Switzerland New Switzerland St. Johns County, Florida
St. Johns River
Switzerland, Florida is a unincorporated community in St. Johns County, Florida, adjacent to Fruit Cove. The approximate population of Switzerland is 18,063. Switzerland is situated on the eastern bank of the St. Johns River, across from Green Cove Springs and Middleburg in Clay County, and is south of Jacksonville, Florida (Duval County)."
Switzerland got its name from the New Switzerland Plantation that was located here in the late 1700s until 1812 when the plantation buildings were destroyed during the East Florida patriot revolt in 1812.
Fatio Francis Phillip Fatio, Sr. (1724 - 1811) a Swiss native, brought his family, slaves and personal posessions here shortly after Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain in 1763. Francis Phillip Fatio became resident manager at New Castle in 1771 (New Castle was located in what today is the Arlington, Jacksonville neighborhood.) He was a citizen of France, Sardinia (his wife's homeland), and England, before moving to Florida in 1771.
John Moultrie stopped at New Castle in November 1772. Moultrie was acting governor of the province at the time and touring plantations along the St. Johns River. He informed Governor Grant that "At Fatio's (Neuf Chatel) is a good growth of every sort of plantation produce, but not enough planted, & not managed to the best advantage, though exceedingly anxious & industrious, & fond of making money. They are young planters, & I think will do well next year, as they are now more knowing and are preparing very good fields."
William Bartram traveled to New Castle. He described the estate as a "very large Indigo Plantation, on a high Hill on E side of the River. This very civil gentleman [Fatio] shewed me his improvements. His Garden is very neat & contains a greater variety than any other in the Coliny. He has a variety of European Grapes imported from the Streight, Olives, Figs, Pomgranates, Filberts, Oranges, Lemons, a variety of garden flowers, from Europe &c."
After obtaining a crown grant of 10,000 acres in this area, Fatio imported materials from England and built a country estate where he lived the life of a frontier baron. The plantation buildings were destroyed during the East Florida patriot revolt in 1812. New Switzerland Plantation was located east of the St. Johns River and south of properties granted to James Johnson and Dr. Henry Cunningham. A tract owned by Marmaduke Bell bounded on the south, as did a place called "DaPoppen Fort," or Popo Point. New Switzerland was surveyed in 1769 for partners Thomas Dunnage and John Francis Rivas, London merchants, and Francis Phillip Fatio.
Fatio was a native of Switzerland, and at various times a citizen of France, Sardinia (his wife's homeland), and England. Enroute to his first East Florida residence, New Castle Plantation, Fatio's schooner ran aground on a sand bar at the entrance to the St. Johns River. Lt. Governor John Moultrie thought it noteworthy that the schooner was loaded with an ample supply of fine European wines and furniture and an extensive library, all destined for Fatio's personal use.
Fatio moved to the 10,000-acre New Switzerland Plantation sometime in 1774, leaving David Courvoisier as resident manager at New Castle. New Switzerland extended south from near Cunningham Creek to Popo Point and Hallowes Cove. The partners expended £2,430 for eighteen enslaved Africans and put them to work clearing and constructing buildings. Between 1771 and 1776 expenditures on the estate totaled just under £5000 Sterling, but the estate produced steady income from 1772 to 1784. Two hundred thirty acres of high ground were cleared, fenced and planted, along with rice fields fed by a fresh water source, and a valuable orange grove. Cypress swamps and thousands of acres of pine land provided naval stores and timber supplies. Alexander Morrison leased land at four of the partners tracts in the 1780s. The partners also bought a 200-acre tract that adjoined New Switzerland granted in 1767 to Robert Hawks. A dwelling had been erected and eight acres cleared by the time Fatio purchased it. In 1778, Isaac Rivas purchased 5,000 acres that adjoined on the north of New Switzerland. With the addition of this tract, New Switzerland Plantation exceeded 15,000 acres.
In 1784 and 1785, when Great Britain ceded the province to Spain and evacuated most of its residents, Fatio purchased the real estate and buildings from his partners and held a public auction of personal property they held in common, including fifty slaves sold in family units for a net price of £1,686. Among the men sold were sawyers, squarers, field laborers, and a cooper (the latter sold for £71 Sterling). A cook, a young female house servant and several field hands were among the women sold. Indigo and provisions fields, rice fields with a supply of fresh water, orchards and citrus groves, naval stores equipment and improvements, and an elaborate network of buildings remained in place under Fatio's ownership after the British government evacuated.
Fatio's two-story dwelling house measured thirty-by-forty feet, with piazzas, balconies and festive rooms, and a large external kitchen with a brick chimney and oven. Built at a cost of £800, it was an elaborate and expensive house for the time. There was also a dwelling for overseers, a covered house for carriages, a warehouse, work shops for carpenters and blacksmiths, a hospital for the laborers, corn and fowl houses, and a turpentine shed with a tabby floor. Somewhere on the property the proprietor found beds of clay for production of blue and red bricks.
The recollections of one of Fatio's twenty-four grandchildren provide further detail about the dwelling house at New Switzerland. "The grounds were very extensive and they had avenues of oranges and limes of miles in length, arbors of myrtle and all sorts of sweet flowers growing spontaneously. The house was very large and one wing was devoted to the library and study. The library was very large containing all the most valuable works in French, English and Italian literature. The books were disposed in alcoves and the windows curtained with green silk fringed with gold. In each recess was placed a small table of white marble and some large porcelain vases were kept in the room for flowers which were every day renewed...."
