This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
This is Alan Sawyer interviewing Miss Mabel Voyles on 206 N. E. Second Avenue,
April 29, 1971.
S: Miss Voyles, how long have you been at Gainesville?
V: 83 years.
S: So, have you been here all of your life?
V: Yes, I was born here over near the Armory on N. E. Eleventh Street.
Gainesville was quite different in those days. We moved into town on S. W.
Second Street. My father was in the abstract business and Gainesville ran
up and down Main Street at that time. The Presbyterian Church was the first
church put here. Gainesville was a wild place in those days. There was a
saloon on every corner.
S: Every corner?
V: Every corner of the square.
S: I guess that Saturday nights was sort of a wild time.
V: They did not wait for Saturday night. It really was a pioneer town. There
was, I understand I did not see it, there was a little railroad around from
where the First National Bank is and ran down to the Seaboard Station and that
took passengers from one place to the other, wherever they wanted to go between
trains. Most of Gainesville in the early days was way down by the Seaboard
tracks and some of the aristocratic part of it was on old ABseodo Street which
is now S. W. Second Street. Gainesville had three court houses. THe first
one was wooden and I never saw that but they tell me that they had to put a
fence around it with stairs on it so that the people could get up over the
stairs and it would keep the cattle out. THe cattle would get under the court
house and rub around and they had a lot of fleas and things so they had it fixed
that way. THen they took that down and they put up a very beautiful courthouse.
Lately, they have taken that one down and put up a new one. They really
needed a bigger one but they, I had hoped that they would leave that second
courthouse because it was a beautiful structure. When they built the present
courthouse they did not leave the other. We had a lot of fires here in the
olden days. I saw the West side of the square burn. I understand that where
the Woolworth store is there was a big hotel and that burned. Then they had
a fire on the North side. Then the fire down toward the courthouse over by
the Post Office. When I was a little girl, we had a whistle that would blow
whenever the fires were happening.
S: Was there a volunteer fire department?
V: Yes, there was and then we had a regular fire company and they had a hose
with two black horses and they were beautiful horses. Then finally they
got the big engine.
S: How many fire houses did you have?
V: Well, we did not have them all at once. They grew through the years.
At one of the firse one of the horses got burned and I remember as a little
girl I saw them dragging it up the road. We did not have paved streets.
We had a lot of oak trees, a lot of lovely trees. But since the town has
grown those trees has to go. In some parts of town you can still see them.
You know that they are trying to return the trees in the colored section
and the main section and all around town. A long time ago, we had an awful
scare, and I was a little girl then. They had a band of men that was headed
by a man called Homer Murray. He was a colored man. He got upset about and
he thought that they were stealing pulpwood from him. He tried to get even
and he went all around Gainesville and all around in the county. He was
ruthless. He robbed and all of the people were so frightened of him. One
of his own people turned him in because he was afraid of him. He killed
both kinds both white and black. He was finally caught up with. Some of those
that were in his party they were hung on, you know those big live oak trees
out there in East Gainesville?
V: They are there by the Padgett House. I do not know if you know where the
Padgett House is or not.
V: It is not there by the branch it is up on the hill. Up there those live oak
trees had nice low branches and they hung them on that. You know that people
from the West end here from Trenton, they use to hang them down here. THe
people would come in on the train early and bring all of the children to see
the hangings. We could never understand it. We lived near the street
where they came and they would just come in by the dozens.
S: They would just have a big picnic,. I guess.
V: Is it not'.just awful.
S: When were the hangings usually on Sunday?
V: In the jail. The jail was in back of the Post Office now that is our Federal
Building. They came from the old jail they called it now the Coast Line.
They would come in there. Gainesville had a lot of history. Mr. J.H. Roper
was up in the Congress somewhere, I do not know much about him. We are
right in hFe middle of the Arrendondo Grant. The middle of the grant is a
sinkhole out here. Do you know where the sinkhole is?
S: On Paynes Prarie?
V: Paynes Prarie there is a sinkhole.
V: That is the center of the Arrendondo grant.
S: That covered a large area.
V: It was ten miles square the grant was. Of course, we are within the grant.
The original Gainesville went down as far as the Post Office then to West
Second Streeland then up to North Fifth Avenue that goes by the Citizens
Bank and then over to the Sweetwater Branch. Then it was extended a mile
out. Ever since it has been extended and I think that we are going to Newberry.
S: What kind of entertainment was there in Gainesville during this time?
V: We had a opera house and had plays that came by.
S: Did you have any movie houses?
S: When did they come in?
