Florida Trailblazer Podcast (Episode 1)

Florida Trailblazer Podcast
Florida Trailblazer Podcast

I have been working on lots of new projects for Florida Trailblazer and one of them involves a podcast. It is something I actually had in mind to do for a long while now but it wasn’t until recently that I began putting it together. It is still a work in progress and will evolve in time. I have finished the first episode which is now available on my YouTube channel and will be published online at other outlets soon where podcasts can be heard.

The YouTube version has images to go along with the conversation which I think is a good way to help illustrate what I am discussing during the episodes. This first episode is about a couple of lost cemeteries that I explored.

If you are contributor to Florida Trailblazer you get first access to the episodes before they are published online. If you are interested in donating check out the links below. All of the contributions help go towards providing more content like this and so much more that I plan on producing in the near future.

I am very thankful for all of you that follow along with my adventures and this is just one of the ways I wanted to help give back to show my appreciation. These episodes will highlight some behind the scenes stuff about my adventures and provide an insight to a lot of the production and work involved when I am exploring all of these great places that I post about. I hope you and enjoy it and stay tuned for more exciting news!

Florida Trailblazer Podcast on YouTube

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Hull-Smith Cemetery in Ocala National Forest

Hull-Smith Cemetery3
Hull-Smith Cemetery

During the 1800’s many families and early settlers had homesteads and cemeteries throughout Florida. I have been visiting a lot of these old cemeteries over the years and some are in better conditions than others. One of the areas I have visited recently is now part of Ocala National Forest and there are several old cemeteries around this forest. It is some of the remaining history and evidence from the past that still remains in these areas.

This particular cemetery is called Hull-Smith Cemetery and it’s located within Marion County. It appears to date back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s, although most of the tombstones here are either broken or missing. So it is hard to know the exact dates and the history of the folks buried here. Most likely the people who are buried in the cemetery were early settlers and had homesteads in the surrounding area. It was a simple life then but a very hard one.

As I explored around the cemetery I noticed maybe one or two tombstones that were still legible and in decent condition. I could see some of the tombstones had the name of Smith on them, one of the tombstones that was still legible had the name of Hull. According to burial records there is a Civil War soldier buried by the name of Daniel Hogan and he passed away in 1886.

It is my hope that one day the cemetery will be restored and kept up, sadly today is very neglected. I went there and recorded a video and took photos to help document and share about this place to help maybe bring some attention to the site. Although the cemetery isn’t in good condition the memories of these people and the history here is not lost. May their souls forever rest in peace…

Check out my video, photos and burial records posted below and if you visit this place or others like please be respectful of the sites, thank you.

VIDEO

HULL-SMITH CEMETERY IN OCALA NATIONAL FOREST

RESOURCES

BURIAL RECORDS FOR HULL-SMITH CEMETERY

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Abandoned Girl Scout Camp in Withlacoochee State Forest (Camp Withlacoochee)

Camp Withlacoochee-Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp6
Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp-Camp Withlacoochee

I always enjoy exploring in Withlacoochee State Forest, there is a lot of amazing nature to experience and some interesting history to discover along the way as well. On this adventure I took a journey to an area that used to be a a Girl Scout camp during the 1960’s. It may not sound that interesting but they just don’t make like camps like this anymore, at least not here in this forest. There are some neat structures still standing including some old treehouses that were used as campsites during that time. Although they aren’t in the best of condition it may not be much longer before they collapse and are gone forever. So it is one of the reasons I take pride in exploring and documenting these places so that the history lives on for future generations to learn about. There aren’t any main trails that lead to the site but I did find some old paths around the area that must’ve been used during that time. The site borders the Withlacoochee River so access would’ve been by foot or by boat. It is definitely a place that is off the beaten path…

Camp Withlacoochee
Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp-Camp Withlacoochee Article

The Suncoast Council in the 1960’s established this campsite deep within the Withlacoochee State Forest. It was called “Camp Withlacoochee” or “Withlacoochee Wilderness Camp” and was built on 72 acres. Girl Scouts from Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando Counties utilized the camp throughout the 1960’s to the 1980’s. Valuable life lessons and outdoor skills were taught at the camp.

I produced a video during my exploration and I dedicate that and this post to those who camped and enjoyed the wilderness here over the years. Many memories were made here and I have heard received messages from some of the folks who camped here and they all really cherished this place. It’s sad that this place is abandoned and no longer in use because if it was fixed up I am sure that many new generations of scouts would really enjoy it and this wilderness area!

Do you have a story or childhood memory from staying at this camp or possibly some old photos? If you would like to share about it please feel free to contact me at floridatrailblazer@gmail.com or post about it on my Florida Trailblazer Facebook Group or Page. Below is my video and some photos from my exploration, thank you and enjoy!

MY VIDEO

Abandoned Girl Scout Camp in Withlacoochee State Forest

RESOURCES

Withlacoochee State Forest

Camp Withlacoochee featured on Vintage Girl Scout Website

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Old Steamboat Landing and Indian Mound in Ocala National Forest (Historical Davenport Landing)

ocklawaha river
Ocklawaha River at Davenport Landing

Ocala National Forest has a rich history, it is a beautiful and vast place to explore. One of my favorite places there is along the Ocklawaha River where an old steamboat landing existed in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The area today is known as Historical Davenport Landing it was just one of many stops along this river back in those times.

In those days there weren’t many other ways for people to get from town to town so traveling by steamboat was a main form of transportation. Along this river were lots of small towns. Lumber and various goods were also traded and transported along the river. It was vital to the economy and livelihood in these places.

