Citation
Search for yesterday

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Title:
Search for yesterday a history of Levy County, Florida
Creator:
Levy County Archives Committee (Fla.)
Place of Publication:
Bronson, Fla
Publisher:
Levy County Archives Committee
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Edition:
Chapter 7, 1977
Physical Description:
28 volumes : ; 28 cm +

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Subjects / Keywords:
History -- Levy County (Fla.) ( lcsh )
Biography -- Levy County (Fla.) ( lcsh )
Genealogy -- Levy County (Fla.) ( lcsh )
Florida -- Levy County ( fast )
Genre:
Biography. ( fast )
Genealogy. ( fast )
History. ( fast )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Biography ( fast )
Genealogy ( fast )
History ( fast )

Notes

General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
Includes index as v.29.
General Note:
"A Bicentennial publication."
General Note:
Chapter three has title: Slowpoke. Chapter nine has title: The High Sheriff.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright Levy County Archives Committee. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
024053741 ( ALEPH )
06316718 ( OCLC )
00711645 ( LCCN )
Classification:
F317.L6 S44 1977 ( lcc )
975.9/77 ( ddc )

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Aggregations:
Florida Family and Community History

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LEVY COUNTY OFFICIALS, 1953
Left to right: Commissioner Leroy Baylor (Pete), Commissioner Carroll W. Gilbert, Commissioner David W. Meeks, Tax Collector JQhn H. Hardee (Hank), Commission's Attorney Frank West, Sheriff George W. T. Robbins, Commissioner John F. Yearty, Tax Assessor Dogan S. Cobb, Commissioner H. L. Smith (Bud), Prosecuting Attorney G. C. Perdue, Circuit Court Clerk Ernest Stephens.




Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2018 with funding from
University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries
https://archive .org/detai Is/searchforyesterd7197levy




THE McCALL TAPES
TRANSCRIPT BY MARILYN LINDSEY
While teaching social studies at Chiefland High School in 1968, Mr. Doyle McCall arranged for small student teams to record interviews with several elderly persons in Levy County. Mr. McCall and his students were interested not only in the history these people could remember but also in preserving the various dialects spoken by them. Some of those dialects have almost vanished. Most of the people interviewed in 1968 are now deceased.
Among the young people conducting the interviews were Carol Swaggerty Snider, Franklin Watson, Tommy Bennett, and Karen Repko. The cassette recorders they used were early models and not very effective; portions of the tapes are not readable, occasional words and phrases are distorted, but w- present the literal words used by the persons being interviewed as accurately as we can.
MR. WALFORD ELZEY, born 1883: The first system and they could just phone off anywhere or
logging business I ever knew of was here at Ellzey. send a telegram. They brought the cedar out of the swamp with
wagons. Some of the cedar logs would go four foot MRS. MISSOURI COBB, born 1889: When I
through. The cedar was made into slats ready for moved to Otter Creek fifty-five years ago the Otter
the pencil factory right here at Ellzey. They worked Creek Lumber Company was here and this was a about a hundred people here, I reckon. A feller by big lumber town. They had about five hundred the name of Sutton from Georgia ran the cedar men working and a lot of people lived here. Then
business here. The first mail service I can the lumber company was sold and was called
remember was a mail car in the train with a feller Gunn's Lumber Camp for awhile, until the Cumber they called a mail clerk, his name was White. He people bought it out.
would fix up a pouch for every little station, to
throw out there and pick another one up. A man MRS. VIVIAN HARPER: Chiefland got its
got fifty cents a day back then for working from name from the fact that there used to be a lot of
daylight to dark. The Big Storm was in 1896, I was Indians around here. When I was a little girl a lot thirteen years old. It blowed down everything in of Indian mounds were still around here. My uncle
this county but it didn't hurt the logging business. Harry Rodgers, I believe, founded Chiefland. For a After the storm they didn't have to saw the trees long time the school had one teacher with
down. There was so many trees on the ground that anywhere from one to three children in each grade.
like if somebody wanted to go to Chiefland he had Finally they got two teachers. The school house
to cut his way through, you couldn't even walk was located just about where the first old postoffice
anywhere until the way was cleared, was, about two or three hundred feet from where
The main thing we did for amusement was go the second old postoffice was. Hardeetown was
down and meet the train every day. That was the named after my people, the Hardee family, when
grandest thing I ever saw. There might be five the railroad was built and a merchantile business
hundred people down there just to see the train was started there. The old Hardee plantation was
pull in and stop and then go on. The first I ever where my grandfather lived. The Hardees, I
knew of Chiefland coming into existence was a believe, came from South Carolina.
feller by the name of Rodgers had a postoffice
there and it was named Chiefiand. That old MRS. GILLEY, 78: When I was a little girl, my
postoffice stood, the best I can remember, father farmed. He grew corn, cucumbers, peanuts,
somewhere out there where the road starts toward and watermelons. My father hauled the cucumbers
Trenton. We used to have big picnics and the to Archer to ship them on the train to places like
fellers running for office would make speeches. New York. I think it was the Florida Central and
Cedar Key was the biggest town around here, Pacific. Back there when I was a child we didn't
bigger than Gainesville was. They had a wire have such things as radios, but when the old FC
2




and P came through just ablowin' we knew that there was the Faber pencil mill at Atsena Otie
was a sure sign of a hard freeze coming that night, which gave employment to about one hundred Sometimes the school children would load up -in people. The Eagle Pencil Company was on this
wagons and buggies and go all the way from 'island (Way Key) and later on a third pencil
Williston to Montbrook and have a ball game with company was here on this island. Ships used to the children there. It was not baseball, it was come in here from Europe loading on products
called handball. from the pine timber mill. I can remember time
seeing fifteen of these foreign sailing ships in the MR. MICHA&EL CLANCEY, 83: 1 can remem- harbor at one time. Most of them were from
ber when Williston had just one store, run by the Germany and England. That went on in a big way Eppersons. There was a grist mill and a cotton gin until the railroad opened up and then a lot of the here. Also, Mr. Sistrunk had a store, later on. factory products were shipped out by rail. The big
There were some old Indian mounds around sawmill quit operating about 1890. The railroad
Johnson Sink and Johnson Lake. I wouldn't know was put in here in 1852 by the Florida Railway and
where to find them now. Navigation Company. At that time Florida was still
a young state and they wanted any kind of a rough MRS. L. W. MARKHAM: My mother was a railroad to reach the Gulf. So the state government
native. My grandfather came down before the Civil gave the railroad company every other section of War and homesteaded about three miles northwest land between here and Fernandino as an induceof Williston. Williston was founded by the ment to build the line.
Honorable Jesse M. Willis in 1853. He came here from Marion County and cleared a large plantation. In those olden days, the way they traveled was to go by wagon to Palatka and by boat up the St. Johns-River to Jacksonville and then on to Savannah and Charleston. About two weeks was required for one trip. These trips were made twice a year. They carried the produce from the plantation up and brought the supplies back.
The first railroad across the state was finished in 1858 and ran from Fernandino to Cedar Key. The first school here was a subscription school opened in 1857, the first free school opened in 1870. The first church in this place was built in 1856 about one and a half miles southeast of where the town is now. This was a two-story building with the lower floor being used as a church and the upper floor as a Masonic hall. The first Methodist Church was a log building built in 1870. There was a time when it was said that Williston was the foremost cucumber producing area in the world; as many as seventy-five carloads would be shipped out in one day. Dr. Wood had the first automobile here. The first store in Williston was established by Mr. John D. Epperson where the present city park is located. This merchantile business was later moved near the Seaboard Railroad on what is now East Main Street. The first electricity in Williston was made by the Williston Manufacturing Company, headed by Mr. L. C. Hester, in 1913.
MIR. RADDLE DAVIS, SR., 93: At one time
3




The Himmelbright house in Montbrook, built in 1890. When they retired, some seafaring men would build homes with observation decks and a nautical appearance. Photo in 1892.




THE STRONGS
BY LINDON LINDSEY and S. E GUNNELL
Dan Strong and his brother Robert arrived in Levy County shortly before 1850 as members of a crew building the railroad from Fernandino to Cedar Key. They were slaves. The crew was that of a subcontractor, they cleared right of way and did preliminary roadbed construction. At the time, Robert went by the name of Tisdale. He later had his name legally changed back to Strong.
When the subcontractor's project was finished, he set the brothers free. They stayed in Levy County and homesteaded acreage along the Waccasassa River downstream from the present-day crossing of State Road 24. Over a period of years they became prosperous, widely known, and highly respected. Besides their cattle ranch they operated a small store and built a school for the children of their employees.
According to the family legend, when the Civil War started, Robert enlisted as a Confederate soldier. One might suppose that the Confederate States of America was his country and he intended to fight for it. However, his tombstone reads: Robert Tisdale, Company G, 104th US Infantry. The possibility exists that he was captured and pressed into service as a Union soldier. That is known to have happened in parallel cases.
In later years, Dan operated a dray (freight transit) between Otter Creek and the stage coach depot at Crooked Sapling. He also owned a hotel in Otter Creek. His cattle brand is still on record in Bronson. At age 99, Dan was moving a family's household goods in a wagon when he had a stroke, fell out of the wagon and injured his neck. He died about a week later. His wife Jo Anna grew her own garden until the last year of her life. She lived to be 107.
Their old family cemetery is still out there in the woods by the river. Some of the graves do not have tombstones but among those that do have is that of Elizabeth Strong (1900-1928), daughter of Robert. Among Dan's children were two sets of twins: Kelly and Dan, May and Martha'. His son Fulton twice donated school sites to the county at Otter Creek. Fulton is buried at Archer. Among Fulton's thirteen children are Clarence Strong of Williston and Edith (married Merrill McNeal) of Otter Creek.
Fulton's heirs still own a part of their family's ancestoral homestead along the Waccasassa River, land that has been owned by the Strongs since the 1850's. The descendants of Dan and Robert Strong are scattered now, like most of the old families of Levy County. Their heritage is a long and honorable one. The Strongs worked shoulder to shoulder with the other pioneers to build this county, they go back almost to its beginning. Their roots are here.
Clarence Strong of Williston with his brother-in-law Merrill McNeal of Otter Creek at the site of his grandfather Dan Strong's homestead along the Waccasassa River. The hand-hewn post and brick fragments they hold are the only visible remains of the pioneer ranch that was started here in the 1850's. The Strong family cemetery is nearby.
5




OTTER CREEK SCHOOL, 1936
Front: Elva Mae White, Elizabeth Smith (Crosby), Mary Lee White (Hudson), Alene McIlvaine (Bass), Geraldine Moody, Evelyn Beck, Nadine Williams, Rufus Smith, Fern Moody, David Meeks, Josephine Moody, Tolbert Causseaux, Bobby Williams, Freida Moody (Watson). Second: W. J. Holmes, Gordon Beck, Florris Causseaux (Bass), Richard Lee Beck, Helen Morgan (Evans), Poppy Ellzey (Hill), Ernest Davis (Red John), Winnie Williams, Howard Williams, Jr., Jesse Causseaux, Arthur John Moody (Dicky), Beatrice Tindale, Donny Meeks, Doris Meeks, Margaret White (Adams), Marie Oglesby. Third: Willis Crews (Buddy), Harold Ellzey, Elizabeth McIlvaine (Bass), Annie Jean Smith (Beauchamp), Clydie Mae Crews (Smith), Edith Smith (Greene), Nadine Beck (Brights), Catherine Cobb (Lazarus), Walter Crews. Back: Cary Crews, Geraldine West (Manuel), Joe Ellzey, Thelma Crews, Geneva Sparks (Standridge). Teachers: Hazel Hogan, Annie Laura Elliston. Principal, Henry Watts. Identification by Clydie Mae Smith, Bronson. The school was built in 1928.




