Nassau County's Revolutionary Soldiers' Graves

The burial sites of Revolutionary soldiers John Vaughan and Amos Latham are on Amelia Island and Burris Higginbotham is in the county.

Amelia Island Chapter Honors Burris Higginbotham
for Patriot's Day 2004

On April 17, 2004, Jean Mann, Florida State Regent and members of the Amelia Island Chapter remembered Patriot Burris Higginbotham in a wreath-laying ceremony at his grave in Evergreen Cemetery, the family's private burial ground in Nassau County. Several of his descendants were in attendance.

Read more about this Revolutionar Soldier.

Amos Latham, 1st Keeper of the Amelia Lighthouse

Amos Latham was born on July 16, 1761, and died in 1842. He is buried in Bosque Bello Cemetery. He served as a Corporal in the 1st Connecticut Regiment. He moved from the north to Amelia Island in 1842 and became the lighthouse keeper on Cumberland Island. He also served as the first lighthouse keeper on Amelia Island. A plaque to his memory was dedicated at the Amelia Lighthouse.

On April 16, 2003, the Amelia Island Chapter DAR held a Ceremony for a First Patriot to honor Latham on Patriot's Day. Several of his decendents were in attendence. Regent Gloria Toomey explained the significance of Patriot's Day and Librarian Nancy Sturges shared her research of Latham's biography. A wreath was presented by Vice Regent Sue Hutchinson and Chaplain Ella Toland gave the opening prayer and benediction.


On January 26, 2000, the Amelia Island Chapter honored John Vaughan with a wreath-laying ceremony.

Mary Beth Litrico wrote a two-part series on Vaughan and it is reprinted here in its entirety.

Part one of two in the Winter 1999 Issue of the "Amelia Now" Guide to Amelia Island, Florida. www.amelianow.com

MONUMENT TO A SOLDIER: JOHN D. VAUGHAN

By Mary Beth Litrico

SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN D. VAUGHAN

BORN IN BOSTON, MASS., MARCH 13, 1763

DIED IN NASSAU COUNTY, FLORIDA

APRIL 16, 1860

AGED 97 YEARS

Quietly eroding for over a century, these words barely remain on a six-foot tall stone obelisk, some five miles from town on the south end of Amelia Island. Who was this gentleman yankee, now eternally resting while life hurries by on route A1A?

John Vaughan was born to Henry Vaughan, Jr. and Mary Humphrey Vaughan in New England. His mother's family was considered one of the "most conspicuous families" in Boston. His father's side traces back to Dorchester (later annexed to Dedham) in 1736 and is thought to hail directly from England or Wales.

Young John, loyal to his family's new land, was eager to preserve his country's resistance to tyranny and oppression. On January 2, 1777, the fourteen-year old gave his age as sixteen to enlist as a private in Captain Wiley's company in Regiment No. 8, commanded by Colonel Jackson of the Massachusetts line. He served the United States "for a term during the war." His regiment fought at the battle of Saratoga and later in the main army of General Washington in New Jersey. It's possible that John Vaughan was with Washington at Valley Forge after the defeat at Germantown in December, 1777.

Although honorably discharged at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Private Vaughan remained eager to serve the United States and rejoined the military. This time he fought in the Indian War under Colonel Hamer's regiment in the Company of Captain Pierce, mostly in Pennsylvania. John Vaughan was getting closer to Amelia Island.

Service to his country brought him on January 10, 1795, to Augusta, Georgia, as a "Lieutenant of the Department of the militia at Burnt Fort." This duty was to last a year, during which he discovered a new interest, a bride, Rhoda Effingham. Her family would give the yankee soldier another interest, plantation lifestyle. Miss Effingham's uncle, Thomas Harvey Miller, owned a plantation at Peter's Point, Georgia, near St. Mary's. Her mother, Pharaba Miller, was related by marriage to General Nathanael Greene's widow.

General Greene had received the deed to Dungeness, the southern portion of Cumberland Island, for distinguished service during the Revolutionary War. John Vaughan would not only receive land from the United States government for his service in the Revolutionary and Indian wars; he would receive land from another government in the form of two Spanish Land Grants. 

