The old deed books within the office of the St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller contain documents about the rich heritage of the African American community of St. Johns County. In commemoration of Black History Month, St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller has published a virtual exhibit to showcase Black History.
Documents recorded by the clerk’s office show free Blacks purchased, sold, and mortgaged property. In other record books, it shows enslaved Blacks were bought, sold and mortgaged. The record books also contain manumission documents, which were legal documents that freed those enslaved.
When Florida became a United States territory in 1821, the District of East Florida encompassed the entire peninsula. All official recordings were done by the clerk’s office in St. Augustine. Documents pertaining to the Florida Keys, the Indian River, and Tampa Bay areas were all recorded by the clerk’s office in St. Augustine. In those early territorial days, the Seminoles were still conducting business on their own before restrictions were put in place by the U.S. Government. This exhibit will feature a few personal transactions by the Seminoles.
Residents brought their original documents to the clerk’s office to be recorded. Clerks transcribed the information verbatim into record books and returned the original document to its owner. The county’s deed books are composed of these official copies. Some people waited many years before bringing their documents to be entered into the clerk’s official records.