Our Town - Our settlement, which straddles the Alachua-Marion County line, is about 110 years old. Records show our post office to have been charted in 1882. The railroad and the depot (both now gone) were also built that same year. The depot was discontinued by the Atlantic Coastline Railroad in the early 1950s, and was (literally) picked up and moved a short while later to be used as a barn and storage building on the farm of the Richardson brothers. It functioned as such until the mid 1980s, when it was totally destroyed by in a fire. The railroad was used until the early 1980s. After the trains stopped running in 1982, it was taken up and all traces removed. The railroad was here exactly 100 years.
Besides the railroad and depot, in its early period of settlement Evinston had (at one time or another, but not all at the same time) four or five stores, a blacksmith shop, a barber shop, and a grist mill. A second railroad also ran outside of town about two miles west of us. Its name was the "T. and J." (Tampa and Jacksonville) and it was discontinued in the 1940s.
Evinston also had schools for both White and Black children. The White school building was located a little to the west of the Evinston United Methodist Church. It was built in 1891. Until then, the school had been held in a building next to the (then) Center Point Presbyterian Church (now the site of the Mount Elliah Baptist Church). Mrs. Anna Evins Wood an early student later taught at this first school site. Mrs. Jesse Wilson and Mrs. Kate Hemphill were early teachers at the Evinston school. This school was discontinued in 1924 and the pupils were moved to classes in Micanopy. Mrs. W. A. Johnson, a long-time teacher in Evinston, made the move also and continued to teach at the Micanopy school for many years. The Evinston school for Black children, started about 1942 and discontinued in 1950, was held in the Mount Olive A.M. E. Church. Mrs. Nancy Lee Perry Gill taught there for many years. The school is discussed later in the chapter about Evinston sites.
We, here in Evinston, consider our town, with its 100 year history, to be old. Actually, Man has been in this area constantly for over 10,000 years. I, being a farmer, have found arrowheads (projectile points) over the fields I tend that date back to the Clovis Period of early Man in Florida (10 thousand B. C.). I have also found points from all the periods following that time, and from many different Indian cultures. In addition, I found strange, handmade bricks on a bluff overlooking Orange Lake. Early records say a Spanish Mission was located near us in the 1500s--maybe this was the location.
My father repeated stories that his ancestors told of an early trading post that was on the northeast side of our property. Supposedly it was operated by a man named Baxter who traded with the Indians in the early 1800s. A few large rocks are all that remain of the building there. About a quarter mile from this site, to the southwest, a team from the University of Florida located the remains of an Indian village. Points, pottery, and artifacts found there dated to the last Indian period in our area, the Pinellas Period. This is referred to as the last period for projectile points because after this time the Indians began using fire arms. The finding of this village adds very much to the stories of Baxter and his trading post. As to who told Baxter's story to my people, I know not! This information has been lost in time.
Micanopy, the town about three miles north of us, is said to be the second oldest city in Florida. Probably the first White family to permanently settle here in Evinston were the Basil Reeveses from North Carolina, about 1875. Their home, now gone, was located approximately one quarter mile east of the Evinston Park, on the land owned presently by Richardson Brothers Farm. The old Reeves home burned in 1954. At this time no Reeves descendents live in Evinston, although the present day Patterson family, whose ancestors came here to work for the Reeveses, live close by.
The second family to locate here were the J. L. Wolfendons from Wisconsin. Their first home was a little to the east of the present home of Mrs. Nancy Richardson. The first Wolfendon home was torn down many years ago. The second one was built a short distance northwest of the first home site. After his death, this house was home to J. L. Wolfendon's grandson, Leroy Richardson, and his family. Mrs. Leroy Richardson continues to reside there today. This house was built in 1892; the date that the first Wolfendon home was built is no longer known.
P. K. Richardson, Mr. Wolfendon's son-in-law, lived for a few years after his marriage in the original Wolfendon home. In 1909, he built a new house to the west of the original one. After his death in 1947, his son, Walter W. Richardson and family along with P. K.'s widow lived in this home. Walter's wife, Mrs. Nancy Richardson, lives there now. There are several pretty old homes in Evinston--this house and grounds always stood out to me as the prettiest! Many of J. L. Wolfendon's descendents still live in Evinston. They are the Richardson families.
The third family to settle in Evinston were my ancestors, the W. D. Evins family. They arrived in the early 1880s and came from Anderson County, South Carolina. They built a small house a little to the southwest of the larger house, built in 1886, which still stands today. The small, original house was torn down in the early 1940s. The name of the spot on which the second house was built was called "Hickory Ridge" and is still named this today.
