Ellen Call Long

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Ellen Walker Call Long
Ellen Call Long Portrait.jpg
Born Ellen Walker Call
(1825-09-09)September 9, 1825
Tallahassee, Florida
Died 1905
Tallahassee, Florida
Resting place Call Family Cemetery, Tallahassee, Florida
Residence The Grove, Tallahassee, Florida
Nationality American
Occupation planter, historic preservationist, writer, historian, forester
Spouse(s) Medicus Long
Children Richard Call Long, Sr.
Eleanora Long Hollinger
Parent(s) Richard Keith Call
Mary Letitia Kirkman
Relatives Caroline Mays Brevard (niece)
Wilkinson Call (cousin)
David S. Walker (cousin)

Ellen Call Long (1825-1905) was the daughter of Florida territorial governor Richard Keith Call and a member of the influential Call-Walker political family of Florida. The longtime proprietor of The Grove, which she acquired from her father in 1851 and held until 1903, Ellen Call Long received distinction after the Civil War through her efforts in historic preservation, history, memorialization, forestry, silkworm cultivation, and the promotion of Florida. She was the author of Florida Breezes, a semi-fictional account of antebellum life primarily set in Middle Florida which is widely regarded as one of the best primary source accounts of the planter class lifestyle in Florida. She was the founder of the Florida chapters of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and the Ladies Hermitage Association. She was also named a Florida delegate to several important expositions, including the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia (1876), the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893), and the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France (1889). She was the founder of the Ladies Memorial Association of Tallahassee, a group that is now known as the Anna Jackson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Her published report made before the American Forestry Congress in 1888 titled “Notes of Some of the Forest Features of Florida”, is considered a seminal work in the field of fire ecology. She was also a tireless promoter of silk culture in Florida, representing the Ladies Silk Culture Association of Philadelphia and emerging as a local expert in cultivation.

Early life[edit]

Ellen Call Long was born on The Grove property in Tallahassee on September 9, 1825, the first child of Richard Keith Call and Mary Letitia Kirkman. Of the 8 children born to the Calls, only their oldest and youngest daughters lived to adulthood. According to popular legend, Ellen was the first white child born in the city, a story she openly advertised later in her life. After spending early life in Tallahassee, her parents sent her north to boarding schools in Baltimore and later Philadelphia. She was especially close to her mother, and her mother’s death in 1836 had a profound impact on the rest of Ellen Call Long’s life. Concerned over the precarious situation of his family, Richard Keith Call sent his two surviving daughters to Nashville, Tennessee, to live with his mother-in-law. Ellen spent the rest of her childhood between Nashville and several northern boarding schools. Despite this separation, she and her father grew to be especially close, and she remained fiercely loyal to her father for the rest of her life.[1]

Return to Tallahassee[edit]

Ellen Call Long and Unknown Woman in Front of Grove, ca. 1880

In 1843, Ellen Call Long returned to Tallahassee to live on a permanent basis. By this time, her father was in his second term as governor. Ellen quickly established herself within the elite social circles of the city, acting as hostess for her father. In 1844, she married Medicus A. Long, a promising young lawyer from Tennessee who later served multiple terms in the Florida State Legislature. Like her parents before her, only Ellen’s oldest and youngest children Richard Call Long and Eleanora Long Hollinger survived to adulthood. After a failed run for governor in 1845, her father began committing himself more to his plantation at Orchard Pond. In 1851, he formally deeded The Grove to Ellen, who already established her family there. Ellen later inherited Orchard Pond and her father’s slaves as well, which served as her main means of support through the end of the Civil War.[2]

During the 1850s, her father emerged as one of the leading voices of Southern Unionism in the state. After the demise of the Whig Party, Call was active in several pro-unionist parties, including the American Party and the Constitutional Union Party. Ever loyal to her father, she was a staunch Unionist as well, which put her at odds with her husband, who was an outspoken secessionist. Medicus Long even openly debated his father-in-law on the subject of secession in public. Long eventually relocated to Texas shortly before the Civil War ostensibly for health reasons but they remained separated for the rest of their lives although they remained officially married.[3]

Although she vehemently opposed secession, Ellen Call Long still supported the Confederate cause, opening her home to wounded soldiers and hosting Confederate officers. Her son Richard Long enlisted in the 2nd Florida Cavalry. Her enthusiasm for the cause was guarded, however, as she refused to invest in Confederate bonds and remained bitterly opposed to secessionists, which became more pronounced as the war progressed. Tallahassee remained the only southern capital to not fall into Union hands during the war, and as a result the people of the city were spared much of the destruction that befell cities such as Richmond, Atlanta, and Charleston. With the surrender of General Joseph Johnston, the Confederate forces in Florida were ordered to disband. Ellen Call Long witnessed the entry of General McCook into Tallahassee in May 1865. Despite her strong Unionism, she was embittered by the humiliation faced by the South at defeat.[4]

Reconstruction Era[edit]

Although the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction brought significant economic hardships to the South, this period marked a remarkable political turnaround for Ellen Call Long’s family. In 1865, her cousin David S. Walker was elected governor of Florida and another cousin Wilkinson Call was elected as senator. Ellen continued to rely on income generated by her Orchard Pond property, which now utilized sharecropper labor, many of whom were former slaves of the Call family. After a brief period in Texas, her son and his wife joined her at The Grove, where they resided with their two children. Her widowed daughter and her two sons also moved into the residence later.

