Gene Barber replies 4/5/2002

By now, some of you nice readers have learned that there has been a bit of controversy over a mural painted for our courthouse addition. Some of you have heard more than you want to hear about the feud between our board of county commissioners and a circuit court judge who seemed to take issue that some undeniable facts of history were depicted on one of the panels. Some haven’t been able to see anything but a dispute about “hanging a picture.” Not a few are able to look beyond the hanging of a picture and have seen the danger of our county’s sovereignty being eroded at a rapid pace.

Through it all, the painter - that’s me - has tried to restrain commenting publicly, and it has been a Herculean effort to maintain silence when media people called repeatedly, media people who seemingly had never been introduced to the word “no.” Yes, I did come out with a few allusions in my presentation to the public back in January, and Channel 12 did capture a short heated remark from me after we were informed that the circuit court judge had issued some sort of contempt orders just prior to our program (too late for us to stop the program).

It was difficult not to lash out at somebody when my Blazer and front porch were egged. It took strength when my yard was trashed three times to hold back and make myself believe it was the work of pranksters.

The tongue was bitten when I read the thinly veiled comments that I was writing (in the mural captions) as a racist (Lord, we do love to toss that word around these days. Sort’a reminds me of the Salem Witch Trials).

But the most hurting symptom of this exhausting ill situation was when…and I want this to be read carefully and mulled over…some of my black friends snubbed me and others reverted to addressing me as “Mr. Barber” rather than “Gene.”

Now that the problem of where to hang the mural without giving umbrage to the viewer has been settled (seems folks will be less offended on the ground floor than they would be on the second story), I’ve decided it’s about time for me to make a statement.

Much of my statement has already been given above, and for those who created the non-issue problem, I trust you will see from what was stated above that more was happening than the arguments and standoffs as reported in the media.

I am still recovering from being stunned that some intelligent people allowed themselves to be caught up in the currently popular polarization of races and that they held that to be more precious than maintaining community pride, oneness, and independence. I am appalled that there are those who appoint themselves as leaders in this or that community or element of society but allow themselves to be manipulated by one or a few guys behind stage pulling their strings.

But to exit on a positive note, as my dear old grandfather Barber often advised, “Ain’t no matter how bad it is, something good’ll come from it.”

The judge did us a favor (thank you, Your Honor); (1) the mural will now be available to all the public rather than just those in the courthouse purely on court business. (2) Community spirit and good ol’ fashioned American independence has been displayed and put to use. (3) Several of my thinking black friends believe I and what I attempted to do in the mural was unjustly treated (Your Honor, some have held prayer services for my health and survival of the row that was unnecessarily created). (4) For the first time in many a year, Baker County received positive publicity.

Here are a few suggestions to smoothing the path away from the recent controversy so that we can be free to move on to matters of much more importance. I would like the folks who reside in judicial ivory towers to come over and visit their constituency and get to know a large and strong section of their circuit. I greatly desire that we Americans will eventually learn that all our heritages and cultures are worthy of preservation and are necessary to our country’s strength and uniqueness. We must cease using our perspective and modern day standards to judge and revise history. We must dissuade anyone from furthering the division of the races for his/her own political and personality aggrandizement. We must remember that the future of our nation depends on rationality as well as emotion. Last, but not least…lighten up, America.

Florida Times Union 7 December 2001

Mural depicting Baker's history creating its own debatable legacy

Baker County Press, Macclenny, Florida, 29 Nov 2001

Black robes vs. white hoods; it's really all about censorship

ON THE RECORD by NANCY SZANTO

So the black robes want to rout the white hoods.

The Gainesville Clan of Judges wants to eliminate the Ku Klux Klan from a historic mural painted to fit in the upstairs hallway of the new courthouse.

People who haven't seen the four panels should make the trek to the courthouse this week to form their own judgment about a teeny little area at the top left of panel three. Shown are a trio of hooded Klans-men on horseback, admittedly depicting a very unsavory part of Baker County history.

But just because it's unsavory doesn't mean we should ignore it, turn our backs on it, sweep it under the nearest rug--or as Chief Circuit Judge Stan Morris wants, paint it out of the picture.

If we do that sort of "painting out," we risk our children failing to learn the lessons of history. And what we fail to learn. we are "doomed to repeat.

Has Judge Morris not visited or at least heard of the Holocaust Museum in Washington. DC, commemorating the thousands of people who died in concentration camps during World War II? It was designed specifically to keep alive the memory of that awful era in hopes we will be horrified enough not to ever let it happen again.

