JACOB SUMMERLIN Biography - Bussiness people and enterpreneurs


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Name: Jacob Summerlin                                                             
Born: 20 February 1820                                                             
Died: 4 November 1893                                                             
Jacob Summerlin (February 20, 1820 - November 4, 1893) also known as the King of   
the Crackers and King of the Cracker Cow Hunters was reputed to be the first       
child born in Florida after the land was ceded by Spain.                           
He is known for his contributions to the early settlement of Florida, and         
especially for founding the county seats of Orange and Polk counties, which are   
Orlando and Bartow, respectively. In the years prior to the Civil War, he was a   
Born in Alachua County, Florida, Jacob learned to ride a horse and crack a whip   
by the age of seven. His father raised a few cattle. When Jacob turned 16, his     
father gave him a few calves, and he made his way south into the wide open         
ranges of Central Florida. He earned much of his early fortune raising cattle in   
the Peace and Kissimmee river valleys. Wild cattle brought to North America by     
the Spanish conquistadors now roamed free across these vast stretches of land;     
enterpreneurs could capture, breed, drive and sell these cows for twelve to       
sixteen dollars each. Summerlin and his business partners (called crackers after   
the long whips they used to drive the cows) developed a lucrative trade with       
Havana and with the US Naval Base at Key West.                                     
He amassed a fortune of 15,000 to 20,000 of head of cattle during this period,     
and was considered one of the wealthiest Floridians before he reached age 40. In   
this pre-banking era, Jacob kept his gold and silver at his cabin in trunks,       
meal sacks, tin meat cans, woolen socks, cigar boxes, behind door frames, in the   
rafters, or tossed in a corner. He used his wealth to purchase large tracts of     
land sprawling from Fort Meade to Fort Myers. He bought a wharf at Punta Rassa     
and a thousand acres (4 km²) nearby for cow pens, some of which he rented to       
other cattlemen.                                                                   
During the American Civil War, he was a blockade runner who smuggled beef and     
medicine to Confederate troops. He and his partners reportedly moved their         
shipping dock to Live Oak Point (present day Charlotte Harbor) where they could   
load their ships out of sight of the Union gun ships located at Boca Grande Pass. 
With Confederate money he earned, Summerlin bought the 160 acre Blount homestead, 
much of which would later be given to Polk County. After Confederate money         
became worthless, he began selling cattle to the Union soldiers at Fort Myers.     
In 1865, after the American Civil War, Summerlin requested pardon from US         
President Andrew Jackson. A Unionist by his own admission, in his pardon request   
he claimed that he sold his "beeves" (beef) to Cuba at a hefty price, rather       
than to the Confederacy which was paying much less per head.                       
He claimed that during the war his operation was halted and he was "forced" to     
join the Cow Cavalry, serving in Captain Francis A. Hendry's Company A in the Ft. 
Meade area. In his request, he maintained that he "never fired a shot at a U.S.   
Citizen", obviously referring to Union soldiers. In 1867, he donated 120 acres (0.5
kmĀ²) of the Blount homestead land in the present-day town of Bartow: 40 acres     
for an institution of learning (aptly named the Summerlin Institute, now called   
Bartow High School, founded 1887), 40 acres for establishment of a county seat,   
and 20 acres for each of the town's two churches (Methodist and Baptist). He       
also personally donated $1100.00 for construction of Bartow's first two story     
building which housed the Masonic lodge and school.                               
Summerlin also owned land in Orange County where he opened the Summerlin Hotel.   
When Orlando's wooden courthouse burned in 1868, there was pressure to move the   
county seat to the then-larger town of Sanford. Summerlin offered to lend $10,000 
to the county if it would locate their new brick courthouse and county seat in     
Orlando, whether or not the county repaid him. The county accepted his offer and   
repaid him over a 10 year period. It was also Summerlin who donated a large       
tract of land in order for a fine park to be established in Orlando. That park     
is still maintained to his orders of it being kept beautiful. His sons named it   
Lake Eola, after a lady they both knew. In 1875, Orlando became incorporated       
under Florida law; on August 4th, Jacob Summerlin sat on the first Orlando City   
Council acting as Council president.                                               
He died on November 4, 1893, aged 73, and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in