IN THE BEGINNING ....... A CAPSULE OF SIGNIFICANT/HISTORICAL SETTLEMENTS BEFORE MACCLENNY 1832-1883

This report has been compiled by La Viece Moore-Fraser Smallwood from the historical collections and writings of county historian Gene Barber, official county court house records, family records of the Elisha Greene and George Canova families of Sanderson, interviews conducted by Ms. Smallwood with many Baker County citizens, particularly the late Thomas B. Fraser of Sanderson, Loyce Knabb Coleman, Wilma Cook Morris, and Will Gilbert of Macclenny. Many of the dates, places and locations explored while compiling this report contradict one another, including official court house records and some media reporting. This record has been proofread for accuracy by Naomi Crews Roberson, Betty Taylor Sands and Anita Gilbert Gerson.
It is hoped that this capsule report will help other researchers who may someday seek the challenge to discern a more complete and accurate version than what has been assembled here.

As America was being settled, long before the advent of rutted roads or railroads, pioneers to the ‘new world’ hacked their way up and down her lush coasts on make-shift primitive trails. Eventually many of them turned inward to settle on swamp infested lowlands using their ingenuity and agility to master the elements and uncultivated conditions. The post Civil War boom brought many settlers searching for land, and occupational advantages. In the beginning the sparsely settled Baker County area was shifted five times to other fledgling counties beginning with St. Johns in 1821. In 1822 it was included in Duval County. By 1828, Alachua County formed the Baker County area until 1832 when Columbia County formed her boundaries. In 1858 the area was formed into New River County, created out of Columbia and comprising the present counties of Baker, Bradford and Union. In 1859, the railroad opened an area several miles east of Olustee where much of the timber and land was virgin and settlers came in search for greener pastures. Milling companies sent in buyers to acquire the timber lands. The area was called Johnsville and was designated as the county seat and remained so until 1861 when the area was permanently established by the Florida Legislature as the 38th county formed in the State and officially named Baker County in honor of James M. Baker, former state Judge of the Fourth Judiciary District. Baker had once been a Florida senator to the Confederate States of America. Sanderson, a developing town 12 miles westward from Macclenny, was designated as the county seat and the government was transferred from the temporary courthouse in Long Pond School House at Johnsville to a few miles south on the railroad to Sanderson where the county’s first court house was erected the same year. The new town was named in honor of a director, and later president, of the rail company, John P. Sanderson. He was a former resident of the area, representing his neighbors in various Columbia County public offices, and was considered one of the prime influences, through the media in gaining public support for the railroad.