MEMORIES OF OTTER CREEK
BY CHARLES F. KIMBLE
I have no conscious memory of Baden, Ga. Model T and made his own roads through the
where I was born on August 5th, 1908. My parents woods to Gunntown, now known as Gulf
moved to Greenville, Fla. when I was three months Hammock. Failing trees, burning woodland rain
old. From there we moved to Otter Creek, Fla. sometimes caused a detour. One cold day, my
about my second birthday. Our home in Otter brother Malcolm and I were returning from one of
Creek was a simple residence of which I remember several farms my father had purchased in Gulf
a little. I recall a rain barrel in which mosquitoes Hammock. We stopped the mules in the middle of raised in abundance. It was fascinating to stand on the road and built a fire of dried palm fronds. We a box alongside and watch the larvae wiggle up had quite a fire to warm by when Mr. Gunn
and down in the water. There was a lot of malaria. approached. He simply cut a new set of ruts
The boards on the sides of the first house I around us through the flatlands, waved and
remember in Otter Creek were vertically placed, chugged away.
not horizontally. There were some better homes The lumber company owned tram engines, log
and my father, J. P. Kimble, was promised one carts, skidders and many mules, all of which were
when a vacancy occurred. We had a pitcher pump, used to harvest the timber. Some of the colored
outhouse and oil lamps. I remember my mother workers would use a pair of mules on Sunday to
complaining about cleaning the dirty lampshades. attend their church on the outskirts of town. I think
My parents had previously lived in Otter Creek, they had settled on two favorite mules. Anyway,
but went back to Georgia for a short time, probably Malcolm and I generally got the same mules to pull after the death of a brother born in 1906 and who the wagon to the farm. Mr. Gunn was about the
died when three months old. I guess the lumber only traffic encountered and he made his own road
company persuaded my father to return. I know he when necessary. Mules follow the road with little
was an efficient manager for the company and was need of supervision. Malcolm and I simply laid
quite knowledgeable about timber, grades of down in the wagon and let the mules make their
lumber, and could readily calculate measurements. own decisions. We did have to correct them when
We did eventually move to a better home. This they passed the church or they would abruptly turn
house was across the Seaboard track from the at the far side, pull alongside and stop. They were
hotel, which was a two-story building. prepared for i long sermon and probably dinner on
The streets were dirt, sometimes covered over the Ground.
with sawdust for improvement. It was common to Quite often while sitting on the front porch, I
find cans and bottles littering the roadway. This could tell my mother whose car was approaching
second house also had a pitcher pump on the back from the rear of our home solely by the sound of its
porch, but a slat room had been added with a engine and other noises. There were very few cars
bathtub. We filled the tub by pumping water into a in Otter Creek. There was a chain drive Brush that trough that carried the water through a wall into I rode in to Rocky Hammock to hear Brother
the tub. After a bath the water was simply released Douglas preach. On the way we passed Mr. W. C. to run on the ground. However, there was some Cobb sitting by the roadside in his new Buick.
status to this arrangement. On one occasion my There were several in the car dressed for church .
father thought better about having a tub as I had Mr. Cobb was just blowing the horn on the Buick
deposited my bucket of frogs in it. without letup. He said Clarence Maxwell told him
There was a large oak in the front yard at the to do this in case of trouble and he would come out
corner of the front porch. The limbs extended over and fix the trouble. We proceeded to Rocky the fence and above the street. We did a fair Hammock Church to hear Brother Douglas preach
amount of climbing and watching occasional about opening the pantry door and seeing the light
traffic. We watched the wagons, sometimes a reflected from the lard stored in gourds. The
buggy, and after 1912 several cars appeared in sermon was "Let your light so shine." Mr. Cobb
town. I believe Mr. Gunn -(or maybe Mr. Cobb) drove up in time for dinner on the ground.
bought the first car. Mr. Gunn bought a Ford Clarence Maxwell had heard the horn blowing and
7




MEN'
By the deo ntenwetnttw f eeih acl .Gaa 18117)sti i e aa orn a qipdwt rs shle rdaor ctleegs.edihtad.aulai.on.Ti.asaot 92 e a osmse a eedt n i aeryas couty..xcole.tr.Ab.t 114




drove out to the rescue. Everyone was amused to At times the road would catch fire from the mill's
learn that the ignition switch had jarred off on the slab pit which burned perpetually. Sawdust, like bumpy roads. Clarence merely turned on the muck and cotton, is hard to stop from burning. A
switch, cranked the car and Mr. Cobb was on his heavy rain will sometimes do it. At times we
way. thought the fire was out and then it would surface
Myfather's first car was a Willis Overland in the road again. I remember walking barefoot in
fourdoor with convertible top and side curtains. It the road and occasionally breaking the crust of was dark green, shiny, because it was new. All the hardened sawdust and getting a real hotfoot. neighbors gathered around to inspect it. Rubber Will Yearty ran the Post Office in the same
Hudson, one of my playmates, carried nails in his building with his store. My father took me there pocket, so he took one and made a scratch mark one morning and asked me what I wanted to drink.
down the length of the car on the driver's side. Dad He and Mr. Yearty got a laugh when I asked for purchased the car from Coite W. Hill in "Blood Juice". I couldn't think of "Blood Wine"
Gainesville. Mr. Hill sent Bill Green with the car. which was a popular soft drink.- Mr. Yearty saw He stayed in our home several days for the purpose that I was fascinated with the gas lantern in his of teaching my mother to drive. She took a lesson store. He told me to touch the mantle real easy, but or two but never did much if any driving. I never I remember it collapsed at the barest touch. drove that car any, but Malcolm drove a bit. I think When I was very young, probably about 1912 he broke an axle once. In fact, the rear axle was (four years old) my mother took me to a railroad one of the car's weaknesses and several had to be camp right near town and along the right of way of replaced. While owning the car we moved to the Atlantic Coast Line. The work train and
Gunntown. The Gainesville Buick dealer had workers were to pass the Camp that day. The rails
approached Dad about trading several times. We were being laid for the new railroad. The crossties
were riding around in the Overland one Sunday were already in place and a crane mounted on a rail
afternoon and another axle broke. We walked car would lift rails from a flatcar to the r Iear and
home. The next day the Buick salesman showed up swing them forward into place. The workers spiked
and said he would trade for the Overland, bring an the rails securely and swiftly. My 'attendi.n was axle down and get the car from where we left it. divided between the building of the railroad\and a
Dad traded and several days later we went to small toy boy doll. I don't think I could
Gainesville in the new car. Along about comprehend that a doll could be other than a girl
Arredondo, near Gainesville, we saw the Overland doll. It was an exciting time with the hammering,
parked by the side of the road. Another axle had escaping steam, and the tents in whi~h the
given away. workers families were living. .We visited in one of
Before leaving Otter Creek I remember getting the tents until the railroad passed us, and was
stuck in the bogs or sloughs. And after the rainy hammered on toward Gunntown. season the car would often drown out. My mother The Atlantic Coast Line, like all new railroads,
would get on my father's back and he would wade made new areas accessible. Mr. Gunn, of The
to dry ground and make arrangements for a team Otter Creek Lumber Company, foresaw the time
to pull the car out. Sometimes, if the problem was when pine for the mill would run out. There was simpler and the wheels would spin in the mud he magnolia, gum, pine and other timber available in
would deal with the problem himself. Generally we Gulf Hammock. It was ideal material for making could look around in the bushes and find a pry pole bean and lettuce hampers needed by farmers in previously cut down from a cypress tree and left by South Florida. Soon after the railroad passed previous victims of the mud and times. This was a through Gunntown, now known as the town of Gulf courtesy of the road. Hammock, Mr. Gunn began preparing for a mill in
Life was very simple when we lived in Otter Gunntown as the manufacture of lumber in Otter
Creek. I think we were there from 1910 till Creek was phased out. My father was persuaded to
probably 1917. There were no sidewalks, no paved be superintendent of the new mill, although my
streets or roads either, for that matter. Fireworks mother was very reluctant to move to the and toys showed up in stores around Christmas. hammock. The advantages were very limited in
There may have been fireworks on sale for the Otter Creek and were near nonexistent in
Fourth of July, I don't remember. One or two Gunntown. There was no church, no school, and in
streets near the mill were covered with sawdust. rainy season it was difficult to travel by car.
9




The P. 0. Sneller home in Montbrook, originally Phoenix, 1892. His daughter Agnes married Evan Sheffield and taught in the Chiefland school about 1908. She boarded with the John Hardee family. Her mother was an Epperson, same family as the Williston and Bronson Eppersons. The central part of this house was made of logs. The wheelbarrow design goes back hundreds of years, in Europe. Agnes is standing by that rock chimney.




Actually, about the only place to go was them apart for the lead pellets to use in our
Gainesville, over forty miles away, and that was a slingshots. We had carefully piled the gunpowder full day's round trip. Outside of our family I recall on a shingle so I decided to light it with a match. I only three white boys living there. Merrill Stevens was sitting on the ground and the wind was toward was the only one my age. me. The flash burned my eyebrows and sealed my
We did have electric lights in our home and I lids shut with the seared lashes. Bubber took off
believe there was a water spigot on the back porch. for help and I remember my father being very The outhouse was still out back. My older brother, solicitous and taking me to Dr. Porter. We must Malcolm, was sent to my grandmother' s in have ridden in Mr. Humes' Ford as we sat in the
Georgia and to school. I was two years older than backseat of one. Dr. Porter painted my face with my sister, Lillie Maud (Mrs. Carl Wellman) and six picric acid and I was yellow for a month or more. I years older than Jack, our youngest brother. remember that it hurt to expose my eyes to light. I
Merrill Stevens and his brother Rex got jobs in the think the doctor took this as a good sign and he crate mill. I found myself with a lot of time on my said not to try to see. He told my father that he hands in a very small town surrounded by a lot of thought my eyes would be all right, but would not woods. be sure till the next day. I remember the flash of
There was a small creek in front of our house that gun powder very well and it was fast, but
and to the rear near the mill was the Wekiva River nature helps you close your eyes in a hurry. The with clear water from the springs several miles Lord helped the foolish that day.
upstream. I learned to dig earthworms and to fish I started school in Otter Creek when I was five
and did right well at it. I tried to make a raft and or six years old. It was 1913 or 1914, 1 think. The spent a long time hacking down a tree to start it. It school wasn't far from our home. It was one large sank to the bottom immediately and I found out I room in which Professor Musgrove taught it all
had cut down an Ironwood tree. I wandered around from the First thru the Twelfth Grades. I can
in the woods a good bit, sometimes carrying my 22 remember reading the Primer and learning to rifle, but don't recall killing anything. There was spell. Someone at the mill made two desks with abundant game, though, of all kinds. Sometimes I bench seats and my father sent one to the school
went swimming in the river. There were more for me. I'm not sure who got the other one. We
colored boys and men always than the two or three played "Tip up and Catch Out", "Bully in the whites swimming, but I remember having a good Pen" and sometimes "Marching around the
time. I couldn't swim but could duck my head Level" and "Guinea, Guinea, Squat". Also, there
under water O. K., so I learned to dive off the was a lot of "Hide and Seek", Stickball played
bridge into deep water and scramble a bit to where with a can, marbles and Tag. I finished the Fourth I could stand up. And from this I learned to swim. Grade there before moving to Gunntown. I believe
I spent all the time I could diving off that we moved after the school year of 1917-18.
bridge. My eyes were open underwater consider- When I was eight or nine years old I started
ably. One Sunday morning the words in the funny chewing tobacco. One summer we went to my
papers seemed blurred. Tte black print seemed to mother's old home near Springvale, Ga. I hurried
have a red border. I was assured this was not so by down to the creek and caught some cousins and my my family and we finally decided all that diving brother Malcolm chewing tobacco. Bill Stokes was
underwater was doing something to my eyes. My with me and we were offered a chew. It made Bill
mother made me do less swimming and my eyes sick and maybe I would have been better off to get
shaped up. sick, too. Malcolm and I would chew after school
This was not the first eye trouble I had. When and when we brought the milk cow from the we were in Otter Creek one of my playmates was pasture. My folks caught me at it and I got a
Bubber Hudson. He was dumb, that is, he cguldn't switching or two and a lot of talking to. I felt guilty
speak. He made sounds and he and I didn't have about it and quit and tried to quit off and on. One's
trouble communicating. In fact, he was quite judgement is far from mature at nine years of age.
handy at carving rudders to roll our hoops and Speaking of youthful judgement, I remember
making slingshot handles. We broke up a lot of old one cool evening just at dusk dark when Malcolm castiron stove doors and used the pieces for called me to supper. I had just discovered a snake
pellets. My older brother had a shotgun and I got and felt that I should restrain it from getting away. three of his buckshot shells. Bubber and I took- The simplest way was to step on its tail which I did.
11




Orange Hill Methodist Church near Williston, date unknown, probably around 1890. Although the church disappeared long ago, its cemetery survived and is today's Orange Hill Cemetery.




