This document was prepared by Dr. Joshua Goodman, who is the Archives Historian at the State Archives in Tallahassee. It describes resources available at the State Archives for researchers interested in the history of South Dade.
The State Library and State Archives of Florida in Tallahassee hold a vast collection of material documenting the history and culture of the state, including the South Dade region. The State Library is home to thousands of books, maps, and other published materials, and is also the official repository for all published documents produced by Florida’s government agencies. The State Archives collects and preserves unpublished materials, including both the official records of Florida’s government agencies and collections belonging to businesses, families, organizations, and individuals.
The following is a list of collections available through the State Library and Archives—some online through Florida Memory and others you can access either in person or through a phone or email request.
Florida Memory is free to use, requires no login, and offers a robust search engine for finding what you need quickly. You can also browse or search the collections individually. Here are some of the best collections for researching South Dade on Florida Memory:
Florida Photographic Collection – More than 205,000 digitized photos from the collections of the State Library and Archives, including about 500 images from the South Dade communities of Florida City, Homestead, Naranja alone!
Florida Map Collection – More than 300 maps of Florida ranging from the 1500s to the 20th century. A 1907 Florida Standard Guide map is the first one to show Homestead by name.
1845 Election Returns – Only 48 Dade County voters cast ballots in Florida’s first election as a state in 1845. This collection includes the returns from the election precincts in each county, including Indian Key, Key Vacas, and Miami in Dade County.
Confederate Pension Applications – The State of Florida granted pensions to thousands of aging or disabled Confederate veterans and their widows starting in 1885. This collection contains the forms and correspondence associated with each Confederate veteran or widow who applied for a pension in Florida. A total of 158 applications are from Dade County.
Florida Auto Registrations, 1905-1917 – Did you know Dr. Edward L. Brooks was the first person from Homestead to register an automobile? Would you have guessed that it was a Roadster with only 20 horsepower? Use this collection to research some of Florida’s earliest automobile owners, including over fifty from Homestead and Florida City.
World War I Service Cards – At the end of World War I, Congress ordered the military to create a brief service record for each person who served during the war and submit them to the adjutants general of each state. Florida Memory has digitized these service record cards—all 42,412 of them! Over a hundred records document the service of soldiers who lived in South Dade before the war.
WPA Church Records – The Works Progress Administration provided employment for millions of Americans during the Great Depression by establishing all sorts of useful public works programs and even research and writing projects. One of the WPA’s Florida projects was a complete inventory of every church in the state, along with a listing of available church records. WPA field workers reported on over 200 churches in Dade County, including five in the Homestead region. The earliest was Silver Palm Methodist Church, founded in 1904.
Florida Memory is growing every day, but it offers only a tiny fraction of the collections available for research at the State Library and Archives in Tallahassee. A complete research facility is open to the public, and the reference staff is glad to help researchers find the resources they need. In many cases, when the request is specific enough, the reference staff can locate and photocopy or scan the records you need based on an email or phone conversation.
The following is a list of archival collections containing significant amounts of material on Homestead and the South Dade region. Each link will take you to the collection’s catalog record in the State Archives’ online catalog, where you can view a listing of the boxes and folders it contains.
Louise Barcus Journal, 1895-1912 (Collection M96-2) – Louise Barcus moved to Flamingo around 1907 with her uncle, Arvid P. Curry, where they operated a small store and grew their own sugar cane. Louise Barcus’ journal contains accounts from the store, as well as a record of births, deaths, and marriages in the Flamingo area, and commentary on storms, settlements, and other events in the area.
Barnett Bank of South Florida Records, 1964-1997 (Collection N2000-1) – In July of 1981, Barnett Bank of Miami merged with Barnett Bank of Broward County and Barnett Bank of Homestead to form Barnett Bank of South Florida. By 1982, Barnett Bank of South Florida maintained the largest network of banking offices in Florida. The records include news clippings and reports reflecting the history of banking and business in the region.
County and State Officer Directories, 1845-1997 (Series S1284) – Since Florida first established a territorial government in the 1820s, the Secretary of State (Secretary of the Territory prior to 1845) has maintained a directory of state and county officials. The records for county officials are generally organized by county, so it’s easy to quickly locate a list of the individuals who held county offices such as sheriff, county commissioner, or justice of the peace at any given time in your county.
Governors’ Records (Multiple Series) – The correspondence and subject files of Florida’s governors are excellent sources for understanding what was happening in a Florida community at a specific point in time. County and state officials, as well as everyday citizens, often write to the governor to discuss their concerns or ideas about important subjects or events. These records are typically organized alphabetically by topic or county in each governor’s records. The correspondence and subject files of Governor Farris Bryant, for example, contain 11 folders of material relating to Dade County. Governor LeRoy Collins’ papers contain another 16 folders. There’s no telling what you might find on Homestead or South Dade as you flip through those records! There’s a separate collection (or series, in archives-speak) for each governor. Visit the State Archives’ Online Catalog and search for a specific governor to find the records you’re looking for.
William J. Krome Key West Extension Papers, 1902-1909 (Collection M96-1) – William J. Krome worked for the Florida East Coast Railway and was deeply involved in the effort to extend the railroad to Key West. This collection consists of reports, correspondence, and newspaper clippings relating to the project.
State Defense Council Subject Files, 1940-1946 (Series S419) – The State Defense Council coordinated civilian defense activities in Florida during World War II. Every county and many major cities and towns had their own local defense councils, which worked closely with the state entity to manage tasks such as blackout preparedness, scrap collection, bond drives, food conservation, enemy aircraft observation teams, auxiliary policing, and more. Boxes 12 and 13 of this collection contain folders relating to Dade County, although the records are organized by topic as well as by county, so there’s likely much more useful information scattered throughout the collection.