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

Turpentine Camp at Richloam Wildlife Management Area

Exploring in this area of Withlacoochee State Forest near Lacoochee I may have found remains from an old turpentine camp. Around the area were herty cups both clay and metal ones. Along with some bricks, barrel rings and other evidence from the past. This site may have been associated with The Dutton Still. During the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s turpentine was a big industry here along with the sawmills.

This is some of the history I found on the area, more can be read at the link posted below: “Jim Dutton moved his family from Statesboro, Bullock County, Georgia, to Lacoochee, and began operating a turpentine still east of town near the Withlacoochee River and the community of Clay Sink. In the early 1900’s the pioneers who operated these abundant turpentine stills and small sawmills throughout the county owned or leased thousands of acres of forest land. The resinous sap of the pine tree was extracted by chipping a strip of bark from the tree. Then a ceramic or tin cup was placed underneath to catch the life blood of the tree as it dripped from the wound. Crews of men were hired to make daily rounds of the woods to empty the sap into barrels. Wooden sleighs or wagons pulled by four-mule teams would transport the barrels from the woods to the still. Here the sap was poured into a vat and boiled to make turpentine which was used in paint and other products.”

My Videos

Turpentine Camp at Richloam WMA (Part One)

Turpentine Camp at Richloam WMA (Part Two)

Resources

Turpentine Stills in Pasco County

Withlacoochee State Forest

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

The Ghost Town of Sturkey in The Green Swamp

Exploring Sturkey

Exploring Sturkey

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. ”

I have covered a lot of ground so far but I have a feeling there is more to discover so I am looking forward to future adventures here!
My Videos
Resources
Ruins at Sturkey

Ruins at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Old Corral or Hog Pen

Old Corral or Hog Pen

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Old Conveyor Belts

Old Conveyor Belts

Piece of Iron

Piece of Iron

Foundation at Sturkey

Foundation at Sturkey

Foundations at Sturkey

Foundations at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Wall Ruins at Sturkey

Old Road at Sturkey

Old Road at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

Remains at Sturkey

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Remains at Sturkey

Foundation

Foundation

Old Steering Wheel

Old Steering Wheel

Swamp Areas

Swamp Areas

Foundation

Foundation

Old License Plate

Old License Plate

Searching for Homestead Sites in Richloam Wildlife Management Area

Hiking in Baird Unit

Hiking in Baird Unit

I have been exploring some lately at The Richloam Wildlife Management Area in Sumter County in an area known as Baird Unit. It is a big place with over 11,000 acres of property and many miles of forest roads, multi-use and side trails to wander. I discovered around five homestead sites so far but only two of them had any significant remains left. The sites may date back to the early to mid-1900’s when homesteaders lived out here and farmed the land.

The first site I found had a structure that could have been where livestock was kept. Nearby it was a really big pasture that is now overgrown. I could see fence posts surrounding the property and some clearings where other structures may have stood. I scoured the area and didn’t see any other structures. a lot of stuff may be buried as well.

Further down the trail a few miles was the second potential homestead site I was looking for. As I got closer to the area the forest road all but disappeared into dense brush and woods. I struggled to see the path so I just followed my map the best I could until I eventually came upon the site. I saw a small clearing in the woods but nothing else initially. Then I saw a glimpse of metal by the trees and it was an old refrigerator.I knew then that I had found the place I was searching for. Around the site was metal and wood and part of a collapsed structure.

After leaving this site I headed back out to the forest road and continued onto the third site where nothing could be found. I also discovered two other sites where all that was left was just clearings. I still have more sections to check out here so I am looking forward to seeing what else I can discover. Finding history in the wilderness can be hit or miss but it’s all apart of the adventure!

My Videos

Exploring an Homestead Site

Exploring an Homestead Site 2

Exploring an Homestead 3

Resources

Richloam WMA

Baird Unit 

My Route

Old Homestead Site

Old Homestead Site

Old Refrigerator at Homestead Site

Old Refrigerator at Homestead Site

Old Fence Post

Old Fence Post

Structure at Homestead Site

Structure at Homestead Site

Structure at Homestead Site

Structure at Homestead Site

Remains of an Old Homestead in The Green Swamp

Old Road to Homestead

Old Road to Homestead

In The Green Swamp just west of The Van Fleet State Trail I found what remains of an old homestead. I followed some forest roads back to a clearing where the site once was. I imagined what it must have been like to live back here at one time, the site is surrounded by peaceful wilderness.

As I looked around I saw pieces of bricks, wood and foundations. Nearby I also discovered where the well was possibly and also a pile of debris from the homestead that had been discarded such as old bottles and plates. I checked around the perimeter of the site where I found part of a fence, metal parts, piping and barrels. I even found a couple of orange trees that the homesteaders must have planted as well. I don’t know who lived here and when but I am guessing by the items that I saw at the site that it dates back to early to mid-1900’s though I am not positive on that.

As I explore this vast wilderness more and more I am discovering a lot of history which often times leads to more questions than answers. Though that is one of the things that keeps me on the quest for history, at times it can feel like putting a puzzle together. Finding this homestead site is just one piece of the puzzle of the deep history this wilderness has. I look forward to discovering what is down the next path on my adventure here because you just never know what you may find!

My Videos

Homestead Remains

Resources

Green Swamp East

Van Fleet State Trail

Green Swamp History

Foundation

Foundation

Hole with Piping by Site

Hole with Piping by Site

Old Piping

Old Piping

Part of an Old Vehicle Not Sure

Part of an Old Vehicle?

Old Barrels and Metal

Old Barrels and Metal Parts

Old Bottles and Debris from Homesteaders

Debris from Homesteaders

Old Pipe for Well

Old Pipe for Well

Orange Tree

Orange Tree

Old Fence Post

Old Fence Post

Back in Time… Exploring an Old Homestead Site in The Green Swamp

Painted Sign at Homestead Site

Painted Sign at Homestead Site

Let’s take a trip back in time… To an old homestead I found in The Green Swamp where I felt like I was transported back to another time. When homesteaders lived here by an old railroad grade in the early to mid-1900’s.

When I first discovered this place I saw a really nice painted sign at the site depicting what the area had looked like at one time. I saw a couple of abandoned vehicles by an area where they must’ve kept livestock. I searched around extensively and could tell that this was a large property as I found lots of remnants scattered about.

It took me sometime to find the ruins still left from the homestead. Those were in the woods by the vehicles it was just heavily overgrown back there which makes them hard to see at first. I found an old forest road that runs by the ruins and it crosses over the railroad grade. Perhaps they used this road to get onto their property. 

I enjoyed exploring around this area and experiencing the history that still remains. I hope that it will remain there for many years so that others can experience it as well. I would like to find out more about this place if you have any information on it feel free to comment below. It would’ve been a nice place to live here as the surrounding wilderness is beautiful. Beyond the homestead is a large network of forest roads, who knows what else is could be out there!

My Videos

Old Homestead Site

Old Homestead Site 2

Back in Time…Old Homestead Site

Back in Time…Old Homestead Site 2

Old Radio at Homestead Site

Resources

Green Swamp East Tract

Green Swamp History

Old Road by Homestead

Old Road by Homestead

Ruins at Homestead Site

Ruins at Homestead Site

Old Car

Old Car

Old Truck

Old Truck

Inside of Old Car

Inside of Old Car

Inside of Old Truck

Inside of Old Truck

Inside of Old Car

Inside of Old Car

Old Car

Old Car

Old Truck

Old Truck