So why is it politically correct to depict an ocean away-the European culprits of the Holocaust-but not so when it's close to home? Or would Judge Morris and his Gainesville cohorts like to also expunge those horrors from our history books?

How about the annual Pearl Harbor Day, the remembrances of the Bataan Death March-and what will surely become a yearly recollection of the September 11 terrorist attacks--once we get through the first year of monthly mournings? Why are those not also targeted by the lack Robe Clan?

Again, is it because "outsiders" committed the crimes, where the Klan was home folks we'd prefer to forget?

It's odd that our tax money is freely tossed out to subsidize "artists" who churn out distasteful, obscure, even what many of us would consider pornographic pieces of junk. But the mural was privately commissioned, not a cent of even local tax money, and to even consider censoring it for political correctness is ob-scene.

Those who make the effort to view the mural should show up at the December 4 meeting of the Baker County Commission to voice community sentiment about a community masterpiece painted by a community artist and historian.

It's possible Gene Barber will be present to defend his work. But it would be better if the community, as the product of the 6000 years of Baker County evolution he painted, does it for him.

The meeting starts at 4:00 pm in the County Administration Building behind the courthouse.

GENE BARBER'S REPLY 3 Dec 2001

"I have done my part, and now it is up to the community to solidly and firmly speak. I will not dignify the cheap attempt of Morris to gain publicity for himself by entering into a public controversy with him. I announced before hand what my stand was. I cannot add to it...NOR WILL I DEFEND MYSELF...BECAUSE I HAVE DONE NOTHING THAT NEEDS DEFENDING. I appreciate Ms. Szantos' editorial in last week's Press, but it was unfortunate that she used the word "defend." I consider the mural to be the culmination of my half century study of our county's history and of the half century practice of my craft, and I consider myself as having been insulted by the judge's attitude. If our courthouse has become the private domain of the circuit court, perhaps it is best that we install the mural where the general public will be able to visit and to contemplate the lessons to be learned from it. We must remember that although we have turned over to the circuit court judges unprecedented powers and immunities, none of them is a sacred cow...the majority can still speak and can even drown out the loud protests of the narrow and shallow minded minority that wishes to further erode our liberties."

Gene Barber Painting Mural

Gene Barber Painting Mural

Gene Barber Painting Mural

Gene Barber Painting Mural

Gene Barber Painting Mural

Gene Barber Painting Mural

Mural 1
upper left: Sheriff Joey Dobson and Magi Taber. upper right: Lin Taber. Lower left: Judge Joey Williams. Lower right: Creator and Artist of mural, Gene Barber.
The photos are from the first preview for the courthouse renovation committe held on 18 Oct, 2001, at the historic home of Lin and Magi Taber on the Glen Saint Mary Nurseries.
The mural will be installed after Thanksgiving in the gallery connecting the new section with the old.

Mural 2
top photo: Betty Taylor Sands and Lin Taber. Middle photo: County Commissioner Julie Combs. bottom photo: nursery workers with plants from Baker County that become world famous.

Mural 3
top photo: the momentous 1880's including the Macclenny militia knocked off its feet by the earthquake and introduction of the horticulture industry (workers and plants at the bottom).
middle photo: the last half of the 20th century showing the positive faces and diversity of population against the symbol of the nation (flag added after 11 Sept)
bottom photo: Gene Barber with his long time friend, Betty Taylor Sands (fellow student, fellow band member, and fellow teacher)

Mural 4
These three are of the dead and wounded at the Battle of Ocean Pond, 20 Feb,. 1864; the Seminole massacres of the 1835-1842 Indian War and the marrying of the white pioneers and Indians; and Mrs. George (Emily) Taber, Lin Taber, and Gene Barber in front of the 1880's section of the mural (the scenes in the background are of the '88 earthquake and the yellow fever epidemic.

Please view the scenes from the upper left of each panel, beginning with the left one, down to its lower right corner.

1 – Over a million years ago, the present Baker County lay in a large and shallow sandy-bottomed lagoon of the Atlantic Ocean. In time the land rose and the salt water receded. Brackish marshes resulted that invited much animal life, animal life that is no longer found in North America. The land rose even higher and the marshes were leached of salt. What remained became the county’s numerous swamps, ponds, and north-south aligned sand hills (prehistoric underwater ridges formed by the gentle and constant tidal flow).

