This letter was written by George Lott Phillips (1782-1852), an army officer, teacher, and school master. He was born in England, the son of Rev. John Lott Phillips (1747-1802) and Mary Ann Seale (1787-1832). Rev. Phillips was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Princeton College in 1774. He moved to Wake County, NC, where he was accused of being a Loyalist. He was imprisoned briefly in GA and then went to England. George entered the British Army and served as Captain of a unit that guarded Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte during his captivity on the Island of St. Helena. He emigrated to the U. S. and settled in Savannah, where he worked as a tutor. Around 1832, he moved to St. Augustine and established the Phillips Preparatory School, which he operated until 1847. During the Second Seminole War, he served 1835-1836 as Captain of a company in the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Regiment, of the Florida militia. George also served as a Justice of the Peace in 1838-1840 and as Acting Coroner in 1840. On January 1, 1849, he advertised the opening of an “evening school,” offering classes in arithmetic, navigation, surveying, French, and other subjects. George served as Mayor from 1851 to May 1852. He probably resigned his office due to ill health. On October 24, 1853, he died of “paralysis” at St. Augustine.
The letter was sent to Hugh White (1798-1870) — a noted cement manufacturer, U. S. Congressman, and banker. He was born in Whitestown, NY, the son of Hugh White Jr. (1763-1827) and Tryphena Lawrence (1768- 1800). After graduating from Hamilton College, he worked with his brother, the famous engineer Canvass White (1790-1834), on the construction of the Erie Canal. In 1828 Hugh married Marie Mills Mansfield (1808-1883). In 1830 he moved to Waterford, NY, near the village of Cohoes, had a grand mansion built, and became manager of the Cohoes Company. He later manufactured cement known as “White’s Cement” near Rosendale in Ulster County. In 1835-1836 Hugh visited St. Augustine and bought property there. In 1848 he sold all of his interest in his firm to the Newark & Rosendale Lime & Cement Co. He was a member of the Whig Party and served three terms as U. S. Congressman 1845-1851. The Hugh White Collection at Cornell University’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Letters contains numerous letters that mention Hugh White’s activities in St. Augustine. See The History of Ulster County, New York (2007), Bond of Union (2009), and Memorials of Elder John White (1860).
A substantial portion of this letter is devoted to a discussion of Hugh White’s property that was sold or taken by his cousin, Thomas Bulkley White (b. 1797). Thomas was the son of Joseph White (1761-1827) and Lucy Bulkley (1751-1810). It seems that Thomas went to St. Augustine and served as a private in the Florida militia for three months in 1836 during the Second Seminole War. This letter shows that Thomas left Florida in 1837 after absconding with some of his cousin’s property. On January 22, 1838, Thomas enlisted at Buffalo, NY, for three years as a Private in Co. C, 8th US Infantry Regiment. The maximum age for enlistment was 35 and Thomas, who was 40, stated that he was 34. His commander stated in June 1839 that Thomas had honorably completed his service by finding a substitute. On July 12, 1839, Thomas again enlisted as a private in the U. S. Army and was sent to Fort Shannon in East Florida. He served for five years in Co. A, 7th Infantry Regiment until his discharge on July 12, 1844, at Fort Wood, Louisiana. We could find no further information on him.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard Weiner and is published by express consent.]
1 April 1838
To Mr. Hugh White
I received your communication of the 12th of March the night before last, and I hasten to reply to as much of its contents, as I can do, in so short a time, but I have made all the enquiry I could & I find that Mr. T. B. White disposed of the following articles belonging to you, but which he gave out as his own property for services rendered. I am trying to find the names of the purchasers – and am aided by a gentleman who knows of some of his transactions – but I would first mention that I believe Mr. Henry left here chiefly on account of Mr. T. B. White’s conduct. All the trees in the lot sold to Messrs. Andrews & Lytle – side saddle to Lieut. Dansey – rifle to Mr. Woodruff – a gun to a gentleman who has left here – 2 barrels pork, 2 ferkins butter, 2 feather beds, safe, crockery, 1 single harness – log chains, pole chains – wheelbarrow, 3 kegs of nails. hoes, rakes and spades – sold. the wine and brandy & gin had all been consumed.