As early as 1829, several wagon loads of mostly Georgia settlers had made their way into the Baker County area. Among them were the Elisha Greene family and members of the Barber family. The Greene family settled on ‘Greene’s Creek’ south of Sanderson. Moses Barber made claims for much of the land surrounding the present day Macclenny area, and by 1830 had attracted several other families to settle near him. Barber’s settlement, called Barbers’ Station or Plantation, was located near the present day golf course and Miltondale sections. It remained there for 45 years. The next parent town of McClenny came on the scene when a Confederate Colonel, John Darby, an emigrant from Ireland, ambled into the fledgling Baker County area and instituted a saw-mill and turpentine distillery community on the eastern edge of the present day business district. The little settlements of dirt-floor primitive shanties were said to be with the scantiest of conveniences. Even outdoor latrines were nonexistent for the time and domestic and wild animals roamed freely throughout the area. Baths for the area folk were usually taken weekly in the St. Mary’s River ‘wash-hole’ located at the bridge between present day Macclenny and Glen St. Mary.
By 1866 a sawmill community near the Barber Plantation was established by a Mr. Jackson from Georgia and became known as the Jackson Community, in vicinity of present day Blair Street. State Representative Samuel Neil Williams, Sr., a timber buying agent, built a two story frame home about 1865 said to have been located just south of the railroad on the east bank of the Little St. Marys River. For awhile he was able to get his home designated a regular train stop as he was a stockholder in the railroad company. That area, known as Williamsburg, lost its crude postal service to the new little settlement of Darbyville when it was determined the incline at Williamsburg was not favorable to locomotive stops and starts. (The railroad tracks had been completed from Jacksonville to this area in 1859 and on to Alligator (Lake City) in 1860.
Colonel Darby established ‘Darby’s Commissary’ for the locals working mostly in the turpentine distillery operation. The commissary served as an unofficial post office and a place to meet and exchange community chatter in the mud-infested area referred to as Darbyville Village. He served as postmaster in his huge two story frame store facing the railroad. General merchandise was sold on the ground floor, and the second story was used for clothing.
In 1880, a large sprawling city block-sized hotel was built by Confederate Captain Carr B. McClenny who had settled in the area after coming from Virginia to cut timber for the post-war boom in the north. He found that a turpentine distillery and a store, with mail facilities, were run by Colonel John Darby. And, to his great joy, he found the Colonel’s daughter Ada attractive, and the two were soon wed, becoming heirs to the Darby holdings. Capt. McClenny hoped to entice the affluent northern people seeking to invest in Florida land to purchase his property and also to settle in the area. Rather wealthy for the times, he and some other townspeople ambitiously platted out a new town near Darbyville. The Darby family was slowly disappearing from the scene. Thus, after four parent communities, in an unbroken chain for 54 years, the ‘new’ platted community was, in 1883, officially called McClenny by the Florida Improvement and Colonization Society. (Spelling eventually changed to Macclenny). Although dubbed Darbyville in the early 1870's, the 1880 railway itinerary of the Florida Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad used the name ‘MacClenny’ (note spelling change due to railroad mistake). The postmaster continued to use the name ‘Darbyville’ until 1882. Later, the name ‘MacClenny’ became more popular.
According to official county records, as early as 1885 an effort was being made to move the county seat from Sanderson to Macclenny. On Dec. 7th of that year a petition of a number of citizens was presented to the County Commissioners for an election for the removal of the county site. A committee of three was appointed to examine the petition. The petition was granted in the Dec. 14, 1885 meeting and minutes read, “ that Tuesday, the 26th day of January be appointed the day holding said election.” Election inspectors were appointed in this meeting. On Feb. 22, 1886 the tabulation of votes were:

For Removal ---- Against Removal ---- Total

Sanderson Dist. No. 1

10 ---- 134 ---- 152
Olustee Dist. No. 2
36 ---- 26 ---- 62
Macclenny Dist., No. 3
138 ---- 00---- 138
Johnsville Dist. No. 4
20 ---- 48 ---- 68
Glen St. Mary dist. No. 5
30 ---- 12 ---- 42

Total Votes

243 ---- 220 ---- 463

In the report of these official records it was noted in the meeting of Feb. 1, 1886 ‘that this Board has no Jurisdiction to act in this matter and the election so held in Conformity to said order for said Election has no legal effect and is therefore illegal, void and non effect’. The tally of the votes was as listed above. The record goes on to state, ‘Resolve that this Board employ Counsel to defend said cause before Supreme Court and that the Chairman of this Board be empowered to select and employ said Counsel.’

