2016-01-29 11.00.07

Date Unknown


EATONVILLE (FLA.) Letter to the New York Sun: This is a place wherein no white person lives; an incorporated city owned, in habited, and governed exclusively by Negros, with a colored mayor and colored officers throughout, it’s said to be the only incorporated place inhabited and governed wholly by colored persons in the country, and it is as law-abiding a place can be found in Florida.
“We have a lock up here,” the colored Postmaster and ex-Mayor, J.E. Clark, said to the New York Sun correspondent, “but it is the idlest building in the place. It is hardly used twice a year, for we have no saloons or low places of any kind: and as nearly every man owns his own home we all have a personal interest in preserving order.”
Although Eatonville is a city in law and in name, having received a city charter from the Legislature, with the power to make and enforce its own laws, it is in fact a pretty little village of 300 or 400 inhabitants, lying at the head of Lake Sybella, in the center of Orange County, one mile from the railroad station at Maitland. No colored people live in Maitland and no white ones in Eatonville. There is the best of feeling between the two places. Maitland has work and Eatonville has men and women to do it.
No place in Florida has more of a West Indian appearance than Eatonville. All the traffic on wheels is done in two or three of the principal streets, and the others are perpetually green with a beautiful carpet of Bermuda grass. The walks are lined with rows of water oaks, which make of every lane and avenue a shady bower from the beginning of January till the last December. The houses are all of wood and generally small, but every house stands in its own little grounds, with flowers blooming in the front, and bananas, oranges, limes, lemons, paw-paws, guavas, and other southern fruits blossoming or fruiting, and in the rear vegetable garden that produces food at least ten months of the year. Hardly a house in the place is without all these things, and many of the little homes are surrounded by wonderful collections of ever- blooming flowers. The tawny youngsters playing in the green streets or hoeing in the gardens add to the West Indian effect.
Apopka avenue, Clark street, eastern, Piedmont, Orlando, and fifth avenues are the thoroughfares; and from these a dozen green and shady lanes branch out, every street or lane bordered with substantial picket fences. Close to the head of the lake stand to African M.E. and Baptist churches; and in the center of the town is the public school, with its colored teacher and forty or fifty colored pupils. The Free Masons and Odd- Fellows have their own halls and there is a labor Aid Society. John Heiston is the present Mayor and the city limits include just one square mile.
“By working in the orange groves principally,” he replied. “Some work on the railroads, or in the saw mills, or the vegetable gardens. The whole surrounding region is covered with orange groves, and a grove of any size must employ two or three men almost constantly, and fifteen or twenty men at certain seasons. In the picking and packing season it’s hard to find enough men. There is not only the picking, which lasts several months, but the hauling to the packing house. Then the packing is hardly finished before the fertilizing begins. When a grower needs men he has only to come or send to Eatonville, and here he is supplied. It is not as it is in other places, where an employer must go and hunt men. All the labor of the neighborhood is centered right here. If a lady wants a cook she sends to Eatonville. There is hardly any need in the way of ordinary labor that we cannot supply.
“Then,” he continued, “Every man and woman has work at home when nothing else offers. We all raise something for sale. If there were no outside labor at all we should still get along very comfortably. We have the best gardening soil to be found anywhere about and we work it thoroughly. I can’t say anything about the oranges just now, because we shall have no orange crop for a year or two, but we always have vegetables to sell. We have no pauper in place, and a man could hardly go hungry here if he tried.”

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