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The Peninsular or Everglade State, the most southern in the American Union and second largest east of the Mississippi, lies between parallels 24° 38' and 31° N. latitude and meridians 79° 48' and 87° 38' W. longitude. Its name, commemorative of its discovery by Ponce de Leon at Eastertide (Sp. Pascua florida), 1513, or less probably descriptive of the verdant aspect of the country, was originally applied to territory extending northward to Virginia and westward indefinitely from the Atlantic. Florida is bounded north by Alabama and Georgia, east by the Atlantic, south by the Straits of Florida and Gulf of Mexico, and west by the Gulf and the Perdido River. It contains 58,680 sq. miles, 4440 being lake and river area. Politically, the State is divided into forty-six counties, geographically into the peninsular section, stretching 450 miles north and south, average width 95 miles, and the continental or northern portion, measuring 400 miles from Alabama to the Atlantic, mean width 65 miles. Its eastern coast-line, comparatively regular, is 470 miles long; it is paralleled almost its entire length by sand reefs which enclose an inland waterway, and its outline is prolonged in the chain of coral and sandy islets known as the Florida Keys, which extend 200 miles in a south-westerly direction, terminating in the Tortugas. Over the Keys an extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad from the mainland to Key West is in course of construction. The deep-water ports are Fernandina, Jacksonville, and Key West. The Gulf coast-line, sinuous in conformation, measures 675 miles; the chief ports are Tampa, Apalachicola, and Pensacola.

Physical characteristics

The Everglades, often erroneously described as swamp-lands, form the characteristic feature of Southern Florida. They consist mainly of submerged saw-grass plains extending 130 by 70 miles, studded with numerous islands which produce a semi-tropical jungle-growth. The surface water, ordinarily about knee-deep, pure, potable, and abounding in fish, has a perceptible southbound current. A limestone substratum occasionally appears through a bedbottom of vegetable mould. While subterranean sources of supply are contributory, the inundation chiefly results from the overflow of Lake Okeechobee (1200 sq. miles), whose rock-rimmed shores, 18 feet above sea-level, exceed by 10 feet the general elevation of the Everglades. North of the lake, extending through the counties of De Soto, Manatee, Osceola, and Brevard, lie vast tracts of prairie or savanna land with large swamp areas. This is the cattle region of Florida. Farther north, and embracing the counties of Polk, Lake, Orange, Sumter, Marion, and Alachua, is the fertile and picturesque rolling country of the central ridge with a general altitude of 200, and elevations approaching 300 feet above sea-level. This is the lake region; Lakes Kissimmee, Tohopekaliga, Apopka, Harris, and George are chief amongst thousands. The extensive coastal plains, comprising the entire area of the Gulf and Atlantic seaboard counties, are low-lying sandy tracts, monotonously level and frequently marshy. These constitute the pine region of Florida. The northern portion of middle Florida, between the Suwannee and Apalachicola Rivers, while corresponding in general altitude and topography to the central ridge, differs widely from all other parts of the State. Red clay and loam of surpassing fertility replace the elsewhere prevalent thin sandy soils, while the featureless aspect of boundless pine plains and the recurrent sameness of undulating landscape are replaced by a rare exuberance and diversity of highland, plain, lake, and woodland scenery. Florida is an exceedingly well-wooded and well-watered State. Pine, cypress, cedar, oak, magnolia, hickory, and sweet gum everywhere abound, while there are good supplies of rarer hardwoods and semi-tropical varieties. There are, including the East Coast Canal nearing completion, nearly 2000 miles of navigable waterways. The chief rivers flowing into the Atlantic are: St. Mary's, forming part of the northern boundary; St. John's, 300 miles long, navigable for 200 miles; Indian River, properly a salt-water lagoon or sound, forming part of the East Coast Canal. The Caloosahatchee, Peace, Manatee, Withlacoochee, Suwannee, Ocilla, Ocklockonee, Apalachicola, Choctawhatchee, Yellow River, Escambia, and Perdido empty into the Gulf. The Kissimmee enters Lake Okeechobee. Characteristic of the State are its immense mineral springs: Silver, Wakulla, Chipola, Green Cove, and White Springs are the principal. The remarkably mild and agreeable climate of Florida makes it a favourite winter resort. The average annual temperature ranges from 68° at Pensacola to 70° at Key West; extremes of heat or cold are rarely experienced; the annual rainfall is about 60 inches.



