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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
New Berlin tape number two
Interviewers: Melissa Adams, Wendy Myers, and C.J. Tyree
Inerviewees: Madeline Reed, Anita James, Helen Booze, and Mildred Christopher
We're interviewing Anita James and Madeline Reed...
Start out with Kinglsey Plantation, Anita, how your family originated from Kingsley.
We're not from Kingsley.
Yeah, but the community here is.
Spicer Christopher was granted a Spanish land grant by Governor White around 1765. I am the sixth
generation descendant of Spicer Christopher. From Talbot Island up to Epin Forest Spicer owned five
plantations. One of them was here at Dames Point, at that time Dames point was called Eulala. My
grandfather Joe Christopher which is the son of John Christopher who is the grandson of Spicer Christopher
was given the plantation out here. In the late 1800's, John married a black free woman out of Georgia Her
name was Caroline Crockett. Caroline was his third wife, he had been married twice previously to two
white women so he had two white families before he had his black family.
You forgot to tell them he was white.
Well, he was white. (laughter). Spicer was white.
Well you need to tell them that!
John, a white man, married a free black woman in the late 1800's and to that marriage, I think, nine children
were born, one of them, the second oldest, being my grandfather. In 1917, my grand father traded property
with Captain, what's Cynthia's grandfather's name?
Captain Emory. And he moved from the Dames Point area down to where the family homestead is now.
That was in 1917. During that time, New Berlin was a city in itself. We had a wash house that used to sit
on this corer, on this corer right here, I remember the day it burned, I was a little girl, but I remember
when it burned down.
That's the corer of New Berlin and Apollo Road.
Yeah, right, okay. There was a wash house there. We had a general grocery store and a post office that
was out on the river out here.
Right at the end of the road.
At the end of the road, we had two schools. We had a black school and a white school. We had two
churches, the Episcopal church which was the white church, and the A.M.E. church that is now located out
on New Berlin Road.
New Bethel. That church was built in the early 1800's. My grandfather was also a deacon in that church.
The community has always been integrated, we have never had any racial problems. Even when things were
hard, we never had any, we had some racial problems, but they were from outsiders, they were not from
And the community took care of them within their self.
If it was a black person coming in here trying to start something with whites, the black community come out
and settled it. If it was whites, the white community settled it. I mean, you know it was sort of like we were
all one big family and we took care of ourselves.
New Berlin, I don't know, what was...do we have anything about when New Berlin was actually settled?
It's in that stuff there. She done put in the car. 1803 I believe, you can check the date in the paper you have
Is that when the Campinos came down?
Well that's when the land grant was given. And nothing ever came of that. He tried to settle the area with
six blacks that he wanted to farm the area or something.
Who was that?
You'll have to look at the pack, I can't remember his name. Then after that, a man by the name of
VonBossen, and as I told you, this was originally known as Yellow Bluff, because there was a big bluff near
and it was yellow-looking and what have you and they just called it Yellow Bluff. Well when VonBossen
From Germany, in a round-about way from Germany, he didn't come straight from Germany.
But when he came here he renamed it the New Berlin, [for] Berlin, Germany. So he named it New Berlin.
And he established a hospital over in the Dames Point area, and..
During the yellow fever period.
Right. He treated a lot of yellow fever victims and he was a union sympathizer which sort of went against
the grain around here but it didn't keep his house from being burnt down and, you know the like. He still
has family that lives, I think there's one still over in Dames Point..
Right. Mike is still out there.
Yeah, and family all over. And they also have people up here in our cemetery. From him then, from that
area on, you've got, I'm going to say, 1850, 1840, 1850, in that area because our cemetery up here, our
earliest grave is 1853. It's seven years older than Arlington National Cemetery.
This cemetery is, yeah. So..
Is it one of the older cemeteries in the country, I mean, is it one of the oldest down here anyways?
It is one of the oldest around here because we're going back before Civil War. And it's the oldest one I
know of in this area. Maybe in town there might be one older or something because Jacksonville was settled
at that time.
It was Calford at that time.
Right, it was Calford. But it's just like, we don't know how many unmarked graves there are in the
cemetery, because back in that time, you know, a black person they might not even mark their grave. We
don't know but what there might be graves that are outside the cemetery limits, because, you know, the
graves just weren't marked. The land was donated by...
The man that had the house down here. It wasn't Kemp.
Grey, wasn't it?
No, he was a traitor. Grey was a traitor.
Anyway, the land was donated for the cemetery, we don't pay for the plots down there. If you live in the
community or you have family in the community and there's room for you to get in, which, if you go back
there and take a look
Mr. Toons, right.
It's starting to fill up. And the weird thing about our cemetery is the blacks was segregated down there.
The backs have a cemetery over there, we have our cemetery here. A lot of our stones have fallen over,
they're in bad shape, decaying, what have you, we maintain the cemetery also. But Anita's family are so far
back, what's their latest, or earliest marker ya'all've got?
Don't ask me.
Well you're supposed to know! But anyway, more than likely you have people who were buried in there
before the 1853.
But it's not on the list that they have.
