAND books are available at BOOKMARKIT ORLANDO bookstores; Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, and Central Florida Railroad Museum in Winter Garden, FL.
Also available at Amazon.com and the Kindle Store
Visit also my Goodreads Group, “Florida History”