Croom Ghost Town in Withlacoochee State Forest

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Old Railroad Grade at Croom

For years I have been exploring the various sections of Withlacoochee State Forest, with so many places to roam and history to experience I find myself returning time and time again. Recently I have been focusing on documenting various ghost towns around Florida and there were several located within the Withlacoochee State Forest. So I decided to do some more research and get out into the woods to find some more evidence from these past towns.

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Old Map of Croom

One of the towns I have explored there is part of the Croom Tract in Hernando County. Back in the late 1800’s the area was known as Croom. I have seen a few other names on maps in the same area as well such as Pembleton Ferry and Fitzgerald. I learned that Pembleton Ferry was a place where wagons and buggies crossed the Withlacoochee River using a ferry. In those days that was the only way across the river here. I imagine families settled, farmed the land and traded with each other helping to build a small community.

Around the 1890’s part of the Florida Southern Railroad came through here, later becoming the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Industries such as logging, mining and turpentine sprung up around the railroad and the town soon became known as Croom. Like most old Florida towns once all the resources were used up, these companies moved on and the towns would soon vanish. Today nature has reclaimed most of the area.

One of the first areas I looked for was the old railroad line, most of the activity and town would be around that area. Today some of the line is part of the Withlacoochee State Trail, a paved bicycle path. Exploring deeper into the woods there I followed the railroad line to where it crossed the Withlacoochee River. There I could see some of the old rails laying on the ground, trees have grown around some of them. You can see the raised railroad bed where it connected with a trestle that once crossed the river, the trestle is no longer there. When the water levels are down you can see part of the wood pilings. Just across the way is Hog Island where another bridge used to cross it was known as Iron Bridge.

I continued on to where the old turpentine camp used to be. It must have been a large operation, around the site I could still see remnants from the past. Bricks and old metal scattered around the area, large clearings where buildings used to be and some turpentine artifacts could be seen. I followed many of the old roads around the turpentine camp and discovered an old cistern in the ground most likely used to store water.

You can get a real sense of the history in this place, it makes you want to learn more and see what else could be there. I will continue to explore it that is for sure as I always enjoy hiking this part of the forest and seeing what still remains from the past. Deeper into the wilderness here is some of the old mining history I will cover that in another posting. This tract is very popular for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Be sure to check out the links and my videos to learn more about this place. As always I leave all artifacts where I see them and take nothing but photos and videos. When visiting this or other places like this please be respectful and leave all history as you see it, thank you and enjoy the adventure!

My Videos

Croom Ghost Town (Part One)

Croom Ghost Town (Part Two)

Resources

Withlacoochee State Forest

Croom Ghost Town

History Hikers – Croom/Oriole

Hernando County History

Hernando History FLGenWeb

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 Centralia Ghost Town in Hernando County

Centralia Sawmill Ruins

Centralia Sawmill Ruins

Centralia was a booming lumber town back in the early 1900’s located in Hernando County. The town formed in 1910 and lasted until around 1922 and had one of the largest sawmills in the south. There was a commissary that sold all kinds of goods. There was a boarding house, the Centralia Hotel, a restaraunt, drug store, church, school and even a movie house. The sawmill could turn out 100,000 board of feet a day. The timber didn’t last long though and after all the trees were cut the town was abandoned around 1917.

Today not much is left from the old town but foundations from the sawmill and the old roads that are now all overgrown. I found the old railroad spur that ran by the town and that was interesting to follow. Along those areas I found old bricks and railroad spikes. It is a fascinating place to learn about and hopefully the site will remain undisturbed as so many of these places around Florida seemed to have vanished completely.

