Real People

“Somewhere beyond the sink-hole, past the magnolia, under the live oaks, a boy and a yearling ran side by side, and were gone forever.”
― Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The quote below from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings captures the deep connection many people feel for this wild and untamed area of Florida. She discovered a spiritual bond with nature itself here, and has been one of the area’s great storytellers, with the location of her most famous novel, The Yearling, set along the scenic byway.

If there can be such a thing as instinctual memory, the consciousness of land and water must lie deeper in the core of us than any knowledge of our fellow beings…We cannot live without the earth or apart from it, and something is shriveled in man’s heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men. – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, from her novel, Cross Creek.

Video

Dana Ste. Claire

Dana Ste. Claire was raised near the byway, and fell in love with the area and its people so deeply, he wrote a book, Cracker, about the complex and often misunderstood history of that group. This is a photo of Herbert Kinsey, at whose house Dana learned how swamp cabbage and cooter (turtle) were prepared and eaten. As a boy Dana marveled at the resourcefulness, pride and wisdom of Kinsey, whom he now regards as the “ideal cracker.”

Rick Tonyan

Rick Tonyan spent years researching local Florida “cow hunter” involvement in the Civil War for his novel, Guns of the Palmetto Plains. Rick considers himself a “Florida Cracker,” and has cracked a whip since he was a boy. This “cracking” of the whip is one thing that made the Florida cow hunters unique – they kept the cattle together with the sound of the whip, to avoid the entanglements lassoes would bring in the Florida foliage.

Jim Kern

In the 1960s, Jim Kern headed to North Carolina for a hike on the Appalachian Trail. He returned to Florida with a vision for a hiking trail across Florida, and founded the Florida Trail Association. By October 1966, Kern met with the managers of the Ocala National Forest and received permission to start blazing the hiking trail adventurers enjoy today.

Video

Ross Allen

Ross Allen, founder of the Ross Allen Reptile Institute at Silver Springs, was known for his daring approach to wild Florida, particularly the reptiles. Famous for “milking” snakes of their venom, he says he was motivated to start this practice by the need to treat his son for a bite at a time when there was no serum available.

Video
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés

The Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez came to Florida in 1565 and established the city of St. Augustine and became the first governor of Florida.

  • He explored the St. Johns River from Jacksonville south.
  • In 1566 he and fifty soldiers came down the St. Johns River crossing Lake George.
  • He is thought to be the first European to visit Lake George.
  • Encountered local Native American tribes of the Timucuans and what his journals called the “Mayacans.” Scholars still debate if these were Timucuans or not.
  • Came as far south on the St. Johns River as Astor where he and his soldiers met resistance from Native American tribes and were turned back.
  • Bartolome Barrientos, wrote Menedez’s biography in the 1500’s and wrote about the encounter near Astor.

Not far south of Lake George they found a large settlement where the chief, Moyoca, warned they could not go further without permission. They found the riverbanks filled with… “large bands of agitated Indians armed with bows and arrows … at a narrow place in the river, he found the way blocked by a row of stakes.”

Marjorie Harris Carr – Tireless Conservationist

“Why fight for the Ocklawaha River? The first time I went up the Ocklawaha, I thought it was dreamlike. It was a canopy river. It was spring-fed and swift. I was concerned about the environment worldwide. What could I do about the African plains? What could I do about India? How could I affect things in Alaska or the Grand Canyon? But here, by God, was a piece of Florida. A lovely natural area, right in my backyard, that was being threatened for no good reason.” Marjorie Harris Carr

Marjorie Harris Carr’s most prominent legacy on the byway was to halt the construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Over the long 1962 – 1971 battle, she enlisted citizen’s groups, formed an environmental group, and rallied the public to stand up for our precious local ecosystem.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

This organization put many unemployed young men to work in the Great Depression, and National Forests all over the country benefited from their efforts. The CCC was responsible for the construction of 126,000 miles of roads and trails, planted millions of trees, built fire towers, and left permanent structures in the forest for visitors to use. This group helped make it easier for the public to access nature.

