Category Archives: History

Owen Smith Cemetery near Boys Ranch, Hahira, GA 2021-04-26

This is the family cemetery of an early settler family. Starting in 1835, Owen Smith owned land on both sides of the Withlacoochee River and east to Cat Creek and at least briefly across that, too, totalling more than 3,000 acres, according to the Wiregrass Region Digital History Project. It is called the Owen Smith Cemetery by FindaGrave.com.

[Iron fence, 14:31:07, 31.0265649, -83.2880907]
Iron fence, 14:31:07, 31.0265649, -83.2880907

Or earlier, since according to the apparently well-documented Smith-Gray-Dupree family tree on ancestry.com, Owen Smith married Jemima K. Mathis in Lowndes County, Georgia. They were not original settlers, since Lowndes County was established by the Georgia General Assembly in 1825, but they were apparently the first settler holders of much of that land.

The tallest remaining headstone is for Jemima Mathis Smith. The broken one near it was apparently Owen Smith’s. He was born 26 February 1810 in Columbus, North Carolina, died in Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 8 September 1901. Continue reading

Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List 2021-01-26

The U.S. National Park Service in January announced a 15-day comment period for nominating sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. We nominated the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, using testimony from some of WWALS members. I added the illustrations to this post of the WWALS nomination letter. And you can still help stop the titanium strip mine from locating too near the Swamp.

[Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers]
Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers


January 26, 2021

To: Jonathan Putnam
Office of International Affairs
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
jonathan_putnam@nps.gov
(202) 354-1809

Re: Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List, Docket Number NPS-WASO-OIA-31249 PIN00IO14.XI0000

Dear Mr. Putnam,

As you know, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) is on the UNESCO Tentative List for the United States, and thus is eligible for the U.S. to submit an ONWR nomination file.
https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5252/

[Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp]
Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp
in WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.
The purple line is the approximate actual divide between the Suwannee and St. Marys River watersheds in the Swamp, still being worked out with St. Marys Riverkeeper.

As Suwannee Riverkeeper and for our umbrella organization WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., I would like to encourage you to nominate ONWR this year. The vast majority of the Okefenokee Swamp is in the Suwannee River Basin, and some 85% of the outflow of the Swamp goes down the Suwannee River, which continues through Georgia and across Florida, where it is the subject of the state song, to the Gulf of Mexico.

[Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico]
Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico

WWALS member Bobby McKenzie sums it up from his perspective:

“As a world traveler for the past 20 plus years I must say that the Okefenokee Swamp holds its own when it comes to enchantment. I never would have thought I would have used the term enchantment to describe a swamp, but it happens to be the best one. My adventures have taken me to many places, each with their own charm and enchantment and history. I recall my first experience outside the United States, it was to the Chagos Archipelago part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The crystal-clear waters of the islands and the sanctity of the massive coconut crabs and the hawksbill sea turtles. Soon I found myself living in South Korea and experiencing the Buddhist temples embedded in the cliffs of the East Sea (more well known as the Sea of Japan) and the fishing islands of Sunyu-do in the yellow sea. At Jeju Island with its botanical gardens, lava tubes, and extinct volcano, I ascended the stairs of Mt Sanbanggulsa Temple where a spring drips from the ceiling pools into the temple cave and had a ceremonial sip. Years living in Europe showed me the awe of the Dolomites, the Carpathian Mountains, the Iron Gates, the Danube Delta and the switchback road of Transfagarasan. I have met the wonders of the Black Forest, I’ve skied Mount Blanc, Matterhorn, and the Zugspitze and swam in the ocean at Vilamoura in Algarve with its ocean caves. I dove the cliffs of Ischia and enjoyed the hot thermal springs of the Mediterranean. I’ve hiked miles through the Ardennes Forests and the ancient vineyards along the Mosel River. I have witnessed the famed White Cliffs of Dover, the puzzling Stonehenge, the North Sea, English Channel, and the beaches of Normandy. My time in Hawaii introduced me to the many natural phenomena such as the Makapu Tide Pools, the Queen’s Bath at Moku Nui, and the Mermaid Caves in Nanakuli. The pill boxes at Lanikai, Coco Head along with the Hidden Lagoon offered breath-taking views of the island of Oahu.

[Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd's Island]
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd’s Island 2020-11-07

“There are many places I that I can recall that I have not mentioned. But all these places share one thing in common, they are amazing places that most people have never heard of or will see in their lifetime. They are all wonderous and inspiring places in their own right. This is true with the Okefenokee Swamp. I first learned of the Okefenokee as I was planning my move to South Georgia from Hawaii. I was searching for outdoor activities and the first thing I came across was a website talking about 120 miles of water trail and multiple camping options in the swamp. I immediately wanted to do this trip or at least a portion of it. I have since made a handful of trips into the swamp and learned about the history of Billy’s Island, the Sill, the timber operation and among other stories. My most recent trip into the swamp was with the WWALS Watershed Coalition. We paddled 8 miles out to camp at Floyds Island. The entire journey was just so peaceful. However, when we made the turn onto the green trail from Stephen C. Foster State Park, the swamp became extraordinarily enchanting. The cathedral-like tunnel that we paddled through for miles until we reached Floyd’s Island was like a portal to a fairytale dimension. In many instances, the colors of the fall, the canopy formation of the trees and the mirrored reflections were hypnotizing, we could have paddled this natural tunnel for hours and still want more. Upon reaching the camp site, everyone in our party was just magically delighted about the spiritual connection that the swamp bestowed upon us. The return trip the next day was even more mesmerizing. I never would have thought that I would have used the word enchanting to describe a swamp, but it was just that. I am glad to add the Okefenokee Swamp to my long list of must-see places. As with all of the places listed above, I never knew that I needed to experience them until I did. The Okefenokee is no different, it’s an enchanting place that you never knew you needed to experience.” Continue reading

Franklinville Monument, Landing, Road, Tyler Bridge, Withlacoochee River, Toms Branch 2021-02-06

WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. wanted to see the world-famous Franklinville Monument. Well, famous to those who know Franklinville was the county seat of Lowndes County, Georgia, before Troupville, before Valdosta.

We proceeded east on Franklinville Road to Tyler Bridge over the Withlacoochee River, looked from there at Franklinville Landing on the right (west) bank, and also looked at where Tom’s Branch crosses the road and enters the river.

[Franklinville Monument, Tyler Bridge, Franklinville Landing, Toms Branch]
Franklinville Monument, Tyler Bridge, Franklinville Landing, Toms Branch

But first, Franklinville Monument. Continue reading

History of Cone Bridge and the Cone family –Dr. Ken Sulak 2020-12-31

A Cone family member asked about the history of Cone Bridge on the Suwannee River. Dr. Ken Sulak writes:

I have been working on writing up the Cone story—on and off over recent months. What I sent is a hodge-podge from various sources. Much yet to be compared and validated and compiled in organized fashion—as best as that can be. However, feel free to send along whatever you wish to your members. But, I would add a caveat that this is a preliminary and partial.

Here is his preliminary and partial Cone Bridge story so far, with a few notes by me:

[Andrew Cone Godwin, Blount's Ferry, Piers of Old Cone Bridge, Suwannee River]
Andrew Cone Godwin, Blount’s Ferry, Piers of Old Cone Bridge, Suwannee River

Part 1

Well, I very rarely go exploring in a group—almost always solo hiking or paddling, unless I go with one or another friends. However, I have been to the old Cone Bridge site several times. I have a great deal of information on the Cone family. Here is a bit of it:

The Cone clan came to Florida in the early 1840s. They and you are descended from royalty.

The Cones were descended from Conn of the Hundred Battles, the first high king of Ireland in the second century AD. Conn was a powerful king who ruled over northern Ireland and Scotland. Variations in the family name over time are as follows:

Conn = Mac Con = MacHone = MacCone = McCone = Cone family lineage to Virginia in the early 1600s, eventually to Florida in early 1840s, 6 generations later: Conn of the Hundred Battles. Second Century AD, First High King of Ireland

Then I have not gotten into the lineage in Ireland/Scotland until Sir Archibald MacHone, Strathclyde, Scotland 1542-1583. He was the earliest direct progenitor of the Florida Cone lineage. An in that lineage Jared MacCone, Midlothian, Scotland 1675-1659.

And Neil MacCone, Scotland b1625, who immigrated to Isle of Wight, Va, d1679 — [IMMIGRANT TO BRITISH COLONIAL AMERICA] Gen 1.

The first Cone to come to Florida was William Henry Cone Jr. 1777-1857, who moved from Georgia to Blount’s Ferry, Florida, on the Suwannee River, about a mile south of the GA/FL border. He was also known as William Cone III and also Capt. William ‘Billy’ Cone. He got the Captain salutation from service in the war of 1812. He was active in the GA and FL militia during the Seminole Wars and built a blockade at Blount’s Ferry. He took over operation of the ferry in 1843 and 1844, and was postmaster there in 1845.

