Wednesday, November 9, 2011

George S. Mott's Path to Florida and Early Death

I love doing case studies - sometimes I work from a list, sometimes it is the result of what I thought would be a little light research.  The case of George Smith Mott falls into the latter category.  I was originally looking for a record related to George's father when I unexpectedly found George's obituary.  Reading it, I was taken a bit aback because it contained information on George that I hadn't known before and that contradicted what I thought I knew about George (which wasn't much).

George falls into the category of "most neglected" when it comes to researching my family tree: someone never married, died young, and left no descendants.  What I knew about him could be summed up in one sentence, and the sentence isn't even my own - it is from page 62 of The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 36 (January, 1905):
"George Smith, never married; killed circa 1836 in Florida, during the Seminole War."
What assumption conclusion do you come to when you read that sentence?  If it is that he must have died fighting as a soldier (or in some other military capacity) in the Seminole War then you aren't alone.  I'd been living under that assumption for several years.  Then I read his obituary:
"Mr. GEORGE S. MOTT, formerly of this city, son of the late Jacob C. Mott, was killed by the Indians at his plantation on Julington Creek, near Mandarin, East Florida, on the 18th May.  He had passed the winter in this city, and arrived in Florida on the 17th - only one day preceding his death." - page 2, New York Commercial Advertiser, 6 June 1836
Okay, not only does it sound like George wasn't in Florida in a role connected to the war, he apparently owned land there.  I don't know when George established his plantation, but a "G. S. Mott" is listed as a passenger on the steam packet David Brown for Charleston, South Carolina in July 1833.  This tells me he had been making trips down south for at least a few years.

I did some Google searches and found some more information in the most unlikely of places, an advertisement for the book 500 Brickwall Solutions to Genealogy Problems.  One of the sample solutions contained this sentence:
"...the Jacob C. Mott family of Long Island, NY that had invested in land and citrus crops in Mandarin, FL..."
Well now I know why he was in Florida! But why was he killed, and so soon after his arrival?  GoogleBooks helped me out on this next question:

"For several weeks Indian raids have been discovered about the plantations near here.  It seems they have been in pursuance of a Mr. [George s.] Mott, a rich man whom they had sworn to kill.  He has been a trader among them, and used to whip them.  Last week he returned from New York - said he believed they would kill him if they have a chance, that he would go to his plantation and if he could not stay there, he would return and help fight them.  Night before last he went, and began to put out some small trees.  Just at sunset which it appears is a favorite hour of attack with the Indians, he was placing a tree, and one of his negros putting the earth round it.  They fired and shot him dead.  The negros ran.  The Indians then scalped Mott, went int his house, took what they pleased, set fire to it, and cleared into the woods. This was on the bank of Julington Creek, a branch of the St. John's, directly opposite the settlement of Mandarin, six miles from Dr. Hall's."
The above from a letter written by a resident in the area in Florida written not long after George's death.  She goes to discuss the Indians some more:
"'Tis thought the reason they did not do any mischief here before, was because they were determined to kill Mott and did not wish to raise any alarm, until they had accomplished their purpose."

The fighting in the area and George's death made the newspapers up and down the Eastern seaboard:
"A white person named Mott, very recently from the north, was killed and scalped a few days since at his plantation above Mandarin, and about 20 miles from Jacksonville." - from page 2, The Charleston Courier, 24 May 1836
George's native New York papers elaborate:
"By the mails of this morning we have some additional particulars of the murder of Mr. George S. Mott, late of this city.  Mr. Mott was killed and scalped on Thursday the 17th of May, at his settlement near Mandarin; his house and store burnt; his gun taken; but neighter his watch nor money touched.  He arrived but Sunday previous, from New York, where he has a sister and mother living.  His body was brought into Mandarin the next day, and decently interred, by 12 men who volunteered their services for that purpose.  At the time of his death, Mr. M. had a boy (half-breed) living with him, who was so affected with the sight of his murdered master that he took sick and died the same night." - from page 2, the New York Commercial Advertiser, 6 June 1836
And, just to show how much I truly neglected researching George, he has a FindAGrave memorial - since 2004 actually.  The most touching part of his tombstone is the message at the bottom:
"That the perpetrators of this cruel act may be forgiven is the prayer of his afflicted and ever sorrowing mother"
George clearly wasn't the nicest person, but he was someone's son.  He was the brother of my 4th great-grandfather, Isaac Thomas Mott.


  1. Wow! That's really interesting information about George.! That bit at the end makes you wonder about the boy though doesn't it? "Had a boy" owned, son or both and if so were there more? Thanks for sharing!

  2. Google Books is great! In working on my own ancestor relative to the Seminole wars (George McClellan), I found some entries thanks to Google Books.

  3. Leah

    I would love to hear from you. I am with the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society and George S. Mott is one of our most well-known historical figures.You can reach me at


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