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The Winter Sailor

Francis R. Stebbins on Florida's Indian River, 1878-1888

Edited by Carolyn Frances Baker Lewis

Publication Year: 2004

A unique guide to Florida's frontier history along Indian River.

The Winter Sailor is a historical adventure that details the yearly winter travels of Francis R. Stebbins to Florida's Indian River. Stebbins, a writer from Michigan, visited Florida in March of 1878 and became entranced by its pristine beauty. Subsequently, Stebbins and his traveling companions made annual visits to Indian River—until 1888 when tragedy struck and ended Stebbins' yearly journeys.

Being an observant traveler, Stebbins began a series of descriptive articles for his hometown newspaper that chronicled his journeys to the Indian River area. Stebbins's articles tell of his own personal experiences during his leisurely visits, which included such activities as hunting and fishing, studying the natural surroundings, and excavating Indian mounds. What Stebbins enjoyed most was sailing down the river interviewing townspeople and examining local attractions as he went. His articles also detail the lifestyle of the region, food, fashion, industry, history, environment, and changes that occurred over time. Stebbins's articles not only entertained and informed but also became a travelogue for his readers. He inspired northern travelers to go south and visit Florida, which contributed to the beginnings of large-scale tourism in the region.

The Winter Sailor combines Stebbins's 49 articles along with three by his companions, to provide an enjoyable, historical guide. Unique among 19th-century travelogues, this fascinating look into Florida's past documents a decade of change to the Indian River wilderness and becomes Stebbins's gift to the present.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Series: Alabama Fire Ant


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-vii


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pp. viii-viii

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pp. xi-xv

There was nothing extraordinary about how I came upon Francis R. Stebbins’s Florida adventures. It happened in the usual way. I was looking for references to nineteenth-century Florida, and they figuratively reached out and grabbed me. At the time I was working through the Library of Michigan’s microfilm collection of Michigan newspapers that I had previously identified as a treasure trove of contemporary writing about postbellum Florida. The...

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pp. xvi-xxvi

One early March day in 1878 two travelers from Adrian, Michigan, saw their plans to visit Cuba dashed as they stood before a steamship company ticket window in New Orleans. It was the first trip south for Francis R. Stebbins and Frank W. Clay, and before leaving home they had widely broadcast their intention to visit strife-ridden Cuba. They were keenly disappointed to learn American citizens were required to have passports to go to the Spanish colony...

1. Indian River Longings

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pp. 1-3

2. 1878 From Far Florida

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pp. 4-17

3. 1879 Indian River, Florida

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pp. 18-41

4. 1880 Our Florida Letter

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pp. 42-60

5. 1881 On the Bounding Billows

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pp. 61-71

6. 1882 Among the Mangroves

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pp. 72-89

7. 1883 Life on the Lagoons

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pp. 90-102

8. 1884 Where Summer Lives

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pp. 103-117

9. 1885 Northerners in the South

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pp. 118-129

10. 1886 Florida’s Freeze Up

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pp. 130-139

11. 1888 Roving on Indian River

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pp. 140-155

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pp. 156-159

Francis R. Stebbins’s shock and grief at the passing of his good friend and neighbor Alanson Worden were profound. After escorting the body home, Stebbins assisted Worden’s widow in settling his friend’s estate.1 Performing this role under such circumstances would have seemed slight penance for luring his friend away from family and home to die in a faraway place. Stebbins’s deep remorse for his part in Worden’s death was surely intense. His own dread of expiring alone in a strange land, often expressed in his Florida papers, must...


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pp. 161-194


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pp. 195-208


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pp. 209-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383787
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817351298

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Alabama Fire Ant
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OCLC Number: 607724725
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Winter Sailor

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Florida -- History, Local.
  • Stebbins, Francis Ranna, 1818 or 9-1892 -- Travel -- Florida -- Indian River (Lagoon).
  • Indian River (Fla. : Lagoon) -- Description and travel.
  • Florida -- Description and travel.
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