Like so many midwesterners since, Julia Daniels and Charles Scott Moseley moved to Florida in the 1880s seeking a warmer climate. This collection of Julia’s letters--mainly to her husband, who made frequent business trips north, and to her close friend Eliza Slade--reveals the struggle of a cultured, urban woman adjusting to the hardship and isolation of life in pioneer Florida.
And then coming to love it. Tramping through the unsullied land surrounding the Limona community near Tampa, where they settled, she gloried in her "neglected corner in the Garden of Eden," where she "could look up fifty feet and see air plants growing on the branches of great oaks and hundreds of ferns nodding . . . in the sunlight and gray moss moving through the trees like mist." "Think of me gazing up among crane’s nests with redbirds in my own oaks," she wrote. "Even in the nighttime, a mocking bird often sings to me of all the beautiful things I love."
Julia (herself a published writer) selected these unedited letters and copied them for her family into a thick leather book. Like characters in a novel, the friends and relatives she describes crackle with personality: a flamboyant Russian proclaims his version of communism, a New England spinster counters with Utopian visions, and a university professor retreats from the ivory tower to agricultural experimentation. Readers observe Julia’s flair for making daily life cheerful and they meet the couple’s two adored sons and Scott’s children by an earlier marriage, as well as Cracker settlers, cattle runners, and assorted seekers of health or wealth.
An artist, Julia created a distinctive home designed and decorated in the manner of the pre-Raphaelites. Her palmetto fiber wall covering was exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and survives today. The Florida house, named The Nest, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Accompanied by 71 photographs of Julia’s home and family, these letters transcend the life of one woman to capture the experience and spirit of 19th-century Florida.