Friday, September 6, 2013

Marker for Gov. Milton's "Sylvania" is restored and back up!

Marker for Sylvania Plantation, home of Gov. John Milton
The state historical marker for Sylvania Plantation, home of Florida's Confederate governor, has been restored and once again marks the plantation site near Marianna.

John Milton was unique among many Southern governors of the War Between the States era because he was elected prior to Florida secession from the Union, but did not take office until the fall of 1861. Consequently, he was the legal governor of Florida from both points of view - Southern and Northern.

He lived on Sylvania Plantation, a massive farm located in the rich agricultural district just east of Marianna in Jackson County. At their height, Sylvania and the governor's second farm near Parramore on the Chattahoochee River included nearly 10,000 acres. He grew cotton for profit as well as subsistence crops to feed his family, employees and the enslaved Africans who worked on the farms.

Gov. John Milton of Florida
It was at Sylvania that Governor Milton died from a gunshot wound on April 1, 1865. Writers have long claimed that he died from suicide, but family tradition holds that the fatal incident was an accident. According to the story handed down by the governor's son, Major William H. Milton, the governor had come home from Tallahassee and was depressed over the collapsing fate of the Confederacy. Because his father enjoyed bird hunting, the major suggested that they go out in the fields and shoot. The governor agreed and went to his bedroom to retrieve his shotgun but the family suddenly heard the sound of a shattering blast.

Major Milton's story, as preserved by his descendants, was that the gun had been loaded at the time of the nearby Battle of Marianna, but that everyone had forgotten this. When the governor set the stock on the floor, the bump caused the hammer to press against the percussion cap which went off causing the shotgun to fire. The blast struck the governor and killed him.

Such accidents were not uncommon with percussion cap weapons and the family story has a ring of truth to it.

Sylvania Marker at Blue Springs park entrance
The house at Sylvania was not a classic Southern mansion, but instead was a large Creole-type cottage with wide verandas, floor to ceiling windows and a wide central hallway. It burned during the Reconstruction era, apparently due to a lightning strike, and no trace of it remains to be seen today.

The historical marker was severely damaged by an unknown person or persons on the night Barack Obama was elected President. County officials took custody of it and, with assistance from state historic preservation officials, had it restored.

Once again beautiful and new in appearance, it stands just inside the roadside fence of Blue Springs Recreation Area on Blue Springs Road near Marianna. It can be read from outside the fence, even when the park is closed.

Blue Springs was part of Sylvania Plantation and a favorite fishing spot of the governor.  Learn more at http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/jacksonbluespring.html.

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