Several Black men came here with Captain W. D. Evins to work. Two of the men moved his household furnishings from South Carolina to Florida with mules and wagons--some trip in those days! The only name we still remember is Ben Fell. A young girl also came with the family and worked in the house until she married. Her name was Louise, and her husband, Lawrence Preston, was a farmer. They raised a family here but no descendents are living here today.
Captain Evins gave a large parcel of right-of-way for the railroad through his property. He also gave his name to our town. Captain Evins first wanted to use the name "Marysville," in honor of his wife, Mary Creswell Evins. But there was already a Marysville in Florida, and so he had to settle for "Evinston."
These first settlers were followed by many more families, both Black and White. Some stayed, some moved on. It is also appropriate to mention another family that settled two miles or more southwest of Evinston. The George Means family came from South Carolina in the 1840s. He was called "Judge Means," although I never heard of him serving as one. He did serve as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in the 1860s.
At one time Judge Means owned thousands of acres of land in this part of Florida. He also was one of the first men to cultivate citrus in our area. In an old magazine article from 1876, mention is made of thriving groves belonging to Judge Means on the banks of Orange Lake. He also grew large crops of vegetables.
Another account from an 1880s Tampa newspaper tells of Judge Means sending a large boat that belonged to him from his landing on Orange Lake through Lockloosa Lake. The boat then followed the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers to the port of Jacksonville for the purpose of trading and buying supplies for his farm, groves and household. It also brought back goods for the needs of his neighbors.
Judge Means was a man well ahead of his time in the cultivation of citrus and vegetables in this the early development of the area. His wife, Mattie Simonton of Micanopy, was from another farming family who, in those days, owned much land west of our town.
The first Mean's home is still located about two to three miles southwest, as the crow flies, of the Evinston store and post office. Parts of the house were added over the years but the main structure dates to the mid 1850s. It has been occupied by several families over the years. Today, it is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Williams . . .
Early Evinston: 1880-1940
Food and Farming in Early Times - Evinston's early settlers' first concern was putting food on the table. The land here is fertile and most times we have adequate rainfall. In the 1800s, with the forest and the lake close by, an abundance of wildlife and fish were here for the taking. With little work, some vegetable or fruit can be grown here twelve months of the year. Many leaf vegetables (cabbage, mustard, turnips, collards, beets, and many others) do quite well even in the dead of winter; and for those of us who keep trying with citrus, we have some fruit almost every year. The warm winters (most of the time!) encouraged the growing of many vegetables in North Florida. At this date, farming in South Florida and the Hastings area had not yet been pursued.
Although a large variety of crops were grown, cabbage, by far, was king. Many varieties were harvested from late November until early early April. The large-scale planting of cabbage in this area continued up to the 1950s. At that time, the Hastings area, with the help of its artesian wells, became too strong a competitor and put an end to cabbage growing here.
Other vegetables planted here were lettuce, beans, squash, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, eggplant, corn (which was used mostly for stock feed), and peanuts. The early farmers used mules and horses to prepare the fields and cultivate them. Most farms had a milk cow, hogs for meat and lard, and chickens. A few had beef cattle. Mr. P. K. Richardson possibly had the first commercial beef herd in Evinston--about 1917. He soon got rid of them and continued to farm vegetables. Later, his sons and grandsons returned to the cattle business and made it their sole commercial effort.
These first farmers set citrus groves over the country: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and some kumquats. An occasional "hard freeze"--temperatures below 26 degrees for several hours--would come about every ten years. It would kill the trees so that they would have to be pruned or reset, but most groves would be back into production in a year or two. This practice continued until the severe Christmas freeze of 1983, when temperatures dropped below ten degrees in many areas: after that no large acreage of citrus has been reset. Peaches were also tried by my ancestors and many others, but the climate proved too warm for them. Some are grown today in back yards, but only for eating off the tree or to can or freeze for pies later.
With the railroad running through town, and the depot here, it was very handy for the farmers to ship or sell their vegetables and fruit. Box car size shipments were loaded by those who farmed on a larger scale, while crates and boxes were shipped express by the farmers who were smaller operators. The train would stop at the depot and the depot agent, along with the men in the express cars, would load the boxes of oranges, cabbage, squash--whatever! These items were sent north to commission merchants on consignment. Most of the time they brought a fair price; sometimes a good one. But sometimes they brought nothing at all except a bill to the farmer for express charges.
