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Palatka is a city in Putnam Countymarker, Floridamarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 10,033 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 10,796. It is the county seat of Putnam Countymarker and includes East Palatkamarker. The city is home to St. Johns River Community College and Ravine Gardens State Parkmarker and hosts a bluegrass music festival twice a year.


Bird's-eye view c.
The area was once the domain of the Timucuan nation, two tribes of which existed in the Palatka region under chiefs Saturiwa and Utina. They fished bass and mullets, or hunted deer, turkeys, bear and opossum. Others farmed beans, corn, melons, squash and tobacco. But war and disease devastated the tribes. Florida would then be taken over by the Seminole, who called the location Pilo-taikita, meaning “crossing over,” or “cows’ crossing.” Here the St. Johns River narrows and begins a shallower, winding course upstream to Lake Georgemarker and Lake Monroemarker.

Because of the Treaty of Paris, control of Florida changed in 1763 from Spainmarker to Englandmarker. In 1767, Denys Rolle, an English philanthropist and nobleman, established Rollestown on the east bank of the St. Johns River at the head of deep water navigation. His 78,000 acre (320 km²) plantation was a utopian commercial and humanitarian experiment, recruiting settlers off the streets of Londonmarker, including paupers, vagrant, pickpockets and "penitent prostitutes." Two hundred indentured servants arrived to clear wilderness for agriculture and livestock. Unaccustomed to either hard work or a subtropical climate, however, they scattered. Rolle next imported slaves from West Africa to tend chickens, hog, goats and sheep, or produce cotton, indigo, citrus and turpentine for export to England.

A mansion was built and a village laid out, but trouble beleaguered the "ideal society." In 1770, a disgruntled overseer sold over 1,000 of his employer's cattle and disappeared with the money. Rolle hired new overseers and bought more slaves, but the plantation remained unprosperous. When Spain resumed control of Florida in 1783, Rolle abandoned the colony and chartered a ship to carry his household belongings, livestock and slaves to a 2,000 acre (8 km²) estate on Great Exumamarker in the Bahamasmarker. The point in East Palatka, however, is still called Rollestown.

With changes of sovereignty in Florida came numerous changes of ownership in Pilo-taikita, now contracted to Pilatka. In 1774, naturalist William Bartram noted an Indian village on the west bank, but it would vanish. After the United Statesmarker acquired Florida in 1821, Nehemiah Brush established a ferry and bought a 1,200 acre (4.9 km²) tract in 1826 and then an equal number in 1827. The site became a distribution point, where goods were shipped by a New Yorkmarker company to supply immigrants at the Grant of Arredondo, which lay to the west.

The infusion of American settlers, however, created hostility among the Seminole people. When the government attempted to relocate the tribe starting in 1833, the Second Seminole Warmarker began. Pilatka was attacked and burned in 1835. Recognizing the site's strategic importance for control of the St. Johns River, the main artery into Central Floridamarker, the military in 1838 established Fort Shannon, named for Captain Samuel Shannon. It included a garrison, supply depot and hospital. During 1842 the Seminole were driven from the area, and consequently Fort Shannon was abandoned by the army in 1843. But the piers and buildings it had erected (including 8 blockhouses, 5 of which burned in a fire of 1855) would spur development of the town. By 1847, it was growing rapidly. In 1849, Putnam County was created, with Pilatka the county seat. With the help of Judge Isaac H. Bronson, whose house in now a museum, it was incorporated a city on January 8, 1853.

Second Street c.
Larkin House c.
During the 1850s, Florida in general and Pilatka in particular gained a reputation as a haven for invalids escaping northern winters. Steamboats carried them up the river in increasing numbers. One visitor wrote that amusements included "sailing, fishing, rowing, walking, riding in buggy and on horseback, whist, enchre, backgammon and hunting." The trend was interrupted by the Civil War, when gunboats cruised the waters and Pilatka was destitute and largely deserted. On October 7, 1862, the USS Cimarron fired several shells over the town after seeing some Confederate cavalry. Mary Boyd pleaded with Union Commander Maxwell Woodhull to spare Pilatka, assuring him that the horse soldiers were not residents. He complied. Following the rebellion, tourists returned to find new hotels, including the Putnam House, built by Hubbard L. Hart, and the Larkin House, which had accommodations for 250 guests. Steamers ran up the Ocklawaha River to Eustismarker, Leesburgmarker and Silver Springsmarker, or the St. Johns River to Enterprisemarker and Sanfordmarker. Industries included logging, raising cattle and hog, and orange groves. On May 24, 1875, the post office changed the spelling to Palatka, ending confusion with Picolata.

By the 1880s, several competing railroads crossed the community, which became an important junction. These included the Florida Southern Railroad, the Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railroad, the St. Augustine and Palatka Railway, and the Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad. But on November 7, 1884, Palatka suffered a devastating fire. Guests arrived that season to find no accommodations, and so continued on the train south—the beginning of a gradual tourism shift elsewhere. It would also lose trade, shipping and transportation preeminence to Jacksonville. Nevertheless, with its downtown rebuilt in brick to be fireproof, Palatka emerged a finer place.

In 1893, A. E. and H. S. Wilson of Saginaw, Michiganmarker bought the Noah J. Tilghman & Son sawmill, which manufactured cypress lumber. Renamed the Wilson Cypress Company, it expanded operations and became a major employer. At its peak, it was the second largest cypress mill in the world, but closed in 1944. The Great Freeze of 1894 and 1895 destroyed Palatka's citrus groves for 5 years, which were formerly a major attraction. The ill-fated Cross Florida Barge Canal was once intended to pass the city. Today, tourism remains important.

Notable residents

Putnam County Courthouse


As of the census of 2004, there were 10,796 people, 3,880 households, and 2,421 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,442.1 people per square mile (556.6/km²). There were 4,318 housing units at an average density of 620.7/sq mi (239.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 48.93% White, 48.43% African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.44% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 1.04% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.83% of the population.

There were 3,880 households out of which 31.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.0% were married couples living together, 24.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.6% are other types of families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.6% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 24.6% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 17.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 81.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $18,129, and the median income for a family was $26,076. Males had a median income of $27,716 versus $19,187 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,351. About 27.9% of families and 33.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.0% of those under age 18 and 19.6% of those age 65 or over.


Palatka Municipal Airportmarker is a public-use airport located 2 miles northwest of the central business district.

Two Amtrak services — the Silver Star and the Silver Meteor — stop at Palatka Railroad Stationmarker.

Sites of interest


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External links

Historic pictures

Image:A Palmetto Glade Near Palatka, Florida.jpg|Palmetto glade in 1893Image:An Orange Grove Near Palatka, Florida.jpg|Orange grove in 1893Image:Hiawatha at the Landing, Palatka, FL.jpg|Steamer Hiawatha in 1905Image:Lemon Street, Palatka, FL.jpg|Lemon Street in 1915

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