As you stand at the corner of Highway 137 and the railroad tracks in Wellborn, many of the buildings surrounding you, as well as the brick road and the railroad tracks, are what you would have been looking at if you were living in the thriving town of Wellborn during its heyday from 1890 to 1920. Our Wellborn brick road, paved in 1919, is one of the few surviving pieces of the Old Spanish Trail. Wellborn thrived in part because of its location on the railroad and on the Old Spanish Trail.
The Old Spanish trail is an auto trail that once spanned the USA – 3,000 miles. Work began in 1915, and by the 1920s, the trail linked St. Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California. The OST highway is not to be confused with the 19th century cattle trail of the same name that wound from Santa Fe to Los Angeles.
It was launched in 1915 in Mobile, Alabama, as a connector route between New Orleans and Florida. Progress on the highway stalled in the late teens due to the World War I, and the considerable expense of building bridges across the numerous waterways emptying into the Gulf. After several years of near inactivity, the highway project shifted west to Texas and took on new vigor. Under the direction of Harral Ayres, Managing Director, the Old Spanish Trail Association successfully brought the highway to completion in 1929. The lure of the OST continued to captivate travelers until the early 1960s, when new interstates redirected traffic off the old road.
There will be a decade-long Centennial Celebration beginning in 2019 and ending in 2029 with a motorcade grand finale from St. Augustine to San Diego. The OST100 has held several meetings, and different towns along the way have prepared exhibits and are collecting oral histories. Some towns have turned their old brick roads into recreational trails. Others are trying to convince AMTRAK to stop in their town if they build a depot.
The “drive the ost” group lists Wellborn on their website http://www.drivetheost.com/ with a picture of our brick road. They feel that we definitely have something that can be “marketed” if we wish. This is a quote from their website:
“Twelve miles west of Lake City and north of US 90 is a rare section of the 1920s Old Spanish Trail roadway. The town of Wellborn, population 2,597, is situated along the tracks of the former Pensacola & Georgia Railroad. Much of its right-of-way, charted in 1856 from Lake City to Pensacola, became the path of the Old Spanish Trail. South of the railroad tracks, along E. 8th Street, is a brick section of the Florida State Highway 1 and the Old Spanish Trail. Though only 2/10ths of a mile, the short segment provides an authentic feel of a vintage highway with its narrow nine-foot roadway and grass shoulders. The road continues to the east beyond First Avenue for 7/10ths of a mile, terminating at a barricade. Beyond, the old road continues on private property. Gazing down this moss-covered corridor gives a glimpse of how the Old Spanish Trail must have appeared in the 1920s.”
Another interesting website is http://www.americanroads.us/autotrails/oldspanishtrail.html.
Our Wellborn brick road is paved with Copeland-Inglis bricks which were used in the construction of the highway in the Southeastern U.S. The use of these bricks in road construction is discussed on this page from a “Paving Brick Industry” newsletter.
Above picture is from our Wellborn Brick road.
We should appreciate the history we have here in Wellborn. Hopefully those who come after us will be inspired to preserve it.
On this day before Veterans’ Day 2017, I would like to add to our website this information on Wellborn’s Fallen Heroes Memorial which we re-dedicated last year before Veteran’s Day 2016.
This is taken from an article submitted to The Suwannee Democrat for the Wellborn News column last October, 2016. It was entitled:
The Town of Wellborn, Mixing the Old and the New
by Kathie Snowden
When we first moved to Wellborn over 12 years ago, I was initially very impressed with its history. Wellborn wears its history right out front in downtown for all to see. I had not previously lived in a place where buildings and roads were still in use for a hundred years. In Wellborn you can go to the post office and run into the descendants of those who were prominent in Wellborn’s early period.
After joining the Wellborn Community Association, one of the things I wanted to do was to get a Historical Marker for Wellborn. I found out about it but never had time to pursue it. Recently I became more involved in the Association and decided to work on the marker. We formed a little committee consisting of Anne Dawson, Verna Swaby, and me, and we are making progress. This column, however, won’t be about the marker. It will be about some interesting things I found while doing the research for it. Isn’t that the way life goes – the best things are the ones you find along the way.
Several years ago the Marine Corps League (Sgt. Maj. Thomas H Griggs, Jr. Det. #1086) who used to meet in the Association building erected a memorial to Wellborn’s Fallen Heroes, those who gave their lives for our freedom. It was inscribed with two names, Pete Leroy Hogan (World War II), and A.S. (Bubba) Hogan (Korea). I know the Marines searched for others but did not find any at the time. I always thought there must be more, but I was busy with other things.
The first place I went to when I started working on the Historical Marker was Wellborn’s History Book, entitled Wellborn, Florida My Home Town. The book was done in 1997, but has been reprinted twice now. It is a wealth of information and interesting pictures. (Linda Dye has some for sale in the Kornucopia.) Where am I going with this, you might ask. Well, imagine my surprise when I was reading Page 74 about American Legion Post #132 by Odell Tillis. The second paragraph says, “Some Wellborn men who gave their lives for this country were…” and proceeds to name nine men (two of whom are the Hogans mentioned above).
I had already started trying to find more of Wellborn’s Fallen Heroes and had looked up on the computer World War II, Korea, and Vietnam war casualties from Suwannee County. The Hogans matched but there was no way to tell who, if any, of the others might have been from Wellborn. And there I was (on Page 74) with the information right in front of me. Several of the names matched those I had found on the computer. I began to research the others and verified a couple more. I made phone calls to the current American Legion posts, the Wellborn Masonic Lodge, and the Suwannee Valley Genealogical Society. Everyone was very helpful and friendly (as people are in Wellborn). Finally after much more computer research and help from many people (especially Ellis Gray, Ted Fralick, Thomas Smith, Johnny Norris, Jinny Wilson and Alice at the Genealogical Society) we were ready to add the names to the monument. Of course, I have to give the most thanks to Odell Tillis who memorialized the men in the Wellborn History Book. Mr. Tillis passed in 2003 and is buried at Mt. Beulah. Many of the people I talked to remembered him fondly.
