Palmetto Leaves is a memoir and travel guide written by Harriet Beecher Stowe about her winters in the town of Mandarin, Florida, published in 1873. Already famous for having written Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), Stowe came to Florida after the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). She purchased a plantation near Jacksonville as a place for her son to recover from the injuries he had received as a Union soldier and to make a new start in life. After visiting him, she became so enamored with the region she purchased a cottage and orange grove for herself and wintered there until 1884, even though the plantation failed within its first year. Parts of Palmetto Leaves appeared in a newspaper published by Stowe's brother, as a series of letters and essays about life in northeast Florida. Scion of New England clergy, Stowe keenly felt a sense of Christian responsibility that was expressed in her letters. She considered it her duty to help improve the lives of newly emancipated blacks and detailed her efforts to establish a school and church in Mandarin toward these ends. Parts of the book relate the lives of local African-Americans and the customs of their society. Stowe described the charm of the region and its generally moderate climate but warned readers of "excessive" heat in the summer months and occasional cold snaps in winter. Her audience comprises relatives, friends, and strangers in New England who ask her advice about whether or not to move to Florida, which at the time was still mostly wilderness. Although it is a minor work in Stowe's oeuvre, Palmetto Leaves was one of the first travel guides written about Florida and stimulated Florida's first boom of tourism and residential development in the 1880s...By the time Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) moved to Florida in 1867, she was already internationally famous for authoring Uncle Tom's Cabin, published as a serial between 1851 and 1852. The novel expounded upon her abolitionist views and was extraordinarily influential in condemning slavery in the United States. Stowe's opposition to slavery sprang from a moral passion based on her Christian faith. She had grown up the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Lyman Beecher; seven of her brothers became ministers in Calvinist or Congregational denominations, and she married a minister.In 1860, Stowe's son Frederick "Fred" William Stowe enlisted in the First Massachusetts Infantry Regiment when Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers in anticipation of the Civil War. Much beloved, yet troubled, Fred Stowe had developed a problem with alcohol as early as sixteen. He took to army life, however, and was promoted to lieutenant. After receiving a head wound at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, he endured severe headaches and was forced to resign his commissionHis alcoholism worsened, and he may have compounded it with a liberal use of opiates and narcotics, which were widely available.In 1866, Fred encountered two young farmers in Connecticut who had spent time on duty as Union soldiers in Florida during the war. He learned from them that land there was plentiful and cheap, and many recently emancipated blacks were available at low wages to work it. When he shared this information with his mother, Stowe and her husband Calvin Ellis Stowe considered it a prime opportunity to hasten their son's rehabilitation.....
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