2 – Proto-Indians left evidences of their time in this area in chert tools and weapons and pottery pieces. These items compare with those found in neighboring, counties which have been carbon dated at about 6,000 years before the present.

3 – The buffalo (bison) was among the wildlife here until the beginning of the Second Spanish Period in 1783.

4 – The Spanish knew of this area in the 1600’s as evidenced by the depiction of the Saint Mary’s River and Okeefeenokee Swamp on their maps of the time. They found the Timaqua/Utina people living here (no records have been found to date of an actual meeting between the Spanish and Indians in the present Baker County). The present Baker County is located in the northern part of the ancient Timaquan province of Potano.

5 – Anglo-American maps evince knowledge of this section of Florida in the mid 18th century. In 1795 a treaty was drawn up between the United States and Spain to determine the boundary between Georgia and Spanish Florida. Andrew Ellicott for the U.S. and Stephen Minor for the Kingdom of Spain were joined by Florida’s Governor Goyosa for the arduous task of finding the headwaters of the Saint Mary’s River, necessary for setting the boundary. They traveled to the headwaters of each of the three prongs before deciding that the northeastern corner of the present Baker County was the true beginning of the river. Ellicott ordered his men to set a cedar post in the ground and construct a mound of dirt over it to mark the site. While in the area, Mr. Ellicott reported extremely cold weather and 8 inches of snow along the Saint Mary’s.

6 – The troops of British Governor Col. James Moore of South Carolina and their Indian allies raided the aboriginal Floridians and the Spanish missions in the early years of the 18th century. The missions (none known. to have been closer than Alachua County) were destroyed, and most of the Timaqua either killed or driven out of the area. By the middle of the 1700’s other Indians from Georgia and Alabama began moving into Florida. Few authorities agree totally on the tribes of Creeks that made up the new settlers, called Seminoles collectively by most, but some tribal names that have been mentioned are Coweta, Hitchiti, Miccosukee, Muskhogee, Yamassee, Yuchi, and perhaps remnants of the aboriginal Timaqua. Hitchiti and Coweta are found in contemporary writings as having been in the present Baker County. Olustee, a Hitchiti town on Ocean Pond (then called Lake Spaulding) is the oldest extant community in the county. James Spaulding is supposed to have operated a trading post for the newly arrived Seminoles on the northeast shore of Lake Spaulding/Ocean Pond. Oral tradition places Fort Olustee on either the site of the Spaulding store or where Olustee Creek and Ocean Pond join on the lake’s south side. Many of the newly arrived Indians brought their black slaves and free black companions and mates with them. They also brought herds of cattle. Both the blacks and cattle were tempting to the eyes of the Georgians across the border.

7 – Tales have placed the famed and ill-fated Miccosukee war chief Osceola/William Powell, when he was a child, in the land on the southern fringes of the Okeefeenokee Swamp in the early 1800’s. He was with his mother Polly Ann and her extended family that she was leading to find a peaceful home in Florida. Years later, after his wife was stolen from him and sold into slavery, he was tricked by the US Army into talking peace and then was taken to die an ignominious death in captivity. When this same land was purchased by the United States Government several generations later, it would carry his name. If ever the United States of America chooses a symbol of national conscience, it must be Osceola.

8 – Anglo-Americans from Georgia and the Carolinas began moving across the line into the present Baker County even before Florida was taken from Spain in 1820, but it was from 1830 into the mid 1840’s that the first major influx of pioneers happened. This was when the communities (in alphabetical order) of Anderson’s Ferry/Johnson’s Ferry (Burnsed Church-Smith Bridge section), Barbers’ Station (Macclenny), Fort Moniac (above Baxter), Johnsville (Cuyler neighborhood), Pine Log Crossing (near Ellicott’s Mound), Raulerson’s Ferry (south of Baxter), and Yelvington’s Ferry (northwest of Macclenny) were established. The new white settlers were almost exclusively of Anglo-Celtic background. Wales, north Ireland, and the west and north of England contributed most strongly to the pioneer stock. They were farmers and cattle raisers. Their cows were the lean long horned sort known as scrub cows or piney woodsers. The new settlers, known as Crackers, from an old British term that can be likened to the modern “good ol’ boys”, brought few cows with them and almost no slaves. Those they had were mostly stolen from Florida Indians. When the Cracker pioneers arrived in Florida, they availed themselves of the Indians’ slaves, free blacks, and cattle. Such actions ignited a bitter enmity that eventually erupted into the Second Seminole War.

