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Moonlight view of St. John's River, Florida

A Country Schoolteacher

A young woman who visited St. Augustine just five years after the end of the Civil War, in 1870, has left a revealing account of how the Ancient City appeared to a Yankee lady before the railroad came to town and before it attracted tourists in any number.

In the fall of 1872, Miss Augusta G. Floyd left her home in Camden County, Ga., to travel to Florida. Her brother Henry H. Floyd (Hal or Harry, as he was called) was living at Villa Vista in Moccasin Branch, and Augusta was to make her home with him and teach school in the little village.

She made the trip by steamer down the St. Johns and notes in a diary which she kept during the first months of her life in Florida that the fare from St. Mary's to Tocoi was $9. When the stewardess told her that they would not reach Tocoi until after 9 p.m., Augusta was rather upset, as she was afraid it was too late for anyone to meet her and she did not know what she would do.

At sunset the boat stopped at Green Cove Springs and the beauty of the river there calmed her. "It was the prettiest view I ever saw," she writes. But when they docked at Tocoi, Hal was there to meet her, and she was greatly relieved to see him. They walked by moonlight to Mrs. Drysdale's house, where she met her sister-in-law Dora (nee Rogero). They all drove to Moccasin Branch by oxcart under a brilliant moon and finally arrived about 1 a.m. Villa Vista was a pretty place nicely situated on a small hill.

The next day Hal's father-in-law, Albert Rogero, came to call and discuss her work as a schoolmistress. He told her that the trustees would want to examine her and that she might have to go to St. Augustine to meet them, a prospect which upset her, as she feared that in strange surroundings she would not make a good showing. Since the school was not yet finished, however, this test was to be postponed. Hal worked hard to finish the school building, but rains and bad roads delayed the work and Augusta was glad. On September 21 she wrote in her diary: "I suppose the school house will soon be finished and I will have to undergo that detestable examination."

Finally on September 25, the "patrons" of the school met to talk to the new schoolmistress, but Rogero was able to arrange for the meeting to be held at the school in Moccasin Branch. He was one of the patrons, and the others were John Rogero, T. Baya, and a Mr. Weedman, who was not present that day.

Augusta passed inspection and was agreeably impressed with the new school house which was large, convenient, and pleasantly situated on a pretty little hill near the branch. It was arranged that she was to receive $1.00 per month per child in addition to money paid to her from the school fund.

School opened on the last day of September with 16 scholars in attendance. Baya came by to tell Augusta when it was 2 p.m. (evidently time for school to let out) and they made a sun mark on the floor. But it was not all idyllic. On October 4, Augusta tells us in her diary: "This has been a miserable day. The children have been more troublesome than usual. I had to whip Berie (Rogero), as he would not study at all." The children were working on their first letters and Augusta tutored Francis Rogero in the evenings in ciphering and long division.

In spite of her troubles with recalcitrant scholars, Augusta enjoyed life at Moccasin Branch. The neighbors were friendly and often came to call, and there were outings and picnics on the river. Later on that year, she broke her elbow when an old horse, "Katie" ran the cart in which she was riding into a tree and she had to learn to write with her left hand. It is said that after that her writing was most difficult to read, and at any rate the diary ends shortly after the accident.

In 1892, 20 years after her arrival in Moccasin Branch, Miss Augusta moved to St. Augustine and lived at 54 Water St., where members of the Floyd family reside to this day.


 
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