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Persons > Dennis, Leonard G.
Nicknamed the "Little Giant" due to his small stature, Leonard Dennis stood like a lion astride the political destiny of Alachua County. A carpetbagger, he was appointed to almost any office he wanted in the hectic Reconstruction years, including state senator and manager for the East Florida Seminary. Dennis first saw Florida as a Union officer during the Civil War and he left his native Massachusetts and returned after the war, moving to Gainesville. He welded freed African-Americans, loyal unionists, and assorted newcomers into a solid voting bloc under the Republican banner. In the 1876 election Democrats accused local Republicans--controlled by Dennis--of changing the returns from the Archer precinct. It could not be proved but two years later, before a committee of Congress, Dennis admitted that after the polls closed he had ordered the ballot box brought from Archer to his home; there the box was stuffed with Republican ballots in an attempt to salvage a Republican victory. With the end of Reconstruction and the collapse of Republican control some of the awe surrounding Dennis faded. He lived on in Gainesville in various enterprises, including ownership of the most prominent hotel, the Arlington, which stood on the northwest corner of the modern-day intersection of Main Street and University Avenue. The Arlington burned in 1884 and Dennis died three years after.
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