9 – A United States mail service was instituted here in the late 1820’s. The delivery was by horse and rider and was irregular. In 1833 it was replaced by a stage-coach mail and passenger service through the county. The east-west route was north of the present US 90 and the north-south route was approximately the present 121-228 (Georgia Road-Maxville Road).

10 – The earliest families brought their religion with them. The major faiths were Baptist and Methodist. The population was scattered and the distance between churches was great. Most churches of both denominations were content to hold services once a month and share their ministers with a few to several other churches. As a result of the infrequent meetings, each church usually held a weekend long service with basket dinners, a practice that has continued to the present in some churches and has given rise to the practice of visiting other fellowships between their own meetings. In the midst of the Second Seminole War (1835 – 1842) the Baptists were embroiled in a sometimes-bitter dispute over missions and predestination. They split into two schools of faith and order. The Methodists also experienced differences regarding certain rites and governing practices held over from the Anglican Church. Although the bitterness has disappeared, each denomination’s separate doctrine and order of worship factions continue.

11 – Indian raids during the Second Seminole War (1835 – 1842) drove several families back into Georgia, but it also brought new settlers into the area who had served in the Georgia militia here during the conflict. The Armed Occupation Act at the end of the war gave opportunities down in peninsular Florida to anyone who would be willing to protect his grant with force of arms. Some members of the first pioneering families loaded their families and went south. The Indian war caused atrocities to be committed by both whites and Indians. Several Cracker families were wiped out to a person. Some raids by both whites and Indians left orphans to be taken in by other families. This is when many Seminole children came into white families and imparted their blood into today’s Baker County citizens.

12 – Through rape and common-law and legal marriage, Cracker white and Indian blood was mingled, giving rise in future generations to the once popular designations of black or red to members of the same family among the old established strains.

13 – By 1850 families along the Saint Mary’s River had entered the timber cutting business and were floating their huge rafts of pine and cedar logs down river to Traders’ Hill, the nearest point for loading onto sea going crafts.

14 – In 1858, the sparsely inhabited area that became Baker County joined the rest of the nation in unprecedented speed of travel and communication. The laying of the Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad through here ended a long period of virtual isolation. Along with the rails came the telegraph. And with both came non-Cracker settlers, merchants, other religious faiths, and outside markets for local agricultural products and beef. The circular sawmill that had been introduced to Jacksonville in 1850 was brought by rail to this section of largely untapped timber resources and, thus, began the biggest industries this area had known or would know – lumber milling and naval stores. The sizes of pines, especially the long leaf variety, could not be imagined today. It was said that six to eight of them cut would clear an acre of land for cultivation. The cypresses were among the world’s largest trees. After the War Between the States, the DuFour Milling Company of Saint Mary’s, Georgia, and Eppinger and Russell of New York moved in to cut for the post war-rebuilding boom. Eppinger and Russell’s mill at Olustee was the largest on earth at the time. In forty years, the county was almost denuded.

15 – Between her secession from the United States of America and her joining the Confederate States of America, Florida considered herself a nation. On the eighth day of February, 1861, the Sovereign Nation of Florida created Baker County out of New River County and named it for the Hon. James M. Baker. Until that time, Baker County had been part of the ancient Timaqua province of Potano, East Florida of the British and

Spanish periods, and parts of the Counties of Saint Johns, Duval, Alachua, Columbia, and New River under the government of the United States. The county is comprised of approximately 585 square miles. The flat and rolling terrain is between 100 to 150 feet above sea level. It is drained eastward by streams into the Saint Mary’s River, which in turn flows to the Atlantic. It is drained westward by Olustee Creek and thence to the Suwannee River and on to the Gulf of Mexico. The ground is sandy with much clay deposits. Underlying is limestone of the Eocene age from 50 feet in the west and southwest to 350 feet in the east and north below the surface.

16 – Hardly had the county been formed than the War Between the States was declared. Several Baker County men and boys served in the Confederate Army. A few chose to enlist on the Union side, and not a few chose neither side and remained in hiding in the backwoods and swamps until after the war’s end. Several conscription evaders made for the deep southern and Gulf coasts of the state, both still relatively wild. Although tragedies and inconveniences of the war were felt by county residents almost from the start, it was not until early 1864 that the war came to them. Beginning with skirmishes east of the county in early February, Union troops made their way inland to the vicinity of Watertown east of Lake City.