It has been said by old-time county residents that in 1886, the county courthouse in Sanderson (presumably located where the original home of Tommy Fraser is located-later owned by Watson Goodwin) burned, destroying all of the county’s official records. And they say, Mr. McClenny, and other citizens, immediately began a campaign to have the county seat removed from Sanderson to McClenny even offering free land to Sanderson citizens who would move also. As of this writing, I found no mention in county records, or newspapers, reporting a fire. In my 40 years of experience as a researcher I have found that ofttimes the burning of a courthouse is a myth. Consulting with whom I believe to be Baker County’s foremost historian, Gene Barber, he has drawn the same conclusion as I, that the courthouse at Sanderson never burned. Records in our present day courthouse go back much farther than has been said ‘all of the courthouse records burned’. So we know that all the records did not burn. And, if you will note in the official records I have included, the Baker County Board of Commissioners sent the sheriff to bring to Macclenny all of the public records. Much more is written in the County Commission minutes concerning this move of power from Sanderson to Macclenny. An official record recorded below has been gleaned in part as it was written. Official County Commission records report that at a special Commission meeting on August 23, 1886, the Board of County Commissioners ordered that an election take place on Thursday, September 30, 1886 to determine if the present County seat should be moved from Sanderson. The examination of the returns revealed 241 votes for moving the county seat to Macclenny versus 207 votes for keeping the county seat in Sanderson. (A difference of 34 votes.) The election was not an easy battle but the change did emerge under the democratic system. Official records state that on February 7, 1887 Sheriff J. M. VanbuKink was ordered to move all the Baker County public property from Sanderson to McClenny. (Note that the record made no mention of a fire or destroyed records, but all property was to be moved). Notes from the County Commission Minutes Book A page 217 dated Monday, Feb., 7, 1887 interestingly stated, “Moved and carried that the following resolution be placed upon the Minutes ‘To Wit’ where as an election held on the 30th day of September A.D. 1886 for County site of Baker County Florida the town of McClenny in said county received a majority of all the votes cast at said election and thereby became said county site and where as a new courthouse has been recently erected at said county site by Hon. C.B. McClenny which said courthouse is now ready for occupancy. It is therefore ordered that J.H. Van-bukink, sheriff of said county, shall proceed at once to move all the public property of said county from Sanderson late county site to McClenny now the county site and place said property in said new Courthouse employing therefore suitable help at the expense of said county, ordered further that hereafter all the public business required by law to be transacted at the county site shall be transacted at McClenny, and, all officers required by law to hold their office at the county site shall remove at once their office to the Courthouse in said town of McClenny, Ayes, Rowe-Rice-Berry-Nays, Jennings-Thompson. Moved and seconded, court adjourned to meet next Monday at McClenny.” Page 230 shows that the first meeting was held, September 5, 1887, in the new Courthouse in Macclenny, Florida. The event was celebrated with fireworks and shotgun blasts. In Sanderson, it was reported, there was almost armed rebellion in the streets as the citizens saw their major income source depart. County Clerk records reveal that on September 9, 1887 Carr B. and Ada McClenny granted property to the Baker County Commissioners, for the purpose of building a county courthouse. The land transaction was recorded in CRB ‘D’; pages 73, 74 , 75 . The frame structure was completed in 1888. Current Property Appraiser, Gary Barber, evaluated the official public record deeded by the McClennys’ and determined the location was on the northeast corner Block 58 on McIver Street bordered by Fifth St. which is in the same block of the present-day brick courthouse built in 1908. Old timers say they remember that the building, belonging to the Dawkins Lodge, stood directly behind the current location of the Macclenny Woman’s Club which is Block 44. The Baker County Standard reported that after the 1908 courthouse was built, the old courthouse was first leased to Tate Powell, Sr., then later sold to Dawkins Lodge. Records indicate there was another court house used after the one located behind the Woman’s Club.
In any case, Macclenny’s economy and growth were both enhanced during the mid-1880s. An 1885 Florida guidebook had described Darbyville/McClenny as a former saw mill settlement having a population of 200 with three churches and land worth from $5 to $25 an acre.
By 1887 there was a cotton gin, newspaper, school (St. James Academy and boarding school for girls), churches, blacksmith shop, barber shop and a millinery shop. This growth was short lived because in 1888 a tragedy occurred when Yellow Fever struck and it was reported that at least 90 percent of the population in Darbyville/Macclenny, Cedar Creek, Margaretta, Sanderson and Olustee was wiped out. After this tragic event, Darbyville was mentioned no more, and the town was, from that time, called, Macclenny.
As the new century dawned, the site for developing was mostly open marsh land with structures of frame design in a simple rectangular plan exhibiting squared false fronts. There were a few log structures scattered about. Some northern settlers had constructed some fine homes in the sector. Mr. McClenny’s hotel was the social hub of the community and local news articles of that era report there were balls, concerts, and theatrical performances either in the hotel’s commodious dining room or on its wide porches. Over night rates for the hotel guests were from $2 to $2.50.