Diversity of product, rather than abundance of yield, is noticeable. Besides semi-tropical productions, all varieties common in higher latitudes, except a few cereals, may be profitably cultivated in Florida. The soil, exclusive of the impartially distributed fertile hammock lands, i.e. limited areas enriched by decomposed vegetable deposit, is excessively sandy and rather poor in quality, yet surprisingly responsive to cultivation. Even where the soil is not especially prolific the warm, humid climate stimulates a rapid and vigorous plant growth. In 1905, 31,233 farms were operated by whites, 14,231 by negroes, 20 by others; farm acreage, 4,758,874; 1,621,362 acres being improved. Value of farms, $51,464,124; operating expenses, $3,914,296; products, $40,131,814; field crops, $13,632,641; fruit crops, $5,423,390; live stock, $14,731,521. Crops in order of value: cotton, 282,078 acres, 80,485 bales, value $4,749,351; corn, 455,274 acres, 4,888,958 bushels, value $3,315,965; peanuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans, white potatoes, tobacco, celery, hay, watermelons, oats, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers. The mort valuable fruit crop was the orange: 1,768,944 bearing trees, producing 2,961,195 boxes, value $3,353,609; followed in order of value by pineapples, grapefruit, strawberries, and peaches. Live stock included 36,131 horses, 19,331 mules, 69 asses, 1,010,454 cattle, 604,742 swine, 115324 sheep, 33,150 goats.

Commerce and industries

The report for the last statistical year shows a remarkable increase in commercial and industrial activities; 1906 manufacturing establishments, capital $42,157,080, paid $18,048,599 to 52,345 wage-earners; value of manufactured products, $53,506,154. The leading industries and value of annual output are: cigarmaking, about $15,000,000 (returns incomplete); lumber, $15,210,916; naval stores, $10,196,327 ; phosphate, $6,601,000. The value of exports (overland being about as much more, not included) was $62,655,559 for 1906, cigars comprising one-third this amount, the remainder being almost equally divided between lumber, naval stores, and phosphate; the value of imports was $6,654,546. The fisheries of the west coast and sponge industry of the Keys are important, giving employment to 6000 men and yielding an annual product valued at $1,500,000. The total assessed valuation of taxable property in the State was (1904) $111,333,735; State debt, $601,567. On 1 March, 1908, eighteen railroads, with a total mileage of 4104, main track 2948, miles, were in operation.


The landing of Ponce de Leon on the shores of Florida probably on the Sunday after Easter, 3 April, 1513, is the first positively authenticated instance of the presence of Europeans on the mainland of the United States. This expedition, which popular narrative invests with romantic glamour, was undertaken according to the royal patent of authorization "to discover and people the island of Bimini". Ponce named the land Florida in honour of the Easter festival, set up a stone cross with an inscription, and impressed with the hostile character of the natives, returned after six months' exploration to Porto Rico. His attempt to establish a colony in 1521 was doomed to speedy failure. The voyages of Miruelo (1516), Cordova (1517), Pineda (1519), Ayllón (1520), and Gomez (1524) accomplished little beyond establishing the fact that Florida was not an island but part of a vast continent. The disastrous outcome of the expeditions of Pánfilo Narvaez (1527-28), of Hernando de Soto (1538-43), and of Tristan de Luna (1559-61) are well-known episodes in the early history of America. On the failure of Ribault's French colony, founded at Port Royal (1562), René de Laudonnière planted the new settlement of Fort Caroline at the mouth of St. John's River (1564). Pedro Menendez de Avilés, the foremost naval commander of his day, learning that Ribault had left France with reinforcements and supplies for the new colony, set out to intercept him and banish for ever French Huguenots from the land that belonged by right of discovery to Catholic Spain. Menendez never undertook an enterprise and failed. He reached the harbour of St. Augustine 28 August, 1565, naming it for the saint of the day. The founding of the oldest city in the United States merits a brief description. After devoting a week to reconnoitring, Menendez entered the harbour on 6 September. Three companies of soldiers were sent ashore under two captains, to select a site and begin a fort. On 8 September Menendez landed, and amid the booming of artillery and the blast of trumpets the standard of Castile and Leon was unfurled. The chaplain, Father Lopez de Mendoza, carrying a cross and followed by the troops, proceeded to meet the general who advanced to the cross, which he kissed on bended knee as did those of his staff. The solemn Mass of Our Lady's Nativity was then offered on a spot which was ever afterward called Nombre de Dios. On 20 Sept. Fort Caroline was taken by surprise, only women and children being spared. The merciless slaughter of Ribault and his shipwrecked companions by Menendez a few days subsequently is an indelible stain on a singularly noble record. The story, so assiduously copied by successive historiographers, that Avilés hanged some of his prisoners on trees and attached the inscription No por franceses sino por Luteranos, is an apocryphal embellishment (see Spanish Settlements, II, 178). Two years later De Gourgues retaliated by slaughtering the Spanish garrison at Fort Caroline.

