Ansel Kinne to Col. T. W. Osborn Tour of Inspection Report October 15, 1866 Freedmen Bureau Records
October 15, 1866
Col T. W. Osborn1 Asst. Com. Bureau R. F. & A. L.
I have the honor to submit the following Report as the result of observations made during a tour of inspection in the "4th district of East Florida Embracing the counties of Nassau, Duval, St. Johns, Clay Putnam, Marion, Sumpter and Hernando." 2
It affords me great pleasure to be able to report that the officers and people on whom I called, uniformly received me with kindness, and communicated any information desired with commendable frankness. In the plan of my report I have chosen not to follow the order of notes as found in my diary, as such a course would involve much useless repetition both of language and facts.
The propriety of such arrangements will be manifest when it is known that there is much uniformity of practices in the counties which compose the "4th District" and which were visited by me.
Condition of Freedmen The condition of the freedmen is generally better than expected. Instead of finding them wandering from place to place, or idling, they were generally employed on the plantations, in mechanical labor or as house servants.
Very generally written contracts had been entered into between Employers and Employees - with a disposition on the part of Each to meet the conditions of such contracts.
The division of the last year's crop, though in some cases not fairly done, has given pretty general satisfaction and in many cases not fairly done, has given pretty general satisfaction and in many cases enables the freedmen to supply themselves with food for the ensuing year. From information gathered from various sources, without actual and formal investigation the conclusion is irresistibly reached that subsequent to the suspension of hostilities and the Surrender, the freedmen did not generally labor as faithfully as before the surrender and hence the crops suffered, resulting in the diminution of the amount which might otherwise have been reasonably expected. Still in many cases very good crops were realized and whenever the division was equitably made in such cases the share to the freedmen has been such as to enable them to subsist for the present year.
It was found that those freedmen, who had been fairly dealt with both in humane treatment and an equitable division of the crops, were dilligently and contentedly laboring for their former masters under contracts - while those who were otherwise treated, or supposed themselves to be, were separated, by, sometimes their own choice and sometimes by the choice of the employer, from the old plantation and either laboring for others men know, from general reputation, the character of the neighboring planters - so that they are found with those whom they have chosen to labor for. Said one influential planter, "the Negroes have a kind of telegraph by which they know all about the treatment of the Negroes on the plantations for a great distance around." I judge they avail themselves of this knowledge in the choice of their employers. Indeed so certain and sudden is the retribution, that I found some large planters who were unable to employ a single laborer-their broad fields...doomed to be uncultivated...the present season-while others more favorably known, are able to obtain all the help, and more, than they can employ. While this state of things is everywhere existant, there is on the whole a want of laborers. Where there is one planter who has engaged more than his complement, there are two who can not obtain so many as they want. the question naturally arises, where are the laborers? After much inquiry I came to this conclusion. the want is traceable to the following.
1st - Many Small farmers, hitherto unable to own a laborer, is able now to hire one or two-and these in the aggregate, amount to many.
2nd - A few planters are engaging rather more than their usual number.
3rd - Some are engaging in lumbering, and by the liberal wages they are offering are taking from their accustomed places many freedmen who otherwise would be planting.`
4th - Another cause is found in the fact that so many are desirous of collecting and living about villages and cities.
5th - Allow me to suggest one other cause which may, or may not be operating more or less remotely in producing this result. Freedmen are not infrequently sent or enticed away and do not return. Their friends and employers insitute a search without success. I have some grounds for believing that many meet with violence. I am also fearful that others meet with a still worse fate - that they are decoyed away under various pretenses for the real purpose of sending them to a market-perhaps to Cuba.
The wants of the District through which my tour let me, clearly indicated that not an able bodied man or woman need be idle for want of labor.
This want of labor compels many person, hitherto unused to labor to rely upon their own personal efforts for a maintenance of their families, and it is nearly wonderful that so many of this class are found so cheerfully yielding to the necessities of the situation.
With reference to the clothing of the freedmen, my testimony is not flattering; yet relatively it compares not very unfavorable with that of the poor whites.
