March 2020 Newsletter Banner Vol VI Issue III

A viral pandemic is as distressing to historians as it is to anyone. On the other hand, we look to events of the past to help understand our current moment, and the obvious place to look now is the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. As reported in the October 1918 edition of The Courier – the precursor to Jacksonville History Matters – it was a little over a century ago that Jacksonville experienced the Great Flu, with effects similar to the rest of the U.S. and beyond.

In 2020, medicine and the science disciplines know vastly more about viruses and their transmission than they did a century ago. In 1918, exactly how people caught the flu was mysterious and thus scary. The best that could be done for victims a century ago was to offer comfort and palliative care. Today, we are lucky to live at a time when medicine better understands the spread of disease, even though we are little better equipped to treat and heal its victims. The evidence of the past suggests that the present virus will ultimately run its course, but also suggests that it or other viruses will reappear.

Among the resources for learning about the Great Flu of 1918 is the National Archives, which hosts a convenient landing page (click here). There you’ll find copies of original photos and documents testifying to the disastrous effects of the virus. For an authoritative yet accessible read on the Great Flu, it’s hard to beat “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History,” by John M. Barry (Penguin Books, 2005). In 10 cogent chapters, Barry narrates the arc of a health crisis that touched families everywhere. Writing on March 17 in the New York Times, Barry reflected on that event, and its most important lesson: “Tell the truth.” (1) Confidence in the fabric of any society stems from trust, which faltered badly in 1918, owing in part to incoherent responses to the flu pandemic. In the decades ahead, we will look back and compare the present pandemic to that of 1918 and see whether today’s people handled it better.

(1) New York Times, March 17, 2020

Here at the JHS, events scheduled for the weeks ahead have been suspended in response to the coronavirus. Luckily, most of our presenters, sponsors and collaborating organizations are happy to re-schedule as circumstances allow it. If you have registered for any of our upcoming programs or events, please stay in touch via our website, or contact us at the JHS offices: or (904) 665-0064. Our offices and the archives are closed to the public until further notice, but we remain on the job, responding to research requests via phone and email. Contact We so much appreciate the ongoing support and engagement of the Society’s members and friends, and can hardly wait to resume our normal service to Jacksonville’s people – but we will wait!

In the meantime, our board, staff and volunteers continue work on the various parts of our strategic plan. Fundraising for renovation of the Casket Factory building has continued to enjoy great support – particular thanks to the City Council of Jacksonville for a restricted donation of $35,000 in support of the project. Stay tuned for updates on the work beginning inside the building.

March is National Women’s History Month, and our program scheduled for the 18th was devoted to that commemoration. Former JHS Executive Director Emily Lisska’s intended presentation focuses on remarkable women of this city, and she looks forward to rescheduling at the earliest opportunity. Those who registered for the event were contacted directly about the change. If you were among those registered and have not heard from us, please connect with us at

Jacksonville has an amazing musical heritage, which the JHS began exploring last year in a June program presented by archivist Mitch Hemann. Our program scheduled for this June is a continuation of that topic. If the health situation requires that it be cancelled, you can be sure that we will hold the event as soon as possible. Research into Jacksonville’s music history has enthused many of us about the prospects for an interpretive venue devoted to the subject. A remarkable number of this city’s people have created great music, and then shared their gifts across the U.S. and beyond. Stories such as those of Frederick Delius, James Weldon Johnson, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers Band, or Dennis Yost and the Classics IV are among the many fascinating threads that are part of our Jacksonville. Do you know a story of Jacksonville’s music legacy? Help the JHS share it by contacting Mitch Hemann at

For now, we wish health to all our members and friends, and an early return to normal life in Jacksonville!

Alan Bliss
Executive Director

CF Fl1 Inspection

General contractors check out the condition of the floor in the Casket Factory's first floor.

CF Fl1 Scanners

Old microfilm machines are among some of the many artifacts stored in the Casket Factory.

CF Fl1 RecordBooks

Stacks of City of Jacksonville deed books await organization after the Casket Factory is renovated.

Thanks to 16 of 19 City of Jacksonville Councilmembers, wheels are in motion for help from City Council to fund the $300,000 renovation campaign to establish a state-of-the-art archival processing and storage facility at the Jacksonville Historical Society. On March 10, a majority of Councilmembers (16:1 of those present) voted to appropriate $35,000 for renovation of the Florida Casket Company building.

