East Side of Eden
A History of the Waldo Area
By Bettee V. De Sha
Used with permission
After the Indian Wars, all the cabins in the Waldo area were burned to the ground. A small settlement was reestablished before 1846 and on the 16th of that year Peter William Washington Sparkman was born within a few blocks of the business section. He was the first grandchild of William Sparkman to be born in Waldo, and a descendant of one of the first English speaking families to come to Florida, around 1819, and into Alachua County in the early 1820's not long after Wanton (Micanopy) was settled. The town of Waldo, one of the two oldest towns in Alachua County, originated as an early settlement on the eastern boundary of a large tract of land that was part of the William Sparkman plantation. The road was said to have been completed to this small community, around 1826, it was refereed to as Bellamy Station. A Post Office was established there on 5 August 1858. It still may have been called Bellamy Station of Sparkman's plantation on 16 February 1846. By this time the community had been rebuilt after the total destruction during the Seminole Indian Wars.
is slightly north of the Arrendondo (land) grant, which was settled around 1820, when a town known as Wanton (Micanopy) was built there. William Sparkman and his family came into Alachua County within the next few years. At first he, with Levi and Stephen, said to be his half-brothers, came with their families to a place north of Jacksonville at the headwaters of Boggy Swamp, on Alligator Creek. Spain granted Six Hundred and Forty acres to him. The Sparkman families were there as late as 1823, but were unable to obtain clear titles to the land, and moved on down into Alachua County.
William Sparkman was well established in the Santa Fe - Sampson River areas before the days of the 1830 census of Alachua County. Some of his neighbors were Thigpens, Tillis, Weeks, Damiers, Rollin, Gillett, Parrishs, Kings, Mattairs, Johns, Rice, Campbell, Tison, Sims, and Brannings.
Upon reaching Alachua County, William Sparkman's families settled near him, at first Levi moved on to Spring Grove, supposedly a short distance north of present day Gainesville. Stephen chose the Lake City area, which was then called Alligator. James, the eldest son by William's first wife, whose name is unknown, made his home near his father. As the family grew up and expanded, the Sparkman Plantation expanded too, down towards Fairbanks, where a section was called Sparkman's. The Eastward expansion bordered on Lake Alto. James Madison Sparkman, the son of James, was known to be Waldo's first pioneer merchant selling fruits, meats, and vegetables in his frontier store. Luke and Peter Sparkman were the last children born to William Sparkman and his second wife Sarah Chancey, and were born in Florida.
Peter Sparkman became the father of the first baby boy born in Waldo in 1846, after he married Mary Clemit (Clement) Snider of Picolata. Their son named Peter William Washington Sparkman. Their daughter named Sarah Elizabeth Sparkman was born two years later in February of 1848. Road Commissioner, William Sparkman and neighbors were responsible for the upkeep of the newly built road Pensacola to St. Augustine, called the Bellamy road, in about 1824.
The Sparkman men, among others who had come into the county about this time, increased their holdings as sons married and wanted land of their own. So, the Sparkman land increased until the plantations had spread out from the original homesite to Alto Lake and even to the canal and the shores of Little Lake Santa Fe. They grew crops needed the most, and that which brought in the most money at the market; corn, cotton, and sugar cane. They had cattle.
Though William Sparkman was considered a progressive, imaginative, adventuresome, and courageous man to bring so large a family into the wilderness of north Florida, never could he have guessed at the many changes that would come before he died between 15 June 1845 and 6 May 1846. He did see the differences Bellamy Road meant to the interior.
He knew the Indians as both friend and as an enemy. One of the most important founders of the county, he left his legacy in good hands, for in truth, he lived and lives on in everyone and everything connected with the Sparkman name, from early settlement, to a plantation, to a town, with additions and streets, wherein history has and will continue to perpetuate his name.
The late Claude Sparkman, reminiscing about his ancestor, William, said that the original homesite was where two rivers met. William had dug ditches, too, to insure that there was enough water to water his crops. These ditches extended from a pond in Bradford County. Charles Richard Sparkman, Claude's father was the son of Wade Hampton Sparkman, one of the last children of William's born in Georgia. George W. Sparkman, who at one time owned that section called Sparkman's near Fairbank's, was Charles Richard's brother.
Wade Sparkman was in his early teens when the family moved into Alachua County. He was old enough to help with the building of the homes, to grow up remembering the struggle with the Indians. In fact, he was still alive when Claude was five years old. Claude heard first hand the stories of pioneer life when the journey was made to Florida, for Wade, in return, was remembering what he had heard from his father and mother, William and Sarah Chancey Sparkman.
the 1830 census, second page, "principally near the Spring Grove" Post Office Levi Sparkman is listed. His not-too-distant neighbors were Elizabeth and John Suggs. By 1840, these families were listed on the Fort Clarke (north of Gainesville) and Fort Walker (near Arrendondo) areas. Wade Sparkman, William's twelfth child, married a neighbor's daughter, Susanna Jones, her father was Nathaniel Jones. His eldest daughter Rebecca, born in 1791 married Benjamin Moore.
During the Indian hostilities, Fort Harlee was the nearest to the settlement in Waldo. Among those listed at the fort when the 1840 Alachua county census was taken were: Nathaniel Jones, John Sparkman, Liddy Suggs, A. Snoden, Levi Sparkman, Benjamin Moore, James Sparkman, Lewis Weeks, D. Higgenbotham, and James Colson, to name a few.