Malcolm kept calling me to come to supper and I and crowds when they pulled into the station. The
kept yelling that the snake would get away if I biggest thrill was a train trip. My mother would
removed my foot. Malcolm was near frantic when take us to Georgia at least once a year. We always
he realized the situation and after a lot of hollering changed and waited for another train in the wiggling snake was set free. The snake was Jacksonville and again in Nahunta, Ga. It seems
probably a ground rattler. It could have bitten me, we always arrived back in Otter Creek in the early but that snake was more concerned with getting evening. I remember the porter lighting the gas
out of his predicament. The Lord helped the foolish lights on the train. Also, the newsbutcher was a that day. pure delight. He had it all. There was candy,
In the summer in Otter Creek a colored man peanuts, fruit, drinks and novelties. We wanted
came around early Sunday morning selling one everything, but settled for a glass pistol full of
scoop of ice cream for a nickel. We had to get a candy or maybe an apple. The toilets and the water
saucer and spoon ourselves and hold it up so the coolers on the train did a tremendous business.vendor could reach over the fence and deliver it. There was always someone to meet us going and
Once or twice mine slid right out of the saucer into coming. And then the trunk had to be accounted the sand. My father was usually good for another for in the baggage car. Everybody travelled with a
nickel. Ice cream is slippery and I was five or six trunk. years old, but we learned to manage it. My memories of Otter Creek started sometime
Another pleasant memory had to do with after we moved there in 1910 when I was about two
bottled drinks. The hotel across the railroad from years old. It's hard to put everything in us had a massive homemade ice box with a counter chronological order, but I do recall some things
balanced lid on top. The cake of ice was buried in that happened when I was very young. sawdust. Milk, drinks, and anything in jars or For a while I delivered mail each morning by
bottles were hidden down in the wet and cold taking discarded pamphlets and circulars from
sawdust. I remember being held up so I could dig house to house. Each recipient seemed pleased
out a drink. The top layer was dry but deeper it was and would give me more to exchange with the next wet, then cold, and then the thrill of finding a cold neighbors. This cooperation was better after I had drink. passed around a few personal letters on my own.
The Otter Creek Lumber Company had two or On our right was the family of Giles Tomnkins.
more steam engines used to pull log trains from He was the sawyer at the mill. Behind us and
the woods to the mill. Also, it was fascinating to across a dirt street first lived the Cannons and watch the driver and mules bring in logs later, the Hudsons. The Cannons had a boy about
suspended with tongs under the axle of the high my age who died. I went with others to see the
two wheeled log carts. Uncle Bob, a fine, well liked body. It appeared to me that he had changed to colored man getting on in years, made the hub and glass or doJl material due to his waxy appearance. I
parts for the big cart wheels and he could skillfully thought about this for a long time. fit the iron tires on them. The dirt trails got a roller There were two streams below us on the way to coaster effect as the ends of the suspended logs Ellzey. The first one was the smaller and
rose and fell each time displacing a bit of earth. sometimes would dry up. One day it was about as The mill was always noisy and the racket could be wide as I could jump, so I did. I lost my first baby
heard all over town. There was a skidder in the log tooth in jumping but waded back and retrieved it. yard arranging the logs to go up a chute to the The second creek was larger and provided a
second level. Then the saws cut the proper lengths swimming hole for those who could handle it. It and sawed slabs and boards. The whine from the also doubled as the place for baptisms. One
planing mill and the blowers carrying shavings to Sunday afternoon several were baptized. A young
the boilers added to the roar. woman was apprehensive about the water. She
As the days grew shorter the mill operated till held her breath, and closed her eyes, I'm sure, and after dark. There were fireworks every night as we after immersion did not balance herself. I noticed watched sparks leave the several smoke-stacks her floating downstream but attention was being
especially when they were using sawdust for fuel. focused on the next convert. Others no doubt saw They set a few fires as did the wood burning her plight and someone swam after her. She was
freight engines that passed thru every day. saved for sure.
Trains attracted attention as they passed by, Before the Hudsons moved behind us they
13




This cafe was operated during the thirties by Percy and Bessie Fender by the side of US 27-A in Bronson. A fully equipped hamburger sold for 15 cents and a plate lunch for 35 cents. This picture dates from the forties. Bob and Sue O'conner's Submarine Factory is now located on the same site. The old cafe was torn down in 1955.




lived several houses in front and nearer the mill. I home. It was about three miles from our home and don't recall who their neighbor was, but I was in I ran all the way. the neighbor's home on Saturday night after dark. Once after a rainy season I found it hard to
Mrs. Hudson had a problem with Saturday night open the wooden front gate. It sometimes stuck
baths for her several children and simply set up a from swelling but this time there was a sizable wash tub or two on the backporch. There was a alligator taking up residence. I have noticed that
kerosene lamp on the porch and we noticed she did gators will move about after heavy rains. not discriminate about who got bathed first as they My father had farming in his blood and kept
all got bathed. buying farms, horses, mules, hogs and a lot of
There were two tragedies in the Hudson family things he didn't have time to care for while when they lived near us. I don't know which was working in the mills. He sent for a pair of Poland
first. The daughter Blanche got appendicitis and China hogs which we kept out back of the house in
for one reason or another did not have an Gunntown. That same gate blocked by the gator
operation. Ed Hudson, her father, said he could originally had a latch. It had swelled and the gate
not resist giving her water when she pleaded for it. would stay shut when closed. That old Poland Soon afterward she died. China sow would lean on the fence near the post
Across the railroad there was a street and wide and the gate would fly open. I spent a good part of area between the hotel and the Humes' home. One the day chasing hogs and closing gates.
afternoon we were playing Tip Up and Catch Out in We visited Mr. Gunn one Sunday at Gunn's
the street. I was rather nimble and would jump up landing for a ride in his launch. There was an old to catch the ball and that would give me a turn to four story wooden hotel on the site. Mr. Gunn bat the ball to the others. I was successful in proposed to tear it down due to age. I wondered for
catching the ball after jumping in front of Irene a long time how he would get the grand piano Humes. In showing her displeasue she hit me on down from the fourth floor. The other floors had
the head with a well placed ink bottle. She must been cleared. He managed though and I remember
have severed an artery. Boy, did I bleed! They got visiting the new home that he built. There was an me in the hotel and applied an ice compress. I was arrangement with partitions on the second floor for carried home and set up as an invalid. Shortly four rooms or it could be made into one large room.
afterward Irene came over and brought me a He also concocted an arrangement to open his gate
package of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. All was from his car with some levers. I don't know how
forgiven, well this worked.
One unusual thing still puzzles me. Malcolm While living in Gunntown the influenza
and I were in the front yard under the oak tree. He epidemic hit the country killing thousands. I think said he saw a bird in the tree and was going to kill my father was ill first and was in bed exactly two it with a small condensed milk can. He hurled the weeks. The day he was able to get up my mother can up in the branches and it came down and also a became ill and was in bed for two weeks. dead sparrow. It seems that he actually did hit the Mr. Stevens took his boys coon hunting at
sparrow but I wondered if he planted it night. One night I went along. I don't recall
beforehand. catching a coon, but we hit the jackpot on possums.
This reminds me of a game we played called Mr. Stevens showed me how to carry the live
"Hail Over". You just yelled Hail Over and threw possums by holding them back of the neck. We
the ball over the top of the house to the waiting waded sloughs, followed the baying dogs,. cut player on the other side. You had to watch for the down trees the possums had climbed and my two ball coming over and try to catch it. Then you flung possums slept through the whole thing. I sure was it back with another Hail Over. glad to finally get home, cold, wet, and with a
We spent two years in *Gunntown, but in cramp in all my fingers.
retrospect it seems longer. After Merrill and Rex The Coast Line ran* a combination freight and
got jobs at the mill I pestered my father till I got my passenger train on Monday, Wednesday and first job at fifty cents for a ten hour day. On my Friday. Someone named the train, "Sunny Jim". first payday I drew a dollar and a half. I used it to The only phone was in the depot and would buy three Victory war stamps. frequently ring by the hour. There was no agent,
My mother interceded for me once and I left the but a key was kept in the mill commissary. News job in the afternoon for a party at the DeVoe's was late in reaching Gunntown as a rule. I
15




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remember the excitement when we heard of the Bronson the latter part of 1919 after purchasing the
Armistice on Nov. 12, 1918. Fisher House. I started back to school in Bronson
I was out of school one full year and the first in January 1920. half of another. My mother and father moved to
LETTER TO MRS. KEIFER
Here are excerpts from a letter written by a Mr. Benton of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1956, made available by Miss Doris Delaino of Cedar Key.
You asked me to write something of what the existence was a bit on the rough and primitive side
Suwannee River was like before your gracious but on days when the fish wanted action you just
presence made it an even nicer place. The present about had had to fight them out of the boat with an
town of Suwannee, Florida, once known locally as oar.
Demory Hill and further back than that as Salt There were other permanent residents around
Creek Bluff, now boasts of a hard road, electricity, there in the old days, such as the Beachams who neon signs, juke boxes, telephones, television, lots lived on Big Bradford Island. I met him one day for sale, fat individuals wearing shorts, and who when I was fishing on Demory Creek and he was
knows what kind of progress may be ahead. running his coon traps. We let the boats drift and
Thirty five years ago, when I first started engaged in idle conversation. Presently he pointed
spending a six to twelve weeks vacation in that out a fork high in a big cypress tree. That was
area, it was still wild country and a different kind where, he said, he had caught on and held during of place. A sand rut road without bridges or fills the night of the Big Storm, the night his home was twisted south from Oldtown for some 25 miles and washed away and all others in the house drowned,
ended at the head of Mundon's Creek. Most of the including his wife.
tide creeks out there lose themselves in swamp and He told how the wind first blew hard offshore
sawgrass but Mundon's Creek goes clear through for a day or. two, so that the sea retreated to the far
the river swamp out to a finger of high ground. The horizon and vast mudflats were exposed. This was sand road went down to this creek and stopped. something you couldn't walk through and you
You traveled by rowboat about a mile down couldn't run a boat through it either. The people on
Mundon's Creek to reach the Suwannee, then went islands L and down the coast simply had to stay
about five miles to reach the Gulf. Another way put and wait for whatever was coming. Those who
was to load a boat at Oldtown and go all the way could get there came to Big Bradford for it was the
down the Suwannee. You would pass two houses in highest island and Beacham's house was sturdy.
the 50 miles. When you got your camp established Then the wind swung around and the piled-up
at the head of Mundon's or Shingle Creek or on water rushed back onto the coast. It covered the
some of the lower islands along the river, you were island and kept rising. It became deeper on the strictly on your own. floor of the house and the people climbed onto
You caught your own fish, you shucked your tables, it kept rising and they chopped a hole in the
own oysters, you cut your own cabbage, you roof and climbed out on top of the house. Then the
gathered your own firewood, you did your own house suddenly collapsed under them and they
cooking. You had brought in your own supplies and were in the rushing water. Beacham grabbed an
if you forgot your matches, you just didn't have object which turned out to be'the garden gate and
any matches. then abandoned that to cling to the high fork in the
Within a ten mile radius there were some half tall cypress tree. About 24 hours later some men
dozen widely separated families. Unless you went came along in a boat looking for survivors. He was
around to the islands so occupied you might not the only one they found.
see anyone in a week's time. You might hear the As I write, it comes to me that almost all the
slow thump, thump of some fisherman's antique people I have mentioned have now passed on. I am
inboard somewhere in the distance. This kind of getting old. No, I am already old.
17




CEDAR KEY TIDAL WAVE, 1896
BY W. P. DELAINO (1882-1958)
This manuscript was made available by the author's daughter, Doris Delaino. It was written by the author's daughter-in-law, Mary Ann Delaino. She recorded Mr. Delaino's account of his experiences, unedited.
I was born on an island one mile east of Cedar third of the catch in those days. All boats were sail
Key in the year 1882. My father lived on this island boats. We did not know what a gas engine was. eighteen years. In those days there was not much We got everything ready to go fishing and set
work for any one to do. My father was a sailor who sail for the Suwannee River. We anchored our came over here during the war between the States. outfit one mile southwest of the West Pass. There He was Austrian by birth. He served twelve years is a line of oyster bars off there.
in the Austrian Navy. I had all of his discharge We arrived there the fifteenth of August. We
papers, but I lost them in the 1950 hurricane. I do fished for fourteen days and caught all the fish we not know if he fought in the War between the could sell. We had two run boats -- one was in
States or not, but he was stationed in Key West, Ce r Key, and the other at camp. The one at
Florida. catp was named the Mattie F. She had twelve
He raised a large family. My mother was a hundred pounds of ice on her, and we had caught
native of Wakulla County. I had one brother and nine hundred pounds of mullet that day, which was
four sisters. My father, did almost anything to Monday, September 28th. There were plenty of
make a dime thoed das, for there were not many fish, but they acted crazy, which was unusual. We
dollars that a m'abI could get a hold of. He fished had no way of getting weather reports, and we some, oystere#;some, caulked boats, pruned grape knew nothing of the storm coming. In those days
arbors, and raised a garden and chickens on this the old folks would come out, look around and say,
island, Scale Key. "Well, we're going to have a Northeaster (or a
I went to school very little, to the third grade, Southwester)," and that's all there was to it.
but my mother taught us kids some from the old The day of September 28th there were two
Webster speller. We moved over to town in 1894. boats that come to the mouth of the river and
Then I had a better chance to go to school. I went to anchored for the night. They were hauling freight school in the fall and worked in the cedar mill in from Cedar Key to Blue Creek. The captain of one the summer. They paid me thirty five cents a day boat was Barney Russell. The other captain's name
to pack cedar slats. was Register. There were probably more men in
In the fall of 1896 I went fishing with my the crew, but I do not know their names or how
brother-in-law. In those days fishing was quite many, but on the night of the 28th we could hear
different from what it is these days. The fish them talking. It was very calm, and their voices
houses opened up'the fifteenth of August and carried a long way. We were about one mile from
closed down the first of June. The rest of the year them. --
the fisherman turtled and made a living the best When night came, we had our supper and sat
way they could. around and told a few lies and then went to bed.
My brother-in-law had a crew of men to fish Along about ten o'clock the wind began to breeze
with him. He had a small houseboat that we lived up. We got up, had coffee, and at twelve o'clock it
on. There were only four camping outfits in Cedar was blowing a gale. Our small boats were
Key. There were from four to six men in a crew. beginning to take on water so we got in them and
We had four men in our crew, and I was the boy in tied the oars down and the sails down good into the camp. We had two run boats that would carry boats. We had net racks built out in the water that
about five thousand pounds of fish. That was a load we dried our nets on. for them. Each man had a small boat that he used a Early in the morning of the twenty ninth I got
net off of. The owner of this outfit furnished camp up and fixed breakfast, which was dry corned beef boats, run boats, and small net boats. The man hash, rice, biscuits and coffee. By new it was
'who owned this outfit paid all expenses and took a peeling the green. My brother-in-law, who was
18




