Sunday, October 25, 2015

Traxler, Florida

Back in August, JOM of Gravel Cyclist mentioned to me that he'd ridden past the sign for Traxler many times, but that he'd never actually explored Traxler itself.

My response was, "What's Traxler?"

Well, as it turns out, not all that much.

Traxler was a small community founded by William H. Traxler in the late 1800s in northern Alachua county along the Bellamy Road. It was a cotton farming community, and life there revolved around the Traxler farm. In addition to the farm buildings and homes, there was also a general store, a US post office (which operated from 1891 to 1906), and a church. These days, there's little there other than the church and a few homes, mostly of modern vintage. The construction of I-75 may have obliterated outlying parts of the former community, but at this point in time, it's hard to tell.

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Note Traxler's location along the Old Bellamy Road
(and, less fortunately, its current proximity to I-75)

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The turn-off for Traxler from 253A; this section of road was once part of the Bellamy Road.

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Old Bellamy Road leading into Traxler

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Spring Hill United Methodist Church

The inscription reads: "TRAXLER, FLA This community was named Traxler in the late 1800s when William H. Traxler and Mary Dell Traxler operated a large trading center and US Post Office here. This memorial given in memory of their daughter, EVA TRAXLER"

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Many Traxlers reside in the cemetery of the Spring Hill United Methodist Church

There really wasn't much to see in Traxler aside from the church. There were a handful of modern houses, and one older home, quite likely dating from the founding of the community. I didn't photograph it, as there were people out in its yard and that would have been a tad awkward. does, however, have a picture of the house, which they've labeled as the Traxler plantation home. They've also got a shot of the old Traxler General Store, which I was unable to locate.

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From CR 236 up by the interstate, one can peer over a locked gate at this, which looks to me to be more of the Old Bellamy Road, headed straight from CR236 just east of the interstate towards Traxler. Or it could be an old driveway headed towards the Traxler farm.

There's very little online about Traxler, but what little I could locate is here:
Wikipedia: Traxler, FL Traxler, FL Traxler, FL

There are a plethora of resources out there on the Old Bellamy Road, but here are a few:
Wikipedia: Bellamy Road Old Bellamy Road
FarEnoughPhoto: Old Bellamy Road

Rochelle, Florida

Back at the very beginning of August, just a week before I was to begin my summer vacation, I stumbled upon this article in the Huffington Post, which contained incredible photos of abandoned churches. I am not religious by any means, but I am indeed a confirmed Desolationist, which by its very nature means that any decrepit and haunting images of abandoned structures draw me in. As two of these very structures are located in Alachua County, Florida - the county in which I currently reside - I decided that finding them would be my goal for my summer vacation. I kind of failed. But only kind of.

I identified the two Alachua County churches as being in the tiny "towns" (and I use that term quite loosely) of Island Grove and Rochelle. I set out one morning, intending to find both churches, yet found neither. Granted, part of this was due to the fact that it was August in Florida and the AC in my car has ceased to produce air that is even remotely cool. I never even made it to Island Grove. Instead, after exploring Rochelle, I sped back home in my rolling oven of a Toyota in order to bask in my home's glorious AC. But I did, however, make it to Rochelle. Some online digging had uncovered the fact that the church I'd planned to go in search of was on private property. As I didn't know where said property was located or who owned it, I'd hoped to stumble upon the church simply by driving around Rochelle. At the very least, I figured I'd be able to photograph it from a distance. Hah! I didn't so much as catch a glimpse of the structure. I did, however, find quite a few things that were interesting and surprising - and quite photogenic.

In case you have no idea where Alachua County, Florida might be (it's the home of Gainesville and the University of Florida), here are a couple maps to point you in the direction of Rochelle:

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According to Mike Woodfin of, Rochelle was the home of Madison Starke Perry, the fourth governor of the state. He is apparently buried in the community cemetery which, sadly, I did not locate. At the height of its boom days, Rochelle was home to 175 people, and had a hotel, schools, churches, and mills. It was also a stop for a very active railway line in the late 1800s. However, the town fell into decline after the freeze of 1895 which destroyed much of Florida's citrus crops. Today there are several homes, one active church, and not much else. The railroad line has been converted into a rails-to-trails bike path, popular with local cyclists. Is there anything worth seeing in Rochelle? Well, you can be the judge.

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This is the central "square" of Rochelle - dominated by some gorgeous old oaks, dripping in Spanish moss. 

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Several of the "roads" leading away from the central square look very much like this...

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...and this.

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Down one of those roads I discovered the remains of an old homestead which, according to is the old Bradley family home, dating back to the 1920s.

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Another glimpse of the Bradley family home

I drove down many dirt "roads" in an attempt to locate the Trinity ME church which had lured me to the town in the first place, but to no avail. I did, however, stumble upon this fantastic structure, which was quite a pleasant discovery:

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This building used to be the Martha Perry Institute, an all-girls school established in 1885 and named for the wife of Florida's then governor. The Martha Perry Institute remained in operation until the 1930s.

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The building is locked up quite tightly to prevent against trespassing, and the windows were too high off the ground for me to see inside. I've no idea of the current condition of the interior, although the exterior seems to be decently maintained. So far the only picture of the interior I've been able to locate is this one, taken in 1901.

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While walking around the exterior of the building, I looked up and saw this hanging from the second floor balcony. From the ground and through my camera it looked like a noose. It looks a lot less like a noose on my computer, but it freaked me out a bit - especially as I was out there by myself.

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As I was staring at the pseudo-noose through my viewfinder trying to determine if it really was a noose or not, I heard what sounded like someone attempting to sneak up on me through the grass. I whirled around to see these handsome birds (sandhill cranes) stalking towards me. To be honest, they kind of scared the shit out of me for a moment. Nothing like trying to determine whether or not that's a noose you see dangling there only to be startled by the sound of someone sneaking up on you.

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I watched them for a good chunk of time; they were fairly oblivious to me.

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There wasn't much else to see in Rochelle. This, I believe, is the old Spence family homestead, located just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Martha Perry Institute. I drove around a bit more, but I never did find the church.

The following links go to what few online resources pertaining to Rochelle I was able to discover:
Stephen Tabone Photography of the Trinity ME Church Rochelle
The Forgotten Frontier (blog post)
Historic Rochelle, Florida (YouTube)
Ghost Town Rochelle (YouTube)