GREAT UNCLE CAPTAIN SMITH
One of the earliest settlers
at Federal Point after the Civil War was Captain Edwin Smith.
We knew him, when little
children, as a tall, slender bachelor with a long, slim, white Pharoah beard. He
lived in a large building which he built near the wharf on Commercial Avenue soon after coming to the Point. He used this as a store. It later became a hotel. He had given up operating the store by the time we came along as Squire Tenney ran one next door in connection
with the Post Office and
the public wharf.
The store was reason for
your Grandfather Edwin Smith Hubbard coming to Florida as he came down to help run the store for his uncle and godfather,
Edwin, for whom he was named.
The title, “Captain”,
was earned when he was a captain of sailing ships. He, also, formerly ran a ship
chandler’s shop in New York City. He wrote a pamphlet titled “God’s
Law For a Vessel”, which I have among my literary treasures.
Captain Smith needed some
one to help run the store and help work ten acre grove and truck garden a half mile up Commercial Avenue. So he sent for his nephew, Edwin – who had finished high school, lacked money to study for his chosen
profession, the Congregational ministry, and suffered from catarrh in the Connecticut Valley air at Maromas.
Thus, your grandfather
and grandmother, Louisa Abigal Hart, became acquainted.
Captain Smith lived alone
in his big house after his nephew married and moved to his bride’s home, Three Oaks.
He cooked his own meals and occupied himself with the care of his grove and garden.
When I grew big enough,
my mother would send me down, occasionally, with a covered dish of hot dinner. I
would knock on the door and hear a chair pushed back and his footsteps come towards me along the hall, echoing on the bare,
plaster walls. Then the key would turn in the lock, the door would open and Captain
Smith would give me a cordial, courteous greeting and take the proffered covered dish, place it on the table of his front
room office, open his iron safe, take out a cigar box and give me a nickel, dime or, on Christmas, a quarter – all the
while humming a themeless tune. My mother objected to his “paying”
from his scanty funds as the ’95 freeze had frozen his precious orange trees to the ground and his strawberries and
garden truck were his only source of income.
Captain Smith practiced
organic gardening as fully as possible. Besides the rank growth of weeds and
grass he worked into the ground or used as mulch, he secured all the cow and horse manure he could get. His main source of manure was the droppings which littered the street where the local milk cows and woods
cattle pastured, and where the saddle horses, buggy horses and the horse and mule teams traveled or were tied near the store.
Each morning and noon
Captain Smith pushed his wheelbarrow gathering, with his shovel, the manna-like fertility scorned by the faddists of the new
commercial fertilizer era. His land was fertile.
His crops flourished.
Captain Smith was warden
of St. Paul’s mission church. Passing the plate was his prerogative. He became interested in the church at the Sailors Snug Harbor on Staten Island before
coming to Florida. The first church services were held in his large, upper room. He passed around the subscription list to raise money to build the church on land
given by the Hart family on the northeast corner of Three Oaks.
Captain Smith provided interest for us, children, during long sermons, by using a leafy switch, which he
gathered along the way, to shoo away the flies which alighted on his bld head during the service. A hungry galliniper mosquito would call for a louder, more vicious swish, to our great pleasure.
When Captain Smith died
he left the hotel to my father and his grove to the church. He stipulated in
his will that he should be buried in a certain spot in his grove and provided money for a modest monument. A mound of soil, four feet high, eight feet wide and ten feet long, crowned with the stone is always to
remain as his resting place, whoever may own the land.
Once, while Frank DuPont
was renting the land from the church to raise poitatoes, I went to see the stone an mound, now overgrown by low bushes. I was startled to see some large bones half buried in the sloping soil. I mentioned the bones to Frank DuPont, when I saw him. He chuckled and said that a yearling had died on the place and he had half buried
it in the side of the mound, hoping that, perhaps, some one would find it there. It
was also said the these bones were left to keep superstitious darkies away.
And, so passes the memory
of an interesting character, a sturdy individual, a pioneer who wove some of his independence, his adventurous initiative,
his quiet, religious faith into the pattern of our family. May he rest in peace.
(Captain Smiths account
books of his purchases for his store and his sales of fruit and produce are on file in the Yonge Historical Library at Gainesville,
Florida, as are also correspondence from his brother in California, business associates and friends. Many files relating to Federal Point and the Hart and Hubbard families are there.)
Excerpts from “Memories of Florida”
Written by E. Stuart Hubbard, 1960
William H. Hubbard
4 Maple View Road