Backstory and Context
Prince Achille Murat moved to the United States in 1822 after being in exile in Austria following his father being deposed and executed in Naples. Murat first settled in Saint Augustine and owned almost 3,000 acres where he planted oranges, sugar cane, and cotton. Around 1825, Marquis de Lafayette persuaded Murat to move to the Tallahassee area. He purchased approximately 900 acres of land in Jefferson County to the east of Tallahassee and established Lipona Plantation. He is reported to have followed the traditional method of moving to Tallahassee that had been established by many of the second and third generation planters from the mid-Atlantic states. He brought all his belongings, including his slaves, from Saint Augustine to clear land and begin planting with the plan to expand his holdings of acreage and slaves to prosper as a planter.
In 1826, Murat married Catharine Willis Gray, daughter of prominent Tallahasseean, Byrd Willis, and great-grandniece of George Washington. Reports indicate the Murat’s threw lavish parties at their home at Lipona and entertained the gentry of the area frequently. Supposedly, Murat had the second story of his home constructed in such a way to maximize the number of people that could attend the parties. Unfortunately for the Murat’s, the joyous times did not last.
In 1830, Murat chose to return to Europe on an expedition to try and reclaim the throne of Naples. He was unsuccessful and returned to Tallahassee in 1834. Murat then moved with his wife to a site near New Orleans in an attempt to raise sugarcane and practice law. Once again, he was unsuccessful. When he returned to Tallahassee, he mortgaged Lipona in an effort to raise capital. He defaulted on the mortgage in 1839 during the wake of a recession. He and Catharine left Lipona and moved to a smaller plantation known as Econchatti. Murat died in 1847 and was buried in the Saint John’s Episcopal Church cemetery in Tallahassee.
1.Groene Bertram, Ante-Bellum Tallahassee Tallahassee, FL: Florida Heritage Foundation, 1971, p.31 http://ufdc.ufl.edu/FS00000017/00001/39j.
2.Knott House Museum. Know Your Neighborhood: Tallahassee Street Name Origins. Tallahassee, FL: Knott House Museum, 1997
3.Morris, Allen Covington. Florida Place Names: Alachua to Zolfo Springs. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1995
4.Paisley, Clifton. The Red Hills of Florida: 1528-1865. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 1989.
5.Smith, Julia Floyd. Slavery and Plantation Growth in Antebellum Florida: 1821-1860. Gainesville, FL: Library Press@UF, 2007.
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58270107