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One of several articles from the Bradford County Telegraph




“The Wilderness Preacher”, Jim Strickland.

Rev. Jim Strickland, ‘The Wilderness Preacher’
Remembers Log Schoolhouse at Kingsley Lake

Bradford County Telegraph, 110th Anniversary, August 18, 1989, p13, sect4
Would you believe that the earliest settlers of Kingsley Lake, almost 150 years ago, made their own thread on a spinning wheel and then wove it into cloth on their hand looms? The mother and housekeeper of the family was also the tailor and seamstress, making the men's clothes as well as the children's and her own. She also made soap for washing clothes and children, using for ingredients the lye made from oak ashes, scrap fat meat and waste grease.

The women also ground their grits and meal with handstone grits mills, and rice, still in the husk was cleaned in a mortar, made by burning a hole in the end of a black gum or live oak stump. All char was cleaned out and the huller fitted into the mortar box, which worked like the well sweep used to haul up heavy buckets of water from the family well.

These and other fascinating facts were given to The Telegraph by Rev. James Levi (Jim) Strickland in notes dictated to his wife, Bessie, who was the paper's Clay Hill correspondent for many years.

Jim was a self-styled "Wilderness Preacher" who is credited with organizing and pastoring 32 rural churches in the area. He was born at Kingsley Lake, the son of Simeon Strickland, a Carolina farmer, who settled there in 1859, and built a log house about where Townsend's Motor Court is today. He was the brother of Alonzo Strickland who bought extensive lake front property and operated Strickland's Landing until his death when it was taken over and expanded by his son and present owner, Frow.

Each family raised most of its food in garden plots or small farms, and all meat and lard was home grown and home butchered. Coffee was bought "in the bean" while still green, then parched and ground in hand mills, which were a fixture in every kitchen, Jim Strickland recalled. Most cooking was done on the fireplace, winter and summer, for the luxury of wood burning cookstoves was still to come. There was no scarcity of meat since deer bear, and other wild animals were found in abundance and there was no law against killing them. All early settlers owned hogs and cattle, and could butcher their own any time meat was needed.

There were no regulations or licenses required for fishing.: This was not in Rev. Jim's notes, but his nephew, Frow, recalls how his uncle, after leaving the lake to live at Clay Hill, would return several times during the year, when the "signs" were right, and spear enough bream and other fish to feed a regiment. Frow's job as a boy was to carry the kerosene torch, lighting up the area around the boat so the fish could be clearly seen for some distance. The lake was much cleaner in those days and the sand bottom was almost as clear as Silver Springs.

But getting back to Jim Strickland's notes:
The first school house at Kingsley was made of logs and sat about where the Kingsley Lake Baptist Church now stands. The building was also used for church services. It was one room with homemade benches, with no backs, and no place for books. The floor was made of "puncheon" split logs, hewed down smooth, with the flat side up. The school term was just three months long and taught to the fourth grade only. "But the students learned their lessons better, and subjects were more complete than now," Jim Strickland said.

Cotton was one of the cash crops in those days, and had to be hauled in on ox carts to Middleburg and loaded on boats for transportation to Jacksonville, since there were no other means of transportation at that time. The barges on which the cotton was loaded were driven by manpower, usually with five men to the barge one at the "shuffler" and two on each side with the oars. The shuffler was a broad, short paddleshaped piece of wood used for moving the boat along Black Creek when there was not room for oars.

Most ships at that time were propelled by sails, but in the narrow creek from Middleburg to Doctor's Inlet, the men often used long poles to push against the banks and keep the barge in the run of Black Creek.

The oldfashioned muzzleloading shotguns went along with every load of cotton "just in case". These guns were loaded from the muzzle, at the far end of the barrel!. Powder horns were carried around the shoulders with the "charger" (used to evenly load the gun) fastened to the powder horn. The shot pouch hung from the shoulder with the powder horn.

Guns were taken along for safety, for there were numerous bear, wild cats, panthers, wolves, and all kind of wild animals on the prowl. Almost everyone had his gun named, such as Old Belch, Ole Takum, Ole Getum, and various other names. When the men went out to hunt cattle or hogs they always took their trusty old gun along. They also carried them to church, for churches in those days were far apart, and required traveling through dense wilderness to get there.

In the early days there were three post offices at settlements around the lake. The one on the north side, where the Stricklands settled, was named Kingsley. On the south side, where the big Sundell Orange Grove was located, there was a village with a lot of activity. Its post office was named Lakeview. And on the west side, at some distance from the lake, was Ionia, with a post office of the same name. The late Dave Woodard was mail carrier for all threeon horseback of course. After Woodard retired, Mr. Sydboten became carrier, with John Tyre as relief, until the post offices were finally closed after the Big Freeze in the 1890's.

Besides the Sticklands, early settlers on the North side of the lake included Mr. and Mrs. Strong and M.W. Ordway, a carpenter, all from Nova Scotia, Canada; Mr. Ladd, a merchant and operator of the only saw mill in the area at that time. He sawed lumber for most of the early homes around the lake. Also W.G. (Bill) Starr, a crippled man who cared for his own orange grove and truck garden; Mr. Flood whose property was later bought by J.F. Kickliter of Starke, and was known for years as the "Old Kickliter Place". Mr. Sassee, from Hamburg Germany; Mr. Hefford from Ohio, L.C. Weathers of Boston, and Mr. Thrasher of Rochester.

On the South side of the lake was the Sundell Grove, near the village of Lakeview. It was owned by a Swede named Sundell, and was the largest grove on the lake until killed by the freeze during the winter of 189495.

After the freeze, orange groves were abandoned and farming declined around the lake. About 1899 Comer L. Peek of Starke bought a large tract of land on the west side of the lake from I.C. Webb a teacher in the Kingsley school and also one of the early owners of The Telegraph. Col. Peek subdivided the property, and many Starke residents bought lots for summer cottages.

There was no development on the east side of the lake, probably due to the lack of access roads, until the property was acquired for a National Guard camp prior to World War II.



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