Bill 2020-0115 was introduced to City Council Feb. 11 by Co-Sponsors Council President Scott Wilson and Council Member-at-Large Matt Carlucci. Following the Feb. 25 Council meeting, which included a public hearing, six Council members signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

The bill was amended March 2 by the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee to include an exception and a waiver of two ordinances, as well as a requirement. The appropriation of $35,000 from the City Council Operating Contingency invoked an exception to Sec. 126.107 (G) of the City's Municipal Code, which would allow a direct contract with the Jacksonville Historical Society, rather than requiring a competitive bid process. The waiver of Sec. 118.201 (F)(7) would allow upfront payments instead of payment upon project completion, coupled with a requirement for oversight by the Office of Grants & Compliance.

On March 3, the Rules and Finance Committees put their stamps of approval on the bill, which was voted on by City Council on March 10. With the release of these funds, JHS will be in a position to begin the first phase of second floor renovations, eventually resulting in an up-to-date, 4,500 square-foot archival processing and storage facility.

JHS is very grateful for the 10 Council members who ultimately signed on as co-sponsors: Tommy Hazouri (At-Large), Randy DeFoor (District 14), Ju'Coby Pittman (District 8), Terrance Freeman (At-Large), Aaron Bowman (District 3), Sam Newby (At-Large), Randy White (District 12), Reggie Gaffney (District 7), Ron Salem (At-Large) and Garrett Dennis (District 9).

Jacksonville deserves a tremendous public history archive. Will you help take the Jacksonville Historical Society to the next level?

Kate A. Hallock
Director of Marketing and Communications


As we commemorate the centennial of women’s suffrage and celebrate women’s history, it is appropriate to recognize an unlikely local figure in the Suffrage Movement: Mary A. Nolan. Ms. Nolan was born in Martinsburg, Virginia in 1844. She became involved in the Southern library movement, and was instrumental in establishing a library in Laurens, South Carolina. Her husband, John R. Nolan, was a superintendent for the Southern Railway. At the turn of the century, they moved to Jacksonville, where they had a home at 2212 Market Street. In 1913, John Nolan passed away and Mary moved in with her stepdaughter Amy and her family at 121 W. 7th Street.


Portrait of Mary A. Nolan (Library of Congress)

In November 1917, at the age of 73 and disabled, Nolan traveled to Washington, D.C. and joined the pickets at the White House in support of women’s suffrage. On November 10th, she was among 41 women who were arrested for picketing. All charges were dismissed, but 31 of the women, including Nolan, returned an hour later to continue the protest. She was arrested again and sentenced to six days in prison. Nolan, and the rest of the suffragists, were sent to the Occoquan Workhouse in Lorton, Virginia, where conditions were unsanitary and unsafe. There was a single bar of soap in the shower to share among them, and their food often contained worms. As a result, the prisoners staged a hunger strike, only to find themselves force-fed by tubes in their throats.

On November 14th, 1917, the guards retaliated against their protests by attacking the prisoners, including Nolan. The women were brutalized and tortured. Nolan herself suffered abuses, being thrown into her cell and landing on an iron bed. After her release on November 20th, Nolan reported her experiences to the National Women’s Party. She also wrote an article published in The Suffragist, which became the first published account detailing the atrocities of what would become known as the Night of Terror.

Unfazed, Nolan’s involvement with the NWP continued. She participated in the Silent Sentinels and Watchfires of Freedom. On January 24th, 1919, Nolan burned one of President Woodrow Wilson’s speeches and was re-arrested. All told, she was arrested ten times and was jailed five times. In February 1919, Nolan and other suffragists embarked on a tour by rail called “The Prison Special” to attract support for women's suffrage. Travelling on a train named “Democracy Limited,” they often dressed in prison uniforms, shared their experiences behind bars, and spread the message of their cause. On February 18th, 1919, “The Prison Special” pulled into Jacksonville, where on the following morning Nolan was the speaker at an NWP breakfast.


Mary A. Nolan, circa 1917 (Library of Congress)

Mary A. Nolan passed away on May 18th, 1925. Buried in Evergreen Cemetery, her grave was unmarked until 1982, when the local chapter of the National Organization for Women placed a headstone there.

Despite her record of contributions during the climactic years of the suffrage movement, very little scholarship exists relating to Nolan. Among the many who are celebrated for courageously and tirelessly asserting for women’s rights, Nolan has remained overlooked. Her legacy and her fierce spirit deserve preservation. As a Jacksonville woman who withstood adversity and faced daunting challenges, her strength of mind, character and body, all constitute another of Jacksonville’s many fascinating stories.

Mitch Hemann
Senior Archivist


Headstone of Mary A. Nolan in Evergreen Cemetery (


Census Day will be observed nationwide April 1 -- no fooling! Did you know the U.S. Census began in 1790? For lovers of historical trivia, you might enjoy this timeline of the U.S. Census. Some of the nuggets include the fact that in 1850 the census recorded the names of all free persons in a household and in 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe published the anti-slavery masterpiece "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Twenty years later the 1870 census recorded the name of every person living in a household and on March 30 of that same year, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave the right to vote to all men, regardless of race.