Not on that list, no. Just the black cemetery.
If the town was integrated, why was the cemetery not?
Because it was still a segregated world.
You go back then, I mean, you're talking just before the Civil War. Now Anita's came from free blacks.
How that happened, I have no idea.
Don't ask me.
But she comes from free blacks. I don't think there was ever really any slaves here except maybe in 1803
when the guy came in with the six blacks.
And when they, the 54th Massachusetts was mustered out of the camp, out of the fort. They were set free
from the fort. The black troop that was in the movie Glory, the 54th Massachusetts, they were set free out
of the Yellow Bluff fort.
And we've covered some information that might go the show that some of those actually settled here, but we
can't get positive proof.
One thing they gonna want to know is the Christophers. Which, you know, from the Christophers, the
fishing generation down to the Christophers, which is what they done.
Okay. Well, John, okay, Spicer and Louis, who was John's son, I think they were farmers and cattlemen.
When John moved down here on this plantation John became a fisherman, and his children, my grandfather
and his brothers and stuff, they were fishermen. I am, that's my mother
This is the history buff.
She's the black history buff
Hey! These are students from University of North Florida and they're writing a book on New Berlin and
they wanted some information, I've been trying to tell them, but Momma you know more of that stuff than I
do about our history. They want to talk about the blacks and everything.
You just can't do that in no two or three minutes.
Momma, I know that. But they'll be back. They came last week, they're here today and they'll be back next
I'll just show them the pages in the history book about...
I can't find my history book.
Who'd you let have it?
I don't know. Edwina had it, then they said she gave it back to me and I have, I don't remember where it is.
Hey Lois, how you doing?
You can't find it?!
Momma, you have your history book, right?
Okay, I'll tell you what. We went to the archives and everything and we did a total history of our family and
in that she talked about her father and how he had boats that he rented out on a daily basis and all this, and
the restaurants and everything that were down here. So what I will do is in this next week I will make you
copies of all that information, okay, and when you come back next Wednesday I'll have it to Mr. Simmons
and he can give it to you and you, and that will basically tell you anything you want to know.
We kind of need it said, though.
(general conversation amongst the group)
Okay, Ill tell you what if you all come out next Wednesday, if I am working, Ill see if my mother will be
available and she can go over it with you orally, and if not, I will be here and Ill go over it with you orally
since you need it on tape.
And if you're not, I'll go over it orally. Im the historian for this location, so.
We are the co-chairpeople of the St. Johns Preservation Association which is our community association,
our homeowners association. And she is the historian also. So, we ought to have all that written down in
I don't have the black history.
You don't have the black history?
Un-uh. Because ya'll were busy...
Doing the family reunion?
What is the name of the black lady that founded the town that he [Boo] was talking about?
The black lady that founded? Wait a minute!! What black lady founded the town? Who you talking about?
My grandmomma? My great-grandmomma? Listen, Boo, what black lady you talking about founded the
Maybe they misunderstood something you said.
I said this was the oldest black fishing village. It was founded by the black people years and years ago and
that's the reason I told them they should talk to you.
From Hecksher Drive to down, all this property is known as Caroline Christopher Addition, that's what they
And not only that, they own property all the way past the Buckman...
The Christophers still owns property all the way into Green Cove Springs. And they own that.
From Femandina to Epins forest.
All the way to Palatka, in that section.
Well, you still got people out there in Orange Park that are distant relatives that own property.
They didn't like to fish so they went on to other things
Christophers was fishers or farmers. If they planted, they called them farmers. So they were fishermen or
farmers, that's what they did.
Didn't they participate in the shad fishing too?
I mean, shad, you know, was really that first.
My brother got killed shad fishing. A ship ran over him. Right out there between here and Mayport.
My granddaddy had the biggest shad fishing company in the area.
Wasn't he King David Christopher?
King David married as Christopher. His first wife was a Christopher.
That's how he got the name King David, cause he caught more shad than anybody in the river.
But I'll get all of that together for you. I need to find my family reunion book. If I find my family reunion
book, we have a lot of pictures and...
I have all of it, but I tore mine apart.
All we want is John Christopher's history because that's for New Berlin, and they're only researching New
And old pictures, if you've got any old pictures...
And I know you got a lot of stuff up there.
Lois, you got any pictures of Old New Berlin?
I don't know what you consider old New Berlin.
Back showing the docks, and the fishing, back however far we can go.
Before I was born
Well that's old.
All right Boo.
Lois, you know people coming up. You got pictures back there?
She probably do, she just don't know where they are.
I'll look through mine.
I have pictures of the pavilion and the dock and the Christopher dock but they're really not all that old.
No, they were done in the fifties and sixties.
I got the Shenendoah, though, when they were building the Shenendoah, you know the way they had the ribs
up on it and all that stuff. The three guys is standing in front of it and it's, you know how they built boats
back then, and they put them in a frame, you know, and then had the ribs going up and the keel leg, you
know, and all of that, it would be interesting to see...This would show how they built the boats back in them
Did you want me to give you a brief history of my family?
Yeah. That would be great.
