|Welcome to Florida's Hometown!
Sylvania - Plantation of Gov. John Milton
by Dale Cox
|Copyright 2009 by Dale Cox
All Rights Reserved
Sylvania Plantation stood less than seven
miles southwest of Two Egg, Florida.
Often overlooked today, the site of Sylvania
plantation lies less than 7 miles from
downtown Two Egg, Florida.
Sylvania holds a unique place in Florida
history as it was the home of John Milton, the
state's Civil War governor. He held office from
October of 1861 until his death at Sylvania in
April of 1865.
John Milton was definitely a man of his times,
with an unusual and sometimes violent past.
Born at Louisville, Georgia, on April 20, 1807,
he was the son of a War of 1812 veteran, the
grandson of a soldier of the American
Revolution and a descendant of the famed
English poet John Milton.
Educated in Greek, Latin, English and math
at the academy in Louisville, he read law
under Roger Q. Gamble and was admitted to
the bar in Georgia before he was 20 years
old. Moving to Columbus, the future governor
practiced law and was elected to the rank of
colonel in the Georgia State Militia.
While in Columbus, Milton ran for a seat in
the U.S. Congress as a supporter of states
rights, but lost. In 1834 he became involved
in what kind tradition called a "duel" but what
something completely different:
...Col. Milton understanding that his life had
been threatened by Maj. [J.T.] Camp,
procured a double barreled Gun, and walked
over to Nicholas Howards Store, and
discharged the contents of one of the barrels
into his back, and while falling discharged
the other into his left breast. - Camp lived but
a few moments after he was shot and spoke
not a word...I was some distance from them,
but can state that Col. Milton discharged his
gun with more coolness and deliberation
than any men I think would have done under
similar circumstances - and left the spot with
Milton was charged with murder, but was
acquitted by a jury of his peers just two
While in Columbus, the future governor
married Susan Amanda Cobb, a cousin of
the future Confederate generals of that
name, and fathered with her five children.
Milton left Columbus by 1835 and resettled in
Mobile, Alabama, where he practiced law and
headed a cavalry company during the Creek
War of 1836-1837.
At about the time of the end of that conflict,
John Milton relocated again, this time to New
Orleans. Following the untimely death of
Susan, he remarried to Caroline Howze with
whom he eventually had ten more children.
On July 1, 1845, he was involved in a horrible
steamboat accident on the Mississippi River
at New Orleans:
...(T)he steamboat Marquette, Capt. E.A.
Turpin, while backing out from the wharf,
burst her boilers with a most terrific explosion,
scattering instantaneous death and
destruction around. The report of the
explosion was tremendous, shaking the very
foundations of the buildings on the New
Levee for several squares...The scene, as
described by those who saw it immediately
after the frightful accident, was awfully
Among those severely injured in the accident
was John Milton. A newspaper report of the
time indicates he was scalded by steam
from the ruptured boiler and was hospitalized
in New Orleans.
It was not long after this accident that Milton
moved to Jackson County, Florida. He was
related to the Robinson family that had
settled in the county during the 1820s and
from them bought the core of what became
one of the largest plantations in the South.
It was called Sylvania, because the main
house stood in a beautiful grove of trees. By
the end of 1845, the future governor already
had 40 slaves working the land and by 1847
he had purchased 2,480 acres of prime
Jackson County land. By 1855 the plantation
had grown to include 6,334 acres.
The main house was described by an
English tutor as being "a long low dwelling
surrounded by a deep piazza reached by
steps extending along the whole front."
Milton opened a law office in Marianna and in
1849 was elected Major General of the 1st
Division of the Florida Militia. He won a seat
in the Florida Legislature as a Democrat in
1850. He served as chairmen of the Militia
committee and also held seats on the
Judiciary, Indian Affairs and Colleges and
Schools committees. He was nominated but
not elected to the Florida Supreme Court.
By 1860, John Milton had acquired a second
farm east of Two Egg at today's Parramore
community. A supporter of the secession of
the state from the Union, he defeated Edward
Hopkins in the race for governor and read the
Ordinance of Secession to the crowd outside
the Old Capitol in January of 1861.
Milton was sworn in as Governor of Florida in
October of that year and served until he shot
himself at Sylvania on April 1, 1865, as the
coming defeat of the Confederacy became
apparent. He is said to have commented a
short time earlier that "death would be
preferable" to defeat at the hands of the North.
The main house at Sylvania burned a few
years later and all that remains of the large
farm today is the land itself. The house stood
near the intersection of Sylvania Plantation
Road and Blue Springs Highway.
The historic marker at the site was damaged
on election night in 2008 and is currently
being repaired. It will hopefully be back in