Congressional Report
History of the Bureau of Freedmen and Refugees
March 10, 1868
Page 16
Congressional Records

1. Homestead Lands in Florida - The provisions of the homestead law, passed at the last session of
Congress, is being largely availed of by the colored people of this State; already 32,000 acres of public
lands have been entered by them since the opening of the land office, August 25, 1866, and their interest in
the subject seems to be on the increase. Large settlements will be made this winter in the vicinity of New
Smyrna, on the Atlantic coast; upon the Upper St. John's river, on the Suwannee river, and upon the
Manatee river and its tributaries. I have not yet been required to aid the freedmen in their enterprises,
beyond furnishing them information concerning the lands, and transportation to a few of them, who go first
to examine and select them. The people of some sections are much opposed to the settlement of negroes
in their neighborhood, and some threats have been made; but upon a proper representation of the futility of
any such illegal course, and of the consequences that must, surely follow, their opposition has been
reduced, and there is now little probability of any serious resistance being made to the location and
settlement of the negroes in any part of the State. I am having prepared a detailed report of the lands in the
State open to location and settlement, which will contain much valuable information of the nature of the
soils, climate, productions, accessibility, &c, in each county in the State. Its preparation lias been much
delayed by the necessity of answering correspondence requiring information as to lands desired for entry.
I, however, enclose a subreport, which is intended to be preliminary to the above, and is prepared in haste
to accompany this report. From this it will appear that there are now open for settlement in this State
nineteen millions of acres of public lands, nearly equally distributed in the east, west, middle, and southern
parts of the State. The lands in the first three have been in the market for many years, and are
comparatively of little value. Those in southern Florida are more valuable, are newer, and some of them
are very rich. Much attention has been directed to the lands bordering the St. John's, where the orange
culture is an object of interest, and to that lying in its vicinity, extending towards New Smyrna on one side,
and the chain of lakes on the other. Many private owners of large tracts anticipating a considerable
immigration this winter are preparing to place in the market large and desirable tracts selected in past years
for their value. Extensive orange groves on the St. John's are also offered to purchasers, and generally the
best people of the State encourage immigration from the north, and are willing to meet it in a liberal spirit.
The country to the south, and especially the section bordering both the Atlantic and the Gulf, although the
borders of the latter have more settlements, contain much valuable land for the cultivation of cotton, sisal,
hemp, corn, potatoes, indigo, rice, and the tropical productions and fruits; while the waters of the bays and
inlets of the Gulf teem with myriads of line fish. The unhealthiness of the climate in consequence of the
malaria, which produces enfeebling and sometimes fatal fevers, has been regarded as a great obstacle to
the settlement of this country. It is not so, however, to those who become acclimated, and to those who
have not the eastern coast offers healthy locations; the malarial infections rarely extend to the residents
within the influence of the salt water and air.
Department of the South
Port Royal Experiment
USCT Bounties
Freedmen's Aid Societies
Bureau Educational Activities
Freedmen Bureau
Education Assorted
Freedmen's Bureau
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