Vegetable farming is, and always has been a lot like gambling. It is a business that promises much but often returns little. Walker Woodard, a farmer in the 1920s, had a beautiful patch of lettuce, though it was only a small acreage. Before he started cutting the ready heads, everyone that had seen the patch told him the lettuce would fetch a big price. He was advised by other farmers to send the crop to a commission merchant in New York City named Dingfellow. Walker cut and packed about 100 crates of lettuce and expressed them to Dingfellow Produce Co., N. Y., N. Y. For the next two weeks, Walker waited patiently for his return check. But when his letter finally came, it was only an express bill for shipping. It seemed that every other farmer's lettuce crop in Florida had gotten ready at the same week and glutted the market. Poor Walker! Folks said as he trudged back home from the post office he muttered over and over under his breath, "Dang ding, ding dang," expressing his dislike for Mr. Dingfellow.
The first settlers in this area --the Reeves, Wolfendon, and the Evins families--all farmed. The Hester family came from Georgia shortly after the others and began farming also. Of the others that come to mind, who farmed in the vicinity from early times to present, the "larger" farmers (men who planted many acres) were P. K. Richardson, followed later by his sons Leroy, Mark, Walter, and grandsons Kay and Lamar; H. D. Wood (who married into the Evins family), followed by his son R. P. Wood; Herbert Bradley, Sam McCoon; and possibly others whose names have been forgotten.
Others who farmed on a smaller scale were Jim Bosby; J. L. Cameron; Henry Washington; W. E. Kennedy; Josh Moore; Butler Bell; Wes Bell; J. M. Mobley; Henry Harrison; C. J. Grace; Wade Coleman; Will Welch; W. A. Johnson; A. W. Smith, Sr.; Melton Yates; Brice Stevenson; Lawrence Preston; Mac Moore; Zebbie and Lloyd Johnson; Woodard Coleman; U. H. Gill and Sons; Woodard Warren; Walker Woodard; Jim Means; Mitt Washington; C. M. Collins; Guy Miles; O. D. Huff, Sr. ; Adam Burrell; George Mitchell; Mabel Patterson; Bruce Boyles; Fred Wood Sr. and son; and many others by names such as Westbrook; Tidwell; Waters; Brice; and Hogan.
Most of these farmers grew vegetables or livestock, some citrus. Many of the smaller farmers grew cane, for syrup and sweet potatoes, to peddle in the winter. They butchered hogs for themselves and to sell. Many also worked at other jobs besides farming, and some worked part-time for other farmers . . .
As I've said, in this early period of our history--1880 to 1940--most people's way of life was farming or working on the farms. A few worked at timber cutting and in the sawmills. One sawmill, owned by Judge George Means, probably sawed the boards for many of the older homes still standing today. Some men fished and trapped: the selling of freshwater fish was permitted until the 1930s. At one time raccoon hides were at such a premium (for use in coats) that coons were most trapped to extinction. Otters, opossums, foxes, and even skunks, were also trapped for hides.
Mostly, times were good for folks who farmed, from the first settlers until the late 1920s. When the depression came, with the failure of all local banks, and a very small supply of cash money, many people lost their farms and their homes and had to move to the cities to find work of any sort . . .
Town Life in the Old Days - During these lean times the people still found ways to be happy. My parents told of church socials, dances (in some farmer's barn), and cooking out, whether it was boiled peanuts or chicken pilau, for the entire town (usually in somebody's wash-pot) . . .
Every small town in that tough era fielded a baseball team. Games were played once or twice a week during the summer. The whole town would turn out for these events and cheer for the home team. Evinston had an especially good team and beat McIntosh and Micanopy handily. They played teams from most of the small towns over the area. One of these was from Island Grove, across Orange Lake from Evinston. The team rowed over in boats, played a game, ate a meal with the Evinston folks, and rowed back. Some of the players remembered by old-timers who passed on their names on to the younger generation were Frank McRae; Jimmy and Pinkney Welch; the Wood brothers, Harry, Rob, and Fred; Mark Richardson; J. D. Means; Teddy Pauling; J. B. Smith; Azol McKoon; Ara Whittington; and others . . .
Our forefathers, who came to this part of Florida for the warmer climate and abundant rainfall, encountered a deadly foe here in the form of disease: malaria. Early settlers dug cisterns to catch rain-water, thinking the chills and fever that they were experiencing came from the water they were drinking from their wells. Alas, the cisterns were the perfect breeding place for the real culprit, the mosquito, who gave them the disease. Most people suffered with it in some form from time to time: others, not so fortunate, died . . .
Early Evinston Mercantile and Other Business - Besides the present old store and post office in operation today, three, maybe four, more stores have served folks in the town. Mrs. A. W. Smith, Sr. ran a store from 1918 until 1934. Prior to Mrs. Smith, it was run and possibly built by Robert G. Bass, also an early postmaster. Mrs. Smith's store was located due south of the present old store and post office on the east side of the property owned currently by David Deaderick. Mrs. Smith's children recall the store having an upstairs. Their parents let kinfolk and people down on their luck stay there from time to time until they could find better lodging.