On November 4, 1907 the Board of County Commissioners, comprised of J. A. Taylor, J. E. Sessions, J. E. Burnsed, S.E. Dobson and J. W. Mann discussed the necessity of a new court house with a vault being built for the safe keeping of county records. It was decided to do so on December 9, 1907. The minutes of this Board meeting state that at this time it was resolved that five mill tax be levied for the period of five years for the sole purpose of erecting the court house and that said court house shall not exceed that of $40,000 dollars. On January 6, 1908, Mr. E.C. Horsford, architect for the proposed court house, presented plans to the Board. Bids were advertised in The Baker County Standard. Of the two bids for plans received, the Board ordered that the plans and specifications by E.C. Horsford be modified. Again bids for the construction were published in The Baker County Standard. Of the three offers received, the bid of the Mutual Construction Company housed in the Tyler Building in Louisville, Kentucky was accepted as the lowest bid of $19, 985 submitted with a certified check for $2,000. The local newspaper reported (from official records) that the area selected for the new courthouse would be “commencing at the northeast corner of block 58, then running South one hundred feet; thence running west two hundred feet, thence running north thirty feet, thence running east one hundred and seven feet; thence running north seventy feet, thence running east ninety three feet to the point of beginning in the town of Macclenny as per map thereof.” The land was owned by Mrs. Jane Herndon, a widow, and her heirs who received ‘in consideration of the sum of one hundred and forty dollars.’ On the 20th day of July 1907, Ada and C.B. McClenny filled out an official deed with the county to ‘rectify a mistake that was made in the description of a deed that was made on the 8th day of September 1887 and which was filed and recorded in Baker County Records Book ‘D’ pages 73-76. (The mistake being the street name Macclenny Avenue was used and it should have read McIver Ave). The correction was made in Deed Book ‘D’ page 800. Both the Herndon and McClenny properties are described as being on lot 58, at the corner of McIver and Fifth Streets. On September 4, 1908, J.R. Lindsey and his wife Lola deeded property to the county for One hundred and twenty five dollars on the north west corner of Lot 58. (This piece of property ran east to the corner of Sixth Street and in later years was owned by the late Wilma Cook Morris)
A news article in The Baker County Standard stated that the land for the new courthouse would be filled in with sand brought in by mule and wagon. The building itself would be constructed with brick purchased from a brick yard in neighboring Jacksonville.

THE NEW COUNTY COURT HOUSE 1908

While mules and wagons hauled in fill-sand and dirt to prepare for Baker County’s newest courthouse, impressive plans on the drawing board revealed a novel architectural appearance much different from the county’s other structures. The people watched with pride as the picturesque ornate design took shape. It was the first of its kind in the state. Unique features included patterned-rolled, galvanized sheet metal eaves; colored brick mortar, angled corner joints; four tower-like octagonal corner rooms radiating from the central section; There were cast iron mantels and pressed tin ceilings. The county was but forty-seven years old when it was erected in 1908 and Macclenny had been the county seat only a quarter of a century. The Board received and took possession of the new courthouse on December 28, 1908. By the turn of the 21st century, this building would be acclaimed as the oldest remaining official building in Macclenny.

On January 4, 1909 official records show that three bids were received on the lease of the former Old Court House building. Tate Powell Sr.’s bid was $16.00 a month for a period of five years; that of E. Long was $300 per year with an option to purchase at $650; that of J.B. McCormick was $15 per month for a period of four years. The Board subsequently agreed to draw up a lease with Tate Powell, Sr., the Publisher of The Baker County Standard.
Over two years later the Clerk was authorized by the board to run a notice in the Baker County Standard that they would sell to the highest cash bidder between the hours of 11 a.m. and 12 o’clock noon the first Monday in May 1911, that being the legal sale day for the ol’ courthouse building and lot in Block 44 town of Macclenny beginning 93 feet, then South 12 feet to McIvor Avenue, then East on the North side of McIvor Avenue 214 feet to place of beginning. On May 2, 1911 the Board sold the building to Dawkins Lodge #60. (Lot 44 is the location of today’s Macclenny Woman’s Club)
In 1917 the new courthouse was made even more ornate by adorning its crown with an elaborate decorative clock topped by a gleaming tower ball. The massive clock was installed by Clarence Milton, father of former Baker County school superintendent, Harold Milton. The steeple included a 600 pound tower bell that could be heard tolling a couple of miles away. Local craftsman Art Rowe was engaged for $5 a month, and was a faithful caretaker for the monumental timepiece until he moved away in 1941. The clock never stopped running during those years, and it kept perfect time except for a few occasions when it was said flying squirrels climbed in the tower and dropped pecan shells in the gears. The weekly awkward climb into the clock tower for the almost quarter of a century was not missed by Rowe but about a half dozen times, and when he was absent he always had someone to take his place. Art’s brother, John, took the job for a few years after his brother left town.
At that time, in the chronology of our county’s history, it is reasonable to doubt if anyone would have predicted how significant the building would become to the county but today, as the county’s oldest public building, it is the object of phenomenon for local historians and genealogists who seek to collect and report stories of its past. What, for instance, has been uttered from its portals by the long-ago political hopefuls, and Governors and gubernatorial candidates who have been known to speak from its steps. What took place during infamous murder trials heard in its majestic upstairs court room. Was it perhaps your grandpa, or mine, or maybe both of them, who are said to have walked through its threshold either to see the local sheriff or do business with other county officials? More often than not, visitors were laden with home grown vegetables or fresh farm eggs for their favorite official’s family. Elections were held within its plastered walls and some citizens have reported spending all night and into the morning in its halls as votes were tallied by the light of a kerosene lamp while those counting the votes, and marking with number two pencils, yelled ‘Tally’. In those days it was more usual than not to see townsmen, with pistols hanging from their hip pockets, hovering around the premises making sure every vote was counted correctly and affairs were kept in an orderly fashion. A former county sheriff, Shannon Green, was murdered in its doorway and this legend lives on.

