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Bicentennial Spotlight: Mosaic Connects 1821 To 2021

Escambia County

“1821: A Pensacola Sampler” is a project that seeks to identify every person that lived in the community 200 years ago, when Florida became a U.S. Territory and Escambia County became one of its two original counties. Organizers of the Bicentennial Celebration are now calling for present day residents to take part in the online mosaic phase of the project.

Celestino Gonzalez, Adele Noriega and, Josefa de Larua are just a few of the 2,276 people from 1821 that the West Florida Genealogical Society has been able to identify to date.

As part of the celebration of Florida's Territorial Bicentennial and the 200th Anniversary of Escambia County, the extensive information gathered about these individuals is being utilized to connect the people of Escambia County – then and now.

“Because we do see this as a 'people-to-people'  project. To that end, there’s going to be a mosaic of faces,” said Margo Stringfield, co-chair of the 200th Anniversary Commission. “And, the Mosaic of Faces is going to be something we’re hoping everyone really joins in to help represent and honor the people from 1821.”

This is where members of our modern day community come in. To join what’s being referred to as the “Faces of Escambia County – 1821 and 2021,” Stringfield says it takes just a little bit of action, by filling out a brief form on the “1821: A Pensacola Sampler” web page.

“Get your phone out and get someone to take your picture. And, you will upload it onto the form, it’s very simple to do. And, the mosaic, when it’s completed, will be everyone’s face — that sends in — smiling for our community, supporting our community.”

“So, when you load the website, you’ll see this mosaic, this grid of tiles, with a face on every tile,” said Joe Vinson, web designer for the online project.

“Clicking the tile, you’ll see the person’s name that you’re representing. You’ll see a short bio about that person and then you’ll have the opportunity to click into a page with even more information and that’s a page that you can then share with your friends and say, ‘Look, here’s who I’m representing.’”

The site also will provide different data breakdowns and information about the sources used to compile the information.

Vinson credits Erin Renfroe and Virginia Shelby, who led the research effort. For him, this personal project is a labor of love, stemming from his passion for local history since he worked at the Appleyard Agency.

“Of course, I caught the history bug from John Appleyard,” he said. “That inspired me to start the website, Pensapedia.  And, I have just really loved learning more and more about local history, and it was a real thrill to be invited to join this project and to help make a website for all this great research that the West Florida Genealogy Society has created.”

Vinson says their goal was to have the web-based interactive mosaic ready for release at least a month ahead of the date of the actual 200th anniversary on July 17. He says it could be ready for release within a couple of weeks. But, that doesn’t mean the project will be finished.

“When it is launched, we’re only going to have a fraction of those individuals claimed,” he noted. “There will still be plenty of people who have not been represented. So, we want, not just before the actual anniversary, but all year, if needed, for people to sign up and represent all of those individuals.”

And, to be representative of all the 1821 residents, including unnamed enslaved people, it will be important to have diversity in the present-day participation.

“Now, what we would have representing people of color, with no name, is a silhouette,” said Stringfield. “But, what we’re hoping is that we’ll have people of color who will send their pictures in and honor the people that had no name and had no voice in 1821.”

The total of unnamed individuals accounts for a little less than half the nearly 2,300 identified, and it’s these are the kinds of people that Vinson and researcher Erin Renfroe say they’d like to represent.

“What I’ll end up doing is I’ll volunteer for some of the unnamed people,” he said.

“ I’m delighted with how many we found and how much I personally have learned about the history of Pensacola at this time,” said Renfroe. “I am going to ask for a random assignment because anyone on that list I would be happy to represent.”

Stringfield has chosen to honor Judith Bird, whose son Charles (Carlos) Evans who served three non-consecutive terms as Mayor of Pensacola, beginning in 1834.

“From the onset, when we began planning for this event, it was all about people; all about sharing our rich and diverse heritage with everyone,” Stringfield declared, adding that participation of our modern residents is a way to bring everyone together in something that really celebrates who we are.

“In joining the mosaic product and being part of that, you’re standing next to your neighbor and you’re standing next to your friend, just as they were all standing together in 1821."

To secure your spot in Faces of Escambia County: 1821 and 2021, find links at the Visit Pensacola and West Florida Genealogical Society websites.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.