The history of Florida during the first Spanish administration (1565-1763) centres round St. Augustine, and is rather of religious than political importance. English buccaneers under Drake in 1586 and again under Davis in 1665 plundered and sacked the town. Distrust and hostility usually prevailed between the Spanish colonies and their northern English neighbours. Governor Moore of South Carolina made an unsuccessful attempt in 1702 to capture St. Augustine, and in 1704 laid waste the country of the civilized Apalachee. Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia invaded Florida in 1740, besieging St. Augustine with a large force but was repulsed by the Spanish Governor Monteano and forced to retreat. Spain ceded Florida to England in 1763. During the English period great efforts were made to populate the country and develop its resources, but religion suffered irreparably. During the second Spanish occupation (1783-1821) some unimportant military operations took place in West Florida under General Andrew Jackson in 1814 and 1818. In consequence of the treaty of 1819, the Americans took possession of Florida in 1821. In 1822 Florida became a territory of the United States, William P. Duval being appointed first governor. The following year Tallahassee was selected as the new capital. The refusal of the warlike Seminoles to repair to reservations resulted in the long, costly, and discreditable Indian War (1835-42), which came to an end in the capture by treachery of Osceola.

Florida was admitted to Statehood in 1845. The State seceded from the Union 10 January, 1861. In 1862 minor engagements between the Federal and Confederate forces took place; the Federal troops occupied Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Fernandina, but the Confederates, under General Finegan, gained a decisive victory over the Union forces commanded by General Seymour at Olustee in 1864. In proportion to population Florida furnished more troops than any other Confederate State; they took an honourable part in the campaigns of Tennessee and Virginia, and bore a distinguished reputation for steadfast endurance on the march and conspicuous gallantry on the battlefield. Florida gave to the higher ranks of the Confederate service three major-generals, Loring, Anderson, and Smith, and the Brigadier-Generals Brevard, Bullock, Finegan, Miller, Davis, Finley, Perry, and Shoup. The State was represented in the Confederate Cabinet by Stephen R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy. If the war proved disastrous to Florida, the subsequent reconstruction added despair to disaster when citizens witnessed the control of public affairs pass into the hands of unscrupulous adventurers. The ordinance of secession was repealed in October, 1865, and a State government organized in 1866. In 1868 a new constitution having been adopted and the Fourteenth Amendment ratified, Florida was readmitted into the Union, but it was not till 1877, when Floridians obtained political ascendancy, that a healthy industrial growth as well as social and educational progress began to appear. The present constitution was adopted in 1886. The discovery of rich phosphate deposits in 1889 greatly improved economic conditions, and the constantly growing popularity of Eastern Florida — the American Riviera — as a winter resort contributes to the general prosperity.


The colony of 600 Spaniards founded by Menendez at St. Augustine in 1565 was the earliest permanent white settlement within the present limits of the United States. Relinquishing fruitless attempts to establish extensive settlements, Florida's Spanish conquerors early subordinated purposes of colonization to motives of military expediency, so that during an occupation of two hundred years the white population remained limited to a few stations of strategic importance. In 1648 the civilian population of St. Augustine was represented by 300 families, and in 1740, nearly a hundred years later, it numbered 2143. The various Spanish garrisons usually aggregated about 2000 men. In 1763, when Florida passed under English rule, the entire Spanish population of 5700 moved away. During the twenty years of English occupancy there was a steady influx of settlers, including numbers of loyalists from the revolted colonies. At this period the so-called Minorcan colony was founded at New Smyrna. During the second Spanish regime (1783-1821) immigration continued and, when Florida came under the United States flag in 1821, increased rapidly. The first U. S. census of 1830 gives the population at 34,730. For the thirty years following a decennial increase of 60 per cent appears, the population in 1860 being 140,424. Since 1860 the increase per decade has averaged 40 per cent. In 1900 the population was 528,542, and in 1905, 614,845, nearly 18 times that of 1830, showing in five years an increase of 86,303, or 16 per cent. In 1900 whites numbered 297,812, coloured 230,730, average number of inhabitants per square mile 9.7. Following are detailed statistics of 1908 (State census): white, 348,923; coloured, 265,737; other races, 185; average per square mile, 11.3. Foreign born white, 22,409, comprising 5867 Cubans, 3120 Italians, 2589 West Indians, 2051 English, 1945 Spanish, 1699 Germans, 1059 Canadians, 610 Irish, and 3469 of other nationalities. The Cuban population is concentrated mainly at Tampa and Key West, Spanish and Italian at Tampa, West Indian of both races at Key West; the other nationalities are scattered broadly over the State. Nine counties exhibit a slightly decreased population attributed to a shifting of negroes from the farms. In twelve counties negroes outnumber whites. Leon county has the largest percentage of coloured people, 14,880 out of 18,883 total, or 78.8 per cent; Lee county the smallest, 399 out of 3961 total, or 10 per cent. Leon has 25.8 inhabitants per square mile, Lee only 0.8; these figures are typical of racial distribution of population throughout the State. Cities over 10,000: Jacksonville 35,301, Tampa (estimated) 28,000, Pensacola 21,505; and Key West 20,498.


