A Lovely Historic Small Town
I am very fond of my small town of Archer, Florida.
I am a ninth-generation Floridian, and my great-great-great grandfather, Isaac Varnes, used to come to Archer with his four sons to hunt for wild cattle, which they branded and herded to their home in Middleburg, Florida.
Florida’s first senator, David Levy Yulee, had his plantation here (across the street from where the Minit Mart now is). One of his slaves was Dollie Nattiel, whose great-great grandson, Herb, still lives here in Archer. Dollie’s great-great-great grandson is Ricky Nattiel, former University of Florida football star.
Even small towns like Archer can make a difference to history. In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes was running for president against Samuel Tilden. All the votes were in except for the Florida votes. And all the Florida votes were in except for the Archer votes. It was impossible to tell who was winning, but it was clear that whoever won in Florida would be the new president.
Thanks to someone, 200 more votes were cast than there were voters in Archer! It seems that some dead people rose from their graves and voted for Hayes. There was a scandal. Was Archer guilty of election fraud? A committee of six Democrats and seven Republicans investigated the situation. The committee decided, seven to six, that there was no election fraud.
Years later, Leonard Dennis, one of the men who had been in charge of the ballot box, confessed on his deathbed that there had indeed been election fraud.
Our town was named after James Archer, Florida’s first Secretary of State. He was a good friend of Yulee’s, and when Archer died, Yulee named our town after him.
After a Civil War battle somewhere near Otter Creek, the bodies of 20 or 30 Yankee soldiers, black and white, were loaded on a boxcar and taken to be buried. Every town the train passed through refused to bury white and black bodies in the same cemetery. When the train arrived in Archer, the citizens agreed to bury them all together in Laurel Hill Cemetery. There is now a plaque commemorating the spot.
In the 1890’s, the trains were in poor shape and were often derailed and the train cars had to be pushed back on the tracks. Because of this, our FCP (Florida Central Peninsular) Railroad was jokingly called the “Friends, Come and Push” Railroad.
There are so many fascinating stories about Archer. We now have a very interesting Archer History Museum in our old depot, which has been a historical landmark here since its construction on David Levy Yulee’s railroad in 1858.
I am a City Commissioner and Vice Mayor in Archer, and our newest project is to get a sewer system. We are very optimistic about the future of our lovely small town!
Story presented by Archer resident Marjorie F. Zander