By April 1, every home will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the Census, you tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

Why is this important? The results of the 2020 Census will affect community funding, congressional representation, business decisions and more. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for our community. The trickle-down results of the census hit us at the local level when funds are provided by the City of Jacksonville to the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, which in turn provides grants for many nonprofit organizations, including the Jacksonville Historical Society. In fact, the top motivator for participating in a census is funding for public services.

Don't be fearful of the census! Last January 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau released results of a study on census barriers, attitudes and motivators. The analysis revealed five barriers that might prevent people from participating in the census: concerns about data privacy and confidentiality, fear of repercussions, distrust in all levels of government, feeling that it doesn't matter if you are counted, and belief that completing the census might not benefit you personally.

The Census Bureau will never ask for:
* Social Security numbers
* Bank or credit card account numbers
* Money or donations
* Anything on behalf of a political party

Additionally, the 2020 Census will not include a question on citizenship.

To learn more about the 2020 Census, visit


Due to concerns about the coronoavirus, the Jacksonville Historical Society regretfully made the decision to reschedule the March Lunch & Learn program, "Remarkable Women of North Florida," by Emily Lisska. We hope to hold it in July.

Again, due to uncertainties, we are also prepared to reschedule the April program (noted below); watch for updates on social media in the coming weeks.

The Jacksonville Historical Society Speaker Series is sponsored by Retina Associates, Fred H. Lambrou, Jr., M.D.


April 23, 2020: Joseph E. Lee presented by The Honorable Brian J. Davis

Joseph E Lee

Joseph Lee (Photo from UNF Special Library Collections)

Join us Thursday, April 23, to hear the Honorable Brian J. Davis, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, speak about Joseph E. Lee, the first African American to practice law in Jacksonville, having been admitted to the Florida Bar in 1873. During his lifetime, Lee was also a municipal judge, minister, collector of customs and internal revenue, as well as a member of the Florida House of Representatives (1875-1880) and the Florida Senate (1881-1882). He also served as dean of the law department of Edward Waters College and was a trustee of the college for over 30 years.

Judge Davis was appointed a U.S. District Court Judge on Dec. 26, 2013 by President Barack Obama. A Jacksonville native, he earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a juris doctorate from the University of Florida. He practiced in civil and criminal arenas, serving on family, juvenile and civil benches in Jacksonville prior to serving as a state Circuit Court judge in the Historic Courthouse on Amelia Island.

Social Hour: 6-7 p.m., with presentation to follow.
Location: Old St. Andrew's Church, 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.
Free to members of the Jacksonville Historical Society; suggested $10 donation for non-members.

Fire Run logo with date

Please watch social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the Jacksonville Historical Society website) for an announcement regarding the Great Fire Run, which may be rescheduled.


In continuing to adapt to developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s facilities, including the archives and research library, are closed to the public until further notice. As soon as normal operations resume, research appointments can be scheduled.

In the meantime, the JHS staff remains available and committed to serve the Jacksonville community by telephone and email. As some tasks are being performed remotely, requests for assistance will be answered as soon as possible. Contact our office by phone at (904) 665-0064, or email For archives and research assistance, contact For any additional questions or concerns, contact Executive Director Alan Bliss directly at

For additional information, please visit and follow news of the Jacksonville Historical Society through our social media channels. Thank you for continuing to support the work and educational resources of the JHS!

Our Mission

To educate and inspire the greater Jacksonville community to value its history, by fostering understanding of how the region's past shapes our present.

JHS is thankful for the many organizations that support us in our mission!

Logo collage 2020


Alan Bliss, Ph.D. , Executive Director | Mitch Hemann, Archivist | Kate A. Hallock, Marketing & Communications Director | Imani Phillips, Archives & Office Assistant | Sherrard Ceglia, Archives Assistant | David Woodard, Facilities Manager

2020 JHS Board

Frederick H. Kent III, Esq., President | David Chauncey, Esq., Vice President | Jeffrey K. Graf, Treasurer | Charisse Thornton, Secretary | Michael Fackler, Esq., Immediate Past-President |Pat Andrews | J. F. Bryan IV | Rev. Canon Dr. J. Allison DeFoor | Hon. Gary Flower | Drew Haramis | David J. Jamison, Ph.D. | Larry Kanter, M.D. | Maggie Means

Historian At Large

Wayne W. Wood, O.D., Honorary AIA


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