The organization of the Florida Educational Society in 1831 was apparently the first attempt made to inaugurate a public school system. It resulted in the establishment of a free school at St. Augustine in 1832. During the ante-bellum period, owing to general lack of interest, inefficiency of educational legislation, and the prejudice that regarded public schools as "pauper" schools, but little was accomplished for the cause of popular education. In 1860 a few counties had organized public school systems, but the advent of war, and particularly the subsequent dismal process of reconstruction proved a serious blow to educational progress. The constitutional convention of 1865 gave the subject scant recognition, but that of 1868 adopted in its constitution liberal provisions, which were greatly amplified by the constitution of 1885. This constitution established a permanent State school fund, consisting mainly of proceeds of public land sales, State appropriations, and a one-mill property tax, the interest of which was to be applied to support public schools. This fund (1908) exceeds one million dollars. Each county constitutes a school unit (but when advisable special school districts may be formed) and is authorized to levy a school tax of from 3 to 7 mills. Poll-tax proceeds also revert to the county school fund. The governor, secretary of state, attorney-general, State treasurer, and State superintendent of public instruction form the State Board of Education. County boards consist of a county superintendent and three commissioners. There are twelve grades or years of instruction, eight months constituting a school year. The school age is six to twenty-one years. The constitution prescribes that "white and coloured children shall not be taught in the same school, but impartial provision shall be made for both". Statistics from latest biennial report (1906) of state superintendent show: total public schools, 2387; white 1720; coloured 667; enrolment: white 81,473, or 66 per cent of school population, coloured 48,992, or 52 per cent of school population; total expenditure for school year ending June, 1906, $1,020,674.95 for white schools, $200,752.27 for coloured schools. There are 2495 white and 794 coloured teachers. The report observes that while rapid progress has been accomplished along educational lines, a comparison with more advanced States shows that in Florida popular education of the masses is yet in its initial stage. "One of the greatest hindrances to educational progress at the present time is the scarcity, not only of professionally trained teachers, but teachers of any kind." This scarcity is ascribed to the inadequate remuneration teachers receive.

The system of higher education fostered by the State was reorganized by legislative act of 1905. Several existing institutions were abolished, and in their stead were established a State university for men, a State college for women, and a coloured normal and industrial school in which co-education prevails. These higher educational institutions receive generous support. State appropriations in 1907 amounted to $600,000, while annual subventions from the federal treasury aggregate about $60,000. The University of the State of Florida, Gainsville, includes a normal department, also a United States Agricultural Experiment Station, under a separate managerial staff. The university faculty numbers 15, Experiment Station staff 14, enrolment (1908) 103. The Florida Female College, Tallahassee, also includes a normal school, and has 22 professors and instructors and 240 students. The coloured normal school, Tallahassee, reports a faculty of 24 and an enrolment of 307. Institutions of higher education under denominational auspices: The John B. Stetson University (Baptist), Deland, incorporated 1889, affiliated with Chicago University, 1898. Its productive endowment funds amount to $225,000, while it has been the recipient of munificent gifts and legacies; enrolment (1908) 520, faculty 49. Rollins College (undenominational evangelical), Winter Park, incorporated 1885, possesses an endowment fund of $200,000, faculty 20, enrolment 148. The Southern College (Methodist), Southerland, founded 1902, faculty 19, enrolment 216. The Columbia College (Baptist), Lake City, was established in 1907; its faculty numbers 12, enrolment 143. St. Leo College (Catholic), St. Lee, incorporated 1889, is conducted by the Benedictine Fathers, faculty 9, enrolment 75. The Presbyterian College of Florida, Eustis, opened in 1905 and has at present 9 professors and 63 students. There is a business college located at Tampa and two — Massey's and Draughon's — at Jacksonville.

Catholic institutions, beneath college grade but maintaining a high standard of instruction, are the Academies of St. Joseph at St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and Loretto — the latter a boys' preparatory school — of the Holy Names at Tampa and Key West, and of the Sisters of Mercy at Pensacola. The number of children under Catholic care is 3704. Denominational institutions of high grade for the education of negroes are the Cookman Institute (Methodist), enrolment 487; the Edward Waters College (Methodist); and the Florida Baptist College, all situated at Jacksonville. In all the non-Catholic institutions co-education obtains.


