Markham Ghost Town in Seminole County

Markham Ghost Town in Seminole County

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Old Logging Tram

I’ve been exploring sections of this area known as Markham Woods in Seminole County where the old town of Markham was. Markham was founded around 1875 by William Markhamand it was a turpentine and sawmill town. Many small towns in Florida during this time were based around these industries. In some places I could see old bricks left from structures once there and also some Herty cups and catface trees from the turpentine industry.  I saw part of a metal structure as well but may be from a later time after the town, there are many layers of history here. There is a historical marker at the trailhead that describes the history:

“The pine flat woods that dominated the landscape provided economic activity of the residents of the Markham area. The land was purchased by William Markham in 1875 and a vibrant African-American community developed the lumber, turpentine and agricultural activities here in the 1880’s and early 1900’s after construction of the Sanford and Lake Eustis Railway. Lumber activities operating in theMarkham area over the years included the Overstreet Turpentine Company, the Spencer Sawmill, the Zachary Lumber Company and Wilson Cypress Company. The planks and timbers used to build the first bridge over the Wekiva River were milled at Markham, while the Wekiva’s basswood trees were cut to make cigar boxes in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church was the center of this African-American community and the hub of religious, educational, political and community activities. The church provided a safe place to assemble freely to worship, discuss, learn and socialize. The church was also used for the school where members educated their children with ideals and values. The Pinnie Ridge (Grove) Cemetery, commonly called the “Piney Woods Cemetery” was next to the church. The wooden grave markers have disappeared. The Markham people build railroads, produced lumber and turpentine, grew citrus and worked the land. Markham and its surrounding area attracted not only a labor pool, but also permanent settlers who bought their own land, built homes and farmed. They worked hard, educated their children, and survived many hardships with dignity.”

Exploring here you can find the old logging roads that were once used and the railroad line as well. Although much may not remain at some of these places just being there can take you back to another time. Much of the area has been reclaimed by nature but you can imagine how it once was. I am looking forward to my next exploration here to see what else may be there.

Videos

Markham Ghost Town

Turpentine History at Markham

Old Truck in Markham Woods

Resources

Markham Historical Marker

Markham Woods Tract

Catface Trees and Turpentine Industry

Saga of The Turpentiners

 

Old Windmill at Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Old Windmill at Charles H. Bronson State Forest

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Windmill

One of my favorite places to roam in Florida is at Charles H. Bronson State Forest. I always get that “old Florida” feel when I am exploring there.  The area was once used for ranching and some of that history can still be seen throughout the area. It is a large forest with many trails, wooded areas and open pasture areas. It is also near the St. Johns River and the floodplains. It is a place of beauty with many layers of history.

A really neat relic from the past here is an old windmill that even still works. It is amazing to see it in action as the winds blow through the pasture lands. It pumps water from underground into a vat that cattle still use today for drinking water. The windmill was made by the Aermotor Windmill Company and it may date back to the early or mid-1900’s.

There are more windmills out here but this is the only intact one that I have found, I hope that it can remain that way for a long time to come. I can imagine future generations seeing it here still working, a reminder of old Florida…

My Video

Old Windmill at Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Resources

Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Out in The Boonies – Charles H. Bronson State Forest

Charles H. Bronson Wildlife Management Area

Aermotor Windmill Company

Mound History on The St. Johns River (Indian Field Grove)

Mound History on The St. Johns River (Indian Field Grove)

I have been exploring some Native American Indian Mounds along the St. Johns River, most of them have been Shell Midden Mounds. The journey has been great and I continue to be amazed at some of the history that I am learning. The Timucuan Indians inhabited the areas going back at least 500 years, but natives long before that so it can be a very complex history to learn about. The shell middens were built up by discarded shells, bones, pottery and other debris left behind over long periods of time. It is truly fascinating to still see evidence from the past at these places and walk in the footsteps of these ancient people.  After them these were mounds were continued to be used by land owners, because of the higher ground they would build homesteads on them.

One mound in particular that I explored near the St. Johns River had an old orchard and ruins from some structures on it including remains from an old boat dock. I learned more about the history of the place and Samuel J. Norton use to own the land here in the early 1900’s. An old newspaper article published in 1921 describes the place. Here is part of it, I will post a photo of the original article below.

“ Mr. Norton’s country place is rare among the estates in the South for combining magnificent orange, fig and banana culture with exhilarating sports afforded by a well stocked game preserve, and the numerous lakes and sloughs of the St. John River which lie close at hand and which offer a Paradise for the hunter and fisher. Its desirability either for pleasure or profit or both is unquestioned, and the beauty of its orange palms and live groves, its sparking waters and wonderful Indian mound, present a picture in the mind of the beholder that will never be forgotten.”

Indian Field

1921 Article

Map Cropped

1920 Survey Map Illustrating The Grove and Dock on The Mound

My Videos

Exploring at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Old Dock Pilings at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Old Indian Mound at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

 

Resources

St. Johns River Mound History

Out in The Boonies – Boonieman

Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Old Pennsylvania Club Ruins at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Old Pennsylvania Club Ruins at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Exploring at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area I discovered some interesting ruins that were once part of the Pennsylvania Club in the early 1900’s. It was an old hotel and clubhouse that is all I know so far from a publication that I found from 1914. Near Ellis Lake behind the site was a park known as clubhouse park, the path lead to a dock. Many of the old roads that were used are overgrown paths today and it is neat to wander around them and imagine the past. I came across some foundations, mostly concrete pillars and many of them. These were used to support the structure, it was a large building so there were a lot of pillars to support the structure. I could see where the fireplace used to be and some old bricks as well. The building is gone but these foundations are a reminder of the history here. I enjoyed seeing them and learning what I can about the place. I liked following the paths down towards Ellis Lake it is very scenic throughout the area. I looked for the pilings from the old dock down there but didn’t see them this time.

