On Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, several Wellborn residents turned out to let Amtrak know that Wellborn would like the Jacksonville – New Orleans Amtrak service resurrected. Wellborn had a train station beginning in the 1860s. I think the station was closed sometime in the 1990s – maybe someone out there knows exactly when. I know the Jacksonville – New Orleans route was closed by Amtrak after Hurricane Katrina.
Live Oak and Lake City are trying to be stops on the route if it is reinstated. I think I’d have to be loyal to our Suwannee County and choose Live Oak. The train station there has already been restored and the stop would be right downtown with plenty of places for passengers to eat and pass the time.
Written by WCA member Wendell Snowden, published in the Suwannee Democrat on 9/17/08.
How many of us have taken the Wellborn turnoff from Highway 90 onto 10A and passed by this beautiful old house as seen from a back view? I’ve seen people pull over, or just slow down for a better look. I myself have even driven around the front, down Wellborn’s historic brick road, for a better look. Thus my decision was made to write about this old house.
First, I talked with as many people as I could to obtain information. This house, located on 8th Avenue in Wellborn, is called the George Walter House. It was built by George B. Walter and his wife E. A. Walter close to the late 1800s or early 1900s, possibly 1905, as near as I can gather. Mr. George B. Walter had a large grape orchard behind the house on 10A which was Highway 90 back then. He, of course, made a lot of wine and sold the grapes to passers-by.
Looking at the house from the front (as in the photo) you will see a smaller house to the left connected by a tin-roof-covered walkway. This smaller house was the kitchen or in some cases the cook’s quarters. All of the family’s meals were prepared and eaten here. Why? In that era fire was used to prepare meals. Fireplaces and wood stoves were used for cooking and would, in such a very large wooden house, be a fire hazard. The covered walkway protected the family from rain and cold.
This beautiful two-story house, built in the early 1900s, had no bathrooms, only outhouses. One indoor bathroom was installed in the 1960s. All of the bedrooms (four upstairs being very large measuring 17 feet by 17 feet) had their own wall vents installed for wood-burning stoves as most big houses did in those days. A kitchen was never added to the main house, but it did have a beautiful stairway reaching up to the second floor and four large rooms downstairs.
George B. Walter was born in 1832 and passed away in 1921. His wife died in 1907. Their son Forrest Lee was born in 1871 and passed away in 1947. Forrest lived in the house with his wife, Lora Ophelia, who was born in 1877 and passed in 1967. Lora remained at the house mourning her late husband for 20 years with her son, George, and his wife Della (Kent). George was born in 1901 and died in 1991, and Della was born in 1908 and died in 1978. George and Della built and operated three different stores. Two were grocery stores and filling stations located on Old Highway 90 and are no longer there, but the third store still stands today on the north side of US 90. When Lora Walter passed away in 1967,
George and Della moved out of the family homestead and into living quarters at one of their stores. Unfortunately, as in any town, a vacant house draws vandals as did the Walter house. The property sustained damage and possessions were stolen from the house.
As George and Della got on in age, they were looked after and taken care of by their good friends, Ruth McLeran Mizell and Eddie Joe McLeran. When George Walter passed in 1991, not having any children of his own, he left his property to Ruth and Eddie Joe who did plan to fix up and repair this wonderful old house. They eventually sold it to Ronnie Jones in 1992, who sold it in 2006 to John and Janet Stoerkel and Amy and Stephen Stoerkel. The Stoerkels still own the property but would love to put someone into the house who could fix it up and love it as much as they do. Could that someone be you?
I’m sure I’ve left a lot of history out about this house, but at the same time given you enough information to whet your appetite for future historical stories from our hometown of Wellborn.
Congratulations to Fran Martin, who was voted the 2016 Member of the Year by the members of the WCA! She can always be counted on to help out and did a wonderful job as the Chairperson of the Country Store for the 2016 Blueberry Festival.
Curtis Smith was born March 6, 1934, in Belmont, NC, one of nine children. After his mother died when he was 7 years old, he and some of the other younger children were raised by various older sisters. He joined the United States Army at age 20, on April 2, 1954. After taking his basic training at Ft. Jackson SC, he was at Camp Gordon GA, Ft. Sam Houston TX, and Camp Kilma NJ, before being sent to Geinhousen, Germany, for 3 years. Before returning to Ft. Jackson SC, he was also at Ft. Dix NJ, and Bad Kreuznach, Germany.
His family still lived in North and South Carolina. It was while visiting a sister in Rock Hill SC, in 1957, that he met the love of his life, Barbara. They were married in June 1958. Curtis was sent to Korea in 1959 for 13 months, leaving behind his young wife and their baby son.
On his return trip back to the states, he was stationed at the Army Research Center Burn Ward at Ft. Sam Houston TX, for two years. Then he was sent to Wurzburg, Germany for three years. A daughter was born to Curtis and Barbara in 1964. Upon returning to the states he was stationed at Ft. Brag NC and Ft. Benning GA. During these years Curtis received much medical training (equal to a Registered Nurse in civilian life).
Curtis went to Vietnam for 13 months in 1967 and 1968, after which he was at Ft. Hood TX, and then went back to Landstuhl, Germany. He finished his army career at the Coral Gables Induction Center in February 1975, after 21 years of active duty at home, overseas and in war.
After leaving the service, Curtis went to school for air conditioning and refrigeration. He also spent four years in welding and pipe fitting school. He worked as a Journeyman Pipefitter/Welder until another retirement at age 65.
In 2001, Curtis lost much of his vision to Macular Degeneration, but he has remained very involved in many activities. In the summer of 2014, he went to the Rehab Center for the Blind in West Palm Beach FL, to learn many independent living skills. Curtis has lived in Wellborn since August 9, 1982. He is a Christian and an active member of Wellborn Baptist Church.
In 2016, he served alongside his wife as the Grand Marshall of the Blueberry Festival’s Parade.