The following is a list of the things attached as his property by Mr Barcalaio, who since died & his executor came on a few weeks ago, and as no replevin had been made, they were sold to pay $26 and costs but they were in a perishable condition excepting the chains and axes – a balance of the sales of about $6 is in hand.
The following is a list of the things taken from the house when he [Thomas B. White] was driven from it for gross misconduct, taken by the constable, by Major Lytle & my Order. 1 Shot Gun, 1 wash and stand, 1 old carpet, 2 watering pots cracked – 1 tea kettle, 2 tin pails broken, 1 pair fire dogs, 1 bake kettle, 1 double harness attached, 1 shovel, 4 ax handles, 4 hatchets, 1 pick Axe, 4 augurs, 4 bunks sold by Mr. White after account was taken, before they could be recovered – 2 shot bags, 2 canisters gunpowder, ½ bag shot, some balls & lead, 1 candle stick, 1 broom, 2 fishing lines, 1 empty trunk taken afterwards by Mr. T. B. White, a fine table Mr. T. B. White’s, 1 basket of dirty clothing, 1 safe sold by Mr. White (before we could remove it) to Col. Gue – Mr. T. B. White broke into the house after he was turned out, and took the articles to which his name is affixed – 1 shovel and pr. tongs, 1 broken looking glass (of no use), 2 pair of hinges, 1 empty gin case bottom broken out, contg 12 square bottles – 4 chisels, 1 p. cotton cards, 1 pair door handles, 3 hammers, 1 adze, 2 iron squares, 3 planes, 1 p. whaffle irons, 1 box of nails about 3 lbs, 1 pine bed sted & [illegible], 1 wash and basin, 4 mason’s trowels – 3 blankets, 2 pillows, 1 pair of sheets, 4 straw paillasses [mattresses], 2 mattresses, 1 old umbrella, 2 shoe brushes, 1 pocket compass taken by Mr. T. B. White, 6 empty bottles, 2 chamber pots, 1 ink stand, 6 chairs taken by Mr. T. B. White also 2 saddles, 5 axes, 3 empty demi johns, attached with the harness and sold last Month. This inventory was taken the 10 May 1837.
You mistook me, if you think Judge [Elias B.] Gould ¹ [of St. Johns County probate court] did not get your letter in which was a power of attorney. He showed it to me, but did not act — only asked me not to allow the constable to sell the things attached until the last moment. He told me he had written to you, but you never answered his letters. When the executor of the late Wm. Barcalaio came on last month, he insisted upon the sale’s taken place. Mr. T. B. White left here under very suspicious circumstances, his conduct for some time had been notoriously bad. But after being found in a swamp at the back of the city half dead from excessive drink & exposure, Mr. Gould had compassion on him & took him to his house. He had not been there more than 5 or 6 days before Mr Gould’s pocket book with $93 in it was taken from off the table – and Mr. T. B. White left the city next morning at daylight & has not since been heard of.
I will not sell your things until I again hear from you. They are now in the garret of my house and during the meantime, I will see Mr [illegible], who resides here, and likewise endeavour to find out the purchasers of the articles sold by T. B. White.
Article from 26 March 1838 Southern Patriot, (Charleston, SC)
No charitable — no reasonable man — can have a doubt as to the cruelty the government has exercised to these miserable men. Had they been left alone, Florida would at this moment been doubly peopled and in a most flourishing condition. But now it is a scene of desolation, ruin, havock and murder. Last week no less than two gentlemen & 3 Negroes were killed by the Indians near Newnansville in Alachua. They had gone out to plant but fell under the rifle of the Seminole or lawless Creeks. It is next to an act of madness to think of planting or going into the country under existing circumstances. About three weeks ago two whole Families were murdered within 9 miles of Tallahassee.
Your friend old Dr Weodemann has suffered dreadfully – he is well, so is his family – he desires his respects. Dr. Peck ² is at present indisposed, he is building on the vacant lot that had the walls of a building standing opposite to Mrs. Gurthrie ³ – she is well. Genl. Sken Smith † purchased Dr. Anderson’s house near the Episcopal Church, pulled it down, & is now building a very large dwelling on that lot. Judge Wilkinson bought Mr. Gibbs’ new house near Fort Marion & the waterside – he is farming. I hope he will succeed.