Louise Fatio Louisa (Maria Philipa Patricia) Fatio was the oldest of seven children of Francis Phillip Fatio, Jr., (1760-1831), . She was a lifelong resident of Florida, having been born on the family’s 10,000 acre plantation. In 1836 after Seminole Indians burned the plantation house, she moved into St. Augustine and began operating a boarding house. She purchased the property at 22 Aviles Street in 1855. For the twenty years of her ownership and operation, the Fatio House was highly regarded as one of St. Augustine’s outstanding inns. Distinguished visitors included Abijah Gilbert, who served as a Reconstruction senator from Florida in 1866 and nieces of James Fenimore Cooper, including Constance Fenimore Woolson, an accomplished author herself.
Louisa Fatio was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church throughout her residency in St. Augustine. She died in 1875 and was buried at New Switzerland in the Fatio family cemetery.
Second Seminole War (from John Lee Williams The Territory of Florida) On the 16th of July 30 warriors passed between Picolata and St. Augustine and proceeded rount the head of Six Mile Creek to New Switzerland. Col. Hallowes and one other white person resided at the plantation. Some little negro children ran into the house early in the morning, and cried that the Indians were in the grove. Col. Hallowes arose and dressed himself, and sent one of his slaves to the next plantation, about two miles below, for several of his negroes who were at work; soon after, while standing in his hall, he was laid senseless by a ball which passed through his ear and struck his skull. He soon recovered, and he and the other person with some of the negroes, ran out of the house, leaped into a boat and pushed from the shore, amidst a shower of balls. The negroes below had entered their boat and pushed from the shore, when they discovered an Indian with one of their fellow-servants running down the shore to intercept them; they crossed the river and joined their master, when they discovered the steamboat Essayon, Captain Peck, coming out of Black Creek; they entered the boat, and were conveyed to Picolata. Col. Hallowes' wound proved not to be dangerous.
Switzerland Baptist Church, 1892 This was a white congreation established with ties to the Southern baptist Convention in 1892. The first services were held in the school house across the road from where the church was finally built. The service was held only one Sunday a month with Sunday School being held every Sunday afternoon. The buildin was erected in 1894. The building was an unpainted rectangular frame building. The first pastor was the Rev. robert McGlvain from 1892-1893. The pastor from 1917-1920 was Rev. Harry M. Swain. The church no longer exists today.
Switzerland Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1894 This church was organized in 1894 with services held once a month in the Switzerland Baptist Church. Sunday school was held every Sunday. The first pastor was Rev. M. F. Dukes in 1894-1895. The closing pastor was Rev. Blackwell from 1932-1934.
Death of a Wonderful Woman with a Wonderful History (Bradford County Telegraph, March 15, 1895) The death of Mrs. Susan L'Engle, which occured at Jacksonville a few days ago, takes away one who has long been intimately associated with the makers of the history of East Florida. Born on the banks of the St. Johns river, nearly ninety years ago, Mrs. L'Engle has seen the state develop from a wilderness to its present importance.
With a wonderfully receptive and retentive memory, there was nothing bearing upon the history of the state upon which she was not informed. In 1771 her grandfather, Francis Philip Fatio, Esq., a retired officer of the Swiss army, residing in England, obtained large grants of land in Florida, to which country he then removed with his family. He established his principal residence in St. Augustine, his plantation being at New Switzerland, on the St. Johns river, near Remington Park, where he died in 1811. Her father, Francis Philip Fatio, Jr., was educated in England, and entered the British army at an early age, becaming a captain in the celebrated Sixtieth regiment, in which he served during the Revolutionary war. His father's health becoming becoming impaired, Captain Fatio resigned his commission and undertook the management of the plantations in Florida. He married there, in 1802, Miss Mary Ledbetter, daughter of Col Drury Ledbetter, of Virginia, their second daughter, Susan, was born September 16, 1806.
The early years of Mrs. Susan L'Engle's life were passed with her parents and grand-parents, at their homes in St. Augustine and New Switzerland, during the stirring times of the war of 1812 and the years preceding the purchase of Florida by the United States. In 1812, while the family were living at New Switzerland, the house was attacked by a band of Seminole Indians, the family barely escaping with their lives. Taking refuge in St. Marys, Ga., Captain Fatio afterwards resided in that place and in Fernandina until 1818 when he removed to his plantation on Pablo creek, a few miles north of the point where that stream is crossed by the Jacksonville and Atlantic railroad. The family returned until the death of Captain Fatio, in 1831.
Mrs L'Engle married in 1830 Lieutenant (afterwards captain) John L'Engle, of the Third United States Artillery, and for several years resided successively in St. Augustine and Charleston, S. C. , at which places her husband was stationed. In 1889 Captain L'Engle resigned from the army and shortly after settled in Jacksonville, where his family has since resided. Captain L'Engle died in 1894, and Mrs. Susan L'Engle has since lived with her daughter, Mrs. L. I. Fleming.
Switzerland Community Church, 1936 The church was organized as a non-denominational church in 1936. It was located 1 mile south of Post office on Road 47. The church had a white membership. By 1940 this church had disappeared. The building that the church was located in was built in 1894. It was a rectangular, unpainted frame building. The first pastor was George Bryand from 1936-1937 followed by Rev. E. E. Swearingen in 1940.