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The great-great-grandparents of John Meeks (15), Chiefland, were Dr. Samuel Bean (1842-1904) and Annie M. Walkmiller Bean (1843-1904). Their children in order of descending age: John's ancestor, Salem (1870-1932), Caroline (1873-1977), Dr. Mace Bean, Ivan and Jesse Bean. This picture was made about 1885, when small boys wore dresses. The Beans lived in Bronson.
19




captain, said that when it got a little lighter we boat half full, the next turned her over completely. would try to get in the river, but when it was Then we had nothing but a flat bottom to hold
daylight good, it wa s blowing so hard a man could on to. It was nine by twenty seven feet long -- not hardly stand up, much less try to go anywhere. I much chance. The boat was traveling as if she had
spread breakfast on the table. About the time we no anchor out at all. We would get up on her
sat down, our boat began to drag its anchor. They bottom and lock hands. We could reach across her rushed on deck to catch her for she was dragging bottom and hold on just a little, but the sea would
down on us. Her anchor caught and stopped her, wash us off and we would get back up.
so we sat down again, but before we began eating I don't think the boat stayed upside down more
she began to drag again. That time she kept than twenty or thirty minutes. Then she turned
coming, and she came down on us. right side up again. Then we had a better chance to
Tom- Wallace and Vernon Wilson got on her, hold on, but then the sea would wash us out. I
but they could not stop her. They kept on going. knew there was no chance for us. How I wished I
Our houseboat was doing fine, but those boys and could see my mother and father one more time!
that boat went on out of our sight -- no breakfast. And what dirty water to be drowned in! Well, it wasn't a very good feeling. Now it was We knew nothing of the wind changing. We
eighto'clock. Our houseboat began to drag. It drug thought we were still going to sea. It was raining down close to our net spreads, and the camp boat and misty, and we could not see very far. Soon I
got tangled in the nets and turned our camp boat saw something, and I said to my brother-in-law,
stern to the wind, got in the back end of the cabin, "There are two water spouts." He looked up and and blew the cabin off. Then we got clear of said, "No, that's land. We are going towards
everything, and were doing fine. land!" Then he said, "We have a heavy mooring
Before this we had had one settlement, and I anchor and a forty pound cage anchor. When we
had shared ten dollars. I had bought three get up in the land that anchor will catch in the
single-bladed pocket knives, and paid ten cents rocks and this boat will sink down. When you feel
apiece for them. We used these knives for her going down, jump as far as you can to get away
mending nets. I had also bought a ten gallon white from the suction." It happened just as he said. pine bucket. It was nice, and I kept my clothes in it. Then we separated, both going with the wind I had a very good pair of shoes which were in the and tide. There were lots of old tree tops, logs, and bucket. things. We would get on first one and then
We were doing fine, but it was getting rougher another, going up on the land all the time.
all the time. Then we dragged down on the run Finally we got back together again and kept
boat where Tom and Vernon were. We got close going until we came to the place where there were
enough to get ahold of the anchor cable, but the three pine trees blown down with their tops
Matty F. had turned over and broke her mast out. together. That's where we rested a while. It was The boys were astride of the keel holding on for still blowing, but we could tell that the water was
dear life. We motioned for them to come over to going down. When we got down, the water was
us, but they were afraid to try it. Then we had to just neck deep, and we could tell there was a creek turn loose of them. Our camp boat was doing fine. over there. We were way up in the swamp, but we We saw them no more until we arrived in Cedar knew not where!
Key. We thought if we could get back to the coast we
Now this was between nine and ten o'clock, might be able to tell where we were. We found a
Tuesday the twenty ninth of September. We were dry cabbage log about 20 feet long -- crooked. My
still going to sea. It was awful rough. My brother-in-law got on one end and I on the other.
brother-in-law and I were scrooched down in one We went down the coast toward Salt Creek, but did
corner of our boat -- not much to say. About eleven not know when we reached Demory Hill. or twelve o'clock I heard something. I said "Is that When we got down to the mouth, we saw our thunder?" That would have been a sign it was camp boat. One end was up on the hill. We stayed
getting better. My brother-in-law looked up and there and tried to figure where we were. We
said, "No, my God, look there!" decided we were on what is called Lapton Island.
I looked up and there was a mountain of water That being the case, Shired Island would be the
coming down on us -- this was the tidal wave. closest place we might get help.
There were three waves. The first one filled our We knew nothing about our other two boys. We
20




knew they were lost, and they thought the same disgusted with the weather.
thing about us. We all reached land near the same We took the straight shot to Shired Island. The
place. They went in to land one half mile south of marsh grass was bad. It was mostly that old needle where we landed, but when the storm began to grass. We swam twenty-one creeks before we
moderate, they heard a man shout, answered him reached Shired Island. Some of them were large
and went to him. This man was John Pinner, a ones, some were small. We arrived at the island
brother of Mrs. Beauchamp. He had been washed between ten and twelve o'clock Tuesday,
away from Big Bradford Island; Mrs. Beauchamp September 29, tired and worn out.
was lost. We found no one there but found a hog pen
John knew the country well and knew about made of boards which made a windbreak for us.
where he was. He, Tom and Vernon made it over to We sat down to rest. My brother-in-law, much
Mandarin Point. There they found help -- Mr. John older than I, began to get stiff from exposure. He Daughtery and family. On Ax Island there was a said we would have to get up and walk around or
fish camp with five men: Henry Haven and George we would not be able to move.
Havens brothers and one of their sons, Frank The moon was about an hour high and bright as
Havens, Lewis Daughtery, and Joe Hall. All three could be. We walked down to the beach, and in the
of the Havens were lost. Lewis and Joe climbed up sand we found tracks that were made after the a tall cabbage tree, and hung on in the bud. Their storm. We kept walking and found a trail that led arms and chest were as raw as a piece of beef. across a marsh to a larger island. We knew from
There were two freight boats in at the bird what we had found that there was someone not far
rookery. One of these, Mr. Register's, was lost and from there. We kept on going up the trail and so was Mr. Register, and I think one or two more found some people. The house had blown off at its
men. Mr. Russell scudded before the wind, cut the blocks and wrecked it very much, but they had a mast out of his boat, and lost some of his freight. fire, some salty coffee, sweet potatoes baked in the When the wind changed, it blew him back to land. sand, but my, it was good.
He landed on Shired Island. We spent the rest of the night with them. There
Across Suwannee Bay on Long Cabbage there were four people that lived on the island. The fifth
were four men camping and fishing: George man came there in the storm. We knew all of them
Wadley, Joe Andrews, Charles Door and Sam they were old coasters. Their names were Mr.
Goss. They lost all their fishing gear and Sam Goss and Mrs. Jim Starling, Joe Starling, a brother, and was drowned. Mr. Door's family lived on Buck there was an old boatman, a Spaniard by the name
Island just inside of Long Cabbage. They were all of Decenty Pettis. The fifth man was Captain drowned his wife and three children, his niece Barney Russell. He landed on the island during the
and two children, and Sam Robertson, a man who storm. Hc was captain of one of the freight boats
was on the island with them. that was at the mouth of the river.
When Bob McCleary and I got down the creek On the morning of September 30, which was
and found our houseboat, we still knew not what to Wednesday, we had no way to get home from here. do. Bob, not being used to going barefooted, had Our chance to get home was to go to Fish Bone.
tender feet so I gave him nmy shoes which were in There was a road out of there so they put us across my clothes bucket. They fit him ok. Then there was Shired Creek and we walked to Fish Bone. so much water we went back to the swamp, This was across the marsh. There was an old
thinking we could follow the coast line around to wagon road. The water had gone out but left water Shired Island, but the timber had blown down so in the ruts. In these ruts there was plenty of fish of
bad we could not make any time. We were going all kinds red fish, trout, flounders, and sheep
over trees and under trees. It was so hard on us. head, but no mullet. It was about five or six miles Then we took a straight shot across the marsh for over there, and when we got there we found Mr. Shired Island. Up in the swamp we could see dead Luther and John Luther, his son. They were pretty
fish, mullet mostly, but I think these mullet came much weather beaten but hadn't been hurt too out of our boat. She had nine hundred iced on her bad. There was so much timber down across the when she turned over. There were plenty of river roads it was impossible to ride a horse out. That
turtle, and we saw pieces of our small boats that was early in the morning of the thirtieth of were broken up in the storm. There were several September.
pelicans sitting around in the trees. They seemed We had something to eat and Mr. Luther gave
21




"MAN, W
. . . ....
In Cedar Key, Porter Wilkerson with his mother, Carrie Miller Wilkerson, (1885-1974) in front of her Cedar Key Cafe on Second Street, photo in 1947.
22




us an old bateau. kind of boat, but it looked good to us. He gave us a bed sheet which we made into a sail, one paddle, a lunch, which was biscuits, pork and sweet potatoes, and a jug of water.
We set sail for Cedar Key, had a good west wind, which was almost behind us, and we made good time. I had not thought anything about the storm striking Cedar Key, but as we were going around Piney Point about sundown, we could see some old dump carts, pieces of houses, and rubbish of all kinds out in the bay around Rum Key and Channel Islands. Then we began to think if our folks were lost or not.
We came on in and landed on the beach at Capt. Picket's boat yard. The other two boys who were with us in the beginning of the storm got home thirty minutes before we did.
They had some awful stories to tell my mother, father and sister what they had seen that they knew came off of our camp boat, knew that she had turned over and could see no chance for us, but when they heard that we had landed, that was a happy time for us all to meet again.
It was now dark, and we could not see what had been done to Cedar Key, but next morning we could see there had been plenty done. The Schlemmer Hotel, the Bettelina Hotel, and The Bar Room burned. Fish houses washed away, railroad washed away, boats in the streets and rubbish of all kinds. Things looked bad. There was no one hurt or lost except one colored man, he was washed away in one of the fish houses.
23




GIRLS' BASKETBALL TEAM, CEDAR KEY HIGH SCHOOL, 1914
Back row, left to right: Bessie Wadley (Horne), unidentified. Third: Unidentified, Ruth Berry (Boothsby), Mary Linnie Boothsby, Nellie Whitman (Bramlett), Teresa Bush (Dorsett). Second: Unidentified. Front: Nicholene Johnson (Rowland), Abaline Crevasse (Schlemmer). They wore the middy blouse and bloomer uniforms fashionable with girl athletes of that time. Their caps were men's golf caps, the correct headgear for a properly attired young man. Ahead of these pretty, vivacious youngsters wearing their jaunty caps was World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II. A lot of history has happened during their lives. But on the day this picture was made, they were happy.




