ARCADIA — Who had the job of Census enumerators a century ago in DeSoto County?
Backstory: DeSoto County more than 100 years ago encompassed the area now occupied by Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee and Highlands counties. Considering only the precincts located in present-day DeSoto County, three women and two men made the count, including Maude Stribling Ingraham (1883-1929), the wife of John Morgan Ingraham (1883-1980). Their home at 300 N. Monroe is now a museum owned by the DeSoto County Historical Society.
What’s astonishing is not the number of people counted, but the vast distances covered by horses and even boats and the frontier conditions these census-takers endured.
The Ingrahams first lived with his parents — Dr. Julius Boyd Ingraham (1852-1926) and Sarah Elizabeth Collins Ingraham (1858-1959) — at their homestead on Fisheating Creek, located in present-day Glades County. In 1919, John and Maude bought a home and moved to Arcadia, and she was the census taker for west side of “Arcadia City.”
She visited homes from Jan. 2-24. She counted her husband, herself, and their children on Jan. 8. Born in 1916, their daughter Sarah Augusta Ingraham may have already been sick with the illness of which she died on Jan. 25. Their son, John Morgan Ingraham Jr., had been born on Oct. 17 the previous year.
Who cared for Maude’s children while she took the census? Her husband may have done so, as census workers often visited homes in the evening. Her parents, William Jesse Stribling (1848-1932) and Nancy Augusta Jamison Stribling (1855-1935), lived just a few houses away on Monroe, so they may have helped with the children. Maude counted her parents on Jan. 14, as well as her mother-in-law, brothers-in-law and other family living on Sumter Avenue on Jan. 17.
On Jan. 2-12, the east side of Arcadia was counted by Luella B. Gott (1877-1953). On Jan. 12-19, she also listed those training and working at Carlstrom and Dorr Fields, U.S. Army aviation training camps built at the end of 1917 to train pilots for World War I. After Armistice, they continued to train pilots for several years.
She and her husband, Herbert Rodney Gott (1875-1939), who worked as a house carpenter, lived on North Hillsborough Avenue, as listed in the 1921 Arcadia city directory. In the 1926 city directory, she is listed alone, an abstracter for Consolidated Abstract Co., managed by James LeRoy McLeod (1890-1941). In the 1927 Wauchula city directory, she worked as secretary for the Wauchula Chamber of Commerce. In the 1930 U.S. Census, she lived in Miami.
Those living near Arcadia but outside the city limits were counted by Bertha O. Garrison (1887-1942) on Feb. 14-27. She also canvassed Brownsville on Feb. 11-14 and Oak Hill/Bunker on Feb. 28-March 4. She and her husband, Howard D. Garrison (1876-1943), a mail carrier with a rural route, lived in Zolfo Springs with their sons Glenn, age 9, and Orville, age 7. She counted herself and her family on Jan. 22.
According to Spessard Stone in his book Hardee County: Its Heritage and People, Howard moved to Zolfo Springs in 1915. In 1924, he was appointed county judge to continue the unexpired term of Frank E. Connor. Garrison was later elected for a full term until 1929.
On Jan. 9-11, Fort Ogden was canvassed by Reuben Y. Walden. In the 1920 U.S. Census, he was 56 and working as an orange grower and preacher. He lived in Charlotte Harbor with his wife, Nancy J. Walden, age 50, and their sons Thomas, age 21, a farm laborer, and Frank, age 17. He counted himself and his family on Jan. 2.
When Charlotte County was formed in 1921, the Punta Gorda Herald newspaper reported that “Rev. C. T. Blanchet and Rev. R. Y. Walden want to be superintendent of public instruction,” according to Lindsey Williams and U.S. Cleveland in Our Fascinating Past: Charlotte Harbor: Early Years.
Arriving in Florida from Kentucky in 1882, the Rev. George W. Gatewood (1862-1847) enumerated Nocatee on Jan. 19-24, Owens on Jan. 26-29, and Pine Level on Jan. 30-Feb. 4. Married to Minnie L. Gatewood (1875-1944), he was a circuit-riding Methodist minister also serving as a census-taker in 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. In fact, he listed his occupation in the 1920 census as “census enumerator.”
Gatewood wrote articles about his pioneer experiences in Florida that were published serially in the Punta Gorda Herald, and then collected and published as two books by the newspaper: Ox Cart Days to Airplane Era (1939) and On Florida’s Coconut Coasts (1944).
In the first book, he described his job as a census enumerator when he worked as a general merchant and lived on Sanibel Island with his wife and their children, Clarence, age 7, Joseph, age 5, Nellie, age 3, and Nannie Clark, his mother-in-law. (Their daughter Irene was born later that year).
“In the year 1900, before gasoline launches came to this part of the state, I was the federal census enumerator for [Marco] island and made the rounds in a light draft sailboat on which I cooked, ate and slept. It was my business to visit every hamlet and, within the district, I went every where anyone lived,” Gatewood wrote.