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Archive for January, 2013

This recently discovered, rather idyllic picture is, to my knowledge, the only picture of Spring Lake Road as it once was many decades ago. Holy Trinity’s lych gate, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, lych gate in the country, is also pictured as well as the trees into which hitching rings were attached for those who rode horses to church. Because of lightning and disease, the trees were removed. Unfortunately, none of the hitching rings were preserved. The road, once known as Church Road, is paved.

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Issued by the land department of the South Florida R. R. Co. and the Plant Investment Co.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

Note the sequence of far northwest towns: Lady Lake, Chetwynd, Fruitland Park, Leesburgh.

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Lake Reflections

Orlando Sentinel, August 24, 1994

By Ormund Powers

Jim Warnke, an expert on vanished communities, says there are 350 ghost towns in Florida, of which he has located 20 in Lake County.

Checking old maps and old histories, I came up with 32, some of which were not on Warnke’s list. He had 16 I didn’t have. If you add those, you have 48 lost villages and towns in Lake County. Seems like a lot. Of course, our figures may be wrong.

Jim Warnke, who lives in Boynton Beach, has been trudging the back roads of Florida, backpack and all, for many years. He has written a small book on the subject that is available from him for $6. (P.O. Box 1408, Boynton Beach 33425)

”They came to the promised land of Florida in the early 1800s for many reasons,” Warnke writes, ”the consumptive for his health, the pioneer for a new home for his family, the merchant for a new start, the tycoon to enrich his holdings and the worker to lead a new life in the land of everlasting summer.”

Then Warnke asks: ”How could a whole town of homes, stores, hotels and post offices vanish so that today one is hard put to even find the spot where the settlement existed?

”The reasons are varied but are usually due to hard economics – a bad freeze, a railroad bypassing the town, or perhaps the local main industry closing its doors. Whatever the reason, Florida is dotted with over 350 of these historical and little-known ghost towns that contributed so much to the progress of the state.”

Some of the historical villages, Warnke says, may still have the proverbial hermit in residence.

”Some do have the remains of clapboard structures still standing after years of forest fires and hurricanes,” he writes. ”On other sites, one can still find the handmade bricks and the old bottles of another era to remind him that he is standing on the soil of history.”

Eleven of the ghost towns Warnke identifies are in the Ocala National Forest, and he reminds us that it is a federal offense to disturb the sites of those ghost towns: Kismet, St. Francis, Sellers Lake, Summit, Bryanville, Syracuse, Churchill, Kerr City, Barronswood, Messina and Acron.

Others in Lake County he identifies are: Conant, one mile north of Lady Lake on State Road 25; Grand Island, off State Road 44, north of Lake Eustis; Old Seneca, three miles west of Eustis on State Road 439; Lovejoys Mill, on the railroad, two miles east of Sorrento off State Road 46; Wayland, on the railroad, 3 1/2 miles east of Sorrento off S.R. 46; Cassia Station, on the railroad, seven miles east of Sorrento off S.R.46; Ethel City, east of State Road 433 on the south county line; Cason, three miles southwest of Okahumpka on the railroad off State Road 48; Winsted, near Florida’s Turnpike and State Road 25; Hawkinsville, one mile south of State Roads 42 and 44 on the St. Johns River.

My own list, based on some very early maps and information from the Lake County Historical Society, includes in addition to some of Warnke’s, Chetwynd, two miles north of Fruitland Park; Slighville, east of Lady Lake on the west side of Lake Griffin; Lake Woodward, both a lake and a town on the lake; Higley, eight miles west of Umatilla; Seneca, six miles east of Eustis; Albert, on the Palatlakaha River near Lake Susan, Ravenwood, a development alongside Pittman, north of Umatilla; Glendale, between Umatilla and Altoona; Waterin’ Pond, halfway between Leesburg and Slighville; Whitney, west of Leesburg; Emeralda, north Lake Griffin.

Villa City, south of Mascotte; Monterey, east of Lake Louisa; Exeter, south of Yalaha; Parkland, on Lake Harris; Lassiter, on Lake Griffin; Bloomfield, near Leesburg; Dundee, north of Fruitland Park; Lanier, near Lake Griffin; Mersia, near Cassia; Mason and Fort Mason, north of Eustis; Sligh, west of Lady Lake; Mount Home, between Eustis and Tavares; Eldorado, southwest of Lake Eustis; Gardenia, between Dundee and Fruitland Park; Stickler, west of Umatilla; and a few I haven’t been able to locate satisfactorily, including Ponceannah, Landis, Lower Blackwater, Helena and Bluff Pond.

Warnke notes that if he has offended any town fathers (by calling their towns ”ghosts” when they are not) he apologizes, as we all do. But on the other hand, there may be some vanished communities few of us know about, and if this is the case, we would appreciate hearing.

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Over a year ago Barbara Beaman contacted me quite out of the blue. Apparently she had visited my previous blog that listed the colonists I had discovered. Barbara knew about one of them, Villiers Chernocke Smith, because, like me, she’s a family historian. Her ancestror, Algernon Beaman, owned a home and groves on the southern shore of Crystal Lake in Fruitland Park; Smith was Beaman’s caretaker.

Barbara writes:I don’t know when Mr.Smith became the caretaker. My family took a trip to Florida in January 1886 with the intent of buying a winter hotel property. They owned prosperous summer hotels northwest of Boston that were open from May 1st until October 1st. I really don’t know why they bought this property instead. I also don’t know if they went down there every winter from the beginning, or if that was something that happened later. They definitely were winter only people – October to April, so they would have needed a caretaker from the beginning. After the big freezes of 1894/95, they needed someone knowledgeable to help restore the groves. Since their main livelihood and properties were up north, money to rebuild was not the kind of issue it was for the people who lived in Florida full time.

Barbara also sent pictures. Here’s one of the family home:

And here’s one of Villiers holding an unknown child alongside Algernon Beaman.

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While searching for kith and kin at genealogybank.com I decided to check up on Mr. Granville Chetwynd-Stapylton yet another time. I was not disappointed. The Press Horticulturalist of Riverside, California, published an article by J. [sic] C. Stapylton, April 22, 1893,The Banks and Orange Marketing in Florida. Stapylton formed the first bank in Leesburg in 1886 and, at the time of this writing, was growing in stature as a banker.

Although his article discusses the financial arrangements made between banks and citrus marketing and shipping in Florida, which might make one’s eyes glaze over, Stapylton, to put it succinctly, really had a way with words like these in the article’s opening paragraph.

The success of a country bank depends primarily, of course, on the strength and stability of the foundation of the natural resources of the territory which it serves. With us in the great lake region of South Florida, the orange is easily king, and he shares his monarchy with his royal consort, the lemon.

After detailing the financial procedures set in place locally he concludes: The activity of the entire population of South Florida during the gathering and shipment of the orange crop, is impressive; and behind this small army of pickers, sorters, sizers, wrappers and packers, behind the procession of heavy wagons loaded to the straining point with orange boxes and wending their way along every country road to a railroad, behind the gold trains whose gold freights bring back to us whatever prosperity we enjoy—behind all these things stand the country banks, directing with skilled and cautious hands the stream of credit of which they are: the fountain head, carrying through with speed, accuracy and precision, the innumerable transactions incident to the complex conditions of modern trade, guarding the people’s savings, and last, but not least, setting a public example of probity that, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion.

What a sentence! Only St. Paul’s writings in the New Testament can trump Stapylton’s. And for the record, “probity” means one of strong moral principles, honest, and decent. That Stapylton was.

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