V: I do not know how early we had moving pictures. THey had an awful time about
having them on Sundays. They were rather straight-laced in that respect.
They finally got over that.
S: You said that the first church here was the First Presbyterian Church?
V: Yes, the first church was the First Presbyterian Church. I was looking for
a book that has a lot of that in it but I could not find it.
S: Did very'many people lead a religious?
V: Well, we had all of the churches, I think. We had the Baptist, Presbyterian,
Methodist, Episcopalian. THose were the main churches. These other churches
like the Church of God have come in since then. I do not know. People had
a good time. There was a park down south of Gainesville called Oliver's
Park. Mr Oliver got ambitious and put a bear in there and a little menagerie
in there. The bear got a hold of a little boy one time and about chewed him
up. He nearly killed'him. That was the last of Mr. Oliver's park. We had-
banks here. We had the Dutton Bank and the First National Bank. MY father
was a cashier in the First National Bank. He came here when we had the wooden
courthouse. He landed in town. He came straight from England. He had a high
silk hat and lavender shirt, and a frock coat and striped trousers. His
brother was the County Surveyor and he could not get him out of town quick
enough because he was afraid that the people would think that the circus had
come to town. Everybody wore jeans at that time and the stores were all
worked by family.
S: What kind of an influence did the automobile have on Gainesville?
V: Well, Reuben Evans was the first one that had an automobile. I think that
he frightened all of the horses and the populace. It soon became quite the
thing to have an automobile. We had the first radio recieving station
our family. My brothers liked to fool with electronics. It seems to me that
the only place was Atlanta for broadcasting and there would be a wild wistle
on it. It was not controlled like it is today. There was always a bunch
of boys coming to our place to listen in on this. THe program was limited.
It was not like it is now.
S: When did television come in?
V: Oh, I do nct know. I think that the,young people today do not appreciate
all the wonderful things that:they have. I came up from oil lamps to gas
lamps to Bunsen burners and then the old electric lamp which was just a
wire and then to the nice electric light. We came from the horse and buggy.
I used to have a horse and I enjoyed riding it. I loved to go horseback
riding. We came on up to automobiles. Now you have all of that given to
you and you do not appreciate it.
S: We tend to take it for granted.
V: Take it for granted, yes. And moving pictures you knw. When we first went
to moving pictures they were silent and someone played the piano. THe faster
that the picture went the faster he would go. THere was just little sentences
put on there to tell you what was going on. Then when they finally got to
where they spoke that was wonderful. Then they got color pictures and that
was even more wonderful. Now, we have television and radio and now we go to
the moon. I think that this world is a wonderful one. Well, I do not know
anymore about old Gainesville. What else would you like to know?
S:- Concerningn the home life like take for instance the kitchen. What kind of
improvements have you seen in the kitchen in your day?
V: At first, we had the wood stove. The colored people would come and cook.
Sometimes we had an oil stove and that was sometimes used in small apartments.
Then we got the electric stove.
S: Did you have any trouble with the oil stoves smoking up?
V: No, I do not know much about it. My mother had one that she used sometimes.
We finally got gas. They made the gas. They did not pipe it in. It is
piped in now, natural gas. But that was artificial gas that we had. THen we
got the electric stove and we have had it for a long time. The water was first
pumped in from out here at Bullen Springs. That is out here south of town
where the city has a park out there. That was the original spring and that
was good clean water. They are having trouble around here because our ground
is porous. We have a lot of sinkholes. You know, out on the University
grounds there are a lot of sinkholes.
S: Did you have any trouble with sinkholes in the earlier days?
V: There is only one hole that I remember them having trouble with. The Coast
LIne came in on Main Street. But before it got to Gainesville about a
half a mile down the road a sinkhole developed under the train as it came
in. Two cars.and the engine let down, it was a freight train. THe engine did
not go in so the engineer was saved. They lost two cars down in the hole.
THey just let them go because it was no use to try to get them out.
S: Was the trains used a lot more in those days then they are now?
V: Yes, we ahd passenger trains. For picnics or something we would go to Cedar
Keyes. Seaboard was the main thing.
S: You said that you had picnics at Cedar Keyes?
V: Yes, we had picnincs at Cedar Keyes and here at the Springs.
S: Everybody from the town?
V: All of the churches would go together. You see, we did not have a big
population. All of the churches would decide to have a picnic. I am an
Episcopalian but I always got at the Baptist table because they had the best
S: How many people would go to these picnics?
V: We would have about five coaches.
S: Did you ever have services on Sunday in the afternoon?