Another store in town was most likely built by J. F. Barron, also an early postmaster. It seems to have been built around the turn of the century. Mr. Barron ran the store from then until 1913 (possibly to 1916). Then, from 1916 to 1923, the store was operated by Mr. W. A. Johnson. Mr. Johnson, in addition to farming, operated a business buying cured Spanish Moss from the local people who pulled and dried it. He had a building to stow it on the north side of his property, about where the Livengood home stands today. The Barron-Johnson store later, after additions and remodeling, became the home to several different families. It is currently owned and is the home of the Mark Whitebread family. Robert Fred Neil had a store for a short time--1938 to 39--on the east side of land now owned by Tim Jones. Mr. Neil also was postmaster and at one time, had a store in the town of Boardman, two miles south of Evinston. It was located near the present home of J. D. McRae.
Little information remains about other stores. Some folks say that one was maintained by Austin Ross for a short time; another was located due east of the store and post office of today on property owned by the Whitebread family. Nobody seems to remember who operated it. The gristmill mentioned previously was located where the wooded tract stands behind the old store. It was operated by Rhodes Whittington, and served the town from 1928 until 1931. At that time Mr. Whittington lived in the home now owned by the Steven Mudra family. This house, lately remodeled by the Mudras, is the second oldest home in Evinston. It was built by William Shuttleworth. Mr. Shuttleworth also built the oldest house in town. That house is the current home of sisters Mrs. Louise Smith Lewis and Miss Susie Smith. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Smith, Sr., lived there most of their lives and raised their family there.
Before leaving the subject of the stores in early Evinston, it should be mentioned that the old store and post office that stand today looked a bit different then. A small room used as a barber shop was attached to the old store and post office at one time. It was torn off.in the late 1920s. A side room, located on the south side of the building was removed in the early 1950s. It has recently (1992) been rebuilt and the site restored to its original appearance.
The Lake - Over the last hundred years several boat landings and fishing camps have been located on the banks of Orange Lake near us. The Means landing was the first. Its site was on pasture land a little to the east of the Richardson Brothers office on the lake. Early residents picnicked, fished, and played there. In 1871, a large outing was held on that land and folks from the surrounding countryside were in attendance. A sailboat owned by Judge George Means carried a party out on an excursion. The time of year was the month of June and a violent storm came up with heavy rain, lightning and hail. Alas, the boat overturned and seven people drowned; one lady being the young wife of Dr. Lucius Montgomery, a prominent doctor from Micanopy. That landing continued to be used until the turn of the century.
Another boat landing was on the property owned then by the Reeves family and now by the Richardson brothers. My father told of fishing there, and going out on the lake with his father from that spot for both fishing and duck hunting. It was located a little to the north of the old Means landing. Folks around town used this landing from the early 1900s to the 1930s.
Around 1926, Mr. Jack Richardson, P. K.'s brother, and his son, Fannin Henson, had a landing on the northwest corner of the lake. They caught fish to sell and killed ducks to dress and ship. It was legal at that time to sell fresh water fish and also waterfowl. An old-timer told of a large-bore shotgun, perhaps an eight-gauge, mounted in the front of the boat, that killed many ducks at one shot. The fish and ducks were dressed, salted down, iced, and put in barrels. They were then taken to the railroad depot and shipped to northern markets. This landing ceased to be used about 1930.
The last landing and fish camp, called the "North End Camp," was located on the property owned then and to this day by the Wood family. Of all the camps, this one served for the longest period--from the mid 1920s until the early 1970s. The original channel was dug about 1926 by R. P. Wood, Sr. and Fannin Henson. The fish camp was then operated for a short time by a man named Barnhill, who also built a small house. He was followed by George Carter, who was later a game warden on the lake . . .
Evinston Sites: Past and Present - I list these sites and buildings between my sections on early Evinston and later Evinston because some of these structures are still here, and some, like the past itself, are gone forever.
The Railroad and Depot: Early folks and records say the railroad was put through Evinston in 1882. The depot was built then or shortly after. The rails were removed in 1982 (as previously stated). I have happy thoughts of the depot--of playing there as a child. It had a large platform, about 50x100', that vegetables and express were stacked on until they were loaded on the train. We would put our bicycles up there and ride on the platform. Later we erected a basketball goal on one end of the platform. The agent's son, Norman Shaw, was a part of our basketball game: I guess if he had not been his father, Mr. Shaw, would not have tolerated us. The old men of the town would sit in the shade under the platform and tell stories that we boys enjoyed hearing. A side track ran beside the main line from the store and post office to the shed and office of Richardson Brothers. Many loads of vegetables, watermelons, and pulpwood were loaded on these tracks. The boxcars on the side track also made an excellent place for boys to play.
