Wayne and readers,
I’ve been corresponding with the director of the Gamble Plantation State Park in Ellenton, Florida.
I sent him an e-mail with suggestions as to how to improve historical material at the Park, with a few ideas in mind: to clarify the role of black slaves in building and operating the plantation and mansion, and to describe properly who Judah Benjamin was before and during the Civil War and to explain why he was honored at a Florida State Park.
Mr. Kiser replied to my most recent e-mail. Here’s his reply, followed by my response to him.
I think that this is encouraging, and I’m hoping to work with him and his staff.
Sorry I have not had the time lately to respond. I have four parks that I currently manage and this week I will take on a fifth, the Skyway Fishing Pier. I have a staff of 5 and one part-time office assistant. Trying to find the time for new projects is becoming harder and harder. We rely a lot on volunteers to help us get through the busy times. I like a lot of your suggestions and would love to incorporate them. Some of the problems with adding new material is space. We don’t currently have any a lot of room to tell those tales of other champions of Florida’s vast history. I have a project we are currently trying to fit in that started many years ago that was never completed. There was a pretty large archaeology dig done at the park in the 1980’s but most of all the evidence collected has never been examined. It was bagged and tagged and then stored. We have a local archeologist who has agreed to start going through those bags. Our hope is that some of these bags will tell us about what was here, like possible location of slave cabins, blacksmith shop or maybe a larger detached kitchen. We hope to hold some archaeology classes to teach high school kids about the process.
I think the additions to the tour you mention can be added. Do you have any suggestions as where I can find printed material on Benjamin’s voting record on pro slavery issues? Any help You can give me would help save me time.
Judah P Benjamin Confederate Memorial at Gamble Plantation Historic State Park
Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park
Terra Ceia Preserve State Park
Madira Bickel Mound State Archaeological
Dear Mr. Kiser,
As the son of federal government civil servants, I am appreciative of the fact that government employees work hard and are committed to their important work on our behalf.
I’d like to work with you and your staff to see if we can improve the material at the Gamble Plantation so that it provides a more complete and more accurate picture of life on the Manatee river in the 1850s, and of just who Judah Benjamin was and why he is honored in a Florida State park.
I am a physicist, and only an amateur student of history and economics. These days I’m an adjunct instructor in Physics at the University of Tampa. I’m capable of research on this subject, and writing about it.
I have a reference to Edge of Wilderness, a settlement history of Manatee River and Sarasota Bay, 1528-1885, by Prof. Janet Snyder Matthews, which is, apparently, available at the downtown branch of the county library. I’m going to look at it.
I’ve read about Benjamin’s role as an important cabinet official of the Confederate government in Civil War histories, and I’m sure that there are biographies of him.
Naturally, I’d expect that anything I propose would be reviewed by knowledgeable experts and by you and your colleagues. (And by the nice ladies of the UDC, who may not approve of it.)
As in my earlier note, I can visit you at the Plantation most mornings. If you pick Friday morning or Sunday afternoon then we would benefit from having my darling Tampa-native wife join us.