As the county flourished the need for a larger, more modern, courthouse emerged. In the Feb 24, 1939 edition of The Baker County Press was this headline, ‘Roosevelt Approves WPA Project For A New Court House’. The article said that ’bonds in the amount of $50,000 have been voted by the freeholders for the construction of the courthouse’. In April the paper reported that Senator J.D. Dugger of Macclenny offered a measure to the Senate which would permit the use of $20,000 in surplus gasoline taxes by the Baker Board of County Commissioners for the matching of the Federal sums offered toward the cost of constructing the proposed office building for the Baker County executives. The Baker County Press announced in the August 9th, 1940 edition that the cornerstone was laid for the new courthouse on Tuesday by the Masons. In part the article stated, “With Smith L. Turner of Williston, most worshipful grandmaster of Masons in Florida, as the presiding officer, members of the order met Tuesday afternoon to lay the cornerstone for Baker County’s new courthouse. The ceremony, open to the public, was largely attended by residents of Macclenny and surrounding territory and by county, State and Federal officials. The new courthouse of brick and stone is being built with Federal co-operation through the WPA.” The article went on to name all the Masons throughout Florida who attended. County Commissioners at that time were C.M. Barber, CHMN, J.S. Croft, Bryant Davis, E.D. Harvey, George Raulerson and J.A. Burnett, Clerk. The Bond Trustees were B.J. Padgett, CHMN, T.M. Dorman and Aubrey M. Green. Due to World War II, building was halted on the Revival style building that was designed by Roy A. Benjamin, of Jacksonville. Local citizen, Allen Milton, remembers he and neighborhood boys played in the skeletal structure as youngsters and the excitement created among them when going down into the dark dungeon (basement). After the war, building resumed and on Wednesday, December 20, 1944 Governor Spessard L. Holland dedicated the new $100,000 Baker County Courthouse at 11 O’clock in the morning. The day began at 6 a.m. with a wild game breakfast in the Hotel Annie (located on Macclenny Avenue in the present day Baker County Standard and Chamber of Commerce buildings area) and at 7 a.m. a dove shoot. Introduction of the distinguished guests was done by Senator Edwin Fraser. At 12 Noon there was a cocktail party at the Macclenny Club Home and at 1 p.m. guests were treated to a wild game dinner in the Hotel Annie. Mayor John T. Alsop (of Jacksonville) was the speaker. By the first of the year in 1945, officials moved into one of the most dignified courthouse creations in the state. The sprawling new building was located on the north side of Hwy 90 on the east end of the city. The first couple to marry in the new county court house was Marie and David Waters of Jacksonville whose son Donald owns and operates Pier 6 Seafood Restaurant in present day Macclenny. They were married by Judge Brown who had to step over drop cloths and paint buckets to find room to perform the ceremony. The 1945 census showed a total of 6,326 inhabitants in Baker County. Although the County Commissioners were urged at the time to transfer the old courthouse clock works to the new building it was decided not to do so. They did agree to keep the clock running where it was. However, the clock was forgotten by everyone except a few sentimental beings such as Art Rowe. Reflecting once on that silent span in the courthouse clock’s history, he recalled that the hands didn’t move for five or six years, not because of mechanical but human failure. The clock, he said, was still in perfect condition. It just needed some dependable person to look after it. To the rescue came a ‘Jack of all Trades,’ Dr. John Holt, a sheer genius of a man, who for a while, before leaving town, donated his time to keep the grand ol’ timepiece in running order. After Dr. Holt, a local jeweler, Johnny Wales, was hired to wind the clock. He soon moved away and in 1956 John Hurst replaced him. A now ailing Art Rowe climbed the tower ladder one last time to demonstrate