William would build this house for his new wife, Annie, shortly after their marriage in 1903. He had been operating a Naval Mercantile store that had become quite successful and they would have this beautiful home to show for it. Sitting just along the railroad tracks that were so crucial to the family’s success, they would call this place home until the 1920’s.
After 20 years of marriage, Annie passed away in 1923, leaving William to raise their 3 children. But however difficult it must’ve been, he continued to grow the family business and by 1927, was serving on the Florida Legislature.
A few years later and William had married his second wife, Pencie. Naturally, they would need to build a new home for themselves and did so on the same property, set back further from the tracks. Shortly after, in-laws moved in to this house and reported for years that Annie would still appear in the home, usually somewhere near the fireplaces.
William and Pencie would have 4 children of their own, but sadly, all would not end well for this family. In 1938, William passed away tragically in his new home on this property and Pencie, at age 32, was left to raise the children by herself, the youngest being only 2 months old.
But she did what most people did back then and figured out a way to support herself and her children. She quickly took up teaching as a profession and continued as an educator for the Jackson County School Board for 35 years. She continued to live on this piece of land until her death in 2008 at the age of 102.
[Jackson County, FL c. early 1900’s]
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering what its like inside these forgotten homes, I will tell you that each one of them is different. Each one has a different feeling, a different set of clues left behind, and a different story to tell.
Many of them have been stripped of everything down to fixtures and cabinets while others sit full of so many things that you wonder if someone might be walking in the door at any moment.
This home held some of the more interesting artifacts I’ve seen thus far and this jacket is just one of them. Who’s was it and why did they leave it behind? Where did they buy it and how much did it cost? What did they keep in the pockets and what did they wear it to?
The more I look at this image, the more my imagination spins.
[North Florida- home c. 1890’s]
Henry Tippins and his father built this farmhouse in 1870 in rural Georgia as the South was struggling to rebuild and restructure. He would live in the house until his death in 1924 at the age of 68.
The home is still owned today by Henry’s descendants who now use it as a weekend hunting cabin. Very few upgrades have been done and it has never been painted, leaving it in nearly original condition.
[Tattnall County, GA c. 1870]
Somewhere off a rural highway down a rolling dirt road sits a long-forgotten home that has laid heavy on my mind since I laid eyes on it almost 4 years ago.
As I stood outside back then, it looked so much like so many other homes that I photograph; leaning chimney, rusting roof, and weathered clapboarding. I took a few shots and planned to move along but a particularly interesting vintage television set on the porch drew my eye to other details I had almost overlooked.
The more I saw, the more I needed to know and I suddenly found myself standing inside a quiet living room, surrounding by the things someone else left behind. Looking around, I remember feeling shocked, excited, appalled, confused, and overwhelmed at the amount of material possessions that surrounded me; I have since wondered if its last occupant ever felt the same.
As questions spun through my head, I tried to figure out when someone lived here last. A dusty license plate, a calendar on the wall, an insurance bill, and a stack of newspapers pointed to the early 1980’s and I started to imagine what life might’ve been like out here back then.
Even then, this place had already housed families for more than 100 years. Now, at more than 130 years old, its doubtful that this empty vessel will be able to offer shelter for much longer in this state.
The contents left in this house created more questions than answers and I have thought of this place and its family often. I wish I could do more to stabilize this place and ensure its future for a while longer, but all I can offer for now is to preserve it through photograph.
This charming old Florida home sits in a pasture set back from the road, reluctantly showing her aging beauty. The board and batten addition to the right, the pitch of the roof, and the curtains still hanging in the windows tell us parts of the story, but if you look closely, another unique detail presents itself: heart-shaped carvings in the fascia boards! In this case, home really is where the heart is.
From friend of Far Enough Richard Fussell MacKenzie:
“This home is near the Matchett Cemetery. The other side has a porch where the front door is located. This home was built in the late 1800’s. The heart-shaped cutouts were made with great skill. My aunt Minnie Fussell Wade lived there with her husband George Wade. They had a son named Jake Wade. Aunt Minnie was the daughter and oldest child of William Jacob and Rebecca Fussell, my great-great grandparents.”
[Sumter County, FL c. late 1800’s]
To try to imagine what life must’ve been like for the pioneers who built this place would be nearly impossible for any of us now. Florida in the first half of the 1800’s was truly a new frontier; untamed, unknown, and harsh. Many of its inland settlers of European descent relocated here from Georgia and the Carolinas with hopes of owning land and establishing solid futures for their children.
