Another chapter in our Chasing Shadows series
On Saturday night, Oct. 26, the Apalachicola Area Historical Society presented another successful GhostWalk, bringing to life an array of local characters who now lie in eternal repose at Chestnut Cemetery.
Thanks to the work of local historian Mark Curenton, and the oversight of Dolores Roux, accurate stories from Apalachicola’s past were presented of Anson Hancock, played by Kevin Begos; Antonia Fradosia, by Jerry Hurley; Peter Comforter, by David Adlerstein; the legend of the Saunders baby, by Linda Shepherd; Harriet Raney, by Cathy Franklin; John Gibbs Ruan, by Paul McAbee; Antonina Zingarelli, by Adriane Elliott; John Fisher, by Tom Loughridge; and the tale of the chimney at the cemetery, by Pam Vest.
Here are some of the stories surrounding the characters.
Anson Hancock, born in North Carolina in 1800, married Susan Brainerd Elton, the widow of John P. Elton, of Haddam, Connecticut. She had at least one child from her previous marriage. They moved to Florida in 1827, eventually ending up in Apalachicola.
In Apalachicola Anson established a hotel at the corner of Avenue D and 4th Street, at the time the most fashionable street in town. The hotel flourished, and during the winter cotton shipping season was full of merchants and their clerks who migrated to Apalachicola for the cotton business. The Hancock Hotel provided these temporary residents with room and board for the season.
In 1859 a boarder who compared the Hancock to the Curtis Hotel in a letter to his girlfriend, wrote that the Hancock was "not so stylish a house nor so various in the matter of dishes & different ways of putting dish on the boarders. At the same time I like it very well & can get along this Winter very comfortably. Next year I shouldn’t probably board here. Wouldn’t have left the Curtis House this year if Bostwick had not. Our land lord is quite a genius in his way. He offers us "beef meet" & "mullet fish" with the utmost grace.’"
As his hotel flourished Hancock branched out into other businesses, investing in land in Franklin County. As a prominent businessman he was also involved in politics, and during his term as mayor in 1862 the city was surrendered to the Union Navy.
The Confederate forces had abandoned the town due to the more pressing need for men in Tennessee. When a whaleboat with Lt. Abbott approached the lower wharf in town on March 24, 1862, Hancock, and Mr. Benezet, Mr. Porter, and Mr. Miller went out to meet the Union sailors, explaining that the Confederate troops had withdrawn up the river, taking all their arms and ammunition with them. With that the Union boats returned to their ships.
They returned in greater numbers on April 2 collecting all the vessels they could find. On the afternoon of April 3, Commander Stellwagen, the ranking Union officer, arrived in town and harangued the few people that remained about the evils of secession, before leaving with the seaworthy boats, burning the rest. Only a few worn-out vessels were spared so the population could feed themselves by fishing.
Anson and Susan had four children of their own who survived to adulthood: William, Elizabeth, Virginia, and Nathaniel. William served in the Franklin Guards and the Milton Artillery during the Civil War. After the war he returned to Apalachicola for a period of time before migrating to Texas in 1878, where he died in 1922. Elizabeth married George Pooser and died in childbirth in 1860. Virginia was not right in the head; she always needed someone else to look after her. When the rest of her family was gone she was committed to the state hospital at Chattahoochee, where she died in 1907. Nathaniel never married. He moved to Savannah after the war and died in 1887.
Anson Hancock stayed in Apalachicola throughout the Civil War to protect his property. Exhausted from the stress of the conflict, he died on Jan. 12, 1865. After the war the management of the Hancock Hotel was turned over to William Fuller, who changed the name to the Fuller Hotel.
Antonio Fradosia, born in Italy in 1844, came to America in 1861 and became a naturalized citizen. He appears to have served for some period of time during the Civil War in the U. S. Navy. Around 1870 he was boarding with Genaro Zingarelli and his first wife at their home on the Ochlocknee River in Wakulla County. By 1880 he had migrated to Apalachicola and is listed in the census of that year as a sailor. He was married to Mary A. Fradosia, and they had three children: Kate Ann, Mary and Joseph. By 1885 a fourth child had been added to the family, Antonio M. or Tony.