Historic Preservation[edit]

Ellen Call Long represented Florida in the founding of two of the most prominent national historic preservation organizations of the era, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association (MVLA) and the Ladies Hermitage Association (LHA). Founded by Ann Pamela Cunningham in 1853 to salvage George Washington’s residence Mount Vernon, the MVLA was the first major national historic preservation organization in the United States. Although Catherine Murat was the first Vice Regent for the state of Florida, Ellen Long was the principal organizer and cofounder of the Florida chapter of the MVLA and remained actively involved with the group for several years afterwards. Despite the difficulties faced in communication and travel at the time, Long and Catherine Murat managed to establish a local presence for the MVLA in every town and county in the state and raised several thousand dollars for the cause.[5] The success of the MVLA inspired the establishment of similar organizations around the country. In 1889, a group of Tennessee women concerned with the condition of Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage, established the LHA to aid in its restoration. The group named Ellen Call Long as the first vice regent for the state of Florida. For Ellen, whose father was a protégé of Jackson, the Hermitage held personal as well as national significance. As vice regent, she had a significant role in early fundraising and organizing efforts for the LHA. She also donated several items from The Grove to The Hermitage and actively solicited donations on behalf of the LHA. Due in part to the pioneering efforts of women such as Ellen Call Long, both Mount Vernon and The Hermitage remain open today as public museums.[6]

Memorialization[edit]

After the Civil War, drawing inspiration from the women of Richmond, Ellen Call Long founded the Ladies Memorial Association of Tallahassee in 1865. It was the first such group founded in Florida and one of the earliest founded in the south. Initially formed to reclaim Confederate burials and commemorate the Confederate dead, the women’s memorial associations that formed in the south often held elaborate annual graveside ceremonies. These ceremonies usually involved laying flowers and wreaths on the headstones of Confederate veterans and served as the direct inspiration of what became Decoration Day in the north, now known as Memorial Day. The Ladies Memorial Association of Tallahassee primarily focused on erecting a monument memorializing Florida’s Confederate casualties, but it soon expanded its mission to raise money for veterans, engage in public outreach, and petition for state recognition of Confederate Memorial Day. The women of the organization established April 26 as an annual day of observance for the Confederate veterans in what was later called Confederate Memorial Day, which the state of Florida later recognized.[7]

As Ellen Call Long later wrote on the Ladies Memorial Association: “Our purpose is purely religious – a labor of love – the sacred care of the dead, to reclaim from oblivion and defamation the memory and graves of those who, ‘right or wrong,’ stood by their country’s cause… In no invidious spirit do we come; the political storm that shook our country to its foundation… is passed; war with its carnage is over; and we are done with the cause; and though we scarce discover the silver lining of the dark clouds which have so long hung like a pall above us, we believe that it will yet show itself, and are willing to do all that women can do to stem the tide of bitterness, and assuage the angry feelings that naturally, at present, exist between the two sections of the country.”[8]

World’s Fair Delegate[edit]

After the Civil War, Ellen Call Long earned a reputation as a tireless promoter of Florida and took the lead in encouraging national reconciliation in the state. She was able to use her family’s political connections to secure several appointments to key expositions for herself and her family. Perhaps her most notable contribution was to the Centennial Exposition celebrated in Philadelphia in 1876. She saw this as an opportunity to rekindle old bonds of nationalism that the war destroyed. Her upbringing in the boarding schools of the north, most notably Philadelphia, gave her connections to several prominent families, which she used to her advantage. She received the appointment as Florida’s delegate to the exhibition, but despite her best efforts, she was unable to generate much interest in the venture and received a lukewarm response from her fellow Floridians embittered by war and Reconstruction. Her efforts did not go unnoticed, however, as she was widely commended for her tireless work with the exposition. She would later serve as a Florida delegate in the World Cotton Centennial (1884), the Exposition Universelle (1889), the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), and Tennessee Centennial (1897).[9]

Silkworm Cultivation[edit]

Faced with maintaining a large extended family and a high standard of living as resources were dwindling, Ellen turned to alternative methods of generating income. She immersed herself in silkworm cultivation, studying for a period in the 1870s with the Women’s Silk Culture Association in Philadelphia, which she joined and was an active member. She raised the silkworms and produced the silk on The Grove property itself, first utilizing the first floor of the main house before constructing a small cottage on the property near the cemetery for the purpose. She published a book on silkworm cultivation, titled Silk Farming that was well received. She produced ceremonial silk flags for the 1885 gubernatorial inauguration of Florida governor Edward A. Perry. She also presented a silk flag made from silk grown at The Grove to the Board of Lady Managers at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, which was displayed in the Woman’s Building.[10]