Okay my father moved from Tennessee to New Berlin area around when he was a very young man. I'm
going to say sixteen or seventeen years old. He fished on and off through that area. At nineteen, see, I was
born in forty-three so I'm going to say in 1940 approximately my dad and mom got married. They lived
different places on little islands and Dad fished. I mean that was the way he made his living. He used to get
to New Berlin, we lived on a, Momma and Daddy lived on a little island over here somewhere. Boo might
know, or Lois, which one it was. And said to come to New Berlin to see his family over here he'd have to
go across the marsh, and wade through the marsh grass and everything to get over here to New Berlin
because there was no solid land through there and I was born in forty-three and Daddy was still fishing then,
wasn't he Lois?
I've got pictures of him and me in a boat right on up until he died.
So he fished just about all his life. Off and on you know, he was a fisherman. Well, when I got married, my
husband was working in a factory, and he left that to go into construction work. If you know anything
about construction work it's not very steady. It's not real steady so we started fishing My children, at that
time, were too little to fish so I would go fishing with my husband and we'd go out there fishing nights, days,
fish for trout. The only thing we never did was mullet fish, if we happened to run across some with our gill
net we might run around it, but we never did mullet fish. We mainly fished for trout. Basic fish.
Spots, croakers, yeah. It's hard work. The time I was fishing, believe it or not, I didn't weigh but ninety-
something pounds, so it's also good exercise. As my son, my oldest son, got older, he started fishing with
my husband and he'd go out and help him. Then both my sons, there's six years difference in them, they both
helped fish So then my husband, as we got older, we sort of have moved away from the fishing before the
net ban came into effect, because our needs weren't to the point where we couldn't get by on what he made
with the construction business. My oldest son hurt his back, so he started commercial fishing, he couldn't
hold down a regular job because of the back injury. He was having a problem getting a job so he started
commercial fishing Loved it. He didn't like it when he was a little boy but he loved it when he got grown.
So his brother has helped him fish also. So basically, since my father...did Pap ever fish?
Yeah He fished for trout back in the old days.
Here? See my grandfather, my daddy's father, back before then was a fisherman. My father fished, my
husband and I fished, then my two sons have fished.
And your two grandsons
And my two grandsons have also been out net fishing so I guess as far back as Grandpa we've..
Yeah they moved here in 1922
1922. That's how far my family goes back, they fished right on up until..
Where'd they come from? Your grandfather?
(Madeline & Lois)
All of them ain't nothing but Tennessee hillbillies.
Im from Florida.
Now my sisters here was raised, when they was babies, they had a wooden box in the front of the boat, her
and my older brother, they would put them in that box and they would sleep while they fished. So, she can
tell you more than I can about coming up fishing.
I lived on the island. I remember that. We used to have a little truck that would come down at Dames
Point, down the Dames Point Road and blow the horn, and my mom would row across the river, I know
Lois remembers that, row across the river and meet this little truck and buy bread and little things, like a
little store or something. Anybody come to see you they would blow the horn.
My grandmomma used to catch the boat all the way to town, the river boat all the way into town to buy
Oh yeah. And when we lived on the island Momma used to tie me and my sister, tie a rope around us and
tie us to a tree so we wouldn't get in the river and drown. But I was, what Lois9 Four? Three or four years
old back then? But I can still remember being tied to a tree.
There were no stores around here then? Grocery stores around this area?
Mr. Kemp had a store, but he carried, he carried stuff guess like the Little Champs and stuff carry And the
people out here, they bought rice in twenty-five pound bags, they bought sugar and flour in big bags so they
would have, they went into the city. And it was a riverboat used to come by pick them up and it made two
trips a day, and it would go in the moorings and come back in the afternoons.
See you have to realize that most of the time people were struggling Because the fishing industry is not
steady. At some time you had plenty of money You could go out and do just about anything you wanted
to. Then other times you had hard times when there wasn't no fish. And the people were sort of struggling
so they got into the habit of buying large quantities of stuff like Anita says, they'd buy big bags of rice and
big bags of beans, so that they could get through the times when it was rough. Now back then I think an
outboard motor was almost unheard of, you rowed a boat everywhere you went. You rowed. So they didn't
have gas expenses, so all they had to do was manage to keep a net in the boat and keep it mended and what
have you to fish with, so their main concern once they food stock in they could go through the hard times
when there was no fish and year to year that way.
Grandaddy fanned and had cows, and pigs and everything.
So it wasn't just fishing and farming, It was fishing in the same town. Or was this mainly fishing and farming
It was mostly fishing, but those that were more fortunate and had a lot of children, did farming only.
It's that combination of both you know
They had farms all the way from here to ...... Big plantation farms......
So while yall were growing up fishing did you ever hear like any ghost stories, or things that people saw...
Oh, there's plenty of ghost stories on New Berlin. We still have ghosts in New Berlin.