The Hester family of Evinston and the depot always seemed to be spoken of together, because F. B. Hester was the agent for the Florida Southern, later the Atlantic Coast Line railroad for 43 years. The family came to Evinston in the 1880s, and Mr. Hester was likely the first agent (although I don't know that for a fact). He was later followed by J. Bunyan Smith, who was succeeded by F. B.'s son, Frank Hester, Jr. Mr. Shaw was agent for a number of years. When Mr. Shaw was moved to the depot in Gainesville to be ticket agent, the days of our depot were numbered. The railroads over America were starting a period of decline. Much of the freight was now being moved by truck and more and more of the passenger traffic was moving by bus or starting to fly by plane. Two or three agents followed Mr. Shaw. The only one I remember was Mr. E. E. Shallow, a native of Lake Butler, who I think was the last agent.
I still think of those days of the railroad here, of the massive steam locomotives with coal cars behind. The fireman who shoveled the coal was always a muscled man, dripping with sweat. He and the engineer wore railroad caps and overalls. The first diesels appeared about 1950. They never were as entertaining to watch as the old steam engines. During World War II, I remember the troop trains rolling through town--how proud we were of our soldiers then! Back in the 1940s and '50s we had two passenger trains a day--"Number 39" around noon and "Number 40" in the evening. In addition, two more passenger trains ran at night: "Number 37" and "Number 38." Many freight trains also ran in between, huffing and puffing up the hills, pulling loads of vegetables, pulpwood, and limestone past our town. The depot and the railroad are gone forever, but when we think back on those times, they bring a smile to the our faces, and fond memories to our hearts . . .
The Store and Post Office: the "store" is store only in name these days. Oh, cold drinks, cookies, and candy treats for the kids can still be purchased here, but the meats, groceries, hardware, livestock feeds, fertilizers, and seeds are no more. Staples that were sold here for most 100 years are now bought in Gainesville and Ocala . . .
The old store and post office building were erected in 1882. The structure was built to be a warehouse on the railroad for a wealthy Micanopy merchant named S. H. Benjamin. Old deeds say that Mr. Benjamin, who emigrated with his partner, Jacob Katz, from Germany, bought this land from the Florida Southern Railroad for the sum of one dollar (for about one and a half acres). This is the current site of the old store, packing house, and the wooded tract to the west of these buildings. The date of this transaction was started August 1879 and recorded June 1883. Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Katz used the building to store freight unloaded off the railroad until it could be transported to several stores that the partners owned and operated in Micanopy.
Records show that this property was purchased by J. S. Wolfendon in 1884 when he was appointed postmaster. The date at which the building was first used as a store has been lost over time, but it may have been around 1900, when it belonged to John Hester. The post office was located here permanently in 1913. Evidence points to it having been in the building in 1901, then taken out when F. W. Barrow moved it in his store across the road. It was also located in the Bass-Smith store sometime before it was moved back to stay in 1913.
John Hester, previously mentioned as an early store owner, shot and killed one man and wounded another while standing in the front door of the store building. The man killed was named Watt Barron, and the one wounded was his father, J. F. Barron. I have heard tales about this dispute from old-timers. Both Hester and the Barrons farmed. One story involved who had the prettiest field of watermelons. Watt Barron was loading watermelons at the time of the shootings. The second theory was that both parties were hiring labor around town and one accused the other of raising wages. A third was that the quarrel was over the attentions of a young lady. I like this possibility, by far, the best!
Another shooting happened in the store in the 1920s. Mr. Will Welch, the constable at the time, shot a rowdy fellow in a fuss over an unpaid bill (the bill was owed to Mr. Welch, not the store!). There was also a near disaster when a gas or kerosene lamp set the building on fire. Luckily, it was put out.
Past to present postmasters who served Evinston and the dates of their appointments are as follows: George Y. Center--February 28, 1882; Robert G. Bass--August 20, 1883; Joseph S. Wolfendon--July 16, 1884; Charles S. Smith--January 8, 1887; William H. Smith--February 2, 1894; John D. Martin--September 17, 1898; James F. Barron--July 29,1901; Henry Deaver Wood--August 16, 1913; Robert P. Wood--October 14, 1930; Fred W. Wood, Sr.--September 8, 1934; Wilma Sue Brown Wood--January 13, 1979. Quite a list for our small town! Some names folks remember or have heard of; some of the earliest names have long been forgotten . . .