17 - The Union Army was repulsed at Watertown and withdrew to Sanderson where they made camp on February 11.

18 –Thousands of Union soldiers gathered at Barber’s Plantation in the northwest of the present Macclenny, and on the morning of the 20th, made their way by three westward routes with the intent of disabling Florida. The Tallahassee Road north of the present US 90 carried several columns, the Lake City Road, which approximated the route of the present Interstate 10, carried other columns, and the remainder used the old turnpike alongside the railroad The Confederates were waiting in Olustee. Finally becoming impatient that the Union troops were long in coming to join the battle, Gen. Finegan ordered an advance and met the enemy just east of Olustee. The site gave its name to the Battle of Ocean Pond (reported by the news media as the Battle of Olustee). It was a bloody battle. The total casualties for both sides were estimated at more than 2,800, and that estimate is probably low.

19 – In death there is no difference in color of uniform or color of skin, so I have chosen to depict the Confederate and Union wounded and dying as one group. In the words of Dr. Isaac S. Coon, the County’s representative to the state’s secession convention and a Confederate veteran, “I’ve been to hell. I’ve seen hell. We make our own hell here on Earth. The only people who find glory in war are the ones who don’t have to fight it.”

20 – The naval stores industry began in the county as soon as the railroad entered. Turpentine distilleries operated along the entire stretch of rails, and some were in operation until the 1940’s. The United States experimental station at Olustee was responsible for bringing to the world many new products from the pine. In the late 1940’s during one of the county’s Pine Tree Festivals, it was estimated that between 75 and 80 percent of the county’s population derived its income from the pine either directly or indirectly.

21 – When the group known as the “Radical Republicans” gained control of the state in 1868, the Reconstruction program took an unpleasant turn. “The bottom rail’s on the top”, sang the ex-slaves. The reversed order was severely resented by a large segment of the white population. Lawlessness among ex-slaves and troublesome whites was the rule of the day. No relief was given by the carpetbag and scalawag government or by the Union troops. The result was the emergence of secret societies claiming to bring law and order to the county. One of these groups was the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that sometimes took vigilante justice to extremes but was sometimes the only control the county knew over those outside the law. The Klan faded from view at the end of Reconstruction. It had minor come-backs in the 1920’s and mid 1950’s. Since then it has become the subject of legend rather than a cause of fear.

22 – 1876 was the year when Baker County was recognized nationally for the second time (the first being the Battle of Ocean Pond in 1864). Due to the county’s questionable politics and voting irregularities, particularly in the Sapp precinct, there ensued a chain of somewhat confusing actions and events that resulted in much of the county’s returns being declared invalid. There was statewide fraud and violence. The telegraph wire between Jacksonville and Tallahassee was cut in several places at several times. The trestle over the Little Saint Mary’s River was burned. Republicans and their sympathizers were harassed and some were tarred and feathered. It was rumored that a few were weighted down and dropped into some of the numerous deep holes in the county’s creeks. Eventually, Baker County’s remainder of returns helped bring the state back into the control of the Democrats and, along with similar situations elsewhere, gave the electoral college votes to Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican. Hayes had promised to put an end to what he described as a shameful, money-wasting program called Reconstruction. Thus, Baker County, through no intent of its own, aided in ending occupation of the South by the Union Army. 1876 was also the year when the last Indians were seen in the county. A small family group was noticed late one afternoon following the rails east toward Jacksonville and out of the county’s history.

23 –Fires have affected the county greatly in its history. Among the most notable were those of the Pons Store and courthouse combination in the late 1860’s, the first frame courthouse in Sanderson in 1888, the courthouse in Macclenny in the early 1900’s. The flames that destroyed the Hotel McClenny in the early decades of the 20th century, the Powers Hotel in 1923, and the second Powers Hotel also damaged several other businesses and ruined some owners financially. The hotel on the Glen Saint Mary Nurseries burned in the late 1930’s. Much of Pinhook Swamp and the Okeefeenokee went up in flames in the early 1950’s, Because of a combined severe drought and the anti controlled woods burning laws of the past few decades, other devastating woods fires occurred in the 1990’s

24 - Hard freezes have severely affected the county in the past. At the beginning of the Second Seminole War, two winters of extreme cold forced several families into the straits of hunger. Some returned to their homes in Georgia to face the ills they knew rather than remain in Florida with an unknown future. Some braved the belligerent Seminoles and headed south for what they hoped would be frost-free homes. At the end of the century two more severe winters ended the county’s fledgling citrus growing industry.