The Mill at Juniper Springs was one of the most unique projects the CCC built across the country. In 1935-36, the CCC built the Mill house to provide electricity in a location miles from other sources. They further developed trails and campgrounds in that area.

William Bartram – Dreamy Naturalist

William Bartram, a Quaker from Britain, fell in love with wild Florida in the late 1700s/early 1800s. A naturalist, painter, and visionary, he conveyed through his books a sense of the area as an Eden. This euphoric vision inspired Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge to produce great works such as the famous poem Kubla Khan. He has a famous tree, the Bartram Oak, forever associated with him along the byway in Astor.

William Carl Ray & W.C. Davidson 

In 1924, this team brought together a vision for Silver Springs. They featured the glass-bottom boats which gave visitors a clear view deep into the crystal waters. These unique boats helped Silver Springs become a popular pre-Disney Florida attraction. Its fame was increased by the many films and T.V. shows produced there, including Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and over 100 episodes of the T.V. Classic Sea Hunt (1958-61).

Harriet Beecher Stowe 

Author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Early Travel Writer

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote one of the first “tourism” articles about Ocala and the St. Johns River area in 1879. Her writing was the first to inspire Northerners to think of Florida as a vacation spot. She wrote that she and her fellow travelers were “wild with inherent raptures” on the river, after she overcame her wariness of a steamboat trip.

The Astors 

Developing Steamboat Culture Along the St. Johns River

The wealthy Astor family of New York was interested in developing the area which is Astor today, and bought 12,000 acres in 1874. William Backhouse Astor, Jr. first called the town Manhattan and tourists visited his hotel on the St. Johns River by steamboat.

Just up SR 40, Astor Park grew up along the shores of Lake Schermerhorn, which was named for Astor’s wife, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor. After William died, the town was renamed Astor.

William’s son, John Jacob Astor IV, inherited his father’s estate and continued to promote the area. Sadly, he died on the sinking Titanic in 1912, and his descendants sold off family interests, as the steamboat industry was then in decline.

Historians
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The quote below from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings captures the deep connection many people feel for this wild and untamed area of Florida. She discovered a spiritual bond with nature itself here, and has been one of the area’s great storytellers, with the location of her most famous novel, The Yearling, set along the scenic byway.

If there can be such a thing as instinctual memory, the consciousness of land and water must lie deeper in the core of us than any knowledge of our fellow beings…We cannot live without the earth or apart from it, and something is shriveled in man’s heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men. – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, from her novel, Cross Creek.

Video

Dana Ste. Claire

Dana Ste. Claire was raised near the byway, and fell in love with the area and its people so deeply, he wrote a book, Cracker, about the complex and often misunderstood history of that group. This is a photo of Herbert Kinsey, at whose house Dana learned how swamp cabbage and cooter (turtle) were prepared and eaten. As a boy Dana marveled at the resourcefulness, pride and wisdom of Kinsey, whom he now regards as the “ideal cracker.”

Rick Tonyan

Rick Tonyan spent years researching local Florida “cow hunter” involvement in the Civil War for his novel, Guns of the Palmetto Plains. Rick considers himself a “Florida Cracker,” and has cracked a whip since he was a boy. This “cracking” of the whip is one thing that made the Florida cow hunters unique – they kept the cattle together with the sound of the whip, to avoid the entanglements lassoes would bring in the Florida foliage.

Adventurists
Jim Kern

In the 1960s, Jim Kern headed to North Carolina for a hike on the Appalachian Trail. He returned to Florida with a vision for a hiking trail across Florida, and founded the Florida Trail Association. By October 1966, Kern met with the managers of the Ocala National Forest and received permission to start blazing the hiking trail adventurers enjoy today.

Video

Ross Allen

Ross Allen, founder of the Ross Allen Reptile Institute at Silver Springs, was known for his daring approach to wild Florida, particularly the reptiles. Famous for “milking” snakes of their venom, he says he was motivated to start this practice by the need to treat his son for a bite at a time when there was no serum available.