When John Hester had to leave Evinston in a hurry after the shooting (he was never brought to trial), the store was operated for a short time by the Hester family. In late 1905 or early 1906, H. D. Wood, along with his brother-in-law, R. C. Evins, acquired the store. R. C. Evins died in 1910, leaving H. D. Wood as the sole owner. In 1913, he was also appointed postmaster. Besides H. D. Wood's sons, who helped him with the store, other store clerks whose names come to mind are Gene Miller, Fred Neil, Jack Richardson, W. A. Johnson, and later H. D. 's grandsons, Hal Swink and Deaver Wood (who worked with their uncle, Fred Wood, Sr.). I, Fred Jr. and my brother Ashley, worked here many hours for our father.
H. D. Wood, besides operating the store and post office, had a large farming operation. He was also an Alachua County commissioner, serving his fourth term at the time of his death in 1930. At that time, his son, R. P. Wood, took over the store and post office. R. P. held the position for three years, but in 1933 he tired of being inside and, wanting to resume farming, sold the store to his brother, F. W. (Fred) Wood, Sr., and his brother-in-law, Paul C. Swink, Sr. Fred Wood also became postmaster at that time. Two years later Paul Swink sold his part of the store to Fred, but the name of the store, to this day, remains "Wood and Swink." After his death in 1981, Fred Wood's wife, Jane Yongue Wood, refused to give up the store (though she was in poor health herself, having suffered a stroke earlier that same year). She was still storekeeper at the time of her own death in 1990. As mentioned earlier, Sue Wood, Fred's daughter-in-law, took over postmaster duties in 1979.
Jane Y. Wood, with the help of Mrs. Diana Cohen of Micanopy, had the old building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A marker was placed in front of the store stating this fact. After Jane's death, in 1990, the store property was passed on to me, F. W. Wood, Jr., and to my wife, Sue. Much work needs to be done on the roof and the exterior part of the building. We will do what we can, as finances permit . . .
The Evinston United Methodist Church: The Evinston United Methodist Church was built in 1909, according to church records and the date on the corner stone. Services had been held in members' homes and in the Evinston school house for perhaps 20 years prior to the construction of the church building. The land where the church stands was given by Mr. and Mrs. J. L. Wolfendon. Founding fathers of the church were P. K. Richardson, H. D. Wood, C. J. Grace, and C. M. Collins.
The Richardson, Smith, and, to a lesser extent, the Wood family, have kept the church going all these years. The Wood family (my family) have always been divided about half and half between the Methodist and the Presbyterian churches. A list of ministers taken from the Micanopy circuit (Evinston, along with Micanopy, Shiloh, and Wacahoota, make up this group) dating from 1880 are listed in back of this book. I don't think services were being held in Evinston as early as the 1880s. It is possible that they began five to ten years later.
The first Sunday school superintendent before the church was built was F. B. Hester. Others who have held the job were H. D. Wood, Mockby Westbrook, P. K. Richardson, L. L. Richardson, and the present superintendent, David Gibson.
Our church is a beautiful old church built of heart pine lumber. It is a prime example of the early 20th century church architecture found in rural America. From my first remembrance of it as a child, to this very day, when I see this church I think of the old hymn, "The Church in the Wildwood," although it is not a "brown" church in color. The building is surrounded by large hickory trees. When I am there and the wind blows through the branches and leaves, I always feel God's presence.
My first memories of this church begin when I started going to Sunday school when I was about two years old, and continue through my teen years. They are happy thoughts. The old people--those I thought of as old--are now gone: folks like Mr. and Mrs. Collins and their daughter, Claire; Mrs. W. A. Johnson; Mrs. P. K. Richardson; my grandmother, Mrs. H. D. Wood (who faithfully saw to it that I was there each Sunday!). Although she was a lifetime member of the McIntosh Presbyterian Church, she always went to Sunday school here in Evinston and taught a Sunday school class for over 50 years.
Many other folks (those I thought of then as much "younger") who worked hard for and loved our church are also gone: Mrs. Flora Richardson, who taught a class for the young adults for many years (she tried to steer us in the right direction); her husband, Mr. Mark, who took over my grandmother's class of the middle adults and taught for a long period; his brothers, Leroy (who was previously mentioned as Sunday school superintendent) and Walter, long time member and church officer. For many years, Mr. Leroy would come early to unlock the church, sweep off the front steps, and start a fire in the wood stove (later replaced by gas heaters) in the winter. These duties are now performed by Mr. Ned Cake.