25 - Old timers often dated events from, “the storm that blew the bell tower off the [Macclenny] Baptist Church.” Baker County has been fortunate to have missed the worst of the destructive hurricanes that have come through or near since the devastation of the 1895 storm. Two hurricanes in the last years of the 1940’s almost isolated the county by washing out dirt roads, flooding paved roads, and destroying bridges.

26 – 1888 was an unforgettable year for Baker Countians. The county seat was moved from Sanderson to Macclenny amid protest from Sanderson and Olustee and rejoicing in Macclenny and Glen Saint Mary. One eyewitness (and “earwitness”) said it sounded like the Battle of Ocean Pond all over again because of the firearms being discharged, some in protest and some in celebration. The frame courthouse at Sanderson was torched, but most records were saved. Clerk of Court Francis Pons called for citizens to bring in their documents for him to copy, thus saving much of the county’s valuable government and civil history. 1888 was the year when the county’s residents experienced the effects of the Charleston earthquake. On a sultry Sunday late afternoon the shock knocked the town’s drilling militia off its feet, broke a tooth of the town’s band tuba player who was practicing on the Hotel McClenny’s upper porch, stopped all pendulum clocks, and rocked babies in their cribs. There were widespread revival meetings with much church-joining (it was said the fervor lasted about two weeks). The people had scarcely recovered from the shock of the earthquake when the deadly yellow fever visited them. The Saint James Academy, the Hotel McClenny, and Dr. Shuey’s house south of Macclenny were used as hospitals. Hundreds died. Cemeteries were utilized day and night. The Red Cross team that came to aid the victims was made to jump off the train because the conductor refused to chance a stop and pick up the fever. The Red Cross nurses were the first civilians to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their dedicated service to the citizens of Baker County during the epidemic. The fever changed the county drastically. Many of the recently arrived Northerners died and their survivors returned to the North. The newly established Episcopal Churches closed their doors permanently (only the Macclenny church survived). The Saint James Academy for Young Women was closed, but reopened later as the temporary home of the Macclenny Grammar School. The Hotel McClenny was draped with black crepe for a year.

27 –The 1880’s marked the beginning of the horticulture industry for which the county has ever since been noted. Plants grown in the county have been sent to Japan, Russia, Kew Gardens, and all over the United States. The Taber azalea and the Ligustrum fraseri are two of the most well known products of the two largest nurseries in the county. Although not a county product, the Sarah Frost Camillia japonica, in itself a beautiful flower, gained wide attention as one of the most preferred rootstocks for hybrid camellias. The largest known Sarah Frost tree is in Baker County.

28 – After the shock of the malaria epidemic, the county’s population settled in to truck farming and tobacco raising with pecan groves following closely. When south Florida became more accessible and popular for almost yearlong growing, several families left for the muck farms of the lower peninsula. By the time of the economic crash of 1929, large scale farming was coming to a close. After the crash, several more families went south looking for second starts.

29 – The plant nurseries provided jobs in the last years of the 19th century for a large percent of the population. In addition, there was a sizable influx of new citizens from the Georgia Bend, the North, and other parts of the South, all seeking work on the nurseries. For the first time in its history Baker County saw women leave the house for outside work in the hothouses and fields of the nurseries. It would be the first time children would work outside the family farm. Blacks, heretofore, finding jobs only at sawmills and in the turpentine woods, or as domestics, could now be hired on for more regular hours and wages. Life was still difficult for the majority of Baker Countians, black and white.

30 – The Baxter Rebellion of 1904 was a macabre and embarrassing culmination of long standing enmity between certain families of the northeastern section of Baker County and the neighboring Georgia Bend. No official count has survived, but eyewitnesses estimated a score or more met violet deaths on that September Sunday evening and night. The state militia was called on to maintain order while Sheriff Herndon conducted his investigation. The trials that followed were bogged down in conflicting accounts and silent witnesses. Only two men were convicted. Later historians attempted to turn the shameful episode into a racial incident, but the truth is that several unfortunate blacks and whites were victims of an old line Cracker feud.

31 – Sometime prior to WW I, a meteor hit the south end of the county with such force that the ground trembled and horses bolted in the Georgia Bend.

32 –An open marsh in Macclenny was filled in by mule and wagonloads of clay and sand for the building of a new brick courthouse in 1908. A new jail was constructed next door in 1911 to replace the old calaboose that stood nearby (the calaboose was described as looking like a two story outdoor privy).