LUKENS, FLORIDA
BY S. E. GUNNELL
A hundred years ago, a little girl struggled to boarded with a Crews family in Cedar Key and carry a bucket of water along the path from a small attended a private school taught by Miss Jennie freshwater pond to the Bettilini Hotel in Cedar Haven. When she reached the third grade there
Key. The water was for the hotel's laundry where she was big enough to cross the long trestle from
her mother worked. Each morning she made her island home to the Lukens school. She finished
several trips lugging the heavy bucket. That was the ninth grade there, then attended the public
her job. She was just seven years old. school in Cedar Key.
Her name was Louise Jane Rawls. The world of She remembers the sternwheeler, steamboat
little Louise with her long skirt and water bucket Helendenan that towed log rafts into the log basin. was a microcosm that soon faded and vanished into On Sunday afternoons when the steamboat was
the downstream current of time that is the tied up she and the other children were allowed to
inevitable destiny of all such little niches of mortal go aboard and play on its decks. The old existence. She grew up, married Charles steamboat's final resting place is not known.
Walzenhan Haven, and reared a family on Haven Some of the Lukens residents were Dr. Porter
Island, which is the first island off the mainland at Hudson, Arthur Redpath (bookkeeper), Homer the seaward end of the first trestle of the now Toole (woods crew foreman), a Mr. Little (lumber
extinct railroad. During the storm and tidal wave of inspector), Guy Shannonhouse (saw filer), the 1896, two burning barges were torn loose from Tatum family, Leon Smith, another Smith family,
their mooring at Atsena Otie and came ashore on the Pascals, Ralph Brennon, Neal Worthington
Way Key where they slammed into the Bettilini (commissary manager), and Lloyd Poozer, a clerk
Hotel and caused it to burn down. Louise is buried in the commissary. The Pinson family ran the at Cedar Key. boarding house, the same Pinsons who later lived
At the mainland end of the long trestle was the in Bronson. Some of their children were Vassie, town of Lukens, centered around the Tillghman Bessie, Tom, and Ernest. Mr. Amason taught
Cypress Company's mills. This site was between Sunday School; his sons were Allen, Robert,
the present-day municipal water works and the Holden, and Carlos; his daughter Eunice married
waterfront. The town went to the edge of the Troy Jones, lumber inspector. Frank Ishie and his
marsh and was located on the west side of the family lived at Lukens awhile when his son
tracks. Most of the mill's log supply came from the Norwood was small. Norwood grew up to become Suwannee River swamps but as the supply Mr. N. F. Ishie, a resident of Bronson at this time.
dwindled, logs were hauled in on a tram railroad Two mail and passenger trains arrived daily, an
that ran out into Gulf Hammock toward the eastbound in the morning and a westbound in the
Waccasassa River. Some logs were rafted down afternoon. As was the custom in all the small towns
the Waccasassa from Townsend Landing (later along the tracks, the arrival of a train was a big
called Williams Landing and now known as the event.
Waccasassa Marina). The cypress supply became The mill boilers exploded about 1910 and
exhausted and the Lukens Mill ceased operation in injured a number of workers. Mabel went on to St. the early twenties. The town quickly disappeared Petersburg in 1917 to attend business training
and not a stick of it is left today. school. Today, she lives near Trenton and
The railroad section crews lived on Haven remembers the island that was her childhood
Island. Charles Haven was a crew foreman for home. She also remembers the story of her mother
fifty-five years. One of the Haven children, Mabel, when Louise was seven and carried the water was born in 1899. She now lives at Trenton and is bucket back and forth so that the people staying at
married to Jesse Polk who grew up in the Trenton the hotel could have their clothes washed by
area. She can remember old Lukens, some of the Louise's mother.
people and events of that ghost town. She thinks The freshwater pond disappeared long ago as
that the town was named after some very early the water table fell, the hotel burned, the hotel
settler who had no connection with the mills. guests left, the town of Lukens vanished, and the
When Mabel started tV1 school she was too little most enduring image that comes across a century to cross the trestles and islands by herself so she of time is that pathetic little girl with her bucket.
25













UNIV-RSITY OF FLORA 3 1262 09770 9926




Full Text

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A History of Levy County, Florida & & & Chapter Seven & & & Published By The Levy County Archives Committee Sponsored by the Levy County Board of Commissioners Bronson, Florida A Bicentennial Publication

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Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2018 with funding from University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries https://archive.org/details/searchforyesterd7197levy

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THE McCALL TAPES TRANSCRIPT BY MARILYN LINDSEY While teaching social studies at Chiefland High School in 1968, Mr. Doyle McCall arranged for small student teams to record interviews with several elderly persons in Levy County. Mr. McCall and his students were interested not only in the history these people could remember but also in preserving the various dialects spoken by them. Some of those dialects have almost vanished. Most of the people interviewed in 1968 are now deceased. Among the young people conducting the interviews were Carol Swaggerty Snider, Franklin Watson, Tommy Bennett, and Karen Repko. The cassette recorders they used were early models and not very effective; portions of the tapes are not readable, occasional words and phrases are distorted, but we present the literal words used by the persons being interviewed as accurately as we can. MR. WALFORD ELLZEY, bom 1883: The first logging business I ever knew of was here at Ellzey. They brought the cedar out of the swamp with wagons. Some of the cedar logs would go four foot through. The cedar was made into slats ready for the pencil factory right here at Ellzey. They worked about a hundred people here, I reckon. A feller by the name of Sutton from Georgia ran the cedar business here. The first mail service I can remember was a mail car in the train with a feller they called a mail clerk, his name was White. He would fix up a pouch for every little station, to throw out there and pick another one up. A man got fifty cents a day back then for working from daylight to dark. The Big Storm was in 1896,1 was thirteen years old. It blowed down everything in this county but it didnÂ’t hurt the logging business. After the storm they didnÂ’t have to saw the trees down. There was so many trees on the ground that like if somebody wanted to go to Chiefland he had to cut his way through, you couldnÂ’t even walk anywhere until the way was cleared. The main thing we did for amusement was go down and meet the train every day. That was the grandest thing I ever saw. There might be five hundred people down there just to see the train pull in and stop and then go on. The first I ever knew of Chiefland coming into existence was a feller by the name of Rodgers had a postoffice there and it was named Chiefland. That old postoffice stood, the best I can remember, somewhere out there where the road starts toward Trenton. We used to have big picnics and the fellers running for office would make speeches. Cedar Key was the biggest town around here, bigger than Gainesville was. They had a wire system and they could just phone off anywhere or send a telegram. MRS. MISSOURI COBB, born 1889: When I moved to Otter Creek fifty-five years ago the Otter Creek Lumber Company was here and this was a big lumber town. They had about five hundred men working and a lot of people lived here. Then the lumber company was sold and was called GunnÂ’s Lumber Camp for awhile, until the Cumber people bought it out. MRS. VIVIAN HARPER: Chiefland got its name from the fact that there used to be a lot of Indians around here. When I was a little girl a lot of Indian mounds were still around here. My uncle Harry Rodgers, I believe, founded Chiefland. For a long time the school had one teacher with anywhere from one to three children in each grade. Finally they got two teachers. The school house was located just about where the first old postoffice was, about two or three hundred feet from where the second old postoffice was. Hardeetown was named after my people, the Hardee family, when the railroad was built and a merchantile business was started there. The old Hardee plantation was where my grandfather lived. The Hardees, I believe, came from South Carolina. MRS. GILLEY, 78: When I was a little girl, my father farmed. He grew corn, cucumbers, peanuts, and watermelons. My father hauled the cucumbers to Archer to ship them on the train to places like New York. I think it was the Florida Central and Pacific. Back there when I was a child we didnÂ’t have such things as radios, but when the old FC 2

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and P came through just ablowinÂ’ we knew that was a sure sign of a hard freeze coming that night. Sometimes the school children would load up in wagons and buggies and go all the way from Williston to Montbrook and have a ball game with the children there. It was not baseball, it was called handball. MR. MICHAEL CLANCEY, 83: I can remem ber when Williston had just one store, run by the Eppersons. There was a grist mill and a cotton gin here. Also, Mr. Sistrunk had a store, later on. There were some old Indian mounds around Johnson Sink and Johnson Lake. I wouldnÂ’t know where to find them now. MRS. L. W. MARKHAM: My mother was a native. My grandfather came down before the Civil War and homesteaded about three miles northwest of Williston. Williston was founded by the Honorable Jesse M. Willis in 1853. He came here from Marion County and cleared a large plantation. In those olden days, the way they traveled was to go by wagon to Palatka and by boat up the St. Johns River to Jacksonville and then on to Savannah and Charleston. About two weeks was required for one trip. These trips were made twice a year. They carried the produce from the plantation up and brought the supplies back. The first railroad across the state was finished in 1858 and ran from Femandino to Cedar Key. The first school here was a subscription school opened in 1857, the first free school opened in 1870. The first church in this place was built in 1856 about one and a half miles southeast of where the town is now. This was a two-story building with the lower floor being used as a church and the upper floor as a Masonic hall. The first Methodist Church was a log building built in 1870. There was a time when it was said that Williston was the foremost cucumber producing area in the world; as many as seventy-five carloads would be shipped out in one day. Dr. Wood had the first automobile here. The first store in Williston was established by Mr. John D. Epperson where the present city park is located. This merchantile business was later moved near the Seaboard Railroad on what is now East Main Street. The first electricity in Williston was made by the Williston Manufactur ing Company, headed by Mr. L. C. Hester, in 1913. MR. RADDIE DAVIS, SR., 93: At one time there was the Faber pencil mill at Atsena Otie which gave employment to about one hundred people. The Eagle Pencil Company was on this island (Way Key) and later on a third pencil company was here on this island. Ships used to come in here from Europe loading on products from the pine timber mill. I can remember time seeing fifteen of these foreign sailing ships in the harbor at one time. Most of them were from Germany and England. That went on in a big way until the railroad opened up and then a lot of the factory products were shipped out by rail. The big sawmill quit operating about 1890. The railroad was put in here in 1852 by the Florida Railway and Navigation Company. At that time Florida was still a young state and they wanted any kind of a rough railroad to reach the Gulf. So the state government gave the railroad company every other section of land between here and Femandino as an induce ment to build the line. 3

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4 The Himmelbright house in Montbrook, built in 1890. When they retired, some seafaring men would build homes with observation decks and a nautical appearance. Photo in 1892.

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THE STRONGS BY LINDON LINDSEY and S. E. GUNNELL Dan Strong and his brother Robert arrived in Levy County shortly before 1850 as members of a crew building the railroad from Fernandino to Cedar Key. They were slaves. The crew was that of a subcontractor, they cleared right of way and did preliminary roadbed construction. At the time, Robert went by the name of Tisdale. He later had his name legally changed back to Strong. When the subcontractorÂ’s project was finished, he set the brothers free. They stayed in Levy County and homesteaded acreage along the Waccasassa River downstream from the present-day crossing of State Road 24. Over a period of years they became prosperous, widely known, and highly respected. Besides their cattle ranch they operated a small store and built a school for the children of their employees. According to the family legend, when the Civil War started, Robert enlisted as a Confederate soldier. One might suppose that the Confederate States of America was his country and he intended to fight for it. However, his tombstone reads: Robert Tisdale, Company G, 104th US Infantry. The possibility exists that he was captured and pressed into service as a Union soldier. That is known to have happened in parallel cases. In later years, Dan operated a dray (freight transit) between Otter Creek and the stage coach depot at Crooked Sapling. He also owned a hotel in Otter Creek. His cattle brand is still on record in Bronson. At age 99, Dan was moving a familyÂ’s household goods in a wagon when he had a stroke, fell out of the wagon and injured his neck. He died about a week later. His wife Jo Anna grew her own garden until the last year of her life. She lived to be 107. Their old family cemetery is still out there in the woods by the river. Some of the graves do not have tombstones but among those that do have is that of Elizabeth Strong (1900-1928), daughter of Robert. Among DanÂ’s children were two sets of twins: Kelly and Dan, May and Martha. His son Fulton twice donated school sites to the county at Otter Creek. Fulton is buried at Archer. Among FultonÂ’s thirteen children are Clarence Strong of Williston and Edith (married Merrill McNeal) of Otter Creek. FultonÂ’s heirs still own a part of their familyÂ’s ancestoral homestead along the Waccasassa River, land that has been owned by the Strongs since the 1850Â’s. The descendants of Dan and Robert Strong are scattered now, like most of the old families of Levy County. Their heritage is a long and honorable one. The Strongs worked shoulder to shoulder with the other pioneers to build this county, they go back almost to its beginning. Their roots are here. Clarence Strong of Williston with his brother-in-law Merrill McNeal of Otter Creek at the site of his grandfather Dan StrongÂ’s homestead along the Waccasassa River. The hand-hewn post and brick fragments they hold are the only visible remains of the pioneer ranch that was started here in the 1850Â’s. The Strong family cemetery is nearby. 5

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MEMORIES OF OTTER CREEK BY CHARLES F. KIMBLE I have no conscious memory of Baden, Ga. where I was born on August 5th, 1908. My parents moved to Greenville, Fla. when I was three months old. From there we moved to Otter Creek, Fla. about my second birthday. Our home in Otter Creek was a simple residence of which I remember a little. I recall a rain barrel in which mosquitoes raised in abundance. It was fascinating to stand on a box alongside and watch the larvae wiggle up and down in the water. There was a lot of malaria. The boards on the sides of the first house I remember in Otter Creek were vertically placed, not horizontally. There were some better homes and my father, J. P. Kimble, was promised one when a vacancy occurred. We had a pitcher pump, outhouse and oil lamps. I remember my mother complaining about cleaning the dirty lampshades. My parents had previously lived in Otter Creek, but went back to Georgia for a short time, probably after the death of a brother born in 1906 and who died when three months old. I guess the lumber company persuaded my father to return. I know he was an efficient manager for the company and was quite knowledgeable about timber, grades of lumber, and could readily calculate measurements. We did eventually move to a better home. This house was across the Seaboard track from the hotel, which was a two-story building. The streets were dirt, sometimes covered over with sawdust for improvement. It was common to find cans and bottles littering the roadway. This second house also had a pitcher pump on the back porch, but a slat room had been added with a bathtub. We filled the tub by pumping water into a trough that carried the water through a wall into the tub. After a bath the water was simply released to run on the ground. However, there was some status to this arrangement. On one occasion my father thought better about having a tub as I had deposited my bucket of frogs in it. There was a large oak in the front yard at the corner of the front porch. The limbs extended over the fence and above the street. We did a fair amount of climbing and watching occasional traffic. We watched the wagons, sometimes a buggy, and after 1912 several cars appeared in town. I believe Mr. Gunn (or maybe Mr. Cobb) bought the first car. Mr. Gunn bought a Ford Model T and made his own roads through the woods to Gunntown, now known as Gulf Hammock. Falling trees, burning woods, and rain sometimes caused a detour. One cold day, my brother Malcolm and I were returning from one of several farms my father had purchased in Gulf Hammock. We stopped the mules in the middle of the road and built a fire of dried palm fronds. We had quite a fire to warm by when Mr. Gunn approached. He simply cut a new set of ruts around us through the flatlands, waved and chugged away. The lumber company owned tram engines, log carts, skidders and many mules, all of which were used to harvest the timber. Some of the colored workers would use a pair of mules on Sunday to attend their church on the outskirts of town. I think they had settled on two favorite mules. Anyway, Malcolm and I generally got the same mules to pull the wagon to the farm. Mr. Gunn was about the only traffic encountered and he made his own road when necessary. Mules follow the road with little need of supervision. Malcolm and I simply laid down in the wagon and let the mules make their own decisions. We did have to correct them when they passed the church or they would abruptly turn at the far side, pull alongside and stop. They were prepared for long sermon and probably dinner on the Ground. Quite often while sitting on the front porch, I could tell my mother whose car was approaching from the rear of our home solely by the sound of its engine and other noises. There were very few cars in Otter Creek. There was a chain drive Brush that I rode in to Rocky Hammock to hear Brother Douglas preach. On the way we passed Mr. W. C. Cobb sitting by the roadside in his new Buick. There were several in the car dressed for church. Mr. Cobb was just blowing the horn on the Buick without letup. He said Clarence Maxwell told him to do this in case of trouble and he would come out and fix the trouble. We proceeded to Rocky Hammock Church to hear Brother Douglas preach about opening the pantry door and seeing the light reflected from the lard stored in gourds. The sermon was “Let your light so shine.” Mr. Cobb drove up in time for dinner on the ground. Clarence Maxwell had heard the horn blowing and 7

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8 By the depot in the now extinct town of Meredith, Malcolm D. Graham (1891-1970) sat in his new car, a touring car equipped with brass shelled radiator, acetylene gas headlights, and manual air horn. This was about 1912. He was postmaster at Meredith and in later years, county tax collector. About 1914.

