Way back Januarys in Clay County History

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82 years ago, 1836

Florida was a territory of the United States. The area at the prongs of Black Creek was known as Gary’s Ferry and the Second Seminole War was raging. That January, sixteen area plantations were burned to the ground and the first contingent of seventy US soldiers, arrived to establish Fort Heileman.

The fort’s purpose was to serve as Quartermaster’s depot for the entire US Army in Florida, a military post, armory, a medical facility and afford much need protection for locals.

135 years ago, 1885

Gen Roy Geiger is referred to today as the “Father of Marine Aviation”. He is a Marine Corps legend and ranks with the likes of John A. Lejeune, Holland Smith and “Chesty” Puller. He was born in Middleburg in January of 1885.

133 years ago, 1885

New Year’s Day in Green Cove Springs was celebrated with the eruption of impromptu horse races in the dirt streets. Women of the Green Cove Springs Village Improvement Association served refreshments to special guests at their clubhouse near the corner of Palmer and Palmetto Streets.

Wealthy tourists, local businessmen, loggers and farmers rubbed shoulders placing wagers and shouting odds. They provided their own refreshments from pocket flasks, out of sight of the ladies.

130 years ago, 1888

The train christened the New York to Florida Special made her maiden run from the Big Apple to the Sunshine State in 30 hours. Railroads dominated tourist travel until overtaken by the automobile and the construction of enough decent roads to drive them on sometime in the late ‘30s or early ‘40s.

124 years ago, 1896

In January, a hard freeze that stayed almost two full days brought a crushing end to the lucrative citrus industry in north Florida. The shallows of the St. Johns River froze solid enough for kids to ice-skate.

Clay County growers thought they had dodged a bullet the month before but the January freeze killed the roots. There was no coming back.

112 years ago 1906

The paint was barely dry on the Bank of Green Cove Springs one January night in 1906 when it became the target of a dangerous gang of thieves who had racked up an impressive list of bank robberies all over Georgia.

Before the sun was up good, Sheriff James Weeks and Deputy Arch Murrhee trailed the three into the woods north of town and after a brief gunfight returned with the thieves, the $1,800 from local depositors and an additional little over $2,000 which was returned to Georgia victims.

The county paid Duval County to handle it from there and the gang was tried, convicted and dispatched to state prison. There was some concern that justice might not be quick enough to satisfy some locals who briefly lost their hard earned money.

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