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Business Papers of William Moore Angas and Robert Moore Angas

Identifier: MS 121

Scope and Content

Business records and correspondence, primarily created and maintained by William Angas, of several British-owned companies operating in Florida and of Florida companies. The papers include bound volumes (ledgers, journals, contract and tract books, a family scrapbook, and a short personal journal of Angas), business records (articles of incorporation, wills, legal documents, including abstracts of titles, annual reports, and tax returns) and correspondence relating to the activities of the companies.

The records relating to the Land Mortgage Bank primarily detail the management and sale of Florida property, including real estate in Jacksonville and orange groves. Much of the grove correspondence was written by or to foreman, H.S. Moreman, and includes detailed information on the management and production of these groves as well as the attempt to sell them. The constant inability of both Angas's buyers and renters to keep up with payments is a recurring theme of the correspondence. Because many of the Land Mortgage Bank's properties had clouded titles and the company was continuously engaged in title litigation, the most voluminous correspondence is with the Bank's attorneys, Fleming, Hamilton, Diver, Lichtler, and Fleming.

Efforts of the Florida Syndicate to sell tens of thousands of acres of property can be traced in the company's records and correspondence. The Syndicate files also contain rich information on brick making, virtually enough to reconstruct the production and financial history of the company as well as many of the technical details. Both Florida Syndicate and Land Mortgage Bank files contain material on the site itself, which contained its own clay pit. The Keighley Company correspondence and business was simply a continuation of the Florida Syndicate until business ceased in 1942 with the satisfaction of the Levy County leases and the sale of the brickyard property. Among the Florida Syndicate materials are detailed records relating to phosphate operations, including the mine at Holder in Citrus County. Reports on the amounts of phosphate extracted and the royalties paid are a regular feature of the Florida Syndicate correspondence until the depletion of the mine after 1910. A curio of the collection is a small group of letters from 1891, preceding other correspondence in the papers by ten years, regarding phosphate prospecting in Florida. The correspondence includes letters by Albertus Vogt, pioneer of the Florida Phosphate industry, and apparently played a role in the formation of the Florida Syndicate. Written even before Angas came to America, the survival of the letters is something of a mystery, since no other correspondence prior to 1901 exists.

The correspondence files preserved for the Indian River Association are for the later period, 1924 - 1937, and primarily concern the liquidation of the company and a controversy over the renaming of Hobe Sound to Olympia. An interesting aspect of the Indian River Association records is the documentation concerning the title to the Gomez Grant. In order to assure a clear title, the owners had a new abstract prepared. This resulted in a rash of correspondence between attorneys over the procedure for preparing the abstract and of documentation concerning the title itself. The attorneys gathered as much historical documentation as possible, back to the grant of the land from the Spanish sovereign to Eusebio M. Gomez in 1821 and collected new quit claim from his descendants whenever possible. Unfortunately all of the documents collected do not appear to have been preserved in Angas's files.

The collection also includes records of development and sales of the Hollybrook Company, which developed the Hollybrook subdivision in Jacksonville. A substantial part of the correspondence is devoted to Angas's efforts to have the city develop Hollybrook Park.

Although the Land Mortgage Bank, Florida Syndicate, and Indian River Association were doing business from the early 1890s, and Angas came to Florida in 1895, none of his correspondence is preserved prior to 1901. Some ledgers do exist from earlier dates. The obvious reason, that they were burned in the Jacksonville fire of 1901, does not appear to be the correct one. Almost ironically, the earliest correspondence is an account of the fire, but with observation that Angas's office building was one of the few left standing and no damage had been suffered. It's almost as if the fire had been the benchmark event to clean house and begin a new filing system. Indeed the file boxes, no longer preserved, in which the papers were kept, were numbered from one. From that day forward, however, it appears that every copy and every letter received was filed. Of course, the attachments that would have accompanied outgoing letters are usually not preserved. The oldest of the office copies is in very brittle condition. The great majority of the collection is correspondence and there are few remaining copies of deeds, abstracts, etc.

Financial ledgers, which have been preserved, make it possible to reconstruct the financial history of the companies. The correspondence has been purged of some of its most routine and non-revelatory aspects. If nothing else, the papers show the complexity that often accompanies real estate and financial transactions. Many are told piecemeal through correspondence that continues for years and even decades. Numerous bound volumes are preserved. Most important of these are the tract books through which it is possible to identify all the real estate holdings of the companies and to identify dates on which they were sold or leased, to whom, and other facts. Backing up these records are often copies of correspondence with the actual buyers which reveal the actual negotiations of the sale, later contacts with the buyer, if any. Attempts were constantly being made to clear or improve titles, and although the title work itself does not exist, it is often recapitulated in the correspondence, including history of the property and ownership and often personal details of former owners, or present buyers.