Early missionary efforts

The permanent establishment of the Christian Religion in what is now the United States dates from the founding of St. Augustine in 1565. The previous fifty years exhibit a record of heroic though fruitless attempts to plant the cross on the soil of Florida. The solicitude manifested by the Spanish Crown for the conversion of the Indians was sincere and lasting, nor was there ever wanting a plentiful supply of zealous Spanish missionaries who brought to the spiritual subjugation of the Western World the same steadfastness of purpose and unflinching courage that achieved within so short a space the mighty conquests of Spanish arms. Priests and missionaries accompanied Ponce (1521), Allyón (1526), De Soto (1538), and De Luna (1559). In 1549 the Dominican Father Luis Cancer de Barbastro, honoured as Apostle of Central America and Protomartyr of Florida, in attempting to establish a mission, was slain by hostile Indians near Tampa Bay. Having secured Spanish supremacy by ruthlessly crushing out the French and planting a permanent colony at St. Augustine in 1565, Menendez with indomitable energy and zeal devoted himself to the evangelization of the Indians. Of the twenty-eight priests who embarked with him from Spain, four only seem to have reached Florida, of whom Martin Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales became first parish priest of St. Augustine, the first established parish in the United States. Pending the arrival of regular missionaries, Menendez appointed soldiers possessing the necessary qualifications as religious instructors to the Indians. The Jesuits were the first to enter the missionary field; three were sent by St. Francis Borgia in 1566 and ten in 1568; the few who survived the martyrdom of their brethren were recalled in 1572. In 1577 the Franciscans arrived. The good progress made by 1597 was severely checked by a general massacre of the missionaries instigated by a young chief chafing under merited reprimand. In 1609 several Indian chiefs sought baptism at St. Augustine, and the Florida missions entered the palmy period of their existence, which lasted till well past the middle of the century. In 1634 the Franciscan province of St. Helena, with mother-house at St. Augustine, contained 44 Indian missions, 35 missionaries, and 30,000 Catholic Indians. By 1674 evidences of decline begin to appear. Bishop Calderon found his episcopal jurisdiction questioned by the friars, and although he confirmed many Indians, he complained of the universal ignorance of Christian doctrine. The arbitrary exactions of successive governors provoked resentment and rebellion amongst the Christian Indians, while the English foe on the northern border menaced their very existence. In 1704 the blow fell. Burning, plunder, carnage, and enslavement is the record of Moore's raid amongst the Apalachee missions. Efforts at re-establishment partially succeeded, there being in 1720 six towns of Catholic Indians and several missions, but owing to the ravages of persistent conflict between the Spanish and English colonies, these in 1763 had languished to four missions with 136 souls. The cession to England in 1763 resulted, not merely in the final extinction of the missions, but in the complete obliteration of Florida's ancient Catholicity.

Formation of dioceses

St. Augustine began its existence as a regularly constituted parish of the Diocese of Santiago de Cuba. Its church records, dating from 1594, are preserved in the archives of the present cathedral. The first recorded episcopal visitation was made by Bishop Cabeza de Altamirano in 1606. In 1674 Bishop Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderon visited the Floridian portion of his diocese; he conferred minor orders on seven candidates, and during an itinerary of eight months, extending to the Carolinian confines, confirmed 13,152 persons, founded many mission churches, and liberally supplied others. The permanent residence of Bishops-Auxiliary Resino (1709-10), Tejada (1735-45), and Ponce y Carasco (1751-55) at St. Augustine, shows that despite the waning condition of the colony and missions at this period, the Church in Florida was not deprived of episcopal care and vigilance. Bishop Morell of Santiago, exiled from his see during the English occupation of Havana (1662-63), remained four months at St. Augustine, confirming 639 persons. When Florida in 1763 passed under English rule, freedom of worship was guaranteed, but the illiberal interpretation of officials resulted in the general exodus of Catholics, so that by 1765, the bi-centenary year of the Church in Florida, a few defaced church buildings presented the only evidence of its former Catholicity. Five hundred survivors of the New Smyrna colony of 1400 Catholics natives of Mediterranean lands, settled at St. Augustine in 1776 and preserved the Faith alive through a trying epoch. In 1787 Florida became subject to the newly constituted See of St. Christopher of Havana, and the following year Bishop Cyril de Barcelona found the church at St. Augustine progressing satisfactorily under the care of Fathers Hassett and O'Reilly, who had arrived on the retrocession of Florida to Spain in 1783.