In the 1900 census he was listed as a carpenter and 10 years later his occupation was shown as shipbuilder.
In 1887 Antonio purchased lot 3, Block 2 (Mansion House Square) from Mr. Kimball and Henry Hicks, doing so in the name of his four children with the understanding that he would have the use of the property and that it could not be sold during his lifetime. There were two store buildings on the lot. In the 1900 fire, these buildings, which housed Cone’s Barber Shop and Laundry and Nick Swain’s Tailor Shop, burned to the ground. They were valued at $3,000 and Mr. Fradosia did not have any insurance on the buildings. He quickly rebuilt, and the current buildings still survive. They are currently owned by Shawn Donahoe. At some point Antonio had a grocery store in one of the buildings.
JOHN GIBBS RUAN
John Gibbs Ruan was born in Frankford, Pennsylvania on January 5, 1798, to Dr. John Ruan and Elizabeth Gibbs Ruan. The family owned an interest in a plantation on St. Croix.
He married Amanda Kilbee in Marianna on June 4, 1845. They had two sons and three daughters.
He and his first cousins, Richard Gibbs Porter and William Gibbs Porter, were partners in the cotton brokerage firm of Wm. G. Porter & Company in Apalachicola. They graded and sold cotton shipped from Georgia and Alabama, and also dealt in rum and sugar from Havana. John Ruan arranged for the initial wharf and storage space in Apalachicola, where the company consignment shipping began in 1831.
William G. Porter & Company worked with a number of prominent shipping companies, including Gray and Morse out of Boston, Massachusetts, and Eagle and Hazzard as well as John H. Talman out of New York. They also worked with distributors in Liverpool, England, such as John Kearley and Son, and John Miller and Company, as well as the Catello Brothers of Havana, Cuba.
They were also bankers for plantation owners collecting and transferring funds from cotton sales and acted as collection agents.
During the Civil War John G. Ruan was reported in Union sources as a "violent rebel." In late winter 1864 two Union sympathizers in Apalachicola, who were gathering cattle on the mainland west of town for the Union Navy, went missing. Thinking they had been captured by Confederate forces, the Navy sent an expedition to Apalachicola and took Ruan and Thomas Orman, the two most prominent men in town at that time, as hostages to guarantee the safe return of the sympathizers. They let it be known to the Confederates they would give Ruan and Orman the same treatment the Southerners gave the two sympathizers.
Unknown to the Federals the two sympathizers, William Marr and Stillman Smith, were already dead. When that became known to the Union Navy, Ruan and Orman were released, but when they returned to Apalachicola they were promptly arrested by the Confederate Army for having contact with the enemy. This outraged Florida’s governor, Joh Milton, who demanded their immediate release. Eventually they were set free.
John Ruan died on October 28, 1868, at age 70. He was survived by his wife.
ANTONINA "NENA" ZINGARELLI
Antonina "Nena" Zingarelli, the daughter of Joseph and Mary Segari, was born in Palermo, Sicily on May 16, 1853. The family immigrated to the United States prior to the Civil War, and in the 1860 census they were living in Apalachicola, where Joseph was an oysterman.
In the early 1870s Nena married Donato Sangregorio, later anglicized to Sangaree. He was a Confederate veteran, having served in Capt. Dunham’s battery. The couple had two children: Pauline, who died as in infant in 1873, and Veto G. Sangaree, born in 1874. Sadly, Donato was struck by lightning in June 1875 and killed.
Nena did not remain a widow long. She was living with her in-laws when Genaro Zingarelli, who had just moved to Apalachicola, asked her father-in-law for her hand in marriage. He consented and Nena and Genaro were married on April 30, 1876, by Anderson M. Harris, a Justice of the Peace.
Genaro Zingarelli was a native of Italy also. He came to America and settled in Wakulla County, where he married and had three children. When his wife was pregnant with their fourth child they quarreled, and Genaro took the three children and moved to Apalachicola. His wife stayed in Wakulla County where she eventually remarried.