Thomas Dawsey was one such settler who came to Florida in 1819, just before it became a territory in 1821. He landed in what soon (1823) become Gadsden County looking for land to homestead. By 1827, he had acquired 160 acres of land where this home still sits. Within just a few short years, the Florida frontier saw stagecoach routes carved out for mail and passenger transport and increased movement into the center of the state. By 1830, one such stagecoach road ran through this area and records indicate that this home was a stop along the route and horse-changing station.
Just a few years after Dawsey relocated to this area of Florida, he and his family would move again, this time to Poplar Head, Alabama where he and his wife Elizabeth Hooks Dawsey lived until their deaths in 1854 on land granted to them from the federal government for James’ service during the Second Seminole War in Florida. Another new settler to the area, Joshua Davis from Laurens County, South Carolina, began buying parcels of Dawsey’s land in 1830, and by 1849, he owned the property and moved into this home with his wife Esther Gamble Monford and their 6 children. Davis would upgrade the original one-room 18’x27′ dressed timber structure by adding a rear porch, attic sleeping loft and east room, refurbished the interior/exterior with hand-beaded siding and added a separate kitchen in the rear. Within a decade by 1859, this home was the center point of a 1,440 acre cotton, tobacco and corn plantation. According to the census of that year, the Davis Plantation had 33 slaves, 6 horses and 135 cattle. It was responsible for the majority of tobacco production in Gadsden, the county’s principle crop, for the pre-Civil War period.
(Drawing of Joshua Davis c. mid- 1800’s- Image Courtesy and Property of the State Archive of Florida)
Joshua would pass away here in 1859, followed by his wife Esther in 1876. Their granddaughter Esther lived there for many years with her husband, Lieutenant Mortimer Boulware Bates, C.S.A. and their 9 children. Lieutenant Bates would pass away in 1930 and the home sat unused until the 1980’s when Davis descendants restored the home to its present condition. Today, it is still owned and maintained by Joshua’s direct line, the Avant Family.
[Esther Eliza Davis Bates (granddaughter to Joshua Davis) c. mid-1800’s; photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]
[A woman standing outside the Dawsey/Davis/Bates home c. 1900- Photo Courtesy and Property of the State Archive of Florida]
[Eula Bates outside of the home in 1902- great granddaughter of Joshua Davis- photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]
[The Dawsey/Davis/Bates/Avant home as it sat in the 1950’s when the Avant Family purchased it- Photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]
[Member of the Avant Family (Davis descendants) in front of the home in the 1980’s, after restoration- photo courtesy and property of the State Archive of Florida]
Do you think its original builders ever considered what the place would look like in 180+ years? Could they have imagined the world that it stands in now? I would think they should be very proud to know that even as everything around it has changed, this place has found continued use in many different times.
Thanks to the Florida Traces Blog for much of the research and information on this property.
*Please note that this property is guarded and can only be seen from the road as it presently belongs to a private hunting organization.*
[Mount Pleasant, Gadsden County, FL c. 1830’s]
Sometime in 1859, Laban and his wife Sarah relocated with 5 children from South Carolina to Putnam County, Florida. Over the next decade, they would build a homestead, a school, and have 4 more children, all while their country was torn in half by civil war. In 1861, while pregnant with their 6th child, their new home state seceded from the Nation, and within the year, Laban had joined the 9th Florida Infantry. Although he saw action at the Battle of Olustee, he was fortunate enough to return to Putnam County in 1864 to continue to grow his family until his passing in 1876.
As his children grew up, they would each marry and build homes within a mile from the original homestead. The youngest of these children being William who built this home for his bride, Sarah, in 1892 on the very property that his parents had settled 30 years before. To this day, Laban and Sarah’s descendants still farm this land, although this house is no longer in use.
[Putnam County, FL c. 1892]
As the sun lowers in the afternoon sky, another long day at the farm passes as so many before it. The cattle are herded in and the sounds of the rural landscape begin to shift as evening sets in. This perpetual cycle will restart each day as time and life and years go by.
For this forgotten little home, the outside world continues to trudge along. But for the few moments I stood here imagining and dreaming about what came before, time seemed to stand still.
[Levy County, FL c. early 1900’s]
If you take a few moments to look closely at this image, I think you’ll find an incredible story that unravels. The cuts of the hand-hewn boards tell us a lot about its carpenter, who probably harvested the wood for this home from this very property. The original log construction underneath and the seam where this home was extended tells the story of an expanding family, who adapted and grew on this new frontier. Like puzzle pieces, each detail tells a piece of the story.
I guess walls do talk.
[Bradford County, FL c. 1870’s]
In looking at this fallen door, I can envision those who turned it and stepped through it as the smells and sights of home greeted them. This door marked the start and end to their days and protected them from the outside world. In its small details, peeling paint, rusted features and simple form, you can see a family looking back.
[Suwannee County, FL- home c. 1880’s]