Skip to main content

William Sherman Jennings Papers

Identifier: Ms 058

Scope and Content

The Jennings Papers (1877-1928) document his years as Governor and his activities after leaving office, particularly his work with the Internal Improvement Fund, his own legal practice, and his personal business affairs. The collection is comprised of correspondence, speeches, legal documents, legislative material, news clippings, photographs, pamphlets, programs, and other publications. The collection also includes numerous letterbooks dating from 1898 to 1909 that contain both personal and official/business letters. The primary focus of the collection is the drainage and dredging of South Florida, from the earliest discussions at the turn of the century to the subsequent development and land boom of the 1920s. Of particular interest are the surveys, reports, memoranda and correspondence generated as part of the early planning for the drainage of the Everglades. Some of the major subjects covered in the Jennings Papers include drainage laws, public lands, the dredging and opening of canals, new road construction, the use of convict labor, the development of Dade County, relations with the Seminole Indians, and the activities of his wife, May Mann Jennings.


  • Creation: 1877-1928



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Sherman Jennings was born March 24, 1863, in Illinois. His cousin was William Jennings Bryan. He graduated from Southern Illinois Normal University and Union Law School in Chicago. He moved to Brooksville, Florida, in 1885 in order to open his open law practice. His second wife, May Mann Jennings, was a leading member of the women's club movement and was an influential advocate for social reform and civic causes.

Jennings had an extensive career in elected and appointed positions. He served as County Judge of Hernando County in 1888. He was a member of the Florida legislature from 1893-1895, serving as Speaker of the House in 1895. He served one term as Governor from 1901-1905. He was the last Florida Governor nominated at a state party convention; after 1900 Florida implemented primary elections.

By the end of his term as Governor, Jennings was credited with leading the effort to drain and reclaim over 3 million acres of Florida land, primarily in the Everglades. In 1905 he was appointed by Governor Napoleon B. Broward as General Counsel for the Internal Improvement Fund, the state agency responsible for administering public lands. In this position, which he held until 1909, he was able to continue leading drainage activities in the Everglades. Jennings continued to practice law in Brooksville and Jacksonville until his death on February 28, 1920.


13.5 Linear feet (29 boxes and 16 volumes)

Language of Materials



Papers relating to Florida Governor William S. Jennings, his political and business dealings, and to his role in the drainage of the Everglades.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Gift of his wife, May Mann Jennings.

Alternate Form of Material

Items in the William Sherman Jennings collection have been digitized for America's Swamp: The Historical Everglades project, which is generously supported by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). In addition to the links that are provided throughout this guide to the collection, all materials can be browsed at the William Sherman Jennings page in the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please note the majority of items in this collection are not described individually. Therefore, it is not possible to search for a specific item (e.g., a letter written by a particular author). Instead, the digital collection is best accessed by selecting a folder title and browsing the images contained in each folder.

Related Material

For additional materials pertaining to drainage efforts in the Everglades, consult the Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Papers, the May Mann Jennings Papers, and the Thomas E. Will Papers.

A Guide to the William Sherman Jennings Papers
Finding aid created by Dept. Staff
December 2011
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.
Digitization funded with the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America