Elias Durnford

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Elias Durnford, Jr.
Born May 13, 1739
Damerham, England
Died June 21, 1794
Occupation Military officer, engineer
Spouse Rebecca Walker
Parents Elias Durnford Sr. and Martha Gannaway
Children Elias Walker Durnford
Philip Durnford
Charlotte Durnford
Caroline Durnford
George Durnford
Maria Durnford
Thomas William Durnford
Harriet Durnford

Elias Durnford was a British military officer and civil engineer who is best known, in regard to Pensacola history, for surveying the town and laying out a city plan around two public squares (now Plaza Ferdinand VII and Seville Square). Durnford laid out the plan in 1764, shortly after the British took control of West Florida.

Durnford was born on May 13, 1739 at Damerham, England, to Elias Durnford, Sr. and his wife Martha Gannaway[1]. On March 17, 1759, Durnford joined the Royal Engineers and was made a Practitioner Engineer with rank of Ensign. He was promoted to Sub-Engineer with the rank of Lieutenant on January 28, 1762. In 1763 Durnford travelled to Havana, Cuba with the invasion expedition led by the Earl of Albermarle. While there Durnford produced a series of engravings of the city.

In 1764, Durnford was appointed Commanding Engineer and Surveyor-General of the new British West Florida, which had been ceded to Britain by Spain the year before in the Treaty of Paris. It is in 1764 that Durnford surveyed Pensacola as it was and then laid down a new plan for the town, with intersecting streets set at right angles and named for royal family members and prominent members of the British government. The town was centered on two public squares (now Plaza Ferdinand VII and Seville Square). Under Durnford's plan, each individual building lot in the city was issued a companion piece of ground along what was then the northern border of the town. These lots were cleared, and each family tried to grow a portion of its food supply. A thoroughfare developed along this long row of gardens and was fittingly called Garden Street.

Rebecca Walker

On August 25, 1769, Durnford married Rebecca Walker in London. The next year, Durnford was promoted to Engineer-Extraordinary with the rank of Captain-Lieutenant; he was again promoted, to Engineer in Ordinary with the rank of Captain, on March 26, 1779. Durnford was the commanding British officer during the defense of Mobile in 1780 against Gálvez's besieging Spanish force; Durnford's recommendation to superiors that £2,500 be spent to improve the city's defenses was ignored, and Durnford was forced to surrender the city of Mobile on March 13, 1780. Spain later retook Pensacola on May 9, 1781. After his defeat at Mobile, Durnford returned to England and assumed the office of Commanding Engineer at Newcastle, and later Chief Engineer at Plymouth. In 1794, Durnford, by then a colonel, was appointed to command the company of Royal Engineers accompanying Sir Charles Grey's expedition to attack French colonies in the West Indies. Durnford died of yellow fever on the island of Tobago on June 21, 1794.[2]