Affluent Black Women in Early Pensacola: Julee Panton and Mercedes Sunday Ruby

In Seville; the oldest neighborhood of Pensacola, Julee Panton owned a cottage as a ‘free woman of color’. Panton acquired the cottage for $300.00. She sold candles and pastries at the cottage. In June of 1809, Julee sold half of lot 65 to Angelica, a free black woman, for $41.50. Julee Panton sold the remaining half to Franciso Casini, a free Mulatto man for $212.00.In Seville; the oldest neighborhood of Pensacola, Julee Panton owned a cottage as a ‘free woman of color’. Panton acquired the cottage for $300.00. She sold candles and pastries at the cottage. In June of 1809, Julee sold half of lot 65 to Angelica, a free black woman, for $41.50. Julee Panton sold the remaining half to Franciso Casini, a free Mulatto man for $212.00.

Julee Panton was in the population of ‘free people of color’ who lived in Pensacola under Spanish occupation. These ‘free people of color’ conducted business on Palafox Street until the Jim Crow law was implemented, and they were forced out.

Another free woman of color of affluence in early Pensacola was Mercedes Sunday Ruby. The sister of John Sunday Jr., Mercedes Sunday Ruby was the founder of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in 1877. John Sunday Jr. donated the land for the construction of the church during the Reconstruction Era. She was the daughter-in-law of Salvador Ruby, who was a Spanish-African (Moorish) commander of “free Mulatto” and “Negro” troops. They came to Pensacola in 1781 with the Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez and helped the Spanish defeat the British. Ruby later went into business as a shoemaker in Pensacola, and also became the commander of an urban brigade of mulatto and black militia.

Mercedes Sunday Ruby, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in 1877. She also opened a colored an creole school there.

Mercedes Sunday Ruby, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in 1877. She also opened a colored and creole school there.

[i] Historic American Building Survey: Julee Cottage

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