Rotary Club of Fernandina Beach
Club 4360, District 6970

Rotarian Clyde Davis shares some Fernandina History

 
 
Recently, the Fernandina Beach Rotary Club welcomed one of its own as a guest speaker. Clyde Davis, a fifth generation native of Nassau County and an attorney, is also a renowned local historian. He entertained and informed the club with the case of the murder at Kings Ferry, which took place in a small logging village in western Nassau County in 1881 and was reported in the New York Times. Davis said the case was clear cut: On the night of November 19, an African American resident of Kings Ferry, Merritt Jackson, set out to murder George Ferguson, but instead mistakenly clubbed to death another man. Jackson was apprehended by a group of citizens and transported by boat to Fernandina, which at the time was a town of some 3,000 residents – the third largest city in Florida. Jackson was found guilty and, nine months after the murder, was hung. Davis said the case itself was not particularly unique, but the circumstances surrounding Jackson’s capture and trial were. In the absence of a police force in Kings Ferry, local citizens banded together to capture Jackson. But of even more interest was that Jackson was tried and convicted by an integrated jury made up of both white and black men. Davis said that post-Civil War Fernandina was surprisingly color-blind because of its large German immigrant population and the fact that Fernandina had been under Union occupation early in the war and for a long period of time. When asked why the murder was reported in the New York Times, Davis noted that in the 1880s, ships traveled regularly between New York and Fernandina and local events were commonly reported in northern newspapers.