Francis Council Groom (Groomes)
1821 to 1864

The Union 2nd Florida Calvary aka Strickland’s Rangers (Raiders)

An Excerpt from the papers of Joseph A. Groom Sr. (1918-1992) of Wacissa and Tampa, FL

Updated by Joseph A. Groom Jr. , May 2011


      Francis Council Groom, the second son of Council (b.1786) and Elizabeth Lofton (b.1792, SC), left his home in Todd County, KY, in 1833, when he was 22 years old and traveled to Stewart County, GA, near the town of Lumpkin.  He had two Aunts (Daughters of his Grand Parents, Elijah Groom (Croom) and Caty Herring, living in Stewart County.   The Aunts were named Mary Groom Miller and Zeptha Ann Groom Crumbly.   Frances had eight siblings and all except one have recorded descendants with names, Watson, Clark, McGuirk, Gandy, Corcilas, Posey and of course Groom.   Frances’s parents along with his younger brother Andrew Jackson Groom lived out their lives in Coosa, County, AL and are buried there.
      While living in Stewart County, GA Frances met and married (1844) Catherine Elizabeth Adams (b. 1830, GA) daughter of Miles Adams and Ann Mayo.   In 1853 a group of people, including Frances and Elizabeth, moved from Stewart County, to Thomas County, GA.   They settled in an area about four miles north of the town of Boston.   About 1855, The Frances Groom family moved once again to the area of Camillia, Mitchell County, GA., where Frances purchased land and continued his lifelong role of Dirt Farmer.

     During 1863, Frances Groom found the political climate in Mitchell County too harsh to endure.  He was not a Confederate sympathizer and apparently just wanted to be left alone.  The pressure from his neighbors and the new laws that made military service mandatory, forced his hand, he sold his farm for 20 pieces of gold, packed his family and belongings and moved by wagon almost due south to the extreme southern part of Jefferson / Taylor County, FL. 

      Florida achieved statehood in 1845 which was about 20 years after the the great expansion of the cotton culture in the Southeastern Territories.  This resulted in a land boom in that part of Florida composed of clay hills and loam soil, this area became known as “Middle Florida”.  Most of the arable land in that part of Middle Florida that became Leon , Jefferson, Madison and Suwannee Counties was quickly acquired by the moneyed settlers who came from Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas.   These planters came prepared to practice agriculture in the grand manner of the cotton growing states and they brought their culture of slave ownership with them. Two things pushed Frances to the isolated southern tip of Jefferson County; 1st. Privacy and 2nd.  All the “good” land was already taken.

      The area where Frances settled was known as ‘Big Muddy” around a natural depression later called Groom Sink.  This was in an area just south of the village of Wacissa, near the old salt road from Magnolia to the St. Marks River.  In this isolated area, Frances found a community of other dissidents (many were deserters from the Confederate Army) who were called rogues, outlaws and henchmen by the more refined citizens of the Area.  Originally this rogue group just took advantage of any chance encounter that might fill there lauder but as time went by they became more organized and were eventually formed into a military unit let by another deserter, William Strickland.  Frances Groomes name is found on the roster of this unit and the story of his transition from henchman to regular soldier is quiet interesting.

       The group of renegades who later became Strickland’s Rangers had been a constant (if minor) problem for the district military commander in Tallahassee.   Many actions had been taken to try and round up the rogues with very little success.   Early in 1864 an order was circulated offering pardon any outlaw who would join the Confederate Army and serve their country.   If not, you would be shot on sight, your property would be seized or destroyed and your family would be held accountable for your actions.  History does not record how many men took this offer but the actions of the Confederates indicate that most did not.   The homes of Francis Groom and about twenty other men were destroyed and the families were arrested and transported to Fort Smith, near Tallahassee.   One of the results of this action was that  Frances traveled to St. Simmons,  GA., where a Union Regiment held a toehold on the coast of Georgia, Frances changed from a volunteer local militiaman to a professional soldier by joining the Regular Union Army.  Frances was transported by ship around Florida to the Union camp at Cedar Key, FL.  This unit was assigned the duty of disrupting the salt making operations going on along the gulf coast.

 After several weeks in Cedar KeyFrances was stricken with dysentery and died. He was buried in the military cemetery on Cedar Key.  (On a sad note, this cemetery was laid out on one of the barrier islands and has been almost totally lost to storm erosion.)

      After a short incarceration, the wives of Strickland’s Rangers petitioned the Governor of Florida saying, “They were not responsible for their husband’s political leanings but their husbands were responsible for supporting them and their children”.   Whether the Governor was moved by their words or because they were desperately short on provisions, he petioned for the release of the prisoners.  In Elizabeth’s case the trip home was even more daunting, she had heard about Frances being at Ceder Key, so she secured a mule and wagon and started off for the Key.   There were no roads and very few bridges so the trip from Tallahassee to Cedar Key could take a week or longer.   As Elizabeth was passing thru Taylor County, she received news that Frances had died. With no reason to continue, she began to look for a place to settle. Just west of Perry, FL., the now fatherless family found an abandoned house that was fully provisioned and she decided to settle in. Several days later Samuel Blue arrived and reclaimed his house.  He had recently lost his wife and had been staying with relatives who could help care for his young children.  Apparently an agreement was reached that Elizabeth would care for Samuel’s children in exchange for room and board.  Out of this agreement came the marriage of Elizabeth and Samuel Blue within a year.   One child was born to this family, Melinda Blue (born 1868). Samuel’s oldest son, Colin married (1865)  Elizabeth ’s oldest daughter, Ann.   From this union came a large family and the beginning of the relationship of the Groom/Blue families of Taylor and Jefferson Counties.  

I don’t think that Frances and Elizabeth are heroes in the classic sense. I think they were simple farm people who were caught up in events that were probably way over their heads, there is no evidence that Frances could read or write.   The Groom and Blue families both owned slaves, they both probably rustled some cattle and they probably did whatever was necessary to put food on the table.  They were survivors and for that I am eternally grateful.  

 Francis Groom Family Group Sheet page 1            Page 2




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