Our orange trees begin to make a show – some think there will be a few oranges this year. We had cold weather but not severe until very lately – now we are in quite warm weather. The weather 81°.
I believe I have now ended all my budget – excepting that Dr. A. Anderson ‡ who lost his wife about 7 months ago, was married to Mrs. Fairbanks last Thursday night & his eldest daughter is to be married in 15 days to a Mr. Northup — a lawyer in Charleston.
I open the letter again to say I have just seen Jacob Brown who tells me that Mr Levy — a young lawyer — has the papers, & that he believes they are all ready. He said you have still $400 to pay. I hardly know how to advise you on this matter, but Mr. Brown does not seem to be in haste. I will see Mr. Levy and write again. You will hear again from me soon – but as I have the articles left in my house, I shall not dispose of them until I again hear from you unless I have a very fair offer for them. Our strangers are being off and markets will become dull. You had better write to Mr. Brown. He lives in this city, but is at present up the North River [sentence crossed out]. I shall see him and do the needful. I do not think Major Lytle will live long – he is in the large stage of a consumption.
I am dear sir, yours very respectfully, — Geo. L Phillips
¹ Elias B. Gould (1786-1855) was a well-known figure in St. Augustine. He served as a Justice of the Peace (1827), Captain in the Florida militia (1837), newspaper publisher, Probate Judge, and County Judge for St. Johns County. His son, James M. Gould (1808-1878), married George L. Phillips’ daughter Mary A. Phillips (1808-?).
² Dr. Seth Smith Peck (1790-1841) moved from Whitesboro to St. Augustine in 1833. In 1837 he purchased a deteriorated house and made repairs and alterations. It became known as the Pena-Peck House. His granddaughter Anna Gardner Burt (1850-1931) donated the house to the city for a museum. In 1932 the Women’s Exchange of St. Augustine assumed responsibility for this historic house. See Historic Homes of Florida’s First Coast (2014) and St. Johns County Will Book C (p. 56, July 22, 1930).
³ Mrs. Gurthrie” refers to Rachel Thompson Girty (c. 1790-1863). Rachel was born in Ireland and emigrated to Charleston, SC, in the early 1800’s. In 1817 she married William Girty (17xx-1817) in Charleston. Shortly after her husband’s death, she moved to St. Augustine and in 1821 she opened a school in the basement of the City Hall. She purchased a house on St. George Street in Lot 5, Block 15, across from the Pena-Peck House. Rachel was a close friend of the Peck family. She passed away in St. Augustine and is buried in the Huguenot Cemetery. Rachel bequeathed her house to the Peck family. In 1930 Anna Gardner Burt donated the house to the Memorial Presbyterian Church. See The South Carolina Historical Magazine (1941), Minute Book of the St. Augustine Council 1821-1823, Historic Block and Overlay Maps (Block 15, St. Augustine, 1954, Univ. of Florida Digital Collections), Daring Daughters (2002), and St. Johns County Will Book C (p. 56, July 22, 1930).
† General Peter Sken Smith (1795-1858) was an investor, speculator, newspaper publisher, and militia officer. He was born in Utica, NY, the son of Peter Smith (1768-1837) and Elizabeth Livingston (1778-1818). He was the brother of abolitionist Gerrit Smith. He began working as a merchant and then studied law, practicing for a period in Chenango County. He moved to St. Augustine and established a business partnership with Dr. Andrew A. Anderson. This letter shows that he purchased Dr. Anderson’s house, demolished it, and built a large and expensive house on the site. By 1844 Smith moved to Philadelphia, became a leader of the Native American Party, and edited the Native Eagle. Smith died at Springfield, MA, and is buried in Peterboro Cemetery, Madison County, NY. In 1847 Smith’s house and lot in St. Augustine sold for $2,000. Years later, Lewis H. Tyler operated it as the Tyler House hotel. In 1887 Tyler enlarged it and renamed it the Hotel St. George. In 1941 Trinity Episcopal Church bought the St. George Hotel, demolished it, and used the site for a parish hall. See St. Augustine in the Roaring Twenties (2012), Heaven’s Soldiers (2013), The Websters: Letters of an American Army Family in Peace and War, 1836-1853 (2000), The History of St. Augustine, Florida (1881), The Liberator (June 4, 1858), and The Opal, Vol. 8 (Utica, 1858).