The big wash house they were telling you about, I could remember coming down here at the ... I left New
Berlin periodically you know my mother had T.B. so I went to live with my grandparents and what have you
and I would always come back cause I had family here. I remember coming down to visit and this big old
house that looked like two stories that had an attic, you know up on top where the roof was at, I don't know
if Lois even remembers this or not, but all of us kids would get in there. My aunt Wally's kids up there, we'd
get into this wash house and there was always big piles of washing piled up, and we'd get going around in
and it wasn't real sturdy you know, and you could fall through the floor or something if you got up in there.
But we'd crawl all up and we'd get way up in the attic and when we got up to the attic and looked back in
the back, there was something you could see back in there. And you'd sit there and you couldn't make it
out, but you couldn't get to it. So we all had it figured out that was a dead body, a monster...there was
something scary. So kids would always come running out there screaming their heads off. I still remember
And they said that this area was used a lot by pirates during the time when they were robbing ships and
Mildred interjects with more irrelevant conversation.
Before they cut the island and made the Fulton cut, the only way you could get into the river was to come
around Blount Island from the ocean and come through here. The older people used to tell us that the
pirates would come here and bury their gold. And what they would do was they would bury their gold
under the root of a tree, and then they'd cut the tree off, and they'd get their, one of their people on the boat,
one of the crewmembers who they really trusted and cut his head off and left the head on the stump to guard
the gold. And my mother's older sister, you know, used to talk about how you could go out there at night
and you could see them walking around the tree, and all this kind of stuff, thought you were digging for
their, looking for their gold.
A lot of real people around here did that
They dug them holes.
The dug holes everywhere.
Looking for it.
Looking for the gold.
I mean, we still have people coming out here with metal detectors- But they're mainly looking for artifacts
from the Civil War.
Then we have a man, the man and his dog, that stands down on the corer of New Berlin and Dames Point
Road. They were hit. He used to walk his dog all of the time. He was hit, and there are times when you
can see him standing on the corner with his dog.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
I'm serious. I have seen it.
You've seen it?
I've seen it.
I was going to say, did you hear it or see it?
I've seen it, no, no, my cousin and I saw him one night. It was like when we got past the trucking company,
it was a old road, and when you got past the trucking company you could see him and the dog standing, but
when you got close to him they weren't there. And about three years ago my sons and I were coming from
town and we saw a man in a trench coat standing out on the corner of New Berlin and Hecksher Drive. And
about a quarter of a mile down the road we turned into the Harris" and the Johnson's' you could see him but
when we got up to the railroad track he wasn't there. And we were the only car on the road. He was a
Mildred interjects with even more irrelevant conversation.
Oh we've had all kinds of stories come about from down in here, things that happened, and the ghost one
that I remember being scared as kids all the time, somebody was telling me that the tombstones down here
that were turned over, and some of the graves would sink, there were so old, you know how graves will
sink, they used to tell us that's because the people had got out of their graves and they were wandering
around at night, you know, and I was spending the night with my cousins one night and somebody started
trying to get into the house. There wasn't nobody there but us kids. All the grown-ups were out fishing or
something, you know, there was nobody there except us children Somebody was trying to get into the
house, and I realize that was actually somebody trying to get into the house, but the older cousins kept
saying it was the, what's that? Down in the cemetery Grey?
Mr Grey, trying to get into it. And he had got out of his grave, you know, and he was coming up after us.
It was Bobby I think telling us that, Lois Had us all scared to death. Then I come to find out it was
actually somebody trying to come in the window.
I'm going to tell you something that happened to me when I was about twelve years old. My uncle had a
restaurant right near my mother's house, and it had a dock, we used to call it a runway because it went down
the side of the building and then it went out to where the shrimp boat was tied up. When I was about twelve
years old, my momma and the sister who was in the car just now, were sitting on the screen porch, on the
front porch, and I was sitting out on the patio, and I was shooting ball, and I sat down on the runway. This
old man came around the building. He had on a suit and a hat, like he was from the nineteen-twenties. He
came around and he sat down and he was asking me was I one of the Christophers and I told him yeah, you
know, and he was saying that he knew my grandmomma and he knew my granddaddy, and he was telling em
about all the old people around here, then he talked about Mr. Irving, he talked about everybody was on
New Berlin. And we sat there for, I guess about ten minutes, and talked about New Berlin, and then he said,
"well, baby, you take care and I'll see you later" and he left. So I went up on the porch, I said "Momma, did
yall see that man up there?" and they said "What man" and I said "the man that I was sitting down there
talking to," and I went on about he knows granddaddy and grandmomma and all this kind of stuff, and they
said "We been watching you the whole time and there was nobody out there with you."
How old were you then?
_____ LL ___
Did she do LSD when she was twelve, Mildred?
I didn't do no LSD, Madeline! (smackl)
I hope she didn't. LSD wasn't around when she was a child.
Okay, what was around then?
I don't know
Moonshine, wasn't it?
Yeah, we have a lot of moonshine stills around here, too.
Moonshine was a big industry.
She ain't telling you the truth, but that's what our people come out of Tennessee to do.
Right, that's true.
They moved down here to make moonshine for Al Capone.
Now I don't know who my dad was making it for, or whatever.....
side one ends here
It's weird, I'll tell you some of the stuff we've had done here. Lois will probably be able to tell you stuff that
we can't even tell you.