At some unknown time, Mr. Vaughan added the middle initial, "D," to his full name, perhaps to eliminate confusion with other John Vaughans. Revolutionary War pension records list more than one bearing the name "John Vaughan." Spanish Land Grant records show John D. Vaughan claims through his agent, Edward R. Gibbons (Gibson), 250 acres on Amelia Island, bounded on the north by lands of Antonio Suarez and on the south by John Edward, a grant of 3/4/1797, by Governor White. Royal title granted by Governor Coppinger. On these acres, John D. Vaughan settled with his wife, Rhoda, and established a plantation known as the "Old Nest."

Old Nest was one of several plantations on Amelia Island in the early 1800s. Like his neighbors, Mr. Vaughan had success with sea island cotton, a more profitable crop than "short staple" cotton because of its longer fibers.

In 1812, John D. Vaughan left the comfort of his Old Nest plantation for military service. Though his home was in Spanish East Florida, he also owned land in Georgia and retained American citizenship. He was almost 50 years old at the time and served in the army until the end of the war. He then returned to his sea island cotton plantation.

Exact numbers are disputed, but the Vaughan plantation was of substantial size. Family history, perhaps out of pride, tells one story, while government records another.

Agnes Beville Vaughan Tedcastle states in her family history book, The Beville Family, (printed in Boston in 1917) that John D. Vaughan and his son, Daniel, owned some five hundred slaves between them. Although no slaves were named in Mr. Vaughan's will, Miss Tedcastle believes that none were listed because the large number made it "well-nigh impossible to mention them individually."

On the other hand, the Spanish government, in their 1814 Census of Spanish East Florida, lists a "Juan (John) VAUGHAN" as age 45 [actually he was 51], his wife age 40 and one son in the age 16-25 range. Maybe John only "looked" 45. As well, 10 slaves were listed, none in age ranges over 40 years.

Sixteen years later, the U. S. Government gave similar figures. After its organization as a county six years prior, Nassau County conducted a census in 1830. The entry of John D. VAUGHAN lists 1 male aged 60-70, 1 female aged 50-60, and 37 slaves. Perhaps after the Slave Embargo of 1808, Mr. Vaughan took advantage of Amelia Island's slave-smuggling opportunities and convinced the Spanish and United States governments of lower numbers.

John D. Vaughan's monument lies in a wooded family plot on the south end of Amelia Island.

HE BLED FOR LIBERTY AND BEQUEATHED AS A LEGACY TO HIS POSTERITY RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY AND OPPRESSION. PEACE TO THE ASHES OF THE TRULY GREAT.
-Printed on the north side of the monument

WHEN IN COMING YEARS THE STRANGER SHALL READ THIS EPITAPH, REMEMBER THAT THIS MONUMENT MARKS THE SPOT OF ONE WHO LIVED IN TIMES WHICH TRIED MEN’S SOULS, AND THAT HE ASSISTED IN BEQUEATHING TO YOU THE RICH LEGACY YOU NOW ENJOY. SACRED BE THE SPOT.
-Printed on the south side of monument

Part two of two in the Spring 2000 Issue of the "Amelia Now" Guide to Amelia Island, Florida. www.amelianow.com.


MONUMENT TO A SOLDIER:
John D. Vaughan

By Mary Beth Litrico

John D. Vaughan entrenched himself as a planter at his Amelia Island plantation after serving his country in the War of 1812. His large plantation required the work of over 500 slaves. Family documents state this number comes from "authentic records," but census records taken in the area around this time list smaller numbers. This discrepancy is noted in part one of this story.

Regardless, Mr. Vaughan would acquire even more land in the form of a Spanish Land Grant. Located off the island, a plat of 950 acres at Lofton  Creek on the Nassau River was certified by Jorge G. F. Clarke for J. D. Vaughan in December of 1816. Though in 1824, records show Mr. Clarke still making depositions in behalf of his employer for this land. The volatile governments (Spanish, United States, Patriots, MacGregor and Luis Aury) in power from 1812 to 1821 must have made record keeping difficult. In fact, the total amount of land John Vaughan owned is unknown, due to poorly kept records. Records for 1200 Spanish Land Grant acres mentioned in this story can be found in the Florida State Archives.