V: No, they did not. It was just merely a picnic.with lemonade and dinner and
S: Was this every week?
V: No, once a year.
S: Just once a year.
V: I know when we went to see the kids one time one boy got a whole box of
fiddlers and he put them up in the rack of the coach. THe train bumped around
and the fiddlers fell out and everybody got up on top of the seats. It was
S: What other things did people occupy their time with?
V: Well, there was tennis.
S: Did they have a baseball team?
V: People had their card parties. WHat?
S: Did they have baseball teams?
V: Yes, baseball was a popular sport. Gainesville had an outstanding team.
She beat all of the rest of them around. They had the little local teams.
THey had what they called the Oak Hall team. Oak Hall was Mr. Ropers'
home town team. It was the big one in town and he was the big man. All of
the young men wanted to belong to that. We lived down on the other side of
town and we would see the crowds going around the corner just like we saw them
coming into the hangings. THat was a favorite pasttime and we had a pretty
good team. THen we had the East Florida Seminary here. That was the one that
we had before we had the University.
S: What was that?
V: There was a East Florida and a West Florida Seminary. We get the University
for an addition to the East Florida Seminary. THen they did away with that.
S: When was that?
V: Do not ask me. I think that was in 1914 or 1915, I do not know. When the
University first came here, you would have to get that date.
S: What were schools like in Gainesville then?
V: We had public schools and we had one private school. Miss Maggie Teabow had
that and that is now the parking lot south of the, I do not know if they call
it the Arlington Hotel now or not.
S: Did you go there?
V: No, I did not. I lived near there. It was a beautiful garden place. She
was a very aristocratic lady and she and here niece they taught school there.
Many of the townspeople sent their children there because she taught good
manners as well as grammer. I went to the public school. My people thought
that they would rather have us go there. I had two brothers.
S: Did they just have one classroom for all of the grades or did they split up
V: No, the different grades had different classrooms. THe public school that I
went to was on East University Avenue down about where McGriff's place is.
S: How were the teachers?
V: We liked everybody except a Miss Beamer we called her; One of the girls the
other day she was talking about Miss Beamer and she said that some girl had
made up a rhyme about her. I do not know the rhyme but it was something like
our teacher Miss Beamer everyday she gets meaner and meaner.
S: What did you learn in school?
V: All of the regular things, grammer, geography.
S: In high-school did you classes that you went too?
V: No, I did not. I went to the East Florida Seminary when I got through with
the grammer school. I went from there to Stetson University. I do not know
much about the high-school and could not tell you much about it.
S: What was it like at the East Florida Seminary? Did you go from class to class
or were you in the same room?
V: We went from class to class. THey had different grades. I was in the sub-
first grade and Latin bothered me a lot.
S: What did you major in?
V: Well, I went to Deland and I majored in Kindergarten work. I graduated as
a Kindergarten teacher. I came back home and my brother that was just older
then I who was working with my father in the abstract business died very
suddenly. My father had to have someone to help him and I went into it. I
liked research so I worked at that for thirty-five years. I worked at it ten
years after he died. Finally, I sold it out to Barney Coatsman who is in that
S: What did you do after you sold it out? Did you work at anything after you sold
out the company?
V: No, I retired, and have been a lady of leisure and enjoyed it.
S: WHat was the principal method that people used to travel around the city?
V: Well, they first had horses which they rode or pulled buggies and wagons.
Then the automobile came in.
S: Did they ever have any trouble with the horses and buggies?
V: They would runaway sometimes but not often. I use to wonder when I went to
Jacksonville when we would have these big buses. I thought that they were
so wonderful. Now here there are so many of them that we wish that they were
S: Did you use to be a member of the League of Women Voters?
V: I was a member of the LEague of Women Voters when they first started.
S: WHen did they first start?
V: I could not tell you the date. They have been here for at least twenty years
I would say. I finally withdrew from them because I got sort of deaf and I
could not hear what theywere saying. THey have done a lot of interesting
research that I have helped on from time to time.
S: What have been the most interesting political elections that have occurred around
here either local or national?
V: Well, we had a lot of exictment way back in the early days. One of our citizens
stuffed the ballot box. I know that they were after him but he went to bed and
he was too sick to be seen. They could not prove that he had done it after all.
THat was the most exciting thing and that was in the very early days.
S: Were there any other races between citizens that got exciting?
V: You mean elections?
V: Well, I do not know. THe only excitement that we had here was after the first
World War ended. Everybody got out every noise-maker that could be had and they
had it going.
End of tape.