A street in Waldo, once called Front Street became Sparkman street. (SR 24 North) As previously stated, 1840 census shows several Sparkman families: John, Levi, and James all in the Fort Harlee area. Asa Clarke, who later would help to build a bridge at Fort Harlee, was known to have been a neighbor to Peter Sparkman. It is known that Peter built a house in Waldo after he married. These people were ancestors of, or distantly related to families who would later make their homes in Waldo.
It was in 1843 that Fort Harlee's Post Office was established, and that Sparkman families still lived in that area. Across the miles and southeast of Waldo was Rochelle, the home of Madison Starke Perry. He owned a large plantation run by a great number of slaves. His neighbors included Levi Sparkman, who lived at Spring Grove until it's demise. He became Alachua counties only governor, having taken office 5 October 1857.
The first railroad had come to Waldo by 1 February 1859, and Peter William Washington Sparkman, the first child born in Waldo as far as written records show, was thirteen years old when the first train pulled past his fathers home. He was old enough to help his father with work at the cotton gin. It's location is shown as near the tracks and not far from the present curve where the Seaboard runs south out of town. At that time the train only ran west towards Gainesville. To distinguish himself from his father, Peter was "Wash".
Before 1850, Peter Sparkman and Asa Clarke, of Alachua County road commission had built bridges as well as repaired roads. It was the event of the day when the bridge was built over the Santa Fe River, under Peter's direction, whom along with his family now lived in Waldo. Just preceding the Civil War, Peter Sparkman had as neighbors, Caswell, Sullivan, James, and Johns, King and Cheeves families. All were awaiting the outbreak of outright war.
Madison Starke Perry, of Rochelle next door neighbor of Levi Sparkman, and the Qetrouer families, was at the time in Tallahassee. Elected Governor of Florida from Alachua County, he entered office October 1857. This was at the time when there were three Negroes to each two white people in the county. He, like Senator Yulee, a plantation owner, with a great number of slaves, was well aware that efforts had been made to incite the Negroes. At Tallahassee, Perry discussed the need for a militia in Alachua, his home county. By January 1861 secession had become a fact. Jefferson Davis was elected president of the Confederacy, on 11 February 1861. When Perry called for troops, men began leaving their plantations, their places of business, their homes to volunteer. The wealthy, who could afford it rode their own horses. One of the earliest organized cavalry units, the "Marion Dragoons", were changed to the "Marion Light Cavalry".
Then a number of these men transferred to Capt. John Dickenson's command when he called for troops to complete the Florida 2nd Cavalry. This became the famous "Company H", many of whom were form Waldo. Mustered in by Major R. B. Thomas, they were sent to Gainesville, to receive arms and equipment only, since their horses were their own. Perry's term of office ended 7 October 1861. He was a sick man and depending on friends, one of whom was his Aide de Camp, General Elias Earle, of Waldo. Driven by his commitment to the War, he became a Colonel of the 7th Florida Regiment. After the surrender at Appomattox, men from the famous Company H, and 2nd Florida Cavalry who returned to their homes in Waldo were; S.S. Weeks, W. Hicks, J. Strickland, P.W.W. Sparkman, James Sparkman, S. Sparkman, W.R. Donaldson, Y. Tillis, J.A. Weeks, B.B. Weeks, and S.T. Weeks. From Company the following men were mustered out T.J. and D.L. Branning, F. Donaldson, H. and J. Granger, A.J. King, G.W. Sparkman, S.W. and Elmora Cook. Kennard and Raulerson were mustered out elsewhere. Sethenia and Fanna Sparkman lost their husbands in the war.
In the north section of Waldo is Pettit's addition to Waldo. Here at one time, wee Pettit orange groves. A short distance west, on Buddington Ave, on the corner of Central Street, stood the Geiger home, the location where Hardee and Sarah moved from the old De Sha (Franklin) house. In this area and south, in this part of Waldo, were some of Hardee's orange trees. The Hardee Raulerson groves in this section extended south towards Peter Sparkman's groves in the large block on which the present day Baptist church stands. The eastern point of this block Quiette Center. Peter's land, Sparkman addition, extended further south even across the railroad track where he first lived and where his son "Wash" was born.
Peter, his first wife Mary Clement, Wash and Sarah Elizabeth lived here. Sarah married Hardee and moved to the A.L. Stevens (Mae De Sha) home where Jim Raulerson was born. Wash remained in the homestead when he married Sarah Elizabeth Matthews (of Gainesville). Peter Sparkman died in 1870. Hardee died in 1884. Sarah went to live with her mother Mary, after Hardee died. This home is now the red house, across from the Baptist Church, and is where Mrs. Shaw lives. Wash Sparkman was a charter member of the Union Lodge #2 100F of Waldo, instituted 30 March 1880 (railroad?) There was a Wash Sparkman packinghouse and GristMill in Waldo and he owned extensive orange groves.
Lelia Sparkman married Arthur Boring.
Raulerson married Sarah Elizabeth Sparkman.
W.H. Doanaldson married Mary Sparkman
Silas Weeks married Hattie Sparkman.
Wash Sparkman had a son, "Ager", who had a cabinet shop in Waldo around 1910.