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.
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Another old house of Luraville

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

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