My Videos

 

Resources

Centralia Early History

Centralia Ghost Towns of Florida

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Centralia Sawmill Ruins

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Sawmill Ruins

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Sawmill Ruins

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Old Cypress Tree in Float Pond

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Old Float Pond

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Sawmill Ruins

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Sawmill Ruins

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Building Ruins at Sawmill

 

Roadside History: WWII Brooksfield Army Airfield Bunker in Hernando County

Old Bunker

Old Bunker

When driving by Hernando County Airport in Brooksville you may have never known that it was once the site of the Brooksville Army Airfield during World War II. In 1942 the 1st Bomb Squardron arrived and the 9th Bombardment Group trained on B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberators. Designated an auxiliary base to Drew Field in Tampa, the crews from Brooksville regularly made practice runs to Avon Park Bombing Range and Osprey Bombing Range. A tactical bombing school operated under the direction of Orlando Air Base was also present. After the war it became Hernando County Airport in 1945.

Today you can find some remnants still there from that time such as this concrete bunker. These are known as Boresight Ranges and it was used as a firing target, that is how they tested and aligned the machine guns on the bombers. If you look closely at the structure you can still see the bullet holes. There are concrete tubes on top of the bunker, they filled up the bunker with sand through those. The piles of wood still laying inside the bunker combined with the sand were there to help stop the bullets.

There is a lot of World War II history throughout Florida and this is one of the fascinating sites you can still see in Hernando County. To access the area pull into the airport from Spring Hill Drive by Aviation Loop and you will see a large hill by the entrance that is where the bunker area is.

My Videos

The Brooksville Army Airfield WWII Bunker in Hernando County

Old WWII Bunker in Hernando County

Resources

Museum of Florida History – Brooksville Army Airfield

Bullet Holes in Structure

Bullet Holes in Structure

Inside the Bunker

Inside the Bunker

Concrete Tube on Bunker

Concrete Tube on Bunker

Concrete Tube Inside Bunker

Concrete Tube Inside Bunker

Exploring The Ghost Town of Oriole in Withlacoochee State Forest (Sugar Mill Ruins)

Oriole Sugar Mill Ruins

Oriole Sugar Mill Ruins

The town of Oriole existed in Hernando County around the 1880’s. The town site is located not far from Croom, another ghost town. The town was settled in 1884 around a phosphate mine. The post office closed in 1898 and soon after Oriole became a ghost town. The mines were operated by Oriole Mining Company up until around 1915. Today the area is part of The Withlacoochee State Forest where you can discover a lot of history including the Oriole Cemetery.

On this adventure out there I found what looks to be remains of a sugar mill. It wasn’t that far from the railroad grade which is now the Withlacoochee State Trail. I explored around in the woods there and saw the foundations and large bolts on them where other stuff was attached. Nearby were the boilers in the ground as well. I didn’t see much else around the area other than some pits and old containers in them. Further up from here there is an old tram road that leads back to Oriole Mines It was fascinating seeing these ruins and being to able to experience the history still here that is over 100 years old.

My Videos

 

Resources

Withlacoochee State Forest

Croom Ghost Town

Oriole Ghost Town Blog Post by DirtMedic

Sugar Mill Ruins

Sugar Mill Ruins

Part of the Boiler

Part of the Boiler

Sugar Mil Ruins

Sugar Mil Ruins

Sugar Mill Ruins

Sugar Mill Ruins

Foundations

Foundations

Oriole Mines in Withlacoochee State Forest

Oriole Mines

Oriole Mines

In The Withlacoochee State Forest there is an old townsite called “Oriole”. It was a small town with a population of around 100 people or so that was established in the early 1880’s. The town itself was short-lived and only lasted until the late 1800’s and isn’t that far from the old townsite of Croom. Another nearby ghost town that died out around the same time.

On a hike out here I found what looks to be an old mine in the woods. I managed to find the old tram road where you can see the surrounding areas had been dug up. These are known as The Oriole Mines and were managed by the Oriole Mining Company. I believe they would mine phosphate up until around 1915 which would’ve been after the town was gone. Initially I set out not knowing what I would find and little did I know I would discover yet another connection to history on this old town.

My Videos

Oriole Mines

Exploring Oriole Mines

Resources

Withlacoochee State Forest

Hernando County History

Oriole History

Oriole Mines