The History of Fort Braden
by Claude Kenneson
Fort Braden was established as a military outpost during the Second Seminole War, on December 3, 1839. It was located on the Ocklockonee River eighteen miles southwest of Tallahassee in Township 1N., Range 3, West. The Braden brothers, Hector W. and Dr. Joseph Braden were prominent and influential Leon County residents. Hector, for example, was a director of the Tallahassee Union Bank 2. Official records, however, indicate that the fort was named for Virginia Braden. She was a Tallahassee belle, the former Virginia Ward, who had married Dr. Joseph Braden 3.
An encounter with the Indians near here on July 12, 1840 resulted in the deaths of two soldiers of Co. B of the 2nd Inf.4 An earlier death, that of B.M. Douglas, was attributed to disease.5 With the conclusion of the Seminole War, Fort Braden was finally abandoned on June 7, 1842.6
A small community had apparently grown near this fort because in 1843 we find E.M. Garnett, a Whig delegate from Virginia Settlement, attending the Leon County Convention in Tallahassee. 7 The collection of taxes for that neighborhood in 1847 took place at the Fort Braden School House.8 In 1856 Fort Braden was one of the voting precincts in Leon County; and again in 1872 Fort Braden was election precinct No. 6, with John N. Maige, William H. Allen, and Moses J. Taylor, Jr., designated as inspectors.9
The educational needs of the community were met as far back as 1847 when we first find mention of the Fort Braden School House.10 No further reference to a school was found until 1871 when Fort Braden is listed as Leon County School No. 12, with M.S. Atkins teacher. 11 A change of teacher apparently occurred because the same paper (September 11, 1875) names A.F. Fairbanks as teacher of School, No. 46, Fort Braden. If this is not the case, then there were apparently two schools at Fort Braden. In 1878, a political rally and barbecue were held at Black's School house in the Fort Braden neighborhood. 12 In 1886-87 Bettie Crowder was teacher at Fort Braden school. 13
From the 1886-87 Florida State Gazetteer we can determine that Fort Braden contained two churches (one Methodist, the other Baptist), a school house, the blacksmith shop of E.C. Grissett, the grist and gin mill of James Harvey (who was also the physician). Cotton and grain planters included Hugh Black, P.B. Chanlers, John Gray, Jos. Haines, H.H. Black, C. Gray, John Grissette, R.L. Harvey, and J. E. Williams. The population for Braden (or Fort Braden) is given as eight. We are told it had no post office at this point and that it received its mail through the Midway post office.14 (A post office had been established here on July 7, 1882, but was discontinued December 17, 1885). 15
Rand, McNally's 1898 Florida map indicates that Braden received its mail through Midway and gives the same population as found in the Gazetteer .
Fort Braden's most prominent citizen was no doubt Captain Hugh Black, a native of Gadsden County. After service in the Third Seminole War (ln the 1850's), he married Mary A. Harvey, of Leon County, on July 17, 1860. Thereafter he moved to Liberty County, where he served as county tax assessor for a period of two years. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he volunteered for service in the Confederacy, where he remained until the surrender. In 1866 he settled on the Ocklocknee River, in the neighborhood of Fort Braden. Here he entered the political arena and was elected a clerk in the legislature in 1868. He also served as Leon County Commissioner (District 4), for several years. He died in 1915 and was buried in the old Fort Braden Cemetery. 16
In this century the name of Fort Braden has survived in the schools there. In 1919 Fort Braden School was taught by Mr. Broadus Wilkinson.17 In 1928 Braden Elementary School wasconstructed and continued to serve the community until it closed its doors in 1993. It was Leon County's last small rural school.18 Today the old school houses the Fort Braden Community Center. The new, $8 million, 60-acre Fort Braden School nearby was Leon's first prekindergarten through eighth-grade school, according to Kathleen Laufenberg.
1Carol Cox Bouknecht, "Using Current Maps to Help Your Genealogical Search," Tallahassee Genealogical Society, Inc. Newsletter, Vol. 10, No. 4--June, 1991; a letter from the War Department (repr'oduced in the Appendix) in 1933 gives the date for the fort's founding. 2W.T. Cash, The Story of Florida, Volume 1 (New York: American Historical Society, Inc., 1938), 348; Bertram H. Groene, Antebellum Tallahassee (Tallahassee: Florida Heritage Foundation, 1971), 49. 3Florida State Library Collection in Tallahassee, Call No. 71, M. No. 617, Roll No. 1497, "Post Returns from Ft. Braden, Fl. Jan. 1840-May 1842;" see also Julia Floyd Smith, Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida (Gainesville: 1973), 131. 4David A. Eldredge, Finding Florida Forts (Fort Lauderdale, 1990), 39. 5John T. Sprague, The Origin, Progress, and Conclusion of the Florida War (New York: 1847), 527. 6From a letter from the War Department (1933) 7Tallahassee Florida Sentinel, August 8, 1843. 8Tallahassee Floridian, August 7, 1847. 9Tallahassee Floridian & Journal, October 11, 1856; and Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, October 8, 1872. 10Tallahassee Floridian, August 7, 1847. 11Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, October 3, 187l1. 12Tallahassee Weekly Floridian, October 15, 1878. 13John R. Richards, Florida State Gazetteer 1886-1887 (New York: South Publishing Company, 1886), 86. 14Ibid. l5Alford G. Bradbury & E. Story Hallock, A Chronology of Florida Post Offices (The Florida Federation of Stamp Clubs,1962), ll. 16Tallahassee Daily Democrat, May 28, 1915. 17Tallahassee Daily Democrat, date unknown, 1919. 18Tallahassee Democrat, December 17, 1986. 19Tallahassee Democrat, June 4, 1993.