Lois the shadow.
Lois, could I just get you to print and sign your name? Basically just saying whatever's on the tape, it can be
used, and put in the archives and be used.
You're just giving them permission to use your information.
I know where you could get plenty of this from I took plenty of material to the historical society last year
after our family reunion down on the river front Down there by, between the school boat and the chow
house Right back of the chow house.
What's it about?
They were supposed to put it in the archives, and whatever they do with historical events.
And, what is it? Like your family history stuff?
Oh, um, the John Christopher thing. I didn't do all of the Christopher's history, but I did it on my
But he would be the one from here. The information from New Berlin...
Just tell them you came down there to get some history on the Christophers. And you heard that it was
turned into them in '94 after the big breakfast they had downtown for the families that had been here for
more than a hundred and fifty years. They asked families to bring materials and pictures around there, and
we were one of the families that took...
One of the founding families. It was the one-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of statehood.
If you don't want to come back down here, you can go and get...but maybe they didn't include everything I
We need to get most of it on tape from the people, you know, like, to say it on tape so we can transcribe it,
put it in, we're basically probably going to be writing a book is what we're going to try to do.
What got yall interested in this?
It's an Honors class. And we have to write a book, the class is oral history, and we're taking oral histories,
and basically we got to pick the topic about what we wanted to research and write about and publish the
book about. We picked Jacksonville fishing communities, because we wanted to find out the history. We've
got people at Mayport, people at St Augustine, people at different places, and this is our place, New Berlin,
we're doing Ya'll are going to be part of the book, in the fishing communities and the history of it. Things
Okay, well, New Berlin was designated, it is the only designated fishing village in this area.
They got all that information in there.
We were designated July 28th of 1994, the city council passed it. We are included in the 20/10
comprehensive plan, which is a state growth management plan.
We're the only one.
We're the only one. We're the only designated fishing village?
Yeah, with the enclave and the zoning and everything we've got, yeah.
Yeah, but I mean just the term "fishing village." I'm just wondering that we're the only one...
We're the one that set the precedence for it, I think that more might try.
But I wonder is Mayport?
I don't think so
No. I think you should explain to them why that it was done.
Because the port authority wanted to come in and destroy everything This is how our organization got
started. The port authority, as you know, is wanting to develop the peninsula out here. Well, their original
thought, because they're right across the river here was that they were coming in right here. Well we
decided, no. I mean this might not look like much to many people but, to us it was home and something that
we're very proud of and we think we've got a lot to be proud of with our history and what have you. So
when the port started their business, they wanted to come in and develop and pour concrete and park
Toyotas here and we said no way. So that's when Anita and I really got together, we didn't know each
other too much then, just in passing, you know, and we decided we were going to get together and we were
going to stop them. So that's what preceded to getting all the history we could on New Berlin, so that we
could come up with a historical background and something that would prove to city council that they should
not permit them to destroy this community.
The fort and everything?
The fort, our cemetery, I guess the fort and the cemetery...
Being, and being, one of the oldest black free communities also played a part in it. But the fort and
cemetery being the age that it is and the fort, which is the only original entrenchment left in this area from
the Civil War, they played a great part in it.
They're exactly, except for deterioration, they're exactly the way were.
What they were.
When they were built. And, so we won our battle, but in order to win our battle, because we are, we're
zoned as waterfront industrial property, which meant that if anything happened,
They could get it.
No, we couldn't rebuild our homes
If there was a hurricane, or someone had a fire, they could not remodel or rebuild.
We couldn't do anything other than what we were sitting there with then. The vacant property around here
couldn't be built on. Nobody, we couldn't grow. We couldn't do anything. So we set out to have it fixed so
we could. And that took, how many years Anita? Four?
Five years. Of hard work, of going to the council meetings twice a month, every other planning commission,
everything we could go to, in order to prove to people tat we had a reason to be here. We ended up with
the papers you'll find in there, where they gave us our overlay zoning that protects us from the Port
Authority. They can't encroach on us. They can build around us and the rest of the area around here, but
the map you have in there that will show the enclave area, can stay just like it is. We can build, we can
repair, we can remodel, we have the same rights as any residential zoning in Duval County. And that took
five years of work to get. And that's what started our community, and it's actually what started our research
in to finding out just what..
We did have here, and we were surprised, and a lot of stuff surprised us when we found it out.
How'd you find it out, dude? Was it stuff that people had passed down or did you have to go, like,
We went researching.
Most of ours is documented. We researched. We spent hours upon hours in the library, we went to the
state archives, we went to St. Augustine a couple of times.
Until we started this, we hadn't realized that the Caroline Broward buried in the cemetery was the first wife
of Governor Broward. She died in childbirth, giving birth to the son. We didn't know that until we started
the research here and we got to looking at the grave markers and what have you and then checked out the
book out of the library on Napolean Broward and started reading that and all of a sudden we're saying, wait
a minute, we've got something here. This is really important stuff. You know, there's no other place in
Jacksonville that could come back and come up with the things we've come up with, like I told you, this was
a tourist community, where people came to vacation. It was, like the garden spot, you know.