In 1793 Pius VI established the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas, appointing the Right Rev. Luis Peñalver y Cardenas, with residence at New Orleans, as first bishop. After Bishop Peñalver's promotion to the Archbishopric of Guatemala in 1801, no successor having been appointed, Louisiana, which was annexed to the United States in 1803, came under the jurisdiction of Bishop Carroll of Baltimore in 1806, the bishops of Havana reassuming authority over Florida until the appointment of the Rev. Michael Portier in 1825 to the new Vicariate of Alabama and Florida. Bishop Portier undertook single-handed the work of his vast vicariate, not having a single priest, until at his request Bishop England of Charleston sent Father Edward Mayne to St. Augustine in 1828. In 1850 the See of Savannah was created and included that part of Florida which lies east of the Apalachicola River; this was constituted a separate vicariate in 1857 under the Right Rev. Augustin Verot as vicar apostolic and erected into the Diocese of St. Augustine in 1870, with Bishop Verot, who had occupied the See of Savannah since 1861, as first bishop. Bishop Verot's unwearied activity and zeal in promoting religion and education soon bore fruit; schools were opened by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy in 1858, but the outbreak of the Civil War frustrated all hopes of success. In 1866 the Sisters of St. Joseph were introduced from France, and despite the most adverse conditions, they had several flourishing schools and academies in operation before many years. The era of progress inaugurated by Bishop Verot continued under the administration of Bishop John Moore (1877-1901), whose successor, the Right Rev. William John Kenny, was consecrated by Cardinal Gibbons 18 May, 1902, in the historic cathedral of St. Augustine. The Catholic population of the State, including 1750 coloured Catholics, is (1908) about 30,000. The Diocese of St. Augustine, wholly included within the State, contains about 25,000 Catholics; there are 49 priests with 40 churches and several missions, and 2897 young people under the care of religious teaching orders. That portion of the State situated west of the Apalachicola River forms part of the Diocese of Mobile since 1829; the Catholic population is about 5000, there are five churches with resident priests and 6 Catholic schools with 807 pupils; Pensacola, founded 1696, is the Catholic centre.

Other religious denominations

The Methodist Church South has the largest membership. The Florida Conference was set off from the Georgia Conference in 1844. The session of December, 1907, reported 341 churches and 155 ministers; estimated membership 40,000. The Baptists report 35,021 total membership, 548 churches, 370 ministers. The Episcopalian denomination, comprising the Diocese of Florida and the Missionary District of Southern Florida, organized 1892, has 7737 communicants, about 12,000 total baptized, and 66 ministers. These three denominations display considerable activity and efficiency in missionary and educational work. The Baptist State Mission board supports 40 missionaries; while the Episcopalians, with but 10 self-supporting parishes, maintain nearly 200 missions, including 14 churches for negroes and 10 parish schools with 540 pupils. In 1894 the Episcopal Church started mission work amongst the Seminole Indians of the Everglades, who number about 300, but as the chiefs who are arbiters of all individual rights have hitherto held aloof, the result has been very discouraging. Presbyterians North and South number 6500 with 95 ministers, Congregationalists 2500; other denominations represented in the State are: Adventists, Christians, Lutherans, Unitarians, Campbellites, Jews, Christian Scientists, and Mormons. Reliable religious statistics of the coloured people are difficult to obtain owing to multiplicity of organizations and mobility of religious temperament. Five distinct branches of Methodists report 635 preachers, 400 churches, and 7470 members. Baptist organizations approximate the Methodists in strength, while the coloured membership of other denominations is very small.

Florida Indians

The early explorers found the Indians distributed over the entire peninsula. To the northwest the populous tribes of the Apalachee inhabited the country watered by the Suwannee and Apalachicola Rivers; the Timuquanans occupied the centre of the peninsula, with numerous settlements along the St. John's; the Calusa in the southwest ranged from Cape Sable to Tampa Bay; on Biscayne Bay the small settlement of Tegestas seems to have come originally from the Bahamas and contracted kinship with the Calusa; along the Indian River south of Cape Canaveral lived the Ays, also comparatively few in numbers and mentioned only in connexion with early missionary labour, probably having become absorbed in the Timuquanans under the unifying influence of Christianity. Sufficient data for an approximate estimate of population are wanting; probably the entire population of the tribes mentioned exceeded 20,000 but not 40,000. These tribes pertained ethnologically and linguistically to the great Muskhogean or Creek family, though some philologists consider the Timuquanan language, which "represents the acme of polysynthesis", a distinct linguistic stock.