His descendant, William Haddock Cone 1825-1886 & his nephew Daniel Newnan Cone Jr. 1841-1919, built the original Cone Bridge—which was undoubtedly a timber wagon bridge. It was built in 1881, 17 years before the invention of Lally columns—steel cylinders filled with concrete and used to support steel bridges. Steel truss bridges began to be built in the late 1890s. Continue reading

Sulak’s Defeat at Jennings Defeat 2020-08-26

Explorer Dr. Ken Sulak has solved an Alapaha River rapids naming mystery. He recounts:


So in 1797, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote a poem inspired by a dream.

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
   Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Insert three ‘A” and the dreamscape river becomes the Alapaha, and appropriately so. Yesterday, I embarked on the foolish idea of a solo kayak journey up 3 miles of the Alapaha from Sasser Landing (just below the confluence of the Alapaha and the Alapahoochee rivers) to the site of the 1800s Roebucks Ferry and later Roebucks Bridge.

[Jennings Defeat Rapids, Ogeechee Gum, GS&F RR trestle below CR 150]
Jennings Defeat Rapids, Ogeechee Gum, GS&F RR trestle below CR 150

That crossing brought settlers and other travelers from Jacksonville and Fernandina along the GA/FL border across the Alapaha to Miccotown, the old Seminole Indian town in the triangle of land protected by the two flanking rivers. The road/trail (gone now on both sides) continued west across the Alapahoochee at the site of the early 1900s Beatty Bridge (undoubtedly preceded in the mid-1800s by an undocumented ferry), and on to Hickstown in Madison County and westward. Miccotown became the first county seat of Hamilton County as the settlers suppressed the Seminoles and the old Indian town faded into obscurity in 1839. Continue reading

Trailmarker Tree Trails 2020-11-04

Second of a series of posts from Dr. Ken Sulak, USGS, retired. He is aware that Indian Trailmarker Trees are still speculative. Maybe with enough examples we can all determine whether they are what they seem to be. Please send pictures and locations of any trailmarker trees you may have seen, especially along old trails that crossed the Alapaha, Withlacoochee, Little, Suwannee, or Santa Fe Rivers, such as Old Coffee Road or various versions of El Camino Real.

[Old Trails]
Old Trails

Thanks for your reply. The trailmarker tree thing is an offshoot of my research on historic settler fords, ferries and bridges. Certainly early settlers traded with Seminoles and followed their trails. This Motte map is one of the few I have encountered that shows trails from GA coming into FL. There has also been more published on the ‘Alachua Trail’ figured in the next map. But that is of less interest to me because folks using that trail were primarily headed to the St. Johns River area—a distinct migration thing from the GA and SC folks headed for ‘Middle Florida’ where the best farm land and ample water was available.

I have been trying to confine my studies and field explorations to that area—but have inevitably gotten involved with what was happening in S GA. I have made several foot and solo kayak trips to the GA/FL border, and up into GA a bit now.

Many coming south from GA crossed into Spanish FL at Warners (Beauforts, Hornes) Ferry over the Withlacoochee, then headed south to Deadman’s Bay (Steinhatchee) to boil down salt water to make several barrels full of salt to take back to GA in wagons. This is one of the several ‘Old Salt Trails’ that later immigrant settlers used. All six of the so-far discovered trailmarker trees fall right on one of the dotted trails in this map

[1838 Motte Seminole War trail map]
Motte’s 1838 Seminole War map showing trails with dotted lines.

Warners Ferry or Horn’s Ferry was near where the current Horn Bridge is over the Withlacoochee River just upstream of State Line Boat Ramp and the GA-FL line.

I asked Ken a few questions, including: Continue reading

Searching for Trailmarker Trees 2020-11-02

Here’s the first of a series of posts from Dr. Ken Sulak, USGS, retired, whom you may remember we’ve quoted before about sturgeon jumping in the Suwannee River. He’s got several new pursuits that entwine with Suwannee River Basin rivers, and he’s asking for your assistance. He is aware that Indian Trailmarker Trees are still speculative. Maybe with enough examples we can all determine whether they are what they seem to be.

