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ALACHUA TRAIL PASSED EAST
OF PRESENT SITE OF STARKE

from: Bradford County Telegraph, 100th Anniversary Edition , 1979 from Section 2 Page 3.
[Transcribed and submitted by Harriett Fuquay, 9/03]

And Mrs. Monroe's Farm Was On The Map At Forks Of The Road

What about this lady who was so well known that her name appears on military maps of the Civil War period, now on display in the museum at Olustee Battlefield State Park?

Based on the meager information available, it is believed that Mrs. Monroe had a farm at this well-traveled intersection, and likely operated a "rest stop" in the days of horse-drawn vehicles, offering food and rest for weary travelers. The farm was apparently located on the north side of present Highway 230 at the site where the DuPont Company's new dredge was assembled last year, and is now operating.

Also in this area was an Indian War Fort, Van Cortland, built for the protection of early settlers around Kingsley Lake and elsewhere in the sandhill area of Trail Ridge.

Bits of broken crockery, bottles and other household items have been found in recent years at the site of Mrs. Monroe's, as well as Spanish coins dating back to 1773, and several American coins, including a three-cent piece dated 1833, and others from 1840, 1846 and 1851. These coins were salvaged by Kenny Scarbro, a maintenance engineer with the DuPont Company, from the sump of the dredge that sucks up ilmenite ore from a moving lake. All of the coins were badly bent or mangled by passing through the dredge crusher.

"I would like to have been there with a metal detector before the dredge passed through." Scarbro said.

The discovery of the 29 old coins in a small area long Trail Ridge indicates activity around Mrs. Monroe's place at the junction of the Alachua Trail and Newnansville Road. It is easy to picture tired travelers stopping there for a meal and a night's rest for themselves and their horses.

But whoever Mrs. Monroe was, and whatever type of establishment she operated in the barren sandhill country, she must have been of considerable importance to travelers, both civilian and military.

The Alachua Trail, a north-south route for Indians and other travelers, was well known in the colonial period of America, a fact pointing to long aboriginal use. It started at the Altamaha River in North Georgia and continued to the Alachua Lands around Micanopy.

Entering Florida just east of the Big Bend of the St. Mary's River, it passed through western Nassau County, bearing westerly below Brandy Branch to skirt inside the eastern border of Baker County, then running straight down Trail Ridge in a path roughly following the dividing line between present Clay and Bradford Counties. The Trail continued along the Ridge, passing just west of Kingsley Lake where it intersected the Newnansville-Middleburg road, veering west to follow this route for several miles until it reached the Santa Fe River at a point near the present fire tower on U. S. 301. Here it broke away from its merger with the Newnansville Road, and turned sharply south, following a path much the same as the present route of U. S. 301 from the river to Waldo. From there, the Alachua Trail continued south to the present location of Windsor near Newnan's Lake, and on to Micanopy.

At one time, Columbia County extended easterly to Trail Ridge and included the area of Bradford County. The description of the eastern boundary of Columbia County at that time, as enacted by the territorial Legislative Council in 1844, followed the Alachua Trail along the Ridge "to Mrs. Monroe's on the Black Creek - Fort Harllee Road." Thus did Mrs. Munroe have her name used as a landmark in the Columbia County boundary act.

Authorities on early roads and trails consider it remarkable, in view of changing patterns of modern transportation, that many stretches of the old Indian trail remain in use today.

A five-mile segment of the trail is still plainly visible in the Camp Blanding reservation west of Kingsley Lake, starting at the checking station on Highway 16 and terminating near the Joe Starling home on State Road 225 east of Lawtey. This stretch of the trail is well worn, being used by hunters in the Blanding Wildlife Management Area, and also by some DuPont employees as a short cut between the company's Trail Ridge and Highland plants.

Riding this stretch of the Trail recently with John Greene, Camp Blanding forester, several old homesites were pointed out in the area a mile or so west of Kingsley Lake. Nothing remains of the settlement today but a few scattered bricks, pieces of iron, and bits of broken crockery. Known as Ionia, the settlement probably disappeared after the Big Freeze of 1895 and the homes either burned, or the lumber was hauled off to build homes in other areas.

From the checking station on Highway 16, the route of the trail continued southwesterly through the area presently being mined by DuPont, and the route is longer defined. It can be picked up again, however, after it reaches SR-230 and continues through the Joe Griffis property southwesterly to U. S. 301 at the Santa Fe River.

Some idea of the hazards encountered by travelers on the early roads around 1840 was given by an early correspondent for "The Army and Navy Chronicle." According to this story, two horse-drawn carriages, traveling together, left Garey's Ferry ( on Black Creek at Middleburg ) headed for Newnansville. In one carriage was a man and his wife; in the other, a brother and his sister, whom he had brought from New England hoping the Florida sunshine would restore her ailing health. Both couples stopped their carriages at a settlement in the sand hill region to give their horses a rest, and obtain refreshments for themselves. The married couple resumed their journey first, and by the time the brother and sister got under way the first carriage was out of sight. In an attempt to catch up with their traveling companions, the brother hastily took the wrong road at the fork on crossing Trail Ridge, instead of the one going by the Munroe farm.

After travelling for some time without overtaking their friends, and with night approaching, the young man urged his horse forward, in the hope of catching up. At last they realized they had taken the wrong road and were lost. Darkness finally surrounded them, and they found their horse worn out and hardly able to travel. To add to their fright, they saw, at a short distance from them, a party of Indians "fire hunting" for deer with torches of pine knots.

The brother stopped the carriage and, under pretense of scouting the Indians, deserted his sister, and fled on foot.

The girl, who was described as "untirely unfitted to encounter any fatigue or hardships," soon suspected her brother's treachery, "left her seat and fled, she knew not whither."

After running until she was almost exhausted, she found herself unable to continue, wrapped her cloak around her, and threw herself on the ground. "Soon, that sweet restorer of nature--sleep--buried her fears in oblivion, and she lay there until morning. When she arose, and looking around her, saw nothing but the tall towering pine, as far as the eye could reach. She was still on the road, and now decided to retrace her steps to the spot where she had left the carriage.

Fortunately, a scouting party from a nearby fort sighted the girl and when the soldiers approached, and she realized who they were, "she raised her hands to heaven and burst into a flood of tears. One officer, perceiving her distress, sprung from his horse just in time to save her from falling to the ground, for she now fainted."

After the girl revived, she inquired about her brother, and one trooper said, in a tone so low she did not hear him, "I hope he will never be heard of again."

But his hope was in vain, for the cowardly brother was picked up later in the woods with his clothes in tatters. He was taken on to Fort Harllee, where, as the story was told, he received very little sympathy.

Such was life along the old Alachua Trail in the days of the Indian Wars.

If bits and pieces of broken china, and old Spanish coins could talk, they would doubtless tell some interesting tales about Mrs. Monroe and the visitors to her farm on the Alachua Trail east of Starke.

(All grammar, spelling, missing words, punctuation, etc., are as they were in the article.)


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