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The Gainesville Guard was a local detachment of the State Militia, and it attracted the sons of Gainesville's best families. Exactly when it was organized has not been found, but it is mentioned in an 1884 report-an arsonist was on the loose, setting fires around the Courthouse Square, and the Guard, in cooperation with cadets from East Florida Seminary, patrolled the streets through the night. That incident is described in "History of Gainesville, Florida, 1854-1979," by Charles H. Hildreth. Hildreth points out that the Guard served as a military unit and a social club, with annual balls and amateur theatricals held to raise money for worthy projects. But they were much more than a social club. In 1888 yellow fever, an often-fatal disease, broke out in Fernandina. Authorities tried to prevent citizens from leaving (thus carrying the disease elsewhere) and riots broke out. The Gainesville Guard courageously went to Fernandina to help quell the riot; two of the men who made that trip contracted the disease and died. Eighteen members of the Gainesville Guard pose in this photograph, taken in front of the newly-completed Alachua County Courthouse (built in 1884). Mounted on their horses, they carried long lances and wore sashes across their breasts. This photograph was copied with the permission of Archie L. Jackson.
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