Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Short Tour of the Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, Barberville Florida

So, I keep talking about the Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, for whom I am the volunteer 19th Century graphics point man. I thought I might show a few scenes from the Settlement during last Saturdays "A Florida Christmas Remembered" event.

The Pioneer Settlement is really a small Florida Country town, circa anywhere from 1890 - 1930. Not a lot really changed in the Florida outback over those years, at least, not as much as in the big cities of Jacksonville or Tampa. In fact, when I was a teenager running about the groves having rotten orange fights, it wasn't unusual to find an operating water tower insulated with palmetto thatch with a pull rope to let water into a steam boiler. I remember Ford tractors running on T-valve wedge-headded four cylinders with flywheel govenors as late as 1972! We had a swamp prison which the state ran out in Slavia as late as 1979. All our Fire Stations were volunteer, in fact, our particular Station, Seminole Goldenrod, used a 1936 GMC "Crash Truck" with the big displacement six-cylinder as our main pumper. It was Engine 1.

I used to work with "Eddie", who sold crawdads to "Mrs Rawlin's", none other than Marjorie Kennan Rawlings of Lake Lockloosa up in Alachua County. In fact, his big brother ran Rawling's grove. His character is depicted in the movie "Cross Creek".

Things moved slowly in the Central and North Central Florida highlands, and glad I am to have gotten in on the sunset of that era. Why, this was the only place I know where a kid could dive into a clear water pool created by water flowing from out of a solid limestone embankment, and come up with his hair washed, smoothe as lanolin. Rope swings that carried you out some one hundred feet onto a springfed lake, and the gators didn't bother you. In fact, I remember pushing my canoe very frequently thru literal herds of gators and pushing 'em out of the way with the paddle on brightly moonlit nights. Some of the gals I dated lived in what you would now call tin roofed cypress shacks. Some of those "shacks" were built in the 1870s! Brahman-shorthorn ran free though the brush and groves. Small AME and Baptist churches would hold baptisms in the many lakes that dot the region, under the shelter of Camphor and spanish moss laden tall Cypress. They would hold their "Sings" on Saturday nights, as common in most of the deep South states.

The rope swings, the old water towers, the Swamp Prisons, the pit prams, license free fishing, open black powder hunting, rotten orange fights, and Sings all exist in old photos and memories now, I'm afraid. But a lot of that almost lost Florida Culture is preserved here in Barberville, at the Settlement. Here, we still have concerts at the old AME Church, the village Smith, the town Potter, the Woodwright, the Printer, the Weaver, the Candlemaker, the Livestock and Poultry farms, the Cypress and log homes once so common here in Central Florida. We remember and relate the old stories, too. Everybody has a story. My favourite come from retired Florida State Road workers from the 1940s, and usually involve Catfish, what they like to eat, and the tourists that like to catch 'em. Remind me to tell you sometime. From time to time we are visited by the Seminoles.

The Pioneer Settlement is also a great concert venue, hosting music events through the year as the occasion demands. We have a barn large enough for a substantial Barn Dance, which we take advantage of. We also have a large cooking facility to feed the hordes that come an visit us during our events.

In this installment, I'll not mention much about the Settlement Print Shop, I've mentioned that a lot on this blog, and will continue to do so, but for now, just relax, heat up some coffee, and flip through the photos of a small Florida Town just north of DeLeon Springs and due west of Astor, Florida. As time permits, I'll go back and lable these photos, which were taken on Saturday, Dec. 13th during our Florida Christmas Remembered event for 2008.

This is the main building, the 1919 Barberville High School Building.

These are the various pre-motorcar transit vehicles we have on campus

Ahh, yes, the Settlement Print Shop.

Hey! These doors are wide enough for a Heidi "Windmill" ! (hint hint!)

Leaving the Shop, going 'round the corner is a Cypress Settlement cabin.
one of the many we have in the Settlement.

The Shop neighbor is an 1880's "Carpenter Gothic" church, where we hold Weddings,
some of our music recitals, etc.

Right outside the Smithy is the boiler for the industrial steam engine.

To the left is the Pottery, to the right is the Post Office, which is in operation
during special events.

The Settlement kiln, water storage and charcoal pit.

Our Fire Department, staffed, using vehicles dating to the 1920's.
Lots of old, original American LaFrance equipment, btw.

Chordwood for the Kiln and Charcoal pit. Not to confuse anyone, the pit is
not where we burn charcoal, but where we make charcoal.

Cooking pit on yonder side. I have not looked closely, but that opening in
the brick on the right hand side may be a Dutch Oven.

Old Bailey. Yeah, don't go smashing my prized Border Fonts, y'heah?

The Smithy. Probably the largest Blacksmith operation in Florida, and site of many
of the Blacksmith Organisation's functions. Many Smiths are young gals, btw!

Another view of the Steam Engine, which belts to some of our equipment.

This is the passenger loading dock of our Train Station. It houses our Railroad exhibits.

Ahh, one of my favourite spots! Di-di-dah-dit, Dah-di-di-dit!
What you see is an Ancient Underwood "mill", Bunell sounders and an S-38 "straight" key.

Here are a couple shots inside the Smith's Shop.

The freight side of the Train Station.

Back to the main Building. We have to go by it again to get to the agricultural part
of the Settlement.

This is a view across a field to one of our board-and-batten barns.

This structure served as Astor's Bridge-house over the St. Johns River for a
century. Astor is eight miles up the road. It was moved to it's present location.

This is a genuine St. John's River Ship, under restoration, by the Bridge House.

This is the Carriage Port for the Bridge House, which served as a residence, too.

This is our main barn, where dances are held.

A restored Harley and Side-Car, Kiddie Style. (@ 1929)

This is "real Florida". Fields of Green and Yellow. Canopy Forests along spring fed
streams and rivers, miles of farmland, sweet local folks, and a long-gone sense
of belonging. I am glad to have spent the latter half of my teen years here.

To this day, this is what many a "back-yard" looks like in Marion, Putnam,
and Alachua Counties. ( the Town of Alachua is pronounced "Alachu-way",
but not the County! Just so's you news-guys in Gainsville get it

A shot from behind the School Building. Didn't they do a great job in restoring

We're gonna have firewood this winter!

Inside the Old Church.

The Reform Church I went to had a pump-organ just like this one, only we used a vacuum cleaner to power the bellows of our organ as late as 1975. This one still has functioning bellows and solid reeds.

Ok, so I was off ten years. The old AME Church was built in 1890.

Now, This church was larger than ours, and has a nice pole mounted bell to
call service and class. Ours had a hand held bell to ring folks in from fellowshiping
in the front lawn - and kids playing in the back by the water hose.

My best friend lived in a home just like what you will see in the following photos. This was very, very typical of what you would find traipsing through Oviedo/ Slavia when I went to High School. Many gals never took their up-town dates home for embarrassment of the little, often 100-plus year old "shack" they lived in. These homes were absolutely comfortable, safe and vermin-free. The finest families in the State were rooted in homes such as these!

Our last photo is a combination chordwood pile and draw bench, where you would make staking, posts and fencing in the time honoured fashion. Most folks made much of what they had by hand. Especially fencing, flooring and siding. In fact, last year I helped a friend out in Osteen put up his own pole-barn. Save for the power tools, it went up just like it would have a century ago.

Hope you enjoyed the trip (and narrative)! For more information on the Settlement, click here.


G. Johanson, Settlement Printer.

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