By Susan Hardee Steger

January 31, 2022

The home of Samuel Ashe Swann on Centre Street Fernandina.

One afternoon, one of my Davis cousins sent me a notice of an eBay postcard for sale that pictured a woman in a dugout canoe paddling on the St Marys River. Our Davis/Mizell families had sawmills at Kings Ferry and Orange Bluff, so the St. Marys River holds a special place in our family history. However, another eBay offer caught my attention; a scrapbook given to Charles Gordon Carroll Jr. by his mother Elizabeth Swann Carroll, daughter of a notable Fernandina resident Samuel Ashe Swann (1832-1909). The scrapbook contained pictures of Carroll Jr. visiting his Grandfather Swann in Fernandina from 1904 to 1914.

The eBay seller told me he was a dealer from Greenwich, Connecticut, who was selling items held in the estate of Charles Gordon Carroll III. The seller said he had a big box that, along with the scrapbook, contained photos taken on the movie set of “Cool Hand Luke,” an award-winning 1967 movie starring Paul Newman. After a Google search, I discovered Charles Gordon Carroll III, the movie’s producer, was Samuel Swann’s great-grandson.  I bid, held my breath, and won!

The photographs are of good quality, taken in Fernandina from 1903 – 1914, while others were taken in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Baltimore, Maryland.  The scrapbook is now in the hands of the Amelia Island Museum of History.

The home of Samuel Ashe Swann

Swann’s magnificent home stood on the southwest corner of Centre and South Sixth Streets, where Pepper’s stands today. The Swann House I remember was in disrepair and the wood weathered gray. I believe Mr. Lockwood, a local pharmacist in my day, once lived in the house.

Robert Sands Schuyler, a skillful architect, made his mark on some important historic structures in Fernandina, such as St Peter’s Episcopal Church and, the  Fairbanks and Tabby Homes. Schuyler also made his mark on the Swann House, although according to information in the Amelia Island Museum of History, only to enhance an existing structure.

Sadly, the cost in the 1960s to restore the Swann House was beyond the financial reach of most residents in small-town Fernandina, and someone deemed it necessary to tear it down.

 

Photograph of the interior of the Samuel Swann Home once located on Centre Street in Fernandina, Florida.

Some of you will recognize the Swann name. There is a Swann Building at the northwest corner of North 4th and Center. If you are a member of St Peter’s Episcopal Church, you probably know the name as one of the church’s founding members. Title searches completed in the city, county, and state will often trackback to documents with Samuel Swann’s signature.

 

Swann Building still standing on Centre Street Fernandina. Swann was a big supporter of civic matters. On the upper floor of this building a reading room, and a gymnasium and kitchen for young people were furnished by Swann.

 

Charles Gordon Carroll Jr. stands by a steam-driven locomotive. In the background is the Fernandina Train Depot.
Samuel Ashe Swann reads to his grandson Charles Gordon Carroll Jr. The home pictured in the background is possibly the Noyes House which once stood on the northeast corner of North 5th and Centre Street.

 

Fernandina Boy Scout Troop 1. Rev. L.A. Wye, Scoutmaster. (Winter 1914)

 

A beach ride in front of what is possibly the Strathmore Hotel (note decorative feature on the roof) once located at Main Beach. This photo was taken after the Hurricane of 1898 which destroyed most of the hotel and cottages. (1906-07)
Miss Murray’s School (Winter 1912) I believe this photo was taken at the Catholic Church.
Charles Gordon Carroll Jr. and his sister Elizabeth Gordon Carroll crabbing near the jetties with their father.

 

The note on this photograph said, “Miss Waddell, My Teacher In High School.” (1914) I am not sure if she taught John Carroll Jr, or Elizabeth Swann Carrroll in her younger life.  Since there are still Waddells in our area, I hope the family sees this.

 

This photograph of the Swann House was taken in the late 1950s. The house was located at the corner of Centre and South 6th Streets. Suzanne Hardee was behind the lens of the camera as her daughter Kathy was marching with the Girl Scouts in a Fernandina parade. Although not part of the Swann Collection, this photograph shows the Swann House withered and gray. Next door to the Swann House is the small former Chamber of Commerce Building, and further to the right, according to Bobby Ferreira, the home of D.E. Maxwell.

Background information on Samuel Ashe Swann

Samuel Swann was one of Fernandina’s leading local citizens. At age 23, Swann came to Fernandina in 1855 from Wilmington, North Carolina, to serve as an accountant for Joseph Finnegan & Company. Finnegan was a sub-contractor for the building of  David Yulee’s railroad. Swann later became assistant secretary and treasurer of the Yulee Railroad.

Swann was an industrious young man. In the newly released book by Frank Ofeldt entitled, “Fort Clinch – Fernandina and the Civil War,” shortly after Swann’s arrival to Fernandina, he purchased a brickyard on the St Marys River and provided “savanah gray bricks” to build a portion of Fort Clinch.