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drove out to the rescue. Everyone was amused to learn that the ignition switch had jarred off on the bumpy roads. Clarence merely turned on the switch, cranked the car and Mr. Cobb was on his way. My father’s first car was a Willis Overland fourdoor with convertible top and side curtains. It was dark green, shiny, because it was new. All the neighbors gathered around to inspect it. Bubber Hudson, One of my playmates, carried nails in his pocket, so he took one and made a scratch mark down the length of the car on the driver’s side. Dad purchased the car from Coite W. Hill in Gainesville. Mr. Hill sent Bill Green with the car. He stayed in our home several days for the purpose of teaching my mother to drive. She took a lesson or two but never did much if any driving. I never drove that car any, but Malcolm drove a bit. I think he broke an axle once. In fact, the rear axle was one of the car’s weaknesses and several had to be replaced. While owning the car we moved to Gunntown. The Gainesville Buick dealer had approached Dad about trading several times. We were riding around in the Overland one Sunday afternoon and another axle broke. We walked home. The next day the Buick salesman showed up and said he would trade for the Overland, bring an axle down and get the car from where we left it. Dad traded and several days later we went to Gainesville in the new car. Along about Arredondo, near Gainesville, we saw the Overland parked by the side of the road. Another axle had given away. Before leaving Otter Creek I remember getting stuck in the bogs or sloughs. And after the rainy season the car would often drown out. My mother would get on my father’s back and he would wade to dry ground and make arrangements for a team to pull the car out. Sometimes, if the problem was simpler and the wheels would spin in the mud he would deal with the problem himself. Generally we could look around in the bushes and find a pry pole previously cut down from a cypress tree and left by previous victims of the mud and times. This was a courtesy of the road. Life was very simple when we lived in Otter Creek. I think we were there from 1910 till probably 1917. There were no sidewalks, no paved streets or roads either, for that matter. Fireworks and toys showed up in stores around Christmas. There may have been fireworks on sale for the Fourth of July, 1 don’t remember. One or two streets near the mill were covered with sawdust. At times the road would catch fire from the mill’s slab pit which burned perpetually. Sawdust, like muck and cotton, is hard to stop from burning. A heavy rain will sometimes do it. At times we thought the fire was out and then it would surface in the road again. I remember walking barefoot in the road and occasionally breaking the crust of hardened sawdust and getting a real hotfoot. Will Yearty ran the Post Office in the same building with his store. My father took me there one morning and asked me what I wanted to drink. He and Mr. Yearty got a laugh when I asked for “Blood Juice”. I couldn’t think of “Blood Wine” which was a popular soft drink. Mr. Yearty saw that I was fascinated with the gas lantern in his store. He told me to touch the mantle real easy, but I remember it collapsed at the barest touch. When I was very young, probably about 1912 (four years old) my mother took me to a railroad camp right near town and along the right of way of the Atlantic Coast Line. The work train and workers were to pass the Camp that day. The rails were being laid for the new railroad. The crossties were already in place and a crane mounted on a rail car would lift rails from a flatcar to the rear and swing them forward into place. The workers spiked the rails securely and swiftly. My attention was divided between the building of the railroad and a small toy boy doll. I don’t think I could comprehend that a doll could be other than a girl doll. It was an exciting time with the hammering, escaping steam, and the tents in whiph the workers families were living. We visited in one of the tents until the railroad passed us and was hammered on toward Gunntown. The Atlantic Coast Line, like all new railroads, made new areas accessible. Mr. Gunn, of The Otter Creek Lumber Company, foresaw the time when pine for the mill would run out. There was magnolia, gum, pine and other timber available in Gulf Hammock. It was ideal material for making bean and lettuce hampers needed by farmers in South Florida. Soon after the railroad passed through Gunntown, now known as the town of Gulf Hammock, Mr. Gunn began preparing for a mill in Gunntown as the manufacture of lumber in Otter Creek was phased out. My father was persuaded to be superintendent of the new mill, although my mother was very reluctant to move to the hammock. The advantages were very limited in Otter Creek and were near nonexistent in Gunntown. There was no church, no school, and in rainy season it was difficult to travel by par. 9

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10 The P. O. Sneller home in Montbrook, originally Phoenix, 1892. His daughter Agnes married Evan Sheffield and taught in the Chiefland school about 1908. She boarded with the John Hardee family. Her mother was an Epperson, same family as the Williston and Bronson Eppersons. The central part of this house was made of logs. The wheelbarrow design goes back hundreds of years, in Europe. Agnes is standing by that rock chimney.

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Actually, about the only place to go was Gainesville, over forty miles away, and that was a full day’s round trip. Outside of our family I recall only three white boys living there. Merrill Stevens was the only one my age. We did have electric lights in our home and 1 believe there was a water spigot on the back porch. The outhouse was still out back. My older brother, Malcolm, was sent to my grandmother’s in Georgia and to school. I was two years older than my sister, Lillie Maud (Mrs. Carl Wellman) and six years older than Jack, our youngest brother. Merrill Stevens and his brother Rex got jobs in the crate mill. I found myself with a lot of time on my hands in a very small town surrounded by a lot of woods. There was a small creek in front of our house and to the rear near the mill was the Wekiva River with clear water from the springs several miles upstream. 1 learned to dig earthworms and to fish and did right well at it. I tried to make a raft and spent a long time hacking down a tree to start it. It sank to the bottom immediately and I found out I had cut down an Ironwood tree. I wandered around in the woods a good bit, sometimes carrying my 22 rifle, but don’t recall killing anything. There was abundant game, though, of all kinds. Sometimes I went swimming in the river. There were more colored boys and men always than the two or three whites swimming, but I remember having a good time. I couldn’t swim but could duck my head under water O.K., so I learned to dive off the bridge into deep water and scramble a bit to where I could stand up. And from this I learned to swim. I spent all the time I could diving off that bridge. My eyes were open underwater consider ably. One Sunday morning the words in the funny papers seemed blurred. The black print seemed to have a red border. I was assured this was not so by my family and we finally decided all that diving underwater was doing something to my eyes. My mother made me do less swimming and my eyes shaped up. This was not the first eye trouble I had. When we were in Otter Creek one of my playmates was Bubber Hudson. He was dumb, that is, he couldn’t speak. He made sounds and he and I didn’t have trouble communicating. In fact, he was quite handy at carving rudders to roll our hoops and making slingshot handles. We broke up a lot of old castiron stove doors and used the pieces for pellets. My older brother had a shotgun and I got three of his buckshot shells. Bubber and I took — them apart for the lead pellets to use in our slingshots. We had carefully piled the gunpowder on a shingle so I decided to light it with a match. I was sitting on the ground and the wind was toward me. The flash burned my eyebrows and sealed my lids shut with the seared lashes. Bubber took off for help and I remember my father being very solicitous and taking me to Dr. Porter. We must have ridden in Mr. Humes’ Ford as we sat in the backseat of one. Dr. Porter painted my face with picric acid and I was yellow for a month or more. I remember that it hurt to expose my eyes to light. I think the doctor took this as a good sign and he said not to try to see. He told my father that he thought my eyes would be all right, but would not be sure till the next day. I remember the flash of that gun powder very well and it was fast, but nature helps you close your eyes in a hurry. The Lord helped the foolish that day. I started school in Otter Creek when I was five or six years old. It was 1913 or 1914, I think. The school wasn’t far from our home. It was one large room in which Professor Musgrove taught it all from the First thru the Twelfth Grades. I can remember reading the Primer and learning to spell. Someone at the mill made two desks with bench seats and my father sent one to the school for me. I’m not sure who got the other one. We played “Tip up and Catch Out”, “Bully in the Pen” and sometimes “Marching around the Level” and “Guinea, Guinea, Squat”. Also, there was a lot of “Hide and Seek”, Stickball played with a can, r larbles and Tag. I finished the Fourth Grade there before moving to Gunntown. I believe we moved after the school year of 1917-18. When I was eight or nine years old I started chewing tobacco. One summer we went to my mother’s old home near Springvale, Ga. I hurried down to the creek and caught some cousins and my brother Malcolm chewing tobacco. Bill Stokes was with me and we were offered a chew. It made Bill sick and maybe I would have been better off to get sick, too. Malcolm and I would chew after school and when we brought the milk cow from the pasture. My folks caught me at it and I got a switching or two and a lot of talking to. I felt guilty about it and quit and tried to quit off and on. One’s judgement is far from mature at nine years of age. Speaking of youthful judgement, I remember one cool evening just at dusk dark when Malcolm called me to supper. I had just discovered a snake and felt that I should restrain it from getting away. The simplest way was to step on its tail which I did. 11

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12 cemetery survived and is todayÂ’s Orange Hill Cemetery.

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Malcolm kept calling me to come to supper and I kept yelling that the snake would get away if I removed my foot. Malcolm was near frantic when he realized the situation and after a lot of hollering the wiggling snake was set free. The snake was probably a ground rattler. It could have bitten me, but that snake was more concerned with getting out of his predicament. The Lord helped the foolish that day. In the summer in Otter Creek a colored man came around early Sunday morning selling one scoop of ice cream for a nickel. We had to get a saucer and spoon ourselves and hold it up so the vendor could reach over the fence and deliver it. Once or twice mine slid right out of the saucer into the sand. My father was usually good for another nickel. Ice cream is slippery and I was five or six years old, but we learned to manage it. Another pleasant memory had to do with bottled drinks. The hotel across the railroad from us had a massive homemade ice box with a counter balanced lid on top. The cake of ice was buried in sawdust. Milk, drinks, and anything in jars or bottles were hidden down in the wet and cold sawdust. I remember being held up so I could dig out a drink. The top layer was dry but deeper it was wet, then cold, and then the thrill of finding a cold drink. The Otter Creek Lumber Company had two or more steam engines used to pull log trains from the woods to the mill. Also, it was fascinating to watch the driver and mules bring in logs suspended with tongs under the axle of the high two wheeled log carts. Uncle Bob, a fine, well liked colored man getting on in years, made the hub and parts for the big cart wheels and he could skillfully fit the iron tires on them. The dirt trails got a roller coaster effect as the ends of the suspended logs rose and fell each time displacing a bit of earth. The mill was always noisy and the racket could be heard all over town. There was a skidder in the log yard arranging the logs to go up a chute to the second level. Then the saws cut the proper lengths and sawed slabs and boards. The whine from the planing mill and the blowers carrying shavings to the boilers added to the roar. As the days grew shorter the mill operated till after dark. There were fireworks every night as we watched sparks leave the several smoke-stacks especially when they were using sawdust for fuel. They set a few fires as did the wood burning freight engines that passed thru every day. Trains attracted attention as they passed by and crowds when they pulled into the station. The biggest thrill was a train trip. My mother would take us to Georgia at least once a year. We always changed and waited for another train in Jacksonville and again in Nahunta, Ga. It seems we always arrived back in Otter Creek in the early evening. I remember the porter lighting the gas lights on the train. Also, the newsbutcher was a pure delight. He had it all. There was candy, peanuts, fruit, drinks and novelties. We wanted everything, but settled for a glass pistol full of candy or maybe an apple. The toilets and the water coolers on the train did a tremendous business. There was always someone to meet us going and coming. And then the trunk had to be accounted for in the baggage car. Everybody travelled with a trunk. My memories of Otter Creek started sometime after we moved there in 1910 when I was about two years old. ItÂ’s hard to put everything in chronological order, but I do recall some things that happened when I was very young. For a while I delivered mail each morning by taking discarded pamphlets and circulars from house to house. Each recipient seemed pleased and would give me more to exchange with the next neighbors. This cooperation was better after I had passed around a few personal letters on my own. On our right was the family of Giles Tomkins. He was the sawyer at the mill. Behind us and across a dirt street first lived the Cannons and later, the Hudsons. The Cannons had a boy about my age who died. I went with others to see the body. It appeared to me that he had changed to glass or doil material due to his waxy appearance. I thought about this for a long time. There were two streams below us on the way to Ellzey. The first one was the smaller and sometimes would dry up. One day it was about as wide as I could jump, so I did. I lost my first baby tooth in jumping but waded back and retrieved it. The second creek was larger and provided a swimming hole for those who could handle it. It also doubled as the place for baptisms. One Sunday afternoon several were baptized. A young woman was apprehensive about the water. She held her breath, and closed her eyes, IÂ’m sure, and after immersion did not balance herself. I noticed her floating downstream but attention was being focused on the next convert. Others no doubt saw her plight and someone swam after her. She was saved for sure. Before the Hudsons moved behind us they 13

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14 This cafe was operated during the thirties by Percy and Bessie Fender by the side of US 27-A in Bronson. A fully equipped hamburger sold for 15 cents and a plate lunch for 35 cents. This picture dates from the forties. Bob and Sue OÂ’connerÂ’s Submarine Factory is now located on the same site. The old cafe was torn down in 1955.

