Richard Keith Call


Born to a prominent Virginia family, Richard Keith Call (1792-1862) came of age during and participated in an era defined by Indian Removal and the expansion of plantation slavery in the American South. Perhaps more than any other single individual, Call influenced Florida's political and economic development before 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 left school and served in Andrew Jackson’s army against the Creek Indians in Alabama and Georgia during the Red Stick War (1813-14).

Call remained with Jackson's army and participated in 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 grew close to Jackson during the First Seminole War (1817-18) and the acquisition of Florida from Spain (1819-21). In 1824, he married Mary Letitia Kirkman (1802-36) at Jackson’s home, known as The Hermitage, near Nashville, Tennessee.

Call moved to Pensacola, Florida in about 1821 or 1822. He practiced law there and served one term as Florida’s territorial delegate to Congress (1823-25). In 1825, Call, his wife, and ten enslaved people relocated to Tallahassee. The Calls purchased The Grove property, which originally contained 640 acres, situated just north of Tallahassee in township 1 north, range 1 west.

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

Over the next two decades, Call purchased skilled enslaved workers to run his brickyard, railroad, and mercantile operations. He also developed several properties in the Florida Panhandle, including the Port of St. Marks and Port Leon. Call continued to practice law and served two terms as Florida's territorial governor (1836-39 and 1841-44).

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

Between 1832 and 1834, four Call children succumbed to disease and, in 1836, Mary Kirkman Call died. Of the six Call children born between 1825 and 1835, only Ellen Call Long (1825-1905) and Mary Call Brevard (1835-1920) survived into adulthood.

In the mid-to-late 1830s Call began construction on a two-story masonry residence, located in the southeastern quadrant of his property. Enslaved craftspeople completed the home in about 1840.

Call deeded the house, 190 acres, and seven enslaved people to daughter Ellen Call Long in 1851, where she resided until her death in 1905. Today, the home is known as the Call-Collins House.

Family Cemetery at The Grove, 1957. Photo 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.

Portrait of Richard Keith Call commissioned by his great-granddaughter Mary Call Collins in the late 1950s.

When members of the secession delegation arrived at the steps of the home, Call reportedly confronted them 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

Wednesday, Thursday, and 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.

Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday

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.