Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lee: Little but Proud

The tiny community of Lee is located in eastern Madison County, between the towns of Madison to the west and Live Oak to the east. I’ve had a hard time finding much information about the history of the small town, but judging from the number of photographs I was able to find in the Florida Archive, it was once much bigger than it is today. Here’s what I was able to learn:

Settlement of Madison County began in the early 1800s, initially led by cotton planters clustered around the city of Madison. However, the area where the community of Lee sprang up began to coalesce into a community in the decades following the Civil War. As with many of the small communities that emerged across north Florida in the late 1800s, the settlers of eastern Madison County made their livings off of lumber mills, cotton, farming, and the railroad. The first sawmill in what would later become known as Lee was established in the 1890s, although the community itself wasn’t formally incorporated until 1909. During the early decades of the twentieth century, Lee had an active depot on the Seaboard Air Line Railway, a drug store, shoe store, gas station, barber shop, bank, post office and grocery. 

First sawmill in Lee, 1890s

J.E. Whitty and Son Drugstore,1918 (store built 1910)

Interior of shoe shop, early 1900s

Kinsey's Barber Shop (left); Emory Turlington's store (right), early 1900s

Farmers Bank, Early 1900s

Interior of Farmers Bank, early 1900s

Lee School, 1920s

JC Black Cotton Gin, 1934

Seaboard Air Line Railway Company Depot, 1938

When you arrive in the modern community of Lee, one of the first things you will see is the town motto - Lee: Little but Proud. The town is indeed little, with fewer than 400 residents. Not much remains of the businesses that once clustered along the railroad; however, signs of the town's former glory can still be seen.

Formerly Kinsey's Barber Shop

Formerly Kinsey's Barber Shop

Formerly Emory Turlington's store

The view from Kinsey's Barber Shop towards Turlington's store

I am not sure what kind of business is (was?) run by David Joseph, but it is nice to see the Farmer's Bank still stands. It also served as the location of the Lee Post Office for a time.

Across the street from the remains of Kinsey's Barbershop is the picturesque old Fry Grocery Store.

I wish I had been able to find an old photo of this structure because it was quite fun to photograph, and I'd love to see it in its former glory.

Looking north from the former Farmers Bank

Sadly, there was no sign of many of the former businesses, such as the sawmill, drugstore, shoe store, or the railway depot.