When was that, was that the eighteen...?
That was in the eighteen hundreds
Eighteen hundreds. There is a picture I might have a copy of the picture that shows the, what we believe was
the old Gray hotel and that's where the troops, the Confederate troops actually were standing outside like on
a boardwalk. Evidently it was the road that used to be out here. And it shows the troops with the tents
standing out there. I may have that, I think I've got that somewhere....
You've got that
That's the road that used to be there but the river....
Right. Right, we had a boardwalk that went down here, see there were a lot of homes down through here.
My, at that time we were stupid, didn't know my dad took four of the homes down. People come to get you
know to tear these houses down. Those houses would have been well over a hundred years old- Lois' house
is, how old is it Lois?
I still have pictures of all, quite a few of those old homes up there...
The Kemp's and what have you.
We're interested in....
If they'd be interested in a copy of that
OK. Because that's...
Old ship captains settled it from like Boston or New York
The Kemp's is the ones who had the ship building
They all came in here.
That's the one's who first settled out here, Lois' house over there, she's restored it to that because she's a
history buff too she's just like us. She loves to, the old times, I mean...
Boo says she's a pack rat.
You see if I could go back in time I'd go back to 1860, I'd like to have lived during the civil war, or I'd like
to have lived after the Civil War. Get up into 1920..
You get into 1920's to me sort of things got sort of dull you know. I mean but it was my period that I was
really interested in. Not that I believed in slavery but I just think that it was a very interesting period of time.
And I would have, I love to hear about stuff that happened here during that period of time. And to know
that there were people here.
Holes that was dug back behind where these houses were here on the hill we've been talking about the
pirates diggin treasures and stuff. Little blanch told me about all that you know. She might be a good one to
Who is that?
Blanche Newsome. You know Kemp's granddaughter.
Where is she?
She live out of the Cape now.
I see her all of the time.
You might could see if, you know, she might be interested, she knows a lot of history about the old ship
She probably has a lot of history on him, she's got a lot of pictures and stuff
What happened to all of the old families like the Kemp's and the Christopher's that used to live here and like
the hotels and stuff, Why did it go, I mean why you know, why isn't it still, why hasn't it stayed up.
Why isn't it still a vacation spot, What happened7
Other areas grew up and
Up until a few years ago the fish was so cheap, there was no price on fish. You couldn't hardly raise a family
unless you owned a, what you lived on unless you owned your house and everything that was paid for, you
couldn't make a living fishing in this river, on the account of the price offish was so cheap.
But you could early in the 1800's?
No the price, inflation come along see if you went out there and made five dollars a month in the 1800's it's
like 5,000 right now. You could live on it this money, people didn't have to have nothing, you didn't have to
pay a $300 dollar a month light bill. You didn't have no car, if you went anywhere you walked or rowed a
boat. You didn't have to lay out any money like the farmers. That's what's starving to death. That is the
reason the fishing industry left, the few people that could make a living and knowed what they were doing,
now they could make money, But greed, remember what I said about greed, the fish is still here. There's as
many fish here today is there was any time down through the history. No more fish is being caught today
than there was tears ago. But more people..
That's right big boats used to come in here and fish at the railing at the top of the railing, and these fish didn't
go because of the commercial fisherman, they went because of the greedy recreational fisherman that wanted
it all for themselves and moved down here from the north, they don't want to be bothered with nets in the
river because they want to do and do their thing. But recreational fisherman going out there now catching
fish and selling them commercially.
Like her, she owns the house on the river right here, she don't care if somebody comes up and fishes around
her dock But I have been out on the river when the man walked out on the dock with a knife and get down
on this boat and cut my net up.
My son has been shot at. He's been shot at.
Well I have too.
I mean in a place where he could legally fish. So you know there was nothing that.....
Basically what happened to the tourist part of New Berlin is Calford turned into Jacksonville, and they cut
the Fulton cut so people were not coming by here they were bypassing.
You'll see in one of the books there too something that happened is Mrs. Kemp tells you that one of the
most beautiful sights that she used to enjoy was watching the old boats come through with passengers on it
, you know the passenger ships coming around through here by here. Music coming and the dancing on
board and what have you, she says now all I can look at out there now is an ugly steamer. I mean progress,
So inflation kind of hurt the fishing industry and then the cut over here....