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Pennslyvania Club 1914

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Club House Park 1914

Another bonus was seeing a Bald Eagle nest on one of the trails, it has been there for generations. I could hear a lot of wildlife in the forest and the wilderness is alive here and it was an amazing experience to explore it. I look forward to returning for more adventures in the future.

My Videos

Old Pennsylvania Club Ruins at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Exploring by Ellis Lake at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Bald Eagle Nest at Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Resources

Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Out In The Boonies – Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Seminole Ranch Conservation Area

Indian River Section 1914 Publication

 

Turpentine Camp at Richloam Wildlife Management Area

Exploring in this area of Withlacoochee State Forest near Lacoochee I may have found remains from an old turpentine camp. Around the area were herty cups both clay and metal ones. Along with some bricks, barrel rings and other evidence from the past. This site may have been associated with The Dutton Still. During the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s turpentine was a big industry here along with the sawmills.

This is some of the history I found on the area, more can be read at the link posted below: “Jim Dutton moved his family from Statesboro, Bullock County, Georgia, to Lacoochee, and began operating a turpentine still east of town near the Withlacoochee River and the community of Clay Sink. In the early 1900’s the pioneers who operated these abundant turpentine stills and small sawmills throughout the county owned or leased thousands of acres of forest land. The resinous sap of the pine tree was extracted by chipping a strip of bark from the tree. Then a ceramic or tin cup was placed underneath to catch the life blood of the tree as it dripped from the wound. Crews of men were hired to make daily rounds of the woods to empty the sap into barrels. Wooden sleighs or wagons pulled by four-mule teams would transport the barrels from the woods to the still. Here the sap was poured into a vat and boiled to make turpentine which was used in paint and other products.”

My Videos

Turpentine Camp at Richloam WMA (Part One)

Turpentine Camp at Richloam WMA (Part Two)

Resources

Turpentine Stills in Pasco County

Withlacoochee State Forest

Jeremiah Milton Brewer Gravesite in Ocala National Forest

Jeremiah Milton Brewer Gravesite in Ocala National Forest

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This is an interesting gravesite I found in Ocala National Forest, a man name Jeremiah M. Brewer is buried here. He lived from 1844 to 1877, some of the history I found on him describes him serving in the Civil War as a Union Soldier. I find it interesting that there are both Confederate and Union Soldiers buried in this forest. As I approached the site which sits in the middle of the woods you can’t help but feel a sense of mystery here. Why was he buried here? Did he have a homestead or family nearby? So many questions come to mind. It is part of what drives me to explore the history. I try to imagine what the area looked like back then and you begin to put yourself in that moment. It is easy to get lost in the history out here but I rather enjoy it…

 

Here is some information I was able to find: The records indicate that he died in Paisley Florida which was established sometime in the late 1800’s. He was born in Clinton County, Ohio. He was the son of Jeremiah and Ann Matthews Brewer. Brother of Isaiah, Josiah, William B., and Mary Jane. This Jeremiah is listed in the 1870 Census in Greene Township, Clinton County, Ohio, Post Office: Sabina as a Druggist. Jeremiah served in Company D, Ohio 188th Infantry Regiment during 1865 and was mustered out in Nashville, TN on September 21, 1865. The property this grave is located on changed hands several times in the 1880’s until the United States Forest Service purchased it. Prior to 1882, the land cannot be found to have been claimed by any one person.

The grave seems to be maintained to some degree perhaps by the forest service or surviving family members could also help take care of it. I enjoy visiting the site and learning what I can about the history. It is very peaceful here in the woods and a nice resting place. Hopefully the grave remains undisturbed and can be a reminder of history for those who pass by.

My Video

Jeremiah M. Brewer Gravesite in Ocala National Forest

Resources

Burial Record

Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest Florida Hikes!

Old Railroad Grade at Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Old Railroad Grade at Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

One of the places I enjoy exploring is Lake Wales Ridge State Forest in Polk County. Some of my early days as Florida Trailblazer were spent there so it is a place I like to return to when I can. I initially learned about how the area was a chain of islands millions of years ago when the rest of Florida was covered by ocean. It is known as the Central Florida Ridge today, the ridge runs for about 150 miles through central Florida, Lake Wales Ridge standing 295 feet above sea level, is the oldest part of it. As you walk along through areas where the scrub habitat are you are literally walking on an ancient beach.. The forest has a many areas of diverse habitat though with many miles of trails and places to explore.

Besides the enjoying the amazing wilderness here I have been learning a lot about the history as well. Some of it can still be seen today if you know where to look. One of the areas I found was an abandoned railroad grade, in fact some of the trails cross over it but today it just appears as another forest road so you may not know that it was a railroad line at one time. Once I found it I hiked along the grade for a few miles until I reached a creek where a bridge once was. The bridge is mostly gone except for the wood pilings that supported it. It was neat to see this reminder of history out here though. I learned that the railroad was built around 1944 to connect Avon Park Air Force Range with the existing railline in Frostproof. This line was discontinued in not to long after in 1948 and was dismantled. I would like to explore more in the area to see what else may be there that could be associated with the railroad.

My Video

Old Railroad Grade at Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Resources

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Out in The Boonies – Arbuckle Tract