Pieces of the past
In 1869, the Georgia Florida Southern Railroad laid tracks through North Florida. It was just after the Civil War and the South was trying to emerge, rebuild, and identify itself in a new social and economic framework. Surely, times were tough but despite the hardships, people began to build. Small communities began to spring up along the railroad routes where rural settlers gathered to get in on newly commercialized farming (courtesy of the railroads). Families that had once been isolated in the rural Florida frontier now had reason to congregate in more concentrated groups. They erected churches, built homes and started to lay out roots for their future.
In this small town, cotton was king until the region was ravaged by a boll weevil outbreak in the 1920’s followed by the devastating effects of the Great Depression on rural America. This community would never fully recover and slowly but surely, it stopped growing and its residents began to look elsewhere for a different means to support themselves and their families.
This home is one of a few remaining examples of the earliest settlers homes in this railroad ghost town. Built in the late 1800’s, Flora and Richard would raise four children in this home and for more than 70 years, their family slept, ate, and lived their lives out under this roof. Until a time came when they had to move forward. Their children became adults and began to create their own foundations somewhere else. Flora and Richard passed away and no one is left who needs this old place anymore.
The interior of this home is filled with artifacts from the family scattered about like puzzle pieces waiting for me to put together their story. A solitary shoe in one room; 70+ year old correspondences in another; family photos, clothes and trinkets everywhere. I can’t begin to describe the profound feeling of holding the long-forgotten personal effects of someone who is no longer with us. Someone I have never met, who has left behind a trail of details. Details that viewed collectively, tell a much bigger story.
[Correspondence #2 that this family sent on behalf of their adult son to keep him from the draft in WWII]
[Union County, FL c. late 1800’s]