‡ Dr. Andrew A. Anderson (1790-1839) was a New York physician who moved to St. Augustine in 1829 with his wife, Mary Watt Anderson (1795-1837). Dr. Anderson served as an Alderman, Justice of the Peace, and Elder in the Presbyterian Church. His house was located on St. George St. opposite the Post Office. His second wife, mentioned in the letter, was Clarissa Cochran Fairbanks (1800- 1881). Dr. Anderson passed away before the completion of his new home “Markland.” This historic mansion was completed in 1840. See The History of St. Augustine, Florida (1881).
Other people in this letter include:
- “Lieutenant Dansey” refers to Francis Littleberry Dancy (1806-1890). In 1826 he graduated from West Point and served as an Engineer. In 1836 he resigned his commission and began working as a civil engineer for the U. S. Army. One of his projects included the construction of a sea wall at St. Augustine 1836-1838. He served as Mayor of St. Augustine 1838-1839 and then served as a Colonel in the Florida militia 1840-1841 during the Second Seminole War. Afterwards, Dancy lived on his plantation at Orange Mills in Putnam County, where he became one of the largest citrus growers in FL. The Dancy Orange is named after him. See Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy… (1868) and Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (1903).
- “old Dr. Weodemann” refers to Dr. Philip Weedman Sr. (c. 1785-1839), a prominent physician and surgeon. He was born in Mainz, Germany. In 1803 he emigrated to the U. S. and settled in St. Augustine. According to an account in the Newbern Spectator (NC, December 13, 1839), Dr. Weedman was “shot at by the Indians” and killed while traveling on the stage from St. Augustine to his nearby plantation. See Ponce de Leon Land and Florida War Record (1902).
- “Mr Barcalaio” refers to William Barcalow (1794-1838), the son of Farrington Barcalow (1771-1854) and Hannah Bennett (1775-1854) of Somerset County, NJ. In 1826 William was operating a tavern in Somerville, Somerset County. By 1836 he moved to St. Augustine, where he worked as a merchant. On March 20, 1838, William’s son Farrington Barcalow appeared before County Court Judge Elias B. Gould to enter his father’s will in probate. George L. Phillips was one of the witnesses to Barcalow’s will. See Somerset County Historical Quarterly, Vol. 8 (1919) and The St. Augustine Record (July 4, 1937).
- Francis Gue (?-1847) was a St. Augustine merchant. He served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Florida militia during the Second Seminole War 1835-1836. See Florida Militia Muster Rolls, Seminole Indian Wars, Vol. 8 (online edition, 2010), and the Jacksonville Courier (FL, August 6, 1835).
- Major Christopher Andrews and Major John S. Lytle (1800-1839) both served as Paymasters in the U. S. Army in Florida. They formed the partnership Andrews & Lytle to speculate in the acquisition and development of lands in and around St. Augustine. See The Territory of Florida (1837), Army and Navy Chronicle, and Scientific Repository (1837, 1839), Official Army Register for 1840, and Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (1903).
- Jacob Brown (1812-1841) was born in Brownville, Jefferson County, NY, the son of General Jacob Jennings Brown, Commanding General of the U. S. Army. Jacob entered West Point in 1827 and later lived in St. Augustine.
- “Mr. Levy” was David Levy Yulee – the son of Moses Elias Levy, a Moroccan Jew who made his fortune in timber in the Carribean, then bought 50,000 acres of land near Jacksonville, Florida, hoping to create a New Jerusalem for Jewish settlers. David went to school in Norfolk, Virginia, and then studied law in St. Augustine. When Florida was admitted to the Union in 1845, David became one the new state’s senators and, at the same time, became the first Jew elected to the United States Senate. Soon after his marriage in 1846, David Levy changed his named legally to David Levy Yulee after one of his ancestors.