Of medium build and medium height, he had red hair, a fair complexion and blue eyes. He was a sailor, a fisherman, and a sponger. He also got into the business end of the fishing and sponging industry, running his own boats and selling his products. With the money he made he invested in real estate and operated a store, providing well for his family. In 1880 Genaro and Nena purchased a house at the corner of Fourth Street and Avenue F from the estate of Thomas Orman, and this is where they raised their family. They had seven children together.
Nena was described as "one of the pioneer women of Apalachicola. She raised her family to respect the Laws of God and the Laws of the Country. She used a spinning wheel to spin yarn; knitted the children’s sweaters and stockings and made their clothes. She taught her girls to be good housekeepers. She was often along with her young children while her husband was away on fishing and sponging trips."
Genaro Zingarelli died on Jan. 2, 1896. Nena died on May 19, 1902, after an illness lasting several months. They are buried side by side in Chestnut Street Cemetery.
THE CHIMNEY at CHESTNUT STREET CEMETERY
Nobody knows exactly what this brick structure in the middle of Chestnut Street Cemetery is or when it was built. It has stood in the center of the cemetery for as long as anyone can remember.
The structure consists of a square brick base surmounted by a brick obelisk. The bottom few courses of the bricks are laid up with very poor workmanship; the courses are not plumb and twist as they rise up. Above that the workmanship improves.
The structure was a rite of passage for Apalachicola’s children for a number of years. Before you could be a part of the local group of children, you had to prove yourself by climbing to the top of the monument. Only then could you play with the crowd.
Everyone has their own thoughts about what structure is. The most likely explanation is that it is a monument to some local person or family that for some reason was never finished. The event in Apalachicola’s history that could cause such an interruption in the construction was the Civil War. The Confederacy evacuated and abandoned the town in April 1862. Three years later one of the Union soldiers that arrived to occupy Apalachicola after the end of the war described the town as "All the places of business except one cotton press were closed, the streets were covered with grass, the houses and sidewalks were falling into decay, all the churches were closed, and an oppressive quietness everywhere prevailed."
One possibility for a person who could have inspired this monument was Robert J. Floyd. His father, Gabriel Floyd, was the one of the early settlers in Apalachicola, and served as the customs collector for the port. Robert J. Floyd was an attorney active in state politics, who represented Franklin County in the legislature during late territorial and early statehood periods. In the early 1850s he was president of the Florida Senate. He was the customs collector for Apalachicola and also owned St. Vincent Island. He was a man of wealth and importance who would have rated such a large marker for his gravesite.
Robert J. Floyd died in late 1860. He only had one child, Gabriel Floyd, who married John Gorrie’s daughter, Sarah, although they did not have any offspring. Gabriel Floyd was killed in the Civil War.
It could be that Gabriel started building this monument to his father, only to be interrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War. At the end of the war, with Gabriel dead, there was no one to complete the monument, and with most of the antebellum population dispersed, few people would have remembered what this unfinished obelisk was originally intended for.
Known as John Fisher, he was born in Emden, Germany, a port on the North Sea. He took to the sea at an early age and spent his entire working career on the sea. He served in the British Navy in the Crimean War. In 1859 he immigrated to America. During the Civil War he served in the Union Navy, and was present at the Battle of Mobile Bay, although his ship did not enter the bay during the battle.
Fisher came to Apalachicola in 1866 as the sailing master on a surveying schooner. While he was in town he courted and married Agnes Long, a young widow with four sons. John and Agnes had three children, one son and two daughters.
He spent the rest of his life on the water. He was the master of the surveying schooners Reddy, Torrey and Silomon and sailed the waters of the Gulf from Key West to Galveston. At various times he worked as a sailmaker, steamboat captain and bar pilot. The last 15 years of his life he was captain of the tugboat Lottie.
Capt. Fisher was ever ready to help others in need, being generous to a fault, with friends throughout the town. Even though he was a veteran of the Union Navy, at his funeral the surviving Confederate veterans in town and the United Daughters of the Confederacy formed the honorary escort for his funeral procession.