33 –To prevent the deadly cattle fever tick from destroying the state’s valuable cattle industry, stringent measures were taken. Florida’s border was fenced and guarded twenty four hours a day to keep untested stock from being brought in. Roadblocks and inspection stations were set up at state and county lines for the same purpose. Several cattlemen in the state rushed to be the first to begin the novel practice of running cattle through a vat filled with pesticide to rid them of ticks. Baker County hosted a statewide gathering in 1913 with a grand barbeque with much oration as Florida’s first cattle dipping vat was put into operation south of Macclenny.

34 –The “War to End All Wars” it was called, but WW I did not live up to its original label. Several young men served in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Some lie there still beneath Flanders’ poppies. One young man from the county saw the signing of the armistice agreement at Versailles. At the end of the war the county suffered another epidemic. This time, it was Spanish Influenza. Entire families were taken by the death angel. The economic disaster which followed took many of the survivors away to south Florida.

35 –The automobile was becoming popular in Baker County as it was in the entire country. Florida began paving Route 1/the Lake City Highway (now US 90) from Jacksonville west in 1923. The pavers had just reached Lake City when the first car wreck happened east of Olustee. The accident made national headlines.

36 – The national government bought century old farmsteads and extensive woods cattle pasturage to establish the Osceola National Forest in the early 1930’s The Civilian Conservation Corps was used to do much of the work, and this gave employment to many who were hit hard by the economic depression. The Forest is more popular than ever as a sports and recreation area.

37 – Despite the accomplishments of many of its citizens and its several notable and positive events, Baker County carried the label “Moonshine Capital of the World” for decades. Unrelenting disasters that brought the county low on the economic scale, the necessity of feeding families, the near perfect hiding places for ‘stills, and the institution of prohibition all came together to form the beginnings of the illegal whisky making industry for which the county has become so well known. Hardly a family in the county was not involved either directly or indirectly in the operation. Although ‘shine making was declared illegal, most in the county did not consider it immoral. Some remember the excitement and drama. Others recall the tragedies. But none can forget what has become the most memorable period of the county’s history.

38 - The new courthouse on US 90 was begun shortly before the Second World War. It remained unfinished until after peace in 1945. It received praise from around the state at the time as Florida’s most attractive structure of its kind. The dedication ceremony drew dignitaries and audience from far and wide. The next year an Easter sunrise pageant was held on the front steps, and the year after that the courtroom was the scene of the first concert by the new Macclenny-Glen High School band. The growth of population and government demanded the doubling in size of the courthouse in 2000-2001.

39 – World War II brought a naval airstrip and bombing practice range south of Macclenny. The boys from Camp Blanding and Cecil Field hit Macclenny every Saturday night for the foot stomping to the tune of “Under the Double Eagle” at the American Legion hall. Several came back after the war to marry into the local families. All was not fun during WW II; some young Baker County men didn’t return from the war. Their families received the dreaded black edged condolences telegram from the war department.

40 – Although Baker County has had its herb doctors, conjuring doctors, bleeding specialists, and medical doctors throughout its history, it wasn’t until soon after WW II that it was privileged to have a modern equipped doctor’s office and a full time licensed pharmacist. In the 1950’s the Ed Fraser County Hospital and the Northeast Florida State Hospital were established.

41 -In 1948 the total vote of the Baxter precinct went to gubernatorial candidate Fuller Warren. In appreciation Governor-elect Warren had the entire community bussed to Tallahassee where it was a primary feature in the inaugural parade.

42 – Despite differences that often arose in the past, Baker County people, when called on to celebrate, entered into it enthusiastically. There had been fairs and pageants in the county’s early years, but it was in the last half of the 20th century that large and elaborately staged celebrations took place. There were Pine Tree Festivals in the late ‘40s, the county centennial in ’61, the Battle of Olustee centennial in ’64, the nation’s bi-centennial in ’75 and ’76, the Glen Saint Mary centennial in ’81, the Macclenny centennial in ’83, and the ‘shine days fests of the ‘80s, many with parades longer than the cities they were held in. Baker County loves fireworks and parades.

43 – The last decades of the 20th century have seen dizzying changes for Baker County - burgeoning population, speed of travel on I-10, consolidation of schools, and great diversity of the newer citizens. Let us make certain history speaks well of us, for we are history in the making.

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