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.
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.
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.
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.”
One of my favorite places to explore is Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area. It is a vast and scenic wilderness with many layers of history throughout. The preserve borders the St. Johns River which has a rich Native American Indian history and many Indian Mounds were documented around the area. In later times during the early 1900’s it was part of a hunting game preserve purchased by several families.
It was during this time period when the cabin was built by the Bumby family along with the Kincaids and Edward Fishbacks. The area was known as Tosohatchee Camp or the (Bumby Camp) and the families were very generous about letting Boy Scouts, church and civic organizations use the camp for picnics. It was a place where many memories were made over the years. Where folks hunted and fished while taking in the serene surroundings of the woods.
Eventually in the late 1900’s the land was sold to the State of Florida and the original shareholders of the Tosohatchee Game Preserve were happy because the state would preserve and protect this pristine wilderness. Today the area is known as Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area and is enjoyed by the public. It is a popular place for many recreational activities including hiking, hunting and fishing.
As far as the old cabin only the chimney remains and some other remnants scattered about but it is nice reminder of the history here. It is my hope that this history will remain undisturbed for generations to come so that others can learn about it and take in the past along with the beautiful nature that this place has to offer.
Check out the videos and photos posted below for a look around and the links as well to learn more about this amazing place.
One of my favorite areas at Goethe State Forest is where an old cypress tree still stands known as Goethe Giant. There is a trail and boardwalk that leads you to this majestic tree that is estimated to be over 900 years old.
During the 1800’s and early 1900’s many of these cypress trees were cut down during the logging booms because this type of wood is so valuable and for its durability. The Florida wilderness was once covered with these old trees, many dating back 1,000’s of years. Some still remain today but can be difficult to find, but others like this one are nicely preserved along a trail where you can visit and experience this beautiful tree.
Check out my video and photos below to get a glimpse of this tree, the forestry website link posted also has a map indicating where the tree is along the Big Cypress Boardwalk Trail. There is a forest road you can access there which takes you to the trailhead.
I explored this area recently known as Devils Hammock Wildlife Management Area located in Levy County. I had been here several years ago but never got the chance to really look around like I wanted to. So I took my video camera and geared up for a hike in this preserve to check it out again to see what I could find.
I am really glad that I did because this time I found one of the most interesting trees I’ve ever seen while exploring the wilderness. It is a very large and old oak tree located in the woods here off one of the trails. In fact there is a sign at one of the trailheads indicating that there is a champion tree here. I can’t say for sure how old it is but from the looks of it this majestic tree has been here for a long time and has stood the test of time.
The trunk and base of the tree are very large, especially when you stand up next to it you get a true sense of it’s size. I imagine that the tree could be several hundred years old, though not sure exactly what kind of oak it is. The area is surrounded by swamps and hardwood hammocks and the forest has an ancient feel to it. It is a very scenic wilderness with lots of different wildlife and habitats.
I would say the best time to visit this place would be in the cooler and drier months you just have to check the hunting dates since it is a very popular destination for hunting. While making this video it was a challenge because it was during the summer when there was more water in the swamps and lots of mosquitos following me the entire hike. Although over the years of exploring I have learned to endure these types of challenges in the wilderness but it isn’t for everyone.
It is a rare treat to see these old trees still standing in Florida’s wilderness since many were cut down and logged out long ago. So when I do find one I truly value the experience. Check out my video and photos below to see this beautiful tree. I also posted links to where you can find more information on this preserve. To find this tree you’ll need to enter at the Parker Field entrance but there are plenty of other areas to explore here as well.