J. B. Smith is remembered for his long-time membership, his skill at being able to fix anything that needed fixing in the church--from the time the of the wood-burning heater and the fans to the present-day heat and air conditioning systems. J. B., along with his brothers, Evans and Toby, added the Sunday school room to the church in 1947. J. B.'s sister, Iris Smith McRae, was a long time church and Sunday school member. Our town tennis court bears a plaque to her memory. Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Smith, Sr. are also fondly remembered by many in our church . . .
Though our Sunday school is smaller than it used to be, old-timers--like Mrs. Rebecca Smith (who has taught the little fellows for many years), Mrs. Cora Smith, Mrs. Nancy Richardson, and Mrs. Alice Waldorf--and newcomers--such as Mr. Ned Cake, Mr. and Mrs. David Gibson, Mrs. Ashley Wood, Mrs. Mark Whitebread, Mrs. Rose Wershow, and others--are still holding attendance together. Sunday school is promptly held at 10 a.m. each Sunday. Church services are at Seven p.m. the first Sunday, and eleven a.m. the third Sunday of each month. The morning service is well attended. However, more need to come in the evening.
Long-time church usher, Ed Richardson, is no longer with us. He faithfully handed out programs and took up the offering for many years. His place has been filled of late (alternately) by Mark Waldorf, Lee Deaderick, and Ashley A. Wood, but we still miss Ed. Mr. and Mrs. R. P. Wood, Sr. are probably the oldest members of our church at this time. R. P. Wood has belonged to the Evinston church for over 80 years.
The Evinston United Methodist Church is a site from early Evinston that still stands today--a beautiful old church from the past, something our forefathers left for us to continue, love, and maintain for future generations to enjoy as we have.
Jay Smith and Sons Blacksmith Shop: "Smith's Blacksmith Shop" had three locations over the years, all now gone. The first spot was on the land, now owned by David Deaderick, along county line road. The shop stood there from 1914-1919. The second location was on the lot currently owned by Lawrence Sharpe, west of the Evinston Memorial Park. The business served the town here from 1919-1923. Its final site was on the east side of US 441, about a mile and a half, as the crow flies, from the Wood and Swink store and post office. This last location was in operation from the mid 1920s into the 1950s. I well remember this neat building, complete with bellows and many tools, all in their proper places.
The first two buildings, according to Mr. Smith's youngest son, Toby, were little more than structures with four posts at the corners, covered around and overhead with tin. Never-the-less, it met this farming community's needs. The shop's business at that time consisted of shoeing mules and horses, and making and patching farm tools used in the fields and forests around the area. Toby Smith recalls how his father could hold a horse's foot between his legs, fit the shoe and drive the nails into the horse's hoof, all the while talking to and trying to keep the animal calm.
Later the shop's work was concerned with the care of early automobiles and trucks. Jay Smith built bodies for trucks and wagons used to haul vegetables out of the fields. When a considerable number of cabbages were still being grown in the area, he built many two wheeled carts, some of which were still pulled by mules, to haul the cabbages from the fields to the sheds, where they could be packed in boxes before they were loaded in boxcars on the railroad for shipping.
With his sons' help, Jay Smith designed and built the first bean belt in the area. After being hand-picked and hauled into the packing house from the field, the beans were poured on the belt where the grading crew could pick out leaves, stems, and trash before the beans went into the baskets for market.
After ceasing operations, Smith's last blacksmith shop was torn down in 1964. The three Smith sons who had worked with their father went into house building. However, they continued to use the knowledge gained in their father's shop. J. B. and Toby for many years kept up the equipment in O. D. Huff and W. E. Christian's produce sheds in McIntosh, and also in Huff's watermelon and orange packing house. The equipment at the Franklin Crate Mill in Micanopy was also maintained by these two men for a long time.
The blacksmith shop, like some other older Evinston sites, is gone forever. Still, we who remember it can still see, in our mind's eye, the glowing fire in a forge fanned by bellows, the red hot metal being hammered and shaped in different angles by a strong, sweating man, and the look on his face when the bend in the iron was just right as he'd fashioned what he had set out to make.
The Evinston Memorial Park: History says our park was established about 1909, on property bought from Mrs. Annie L. Smith. Mr. J. L. Wolfendon, Mr. W. P. Shuttleworth, and F. B. Hester were instrumental in acquiring this property. Prior to its use as our park, this land was the site of an earlier blacksmith shop run by a man named Mockby. No other information about this business is available at this time. A pavilion was later built, followed by a tennis court, swings, slide, and a merry-go-round. I have happy thoughts of a bag-swing we boys had there in my childhood days--of using the top of the slide to swing off . . .
