FL-GenWeb Digital Library and Archives
Desoto Co. Biographies
Britt, William F.
Transcribed from: The History of Florida: Past & Present, The Lewis Publishing Co., Vol.
III, page 312, 1923.
BRITT, WILLIAM F. No one citizen has contributed in greater measure to the substantial
up building and civic development of the fine little City of Arcadia, county seat of De Soto
County, than has Mr. BRITT, whose progressive enterprise has here touched diverse lines of
constructive activity, his own attractive residence here being at 108 South Manatee Avenue.
Mr. BRITT was born in Crawford County, Georgia, on the 16th of May, 1852, and is a son of
HENCHEN and ELIZABETH (MATHEWS) BRITT, the former of whom was born at Washington, Georgia,
and the latter in Edgefield District, South Carolina. The father served two years as a
member of a command of light artillery in the Civil war, and was a gallant soldier of the
Confederacy. After the war he continued his farming operations in Georgia until 1883, when
he moved to Russ County, Texas, where both he and his wife passed the remainder of their
lives and where both died in the year 1907, when well advanced in years.
WILLIAM F. BRITT was a lad of nine years at the outbreak of the Civil war, and while his
father was at the front as a Confederate soldier the Union forces under General Sherman made
their historic raid through Georgia and left naught but waste and destruction in the locality
where the BRITT home was then established. Mr. BRITT as a youth was able to contribute his
share to the rebuilding of the prostrate southern industries that had suffered through the
devastations of the Civil war, and he applied himself vigorously to farm work both on the
home place and elsewhere, the while he did not neglect the somewhat limited educational
privileges that were his portion. In 1874 he married, and thereafter he continued in farm
operations in Georgia until 1884, when he came to Polk County, Florida, and purchased ten
acres of unimproved land. On this place he planted 1,040 orange trees, which were beginning
to bear when the disastrous freeze wrought havoc in March, 1890. This entailed financial
loss to him, and he soon sold his place and removed to that part of Manatee County that is
now included in De Soto County. Here he purchased a hotel at Arcadia, a property which he
rented. He also bought city lots and improved the same, he having built fifty-one tenant
houses, and having erected also fifty-seven houses which he sold to home seekers, on deferred
payments. In addition to his successful and important activities as a contractor and builder
Mr. BRITT has dealt also in citrus-grove properties in this section of the state, and his
individual prosperity has been marked by his unselfish civic stewardship, which has found
expression in many ways. In 1913 he erected at Arcadia the Magnolia Hotel, at a cost of
$5,000, and in the following year he sold this property for $10,000. As a contractor and
builder his activities extended beyond local limitations, and in the moving of houses his
equipment and service are in demand over a district fifty miles in radius for his home place.
He is a stalwart advocate of the principles of the democratic party, is affiliated with the
Modern Woodmen of America, and he is a member of the Primitive Baptist Church.
January 4, 1874, recorded the marriage of Mr. BRITT and Miss MARY EDNA SEAGLER, who was born
in Crawford County, Georgia, a daughter of JOEL and MARY (WEBB) SEAGLER. The death of Mrs.
BRITT occurred August 16, 1890, and of the children the first, MARY, died at the age of two
years; IOLA is the wife of J. L. DENT, of Macon, Georgia; BENJAMIN H. resides at Arcadia,
Florida; ELIZABETH is the wife of JOHN J. HINSON, of Miami, this state; JOSEPH died December 2,
1903, at the age of twenty-one years; VANDERBILT is a resident of Nocatee, De Soto County;
and ANNIE, the widow of W. G. GAY, resides at Dallas, Texas, where she is in the employ of
the United States Government.
On the 9th of July, 1900, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. BRITT and Miss ELLA SEAGLER,
who was born in Crawford County, Georgia, and who is a sister of his first wife. Of this
marriage were born three children: FRANCES ELLA is a popular teacher in the public schools;
GEORGE died at the age of nineteen months; and WILIAM FRANKLIN is the youngest member of the parental home circle.
Transcribed by Nancy Rayburn
©2016 Fran Smith
This page presented August 14, 2010