Those Menorcan Settlers

Wow! My post about genealogy, which I reluctantly wrote even though I thought no one would care, really generated a lot of interest and interesting conversations! Quite a few folks shared their stories on my Facebook page, but the one that was most thought-provoking came from my friend Kathy, who is an anthropologist. Thanks to her, it became clear the story I shared last time is really not as benevolent as it sounded from the first summary I’d read! 

The cover of the novel about the niece of the man who capured the Menorcans

Kathy has a way better account than mine, and her researcher instincts started her digging into the story of the Menorcans who were brought over to settle New Smyrna in Floriday. After she shared some findings, my friend Lynn, who went to high school with me, told us SHE is also descended from those folks (that makes two high school friends who turn out to be distant relatives, even though none of us was really from the city we went to high school in).

Anyway, here’s what Kathy sent me on Facebook:

Oh Sue Ann, the story of your ancestors in New Smyrna is so fascinating. There’s even a novel you can access online, published in 1897, set in New Smyrna and featuring the niece of Dr. Andrew Turnbull, the guy who tricked your ancestors into leaving their Mediterranean island home to go to Florida, then enslaved them. I left a message on your blog post. Send me an email and I will email the newspaper article I found to you. Here’s the link to the novel: Susan Turnbull

The book Kathy referred to goes into great detail about how creepy Susan Turnbull was and how awfully they treated the slaves. I can’t wait to read more of it. Plus, there’s a sequel, which I have ordered: Ballyho Bey; or, the power of woman. A sequel to “Susan Turnbull.”

Kathy also sent me a couple of newspaper articles about Turnbull and his Menorcan captives. 

An article from 1913 said, Turnbull was the “original Florida land shark,”  who took advangage of opportunities during a brief period in the 1700s when Florida “belonged to” England (it later went back to Spain). (H.I. Hamilton: “New Smyrna of the Past and As It Appears Today,” The New Smyrna News, September 19, 1913)

A 1914 article from the same newspaper said Turnbull wanted to create a huge indigo plantation, and his intention was to “allure Greeks and other Europeans, many of them people of refinement, into colonization and reduce them to slavery.”

The first article makes a big deal about the fact that these were WHITE people. Sigh. A slave’s a slave and it is all bad! But it’s interesting to think that some of my ancestors, who escaped slavery to live in St. Augustine, later held slaves of their own.

More Menorcan descendents

It appears that when the Canovas escaped to St. Augustine things went well. My friend Mary reported that she grew up near “Canova Beach,” which was named after one of the Canova descedents, Carlos (the first engineering graduate from the  University of Florida!). The beach is near where the Indian River meets the Atlantic.

Judy Canova

Many of the family ended up in Green Cove Springs and Mandarin, Florida, not far from St. Augustine. My mom’s family ran a Canova Drug Store in Green Cove, founded by Dr. MJ Canova, who I believe is my third great grandfather. And we can’t forget the corn-fed comedy queen, Judy Canova, a member of the show-biz branch of the family (most well known to ME from a fried chicken commercial featuring the immortal Southern-accented words “And I helped”) and mother to Diana Canova, who was in Soap and other television shows.

My ancestors. This is in Green Cove Springs, Florida. left to right: Sidney Canova Anderson (my grandmother), Philip J Canova (great grandfather), Mary Susan Canova (great aunt), Frances Brown Canova (great grandmother), Laura Belle Canova Lazette (grandmother’s twin sister).

I mainly remember all my Canova great aunts and uncles. They were so genteel and educated, ranging from newspapermen to professional musicians. They came a long way.

Wow, thanks to all my friends who contributed to my family knowledge. I guess people DO like this topic.

NOW I’ll do more with my dad’s family, though I haven’t even touched other branches of Mom’s line!

Learn More

Canova Family Tree, by Frank Canova (my mother’s first cousin)

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

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