to John the oiling and winding procedure that was imperative to do regularly every seven days. Art once related how much strength it took to crank two huge weights, a total of a ton and a half, to a height of 25 feet. In 1956, at age 67, Art could still wind the cranks, the equivalent of hoisting 100 to 150 pounds. When Hurst died a few years later, the clock fell idle again and towns people, who depended upon its performance to regulate their daily work schedule and mealtime hours, felt the immense loss. In time, the ol’ courthouse itself fell prey to old age but braced up in 1948 to house, for many years, the Baker County Health Department and the Boy Scouts of America. Unforeseen at the time, the regal ol’ edifice was being preserved for a future pivotal use.
In 1961, Emily F. Taber, a local woman and a lover of books, began to fulfill a long time dream to begin a public library for the county’s citizens. Before her marriage to George Taber, owner of the Glen St. Mary Nursery, she worked in the Jacksonville Public Libraries. As she drove her children to Jacksonville on Saturdays to use the reference materials for their school work, she became determined that other children and her grandchildren would have the opportunity to enjoy the convenience of a community library. She believed that a public library was a necessary and vital cultural contribution to society so as she turned her energies and enthusiasm toward this ambition. Members and friends of the St. James Episcopal Church donated a room to house her project. They also gave her a $25 budget, and agreed to volunteer their services to assist in her work. From her own library collection, and collections of citizens such as Mrs. Willie Mae (Will) Gilbert and, Mrs. Elizabeth (Walter) Dopson. Ms. Taber began her mission in June 1961, with 600 books. She persistently sought ways to accumulate additional books. She petitioned county commissioners, lobbied Tallahassee lawmakers, assisted in fund raisers, and spent countless hours volunteering her steady and reliable services as she watched her dream expand. When the little room became overcrowded, the women of the church invited the County Commissioners for lunch. The commissioners agreed there was a need for a county library and soon the repository was incorporated into the Baker Free Public Library and moved in 1962 to the Hodges Building next to Williams Appliances on College Street. It was given an operating budget of $100 per month plus donations from Friends of the Library. Mrs. Ruth Cone became the official librarian. She worked two hours a day and received $1 an hour for her services until her death in 1972. The townspeople began to realize the library was answering a need in the county so they pitched in to help make it a success along with generous donations from The Lion’s Club, Macclenny Women’s Club, Junior Woman’s Club and Garden Club. The City of Macclenny began financial support as well as the County and City of Glen St. Mary. In 1970 the upstairs of the palatial ol’ courthouse building became available and the county commission was asked by Ms. Taber if the ever growing archives could have the space for their library. At the time, the Health Department was still housed on the ground floor, and cumbersome voting booths had been stored in the front hallway, so the library team enlisted the support of a cherry picker to assist them in lifting the library’s 10,000 plus book collection from the ground into a second floor window. There the library functioned, growing in leaps and bounds. Then in 1975 the local Health Department outgrew the aging building. Although the structure was in great need of repair with a leaking roof, a fragile air conditioning system, old wiring and inadequate lighting, the group of determined library enthusiasts quickly spread out over the entire building. In 1982, Ms. Taber was recognized for her contributions when she was the recipient of the Service To Mankind Award from the local Sertoma Club where it was officially announced that arrangements had been made to rename the Baker County Free Public Library as the Emily Taber Public Library.

