Rosewood, Florida

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Rosewood, Florida
Country United States
State Florida
County Levy
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)352

Rosewood is an unincorporated community in Levy County, Florida, United States. The site is located just off State Road 24, approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) northeast of Sumner and 9 miles (14 km) northeast of Cedar Key.[1] The town was destroyed by whites and subsequently abandoned in 1923 as a result of a white woman claiming that a black man had raped her, leading to the Rosewood massacre.



The initial settlers of Rosewood were both black and white. When most of the cedar trees in the area had been cut by 1890, the pencil mills closed, and many white residents moved to Sumner, Florida. By 1900, the population in Rosewood had become predominantly black. The village of Sumner was predominantly white, and relations between the two communities were relatively amicable.[2] The population of Rosewood peaked in 1915 at 355 people.

Two black families in Rosewood named Goins and Carrier were the most influential. The Goins family brought the turpentine industry to the area, and in the years preceding the attacks, were the second largest landowners in Levy County.[3] To avoid lawsuits from white competitors, the Goins brothers moved to Gainesville, and the population of Rosewood decreased slightly. The Carriers were also a large family, responsible for logging in the region. By the 1920s, almost everyone in the close-knit community was distantly related to each other.[4] Although residents of Rosewood probably did not vote because voter registration requirements in Florida had effectively disfranchised blacks since the turn of the century, both Sumner and Rosewood were part of a single voting precinct counted by the U.S. Census. In 1920, the combined population of both towns was 344 blacks and 294 whites.[5]

Community prior to the Rosewood Massacre[edit]

As was common in the late 19th century South, Florida had imposed legal racial segregation under Jim Crow laws, requiring separate black and white public facilities and transportation.[6] Blacks and whites created their own community centers: in 1920, the residents of Rosewood were mostly self-sufficient. They had three churches, a school, a large Masonic Hall, a turpentine mill, a sugarcane mill, a baseball team named the Rosewood Stars, and two general stores, one of which was white-owned. The village had about a dozen two-story wooden plank homes, other small two-room houses, and several small unoccupied plank farm and storage structures. Some families owned pianos, organs, and other symbols of middle-class prosperity. Survivors of the Rosewood Massacre remember it as a happy place. In 1995 survivor Robie Mortin recalled at age 79, "Rosewood was a town where everyone's house was painted. There were roses everywhere you walked. Lovely."[7]


The name Rosewood refers to the reddish color of cut cedar wood.


Before 1923[edit]

A black and white photograph of a large building featuring a sign that reads "E Faber's Cedar Mill"; More than a dozen white men sit on a large cedar log in the foreground
This pencil mill in Cedar Key was an integral part of local industry.

Rosewood was settled in 1845, nine miles (14 km) east of Cedar Key, near the Gulf of Mexico. The local industry was centered on timber. Two pencil mills were nearby in Cedar Key; several turpentine mills and a sawmill three miles (4.8 km) away in Sumner helped support local residents, as did farming of citrus and cotton. The hamlet grew enough to warrant the construction of a post office and train depot on the Florida Railroad in 1870, but it was never incorporated as a town.

Decline of Rosewood's economy (1923–1950)[edit]

In 1923, during the infamous Rosewood Massacre, the entire town of Rosewood was razed except for John Wright's General Store.[8] After the majority of the population fled Rosewood, the once profitable turpentine industry began to fade as newer, alternative synthetic products were being produced. By 1950, the turpentine industry practically no longer existed.[9]

Since 1950[edit]

Since the 1950s, several businesses were established in Rosewood including, but not limited to a general store, fisheries; charter tours; clam, oysters and other types of Mollusca farmers; agricultural farms; restaurants; storage facilities and a small airfield. Several neighborhoods have been developed around these businesses.[10]

Rosewood Massacre[edit]

In January 1923, white men from nearby towns lynched a Rosewood resident allegedly in response to a lie that a white woman in nearby Sumner had been beaten and possibly raped by a black drifter. The woman was actually beaten up by her lover while her husband was at work. When black citizens defended themselves against further attack, several hundred whites organized to comb the countryside hunting for black people and burned almost every structure in Rosewood. Survivors hid for several days in nearby swamps and were evacuated by train and car to larger towns. Although state and local authorities were aware of the violence, they made no arrests for the activities in Rosewood. The town was abandoned by black residents during the attacks. None ever returned.

Massacre reparations[edit]

In the spring of 1994, the Florida state legislature voted to give $2 million in compensation for the nine surviving family members (equaling $150,000 each). In December 2010, a state scholarship was established for descendants of families that survived the massacre. [11] Governor Jeb Bush in 2004 placed a plaque commemorating the massacre in front of John Wright's general store, the only remaining structure from the Rosewood Massacre. This plaque was vandalized on at least one occasion when it was shot at from a passing car.[12]

Community services[edit]

In 1980, the Rosewood Volunteer Fire Department was officially established and the station number was designated as 80 in district 4.[13]



  1. ^ Rosewood on Google Maps
  2. ^ Colburn, David R. (Fall 1997) "Rosewood and America in the Early Twentieth Century", The Florida Historical Quarterly, 76 (2), pp. 175–192.
  3. ^ Jones, et al. "Appendices", p. 135.
  4. ^ Jones, et al. "Appendices", p. 163.
  5. ^ Jones et al., p. 20.
  6. ^ Pildes, Richard H. "Democracy, Anti-Democracy, and the Canon", Constitutional Commentary (2000), 17, p 12–13.
  7. ^ Jerome, Richard (January 16, 1995). "A Measure of Justice", People, 43 (2), pp. 46–49
  8. ^ "Rosewood Massacre (1923)". Black Past. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  9. ^ Hughes, Dan. "archaeologist". Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  10. ^ "US Businesses in Cedar Key". US-Business. Retrieved 2017-06-18.
  11. ^
  12. ^ DeGregory, Lane (6 June 2018). "The last house in Rosewood". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  13. ^ Nyhart, Alan (12/05/2015). "History of the Rosewood Volunteer Fire Department". Rosewood Heritage. 1 (1): 1–120. Check date values in: |date= (help)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°14′N 82°56′W / 29.233°N 82.933°W / 29.233; -82.933