After we had verified the new names, I contacted Thomas Smith of the Marines Corps League Detachment to find out who did the engraving. He gave me the name of Johnny Norris, and I proceeded to call him to find out if he would do it and what the cost would be. I was already planning a fundraiser of some sort! Well, once again, I should not be surprised at the warmth and caring of Suwannee Valley people. Mr. Norris said he would be more than happy to add the names for us for no charge.
I don’t think I have ever had anything just fall into place as this has. It definitely was meant to be, and now the Hogans have company on the memorial and Wellborn’s Fallen Heroes will receive their proper honors.
2017 addition: Everything was done prior to Veterans’ Day 2017 and we had a great ceremony commemorating the addition of the new names which you can see in the picture below.
Ellis Gray, Veteran’s Services Officer and Commandant of the DAV, presided over the beautiful and dignified service which started with a flag raising, prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Linda Dye sang the Star Spangled Banner, and Ellis Gray honored each of the Fallen Heroes individually. The ceremony ended with the placing of a wreath, the playing of Taps, and a final prayer.
Several family members of the Fallen Heroes were in attendance as well as many Wellborn residents who fondly remembered the soldiers. Members of the American Legion, the Marines Detachment, and other Veterans’ groups came out to show their support, and we thank them for helping us to show the honor and respect that these men so deeply deserve.
Thanks again to Jeff Delaney and Cheri Copeland of the Southern Knights Street Rodders for hosting the Car Show and Parade. Below are the winners and some pictures to enjoy.
Car Show Winners:
Best of Show
1951 Ford convertible (Jackie Thompson Live Oak, FL)
1946 Ford Coupe (Gene Spillers Live Oak)
2014 Dodge Challenger R/T (Robert Atkinson Jacksonville, FL)
Army Truck (Allen Kunze Wellborn, FL)
Wellborn Community Association Choice
1957 Chevy Bel Air (Art Hutchison Lake City, FL)
2011 Camaro (Jacob Gravel Lake City, FL)
2014 Dodge Challenger R/T (Jason Elliott Valdosta, GA)
2013 Scion FRS (Oulay Inthalangy Alachua, FL)
1979 VW Super Beetle (Ramona Herlong Fort White, FL)
Army Truck (Allen Kunze Wellborn, FL)
1972 VW (Michael Hadder Lake City, FL)
1932 Sedan Delivery (Garry Hooper Bell, FL)
1965 Land Rover (Thomas Maynard Wellborn, FL)
1976 Ford Maverick Stallion (Linda Spillers Live Oak, FL)
1965 Ford Mustang Coupe (Kenneth Byrd Middleburg, FL)
1957 Pontiac Star Chief (Ralph Towner Lake City, FL)
1967 Ford Bronco (Buddy Williams Live Oak, FL)
1963 Ford Galaxie Convertible (Mike Bay Lake City, FL)
1946 Ford Coupe (Gene Spillers Live Oak)
1984 Chevy Camaro (Chris Snyder Live Oak, FL)
2003 Honda Civic Si (Michael Key Valdosta GA)
1975 Corvette Sting Ray (Gene Walott Fort White, FL)
1975 Pontiac Granville Convertible (Jerrold Stevens Wellborn, FL)
1964 Dodge Dart GTS (Joe Hager White Springs, FL)
1953 Studebaker Commander (Kerry Dancy Wellborn, FL)
2014 Dodge Challenger R/T (Robert Atkinson Jacksonville, FL)
1987 Zimmer Golden Spirit (Allen Whittaker Havana, FL)
1957 Chevy 210 (Phillip & Karen Nelson Newberry, FL)
2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Shaker (Pauline Morgalo Valdosta, GA)
1957 Chevy Bel Air (Art Hutchison Lake City, FL)
First Place – The Ladies of Luraville from McAlpin (the Southern Belles)
Second Place – Wellborn Methodist Church’s float
Third Place – Susan Brown and her horse, Jessie
The Wellborn Community Association is privileged to have Ruth McLeran Mizell and Eddie Joe McLaren as the Grand Marshals of this year’s Blueberry Festival and Parade. Following is a short biography which they shared with us.
Ruth McLeran was born on January 3, 1942 in Wellborn, to Gem and E.B. McLeran, Jr., in the home that later became the 1909 Bed & Breakfast on 137. Ruth has an older sister, Mary Gem Wester living in Pointe Vedra Beach, who was born on February 3, 1937, in the same house in Wellborn. On August 1, 1947, their brother, Eddie Joe McLeran was born, also in the same house.
They attended school in Wellborn. Ruth graduated from Lake City in 1960 as did her sister in 1955. Eddie Joe graduated from Live Oak in 1965.
Ruth worked at the Suwannee River Regional Library in Live Oak and retired in 2003. Mary Gem worked as a school teacher and retired in 2001. Eddie Joe retired in 2004 from the Florida Department of Transportation in Lake City.
Ruth and Eddie Joe are avid Gator fans and attend all home games in Gainsville. GO GATORS!
They love Wellborn, Florida, and welcome everyone to the Annual Blueberry Festival. They are members of Wellborn Baptist Church. Eddie Joe is a member of Wellborn Masonic Lodge #1.
Thank you Wellborn Community Association for making Wellborn, Florida, great again!
To that, we at the Community Association, would say thank you, Ruth & Eddie Joe, for serving as our Grand Marshals and being the upstanding, conscientious, respected and supportive Wellborn citizens that you are.
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.