The Quincy, Gadsden County
Quincy, Florida & Bright Residency 1870-1885
My great-great grandfather, Robert Henderson Bright Sr., and his wife, Ann, moved to Perry, Taylor County, Florida between 1880 and 1885. John Wade Bright, one of Robert's sons, became the father of Jesse Bright, my grandfather. Oral family history boasts of South African Hottentot tribal ancestry. It should be noted that Robert Henderson Bright and his family were not found in the 1870 U.S. Census for Quincy, Gadsden County, Florida. However, one of Robert's sons, Anthony Bright, was found living with Eliza and William Young, his aunt and uncle. I believe that Eliza Bright Young was Robert, Henderson Bright's sister. In 1868, a disastrous fire destroyed more than half of Quincy's wooden buildings. There might have been a temporary disruption of the Bright family unit because of this fire or any number of other possibilities. However, Robert and his entire family were found in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Quincy, Gadsden County, Florida.
Established in 1828, Quincy, is the county seat of Gadsden County and it is located 20 miles west of Tallahassee. It is a rural community which is heavily dependent upon agriculture for its employment base. Quincy's reputation was advanced by the development of its local Coca-Cola company into a world wide conglomerate.
In 1828, Governor P. DuVal introduced Cuban tobacco to the territory of Florida. As a result, the culture of shade-grown cigar wrapper tobacco was a dominant factor in the social and economic development of Gadsden County, Florida. Tobacco is a native plant of the western hemisphere. Early European explorers discovered Native Americans growing the plant when they set foot on their soil.
In 1829, John Smith migrated to Gadsden County in covered wagons with his family and four related families. Since there was already a resident named John Smith in the community, he became known as John "Virginia" Smith. John Smith became almost as legendary to the tobacco culture in Gadsden County as Johnny Appleseed was to Apple County.
When John ventured southward he brought with him a type of tobacco seed which was used for chewing and pipe smoking. He planted that seed and found that the plants grew vigorously. Because there was no market for tobacco in small quantities, it was twisted together, cured and shared with his friends. He purchased some Cuban tobacco seed and planted them with his Virginia tobacco. Several years passed and the two tobaccos blended.
When the Virginia tobacco was grown in Florida soil, it was much thinner and lighter in color. John began saving the seed from the hybridized stalks. From these seeds, a new plant known as "Florida Wrapper" was developed. So began a tobacco industry at a time when the south was suffering from its low priced cotton.
Gadsden County became very prosperous. Growing tobacco continued to be profitable until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, even when the European markets were no longer available. Of course, during the War and the Reconstruction Era, very little tobacco was grown except for personal use. Those days were tremendously difficult and recovery was a slow, slow process. The post-war search for a money crop led to the resurgence of the tobacco culture. Colonel Henry DuVal, president of the Florida Central and Peninsula Railroad, shipped samples of Gadsden County tobacco to New York for leaf dealers and cigar manufacturers to inspect. Soon representatives of several companies came down from New York to purchase land for growing tobacco. There was such an influx of land purchases that a number of packing houses arose. The industry waxed and waned, it was prosperous sometimes and disheartening at others. Through these experiments it was discovered that tobacco which was light in color and silky in texture demanded the highest prices. So, with more experimentation, shading the plants began. At first, wood slats were used, but these proved too heavy. Then they tried slats draped with cheese cloth to keep the plants from the light. Next came ribbed cheese cloth. Ultimately in 1950, the white cheese cloth was replaced with a treated, longer lasting, yellow cloth that provided perfect shade.
Around 1970, growing tobacco declined substantially in Gadsden. The development of a homogenized cigar wrapper, the ever increasing cost of production, the subsidizing of the tobacco culture in Central America by the U.S. government, and the increasing, negative legal climate against the tobacco industry have added to the demise of Gadsden's future in tobacco. The last crop of shade-grown cigar wrapper tobacco was grown in 1977. Click the following link to obtain slavery data associated with Gadsden County. For an excellent presentation of Florida plantations, go to Florida's AnteBellum Plantations.
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