Whether in quality or quantity the freedmen's clothing is Equal to that of the Slave I know not, but the opportunities I have had for observation assure me that it is inadequate to the wants of any people - certainly not for a people having been going through a process of civilization and christianization for two or three hundred years. But there will be less actual suffering than I have expected to witness.
Contracts3 In some counties very few contracts have been made. In others very generally the laborers are working under contract, witnessed by the Judge of Probate.4
On examination of these contracts it is found that though generally fair in the conditions some were very unfair and such as to render it impossible for the laborer to comply with them and not be greatly in debt at the close of the year.
Whatever may be the conditions of these contracts or the intentions of those making them, there is room for trouble in their final settlement and unless great care and supervision are exercised justice will be cheated. There is so wide a difference between employer and employee, in respect to their ability to transact ordinary business and to comprehend the forec of a contract, and so great a desire rapidly to repair losses and regain fortunes, and withal so little desire on the part of employers to see the freedmen rise in any respect, that unless an enlarged benevolence is to govern in the settlement at the close of the year, little will have been accomplished for the colored man except to arouse him from a not too trusting confidence to an unpleasant and inconquerable suspicion. the officers appointed to act as agents in the several counties of the state seem willing to do as well as they know how, but in some counties but little attention is given to any of the duties of the office of Judge of Probate - certainly little as the agents of the Bureau.
Schools Total number of children in colored schools............................................................................990 Total number of children in white schools5...............................................................................172 Total number of teachers in col'd schools................................................................................ 17 Total number of teachers in white schools............................................................................... 4
At Fernandina there is an asylum5 for orphan children. this institution was opened in the winter of sixty four in the building formerly owned by Joseph Finegan. It is under the care and support of the National Freedmen's Relief Association of New York. The Superintendent, Miss Chloe Merrick6, with Miss Johnson7 as assistant are laboring with a commendable zeal. Fifty children, gathered from various parts, are here clother instructied and fed, and made to feel neither want or orphanage.8
Crops So broken and disarranged have been the system and practices of farming during the past few years, that no very definite information as to the relative amount of crops raised...can be given. Such was the restriction on cotton growing placed upon the planters by the Rebel Congress that very little cotton has been raised the past year, and in the districts of Eastern Florida, the working force has been so irregular that it was really difficult to obtain any positive and reliable information. But from repeated inquiries and comparing results the average amount of cotton to the acre is not seventy five pounds, while the range is from fifty to four hundred pounds.
So with corn, the average is believed to be not more than Eight bushels to the acre while the range is from five to sixty.
In respect to sugar cane there does not appear to be so great a difference, the reason I judge to be, that only a comparatively small amount of land is thus appropriated, and that little of the very best quality. From two to four barrels of sugar aor from six to twelve barrels of syrup to the acre is about a just statement.
Of all the country through which we passed I do not think more than one tenth would be regarded such as to reward well the labor of the tiller of its soil, while not one hundredth part of the country passed through is under any attempt at cultivation.
Lumbering Along the banks of the St. Johns River and the gulf coast of the County of Hernando, something is being done or proposed to be done this year, but very little or nothing during the last.
At present prices, lumbering promises the best and readiest return of any business.
Twelve dollars per thousand is given for lumber delivered in the log at the mill.
Lumber, selling at thirty dollars per thousand, enables all parties to realize large profits, and pay high prices for labor at the same time. Of course these profits will be proportionate to the nearness and facility of market.
Moral Condition of the People This is the gloomiest picture to behold.
Physical decay and devastation, consequent upon the war-ruined and deserted homes-prostration of business - hoplessness of the future-bereavement of those too poor...to purchase the habilitments of mourning. - too proud to confess the guilt that caused their grief, and too hateful to love what they can not possess - these and such as these, are the burdens, self-imposed, of the people of the district through which I passed. I speak of the masses. True there are exceptions, but none have entirely escaped.
