Richard Keith Call


Born into a prominent Virginia family, Richard Keith Call (1792-1862) came of age during an era defined by westward expansion. Perhaps more than any other single individual, Call influenced the development of the Florida territory and laid the groundwork for statehood.

 

After the passing of his mother and father, Call enrolled as a student in the Mount Pleasant Academy in northern Tennessee. In 1813, he volunteered to fight with Andrew Jackson’s army in the military campaign against the Creek Indians in Alabama and Georgia known as the Red Stick War (1813-14). Call remained with Jackson for the duration of the War of 1812 and served with distinction at the Battles of Pensacola and New Orleans (1814-15).

 

Miniature Portraits of Richard Keith Call and Mary Kirkman Call, ca. 1824  Images courtesy of Jane Aurell Menton 

Call continued his close association with Jackson throughout the First Seminole War (1817-18) and the acquisition of Florida from Spain (1819-21).

Their friendship extended beyond the battlefield. In 1824, Call married Mary Letitia Kirkman (1802-36) in a ceremony held at Jackson’s home, known as The Hermitage, near Nashville, Tennessee.

After briefly practicing law in Pensacola and serving one term as Florida’s territorial delegate to Congress, Call relocated to Tallahassee and assumed the position of Receiver in the Federal Land Office. This position afforded Call the opportunity to accumulate prime real estate and also influence the sale of newly opened public lands in the territory.

 

A Plan of the City of Tallahassee, ca. 1829.  Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida

In 1825, Call purchased 640 acres of just north of Tallahassee, the first of many land acquisitions in the 1820s-40s. Within several months, he built a wood-framed residence on the property, which later became known as The Grove, to shelter his growing family.

Call began construction on a second, larger home about 1835. Sadly, he suffered through a series of tragedies in the 1830s. Between 1832 and 1834, four young Call children succumbed to disease and, in 1836, his wife died. Despite experiencing great personal loss, Call completed construction on an impressive brick Greek Revival residence, today known as the Call/Collins House, by 1840.

Family Cemetery at The Grove, 1957.  Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida

After the passing of his wife and all but two of their children, Call devoted his life to politics and business.

He invested heavily in banking, railroads, and real estate development and amassed significant agricultural landholdings north of Tallahassee near Lake Jackson and south towards the Gulf of Mexico. At the time of his death, Call was one of the largest slaveholders in Florida.

He served two separate terms as territorial governor (1836-39 and 1841-44) and helped push Florida along the path towards statehood.

 

Plat of township 2 north 1 west, showing Lake Jackson and Orchard Pond plantations, 1853.  Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida

Call emerged as a vocal opponent of secession during the sectional crisis of the 1850s and early 1860s. On January 10, 1861, delegates from Florida’s secession convention walked from the State Capitol to The Grove to taunt Call after they had voted to secede.

Call reportedly confronted the secessionists and thundered that they had “opened the gates of hell,” which would “sink [them] to perdition!” As the Civil War raged on, Call died at The Grove on September 14, 1862.   

  

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Visitor Parking:

902 N. Monroe., Tallahassee, FL 32303

Visit

Sunday: Closed

Monday: Closed

Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday: House tours on the hour, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

Thursday: House tours on the hour, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

Friday: House tours on the hour, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

Saturday: House tours on the hour, 10, 11 a.m., Noon, 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

Group Tours: Tours for groups of ten (10) or more are available at $1.00 per guest. For group tours, please contact the museum in advance to make arrangements.

Grounds open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.