Lone Gravesite at Andrews Wildlife Management Area

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Gravesite

Although known more for hunting this area along the Suwannee River in Levy County known as Andrews Wildlife Management Area is a really nice place to explore. Some of the trails lead you along the river where you can experience some amazing views, other trails lead you throughout the woods in the preserve. There are also many forest roads and off trails.

Along with the beautiful scenery there is some interesting history to be experienced as well. Awhile back I was exploring here in the wilderness when I came across a lone gravesite. Sadly most of the tombstone is gone and the site is surrounded by a wooden fence. It made me wonder about the history of the area, who was buried there and for how long now. Perhaps there was a homestead nearby at one time. I took some photos and recorded some video footage there but left without knowing much about the site but was happy to have discovered it as I was inspired to learn more.

Here is some of the history on the area that I could find “Back to the 1800’s when the nearby Suwannee River was used as a steamboat route for hauling lumber. By the early 1900’s the area was used for cattle grazing, logging, hunting and fishing as well. In the 1945 the Andrews family purchased the land. They managed the land for outdoor recreation and were careful to protect natural resources. The state purchased the land in 1985.” You can read more about the history at this link.

Well about a year later I was able to finally find some sort of record on the site and went back out to look at it again. I find that it is important to check back upon these sites from time to time… The record I found indicates that this is the infant grave of Walter Miller Owens from 1889. If this record is accurate then it is a good start to uncovering some of the history here. More often than not finding these sites leads to more what you originally set out to find and learn about. That to me is very rewarding and all apart of the adventure.

If you visit this area be sure to check the hunting dates, enjoy!

My Video

Lone Gravesite at Andrews Wildlife Management Area

Resources

Andrews WMA History

Andrews WMA

Andrews Suwannee River Management District

 

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!

Gravesite of Ellis Mize in Alachua County

Gravesite of Ellis Mize in Alachua County

One of the most interesting gravesites I have visited was this one in Alachua County. It is the gravesite of Ellis Mize. The Mize family operated a turpentine still up until 1950. Ellis Mize lived from 1862 until 1967. Because of his love for the pine tree industry, Mize had his granite tombstone carved to resemble a “working face” pine tree. There is a historical marker outside of the cemetery describing the history: “From 1909 until 1923, Florida led the nation in pine gum production. In 1909, the peak year in the U.S.A. gum yielded 750,000 barrels of turpentine and 2.5 million barrels of rosin. The 1910 census listed 27,2ll men and 3l6 women, mostly blacks, working in the industry with 65 percent in Florida. Fairbanks, Florida was a turpentine still town with the Mize family operation processing ten 50-gallon barrels of crude gum at a time. This still required six crops of 10,000 faces (an area where streaks of bark are removed) and each crop covered 400 acres. As recently as 1951, 105 fire stills operated around Gainesville. The Mize family operated the Fairbanks still until 1950. Many of the buildings (the cooper’s shed, machine shop and worker homes) still stand. Ellis Mize (1882-1967) donated land with a lake bearing his name to the University of Florida’s forestry education program. In 1948, they deeded this private cemetery on that property to the Fairbanks Baptist Church. Because of his love for the pine tree industry, Mize had his granite tombstone carved to resemble a “working face” pine tree. This marker is dedicated to all who toiled to provide an income for families and communities and resinous products worldwide.”

My Video

Ellis Mize Gravesite

Resources

Fairbanks Turpentine Industry

Exploring Indian Lake Cemetery at Indian Lake State Forest

Exploring Indian Lake Cemetery at Indian Lake State Forest

A very scenic place to explore in Marion County is Indian Lake State Forest. I began hiking there a few years ago and have also enjoyed learning about the history of the area as well. I visited an old cemetery out there known as Indian Lake Cemetery. It is a peaceful place in the middle of the forest and a reminder of the past. Near the gate is kiosk with a map and some history behind the cemetery. I really liked seeing that, this way others that visit this place will have a better sense of the history here.

“Before Ocala and Silver Springs were developed, there were Indians that lived in this area. The Indians loved the lake and the area around it. They held their Pow-wows near the lake and their children loved to swim in the warm waters of Indian Lake. The Indians held sacred rites for their dead and buried them in sacred areas throughout the forest. Later American settlers moved into the area and forced out the Indians. The settlers, who like the Indians, loved Indian lake and the surrounding area. Around 1845 the settlers built a small whitewashed church near the lake and around 1851 they established this small cemetery. This cemetery includes some veterans from the war of 1812 and Civil War as well as some of the first settlers in the area.”

I explored around the cemetery looking at all the tombstones some were harder to read than others. It was nice to see the place maintained though despite some of the tombstones not being in the best of condition. Most of the dates are in the 1800’s and it makes you wonder what this place was like back then. The area may have looked completely different. The church that once existed by Indian Lake burnt down but at least we still have this cemetery as a reminder of history.

My Video

Indian Lake Cemetery

Resources

Indian Lake State Forest

Burial Records

Oriole Ghost Town in Withlacoochee State Forest

Oriole Ghost Town in Withlacoochee State Forest

dsc05148One of the first ghost towns I began exploring was called Oriole located in Hernando County. Today the site is apart of the Withlacoochee State Forest and it has always intrigued me. Finding it inspired me to uncover other places like this across Florida and so far I have been on an amazing journey of history. Initially I discovered the cemetery in the woods there but overtime have found other remains from the town though not much is left. That said, some reminders of the past can still be seen throughout the area.

