African American History

Written by Cleve Powell
Originally published in the February 2006 Newsletter

Many of the first settlers of Arlington were black or mixed-race, which is well documented in Dr. Daniel L. Schafer’s book “Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley.” The Richards had plantations in Arlington during the second Spanish era. Francis Richard Jr. had children by both his wife and some of his slaves. He saw to it that his mixed raced children were set free in his will of 1840. Zephaniah Kingsley, who had plantations in Orange Park and later at Ft. George Island, married a black princess “Anna.”  Their daughter Mary married John Sammis, a white man from new York, who ran Richard’s mill and plantation, and then purchased 8,000 acres of the Richard land. Their home in Clifton still stands on Noble Circle. The other daughter Martha married Oran Baxter, also a white man from New York, and they settled at a plantation known as SaintXIsabel, just north of Jacksonville University. Another member of the Kingsley family, Charles McNeill, Zephaniah’s nephew, married a “free colored” women named Elizabeth Coffee and moved to Reddie Point (Chaseville), and had nine children. After Zephaniah’s death, Anna moved in with her daughter Martha, and then settled at a plantation called Chesterfield at what is now Jacksonville University’s main campus. There are other blacks that took the Kingsley name, Hannah, Mary Ann, and William who also lived in Arlington; the 1850 census supports this.
Also shown in the 1850 census is the McQueen family, a well-known black family in Arlington to this day. “Aunt” Laura McQueen is in a picture taken with my family in 1914 when they moved to Arlington. Pete and Mattie Anderson and Mary Maxwell were also families that helped my family with the farm. Mary’s husband was named Harry.
Other people I remember were Mr. Hicks who sold ice and kerosene and Mr. Jones who had the only garbage business around.
If you read the Steeves interview on our website you will pick out the names of mixed families, Christopher and Silas who lived in Clifton, then Polly Floyd, “Shorty” Johnson and Martin Bartley who lived in what is now Fort Caroline Club Estates. There was also “Cotton” Wright, who had a baseball diamond near Pottsburg Creek. The Bostons lived near what is now Jones College; also mentioned was the Simons.
The 1913 survey of Alderman Farms (Alderman Park) shows land belonging to Sampson White and his brother Elias White. It also shows a 40-acre parcel belonging to John McQueen, and records show a 40-acre parcel was granted to “Prince” McQueen near what is now Terry Parker in 1903. When I went to work for Humphreys Gold Mine in 1955, there were several Bartleys, Whites, and McQueens working there, all of whom I admire to this day.
Besides the names of black families that lived in the Arlington area we have the Norman Film Studio complex, which, during the twenties, produced silent films featuring black actors and portraying them as heroes. Roles such as these was not always the case in those days. This film studio has been in part purchased by the City of Jacksonville (Florida) and grant money has been made available to restore the complex and to promote black history.
There are two cemeteries that are exclusively black. One is the Arlington Cemetery at the end of Shackleton Road near Norman Studios. I don’t have a list of the graves but I believe some of the McQueens are buried there. This cemetery goes back before the turn of the century. Another is the “Lone Star” Cemetery just east of Mill Creek Road. Per Isaiah Bartley, this cemetery is 137 years old. There is also a small black cemetery on Jacksonville University’s property known as the Chaseville Road Baptist Church Cemetery. Per information from the Internet, it has approximately 6 graves without markers for the Binnewies family. The Clifton Cemetery is the resting place of Anna Kingsley and her daughters Mary Sammis and Martha Baxter, their husbands, and some family. Anne Silas is buried there and there are graves for the Frieskes and Champlins, white families that settled Eggleston.
Churches: The church by the Lone Star Cemetery is known as the Mt. Zion AME Methodist Church and goes back as far as the cemetery.* It is believed that was the origin of the name for Lone Star Road . The church on Harris Street near the Arlington Grammar School has been in the same location for over 70 years. There was a church at Reddie Point shown on the 1918 map near the Lion’s Club Boat Ramp. There was also a church on the west end of Lone Star Road near University Boulevard.