The Timuquanans lived in great communal houses, fortified their villages, practised agriculture to some extent and a few rude industries. They are described as being of fine physique, intelligent, courageous, generally monogamous, very fond of ceremonial, and much addicted to human sacrifice and superstition. Their settlement near St. Augustine furnished the first Indian converts, in all probability prior to the advent of the Franciscan missionaries in 1577. In 1602 Governor Canço estimated the number of Christians amongst them at 1200. A catechism in the Timuquanan language by Father Francisco Pareja was printed in Mexico in 1612 and a grammar in 1614 (reprinted at Paris, 1886), besides other works. These were the first books printed in any of our Indian tongues. The baptism of twelve Timuquanan chiefs in 1609 at St. Augustine cleared the way for the conversion of the whole nation to Christianity. English and hostile Indian raids diminished their numbers (1685-1735), and by 1763 they had all but disappeared. The Apalachee Indians, closer related to the Creeks, resembled the neighbouring Timuquanans in general disposition and manner of life. It is not mentioned that they practised human sacrifice, and in other respects, especially after their conversion to Christianity, they exhibited a superiority of character over the other Floridian tribes, being docile and tractable to religious teaching and training. Towards Narvaez (1528) and De Soto (1539) they assumed a surprisingly hostile demeanour, in view of the ready response accorded subsequently to the efforts of the missionaries. In 1595 Father Pedro de Chozas penetrated to Ocute in the Apalachee country, and his mission proved so fruitful that the Indians appealed in 1607 for additional missionaries, and by 1640 the whole tribe was Catholic. The Apalachee country was invaded and devastated by hostile Indians and English under Moore in 1704. Of thirteen flourishing towns but one escaped destruction, missionaries were tortured and slain, 1000 Christians were carried off to be sold as slaves, and of 7000 Christian Apalachee only 400 escaped. One of the last items recorded of the tribe is the testimony of the French writer Penicaut to the edifying piety with which a fugitive band that had settled near Mobile adhered to the practices of religion.

The Calusa or Carlos Indians, with whom Menendez in 1566 endeavoured to establish friendship and alliance, in order to pave the way to their conversion, showed a persistent spirit of hostility to Christian teaching. They were cruel, crafty, though recklessly brave, polygamous, and inveterately addicted to human sacrifice. The Jesuit Father Rogel laboured fruitlessly amongst them (1567-8). The Franciscans in 1697 were even less successful. In 1743 the Jesuit Fathers Monaco and Alana, who obtained some little success, described them as cruel, lewd, and rapacious. The remnant of the tribe moved to the western reservations about 1835. The Seminoles, also allied to the Creek stock, came into Florida about 1750; very few of them became Christians, as missionary activity ceased on the English occupation in 1763. Their refusal to withdraw to reservations resulted in the Indian War of 1835-42. On the conclusion of the war 2000 were conveyed to Indian Territory. About 300, defying every effort of the United States, retired to the almost inaccessible recesses of the Everglades which their descendants occupy to this day.

Legislation directly affecting religion

Freedom of worship and liberty of conscience are by constitutional provision guaranteed in perpetuity to the citizens of Florida. The Declaration of Rights ordains (Sec. 5): "The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship shall forever be allowed in this State, and no person shall be considered incompetent as a witness on account of his religious opinions; but the liberty of conscience hereby secured shall not be so construed as to justify licentiousness or practices subversive of, or inconsistent with, the peace or moral safety of the state or society." The constitution further provides (Sec. 6) that no preference be given by law to any church or religious sect, and forbids the subvention of public funds in aid of any religious denomination or sectarian institution. Wilful interruption or disturbance of "any assembly of people met for the worship of God" is, through legislative enactment (Gen. Stat. 3547), a penal offence. The religious observance of Sunday is, by various prohibitory statutes, indirectly enjoined. All business pursuits "either by manual labor or with animal or mechanical power, except the same be work of necessity" are forbidden on Sunday. Selling goods in open store, the employment of servants, except in ordinary household duty and necessary or charitable work, and the discharge of fire-arms on Sunday are punishable offences. The printing and sale of newspapers is specially exempted. Service and execution of writs on Sunday (suitable provisions obviating possible abuse of the statute being annexed) are declared null and void. By legislative act of 1905, certain games and sports, expressly baseball, football, bowling, and horse-racing, are prohibited on Sunday. All electors upon registering must testify under oath in form prescribed, that they are legally qualified to vote, All State officials, on assuming office, are required to take an oath of loyalty to the Federal and State constitutions and governments, of legal qualification for office, and of fidelity to duty. Testimony in the various courts is to be given under oath. The officials authorized to administer oaths are designated by statute. The issuance of search-warrants is forbidden, except for probable cause, with specification of names and places and supported by oath (Dec. of Rights, 22); also all offences cognizable in Criminal Courts of Record are to be prosecuted upon information under oath (Constit., V, 28). By statutory provision (1731) a declaration in judicial form may in all cases be substituted for an oath.

The days defined as legal holidays include Sunday, New Year's Day, Christmas Day, and Good Friday. The use of prayer in the Legislature is not sanctioned by legal provision, although it is customary to appoint a chaplain and begin each session with prayer.

Against open profanity and blasphemy it is enacted (Gen. Stat. 3542) that "whoever having arrived at the age of discretion profanely curses or swears in any public street shall be punished by fine not exceeding five dollars". Heavier penalties are decreed against the use of indecent or obscene language, and liberal statutory provision exists for the safeguarding of public morality.

