Geerworth

I went to Geerworth, located in Palm Beach County, on 2/12/2017. 

According to the ghost town website,

Geerworth began in 1921 when H.G. Geer and C.C. Chillingworth (lawyer and father of prominent judge Curtis Chillingworth) developed a 16,000 acre tract roughly 9 miles east of Belle Glade. Most of this land was sold in England and colonized by immigrants. Apparently, at one point, a road led from the Geerworth settlement to the Belle Glade bridge (at Torry Island). This was Route 451, which no longer exists, and possibly never materialized beyond the planning stages. In 1922, the area flooded heavily, drowning the British colony there. The town was re-settled by 1924, and survived many smaller floods the following years. In 1928, Geerworth shared the same fate as Fruitcrest, Gardenia, and many other settlements south of Lake Okeechobee. The 1928 Hurricane flooded and destroyed the entire colony. The death toll of the huricane is estimated at 2300, although the exact figure is unknown. The storm casualties were buried in Pahokee and West Palm Beach, and a monument to their struggle and sacrifice is in Belle Glade. Today no trace exists of Geerworth, which is now part of the great expanse of sugarcane fields in the Glades. By Jim Pike

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Spray

I went to Spray, located in Madison County, on 2/9/2017. I completed Madison County today!!!

According to the ghost town website,

Spray apparently was a farming and sawmill community on the railroad tracks around the turn of the century. There was a Post Office and General Store where Fountain Hayne Cone Jr. was the Postmaster, General Store proprietor, teacher, and minister. By Mike Woodfin

Ellaville

I went to Ellaville, located in Madison County, on 2/9/2017. 

According to the ghost town website,

Ellaville was a boom town of the 1800s, where approximately 1000 people lived at one time. The location was at the merging of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers. George Drew and Louis Bucki had a number of businesses here including logging, sawmill, turpentine, and railroad car building. On May 19, 1895 two negro men, John Brooks and Samuel Echols were lynched in Ellaville. George Drew became the first Governor of Florida after the Reconstruction. His mansion was 1/2 mile northwest of the Ellaville site. Built in the 1860s, the two story mansion was surrounded by formal gardens. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1970. The ruins are still there. The ruins of the sawmill can be seen on the west side of the Withlacoochee River. The town started to decline in the 1900s and the post office finally sucumbed in 1942 sounding the final disappearance of Ellaville. By Mike Woodfin

 

Hampton Springs

I went to Hampton Springs, located in Taylor County, on 2/8/2017. I completed Taylor County today. Yayee!

According to the ghost town website,

The story on Hampton Springs goes that Joe Hampton, an early Taylor County settler whose wife suffered from rheumatism, was directed by an Indian to these springs. When the water eased her pain and stiffness, Hampton obtained a government grant to the spring area for $10.00. A descendant built a hotel here in 1904 to accommodate visitors to the springs. A Post Office is on record from 1904 – 1944. Hampton Springs was developed into a winter resort in 1910 when the Hampton Springs Hotel was built. The hotel was built over the Hampton Spring and the spring bubbled up into an indoor swimming pool. The overflow was channeled back out to the river. The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1954. By Mike Woodfin

New Port

I went to New Port, located in Wakullah County, on 2/8/2017. I completed Wakullah County today. Yayee!

According to the ghost town website,

Newport (New Port on some maps) was born from a hurricane when fellow ghost town Port Leon, the county seat of newly formed Wakulla County, was obliterated. By October of 1843, mere weeks after the storm, many Port Leon residents had relocated further up the St. Marks River, about 3 miles north of the town of St. Marks. Only 6 months after Wakulla County’s creation on March 11, 1843, there was now a 2nd county seat. Newport streets were laid out in a typical grid fashion. Starting at the St. Marks River Bay, Pine, Elm and West were laid out with New, Washington, Market and Adams streets bisecting them. Plank Road eventually ran from Bay St. north to Leon County. There was a bridge that crossed the St. Marks River at Adams, which is Hwy 98 today. Daniel Ladd and his uncles, The Hamlins (of note for settling the now defunct city of Magnolia a little further north of Newport), settled into their new locale by building a sawmill, foundry, two hotels, stores, turpentine stills, a shipping port (Wakulla Iron Works), and many residences. In this prime location, Ladd controlled shipping in and out of the area prior to the railroads re-arrival at St. Marks. Even after the railroad was rebuilt (post 1843 hurricane), the Plank Road (still in existence today, albeit dirt) was instrumental in Newport’s mercantile prominence. At one time there was as many as 1500 residents with the Wakulla Hotel and other town establishments doing a brisk business. Cotton, dry goods, livestock and turpentine made frequent trips through the port. Just north of Newport was Newport Springs, a popular tourist spot in the early 20th century. The natural mineral spring waters that fed the St. Marks River, were said to have healing qualities. The area today is most noted for the March 6, 1865 Civil War Battle of Natural Bridge a few miles north of Newport. Where the St. Marks dips underground forming a ‘natural bridge’, Union forces were held at bay by the Confederate forces. However, at one point when the Union was gaining ground, the Confederacy burned the town of Newport in order to prevent its capture. Although the Confederacy prevented the Union army from advancing, thus enabling Tallahassee to stand as the only southern capital never captured by Union forces, the town of Newport was left in ruins to never fully recover. Some reports state that by 1872 (the year of Ladd’s death), there were less than 30 residents. During WWII until what appears to be the early 1970’s, Newport enjoyed some resurgence as a result of the shipbuilding industry, however that has left town as well. Most of the land in Newport is now owned by the St. Joe Company; a Timberland and logging company. Another moment of note in Newport’s history was in 1851. According to Florida State archives, a white Baptist Minister in Newport, Florida ordained James Page also of Newport to become the first and only Black Ordained Minister of his time. By Erik Ransom and Dara Vance

Magnolia

I went to Magnolia, located in Wakullah County, on 2/8/2017.

