James M. Denham


When the United States received Florida from Spain in 1821, one of the most obvious tools of instituting federal authority was the establishment of the American system of jurisprudence on the Florida frontier. Soon plans were under way to establish courts. During its territorial period (1821-1845) the national government in Washington provided Florida with its judicial officers. Presidents Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, and Polk served in the White House and each appointed federal judges, district attorneys, and marshals for the judicial districts. In 1822 Congress divided the territory at the Suwannee River into two judicial districts. Superior courts, organized primarily at the county level, began functioning immediately. Thereafter, judicial districts were created as population growth required. In 1824, for example, a Middle Judicial District encompassing the area between the Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers was added to the existent Eastern and Western districts. The Southern District followed in 1828. A decade later Congress created the Apalachicola District, which provided for meetings of superior courts in Washington, Jackson, Franklin, and Calhoun counties.