Churches, religious communities, charitable institutions, and cemetery associations may become incorporated by complying with the provisions of the general statutes regulating non-profitable corporations. Churches, church lots, parsonages, and all burying-grounds not held for speculative purposes are declared exempt from taxation; property of literary, educational, and charitable institutions actually occupied and used solely for the specific purposes indicated is likewise exempt. Ministers of the Gospel are by statute exempt from jury duty and military service. All regularly ordained ministers in communion with some church are authorized to solemnize the rites of the matrimonial contract under the regulations prescribed by law. Marriages of whites with negroes or persons of negro descent to the fourth generation (one-eighth negro blood) are forbidden. The prohibited degrees, besides the direct line of consanguinity, include only brother and sister, uncle and niece, nephew and aunt. Continuous absence of either spouse over sea or continual absence for three years following voluntary desertion, with presumption of demise, gives the other spouse legal right to remarry. The statutory grounds for divorce are: consanguinity within the degrees prohibited by law, natural impotence, adultery not connived at or condoned, extreme cruelty, habitual indulgence in violent and ungovernable temper, habitual intemperance, wilful, obstinate, and continued desertion for one year, divorce procured by defendant in another state or country, and bigamy. To file a bill of divorce two years' residence (the cause of adultery excepted) is conditional. Separation a mensa et toro is not legally recognized; every divorce is a vinculo. Special personal and local divorce legislation is unconstitutional.

State aid is prohibited denominational schools. The law directs every teacher "to labor faithfully and earnestly for the advancement of the pupils in their studies, deportment and morals, and to embrace every opportunity to inculcate, by precept and by example, the principles of truth, honesty and patriotism, and the practice of every Christian virtue". The benevolent institutions maintained by the State include an insane asylum situated at Chattahoochee, a school for the blind, deaf, and dumb at St. Augustine, and a reform school for youthful delinquents at Marianna. A Confederate Veterans' Home at Jacksonville receives an annual appropriation. Each county cares for its indigent and needy infirm. While financial support is denied, ample provision for incorporation is afforded religious charitable institutions. The constitution orders the establishment and maintenance of a State prison, which is not at present permanently located. Convicts are leased through contractors to turpentine and phosphate operators. Over these convicts the State retains surveillance through supervisors appointed by the governor. The law provides also for the appointment and remuneration of a chaplain for state convicts. On 1 January, 1906, there were 1234 state prisoners, 90 per cent of whom were coloured, distributed through 33 convict camps.

The constitution gives to each county the privilege of local option to permit or prohibit the sale of liquor. In a majority of the counties prohibition prevails. Where permitted, the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor are regulated by State, county, and municipal licence laws. Conveyance of real and personal property by will is restricted only by conditions of soundness of mind and age requirement of twenty-one years on part of the testator. There appear to be no Supreme Court decisions referring to bequests for Masses and charitable purposes or to the seal of confession, but the attitude of both bench and bar in the State has in these matters been ever above suspicion of anti-Catholic bias or partiality.


FAIRBANKS, History of Florida (Jacksonville, 1901); IDEM, History of St. Augustine (New York, 1858); SHEA, Catholic Missions (New York, 1857); IDEM, History of the Catholic Church in the United States (New York, 1886-92); GATSCHET, A Migration of the Creek Indians (Philadelphia, 1884); IDEM, The Timuqua Language in Proceedings of Am. Phil. Soc. (Philadelphia), XVI (1877), 627; XVII (1878), 490; XVIII (1880), 465; LOWERY, The Spanish Settlements (New York, 1901-05); IRVING, The Conquest of Florida (Philadelphia, 1835); BRINTON, Notes on the Floridian Peninsula (Philadelphia, 1859); ROMANS, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida (New York, 1775); BREVARD, History and Government of Florida (New York, 1904); DEWHURST, The History of St. Augustine (New York, 1881); CARROLL, Historical Collections of South Carolina (New York, 1836); STEPHENS, History of Georgia (New York, 1847); WALLACE, Carpet Bag Rule in Florida (Jacksonville, 1888); YOCUM, Civil Government in Florida (Deland, 1905); WILLIAMS, Florida (New York, 1837); FISKE, The Discovery of America (Boston, 1892); General Statutes of the State of Florida (St. Augustine, 1906); WILLOUGHBY, Across the Everglades (Philadelphia, 1906); RUIDIAZ, La Florida (Madrid, 1893); GARCÍA, Dos antiguas relaciones de la Florida (Mexico, 1902); TERNAUX-COMPANS, Recueil de pièces sur la Floride (Paris, 1841); SPRAGUE, The Origin, Progress and Conclusion of the Florida War (New York, 1848); Extant Records of the Parish of St. Augustine from the year 1594, preserved in the Cathedral Archives at St. Augustine.

About this page

APA citation. Veale, J. (1909). Florida. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Veale, James. "Florida." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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