The Purpose of the Letter
It was approximately the turn of the twentieth century when Ellen Call Long wrote to Professor Edwin Luther Green. Fifty years prior, Florida was granted statehood. In the late nineteenth century, the development of the state was beginning with the construction of railroads. While it would take decades until the majority of the state was developed, the frontier days of Florida were all but over. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, historians and antiquarians worked to research and write the history of the sparsely populated state when it was a frontier for Spanish, English, and American settlers.
Long and Green were two such historians, the former having decades of experience writing the history of the state and the latter having recently forayed into Florida history as a young professor.
Ellen Call Long (1825-1905) was a lay historian and promoter of Florida from Tallahassee, Florida. She was the daughter of Richard Keith Call, the two-time territorial governor of Florida. Most of her written efforts were dedicated to preserving his legacy and defending it from dishonor. After the death of her father, she completed the journal he began to detail his life (“Call Journal Description”). Throughout her adult life, she wrote several articles and biographical sketches on Florida history. Her most famous work, Florida Breezes; or Florida, New and Old, describes life in antebellum Northern Florida and events in her father’s life through the perspective of a fictional protagonist, offering perspectives of Floridian culture of historical value today. Long dedicated the book to her late father from whose “fireside talks and forest ramblings” she learned about his perspectives and memories to use in the finished text (III). The book’s narrative takes the fictional protagonist from the North to Florida and covers events from the Second Seminole War and the Civil War, with a prominent section dedicated to the Battle of Withlacoochee alone (Long 201-206).
At the time of this letter, Edwin Luther Green (1870-1948) was a relatively young professor from Columbia College, South Carolina, and a self-identified “son of Florida” (Green). His most recent work, School History of Florida (1898), was a textbook intended to be used by Florida’s schoolchildren to learn about the history of their state. Throughout his career, he would write several books on American history and at one point considered writing a biography of Richard Keith Call.
In this letter, the pair’s work intersects because of the possibility of Green writing a biographical piece on Call. Long thought that a biographer of her father needed to know him well, and ideally it would be someone with whom he had a close relationship. She likens this ideal biographer to James Boswell, the close friend of the English writer Samuel Johnson who wrote his biography. Despite this, Long thought that Green might have been able to accomplish a deserving biography of her father if he presented his life “fairly and correctly.”