WWALS riverrats –

While exploring old bridge and ferry sites along the Suwannee River and its tributaries, I have encountered five unmistakable Indian Trailmarker Trees (and Brack Barker has shown me a sixth). I won’t say I discovered these, because some human first shaped each, and thousands of Indians and early settlers used these manmade landmarks to navigate through South Georgia and Florida’s 27 million acres of seemingly endless and trackless primordial Longleaf Pine Forest. Sure, there were Indian trails that the settlers also followed, like the Alachua Trail and the Old Salt Road (plural). But that was not necessarily easy. No welcome to Florida signs back then, no road signs, no road maps, no GPS — although the sun and stars provided compass directions.

[Trailmarker Trees, How To, and old map]
Trailmarker Trees, How To, and old map

The noted naturalist Herbert Stoddard came to Florida with his family as a small boy in 1893. Florida became a US Territory in 1822, with settlers arriving in droves thereafter. But even as late as 1893, there were few real roads to follow. Stoddard recalls: “Came a long ride in a horse-drawn wagon over bumpy, one-track roads through the longleaf woods … They were crooked as snakes, for every time a pine tree fell across the road, Continue reading

What stinks worse than a titanium mine too near the Okefenokee Swamp? Biomass plants in north Georgia

Should we assume a titanium mine started by the same people would be any better than the stinking biomass plants they started? You can ask the Georgia government to stop the mine that would be far too close to the Okefenokee Swamp. And don’t forget to vote for people who support clean air and water!

The “clean” wood-burning biomass plants in north Georgia stink so bad a chicken CAFO operator says he can smell it. So bad people working at the plant get sick with masks on. So bad local people say they were betrayed and a local government is suing. So bad it’s caused a fish kill in a nearby creek. So bad investors are suing. So bad it’s behind in its taxes.

Photo: Franklin Locality, Problem: GRP Pollution
Photo: Franklin Locality, Problem: GRP Pollution

So bad local people say no amount of jobs is worth it. One asks, “did you have anybody investigate the two companies that run that plant; had they ever had EPD/EPA violations, had they ever been sued or had formal complaints brought against them”? Well, many people investigated Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, and found TPM is under a Florida Consent Order for multiple violations just across the GA-FL line.

Yet the Charlton County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners passed a resolution in favor of that titanium mine. Maybe they should review that decision in light of this track record of another project by the same people.

Maybe GA-EPD should take all this into account while considering TPM’s five permit applications. And then reject those applications.

You can help by asking them to do so.

And don’t forget to vote for people who will protect our waters and people.

Lee Shearer, Athens Banner-Herald, 12 September 2015, Alabama company plans wood-burning electricity plants near Athens,

The EPD’s Air Quality Branch earlier this summer approved one of the two pollution permit applications filed by GreenFuels Holding Company of Birmingham for a 79 megawatt plant near the Franklin County town of Carnesville.

The company filed its application for a 58 megawatt plant near Colbert about two weeks ago. State officials won’t begin to evaluate it for another couple of weeks, until a 30-day window has passed when the public can make formal comments, said Eric Cornwell, the Air Quality Branch’s program manager for stationary source permitting.

GreenFuels has a policy to not comment publicly to media, said GreenFuels vice president Steven Ingle.

Yes, the same Steven Ingle who is president of Twin Pines Minerals LLC that already has equipment on its mine site within a few miles of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. But Ingle tells us that mine will be safe. Which is also what his biomass LLC told everybody.

Biomass has become the new coal, Continue reading

FDOT says it will look for toll road financial need after reports: you can vote! 2020-10-21

FDOT actually answered my complaint that there is no demonstrated need for the M-CORES toll roads, saying FDOT would be sure to do financial due diligence. After the “Final” Task Force reports go to the legislature.

Meanwhile, FDOT has spent how many millions of taxpayer dollars on the un-needed boondoggle? Despite NRTR demonstrating that 93% of comments FDOT received opposed the toll roads?

Nevermind their “deadlines,” you can still send comments to FDOT, and they will go into the public record, retrievable through open records requests.

And don’t forget to vote for people who will stop this toll roads boondoggle and instead do good things for natural Florida and its people. Votes are comments the state of Florida cannot ignore.

[Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001]
Graph 93-percent-AGAINST 10 14 20-0001
PDF

I didn’t get to comment on the Suncoast Corridor Task Force meeting, because they didn’t see my sign-up to comment using their procedures. I asked them about that, and got them to acknowledge I had signed up to comment in the Northern Turnpike Connector Task Force meeting the next day.