According to the ghost town website,

Two miles north of the marker on US 98, the town of Magnolia is located. It was founded in 1827, by the four Hamlin brothers of Augusta, Maine. The Hamlin family had been attracted to the new territory of Florida by the availability of land. The Hamlins chose a site on the St. Marks River which had potential for development into a port town. Because of the lack of overland routes to the north, coastal outlets were particularly important to the settlers and planters of Middle Florida. Magnolia quickly developed into a small but busy port, and in 1829, a U.S. customs house was established there. In the early 1830s, the town had a number of stores and warehouses as well as a bank. Increasing cotton production contributed to Magnolia’s commercial growth, but soon the climate and navigational difficulties on the river presented problems for the community. Competition came from he nearby town of St. Marks, and in the 1830s, the customs house was transfered there. Litigation over land claims in the area also contributed to the decline of the community. Bypassed in 1836 by the new railroad from Tallahassee to St. Marks, Magnolia was gradually abandoned. Nothing but a cemetery remains. By Mike Woodfin

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East Goose Creek

I went to East Goose Creek, located in Wakullah County, on 2/8/2017.

According to the ghost town website,

East Goose Creek was Platted in 1915 with the main road as Hotel Avenue (Wakulla Beach Road), Walker Street, Bond Street, Crawford Street, Hall Street, etc. The main property was owned by one ‘Miss Daisy’ Walker. As you travel south on Wakulla Beach Road (formerly Hotel Avenue) you come to a grove of Live Oak Trees. This is the lost town of East Goose Creek. You will pass the first hotel, now the Aller residence. If you continue to the bay, on your right in the brush, you can find the remains of the third hotel. Note the cast concrete columns around a pine tree center. The second was a wooden structure that probably was built on the same spot, just above the high water mark. The second hotel was destroyed by the 1928 hurricane. Across the bay to the east, at low tide, you can walk to an unidentified multi-story building and a railroad grade. East Goose Creek had plans of areas with titles such as Live Oak Park and Hotel Park. This never materialized. Today the area is known as Wakulla Beach.

The third and final hotel that is pictured, lasted through WW II. It turned into an entertainment spot for soldiers from Dale Mabry Field, Tallahassee and soldiers from Camp Gordon Johnston in Carrabelle. They would eat and dance to music on weekends. All this ended when the land was sold to the federal government in the late 40’s. As a part of the agreement, the owner, state Sen. Henry Walker, (descendant of Miss Daisy Walker) had the hotel torn down. By Mike Woodfin

Port Leon

I went to Port Leon, located in Wakulla County, on 2/8/2017. This isn’t Port Leon but this is a location which can lead you to Port Leon. Unfortunately, Port Leon is only accessible by boat.

According to the ghost town website,

This town was devastated by a hurricane and tidal wave in September 1843, just as the community was achieving stability and prosperity. It was incorporated in 1841, as the competitor of two other ports, Magnolia and St. Marks, Port Leon had eight or ten business houses, three or four warehouses, a hotel, and one or two taverns. Wakulla County records show it had a Post Office from 1840 to 1844. It was the seat of Wakulla County after Wakulla was created on March 11, 1843. A bridge across the St. Marks River tied the port to the Tallahassee Railroad. Cotton was transported by the St. Marks Railroad across the bridge and out on the dock at Port Leon for loading on ships, bound for the east coast. After the storm, Port Leon was never rebuilt. By Mike Woodfin

Helen

I went to Helen, located in Leon County, on 2/8/2017. I completed Leon County today. Yayee!

According to the ghost town website,

Helen was a CCC Camp before WWII and resembled barracks for all the workers. There are no residents. In addition to the Helen area, there are the remains of a Park Service Station and tower on the north side of Helen Guard Station Road. By Mike Woodfin

Negro Fort

I went to Negro Fort, located in Franklin County, on 2/7/2017. I completed Franklin County today. Yayee!

According to the ghost town website,

The ruined fort was built by the British during the War of 1812 and left to their black allies (300 African Americans and 30 Seminole and Choctaw Indians) when they departed in 1815. The were left with a substantial artillery, ammunitions, including 700 kegs of gunpowder. The fort attracted as many as 800 black fugitives, some from as far away as Tennessee and the Mississippi Territory, who settled in the surrounding area. The fort was under the command of a black man named Garson and a Choctaw chief (whose name is not known). They often launched raids across the Georgia border. Negro Fort was perceived as a threat to white slaveholders in Georgia. In July of that year, Major General Jackson gave the order to Col. Clinch to destroy Negro Fort and to return the blacks to their white owners. On July 27, 1816 during the insuing warfare, an American “hot shot” shell hit the open magazine within the fort, killing approximately 300 men, women, and children. The eyewitness accounts of the event reveal “arms and legs and bodies spewed all over the area” and thousands of muskets and other firearms found. The few survivors were taken prisoner and turned over to Georgia slaveholders. Garson was shot on the spot and the Choctaw chief was killed and scalped by the Creek Indians (American allies). Andrew Jackson himself said the war was designed to destroy the “escaped slave” black towns in Florida depriving them of places of refuge. Fort Gadsden (later a confederate fort) was constructed over the site of the ruins of Negro Fort. By Mike Woodfin