The files do not include personal correspondence. At times, of course, personal observations do enter the letters. Some of the more interesting correspondence in this regard emanates in later years from Robert Moore Angas. Although little actual business was being conducted in these Depression years, the younger Angas sent long letters back to England on conditions in Florida. Angas saw the construction of the Cross Florida Canal as the catalyst which would revitalize the Jacksonville economy. He gave an eyewitness account of the dedication ceremony at the beginning of construction and carefully followed its progress. He also comments hopefully on the coming of the pulp papers industry to north Florida and South Georgia, and monitored the number of trains carrying tourists through town as a barometer of coming economic conditions. The younger Angas appears to have been concerned with civic affairs and comments on his own role in defeating bond issues for a second bridge over the St. Johns River and a Duval County seawall.

The Angas papers also contain a collection of engineering papers of Robert Angas, consisting of studies he did of actual or potential military installations in Florida and South Georgia from about 1939 to 1943. Although many sites are covered, the majority relate to the Mayport Naval Reservation and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, including many satellite sites in neighboring counties to be used in connection with the air facility.


  • Creation: 1889-1953



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Moore Angas was born in 1855 in Great Britain. He moved to Florida in 1895 and was employed as an agent and manager of several British owned companies operating in Florida over the period of 1895 until his death in 1932. The principal companies with which William Angas was involved were two British companies, the Land Mortgage Bank of Florida, Ltd. and the Florida Syndicate, Ltd., described briefly by Alfred P. Tischendorf ("Florida and the British Investor", Florida Historical Quarterly 33, October 1954, p. 120). William's son, Robert Moore Angas, was a Jacksonville civil engineer born in 1887. Robert Angas conducted his deceased father's business from 1932 until all transactions were concluded in 1953.

In addition to the Land Mortgage Bank of Florida and the Florida Syndicate (succeeded by the Keighley Company), the primary companies represented by William Angas include a third British company, the Indian River Association, and two Florida companies, the Florida Finance Company and the Hollybrook Company. The oldest of the companies, the Land Mortgage Bank, was founded originally only to lend money on Florida mortgages. The Bank's principal properties were in Jacksonville residential properties and several orange groves. As a result of hard times following the freeze of 1895 and of poor, if not fraudulent management by its U. S. agents prior to Angas, the company was forced to foreclose on many properties throughout Florida, making it a large land owner by default. The same adverse conditions also forced the company into liquidation. When properties were foreclosed they usually reverted to the company's English liquidators, Robert Thomas Heselton and Benjamin Septimus Briggs, so technically the Bank never owned property at all, except that some deeds were made to it in error, rather than to the liquidators.

Angas's activities were to attempt to collect mortgage payments due the company, to sell the repossessed property under the best terms possible, and to manage it until a sale could be made. In addition to many lots and homes in Jacksonville, the bank controlled commercial properties and undeveloped lands throughout the state. Evidently, Angas did not participate in large scale plans to develop these properties, but he did cooperate with improvements such as road building, which would make the properties more saleable. Sometimes he would build new houses on the land, if he thought that would encourage sales. Much of the Jacksonville property was in poorer, often African American neighborhoods, where likely buyers lacked funds even in boom time. Once sold, the property often had to be repossessed. Some formal subdivision of the Bank's Jacksonville property did occur, as in Westbrook, Avondale, and Heselton and Payne's subdivision. The planning and selling of these properties was generally turned over to professional real estate companies. A couple of out of state properties were also owned. The rural properties included several orange groves.

Until William Angas came to Jacksonville in 1895, the affairs of the Bank were managed by a company composed of three men, J. C. Greeley, John Rollins, and Harwood Morgan. Affairs were in a very bad state. In the hope they could be improved, a new company, the Florida Finance Company, was formed, of which Angas became president. When conditions did not improve, the Land Mortgage Bank liquidators foreclosed on the Florida Finance Company, adding to the Land Mortgage Bank property. Apparently the old Land Mortgage Bank agents had been lending its money on poor security to dummy buyers and using the money for their own speculation. After 1895, the Florida Finance Company existed only as a shell and any business was conducted by the Land Mortgage Bank. Greeley, Morgan, and Rollins also were related with the Florida Syndicate and the Indian River Association. Legally separate entities, the three companies overlapped in various ways, through common stockholders and directors, which Angas on occasion referred to as "the Keighley clique," after the Yorkshire town where several of them lived, their common employment of Angas, and their common involvement with the Jacksonville trio.

