Alex Browning's Memories of the Founding of Sarasota

Reasons for Leaving Scotland in 1885

The founding of the city of Sarasota by the Scotch Colony, 47 years ago, just 40 years after Florida had been purchased from the Spaniards, and became one of the United States is the subject this M.S. (manuscript) (This) is mainly written for at the request of our children and grandchildren, all living in Sarasota now.

The lack of data and photographs of the different places and people, somewhat retards the story, which taxes the memory, almost to the limit. As I picture all the incidents in this connection, it seems a long time a go to remember, and recording them is almost like living them over again.

The history of Sarasota City really commenced in Scotland where the Florida Mortgage and Investment Co. Limited had their headquarters, and where the Scotch Colony sailed from.

In 1885 the British people were passing through a great commercial depression, many families emigrating to America, Canada, and other British Colonies. This depression had started in 1877 with the war in Afghanistan, followed by the the Zulu War in Africa, in 1880, then the famine in Ireland, the Land League in 1882 and war in Egypt, with the bombardment of Alexandria, and the general political unrest.

Although these wars were commenced on the above dates, they were not settled for sometime after; necessitating a continual tax drain on the people, with the result, that many large enterprises were forced to failure, followed by other smaller businesses going to the wall.

My father's business, known by the black and gold sign over the entrance to the works- "J. &.A. Browning. Joiners, Cartwrights, And Smiths. Van and Lorry Builders." While on the other entrance to the mill. "J .&. A. Browning, Saw Mill and Lumber Dealers," was a corresponding sign.

The mill entrance was situated at the and of Marchalls Lane, the City of Paisley, wanted to extend this Lane through to another block, and bought the right of way through the mill, to make a new street, my father to retain the machinery. To build a new mill, to place this machinery, was considered seriously, a doubtful course when business was so dull, and the outlook so dreary.

About this- time my- Uncle Lawrie's shawl warehouse, a three story stone building Located in the "sneddon" in Paisley, burnt to the ground. Although it was insured the outlook was quite discouraging, and did not warrant his rebuilding and starting business all over again.

Naturally the two families conferred with each other, my Aunt Lawrie being my Father's sister. And there was some talk of our all going to South Africa, which was booming of the great finds of gold and diamonds there. But somehow a pamflet ( pamphlet) about Sarasota in Florida, America, got into Uncle Lawrie's possession written by a promoter named Tate. This was shown our family, it looked so promising they got in communication with the author, who had inveigled some other well to do families into the signing of papers to go there and establish a first class colony and call it the "Ormiston" Colony, after an estate of Sir John Gillespie, somewhere near Edinburgh.

Our enlisting in this project was of course, to better our circumstances so flatteringly put before us, headed by Sir John Gillespie, the Archbishop of Canterbury ,as well as the Dean of Guild Edinburgh. All gentlemen.

Mr. Tate was a nephew of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Noon of these gentlemen had ever been in Florida, which may be an excuse for the prospectus written by Tate, to induce the gullible settlers to colonize part of their 60,000 acre investment In Florida and around Sarasota.

This land had been bought from Henry Disston mostly in Manatee County. And Tate promoted the idea of colonizing it with a Scotch colony, each enlisted family to buy forty acres of land and a town lot, thus selling part of their purchase. The colonists paying one hundred pounds sterling for this, also getting the advantage of a reduced fare on the Anchor Line steamer "Furnesssia" (Capt. Harris.) the largest, of their fleet, 5495 tons, 440 feet long, 45 feet wide, and 30 feet draft.

After due consideration the deal was made, and money paid with contracts signed to become part of the Colony.We advertised and sold by auction our household effects, and settled all our obligations, then exchanged a liberal amount of gold sovereigns all new money to be exchanged weight for weight in American gold, on arrival at New York.

Alex. Browning.
--March 21st 1932

Sarasota County Historical Archives and Research Center