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lived several houses in front and nearer the mill. I don’t recall who their neighbor was, but I was in the neighbor’s home on Saturday night after dark. Mrs. Hudson had a problem with Saturday night baths for her several children and simply set up a wash tub or two on the backporch. There was a kerosene lamp on the porch and we noticed she did not discriminate about who got bathed first as they all got bathed. There were two tragedies in the Hudson family when they lived near us. I don’t know which was first. The daughter Blanche got appendicitis and for one reason or another did not have an operation. Ed Hudson, her father, said he could not resist giving her water when she pleaded for it. Soon afterward she died. Across the railroad there was a street and wide area between the hotel and the Humes’ home. One afternoon we were playing Tip Up and Catch Out in the street. I was rather nimble and would jump up to catch the ball and that would give me a turn to bat the ball to the others. I was successful in catching the ball after jumping in front of Irene Humes. In showing her displeasue she hit me on the head with a well placed ink bottle. She must have severed an artery. Boy, did I bleed! They got me in the hotel and applied an ice compress. I was carried home and set up as an invalid. Shortly afterward Irene came over and brought me a package of Juicy Fruit chewing gum. All was forgiven. One unusual thing still puzzles me. Malcolm and I were in the front yard under the oak tree. He said he saw a bird in the tree and was going to kill it with a small condensed milk can. He hurled the can up in the branches and it came down and also a dead sparrow. It seems that he actually did hit the sparrow but I wondered if he planted it beforehand. This reminds me of a game we played called “Hail Over’’. You just yelled Hail Over and threw the ball over the top of the house to the waiting player on the other side. You had to watch for the ball coming over and try to catch it. Then you flung it back with another Hail Over. We spent two years in Gunntown, but in retrospect it seems longer. After Merrill and Rex got jobs at the mill I pestered my father till I got my first job at fifty cents for a ten hour day. On my first payday I drew a dollar and a half. I used it to buy three Victory war stamps. My mother interceded for me once and I left the job in the afternoon for a party at the DeVoe’s home. It was about three miles from our home and I ran all the way. Once after a rainy season I found it hard to open the wooden front gate. It sometimes stuck from swelling but this time there was a sizable alligator taking up residence. I have noticed that gators will move about after heavy rains. My father had farming in his blood and kept buying farms, horses, mules, hogs and a lot of things he didn’t have time to care for while working in the mills. He sent for a pair of Poland China hogs which we kept out back of the house in Gunntown. That same gate blocked by the gator originally had a latch. It had swelled and the gate would stay shut when closed. That old Poland China sow would lean on the fence near the post and the gate would fly open. I spent a good part of the day chasing hogs and closing gates. We visited Mr. Gunn one Sunday at Gunn’s landing for a ride in his launch. There was an old four story wooden hotel on the site. Mr. Gunn proposed to tear it down due to age. I wondered for a long time how he would get the grand piano down from the fourth floor. The other floors had been cleared. He managed though and I remember visiting the new home that he built. There was an arrangement with partitions on the second floor for four rooms or it could be made into one large room. He also concocted an arrangement to open his gate from his car with some levers. I don’t know how well this worked. While living in Gunntown the influenza epidemic hit the country killing thousands. I think my fathei was ill first and was in bed exactly two weeks. The day he was able to get up my mother became ill and was in bed for two weeks. Mr. Stevens took his boys coon hunting at night. One night I went along. I don’t recall catching a coon, but we hit the jackpot on possums. Mr. Stevens showed me how to carry the live possums by holding them back of the neck. We waded sloughs, followed the baying dogs, cut down trees the possums had climbed and my two possums slept through the whole thing. I sure was glad to finally get home, cold, wet, and with a cramp in all my fingers. The Coast Line ran a combination freight and passenger train on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Someone named the train, “Sunny Jim”. The only phone was in the depot and would frequently ring by the hour. There was no agent, but a key was kept in the mill commissary. News was late in reaching Gunntown as a rule. I 15

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16 Houseboat and steam launch at Fanning Springs about 1900. Third man from left was Lem Curry.

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remember the excitement when we heard of the Armistice on Nov. 12, 1918. I was out of school one full year and the first half of another. My mother and father moved to Bronson the latter part of 1919 after purchasing the Fisher House. I started back to school in Bronson in January 1920. LETTER TO MRS. KEIFER Here are excerpts from a letter written by a Mr. Benton of Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1956, made available by Miss Doris Delaino of Cedar Key. You asked me to write something of what the Suwannee River was like before your gracious presence made it an even nicer place. The present town of Suwannee, Florida, once known locally as Demory Hill and further back than that as Salt Creek Bluff, now boasts of a hard road, electricity, neon signs, juke boxes, telephones, television, lots for sale, fat individuals wearing shorts, and who knows what kind of progress may be ahead. Thirty five years ago, when I first started spending a six to twelve weeks vacation in that area, it was still wild country and a different kind of place. A sand rut road without bridges or fills twisted south from Oldtown for some 25 miles and ended at the head of MundonÂ’s Creek. Most of the tide creeks out there lose themselves in swamp and sawgrass but MundonÂ’s Creek goes clear through the river swamp out to a finger of high ground. The sand road went down to this creek and stopped. You traveled by rowboat about a mile down MundonÂ’s Creek to reach the Suwannee, then went about five miles to reach the Gulf. Another way was to load a boat at Oldtown and go all the way down the Suwannee. You would pass two houses in the 50 miles. When you got your camp established at the head of MundonÂ’s or Shingle Creek or on some of the lower islands along the river, you were strictly on your own. You caught your own fish, you shucked your own oysters, you cut your own cabbage, you gathered your own firewood, you did your own cooking. You had brought in your own supplies and if you forgot your matches, you just didnÂ’t have any matches. Within a ten mile radius there were some half dozen widely separated families. Unless you went around to the islands so occupied you might not see anyone in a weekÂ’s time. You might hear the slow thump, thump of some fishermanÂ’s antique inboard somewhere in the distance. This kind of existence was a bit on the rough and primitive side but on days when the fish wanted action you just about had had to fight them out of the boat with an oar. There were other permanent residents around there in the old days, such as the Beachams who lived on Big Bradford Island. I met him one day when I was fishing on Demory Creek and he was running his coon traps. We let the boats drift and engaged in idle conversation. Presently he pointed out a fork high in a big cypress tree. That was where, he said, he had caught on and held during the night of the Big Storm, the night his home was washed away and all others in the house drowned, including his wife. He told how the wind first blew hard offshore for a day or two, so that the sea retreated to the far horizon and vast mudflats were exposed. This was something you couldnÂ’t walk through and you couldnÂ’t run a boat through it either. The people on islands i /> and down the coast simply had to stay put and wait for whatever was coming. Those who could get there came to Big Bradford for it was the highest island and BeachamÂ’s house was sturdy. Then the wind swung around and the piled-up water rushed back onto the coast. It covered the island and kept rising. It became deeper on the floor of the house and the people climbed onto tables, it kept rising and they chopped a hole in the roof and climbed out on top of the house. Then the house suddenly collapsed under them and they were in the rushing water. Beacham grabbed an object which turned out to be the garden gate and then abandoned that to cling to the high fork in the tall cypress tree. About 24 hours later some men came along in a boat looking for survivors. He was the only one they found. As I write, it comes to me that almost all the people I have mentioned have now passed on. I am getting old. No, I am already old. 17

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CEDAR KEY TIDAL WAVE, 1896 BY W. P. DELAINO (1882-1958) This manuscript was made available by the author’s daughter, Doris Delaino. It was written by the author’s daughter-in-law, Mary Ann Delaino. She recorded Mr. Delaino’s account of his experiences, unedited. I was born on an island one mile east of Cedar Key in the year 1882. My father lived on this island eighteen years. In those days there was not much work for any one to do. My father was a sailor who came over here during the war between the States. He was Austrian by birth. He served twelve years in the Austrian Navy. I had all of his discharge papers, but I lost them in the 1950 hurricane. I do not know if he fought in the War between the States or not, but he was stationed in Key West, Florida. He raised a large family. My mother was a native of Wakulla County. I had one brother and four sisters. My father did almost anything to make a dime those days, for there were not many dollars that a mail could get a hold of. He fished some, oystered sqme, caulked boats, pruned grape arbors, and raised a garden and chickens on this island. Scale Key. I went to school very little, to the third grade, but my mother taught us kids some from the old Webster speller. We moved over to town in 1894. Then I had a better chance to go to school. I went to school in the fall and worked in the cedar mill in the summer. They paid me thirty five cents a day to pack cedar slats. In the fall of 1896 I went fishing with my brother-in-law. In those days fishing was quite different from what it is these days. The fish houses opened up the fifteenth of August and closed down the first of June. The rest of the year the fisherman turtled and made a living the best way they could. My brother-in-law had a crew of men to fish with him. He had a small houseboat that we lived on. There were only four camping outfits in Cedar Key. There were from four to six men in a crew. We had four men in our crew, and I was the boy in camp. We had two run boats that would carry about five thousand pounds of fish. That was a load for them. Each man had a small boat that he used a net off of. The owner of this outfit furnished camp boats, run boats, and small net boats. The man who owned this outfit paid all expenses and took a third of the catch in those days. All boats were sail boats. We did not know what a gas engine was. We got everything ready to go fishing and set sail for the Suwannee River. We anchored our outfit one mile southwest of the West Pass. There is a line of oyster bars off there. We arrived there the fifteenth of August. We fished for fourteen days and caught all the fish we could sell. We had two run boats — one was in Cedar Key, and the other at camp. The one at camp was named the Mattie F. She had twelve hundred pounds of ice on her, and we had caught nine hundred pounds of mullet that day, which was Monday, September 28th. There were plenty of fish, but they acted crazy, which was unusual. We had no way of getting weather reports, and we knew nothing of the storm coming. In those days the old folks would come out, look around and say, “Well, we’re going to have a Northeaster (or a Southwester),” and that’s all there was to it. The day of September 28th there were two boats that come to the mouth of the river and anchored for the night. They were hauling freight from Cedar Key to Blue Creek. The captain of one boat was Barney Russell. The other captain’s name was Register. There were probably more men in the crew, but I do not know their names or how many, but on the night of the 28th we could hear them talking. It was very calm, and their voices carried a long way. We were about one mile from them. When night came, we had our supper and sat around and told a few lies and then went to bed. Along about ten o’clock the wind began to breeze up. We got up, had coffee, and at twelve o’clock it was blowing a gale. Our small boats were beginning to take on water so we got in them and tied the oars down and the sails down good into the boats. We had net racks built out in the water that we dried our nets on. Early in the morning of the twenty ninth I got up and fixed breakfast, which was dry corned beef hash, rice, biscuits and coffee. By new it was peeling the green. My brother-in-law, who was 18

PAGE 22

The great-great-grandparents of John Meeks (15), Chiefland, were Dr. Samuel Bean (1842-1904) and Annie M. Walkmiller Bean (1843-1904). Their children in order of descending age: JohnÂ’s ancestor, Salem (1870-1932), Caroline (1873-1977), Dr. Mace Bean, Ivan and Jesse Bean. This picture was made about 1885, when small boys wore dresses. The Beans lived in Bronson. 19