Forestry[edit]

Ellen Call Long was an early member of the Southern Forestry Congress, which was founded in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, at the annual Chautauqua winter conference in 1884. It was as a result of this group’s efforts that Arbor Day first gained recognition in states throughout the south, including Florida. Long was appointed as Secretary of the group, and was among the delegates present when they joined the American Forestry Congress in 1888. At the meeting of the American Forestry Congress held in Atlanta in 1888, she presented a paper titled “Notes of Some of the Forest Features of Florida,” which was later published in the Proceedings. Describing fires as absolutely essential for the growth of longleaf pine forests in the south, it was one of the earliest published pieces to advocate for controlled burning at a time when the accepted forestry standards called for total fire suppression. She went on the further draw the connection between the suppression of fire and the development of hardwood hammocks in lands that were once longleaf pine forests. Although the published piece received little attention at the time, it would be widely cited by early advocates of fire ecology such as Roland Harper and Herbert Stoddard as a seminal work in the field.[11]

Historian[edit]

Long’s most notable work as a writer was Florida Breezes, a semi-fictional account set primarily in Antebellum Era Florida told from the perspective of a northern visitor visiting Tallahassee. The book, which never saw widespread publication upon its release in 1883, was unpopular at the time due to its rejection of the morality of slavery and lionization of the southern unionist cause. Her public statements declaring Abraham Lincoln as one of the greatest presidents in American history and open support of a local black postmaster also generated considerable local opposition. Extra copies of the publication were burned. In the years following her death, however, the book was looked upon as a valuable firsthand account of Middle Florida planter life. It was republished by the University of Florida in 1960.[12]

Long was an author of several books and articles pertaining to a variety of subjects. She wrote a history of Florida for the state school system but it was rejected. Her work and research later went to her niece Caroline Mays Brevard, a noted historian and educator who wrote a history of Florida which was used for years as the official textbook for schoolchildren in the state.[13]

By the end of her life, the debts accumulated from maintaining a large property and an expensive lifestyle caught up with Long. She began selling off portions of the lands around The Grove to a holding company. In 1906, the state Governor’s Mansion was built on land originally part of The Grove property. In 1903, under threat of foreclosure on her properties, Long turned to her grandson-in-law, Charles E. Hunt. In exchange for being relieved of the debt on the property, Hunt received title to both The Grove and Orchard Pond. Realizing she was losing possession of the properties, Long later sued Hunt, claiming she misunderstood the nature of the arrangement. She was unsuccessful in getting her property back, and upon her death in 1905, the property went over to her granddaughter (Hunt’s wife) Reinette Long Hunt.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jane Aurell Menton, The Grove: A Florida Home Through Seven Generations (Tallahassee, FL: Sentry Press, 1998), 21-24.
  2. ^ Menton, 29-32.
  3. ^ Menton, 32-33.
  4. ^ Ellen Call Long diary, May 10, [1865], https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/180853?id=36; Ellen Call Long diary, May 21, [1865], https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/180853?id=40.
  5. ^ Ann Pamela Cunningham letter to RK Call, [undated], in Ellen Call Long, Florida Breezes, or, Florida, New and Old (Jacksonville, FL: Douglas Printing Company, Inc., 1883) [reprint] (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1962), 259-260.
  6. ^ Mary C. Dorris, Preservation of the Hermitage, 1889-1915 (Nashville, TN: The Ladies Hermitage Association, 1915), 62-64.
  7. ^ Esther H. Berumen, “Competing Memories: Tallahassee’s Civil War Commemorations, Exhibits, and Celebrations” FSU thesis, 2009, 21-22; Ellen Call Long, A History of the Memorial Association Formed in Tallahassee After the Late Civil War [unpublished] [1905], 1-4; Florida Legislature Legislative Journal, 254-255.
  8. ^ Long, Florida Breezes, 386.
  9. ^ Menton, The Grove, 38-39.
  10. ^ Menton, The Grove, 39.
  11. ^ Ellen Call Long, “Notes on Some of the Forest Features of Florida, with Item of Tree Growth in that State,” Proceedings of the American Forestry Congress (Vol. 7, Issue 1), 38-41; Albert G. Way, Conserving Southern Longleaf: Herbert Stoddard and the Rise of Ecological Land Management (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011), 246.
  12. ^ Margaret Louise Chapman, Introduction, in Ellen Call Long, Florida Breezes, xvii-xxi.
  13. ^ Caroline Mays Brevard, A History of Florida (New York: American Book Company, 1904), 5-6.
  14. ^ Menton, The Grove, 42-44.