The first post office in Oriole was established in 1884, records indicated that it was founded by J.A. Clarkson Jr. Before the town was established families had been settling in the area during the 1800’s. They built farms and had orange groves and traded amongst each other. Over time a small community began to grow and people used to take a ferry across the Withlacoochee River to reach the area before the railroad came through. Around the time the town was established the railroad line reached the town bringing more growth to the area. Phosphate mining was a booming industry, the Oriole mining company received a permit around 1890 and operated up until around 1912-1915.

Most of the settlers were from Maine to Georgia and were part of the original families who had settled the land there before the town. The town had a cemetery which today is known as Oriole Cemetery, but is also known as the Giddens Homestead Cemetery. One of the first families who lived in the area was known as Giddens and they had a homestead nearby. It is the third oldest cemetery in Hernando County.

“The original deed to the cemetery reads: Between Charles Giddens and Sally Giddens, his wife and Seth H. Middens, Issac N. Talley, J. Frank Hall, Isaac Giddens and Mason Noble the lot hereto be used for burial purposes, lying southward from my house and more particulary described as follows, to wit-to be held in trust by  said parties of the second part, and their successors, as a burial  ground and for purposes of burial only.– the said parties of the second part having authority, in case of the death or resignation of any one of their number–such choice, the said parties of the second party to hold and exercise all  rights usually belonging to trustees,-fence and care for said lot, to grant permission for burial therein, to assign place and  location for such burial, etc.etc. containing one acre.  To have and to hold said land and premises, with the appurtenances, to said parties of the second part and their successors forever. Signed on the 6th day of October 1890.”

The town was small with only around 100 people or so, Florida had many small towns like this. During 1894-1895 the great freezes happened wiping out many of the crops that these small towns depended on. Oriole most likely was effected but another problem was influenza. That also may have had large impact on the survival of the town and explains why so many died young in those days. Around 1898 the post office closed down and the town soon after was abandoned.

In the early 1900’s another small town called Croom existed just north of Oriole along the railroad line which had a turpentine still, another thriving industry in the area. There was of a sugar mill on this railroad at one time which also may have been associated with Oriole. The railroad line was once part of the Henry Plant System, Florida Southern Railroad and then eventually became the Atlantic Coast Line in the early 1900’s.

Later into the 1900’s much of the land was used for ranching and in the woods there I found remains of an old windmill, another reminder of the history. Oriole is a place that I will continue to explore, these places always stay with you once you discover them. I cherish what is left of the history and I hope that what does remain will do so for a long time to come so that future generations can experience that as well.

My Videos

Oriole Cemetery in Withlacoochee State Forest

Oriole Sugar Mill Ruins in Withlacoochee State Forest

Old Windmill in Withlacoochee State Forest

Oriole Ghost Town

Resources

Giddens/Oriole Homestead Cemetery

Withlacoochee State Forest

Exploring Alto Cemetery in Half Moon Wildlife Management Area

Exploring Alto Cemetery in Half Moon Wildlife Management Area

This old cemetery is located at Half Moon Wildlife Management Area in Sumter County. Known as Alto Cemetery it was part of a lost town called Alto in the late 1800’s. The people buried here were early settlers in the area. They raised horses and cattle and cultivated food crops such as peanuts, corn, sugarcane, oats, sweet potatoes and peas.

I learned that some of the roads are named for families who homesteaded here, such as Old Oxford Road in 1888 and Alto Landing which was a ferry boat crossing along the Withlacoochee River at that time.

My explorations around this wilderness has lead me to some intriguing history such as this cemetery. I enjoy visiting this place it so peaceful. I have been learning about the history here as much as possible. Finding records on this town has been challenging and is like so many other Florida ghost towns that seemed to have been lost in time. Thankfully today the cemetery still remains and the people here will always be a reminder of the history.

My Video

Exploring Alto Cemetery in Half Moon Wildlife Management Area 

Resources

Half Moon WMA History

Half Moon WMA

Burial Records

Dunn Cemetery in Jennings State Forest

Dunn Cemetery in Jennings State Forest

Jennings State Forest is located in Clay County and is a great place to enjoy nature and experience some history as well. Going back to the 1800’s many families had homesteads out here, farms and schools dotted the landscape as well. Turpentine was one of the main industries in this area and the forest provided plenty of resources and places for turpentine camps.

Many of the families also had cemeteries here and one of them was known as “Dunn Cemetery”. It is a lost cemetery and sadly no tombstones remain but the people buried there have a story and once lived on the land nearby. The cemetery was overgrown on my visit, there is a front gate and parts of the wooden fencing can still be seen around the perimeter. Flag markers now indicate the places where people have been laid to rest and at the center of the cemetery is a memorial listing the names of the people here, a few are unknown.

According to some records I found this was the property of a man named Mr. Dunn and he was the first laid to rest here back in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. He may have had a farm and homestead nearby. In fact if you look at the trail maps for the forest you can find a Dunn’s Farm Trail. Other names listed here are also common throughout the other cemeteries in the forest.

As I explored around this place I felt a sense of peace and it is such a nice resting place in the forest. I imagined what life must’ve been like here and how the area looked. I could see some of the old roads that they may have used. I wish that the cemetery could be better maintained but hopefully in time that will change. I hope to learn more about this place and the people here and I feel that is one way of preserving the history, by helping to give it life again. Check out my some of my photos below and a video for a tour around the site. If you visit this cemetery or others like it please be respectful of the sites and do not disturb them.

My Video

Dunn Cemetery in Jennings State Forest

Resources

Burial Records

Jennings State Forest

Clay County Historical Archives