Sunday, June 19, 2016

Luraville and Peacock Springs

Luraville, FL of today is little more than a crossroads with a flashing light, roughly twenty miles southwest of Live Oak, FL in the north Florida county of Suwannee, just north of the Suwannee River. Information about Luraville is limited to say the least. Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together.

While the town of Luraville does not seem to have been founded by Dr. John Calvin Peacock, he appears to have been one of the town’s earliest prominent citizens. He moved there in 1875 (or possibly 1857, as per one of the signs at the Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park), where he bought a large tract of land which included the springs now known as Peacock Springs. Peacock was not only a cattle farmer, but also served as a local doctor and preacher. Luraville grew to a population of 75 by 1886, and had both a saw and a grist mill, as well as two churches and four stores. During that time, the springs on the Peacock property became a popular site for locals to relax, and were used as both the location of baptisms and a source of drinking water for the community.

By the 1890s, the town saw a new source of income: phosphate. In order to move the vast quantities of phosphate being quarried from the Mutual Phosphate Mining Company’s mine at Luraville, the Florida Railway extended what became known as the Luraville Branch into the town.

Downtown Luraville, 1890s (source)

Interior of the Luraville General Store, 1890s (source)

Luraville Phosphate Mine, 1892 (source)

Luraville Phosphate Mine, 1908 (source)

Here information on the Peacocks and Luraville pretty much runs dry until the 1950s, when cave divers began exploring the extensive cave system connecting the springs on the Peacock property. In 1985 the property was purchased by the Nature Conservancy. It was later sold to the state of Florida, and opened as a State Park in 1993. The park was initially named Peacock Springs State Park, but the name was changed to Wes Skiles Peacock SpringsState Park to honor cave diver, filmmaker, and springs advocate, Wes Skiles, who died in 2010.

While Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park does offer hiking trails, picnicking facilities, and swimming, its main attraction is cave diving. When I was there, I am fairly certain that I was the only person not diving. There is no park staff on site, and the entrance fee is to be paid in accordance with the honor system ($4/car; bring exact change). The only map of the hiking trail is located at the park entrance (which I didn’t realize until I was driving out). There are at least two signs bearing maps of the park’s cave system, although I expect that cave divers need to arrive with far more detailed information. There are two different dive shops in Luraville, which should be able to accommodate cave diver’s needs in that respect.

The roads in the park are not paved.

Peacock Springs

Cave Divers in Peacock Springs

While it was gorgeous, there was a high level of algae growth.

Just down the run from Peacock Springs

Just down the run from Peacock Springs

Orange Grove sink, one of the other springs on the park grounds, is nearly entirely covered with duckweed, except for the areas from which water upwells.

Other than the two dive shops, there is not much to modern day Luraville: one convenience store, a church, a flashing light, a community center, and a handful of homes. Several of the homes clearly date back to Luraville’s heyday, although I would guess that its modern population is somewhere in the vicinity of the community’s 1886 population of 75, if not smaller.

This house dates to the 1930s, and is currently for sale.

I was unable to find any information on this house.

Luraville Community Center and Voting Precinct. The red building in the rear is the Luraville Volunteer Fire Department.

Here's a closeup of the Luraville Community Center. If you scroll up to the picture of downtown Luraville in the 1890s, you will see similar buildings, one of which may very well be this structure. If this is the site of the original downtown Luraville, this is all that remains.
Another old house of Luraville

For more information, check out the following:
Wesley C. Skiles (Wikipedia)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Micanopy (Part 2) - The Cemetery

Last week I posted about the small town of Micanopy. If you missed that post and are interested in the history of the town, click here. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that I am rather enamored of old cemeteries. I decided to give the Micanopy Historic Cemetery its own post because it was so impressive that it clearly deserved a post of its own. It is truly one of the most picturesque cemeteries that I have ever visited. Founded in the late 1800s, the cemetery is shrouded in the shade of old growth oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. Many of the tombstones are ornate, and mark the eternal homes of many of the old Micanopy families who give their names to the old buildings downtown. In this case, pictures are definitely worth more than words:

I saw several pileated woodpeckers in the trees.

There was even a cat guarding one of the plots.

Simonton - as in the Simonton house, pictured in my previous post.

Herlong - as in the Herlong Mansion B&B, pictured in my last post.

Thrasher - as in the Thrasher Building, also pictured in my last post.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Micanopy (Part 1) - The Town

When strolling through the tiny north Florida town of Micanopy, it is clear that the town has a long history by Floridian standards, although just how long a history it has isn't quite so obvious to the casual visitor. According to Hernando De Soto (Spanish conquistador), a Timucuan village was located there in the 1530s, and William Bartram found a Seminole village in the area in the 1700s. The American village of Micanopy and its accompanying Fort Micanopy were established in the early 1800s, and were given the name Micanopy allegedly to placate a nearby Seminole/Miccosukee chief of the same name. The town was also the site of one of the Battle of Micanopy in the Second Seminole War. Early in its history, sugar and citrus were the main sources of income, but following the intense freeze of the winter of 1894, the focus turned to timber. As local timber supplies began to dwindle, the town began to decline. 

South Main Street, Micanopy, early 1900s (source)

J.B. Simonton home, 1915 (source)

Presbyterian Church of the Mediator, 1915 (source)

Modern day Micanopy is not exactly desolate, although it isn't what one would consider booming either. Located in near the southern edge of Alachua County, Micanopy is home to around a thousand residents, a handful of cafes, and a successful string of antique stores. Despite not being located near a beach, amusement park, or other stereotypical Florida attraction, the quaint town of Micanopy has managed to thrive as a weekend or afternoon getaway destination, and it was even named one of the twelve cutest small towns in America by The Huffington Post. (Residents are quite proud of this, and there are signs bragging about this in nearly every single shop in town.)  

Downtown Micanopy consists mainly of antique stores.

The text painted along the top reads "Coffins, Caskets, & Supplies"

Micanopy seems quite cat friendly!

J.B. Simonton House, 2016. (It's currently for sale!)

The Thrasher Building

The former Presbyterian Church is now an Episcopal Church

Herlong Mansion B&B (website)

I visited with a friend back in April, and she purchased an amazing Jimmy Carter re-election poster at one of the antique shops. (I'm the one on the left.)

For more information: