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

Exploring Indian Mounds at Bronson State Forest

Exploring Indian Mounds at Bronson State Forest

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Indian Mound

I spent a few months focusing my explorations near the St. Johns River area. Not only are their numerous wilderness areas to explore along the river but there is a lot of fascinating history as well. In fact many layers of history and some of the earliest history is that of the Native American Indians that lived and hunted along these areas over 500 years ago. The history can be quite complex from what I am learning but as far as I know the Timucua and Mayaca Indians settled in these places. They would build large shell mounds over time and villages along the river.

These early Floridians ate countless tons of such shellfish as oysters, snails, crabs, clams, and mussels.  They piled the debris in middens.  These are trash heaps that contain shells, bones, broken pottery, etc.  Some of mounds are massive, and there were lots of them. Middens used to blanket parts of Florida’s East Coast, from Cape Canaveral northward.  During the 1800s, in fact, Americans couldn’t believe their eyes.  They couldn’t comprehend that human activity had created so many mounds. Unfortunately these mounds are not as large as they once were and many are gone all together. Although some can still be seen and that is where this adventure leads me…

I began this exploration at Charles H. Bronson State forest and was able to hike out to the St. Johns River area where several mounds could be seen. I really enjoyed finding them and the views there on the river floodplain are spectacular. It was dry and cooler so these areas weren’t as challenging to access as they normally can be.  As I stood there on the mounds I could imagine how the natives must’ve enjoyed it there. You can’t help but feel the history here. On the mounds I could see some remnants from the past like old pottery fragments and shells.

I have been enjoying learning about the history doing the explorations and tracking down the sites. I still have more to see, the adventure really just has begun.

My Videos

Old Indian Mound at Bronson State Forest

Exploring Indian Mounds at Bronson State Forest (Part 1)

Exploring Indian Mounds at Bronson State Forest (Part 2)

Exploring Indian Mounds at Bronson State Forest (Part 3)

Resources

St. Johns River Historical Society

St. Johns River Original Inhabitants

Charles H. Bronson State Forest

21st Century Expeditionist

Out in The Boonies

Florida Hikes and Other Outdoor Information

*Do not remove or disturb artifacts it is prohibited and illegal in this forest, thank you.

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