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Hart Family Papers

Identifier: MS 242

Scope and Content

This collection includes a wide range of letters and documents on many subjects relating to the Hart family. There is a short biography of Ossian Hart as well as a biographical article about Isaiah Hart and a description of the Hart cabin, one of the first homes in Jacksonville.

Materials pertaining to Isaiah Hart include: two letters relating to the purchase of land in Jacksonville, two indentures, a transcription of his will, and a house insurance policy.

Materials related to Ossian Hart are fairly limited. There are a few examples of personal correspondences including a letter to a friend in Wilmington, S.C. discussing Native American behavior during the Second Seminole War, another from Catherine's parents discussing their upcoming marriage, a letter to Catherine's parents (a portion of which is written by Catherine), and a letter to Catherine describing conditions at their Lake City plantation during the Civil War. There also is a Confederate draft notice summoning him before the Examining Board of Physicians and a copy of his will.

Other documents related to Ossian's death include a proclamation of his death by the next governor and resolutions made by the officers of Jackson County and the Bar, Officers of the United States and Florida Courts and the Citizens of Key West. There are also newspaper clippings related to his election, inauguration, and death.

Most of the collection consists of correspondence from Catherine's side of the family, including letters between Catherine, her parents, and her sister Lottie. These letters deal mostly with family matters, though they also contain some information on daily life in Key West and Tampa in the mid 19th century. The majority are letters written to Emma Campbell, Catherine's sister. There are two letters to her about the Jacksonville fire of 1901 from her niece Mary Bigelow. In addition there are many letters to Emma from John Douglas who was apparently working with Emma on the renovation and relocation of the Hart tomb. Various documents about the tomb are also included. The last group of letters to Emma are from Mary Aultman and they concern the Hart Memorial Chapter of the American Women's League located in Kissimmee. Also included are newspaper clippings about a legal issue involving the Hart Memorial Chapter.

This collection includes a few photographs, including several of the Hart tomb; one of the Kissimmee Post Office where Catherine Hart lived at one time; prints of a picture of Catherine made from a damaged glass ambrotype negative; the glass ambrotype itself; and an artist's reconstruction of what it would have looked like prior to damage.


  • Creation: 1838-1914



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ossian Bingley Hart (1821-1874) was the son of Isaiah Hart and Nancy Nelson Hart. The Hart family was originally from Virginia but settled in Florida in 1801. Isaiah laid out the first plan of Jacksonville and is considered the founder of that city. Ossian was the second of the couple's eight children.

Ossian Hart went to Washington D.C. to be educated at the age of 16 and later returned to Jacksonville where he studied law for two years and began a career as a lawyer. In 1843 Ossian married Catherine Campbell of Newark, New Jersey. The couple resided in various places in Florida, including Jacksonville, Fort Pierce, Key West, and Tampa.

Ossian is best known in Florida history for opposing secession during the Civil War and for serving as a justice for the Florida Supreme Court (1868-1873). In 1873 he became the first Republican governor of Florida and served until his death one year later.

For more information see Ossian Bingley Hart: Florida's Loyalist Reconstruction Governor by Canter Brown Jr. (Baton Rouge and London, Louisiana State University Press: 1997).


0.2 Linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Correspondence and documents of Florida Governor Ossian B. Hart, his father Isaiah Hart, his wife Catherine Hart, and his sister-in-law Emma Campbell.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Alternate Form of Material

Digital reproductions of items in this collection are available online via the University of Florida Digital Collections (UFDC). Please read the Permissions for Use statement for information on copyright, fair use, and use of UFDC digital objects.

Related Material

For related materials, there is one letter written by Gov. Ossian Hart located in the P.K. Yonge Library's Miscellaneous Manuscripts autograph collection and a diary written by Catherine Hart stored separately in the Diary collection. Gov. Ossian Hart's official incoming correspondence as governor as well as his correspondence as Superintendent of Registration is located at the Bureau of Archives and Records Management for the state of Florida.

A Guide to the Hart Family Papers
Finding aid created by Anna Bjornsson
April 2008
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