Writers of the First Coast: Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the abolitionist novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, spent her winters in what is now Jacksonville from 1867 to 1884. From her cottage in the town of Mandarin, she put her abolitionist views into practice and produced some of her most important writings.
Cover of Palmetto Leaves.
Stowe also wrote columns about her experiences in Florida for northern newspapers, which were ultimately collected in the 1873 book Palmetto Leaves. This has a particular place in history as perhaps the first ever promotional book about Florida.
A travel memoir comprising essays and letters written over several years, it describes Florida’s exotic scenery and the rejuvenating effect it had on Stowe. Stowe also relates her efforts to help educate freedmen and women. Two of the essays are dedicated to describing the lives of newly freed black Floridians she had met, and the uphill struggle they faced in achieving true freedom. In the final essay, she calls on white Americans to ensure African-Americans have a stake in reconstructing Florida. The book proved hugely popular, and inspired many others to visit and invest in Florida, becoming a major catalyst for the state’s first real estate and tourism boom.
Departure and legacy
Historical marker memorializing the Stowe residence.
Stowe divided her time between Mandarin and New England until 1884, when advancing age made long travel untenable. She returned permanently to Connecticut, where she lived until her death in 1896.
Today, Stowe is memorialized across the neighborhood of Mandarin. Her 1873 school building now serves as the Mandarin Community Club and a memorial to Stowe’s time in Florida. Plaques mark the location of her home, bulldozed in the 1940s, and the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour, lost to Hurricane Dora in 1964.
Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.