Video
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés

The Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez came to Florida in 1565 and established the city of St. Augustine and became the first governor of Florida.

  • He explored the St. Johns River from Jacksonville south.
  • In 1566 he and fifty soldiers came down the St. Johns River crossing Lake George.
  • He is thought to be the first European to visit Lake George.
  • Encountered local Native American tribes of the Timucuans and what his journals called the “Mayacans.” Scholars still debate if these were Timucuans or not.
  • Came as far south on the St. Johns River as Astor where he and his soldiers met resistance from Native American tribes and were turned back.
  • Bartolome Barrientos, wrote Menedez’s biography in the 1500’s and wrote about the encounter near Astor.

Not far south of Lake George they found a large settlement where the chief, Moyoca, warned they could not go further without permission. They found the riverbanks filled with… “large bands of agitated Indians armed with bows and arrows … at a narrow place in the river, he found the way blocked by a row of stakes.”

Naturalist
Marjorie Harris Carr – Tireless Conservationist

“Why fight for the Ocklawaha River? The first time I went up the Ocklawaha, I thought it was dreamlike. It was a canopy river. It was spring-fed and swift. I was concerned about the environment worldwide. What could I do about the African plains? What could I do about India? How could I affect things in Alaska or the Grand Canyon? But here, by God, was a piece of Florida. A lovely natural area, right in my backyard, that was being threatened for no good reason.” Marjorie Harris Carr

Marjorie Harris Carr’s most prominent legacy on the byway was to halt the construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Over the long 1962 – 1971 battle, she enlisted citizen’s groups, formed an environmental group, and rallied the public to stand up for our precious local ecosystem.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

This organization put many unemployed young men to work in the Great Depression, and National Forests all over the country benefited from their efforts. The CCC was responsible for the construction of 126,000 miles of roads and trails, planted millions of trees, built fire towers, and left permanent structures in the forest for visitors to use. This group helped make it easier for the public to access nature.

The Mill at Juniper Springs was one of the most unique projects the CCC built across the country. In 1935-36, the CCC built the Mill house to provide electricity in a location miles from other sources. They further developed trails and campgrounds in that area.

William Bartram – Dreamy Naturalist

William Bartram, a Quaker from Britain, fell in love with wild Florida in the late 1700s/early 1800s. A naturalist, painter, and visionary, he conveyed through his books a sense of the area as an Eden. This euphoric vision inspired Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge to produce great works such as the famous poem Kubla Khan. He has a famous tree, the Bartram Oak, forever associated with him along the byway in Astor.

Vacationers
William Carl Ray & W.C. Davidson 

In 1924, this team brought together a vision for Silver Springs. They featured the glass-bottom boats which gave visitors a clear view deep into the crystal waters. These unique boats helped Silver Springs become a popular pre-Disney Florida attraction. Its fame was increased by the many films and T.V. shows produced there, including Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and over 100 episodes of the T.V. Classic Sea Hunt (1958-61).

Harriet Beecher Stowe 

Author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Early Travel Writer

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote one of the first “tourism” articles about Ocala and the St. Johns River area in 1879. Her writing was the first to inspire Northerners to think of Florida as a vacation spot. She wrote that she and her fellow travelers were “wild with inherent raptures” on the river, after she overcame her wariness of a steamboat trip.

The Astors 

Developing Steamboat Culture Along the St. Johns River

The wealthy Astor family of New York was interested in developing the area which is Astor today, and bought 12,000 acres in 1874. William Backhouse Astor, Jr. first called the town Manhattan and tourists visited his hotel on the St. Johns River by steamboat.

Just up SR 40, Astor Park grew up along the shores of Lake Schermerhorn, which was named for Astor’s wife, Caroline Schermerhorn Astor. After William died, the town was renamed Astor.

William’s son, John Jacob Astor IV, inherited his father’s estate and continued to promote the area. Sadly, he died on the sinking Titanic in 1912, and his descendants sold off family interests, as the steamboat industry was then in decline.