John D. Vaughan also received land from the government of the United States for his military service. On June 4, 1833, claiming to be "seventy" years old (Mr. Vaughan had claimed to be two years older to enlist at only 14 years of age), he appeared before a Justice of the Peace in Washington, D.C., desiring to receive the bounty land "promised" him by the United States for his Revolutionary service. Then in March of 1856 when he was "ninety-three" years old, he made known his desire to receive a bounty land warrant for his service during the Indian War before a Justice of the Peace in Nassau County. Although the warrant records 100 acres, the location is not mentioned. Still, 100 more acres of free land is a desirable asset.

This gentleman yankee planter also played a part in our local history. In 1823, John D. Vaughan and his wife, Rhoda, were involved in the first civil court case in Duval County. (Nassau County was a part of Duval at the time.) The Vaughans were defendants in a case versus Ephriam Harrison. Mr. Harrison sued the Vaughans over the death of a mare and foal which trespassed on the Vaughan property. A neighbor, Mr. Suarez, searched the Vaughans' slave quarters and found possible evidence, a bayonet and a rusty sword. He then apparently threatened a confession out of one of the slaves, and the jury did find the Vaughans guilty of Mr. Harrison's civil charges. Compensation was made. A vast plantation such as the Old Nest, (or Mount Hope, as listed in official records), had plenty of room and economy for raising children. Three are listed in John D. Vaughan's last will and testament: Daniel Vaughan, his oldest son, William Vaughan, his second and youngest son, and Jane Pharaba Cooper, his only daughter.

In the last years of his life, John D. Vaughan would gain land, but lose a child. Daniel Vaughan, born in 1800, died while his father was still alive in 1856. He spent his life at Mount Hope and managed it for several years before his accidental death during a steamboat explosion off of St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Daniel's portion of Mr. Vaughan's will went to his widow, Eliza Vaughan. He is buried in the Vaughan plot where the obelisk stands.

John D. Vaughan's determination to fight for liberty and against tyranny continued in his grandchildren. John James Vaughan, son of Daniel, was born in September of 1835. Like two of his brothers, Horace Daniel and Franklin Decatur, he would serve the Confederate States of America in the First Florida Regiment. Though John James would survive, his brothers did not. John James must have been carrying all the Vaughan luck, as he not only survived attack; he survived being wounded nine times. According to family history, he went to Cuba after the Civil War to serve in the ten-year rebellion there. He died in Florida in 1914.

Not only did John D. Vaughan suffer the loss of a child; he also suffered widowhood. That this yankee soldier loved his southern lady and the beautiful land of his plantation is confirmed by recollections of his great-great-granddaughter. Mary Vaughan Scott, only eleven years old at the time of his death, remembered that her beloved great-great-grandfather would be carried to the river "in the arms of his faithful slaves where he would sit and fish for hours." Ms. Scott recollected another personal time of her beloved ancestors. His last request was that he be buried in the same grave with his beloved wife who had preceded him in death.

ALMOST THE LAST OF THE HEROES OF THE REVOLUTION, HIS LIFE FADED CALMLY. IT WAS MARKED BY ALL THOSE VIRTUES WHICH ADORN A HERO, EVENTFUL AND DETERMINED. HE LIVED RESPECTED. HE DIED BELOVED. -Printed on the west side of monument

Printed notes indicate this part of the obelisk's etched epitaph was signed "Rhoda, His Wife," though other research states she died before her husband. Furthermore, the fact that he left nothing to Rhoda in his last will and testament confirms she died before he did.

Though dead for over a century, John D. Vaughan was still honored by his family and patriotic organizations. On May 8, 1927, the "Florida Times-Union" reported a tribute to John D. Vaughan for his military service. Four generations of his family were in attendance, including Mary Vaughan Scott, as well as National Daughters of 1812, State of Florida, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 79 year-old Charles G. Mann, the only living veteran of the Civil War on Amelia Island. Following an opening address and unveiling of a marker by the obelisk, Mrs. Hugh J. McCallum, a relative, read a sketch of John D. Vaughan's life.  Over 70 years later, the Amelia Island chapter of the DAR paid a similar tribute to this respected man. On January 26, 2000, after a DAR gathering in Fernandina Beach, members laid a wreath to honor the Revolutionary soldier's grave. This same chapter sponsored an historical marker downtown that commemorates Revolutionary battle on Amelia Island. After two centuries John D. Vaughan is not forgotten. May it ever be.

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