Ancient Cypress Trees at Spring Hammock Preserve

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Ancient Cypress

Long ago Florida was covered with ancient and giant cypress trees dating back thousands of years. Cypress has natural built in preservatives or oils that make cypress long lasting and resistant to water and insect damage. So these trees can stand the test of time, which is also what makes them so valuable. In just a matter of a hundred years or more many of these ancient trees were cut down by the logging industry.

Luckily some of these trees still remain and can be seen throughout the state, though not nearly as what there once was. Some of the oldest and largest cypress trees I have seen  in central Florida at Spring Hammock Preserve. Exploring around in the swamps there I came across some giants, one of them may be around 2,000 years old. As I roamed throughout the wilderness I was amazed to see some of them still standing after all this time. It is a great experience to see and touch them, I imagined how many others over the years have stood in the same place I was and admiring them.

Just across the way from the preserve in Big Tree Park used to be another cypress tree known as The Senator. It was the biggest and oldest bald cypress tree in the world at 3,500 years old. Sadly it burnt down several years ago…

It was a great adventure finding these beautiful trees in the swamps here and I am glad that we still have them to appreciate. Hopefully they will remain for many more years to come.

My Videos

Ancient Cypress at Spring Hammock Preserve

Old Cypress Trees at Spring Hammock Preserve

Resources

Spring Hammock Preserve

Markham Ghost Town in Seminole County

Markham Ghost Town in Seminole County

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Old Logging Tram

I’ve been exploring sections of this area known as Markham Woods in Seminole County where the old town of Markham was. Markham was founded around 1875 by William Markhamand it was a turpentine and sawmill town. Many small towns in Florida during this time were based around these industries. In some places I could see old bricks left from structures once there and also some Herty cups and catface trees from the turpentine industry.  I saw part of a metal structure as well but may be from a later time after the town, there are many layers of history here. There is a historical marker at the trailhead that describes the history:

“The pine flat woods that dominated the landscape provided economic activity of the residents of the Markham area. The land was purchased by William Markham in 1875 and a vibrant African-American community developed the lumber, turpentine and agricultural activities here in the 1880’s and early 1900’s after construction of the Sanford and Lake Eustis Railway. Lumber activities operating in theMarkham area over the years included the Overstreet Turpentine Company, the Spencer Sawmill, the Zachary Lumber Company and Wilson Cypress Company. The planks and timbers used to build the first bridge over the Wekiva River were milled at Markham, while the Wekiva’s basswood trees were cut to make cigar boxes in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church was the center of this African-American community and the hub of religious, educational, political and community activities. The church provided a safe place to assemble freely to worship, discuss, learn and socialize. The church was also used for the school where members educated their children with ideals and values. The Pinnie Ridge (Grove) Cemetery, commonly called the “Piney Woods Cemetery” was next to the church. The wooden grave markers have disappeared. The Markham people build railroads, produced lumber and turpentine, grew citrus and worked the land. Markham and its surrounding area attracted not only a labor pool, but also permanent settlers who bought their own land, built homes and farmed. They worked hard, educated their children, and survived many hardships with dignity.”

Exploring here you can find the old logging roads that were once used and the railroad line as well. Although much may not remain at some of these places just being there can take you back to another time. Much of the area has been reclaimed by nature but you can imagine how it once was. I am looking forward to my next exploration here to see what else may be there.

Videos

Markham Ghost Town

Turpentine History at Markham

Old Truck in Markham Woods

Resources

Markham Historical Marker

Markham Woods Tract

Catface Trees and Turpentine Industry

Saga of The Turpentiners

 

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

Roadside History: Lake Monroe Bridge

Roadside History: Lake Monroe Bridge

Passing over Lake Monroe where it meets the St. Johns River you can see the old Lake Monroe Bridge. Just off of Hwy 17 there is a park called Wayside Park in Seminole County. It is a popular place for fishing and boating. The bridge was Florida’s first electrically operated swing bridge and was built in 1933. It was part of the original Hwy 17, today the swing span is preserved as fishing pier. There is a historical there that describes the history.

“The Lake Monroe Bridge was the first electrically operated swing bridge in Florida. In 1932-1933 the State used federal assistance to build this bridge, which replaced a wooden toll bridge that was manually operated. The construction of the bridge provided economic relief for an area hurt by the economic collapse of the Depression era. The bridge was fabricated by Ingall’s Iron Works of Birmingham, Alabama. The swing machinery manufactured by Earle Gear and Machine Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was erected by W. W. White Steel Construction of St. Petersburg, Florida. Kreis Contracting Company of Knoxville, Tennessee was the general contractor for the Florida Department of Transportation. The Florida Department of Transportation and Seminole County cooperated in preserving the swing span as a fishing pier when the new Benedict Bridge was completed in 1994.

The Lake Monroe Bridge had historic impact on the communities of the area, but also is of historical value as an example of a branch of bridge engineering.

The Lake Monroe bridge was 627 feet, and included a 235 foot swing span. It carried the main route linking Daytona Beach and Tampa, via Deland, Sanford, Orlando, and Lakeland. It could pivot 360 degrees on its curved rack and two spur pinions.

The Warren-type through truss construction had a central panel section peaked to accommodate the drive machinery. The Warren-type truss is considered the most economical construction for continuous spans. It is characterized by diagonals that alternate in direction. The first diagonal beam starts at base level and goes up to the top. The next diagonal starts at the top and goes down to the base level. The diagonals are in tension and compression in alternate panels. To meet the heavy stresses of the swing span operation the bridge arms were heavily reinforced and had riveted connections at all stress points. The harbor for Lake Monroe Park in Volusia County was created by fill taken for the approaches to the Lake Monroe Bridge.”

Visit the links below to see my video, photos and for more information.

My Video

Old Lake Monroe Bridge

Resources

Lake Monroe Bridge on Bridge Hunter

Lake Monroe on Waymarking

Lake Monroe Historical Marker

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

 

Exploring Mounds at Little Big Econ State Forest

Exploring Mounds at Little Big Econ State Forest

I have been exploring some of the mounds near the St. Johns River at Little Big Econ State Forest. The Timuca Indians lived and hunted here and evidence can still be seen from their activities. They would use these mounds to discard shells, pottery and bones. Over long periods of time the mounds would build up. They also used the mounds for look out points and for higher ground if needed along the river and floodplains. The Timucua were a Native American people who lived in Northeast and North Central Florida and southeast Georgia.

Over the centuries the mounds have eroded and in many cases have been dug up but traces of them can still be seen. A lot of the shells in the mounds were used to help build roads throughout Florida. As you walk through this forest or many other areas if you look down in the dirt chances are you may see some shells.

I can’t help but imagine what life was like out here back then, you get a real sense of the history on the mounds. I enjoy that part of exploring very much…

My Videos

Old Indian Mound at Little Big Econ State Forest

Exploring Mounds at Little Big Econ State Forest

Resources

Little Big Econ State Forest

St. Johns River Historical Society