Robert (Captain Bob) Absalom Ivey

Robert (Captain Bob) Absalom Ivey

We continue today looking at the obituary of prominent Suwannee County and Branford pioneer Robert A. Ivey. Last week we left off with some examples of Ivey’s courage under fire and his quest against injustice and prejudice. I will remind the readers that the 1925 obituary has some outdated and now-racist language; I merely quote it and do not condone it.

Eric Musgrove

Eric Musgrove

“Another instance was when the town marshal had been murdered and the man who had committed the crime took refuge in the upper story of a building from which he and his friend engaged the towns-people in something of the proportions of a pitched battle. When the man with him had been shot, the murder (sic) called for a truce until the wounded man could be carried out to a doctor; and he left it to Captain Ivey to guarantee the conditions that those who went in for such purpose were unarmed, and that no attempt would be made to rush the building until they had withdrawn. When that had been carried through and after renewed effort to dislodge him had failed, Captain Ivey declared and prepared to put into execution a purpose to blow the building up with dynamite: and the murderer surrendered upon the assurance that Captain Ivey would personally undertake his protection against being lynched.

“A case showing his quality of even over-fairness (sic), coupled with the coolest bravery (but, withal, an incident that was certainly the greatest regret of his life) was when a young man in craze of drunkenness attempted to shoot him. The captain was an expert shot and with the other man’s gun aimed in purpose to fire, he shot the hand off that held it rather than make his own aim one of greater safety for himself. He then called a physician and had the hand dressed and also gave the man a check for $500.00. When probably only a second divided it from his own death, he made a decision that could not have been calculated of the moment, but rather measured him by Mencius’ definition of ‘a real man as one whose goodness is an unconscious part of himself’.

“He founded the town of Branford at the site of Roland’s (sic) Bluff (naming it after the home town of the late Henry B. Plant, Branford, Conn.); projected the railroad to that point from Live Oak, and was principally instrumental for interesting Mr. Plant in incorporating it into what became, in extension, the western line of the present Atlantic Coast Line railroad southward through the state, and he organized and successfully operated the first line of steamers on the Suwannee river. He donated the sites of the three churches, public school, camp meeting and cemetery site, also for the negro church, negro school and negro cemetery.

“He was the real discoverer of phosphate in Florida, having located them in the Luraville section of Suwannee county some two years prior to the discovery made further south.

“A successful farmer, merchant and naval stores operator, he made three fortunes by gauge of the times and literally gave them away in helping others. Withal his benefactions had nothing of the sense of sanctimoniousness; they did not take the form of any monument of charity raised to his own righteousness upon other men’s misfortunes. His consideration had only one exception, and that of himself.

“As he was in very fact the first citizen of Branford in sense of its founder, so he lived and died a leader in the esteem of its people.

“It was a singular testimonial of general regard when three ministers of as many different denominations took part in the funeral services for him.

“Also, following a eulogy pronounced at the grave-side by Reverend Mr. Kroft, that carried a feeling of appeal beyond the marked eloquence of its words, there was a touching tribute, which a colored minister humbly requested that he might make for the negroes of the community, and for which there was in very humbleness of its offering the greatness of devotion that could have no line of race.

“The course and influence of its living makes the life of such a man the touch of humanity with the infinite, expressed by Daniel Webster in declaring that ‘real goodness does not merely attach itself to this life, it points to another world’.”

Next week, a touching letter from a longtime associate of Robert Ivey…

Eric Musgrove can be reached at or 386-362-0564.

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