Here is what I sent FDOT immediately after speaking on October 21, 2020: Continue reading

Last day to comment against M-CORES, and NRTR publishes analysis of comments 2020-10-14

Florida has a billion-dollar budget shortfall, yet the toll road task forces are still reporting go-aheads while finding no need for their destructive projects. Today is the last comment day to tell the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) what you think about that. Plus today you can listen to the No Roads to Ruin Coalition spell out the overwhelming public opposition to this toll roads boondoggle.

How to comment to FDOT about M-CORES:

  1. FDOT.Listens@dot.state.fl.us
  2. or use this comment form:
    https://floridamcores.com/#contact-us

Just like SH 130 in Texas, these Florida toll roads would be broke from the start, while sucking up funds that should go to pandemic relief and to conserving Florida’s natural environment, including regular, frequent, closely-spaced water quality testing on all of Florida’s rivers. Florida should be doing those things, not risking the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, their springs, agriculture, forests, swamps, and the Floridan Aquifer for unnecessary toll roads.

[Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start]
Florida Suncoast Conector and Texas SH 130: broke from the start

Also today, the No Roads To Ruin (NRTR) coalition, of which Suwannee Riverkeeper is a charter member, will release an analysis of public comments.

After 15 months of public meetings and collecting public comment in multiple formats for the three M-CORES task forces, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has yet to provide, to the task force members or the public, a complete record and accounting of public comment submissions.

To rectify this situation, the No Roads to Ruin Coalition has gathered, categorized, and will share and summarize those public comments, along with the obvious probable reasons for FDOT’s lack of transparency.

WHAT: No Roads to Ruin Coalition Zoom press conference and Facebook Live event

WHEN: October 14, 2020 at 10:30 to 11:00 a.m.

WHO: Jon Bleyer, Progress Florida Online Communications Specialist, Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director, and volunteer “comment counters” from across the state

WHERE: Facebook Live: www.facebook.com/noroadstoruin

Suwannee Riverkeeper has signed on to an NRTR letter against M-CORES, as has Waterkeepers Florida on behalf of all 14 Waterkeepers of Florida.

For why, you need go no farther than The Suncoast Corridor Task Force’s own Study Area Overview:

[SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009]
SCC MCORES-Draft-Task-Force-Report-Sections-9.28.20-0009
PDF

The predominately rural counties located within the Suncoast Corridor study area contain natural resources, landscapes, and public lands that have been highly attractive to residents and year-round visitors for decades. This area has many unique features and natural resources including rivers, springs, wetlands, aquifer recharge areas, coastal areas, conservation areas, state parks, and agricultural lands. Some notable resources include the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserve, the Flint Rock and Aucilla Wildlife Management Areas, the Suwannee and Santa Fe Rivers, Blue Springs, Fanning Springs, Crystal River, and the Goethe State Forest. The study area also contains numerous large acreage conservation easements. These areas support significant fish, wildlife, and plant populations including threatened and endangered species such as the West Indian manatee, the Florida scrub-jay, and the gopher tortoise. The study area also includes an abundance of prime farmlands and agricultural properties that serve both economic and environmental functions in addition to Spring Protection and Recharge Areas, prospective Florida Forever Lands on the current priority lists for acquisition, and Florida Ecological Greenways Network critical linkages.

Why would we want to risk all that for an unnecessary toll road?

Even the Suncoast Connector Task Force’s own report admits that the public comments were overwhelmingly against that toll road:

A summary of the most common comments/themes received from the public are included below.

  • Concern for impacts to wildlife habitat (946 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to property and rural quality of life (783 comments)
  • Support to expand, improve, and maintain existing roads (421 comments)
  • Need to improve and protect water resources and the aquifer (421 comments)
  • Concern over project cost (367 comments)
  • Need for protection and enhancement of conservation lands (356 comments)
  • Support the need for jobs, economic development and business enhancements; but concern over potential negative economic impacts (269 comments)
  • Concern over the cost of tolls (256 comments)
  • Concern for impacts to wetlands (169 comments)
  • Concern for increased water, ground, and air pollution (147 comments)
  • Need for hurricane evacuation (144 comments)
  • Concern over location/project alignment or route (137 comments)
  • Support for multi-modal/mass transit (144 comments)
  • Need for broadband (117 comments)

As many of us have pointed out, you don’t need a toll road to distribute broadband to rural areas.

Local solar panels with battery backup and more hurricane shelters make a lot more sense and would be far less expensive than a toll road encouraging mass evacuation.

Also remember the Northern Turnpike Connector toll road boondoggle overlaps the Suwannee River Basin in Levy County.

Please comment today!

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!