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Florida Railroad Company Papers

Identifier: MSS 1968-115

Scope and Contents

The Florida Railroad Company Papers document the early history of this company during its period of construction from Fernandina to Cedar Key, FL., and includes articles of agreement, articles of copartnership, deeds, and a resolution. It is significant to researchers studying the history of Florida's 19th Century railroads.

The collection consists of 8 manuscript documents signed by various officials: the charter of the company, certificates of agreements for financing and constructing the railroad from Fernandina to Cedar Key; David L. Yulee was president, Joseph Finegan & Co. were to build and equip the railroad with certain cars; papers also include land deeds along the line, etc.; other names in the documents are Alex MacRae, John M. Rae, Archibald H. Cole, Edward U. Dickenson, and George W. Call.

Also known as MSS 0-115.


  • Created: 1855-1860
  • Other: Date acquired: 03/01/1968

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical or Historical Information

According to the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, the Florida Railroad Company was of great economic importance to Florida, since it served as a cross-state rail shipping route.  The Company was incorporated on January 8, 1853, with an authorized capital of $1,000,000. The proposed route was from Fernandina to Cedar Key.

Its first officers were Florida's first U.S. Senator David L. Yulee, President; George W. Call, Secretary and Treasurer; and Martin L. Smith, Chief Engineer. The principal office of the company was at Fernandina. The Florida Railroad initially received a federal land grant of 290,183.28 acres and a Florida grant of 505,144.14 acres. To help the railroad pay for itself and to help attract new settlers into the area, the state government authorized the Florida Railroad to sell land along its right-of-way. The Florida Land Improvement Society, made up of principal stockholders in the Florida Railroad, was created for the task. Actual construction began in 1855 and was completed in 1860. The line was 155.5 miles long, and the track was imported from England. At the time of completion, the Florida Railroad was considered to have the best equipment in the state with its two passenger cars accommodating 60 persons each, 2 baggage cars, 14 box cars and 21 flatcars.

By opening up a vast area for development and by furnishing the long awaited coast to coast shipping route, the completion of the Florida Railroad marked a "new era" in the development of the state.  However, for various reasons, many citizens opposed the road. Backwoodsmen claimed that turpentine operations, developed as a result of the railroad, ruined their hog ranges and that the railroad killed their cattle. Farmers' wives claimed that market eggs were broken when carts crossed the tracks.

Service on the railroad was interrupted and the line was damaged heavily during the Civil War when raiding parties from both sides constantly harassed and destroyed the interior lines of communication within Florida. By the close of the Civil War, railroad property in Florida was damaged to the extent of more than a million dollars, or one-seventh of the total valuation of the entire rail system at the time. Due to the devastation of the war, most of the railroad companies failed to make the required payments to the Internal Improvement Fund, large amounts of interest remained unpaid, and the companies faced bankruptcy. Probably the hardest hit of the various roads was David Yulee's Florida Railroad. Its principal terminals had been destroyed, cross ties and bridges along the line were burned or rotting, a large part of the rail had been removed, and of the rolling stock there remained only five engines, three of which were in no condition for immediate use. There were also nine box cars and two dilapidated coaches. Much of the damage was repaired by Federal troops that occupied Florida.

During 1866, for failure to pay the accruing interest on its bonds and the required payments to the Internal Improvement Fund, the trustees of that Fund took possession of the franchise, and sold the Florida Railroad Company on October 6th, for $323,400, to Isaac K. Roberts, who was acting as agent for Edward N. Dickerson and associates, bondholders and creditors. Reorganization of the company was completed on November 3rd, 1866. The new management continued the reconstruction of the road and immediately placed orders for two new locomotives to supplement those which had survived the ravages of war.

The Florida Railroad operated under the Dickerson Administration until January 18, 1872, at which time the name of the company was changed to the Atlantic, Gulf and West India Transit Company.


8.00 items

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Swann Galleries Inc.

Method of Acquisition

Received by the FSU Libraries in March 1968.

Existence and Location of Originals

Portions of collection available online?: No

Processing Information

Originally processed in April 1968. Finding aid updated in September 2007.

Florida Railroad Company Papers
Burt Altman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US