For more than 130 years, locomotives have rolled by this home in a town that once was. The Florida Peninsular Railroad came through here transporting goods and packing materials grown and made here by this small community. A school was built, congregations were founded and in the early 1880’s, this home was built by one of the town’s first residents, W.H. Kayton.
As time passed, industry shifted and businesses came and went. Unlike many of the towns that surround it, this place was able to remain viable through crop freezes, World Wars and economic depression. A large brick factory operated here until well in to the 1940’s, when time finally caught up to this sleepy rural community and the wheels of progress took jobs elsewhere.
The train still passes here everyday, but no one is left to see or hear it.
[Alachua County, c. 1880’s]
[Harmon Crum- noted as the first white settler to the area in the 1820’s]
Harmon Crum and his wife Rhoda married in Lowndes County, GA in 1824 and although they began their family there, a few years later they would move to Florida. First settling in Marion County and then moving just south to present-day Sumter County, Harmon is regarded by many as the first white settler to this area, building a homestead here sometime before 1830.
We can only imagine what life was like for the Crum family on the Florida frontier, but we do know that the children of the family spoke a Seminole dialect due to their proximity to a settlement laid out under the Treaty of Moultrie (1823). This relationship would change just a few years later as a Seminole attack on U.S. troops broke out just a few miles south of their homestead. The attack in December of 1835 at what became known as Dade Battlefield, began the 2nd Seminole Indian War and surely a new period of tension between the natives and Florida’s new settlers. Just six years later, Mr. Crum had applied for the Armed Occupation Act which granted him 359 acres of land in exchange for ‘holding the land’ from native attack.
But one war would turn in to the next and before long, the Civil War had gripped our young nation. Two of the Crum sons, Harmon III and Thomas Lafayette, would join the 10th Florida Regiment for the Confederate States. Upon returning from the Civil War, Thomas and his family would build this home which still stands today and pictured here are his children Mattie, Charlie, Thomas H. and son in law T. Sutton Beville.
[Crum Family at home in Sumter County c. 1890’s]
With most abandoned homesites, it is hard to imagine what it looked like in its prime because the framework is there, but the life is gone. While researching this family and their long history in this area, I stumbled upon this photo of the same house I found myself photographing in 2013. As they stand there proudly in front of their home, I look at their faces and wonder which of them might have been born within these walls. I feel fortunate to be able to attach faces to this beautiful old piece of Florida history and to see it as they saw it all those years ago.
[Sumter County c. late 1800’s; photo taken in 2013- Far Enough Photo]
**All Black & White photos are courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida- Florida Memory Project**
In the early 1920’s, the people of Half Moon gathered to build this one room school house. They had plans to make education more accessible to the children of their small rural community. They had survived a World War and were looking to the future.
Imagine the changes this community faced just a few short years later when the global economy collapsed and depression took hold.
The records of Half Moon are sparse from this point on and eventually the town disappears. This school sat there until 1991 when it was relocated to its present site and restored. Nothing remains now of the town, but this building stands as a reminder of the intrepid souls who made plans, worked, built and established families. They, like us, couldn’t have known what curveballs life had coming.
[Alachua County, FL]
If you would like to visit the Half Moon School, it has been moved to the Morningside Nature Center in East Gainesville and is available for public visits during park hours (exterior only).
Originally built in the 1880’s and updated in the 1920’s, this home would come to be called an Inn, although it was most known for the home cooked food that owner Elizabeth ‘Bess’ prepared for guests in her dining room. Locals who knew her tell stories of her waking up at 5:00am everyday to begin the days cooking. Everything from butter to whipped cream to dressings and ice creams were made from scratch in her kitchen. Her pies and mashed potatoes were legendary.
Visitors would come from out of town to visit the Inn and enjoy Bess’ cooking, but she only ever kept a few long-term boarders who were mostly elderly. As a Registered Nurse, Bess would care for them as they lived out their days in her home.
I had the opportunity to chat with a local woman who grew up just down the street from here. She recalled the smell of lima beans and ham coming from the windows and the porch lined with Bess’ guests after dinner when the weather was nice. Another local tells the story of walking passed the Inn often and Bess passing a slice of whatever pie she had left to him as a teenager.
But nowadays, all of the windows are boarded, the overgrowth is taking over much of the property and vandals have used the interior walls as a canvas for crude graffiti. The building is for sale but renovations would be costly. I’m glad Mrs. Bess doesn’t have to see it like this.
[Alachua County, FL]