Long before this time dating back thousands of years Native American Indians inhabited these areas along the Ocklawaha River. Evidence of that can be seen at the landing where an ancient burial mound is located, it dates back to 500-1200 years. There is a fence around the site today helping to keep it protected, a lot of the mound was excavated during the 1800’s. Digging into the mound and removing artifacts is prohibited and illegal so please be respectful of the history here when visiting. It is best to observe the mound from outside of the barrier, there is a nice kiosk there describing some the history of the mound and the landing.

There are a couple of short trails from the parking area leading to the landing area and it’s a scenic place in this forest with amazing views of the river. It is a place of beauty and history that hopefully can be cherished by generations to come.

MY VIDEO

Old Steamboat Landing and Indian Mound in Ocala National Forest

RESOURCES

Ocala National Forest Davenport Landing

Gordon Grade at Lower Hillsborough Preserve

gordon grade1
Gordon Grade

Exploring in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve near Cow House Creek I followed what appears to be an old railroad grade or logging tram. It is listed on a map from 1934 as “Gordon Grade” and it crossed over Cow House Creek. I could see part of the grade still elevated by one of the trails there in the woods so I followed it as far as I could to the creek where some of the pilings still remain from a bridge that once crossed there. I am not sure what the grade was used for, perhaps for logging at one time. It does seem to connect all the way up to the Morris Bridge area where the Hillsborough River is and there was an old road that was used during the 1800’s in that section. I did find some aerial photos from the 1930’s that show it there and back then the area was mostly ranches and orange groves.

Exploring the tram was really nice because nature has reclaimed much of the area today and leads you along some really beautiful cypress swamps. I have visited the area a couple of times now and just enjoy being down there by the creek, you can get a real sense of the history there. It is a wild and beautiful place that still remains in an area that is constantly under threat of development. I could see remains from some of the old ranches in the area as I made my way towards the grade. Down by the creek I observed several wood pilings from a bridge that once crossed there, though the bridge is long gone it is still neat to see these remains. Along the way I could see some railroad ties embedded into the ground near the grade as well. Eventually I would like to explore the wilderness on the other side of the grade across the creek.

Below I posted some photos, a video and old maps of the area. I will post more on these areas as I explore more of the wilderness here in time.

MY VIDEO

Old Gordon Grade at Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve

RESOURCES

Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve

Caraway Cemetery at Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area

carway cemetery6
Caraway Cemetery

This is an interesting site I explored in Alachua County known as Caraway Cemetery. It is most likely that this cemetery belonged to the family long ago dating back to the early to mid-1900’s. They would’ve had a homestead near the cemetery as most families did back in those times. Today the area is part of Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area and is popular for hunting, fishing and hiking.

Roaming around the site I could see an old path in the woods that goes by the cemetery it was once an old road that was used to reach the cemetery and possibly the homestead as well. It is a very scenic and peaceful place and you can get a sense of the history as you explore these woods. Nearby on Lochloosa Lake the family had a fish camp from what I know.

Around the cemetery is part of an old fence that was once stood but most of that is gone but there was some caution tape around the perimeter of the site so it’s possible that a new fence is being installed but am not sure. It would be nice to see that and maybe some maintenance on the tombstones as well. The more we can preserve and save these places of history the better so that future generations could experience and learn about these places. In total I count about five headstones but there could be more folks buried here just not sure. Below I put a link to the burial records, my video and some photos as well. If you do visit this and any other site like it please be respectful and leave these places undisturbed.

MY VIDEO

Caraway Cemetery at Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area

RESOURCES

Burial Records

Lochloosa WMA

Thomas C. Fillyaw Gravesite in Ocala National Forest

fillyaw gravesite3
Thomas C. Fillyaw Gravesite in Ocala National Forest

This is known as the Thomas C. Fillyaw gravesite in Ocala National Forest. He was a Confederate Soldier and lived near and managed a steamboat landing here after the Civil War.  (Thomas C. Fillyaw, CPL 10th Btn GA Inf CSA May 1830-Dec. 8, 1873 Buried here by his son T.T. Fillyaw).

After posting some photos and videos I got a letter from one of the family members regarding some of the history here.  It turns out that some of the relatives make a trip out here when possible to help keep the site maintained. I am sure the forestry service helps out as well. The cemetery is nestled in the woods along the banks of the Ocklawaha River. It is a very peaceful and scenic resting place, and a reminder of some of the fascinating history here. I imagine the area hasn’t changed all that much since the time of his death. I hope the site remains undisturbed so that many more generations in the future can learn about the history here as well and that he will always be remembered in time.

This is some information that was sent to me from one of the relatives:

“My father placed the barrier around the grave to keep the dirt bikes off of it. My family has visited for many years and I have many fond memories of the project my dad undertook in building and installing the barrier. The story I was told is that Thomas was wounded in the war and never fully recovered. His wife was an Indian from some non local tribe and she was killed by local indians for being from the wrong tribe. Not sure how true the story is as I have found no way to confirm but that is what my family always said. His teenage son and young daughter buried him there where his grave is… I can’t remember now if that’s all the kids there was or not, but the teenage son was the oldest of ’em and after they buried their father, they took off on foot and walked all the way to somewhere in Georgia to live with an Aunt & Uncle they had there.” 

VIDEOS

Old Gravesite in in Ocala National Forest (Thomas Cassidy Fillyaw)

Exploring Ocala National Forest Crossover Video Feature with Jungle Jay

RESOURCES

Ocala National Forest