Women’s History: Jacksonville mother helped keep peace during Civil War

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As part of Women’s History Month, News4Jax is highlighting several history-makers with ties to the River City.

Eliza Hudnall was a woman who played a pivotal role in keeping the peace in Jacksonville during the Civil War.

“She was ahead of her time,” said Lydia Gallinger, Hudnall’s great-great-niece. “She did have the first hotel in Downtown Jacksonville. And for a woman of that period, which was around the Civil war, it must have been really hard for her to accomplish what she did.”

Hudnall owned a hotel and boarding house in Downtown Jacksonville in the 1800s, a first for women during that time.

This is the hotel Hudnall owned. (Photo courtesy Dr. Wayne Wood, Historian at Large for Jacksonville Historical Society) (Jacksonville Historical Society)

She lived on a plantation called Locarno, which was located on the south side of the river across from the town of Jacksonville.

During the Civil War, she supplied Union troops with meals in return for supplies.

Hudnall would row out from her home toward Union soldiers on the river, providing food like fried chicken, homemade donuts, and other food and supplies.

Her boarding house served as a safe place for soldiers after the war.

“She kept peace in Jacksonville at a very precarious time. And certainly showed us all the new paths women could forge,” said Emily Lisska, former executive director of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

Hudnall giving supplies to Union troops during the Civil War was pivotal to keeping her and her family safe.

“It was pivotal for both. It saved her home and land possibly from being burned. But it also showed that not everyone in Jacksonville was a Confederate sympathizer,” said Lisska.

According to local historians, Hudnall had nine children. Three of her daughters went on to marry Union soldiers.

Her niece, Florence Murphy Cooley, became the first woman to run for public office in Jacksonville and was a leader in the women’s suffrage movement in the River City.

“It just makes me so proud of having the roots that I have because it makes me feel so much more confident and brave,” said Gallinger.

Hudnall’s legacy is still alive in the River City.

Her family hopes her courage and pioneering spirit will continue to live on through other local women for decades to come.


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