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Jacob Summerlin: King of the Crackers Paperback – January, 2004
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A monotone, textbook like narration.
Summerlin's ancestors arrived in Florida in the 1780s, and he grew up near Alligator (now Lake City). A true frontier scion, he had little to no formal education, but quickly mastered the skills necessary to survive in a hostile environment. This book follows Summerlin from his youth through his service in the Second Seminole War, his work supplying beef to the Confederacy, and his civic contributions to the town of Orlando in the late 1800s. At his death he was considered one of the richest men in Florida, yet he always referred to himself as "nothing under the sun but a native-born sun baked old Florida Cracker."
Students of Florida history will enjoy this slim volume, not only for the insight into the life of an under-appreciated Florida founder, but also for the rich details of what it was like to struggle for survival on the 19th century frontier. The illustrations---including old photographs and original artwork by Joe Akerman---help the reader better envision the people, places, and tools used by Florida pioneers. Summerlin was a man of many paradoxes: an uneducated boy who went on to found good schools, an Indian fighter who appreciated native ways and won the Seminoles' respect, and a Confederate provider who disapproved of secession. The Akermans' biography of Summerlin offers more than just a list of Summerlin's accomplishments. Within its pages the reader will find battles, journeys, and even a poisoning!
It is easy to see why this book was the Florida Historical Society's Charlton Tebeau Book Prize winner for 2005. It is an important addition to any Florida history bookshelf.
Tracy J. Revels
Professor of History
Wofford College, Spartanburg, SC
Professor of History
Tallahassee Community College
Summerlin became extremely wealthy, but remained unassuming. He provided land for the courthouse and schools in Bartow and later was instrumental in getting Orlando's courthouse built.
This biography rates five stars for opening a window into the early times of Central Florida. Those with an interest in this topic can also read the fiction book, A Land Remembered by Patrick Smith.