History of Rosewood, Florida
Founding of Rosewood
Rosewood was established around 1870 in Levy County, Florida on a road leading to Cedar Key and the Gulf of Mexico. It believed took its name from the abundant red cedar that grew in the area. It prospered as the Florida Railroad established a small depot to handle the transport of cedar wood to the pencil factory in Cedar Key and the transportation of timber, turpentine rosin, citrus, vegetables, and cotton. In 1890 the cedar depleted and many of the white families moved to Sumner, three (3) miles west of Rosewood and worked at the newfound saw mill established by Cummer and Sons. By 1900 Rosewood had a black majority of citizens.
On the morning of January 1, 1923, Fannie Coleman Taylor, a homemaker of Sumner Florida, claimed she was assaulted by a black man. Although she was not seriously injured and was able to describe what happened. She allegedly remained unconscious for several hours due to the shock of the incident. No one disputed her account and no questions were asked. It was assumed she was reporting the incident accurately.
POSSE SUMMONED BY JAMES TAYLOR
A posse was summoned and tracking dogs were ordered by James Taylor, Fannie Taylor’s husband and foreman at Cummer and Sons saw mill. The local white community became aroused at the alleged abuse of a white woman by a black man, which was an unpardonable sin against black men to get caught looking at a white woman.
OUT-OF-TOWN KKK HELP SOUGHT BY LEVY COUNTY
James Taylor summoned help from Levy County and neighboring Alachua County, where a staged Klu Klux Klan celebration was ending on the court house square in downtown Gainesville, Florida, where a large number of KKK members had been rallying and marching in opposition of justice for black people, on December 31, 1922, leading up to the January 1, 1923, Rosewood massacre.
A telegraph sent to Gainesville in regards to Fannie Taylor’s allegations provoked four to five hundred Klansmen that headed to Sumner at the appeal of James Taylor. Negative commentary sent out over the airwaves created tension prompting the already intensed mindset of the KKK. They packed their gear and headed to a town called, “Rosewood” with a vengeance to participate in destroying the town at any cost necessary. The posse arrived enraged and combed the woods behind the Taylor’s home looking for a suspect. Suspicion soon fell on Jesse Hunter an allegedly black man who allegedly had recently escaped from a convict road gang. No proof of an escape was ever provided.
It is documented the posse confronted Sam Carter at his home and Carter allegedly admitted to helping Hunter escape. Allegedly the posse forced Carter to take them to the place where he last saw Hunter. Carter allegedly took the posse to where he parted ways with Hunter. When no trace of Hunter could be found the posse turned into an out of control lynch mob and tortured Carter, riddled him with bullets hanging him from a tree to be seen by the world. It was an effort to intimidate people of color.
The posse returned, one by one, they angrily burned the homes belonging to the Rosewood black community. The posse continued their hunt in Rosewood for any living being killing five, ransacking and burning homes to cover the real evidence of how many were killed, “not reportedly killed.” “Until the Lion tells his own story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Levy County Sherriff Bob Walker aborted the shooting of Aaron Carrier, a promient Rosewood citizen and husband of Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier, Rosewood’s school teacher. He also work 96 hours straight in an effort to save the lives of innonent people and for that gesture of courage, Sheriff Elias “Bob” Walker is Rosewood’s HERO!
On February 12th, 1923 a special grand jury was empanelled to investigate the massacre. After twenty-five white and allegedly eight black witnesses testified the jurors reported that they could find no evidence on which to base any indictments.
The Black community of Rosewood never returned. Many left for other cities losing touch with each other some never shared the Rosewood story with family members. Some changed their names including Aaron and Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier, two of Rosewood’s historians and school teacher. She was born Mahulda Gussie Brown May 5, 1894, in Archer, Alachua County, Florida, to Charlie Louis and Lizzie Polly Brown. She married Aaron Carrier December 19, 1917.
After the Rosewood tragedy the Carriers moved more than fifteen times escaping building fear. Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier/Carroll lived in fear until her death April 25, 1948, Tampa, Florida, at the Clara Frye hospital. Her name is listed “Mahulda G. Carroll” on her headstone.
The Real Rosewood Foundation, Inc. President, Lizzie Robinson Brown Jenkins’ mother strongly encouraged her to preserve Rosewood history never forgetting her Rosewood sister, Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier’s suffrage. Today Carrier is featured in the 2000 Great Floridians Magazine. Her name is included in the script on the Rosewood Historic Marker. Her name and a photo of the historic marker is listed in the third edition of the Florida Black Heritage Trail. Carrier is also featured in a book, Alachua County Florida, by Lizzie PRB Jenkins marketed online. Jenkins has worked since 1992 authenticating Rosewood’s history and honoring her mother’s commands.
January 1, 2000, a plaque bearing Mahulda Gussie Brown Carrier’s name hangs on the porch of the Archer Train Depot, the same depot Carrier exited January 4, 1923, driven by the Bryce Brothers. The 2000 Great Floridian Plaque was sponsored by the City of Archer, her hometown.
A compensation plan and a family scholarship was the result of the Florida Legislative 1994 session.
Ten years ago May 4, 1994, the date Governor Lawton Chiles signed Rosewood House Bill 591, Governor Jeb Bush dedicated a Historic Marker in Rosewood May 4, 2004, in memory of the Rosewood citizens. This historic compilation is credited to Jenkins’ history preservation, a promise she has lived up to in honor of her mother’s oral history presentation and principles to preserve family history. This summary of Rosewood’s history is more than research, it’s resource.
Their Rosewood land was confiscated under tax fraudulent sales and not until 1994 did the state or any Jenkins’ Rosewood research is dedicated to the Rosewood survivors and descendants.
Lizzie Jenkins’ favorite quote, “Taking a Negative Effect, Making a Positive Affect.” Jenkins’ QUOTE!