According to Helen R. Sharp’s article in the Florida Historical Quarterly, entitled, “Samuel A. Swann and the Development of Florida, 1855-1900,” Swann and his family left Fernandina for Gainesville, Florida when Union troops arrived in Fernandina. “For a short time after moving there, Swann was treasurer, bookkeeper,  and superintendent of the Florida Railroad. His physical condition forced him to resign, as his duties proved too arduous.”   Swann was a Confederate.   As a result of the Federal Navy blockade, Swann became a blockade runner for the Confederate government in Gainesville.  On a trip to Cuba in 1863, he brokered   . . ” for private individuals in addition to the sample supplies which were required by the Confederate government.”   A list of some articles acquired for individuals included gold pens, violin strings, a pair of shoes, and a toupee {$12.50)  for Dr. W.H. Stringfellow.

In 1867 after the Civil War, Swann moved back to Fernandina.  With the Florida Railroad in financial difficulty, Swann became an agent for the bondholders and negotiated a way to salvage some of their investments. Eventually, the Florida Land and Immigration Company was formed with land acquired from the Florida Railroad.  For this new company, again, Swann was designated agent and began brokering land transactions throughout Florida. He continued to serve as a land broker for various individuals and private companies.

Swann “contributed generously of his time and money, to all worthwhile projects for Fernandina,” according to Sharp.  His final resting place is in St Peter’s Cemetery next to the church he founded and supported throughout his life. When his daughter, Elizabeth Swann Corrall died in 1955, she was laid to rest in her father’s family plot.

Author’s Note:  The Charles Gordon Carroll Jr scrapbook is now in the hands of our wonderful Amelia Island Museum of History. There are more photographs of Fernandina to explore.  Soon you will be able to see the scrapbook online from the museum’s website.   This scrapbook joins another scrapbook given to the museum by Samuel Swann’s daughter Elizabeth Swann Carroll. 

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Janice Sweatt Schmidt
Janice Sweatt Schmidt(@serphronia)
8 months ago

Fantastic find, Susan!

John Goshco
John Goshco (@guest_63726)
8 months ago

Win – win.
The estate gets a little cash and Fernandina gets a priceless historical treasure.
Thanks Susan.

Marcia Townsend Kilgore
Marcia Townsend Kilgore (@guest_63728)
8 months ago

Susan, thanks s much for your research. I remember the Swann house well and The Lockwoods’ living there. I lived on South 6th until moving to 18th Street in 5th grade.

Dickie Anderson
Dickie Anderson(@dickie-andersongmail-com)
8 months ago

How incredible. Learned so much about Swan. What a master piece…the Swan house.

Thank you for your diligence and gift to the museum.

DAVID LOTT
DAVID LOTT (@guest_63737)
8 months ago

What a delightful discovery and so glad you were able to win the auction. Priceless records and memories. Thank you Susan.

Tammi Kosack
Tammi Kosack (@guest_63739)
8 months ago

What a fantastic find Susan! This will become an important part of our Fernandina history. We are so lucky that you donated it to the museum and that they will archive the ephemera.

That last photo of the parade with the Swann house in the background could win awards–the contrast between the full color items and the building almost make the parade walkers appear hand colored. What a shame that impressive structure was lost to the wrecking ball…

Thanks for sharing all your research. BTW, I think the date in the second to last paragraph should be 1867?

Lowell Hall
Lowell Hall (@guest_63740)
8 months ago

That looks like my grandfathers old beach wagon…….

Gerry Clare
Gerry Clare(@gerrycclaregmail-com)
8 months ago

Wonderful historical perspective, Susan.

Doug Mowery
Doug Mowery (@guest_63742)
8 months ago

Thank you, Susan!!!

Momi
Momi (@guest_63743)
8 months ago

Really cool! THANK YOU for sharing this incredible find!

Deborah Kessler
Deborah Kessler (@guest_63744)
8 months ago

Wonderful article and photos. Thank you!

Christopher Whelan
Christopher Whelan (@guest_63745)
8 months ago

Thanks for posting this wonderful article! I’d love to see some of these images fully restored.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy (@guest_63746)
8 months ago

Love this site can’t wait to see more.

Cynthia Sapp
Cynthia Sapp (@guest_63751)
8 months ago

Such an awesome find Susan! Loved reading more about our history! Thank you for sharing!

Annette Godwin
Annette Godwin (@guest_63772)
8 months ago

What an amazing find Susan. Growing up at 29 South 3rd and my Grandmother Bowers living next door at 25 South 3rd makes me realize that all these names were discussed around the dinner table and I was just too young to really take it all in.
A Mr. Goldstein ( owned of the Bakery downtown) lived in a part of our home for quite a few years. I do remember him.
Great dedication and workmanship on all you do Susan. You are truly amazing!
Annette

Ben Shave
Ben Shave (@guest_63787)
8 months ago
Reply to  Annette Godwin

I never remembered a red light at sixth street, but there it is. Memory is failing.

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