This is part of a series of posts known as “Roadside History”. These posts will feature historical sites you can find along various roadways around Florida while on your travels.
Near Gulf Hammock in Levy County on US Hwy 19 / US 98 on the western side of the road you can see this relic of history. It is an old steam locomotive known as the Patterson-McInnis Steam Locomotive. It was built in the early 1900’s to haul logs from the area woodlands to the sawmill. It often pulled 40 cars and was retired from service around WWII. The engine was donated to Levy County in 1969 by the Patterson-McInnis lumber company.
Today it is restored and on display, there is a historical marker by it describing the history. “This locomotive, known locally as “Three Spot”, often pulled 30 to 40 cars as it transported logs from area woodlands to the Patterson-McInnis Sawmill. Originally a wood burning engine thought to be built around 1915, it was converted to steam during its service, which ended about World War II. The locomotive was donated to Levy County by the Paterson-McInnis Lumber Company in 1969 and maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation in the Gulf Hammock Wayside Park.”
Here are the directions to the site be sure to check it out sometime and experience some roadside history!
In an area of The Green Swamp I found this site while I was searching for a ghost town known as “Sturkey”. You can see the town still shown on some maps. So I made it an adventure to go and try find it, the site can be found by an old railroad grade in the West Tract of The Green Swamp. I have investigated the area a few times now and still come away with more questions than answers.
A lot of the remnants seemed to be industrial or manufacturing related. One of the first areas I saw off of the railroad grade was a clearing with woods and hills behind it. As I begun exploring around the clearing I started to see chains, scraps of metal, barrel rings, pieces of iron and wood. In one section I even saw an old steering wheel which indicates that vehicles were out here at one time. Everything was scattered about and this area was particularly large so it was a lot to cover. I imagined that maybe some structures were here at one time but it was hard to really tell.
As I ventured further into the clearing I came to an area where some woods are along with some swampy areas as well. It was dry enough to continue on though. This is where I found a large foundation where it appears structures and other things were attached. The grass and forest floor are taking over the foundation but you can still see a lot of it. It was here where I began to see more industrial related stuff. Attached to the foundation were iron plates and lots of bolts as well. Along the edge of the foundation were some wall ruins left over from two of the structures. It appears that conveyor belts were attached to the top of these which could indicate some kind of mining operation. I have seen similar ruins in other parts of the Green Swamp where old mining operations were at one time.
I left that area and continued further into the woods following what looks to be old dirt roads that were part of the townsite. I eventually got into this area where a lot of rolling hills were. I found more evidence of past activity such as an old corral or hog pen. It seemed very old and fragile. I found one area out here that had a lot of debris lying around. Possibly items from an old building. On top of one of the hills I found an old rusted out license plate. I couldn’t make out the numbers but you could see that it was a Florida license plate.
I headed out of the woods here and over to the edge of the townsite then I circled around those areas to see what else I could uncover. I came across an area that I thought was an old hunt camp at first. But as I investigated it further I saw more industrial type stuff similar to what I had seen previously. It appears this was connected with the site as well and back behind it was another swampy area with more concrete ruins.
So far this is all the history that I can find on the town of Sturkey: “Sturkey was a “company town” for the Cummers Lumber Company. Cummers began construction of a sawmill & box factory in nearby Lacoochee in 1922. The factory they built was the largest of its kind at the time, & continued in operation until 1959. ”
This aircraft vanished in April of 2014 when the pilot, Theodore Weiss was last seen taking off from Dunnellon Airport. He never arrived at his destination in Zephyrhills. Officials searched for the plane for months for in the Withlacoochee State Forest where they thought it had crashed. It wasn’t found until several months later by a hiker in a preserve.
I went to the area actually looking for some other sites to check out when I came across the plane wreckage. As I entered the site I got an overwhelming feeling of sadness and curiosity at the same time. It is also one of the most unfortunate discoveries I’ve had in the wilderness.
I know that at least he passed away doing what he loved to do. I read that he had a big passion for flying these planes and that he seemed to have been a very experienced pilot as well. Which leads me to wonder how he went down? We may never know…
I found this in an article (In an interview Weiss’ friend, Ted Coberly of Zephyrhills, said Weiss was a retired metal worker from around Rochester, N.Y., where he still has family. Coberly, Weiss’ friend, said he had an outgoing personality and that the men shared a passion for experimental aircraft. “He was a real nice guy, competent pilot and everything,” Coberly said. “We were supposed to go flying together (when Weiss went missing). We had a lot in common, same airplane and everything.”)
I left the site as it was and took some photos and videos which you can see below. From everything I have read on this man he seemed like a good person and that he will be missed by many. I made this post to show my respects and and as sort of memorial for him. His memory lives on forever…
In the Withlacoochee State Forest I found an old ghost town called “Etna”. It was a turpentine camp from 1898 to 1915 and it has long since vanished. When I arrived at the site the area was heavily wooded with many overgrown trails. I imagine these trails were once old roads for the town.
I explored around the site extensively finding scattered remains. Some bricks, Herty cups and other evidence from turpentine activity. During it’s peak the town had 50 buildings and a population of around 200 people.
I learned that the site was initially discovered back in the early 1990’s when they surveyed the area for a pipeline. Many of the local historians didn’t know of the site either at the time of it’s discovery. Now that the site is known we now have a window into the past.