Even though the building was now listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings, the library staff and volunteers, along with the town’s citizens, watched helplessly as the brick’s luster faded, paint peeled and cracked both inside and out the once grand and glorious old building. The once faithful and stalwart clock had fallen to silence and decay and little was being done to restore its past stability and grandeur, until that is, along came Peggy McCollum and a few faithful followers.

THE PEGGY McCOLLUM STORY

Peggy and Oscar Olin ‘Mac’ Mc Collum moved to Baker County on June 12, 1966 and settled into a big gleaming white rambling home on the Glen St. Mary Nursery. Mac had taken a job with the nursery company after serving in the Navy for three and a half years. The couple was expecting their first child in six months.
Having traveled while in the Navy living in Newport, Rhode Island, Philadelphia , Pennsylvania, Woodbury, New Jersey, Charleston, S.C., Norfolk, Virginia and lastly Kittery, Maine, the couple was happy to settle in Florida where Peggy had spent her formative years. Peggy was born in Valdosta, Georgia on July 29, 1943 to Vera Mae Zipperer and Albert Edward Carter. Before her move to Jacksonville at age 10, she had lived in Jennings, so for Peggy ‘it was good to be home in Florida’. Peggy had graduated from Jacksonville’s Paxon High School in 1961. She worked a couple of years for Independent Life Insurance Company where she met a lot of people from Baker County but never dreamed she would someday live there and resume friendships. During the summer of 1961 she met Mac, the son of a notable Jacksonville attorney whose roots and prominence were well rooted in the community. At the time, Mac was working as a beach lifeguard during his summer break from classes at the University of Florida. After his graduation in 1962, he joined the Navy. The couple was planning a large May 1963 wedding to be held in the Officer’s Club at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, but Mac was unexpectedly sent to Pennsylvania to attend a four month Damage Control School and refused permission to return home for the wedding. When Mac called home to advise Peggy, he suggested she come there for the wedding. Peg complied. Her wedding dress was still at the seamstress and she didn’t have time to wait for it to be finished, so with her mother Vera, and brother Glenn, they quickly drove to Rhode Island so she could get her blood test there and attend to other necessities. She was followed by Mac’s parents, Skye and Olin McCollum, who had stayed behind to cancel all the formal wedding invitations previously mailed to guests, and to wait for Peggy’s wedding dress to be finished. When it was, they drove to Rhode Island to join Peggy and Mac. With both families present, and one wedding guest, the couple exchanged vows in a lovely chapel on the OCS Navy base. According to Peggy it was a very special occasion.
After their move to Florida the couple settled into what she calls ‘the country life’. Their little son, Michael Hedrick McCollum arrived on January 25, 1967. Peggy, soft spoken with a distinct southern drawl, is a typical well-bred southern belle. She pridefully tended her first child, planted her first vegetable garden, made jelly and ate wild game hunted and killed by Mac. She cited her agrarian homespun lifestyle as ‘a wonderful existence’.

In order to meet more local people, Peggy joined the Junior Woman’s Club. She quickly resumed friendships with people she had met at Independent Life in Jacksonville. One such friend was Glenda Sharman, with whom she had once shared the distinction of being selected as an Independent Insurance Calendar Girl. Peggy also became involved in the Baker County Free Public Library as a volunteer. The library was, at the time, still located in the Hodges building on College Street. She soon became the Secretary to the Library Board. On August 13, 1969, Peggy and Mac welcomed a second son, Stephen Carter McCollum to their family. Meanwhile, Peggy regularly served as a volunteer for the library. In 1970 the good news came that the library could move to the upstairs of the recently vacated court house building. That is when the library staff and Junior Woman’s Club volunteers enlisted the help of a cherry picker to hoist the 10,000 plus book collection through an upstairs window. Peggy worked with other volunteers to get the new library surroundings settled.
In 1975 when the Health Department vacated the downstairs of the building the library expanded into that area. The library staff (Barbara Taylor was now the library director) and library volunteers were aghast as they came to realize the damage the ravages of the leaking roof and water soaked floors, inadequate lighting and dangers of the old electrical wiring were sadly having on the decaying building. The County Commissioners, City of Macclenny, Town of Glen St. Mary, private businesses and individuals had made the operation of the library possible, but these sources couldn’t meet the costs for the much needed repairs.