NO inflation helped the fishing industry because I remember as a child you could buy a pound of shrimp for
a dollar, OK and now they're five dollars a pound. But what happened was if you are not a native of an area,
you do not understand the culture and the necessity of the area People who have migrated here from up
north did not understand the marshes had to be protected because those were the breeding grounds for fish
and shrimp What they did was they filled in a lot of the marshes and a lot of the wetland in order to build
condos and this type of stuff And what happened is that they've destroyed the habitat. That is what has
killed the fishing industry. Another thing in 1972 we had e real bad problem with hyacin, there were hyacin,
they looked like lily pads, the whole river was covered. It was like carpet Well you have people like us that
knew that the hyacin played an important part, they were the main source of the manatee diet, the fish and
crabs laid eggs in their roots cause they had long roots, and they needed this as part of their diet, and a part
of their habitat When they started building up places like Mandarin and that type of place, you started
having people buying yachts and big boats, Well what happens if you start up a boat in a river that's full of
hyacin it's that it gets caught up in the motor and you have problems. Well the people with the yachts which
were the power brokers put pressure on the state to do something about the hyacin The state came in and
they sprayed the hyacin with DDT. By spraying the hyacin with these chemicals they poisoned the hyacin,
they poisoned all the fish and the crabs that lived in the hyacin, and they poisoned the manatee. Because that
was the manatees main diet. So this is what has happened to the resources. They are still using some of the
same poisons to keep a lot of the waterways cleared out of hyacin and other grasses. But aquifer life cannot
live without the grasses. They have to have the grasses in order to breathe and then they eat the roots and
the mud and the different things that the grasses produce. And the more you kill the grasses the more you're
going to kill the species.
last year my brother went mullet fishing I think they caught about a thousand pound of mullet.......and about
three-fourths of then they had to throw away because from the backbone to all the way under the belly to the
other side were all red, we call them ulcers. But what they look like are sand sores, you know what a sand
sore is that children get, those little infested sores on their legs.
Something that really needs to be said, it's just like with any industry business, you're going to have people
who abuse it, and there are fisherman or that went out and abused and they irritated the recreational
fisherman, tried to cause problems, they didn't follow the law, they didn't do what they were supposed to.
But that was just a few people, and a whole industry got blamed for what a few people did. And I mean you
can find me any industry that doesn't have society like that in it.
T mean you hear about (7) the lawyers and all that kind of stuff Show me where every lawyer is reputable
Right, so the whole industry.....
Show me a city where every politician
Show me a city with one clean politician.
I told you ya'll why there was conquer and divide because they let the shrimp drag, they got pictures of those
nets there that was set up to eliminate. They couldn't do both of them, they couldn't eliminate the shrimpers,
which is destroying everything, they just destroy everything like I explained it. They couldn't fight them
because they was too big. They told me plainly that we went after the weakest one. It's conquer and
NO, but another thing is you also have to realize is that they were watching out for themselves cause the
drag boats are what catch their live bait and they were not gonna put themselves out of the river by
destroying that industry. Not only that, but by the drag boats dragging their net on the bottom of the river
and everything they also destroyed the grasses and the marshes because when they drag they tear all this
stuff out of the bottom of the river. But, the sportsman magazine and the Florida League of Anglers and the
What's those people name from down there?
Save our sealife
Yeah them but the man who headed them was part of the Florida ...FCA conservation association. These are
all sport fishing organizations and they will determine to get the nets out of the rivers because they felt that
the gill fisherman were destroying their chances of catching fish But nobody looked at the stats, you see I
worked closely with the state during the net ban and what happens is that there are, there were 10,000 gill
net fisherman in the state of Florida. We, our tax revenue was one billion dollars a year to the state, OK.
What happened was the, the anglers felt that gill net fisherman were at the bottom of the totem pole. That
most fisherman were very under-educated. We didn't know anything but fishing, and it was always the
stronger against the weaker. OK, the stats out of Tallahassee show that out of all of the fish that are landed,
that means those catches that are reported and sold through fish markets, reputable dealers, gill net
fishermen only caught twenty percent of the fish that were landed in the state of Florida. Out of that twenty
percent, ninety-one percent of the fish that are caught in gill nets, which are mullets, spots, croakers, they
call them fin fish, out of that, ninety-one percent was purchased with food stamps. Out ofthat, eighty
percent were consumed by black consumers. So to me it was very personal because it was always trying to
destroy the poor people. It's always the haves against the have nots. To me, it reminded me of what they
did to the American Indians. When the white man decided that he wanted the western praries, and they took
in red, small pox and yellow fever in the blankets, I don't know if you know your history, they destroyed a
lot of the Indians by doing that, and I know you probably heard about the trail westward, the Trail of Tears,
how they moved them away. But once they moved them out there they found out they still could not
destroy them, they hired the buffalo hunters. The buffalo hunters went out there and slaughtered the buffalo.
That was their strategy. One to make them starve to death, two to freeze them to death because that's what
the American Indians used for clothing and food- And that's what they have done, that's what they have
done with the fishing industry. I don't think it was a direct attack on the commercial fishermen, I think it
was a direct attack on the black consumer. That's how I feel about it. So to me, my grandfather had a lot of
sayings, one of them was the more things change, the more they remain the same. I don't care how
advanced we get, there's always a way to put your foot in your neck to hold you down, and basically I think
that was what's behind it. I really do. Out of the ten thousand commercial fishermen around the state,
ninety-eight percent of them were white. I had a lot of people that had to leave Florida and go back up
north to families and stuff in order to find work because they have always lived on the river. They don't
know anything but fishing. But now they have to go back to the coal mines or go back to the steel mines in
order to feed their families. They hurt ten thousand white families, but look at how many people those ten
thousand fishermen fed They devastated the black community. And I don't care what anybody says, I think
it was a racial move and they did it with racial intentions
What did a sport fisherman tell you in a meeting in Tallahassee you went to?