PAGE 23

captain, said that when it got a little lighter we would try to get in the river, but when it was daylight good, it was blowing so hard a man could hardly stand up, much less try to go anywhere. I spread breakfast on the table. About the time we sat down, our boat began to drag its anchor. They rushed on deck to catch her for she was dragging down on us. Her anchor caught and stopped her, so we sat down again, but before we began eating she began to drag again. That time she kept coming, and she came down on us. Tom Wallace and Vernon Wilson got on her, but they could not stop her. They kept on going. Our houseboat was doing fine, but those boys and that boat went on out of our sight -no breakfast. Well, it wasn’t a very good feeling. Now it was eight o’clock. Our houseboat began to drag. It drug down close to our net spreads, and the camp boat got tangled in the nets and turned our camp boat stern to the wind, got in the back end of the cabin, and blew the cabin off. Then we got clear of everything, and were doing fine. Before this we had had one settlement, and I had shared ten dollars. I had bought three single-bladed pocket knives, and paid ten cents apiece for them. We used these knives for mending nets. I had also bought a ten gallon white pine bucket. It was nice, and I kept my clothes in it. I had a very good pair of shoes which were in the bucket. We were doing fine, but it was getting rougher all the time. Then we dragged down on the run boat where Tom and Vernon were. We got close enough to get ahold of the anchor cable, but the Matty F. had turned over and broke her mast out. The boys were astride of the keel holding on for dear life. We motioned for them to come over to us, but they were afraid to try it. Then we had to turn loose of them. Our camp boat was doing fine. We saw them no more until we arrived in Cedar Key. Now this was between nine and ten o’clock, Tuesday the twenty ninth of September. We were still going to sea. It was awful rough. My brother-in-law and I were scrooched down in one corner of our boat not much to say. About eleven or twelve o’clock I heard something. I said “Is that thunder?” That would have been a sign it was getting better. My brother-in-law looked up and said, “No, my God, look there!” I looked up and there was a mountain of water coming down on us this was the tidal wave. There were three waves. The first one filled our boat half full, the next turned her over completely. Then we had nothing but a flat bottom to hold on to. It was nine by twenty seven feet long not much chance. The boat was traveling as if she had no anchor out at all. We would get up on her bottom and lock hands. We could reach across her bottom and hold on just a little, but the sea would wash us off and we would get back up. I don’t think the boat stayed upside down more than twenty or thirty minutes. Then she turned right side up again. Then we had a better chance to hold on, but then the sea would wash us out. I knew there was no chance for us. How I wished I could see my mother and father one more time! And what dirty water to be drowned in! We knew nothing of the wind changing. We thought we were still going to sea. It was raining and misty, and we could not see very far. Soon I saw something, and I said to my brother-in-law, “There are two water spouts.” He looked up and said, “No, that’s land. We are going towards land!” Then he said, “We have a heavy mooring anchor and a forty pound cage anchor. When we get up in the land that anchor will catch in the rocks and this boat will sink down. When you feel her going down, jump as far as you can to get away from the suction.” It happened just as he said. Then we separated, both going with the wind and tide. There were lots of old tree tops, logs, and things. We would get on first one and then another, going up on the land all the time. Finally we got back together again and kept going until we came to the place where there were three pine trees blown down with their tops together. That’s where we rested a while. It was still blowing, but we could tell that the water was going down. When we got down, the water was just neck deep, and we could tell there was a creek over there. We were way up in the swamp, but we knew not where! We thought if we could get back to the coast we might be able to tell where we were. We found a dry cabbage log about 20 feet long crooked. My brother-in-law got on one end and I on the other. We went down the coast toward Salt Creek, but did not know when we reached Demory Hill. When we got down to the mouth, we saw our camp boat. One end was up on the hill. We stayed there and tried to figure where we were. We decided we were on what is called Lapton Island. That being the case, Shired Island would be the closest place we might get help. We knew nothing about our other two boys. We 20

PAGE 24

knew they were lost, and they thought the same thing about us. We all reached land near the same place. They went in to land one half mile south of where we landed, but when the storm began to moderate, they heard a man shout, answered him and went to him. This man was John Pinner, a brother of Mrs. Beauchamp. He had been washed away from Big Bradford Island; Mrs. Beauchamp was lost. John knew the country well and knew about where he was. He, Tom and Vernon made it over to Mandarin Point. There they found help -Mr. John Daughtery and family. On Ax Island there was a fish camp with five men: Henry Haven and George Havens brothers and one of their sons, Frank Havens, Lewis Daughtery, and Joe Hall. All three of the Havens were lost. Lewis and Joe climbed up a tall cabbage tree, and hung on in the bud. Their arms and chest were as raw as a piece of beef. There were two freight boats in at the bird rookery. One of these, Mr. RegisterÂ’s, was lost and so was Mr. Register, and I think one or two more men. Mr. Russell scudded before the wind, cut the mast out of his boat, and lost some of his freight. When the wind changed, it blew him back to land. He landed on Shired Island. Across Suwannee Bay on Long Cabbage there were four men camping and fishing: George Wadley, Joe Andrews, Charles Door and Sam Goss. They lost all their fishing gear and Sam Goss was drowned. Mr. DoorÂ’s family lived on Buck Island just inside of Long Cabbage. They were all drowned his wife and three children, his niece and two children, and Sam Robertson, a man who was on the island with them. When Bob McCleary and I got down the creek and found our houseboat, we still knew not what to do. Bob, not being used to going barefooted, had tender feet so I gave him n y shoes which were in my clothes bucket. They fit him ok. Then there was so much water we went back to the swamp, thinking we could follow the coast line around to Shired Island, but the timber had blown down so bad we could not make any time. We were going over trees and under trees. It was so hard on us. Then we took a straight shot across the marsh for Shired Island. Up in the swamp we could see dead fish, mullet mostly, but I think these mullet came out of our boat. She had nine hundred iced on her when she turned over. There were plenty of river turtle, and we saw pieces of our small boats that were broken up in the storm. There were several pelicans sitting around in the trees. They seemed disgusted with the weather. We took the straight shot to Shired Island. The marsh grass was bad. It was mostly that old needle grass. We swam twenty-one creeks before we reached Shired Island. Some of them were large ones, some were small. We arrived at the island between ten and twelve oÂ’clock Tuesday, September 29, tired and worn out. We found no one there but found a hog pen made of boards which made a windbreak for us. We sat down to rest. My brother-in-law, much older than I, began to get stiff from exposure. He said we would have to get up and walk around or we would not be able to move. The moon was about an hour high and bright as could be. We walked down to the beach, and in the sand we found tracks that were made after the storm. We kept walking and found a trail that led across a marsh to a larger island. We knew from what we had found that there was someone not far from there. We kept on going up the trail and found some people. The house had blown off at its blocks and wrecked it very much, but they had a fire, some salty coffee, sweet potatoes baked in the sand, but my, it was good. We spent the rest of the night with them. There were four people that lived on the island. The fifth man came there in the storm. We knew all of them they were old coasters. Their names were Mr. and Mrs. Jim Starling, Joe Starling, a brother, and there was an old boatman, a Spaniard by the name of Decenty Pettis. The fifth man was Captain Barney Russell. He landed on the island during the storm. He was captain of one of the freight boats that was at the mouth of the river. On the morning of September 30, which was Wednesday, we had no way to get home from here. Our chance to get home was to go to Fish Bone. There was a road out of there so they put us across Shired Creek and we walked to Fish Bone. This was across the marsh. There was an old wagon road. The water had gone out but left water in the ruts. In these ruts there was plenty of fish of all kinds red fish, trout, flounders, and sheep head, but no mullet. It was about five or six miles over there, and when we got there we found Mr. Luther and John Luther, his son. They were pretty much weather beaten but hadnÂ’t been hurt too bad. There was so much timber down across the roads it was impossible to ride a horse out. That was early in the morning of the thirtieth of September. We had something to eat and Mr. Luther gave 21

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In Cedar Key, Porter Wilkerson with his mother, Carrie Miller Wilkerson, (1885-1974) in front of her Cedar Key Cafe on Second Street, photo in 1947. 22

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us an old bateau kind of boat, but it looked good to us. He gave us a bed sheet which we made into a sail, one paddle, a lunch, which was biscuits, pork and sweet potatoes, and a jug of water. We set sail for Cedar Key, had a good west wind, which was almost behind us, and we made good time. I had not thought anything about the storm striking Cedar Key, but as we were going around Piney Point about sundown, we could see some old dump carts, pieces of houses, and rubbish of all kinds out in the bay around Rum Key and Channel Islands. Then we began to think if our folks were lost or not. We came on in and landed on the beach at Capt. PicketÂ’s boat yard. The other two boys who were with us in the beginning of the storm got home thirty minutes before we did. They had some awful stories to tell my mother, father and sister what they had seen that they knew came off of our camp boat, knew that she had turned over and could see no chance for us, but when they heard that we had landed, that was a happy time for us all to meet again. It was now dark, and we could not see what had been done to Cedar Key, but next morning we could see there had been plenty done. The Schlemmer Hotel, the Bettelina Hotel, and The Bar Room burned. Fish houses washed away, railroad washed away, boats in the streets and rubbish of all kinds. Things looked bad. There was no one hurt or lost except one colored man, he was washed away in one of the fish houses.

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LUKENS, FLORIDA BY S. E. GUNNELL A hundred years ago, a little girl struggled to carry a bucket of water along the path from a small freshwater pond to the Bettilini Hotel in Cedar Key. The water was for the hotelÂ’s laundry where her mother worked. Each morning she made several trips lugging the heavy bucket. That was her job. She was just seven years old. Her name was Louise Jane Rawls. The world of little Louise with her long skirt and water bucket was a microcosm that soon faded and vanished into the downstream current of time that is the inevitable destiny of all such little niches of mortal existence. She grew up, married Charles Walzenhan Haven, and reared a family on Haven Island, which is the first island off the mainland at the seaward end of the first trestle of the now extinct railroad. During the storm and tidal wave of 1896, two burning barges were torn loose from their mooring at Atsena Otie and came ashore on Way Key where they slammed into the Bettilini Hotel and caused it to burn down. Louise is buried at Cedar Key. At the mainland end of the long trestle was the town of Lukens, centered around the Tillghman Cypress CompanyÂ’s mills. This site was between the present-day municipal water works and the waterfront. The town went to the edge of the marsh and was located on the west side of the tracks. Most of the millÂ’s log supply came from the Suwannee River swamps but as the supply dwindled, logs were hauled in on a tram railroad that ran out into Gulf Hammock toward the Waccasassa River. Some logs were rafted down the Waccasassa from Townsend Landing (later called Williams Landing and now known as the Waccasassa Marina). The cypress supply became exhausted and the Lukens Mill ceased operation in the early twenties. The town quickly disappeared and not a stick of it is left today. The railroad section crews lived on Haven Island. Charles Haven was a crew foreman for fifty-five years. One of the Haven children, Mabel, was born in 1899. She now lives at Trenton and is married to Jesse Polk who grew up in the Trenton area. She can remember old Lukens, some of the people and events of that ghost town. She thinks that the town was named after some very early settler who had no connection with the mills. When Mabel started to school she was too little to cross the trestles and islands by herself so she boarded with a Crews family in Cedar Key and attended a private school taught by Miss Jennie Haven. When she reached the third grade there she was big enough to cross the long trestle from her island home to the Lukens school. She finished the ninth grade there, then attended the public school in Cedar Key. She remembers the sternwheeler steamboat Helendenan that towed log rafts into the log basin. On Sunday afternoons when the steamboat was tied up she and the other children were allowed to go aboard and play on its decks. The old steamboatÂ’s final resting place is not known. Some of the Lukens residents were Dr. Porter Hudson, Arthur Redpath (bookkeeper), Homer Toole (woods crew foreman), a Mr. Little (lumber inspector), Guy Shannonhouse (saw filer), the Tatum family, Leon Smith, another Smith family, the Pascals, Ralph Brennon, Neal Worthington (commissary manager), and Lloyd Poozer, a clerk in the commissary. The Pinson family ran the boarding house, the same Pinsons who later lived in Bronson. Some of their children were Vassie, Bessie, Tom, and Ernest. Mr. Amason taught Sunday School; his sons were Allen, Robert, Holden, and Carlos; his daughter Eunice married Troy Jones, lumber inspector. Frank Ishie and his family lived at Lukens awhile when his son Norwood was small. Norwood grew up to become Mr. N. F. Ishie, a resident of Bronson at this time. Two mail and passenger trains arrived daily, an eastbound in the morning and a westbound in the afternoon. As was the custom in all the small towns along the tracks, the arrival of a train was a big event. The mill boilers exploded about 1910 and injured a number of workers. Mabel went on to St. Petersburg in 1917 to attend business training school. Today, she lives near Trenton and remembers the island that was her childhood home. She also remembers the story of her mother when Louise was seven and carried the water bucket back and forth so that the people staying at the hotel could have their clothes washed by LouiseÂ’s mother. The freshwater pond disappeared long ago as the water table fell, the hotel burned, the hotel guests left, the town of Lukens vanished, and the most enduring image that comes across a century of time is that pathetic little girl with her bucket. 25