Aaron Jernigan

Martha B Jernigan Tyler (1838-1926) was quoted in Kenna Fries’ 1937 book “Orlando in the Long Long Ago” as writing:

“My father was Captain Aaron Jernigan, a brave soldier. Father moved to Florida in 1843, bringing his cattle, an old white gentleman and some negroes. The following January he moved mother and us children down. We had seven hundred head of cattle.

Our nearest neighbors were at Fort Reed, which was a mile from Sanford. My father settled on a place two miles and a half south of Orlando. It is now owned by Mr. Overstreet. Mr. Aurthur Quinn and Dr. Spear lived near Fort Reid, near old Mellonville, which is now called Sanford.

Well, we were again among the Indians—but we had the fat of the land. Deer were fat and plentiful. Father brought him fine fat deer one time, and another time five big wild turkeys. I have seen mother have a large dishpan full of wild dried turkey breasts. Fish were plentiful. We raised sweet potatoes and sugar cane. One time we made twenty-three barrels of sugar besides the syrup. We raised corn, cotton, pumpkin, watermelons and musk-melons. We killed beef every two weeks and the cattle were always fat. We put this fat up like lard. We would get fourty-eight to fifty pounds out of every beef we killed.

A man came from Apopka one day and wanted a beef father had penned. Father told him he could have it for fifteen dollars, or for two cents a pound dressed. He wanted it killed and dressed, and paid $16.75 for just the quarters.

In 1849 we were fortified on the north side of Conway, right against the peninsula, from the Indians. There were Mr. Marston and his wife, and eleven children; Mr. Lee and his wife and seven children; Mr. Lowry with four in his family; Cousin Davis with his wife and four grandchildren; Uncle Willoughby Minshew and his wife and eight children; Uncle Isaac Jernigan and his wife and ten children; and father and mother and us eight children. There was an orphan boy. Mr. Pool and his wife and four children, and there were two negro families with six in each. Old man Daniel Thomas and his twenty negroes were there and they built an addition to the fort. 

There was a company of regular soldiers stationed at Fort Gatlin. There were also a company of volunteers. We were in that fort twelve months before the trouble was over enough for us to scatter again to our homes.

There were plenty of varmints in the woods, such as bears, pumas, wolves, and wildcats. We had nine bull dogs. I have seen seven wolves come right up in front of the house at two o’clock in the afternoon, when the sun was shining bright. One day they appeared thus, and put their forefeet up on a log and stood there and howled. Our dogs did not notice them. I saw three otters run through the woods in open daylight once. Father and Uncle Isaac took their dogs one day and chased a tiger (better known as a puma) within hearing of the house. The dogs finally treed it and it was shot. He measured nine feet from tip to tip. He had been eating our pigs and probably some of our calves. My father once killed a bear that we got eight gallons of oil from, and the meat was fine too.

We sold our best cattle to drovers who would drive them across country to Savannah or Charleston. One time mother sold Mr. Harvey Dudley two hundred beef steers—eight years old—for $15 a head. Father was away from home, so mother attended to the business.

Mr. Dudley sat down at the cow-pen gap and paid mother the money, and he must have had fifty thousand dollars left. Anyway, it was the most money I have ever seen at one time. He had his saddle bags stuffed with it.

Orlando was woods and the deer and turkeys fed all about where the city now stands.

The first little log house ever built in Orlando was built out of pine poles with the bark left on them. It was about twelve feet long and eight feet wide, and one had to stoop to get in at the door. There was a counter on one side, and a few cigar boxes full of sand with candles stuck in the sand, stood on it. A box of tobacco and a barrel of whiskey stood in one corner. That was in 1850.

As for the life in the fort during the time so many people were penned up there, there was only one fight. It was between two old women, one had a butcher knife and the other a fire stick, but they did not get nearer than twenty or thirty feed from one another.