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Campaigning in Florida on a rainy day in 1912

It took seven hours for the group of candidates to reach Marianna from Blountstown on the M&B on that dark and rainy night in April of 1912.

While doing some research on local history I came across the following newspaper article that appeared in the April 24, 1912, Wednesday Morning edition of the Pensacola Journal. It is the story of a group of Politicians who visited Blountstown during a particularly nasty stretch of weather and the chaos that unfolded.  Seeing how we are at the end of a particularly long and tiresome campaign season, I thought this would be an enjoyable look back at what politic’n was like over 104 years ago.

      - Tony Shoemake

Marianna, April 23, 1912 -  Friday afternoon last some candidates and candidates’ friends were enjoying a river trip up the Apalachicola bound for Blountstown. After supper they settled in comfortable chairs on the upper deck of the steamer, enjoying their cigars. They cogitated on campaigning as having its pleasures as well as troubles.

At 3:30 a.m., a blast from the whistle that was sufficient to rouse the slumbers of the ancient Indian chieftains in their burial places along the river, announced that we where nearing the landing. As we walked down the gangplank and surveyed the surroundings. no livery accommodations showed up, but an ominous cloud which at intervals flashed its warning in sheets of electric flame told us we must “beat it” if we were going to get to town ahead of the rain. After some investigation a boy was found with a mule and wagon who agreed for certain monetary considerations to pilot us to Blountstown. The race with the oncoming rain ended in it beating us to town by fully one lap, but the candidates and their friends, full of hope and with their never-failing nerve, located a hotel and took possession of some vacant rooms, mine host being wrapped in dreams of the barbecue to be pulled off that day.

A Reconnoiter

After a nap the companions of the chase for votes breakfasted and went out for a reconnoiter. There was water, water everywhere and plenty else to drink, so it was discovered later. By 9 o’clock not withstanding the weather and no signs of clearing up, the crowds were arriving. A temporary cessation of hostilities by Jupiter Pluvius permitted the committee on arrangements to round up the candidates and their victims at the speaker’s stand and the vigorous playing of the local band soon resulted in a large audience. On account of the unavoidable absence of Mayor Peacock, Col. Warren presided and welcomed the visitors. The candidates, their friends and visitors from other sections of the county were made to feel at home, and the speaking began.

Col.  J. F. C. Griggs, who is trying out this season as candidate for delegate to the national convention, led off with a well received speech. He presented his candidacy in good shape and it was evident that Col. Griggs is popular in Blountstown. Hon. Riley Dorman was next up to the bat and will doubtless be credited on the official score card with a safe base hit. Third to speak was Hon. R. A. Gray, of Gadsden, who presented the candidacy of State Treasurer Luning.

Pause must be made here long enough to say that in a stenographic report of the speeches up to this point - a la Congressional Record- after each insertion of “applause” it would be proper also to insert “continued showers.”  The showers made it necessary to adjourn the meeting to the court house where Mr. Gray concluded his speech that had been punctuated up to that time by the rain.

Following next was a presentation of the candidacy of Hon. W. A. McRae by an enthusiastical admirer. Four local candidates next took a turn at the bat and the talkfest was concluded by a speech by Senator Flourney.  Col. Flourney spoke for nearly an hour and it was evident made a strong impression on the audience.

Great Spread Enjoyed

The great spread of barbecued meats and other good things was fully enjoyed and the good people of Blountstown established their hospitality thoroughly.

At 2 p.m. the visiting candidates boarded the train for Marianna, amid blustering rains which again had resumed with more ominous clouds backing them up. Soon a steady downpour set in and for two hours the heavens seemed to be weeping in full justice to the Titanic disaster. Rain! Did it ever rain like that before?

Six miles from Marianna we encounter our first washout. After a wait of two hours temporary crosstie underpinning was put in and we crept on our way. Two more washouts were passed in the same manner and a mile from Marianna, long after nightfall; we met our “Waterloo. It was a “water lou” all right. Over one hundred yards of track had been washed up and completely displaced.

By lanterns dimly gleaming in the monotonous downpour we gathered our suitcases and began picking our way over the crossties overhanging the torrents of muddy water underneath. For yards and yards the track was sagging, inclined to one side fully 45 degrees. Mustering the courage called for by necessity, with luggage in our hand and gripping the upper rail with the other, we “cooned” it over the roughest and most dangerous places.

At 9 p.m. we trudged into Marianna, tired to “a frazzle.” thoroughly soaked and hungry as bears. The kindly host and hostess of the Chipola built us fires and fixed us supper, after which, gathered around the office heater, we again puffed our cigars and cogitated on the pleasures of campaigning on a rainy day in Florida.

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November 4th, 2016



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