Evinston's Mt. Olive A.M. E. Church and Cemetery and the Mt. Elliah Baptist Church: This book would not be complete without as much history as can be recalled about some of our Black citizens, and their churches and cemetery. The site of the Mt. Olive African Methodist Episcopal Church and cemetery are on the north side of the county line road, heading east of US 441 into Evinston. This property was bought for a church and cemetery from Captain and Mrs. W. D. Evins in 1886. At that time a small house and an open well were located on the land. It was first known as the "African Methodist Camp Meeting Ground" and services were held in the small house.
The first church was soon built there. Trustees in the church at that time were: Jonathan H. Jordon, Austin Ross, David Simonton, Alsop A. Lewis, and Sumpter R. Thompson. The first church was an old wooden building. About this time--around 100 years ago--burials began in the cemetery. This first church was called "A.M. E. Church in the Woods." Though the name today is "Mt. Olive A.M. E. Church," many of the older members still call their church the "Woods Church." . . .
The Mt. Elliah Baptist Church has an interesting history. The first church building was constructed in the early 1880s. It was built to serve as the Center Point Presbyterian church. This church's charter was later moved to McIntosh around 1907. At that time, the church and ground were given or sold to the African American Baptist congregation; nobody seems to remember and the deed to this church and property was not recorded to the Baptists until the 1940s. Jesse Walker, long-time member of the church, working with officers of the McIntosh Presbyterian church (primarily Frank and Cecil McRae) got the deed straightened out at that time. This church was still called "Center Point" for many years after becoming a Baptist church. In later years its name was changed to "Mt. Elliah." . . .
A third African American church, Mt. Zion Methodist, is now gone. It was located in Evinston on property presently owned by Clyde Gill, on the east side of the town heading south toward Boardman, about one quarter mile past the old store and post office. This church was a sturdy, wooden building, built in the shape of a hall. It was constructed in the 1890s, and was used as a church until the late 1930s or early 1940s, as best can be remembered. This structure was torn down in the 1960s. Families who were members of this church were the John and Woodard Warrens, the Mac Moores, and the Woodys, among others.
Other Evinston Sites: The Center Point Cemetery was first used as a burying ground by the Center Point Presbyterian Church. The earliest graves in the cemetery date back to the late 1880s. Many early settlers are buried there: others are buried in the McIntosh Cemetery or in the Micanopy Historical Cemetery. Center Point is the grave site of W. D. Evins. The Center Point Presbyterian Church was founded by the Evins and Means families and it was the forerunner of the McIntosh Presbyterian Church. At this time, the cemetery at Center Point is much used. It is well kept and looked after by Mrs. Mark Whitebread, of Evinston, and Mr. Fred Farnbach, who lives near by the cemetery grounds. In 1989, a sign, with the cemetery name and its date of establishment, was placed there as an Eagle Scout project by Theodore Evins Wood, great-great-grandson of W. D. Evins.
Another unusual (some say strange) site from early Evinston is located on the Richardson Brother's Farm, east of the farm office. It is a large silo, made of cement, that stands high in the air. It was used to store grain or silage and had a water tank on top. The builder's name, "S. Roberts," and the date, "1917," are written in the cement on one side of the structure.
Several old homes previously mentioned still stand around town today. The Bradley-Glisson home, now owned and occupied by the J. T. Glisson Family was built in the 1890s. The Grace-Welch-Broyles-Miles home was also built in the early 1890s. The Barron-Johnson-Benini-Gibson home was built in the 1880s.
One historic home that is no longer with us was the F. B. Hester home, built before the turn of the century. It had been beautifully restored by Mrs. Eva Vidal, daughter of F. B. Hester. This home burned in 1976. Two tall chimneys are all that remain of this once-grand old house.
The old tin building that stands north of the post office, the Wood's packing house, was built shortly after 1900 by H. D. Wood to house operations for packing oranges. It later served the Wood family and other area farmers as a place to grade and pack vegetables.
This concludes my section on early Evinston and its historical sites. We are happy to have so many surviving structures from the time when our town was young, and we are thankful for the memories of others that are gone, and the opportunity to tell of those places that exist now only in our hearts and minds . . .
Evinston is not much bigger population-wise than it was 50 to 75 years ago. New houses have been built in many places, but if you look hard in the fields and woods, you will find many places where people once lived. Some of these sites were abandoned, some were torn down, others burned. Many fields that we have cultivated have these signs--a pile of bricks where a chimney once stood; a piece of pipe or a pump sticking out of the ground where someone once drew water; an Easter lily or jonquils that spring up in the deep woods, planted by some lady with loving care in what was once her front yard, long ago.
My sincere gratitude to Mr. Wood for use of excerpts from his Evinston history for the Alachua County FLGenWeb Project. The historical and early settlers information and memories he has shared of early Evinston will be enjoyed by readers for years to come. - mc