He told me that maybe my people, the Marine Fisheries Commission, we were in Orlando, the Marine
Fisheries Commission is a commission that's set up by the state in order to oversee the industry and to make
rules and regulations to protect the industry and the resource. And at one meeting I was giving him the stats
and I was telling him how many black people depended on, on Fridays black people eat fish and on
Saturday they eat crabs. I mean, that's the way it is. That's a part of our culture. And he told me maybe
we needed to re-educate I needed to re-educate my people and teach them to eat chicken and pond-grown
Oh, well that was ugly!
That was racist. But they had several letters, several people in the meeting, even those that were, that were
for the net ban, got very insulted with such a racial statement and I was the only black there out of two
thousand people. And he addressed me like that, and several people wrote the governor about him and how
unprofessional he was.
Getting back to the history of the country, down in this part, in the Trail of Tears she mentioned, the Spanish
controlled Florida. And the thirteen colonies, the original ones come down to Georgia, Georgia was the
line, the Trail of Tears started in Georgia. For the simple reason you hear of Indians living in teepees and
mud huts that doesn't do it. They had big farms. These Indians was well-to-do. They had big farms and
And the ones around here lived in pokina houses which was mud and oyster shells.
Now you get these people that imported the slaves and all that coming down from the north. They see the
Indians out there with all this fine land, through Georgia and Florida and throughout the Carolinas to
Virginia They seen all these people, Indians with all this fine land, they said we can't have this, so they
gathered all this, they come down with a army and gathered all these Indians up. They come in and just
surround the towns. They lived in a little village, they lived in towns. They would surround them, gather
them up, and ship them out of here. They even killed them because they wanted to take it. So you know,
this all goes back to the takers and the strong gets what the weak needs.
You see, what bothers me, I'm going to tell you something, and please don't take this personal. Because as
you can tell, we live in an integrated neighborhood and these are some of my best friends, but what bothers
me about the Anglo-Saxon white man is that he takes on the problems of the entire world. He has
discredited Hitler as a man, and I am not a fan of Hitler's, I think what he did is morally wrong by killing six
million .ews, but the Anglo-Saxon white man has been doing it for centuries. Anything he wants he takes
and if he has to destroy a race of people to do it he did it. And that is basically where we are right now.
Well the Indians done it too now. The strong is going to destroy the week. It's born. The strong, you
know, the saying, the strong shall survive and the weak shall fall by the wayside. Down through the
Well, I'm going to tell you this, the only thing that I see that this community has come out with, I mean this
is a community that did not have any, we didn't care what went on out there as long as they left us alone.
We stayed within our own community, we were happy, like we said, for hundreds of years we got along
down here until the JPA, Jacksonville Port Authority, and the net ban came about. And when that happened
this turned into a community of activists. I mean, you're looking at two people here who had never been to
a city council meeting. We didn't care what went on down there.
We didn't care who was elected. We voted, but it didn't matter because it didn't bother us.
Right. They left us alone. But when the started messing with us, this little community down here of a
hundred and ninety-four people decided, okay, let's show them we are educated, we are willing to fight for
what we believe in, and we will stick together. We had very few people down here that went against us
trying to save the community. Very few. And the few that did, the very few that did, thought they were
going to get rich selling the Port Authority their property.
There were only two out of the hundred ninety-four that wanted to sell.
They weren't originally from down here I don't think.
If you go over to (Olive?) Drive, where the people have been selling, you'll find out they've lost their money.
I mean, those people didn't get what their property was worth. They didn't get enough to rebuild their
But not only that, the majority, other than Cynthia and her family and a couple of other people, the majority
of those people have been there less than fifty years.
Right. They didn't have the ties that the other people had- But what I'm trying to say is the net ban, the JPA
brought a community together. They made New Berlin into a town unto itself again, just like it was back in
the late eighteen hundreds. We got into ourselves, we started communicating, we started going and finding
out what was happening, and if we saw something happening we didn't like, we knew about it. When they
started talking about the net ban everybody got into it. Everybody went to talk to someone that they knew.
I know state senators now. I know every city councilman. I know the mayor. I serve on a mayors, I'm
appointed to a committee by the mayor. I serve on one of the biggest community clubs in Jacksonville, the
Northside Civic (?), I serve at Fort George Community Club. This is something that ten years ago, I told
you was crazy if you thought I was going to do that. We went to meeting every night for five years.
There were sometimes we went two or three times a day.
A community that's over a hundred years old, we're not going to sit down, we're going to fight. And just
like he's still doing, just like my son's still doing, we're still fighting the net ban. We think it's wrong, we
don't think it was right to begin with, we think it was prejudiced, and it may take us twenty years, it may be
my son's grandchildren that ends up fighting it, but eventually this community's going to win.
And we gonna fish again
You know, when you fight for something and get it, then when you sit back it can be taken away from you.
Look what happened with the NAACP. They fought...
tape ends here.