Tuesday, May 27, 2014

He Never Heard It Questioned

In 2011 I wrote a post about our area's best known early pioneer Douglas Dummett. Known as the founder of what became the Indian River area citrus industry, Dummett was also well known in his day for more controversial things such as his independent personality and for challenging the era's racial norms. Although Dummett has been the subject of much attention, I recently came across a document that I have never seen published or written about before that is interesting on several different levels. While searching for a naturalization record for an early German immigrant to Florida, I stumbled across a petition for naturalization from none other than Douglas Dummett! Since I knew that Dummett had come as a youth to Florida with his parents, I wondered what the heck that was doing in there. Apparently my surprise was the same as that felt by Dummett himself in October of 1840 when he was confronted with the issue of his citizenship. To use his own words, "he never heard it questioned until yesterday, and did not suppose until yesterday it was in any wise necessary for him to institute any proceedings in order to become a citizen."

Page 2, LDS microfilm #964745
Page one of naturalization

In order to rectify this unacceptable situation, Dummett submitted a petition for naturalization in St. John's County Court that gives us a great deal of background information on his life, some of which was lacking direct proof until now. In essence he provides a short biography in his own words, which is something very valuable that we have not had until now. After stating that he was born in January of 1806 at the Island of Barbados, under the rule of Great Britain, he says that he emigrated when about fourteen years of age to the United States and after landing in New York City he went to New Haven, Connecticut where he resided with his father's family until 1824 when they moved to Florida. He further stated that he always believed that his father was a naturalized citizen as he owned real estate in Connecticut, was a large land and slave holder while he lived in Florida, and that he voted at elections there and expressed other rights and privileges of a citizen. As for himself, Douglas Dummett says that he has not left the United States, except once as a teenager to visit Barbados, that he has married a native Floridian, and all his personal and real estate are in Florida.

 Apparently he was "informed his Citizenship is contested by some," one can only imagine what prompted that, and that if he is not a citizen he is filing this application to rectify the situation. Among those that swore to Dummett's application was his mother Mary D. Dummett and Edwin T. Jenckes a powerful politician known as the "fat man of Florida" due to his immense size. If you click on Mr. Jenckes' name above the link will take you to a very interesting article written about him in the January 1952 issue of the Florida Historical Quarterly.