The Florida Syndicate, unlike the Land Mortgage Bank, was formed in 1892 for the purpose of land speculation. Around 1900, the interests of the company were in four categories: the Jacksonville Brick Company, phosphate leases (primarily to J. Buttgenbach Company), 75,000 acres of wild land, and the Hotel Montezuma in Ocala. The principal objective in forming the Florida Syndicate appears to have been the acquisition of land for phosphate prospecting. Some of the properties did have the valuable mineral in sufficient quantity for mining, principally at Holder in Citrus County, and Angas oversaw mining operations. The Syndicate acquired the Jacksonville Brick Company in the 1890s, and operated the brickyard without much success. The fire of 1901 found the yard inoperative, but prompted a flurry of activity to get it back into production. Success was mixed. A few years seem to have been profitable, but the enterprise was always troubled. The principal problem seems to have been the difficulty of finding foremen who knew how to work with Florida clay and with the extremely high temperatures required to burn it. The kiln was in constant need of repair, perhaps also as a result of high temperatures. Although Angas was not the manager of the brickyard, he took great interest in it. The brickyard ceased operation in 1913, and Angas attempted to sell the property for over twenty years. The sale was finally concluded by Robert Angas, who sold it to the Jacksonville School District for a technical school. Although the brickyard business was owned by the Syndicate, part of the property on which it was located was owned by the Land Mortgage Bank, making it one of the points on which the interests of the two companies overlapped and possibly conflicted.

The Florida Syndicate purchased 75,000 acres of undeveloped land in Florida of which more than 60,000 were in Levy County. The property passed to the Syndicate from phosphate prospector John Dunne, and was part of the property Hamilton Disston had acquired from the state. Disposing of sixty thousand acres in Levy County was a particularly daunting task requiring many years of effort. The policy of the Florida Syndicate was to remove the resources from the land, in this case timber, and sell the property. Numerous leases were made on the property for timber and timber products. Divided into roughly 20,000 and 40,000 acres tracts, the deforested property proved difficult to sell and to keep sold, especially as cash became a very scarce commodity in the late 1920s and 1930s. In 1931, the stockholders of the Florida Syndicate liquidated the company and formed a new company, the Keighley Land Company, to take over its assets and liabilities.

The Indian River Association was formed the same year as the Florida Syndicate, 1892, and with several of the same principal stockholders. The company was formed by acquiring the assets of the Indian River Pineapple and Cocoanut Association, which had been formed around 1885. Principal stockholders included former lieutenant governor William H. Gleason and several of his family. By the time the Indian River Association acquired the property, its officers included Harwood Morgan and John Rollins. The property consisted of prime Florida real estate, including parts of Jupiter Island and Hobe Sound, property known as the Gomez Grant on the opposing mainland, and the Riverside division of Jacksonville.

The last company with which Angas was involved was the Hollybrook Company, a Florida company, of which he was president and a large stock holder. The business of the company was to sell lots in the Hollybrook subdivision of Jacksonville. As part of the development, the company donated land to the city for a Hollybrook Park. Angas's interest in parks seems apparent in several instances and appears to be the area in which he showed the greatest civic interest.


40.5 Linear feet (40 Boxes; 54 volumes)

Language of Materials



Business records and correspondence, primarily created and maintained by William Moore Angas, of several British-owned companies operating in Florida and of Florida companies. The primary companies represented by William Angas include the Land Mortgage Bank of Florida, the Florida Syndicate (succeeded by the Keighley Company), the Indian River Association, the Florida Finance Company and the Hollybrook Company. William's son, Robert Moore Angas, was a Jacksonville civil engineer who conducted his deceased father's business until all transactions were concluded. The collection also includes engineering papers of Robert Angas covering military installations in Florida and South Georgia, including Mayport Naval Reservation and the Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

The papers are the gift of the five daughters of William Mack Angas, younger son of William Moore Angas. The donors have also made an additional gift of a collection of papers of Tracy L'Engle Angas, the second wife of William Mack Angas. When received they were in their original file boxes, apparently undisturbed in most cases since they were initially filed.


A Guide to the Business Papers of William Moore Angas and Robert Moore Angas
Finding aid created by Frank Orser
January 2013 (Updated 2022)
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

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