Peggy and Mac’s daughter, Kathryn Taylor McCollum, arrived on April 20, 1977. That same year the library received funds from a restoration grant. In 1980, Peggy began working a few hours at the library. In 1981, when Kathryn was four and in pre-school, Peggy began working 25 hours weekly at the library. In 1983, when Library Director Barbara Taylor left, Peggy took that position. The library now had 65,000 books in its collection and a circulation around 4,000 books a month. That year the Friends of the Emily Taber Public Library became officially recognized by the state and gave much support to the library. It was through the Friends that the old court house building, housing the library, was added to the National Register as a Historical Landmark. That move set the stage for fund raising and grant applications. In 1987, Peggy began working full-time as Library Director and in 1988-1989 she applied for a State Historical Preservation Grant but the application was not successful. She then spent countless hours in Tallahassee researching the ways and means of successful grant applications, determined to do her best for the library and building. She learned that matching funds and local support from the community were imperative to have before being awarded state money. The Library Board and Friends of the Library began holding fund raisers in the spring of 1990. Working side by side with Peggy was her husband Mac, Emily Taber, Gloria Taylor, Mary Covin, Carmela Hedding, Glenda Hines, Patsy Groves, Jo Davis, Vera Scott Rhoden and countless other volunteers who planned luncheons, fashion and craft shows, bazaars, and yard sales . She petitioned local governments once more, and they all agreed to pledge funding on the condition the state awarded a grant. By now Peggy had become much more informed and in 1990 she reapplied for the State Historical Preservation Grant. By 1992, The Friends and staff of the Library had raised a pledge for $25,000 along with letters of support from the people of Baker County. Under her leadership, perseverance and determination, the final total of funds raised by the Friends of the Library and Library staff miraculously rose to more than $50, 625.91. Total grant money secured was more than $392,592.84. Peggy lost no time in hiring architect Kenneth Smith of Jacksonville for all phases of the rejuvenation of the majestic ol’ building housing the library. It was the beginning of a five phase renovation, spanning 10 years.
Although Peggy is quick to give praise and credit to others, it was through her leadership and foresight as library director that she spearheaded the grant applications, and supervised construction restoring the walls and ceilings to the original plaster and tin crown molding, as well as tin ceilings in some places where the rain had caused rust and irreparable damage. And the ol’ town clock? Well, Art Rowe would be mighty proud that it has a new beginning and will run efficiently on modern day electricity. The only time anyone has to ‘tend’ the clock is to set it after a time change.
Today, Baker County’s oldest public building, the majestic and regal 1908 uniquely constructed Baker County Court House, housing the Emily Taber Library, is a marvelous work and a wonder. Gone is the crumbling paint and stained eaves and bricks, the decaying clock works, the leaking roof, dim lighting, fragile wiring and antiquated air-conditioning. Thanks to Peggy’s inspiration and foresight there is a stately, proud edifice standing on the corner of Fifth Street and McIver Blvd which has rightly and appropriately been endowed with the name, The Peggy McCollum Building. It stands to proclaim her perseverance, steadfastness, fortitude and valor........... for without her vision it would have crumbled to dust.
Peggy McCollum is as unique as the building that once again stands with pride in our community. May the present and future citizens of this county never forget, and always cherish, the legacy she has given us.......... a proven lesson in faith and The Impossible Dream.


LAND ACQUIRED FOR BAKER COUNTY COURTHOUSE BUILT 1908

Record Book ‘D’ Page 73-74:
8th day of September 1887: Carr B. McClenny and wife Ada of Village of Macclenny (as spelled in deed) and The County Commissioners of said county and their successors in office in trust for and for the uses and benefits of all the people of said county for county purposes. Paralled with Fifth Street 66 feet, thence in a westerly direction paralled with said McIvor Ave 214 feet etc.

Page 232 Deed Book ‘D’ page 800: Ada Macclenny and C.B. McClenny to County Commissioners July 20, 1907. Land in an Easterly direction paralled with said McIvor Ave 214 feet in a southerly direction.

Recorded in deed book ‘J’ pages 536 through 540. On 2nd day of September A.D. 1908 Jane Herndon, widow, J. Deese and his wife Dmeilla Deese, J.R. Lindsey and the wife Lola B. Lindsey, all of Baker County Florida and Willis Altman, his wife Eliza Altman, Lillie Herndon, widow, Domaris Herndon, unmarried, all of Duval County Fl., G.W. Herndon and his wife Fannie Herndon of county of Lee in state of Florida, Julian Herndon, widower of the county of St. Johns, Clyde Herndon, a minor, conveying sole heirs of the late John R. Herndon deceased of Baker County who died possessed of the heirs conveyer property and other property in county and the county commissioners of said county of Baker deeming it to the best interest to purchase the land herein after described as a site for erecting a court house in the Town of Macclenny in said county. Board of County Commissioners consisting of J.A. Taylor, Chairman, J.E. Sessions, J.E. Burnsed, S.E. Dobson and J.W. Mann. (Purchased land from above people. Whose names all appear with seal in record.

Book ‘K’ page 61, J.R. Lindsey made 4th day of September 1908. Between Lindsey and his wife Lola B. Lindsey, sold property for sum of One hundred twenty five and no/100 cents.


Submitted by LaViece Smallwood 6/22/02

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