Present pressing demands of natural wants will stimulate action and energy in a people, whose moral condition is measurably unimpaired. But the remedies for this condition, it seems to me lie beyond the reach of the people we commiserate. Without any school system, without a pure gosepl - this people have lived and suffered up to the time of the Rebellion, and since that time have experienced more than a want of these. In one county, known to be loyal, there has not been a sermon preached in four years. From observations and information carefully gathered, I have formed...the deliberate opinion that the next to the last thing that will be reconstructed, in this portion of the State, will be the school system, and the last, will be the religious organizations.
Dissatisfied, as many may be, with the present status of these vital interests, they desire to be let alone. Public opinion, as measured by numerious private and individual opinions, is set against any and all efforts on the part of Northern individuals and associations, to ameliorate or reconstruct.
They would doubtless accept of pecuniary aid, if so proffered as not to place them in the seeming attitude of beneficiaries. Such is the spirit of the people, generally that the promise, to "the poor in spirit" must be with conditions. They are not poor in Spirit!
Occasionally some persons offer to open a school for the children of the white people, but too often this is done by persons whose qualifications for such work are either unknown or insufficient. and this is the best that can be hopef for, for a long time. The few ministers, resident, are an insufficient supply for the great demand herein indicated. The condition of the poorer class of whites is as deplorable as that of the blacks.
Remove from off the freedman the bitter hate and prejudice which seems to be intensified now that he is free, and his condition will be rapidly improved. He is poor. He has always been poor, hence does not feel his poverty. He is hopeful because free. Hopeful of the future, for the means of education which he has heard is open to him - for the right to life and property which he supposes in involved in his lately acquired freedom. These stimulants to him, operate inverserly to the white laborer and excite their jealousy if not hatred.
My observations impel me to state before closing this report, that the ends of justice to the freedment can be met only by a wise and careful watchfulness of his interests by those who are his firends, who believe in his humanity, and who will steadily, wisely and persistently push aside that prejudice which now jeopardizes the rights which his humanity involves.
Respectfully submitted A. E. Kinne Agt. B.R.F. & A.L.
Notes Ansel E. Kinne - (from Syracuse, New York where he had been a school principal) was supposedly appointed by Secretary of War Stanton as Superintendent of Schools for Florida in the pre-Freedmen's Bureau era which would have placed him under General Saxton in the Department of the South. But from it appears from the June 1866 document to have been limited to National Freedmen's Relief Association Schools since he did not recognize the American Missionary schools in this report. He was the brother-in-law of Chloe Merrick the teacher at Fernandina who established the Asylum. (She would later marry Harrison Reed, Florda's Reconstruction Governor.) He resigned his post of Superintendent before the end of 1866. In this report he is listed as an agent of the Freedmen's Bureau..
1. Col. Thomas W. Osborn was the Assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in Florida from September 13, 1865 to June 11, 1866. He had been General Saxton's original sub assistant commissioner for Florida but he had been injured in a railroad accident and had taken some time to report. He was from Scotch Plains, New Jersery and had earned a degree from Madison University (Colgate) in New York. He became a member of the New York bar in 1861.
In the War of the Rebellion he was an artillery officer in Battery D, 1st New York Light Artillery. He served with General O. O. Howard in the XI Corps.
In reconstruction politics he would represent the right wing of the Republican party and made several unsuccessful attempts to recall Governor Harrison Reed. He became a U. S. Senator from Florida for one term 1868-1873.
He died in New York in 1898.
2. The fifth district was the southern pensula of Florida and he had assigned Lieut Col George F. Thompson and William H. Gleason to this area.
4. By promoting the potential for non-standard contracts the ability to manipulate contracts was simply in favor of the planter and others who had the background necessary to understand the contracts.
5. One can see that the Freedmen Bureau schools were going to be a great encouragement to the building of a public school system as poor whites would look at the educational advantage being given the former slaves. In St. Augustine the Freedmen school building would be the best building in the state (with Stanton Normal School). The white public school started as a small building built in 1859.
6. This orphan asylum was run by Chloe Merrick...his sister-in-law.
7. Abbie W. Johnson from Massachusetts. She was the matron of the asylum.
8. General Joseph Finegan who received a pardon from Andrew Johnson recovered his house which had not been made final in the Tax sale.