Sugar Mill Ruins, New Smyrna Beach, Fl




I took a short road trip this weekend to New Smyrna. What a neat downtown they have! On Saturday the streets were crowded with people eating, shopping and just wandering around.

While there, I decided to visit the Sugar Mill Ruins. Built in the early 1800’s, it was once part of the Cruger-dePeyster Plantation. The mill was destroyed during the Second Seminole War.

I had the place to myself when I was at the park. While not big, it sits peacefully under the trees and there are nature trails winding around the property.

To me, the coquina construction gives it the feel of something much older. I can easily picture the remaining walls overlooking some wind-swept coast of Europe.

If you are in the area, stop and take a look.

Sugar Mill Ruins

600 Mission Drive, New Smyrna Beach


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Oak Ridge Cemetery and the R.A.F. in Arcadia, Fl


The outbreak of World War II found soldiers of the British Commonwealth engaged in fighting on four continents. While fierce fighting raged from Africa to the South Pacific, a desperate air war was underway in the skies over England. If German pilots could crush Royal Air Force bases and destroy planes in the air, Adolf Hitler would be able to invade England and control all of Europe.

Due to the frequent German bombing raids, the R.A.F. had a hard time training young pilots without them being drawn into combat for which they were unprepared. For this reason, the Royal Air Force sent pilots in training to the United States to learn without being under fire. Many of those pilots trained at air bases scattered around Florida.


Sadly, not all those young men made it home. Whether training errors, equipment failures, illness or other accidents lives were lost. A long standing British tradition is that soldiers be buried where they fall. Therefore, there are British Commonwealth war dead buried around the U.S.

One of those places is Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia, Florida. Tucked in among pioneer families, America veterans and the final resting place of many locals, there is a relatively small, immaculately kept area with twenty-three identical headstones, each adorned with a red poppy. Here lies the remains of young men that died far from home, but are not forgotten. The plot is overseen by The Imperial War Graves Commission, which has the sole responsibility of ensuring that the final resting place of the Heros of the Commonwealth are properly taken care of around the globe. While none of these men died under enemy fire, they died in defense of their country none-the-less.

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These brave boys are a source of pride for the community of Arcadia. Since 1956, the town has held a Memorial Day ceremony at the site which includes bag pipes, often Canadian visitor and America WWII vets (but their numbers are fewer and fewer).

One of the plaques is touching:

The Soldier

Rupert Brooke, 1887 – 1915

If I should die, think only this of me:
   That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.  There shall be
   In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
   Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
   Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
   A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
     Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
   And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
     In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

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If you go, the cemetery closes at sunset. After paying respects to the fallen soldiers, take some time to wander among the many graves. You will see many names that are not just pioneers of Arcadia, but Florida as well.

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Loxahatchee Battlefield Park

The Tree of Tears

The Tree of Tears

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The wounded laid huddled together under a large oak tree while acrid smoke hung in the dense trees. The sound of musket fire and the buzz of mosquitoes filled the air. Less than a month earlier, Christmas day 1837, Zachary Taylor’s command suffered serious casualties on the shores of Lake Okeechobee. Now General Thomas Jesup ordered a small expeditionary force up the Loxahatchee River in hopes of making contact and engaging Seminoles camped along it’s banks. Badly outnumbered and pinned down, Lt. Powell’s command was at a very real risk of becoming Powell’s Massacre.

On January 15th, 1838, The U.S. Navy’s Waterborne Everglades Expeditionary Unit comprised of fifty-five untested sailors and twenty-five soldiers under the command of Lt. Levin M. Powell encountered a large group of Seminole warriors firmly dug into dense hammock and undergrowth. Powell’s unit began to take casualties. The wounded were placed under an ancient oak tree that would later become known as “The Tree of Tears”. If not for the leadership and courage of a young lieutenant named Joseph E. Johnston (later a Civil War General), who fought a rear guard action allowing the force to escape, the entire unit might have been lost.

Nine days later, on January 24th,General Jesup, lead his main force of 1500 up the river to attack the encamped Seminoles head on. The natives were roughly 300 strong and were occupying solid positions. Jesup was wounded almost immediately. The Tennessee Volunteers under the command of Major William Lauderdale took most of the casualties and the Seminoles held until a force of dragoons managed to cross the river and flank the warriors. The Seminoles abandoned their positions and retreated into the swamp.

Shortly after the battle, Jesup petitioned Washington to allow the Seminoles to remain in the Everglades. His request was denied and as a result nearly 600 Seminoles, mostly women and children, that had been camped near Jesup’s camp under a flag of truce were detained and later sent to the reservations in the west. This action caused the Second Seminole War to continue for four more years and gave rise to the Third Seminole War in the 1850’s.


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Today the battlefield site shares a location with Riverbend Park in Jupiter, Fl. Along with well maintained trails though the battlefield site, the park offer many miles of hiking trails, canoe and bike rentals, equestrian trails, picnic areas and historic sites including a 1930’s restored sawmill, farmstead and homestead sites.

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If you go, plan to spend some time and take advantage of all the park has to offer. Insect repellant and water are a must along with a pair of comfortable walking shoes. The park is located just west of I-95 on S.R. 706 (Indiantown Road) in Jupiter, fl.


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Micanopy Historic Cemetery, Micanopy, Fl


In the past, every time I have been driving through or near Micanopy, I have been actually heading somewhere. Well, this time I planned to at least drive through and look around the area.

Micanopy itself is a quaint small Florida town with antique shops and a few eateries. There are a number of old buildings that I was itching to take pictures of, but between being on a time crunch and the number of people around, I decided that would be for another day.

However, the cemetery was irresistible. Founded in the early 1800’s, the cemetery limits burials to those that live either in Micanopy or have relatives already interred on the grounds.


As my daughter and I were walking around, there was actually a cool breeze blowing through the Spanish Moss and the sunlight pierced the canopy of oak trees in places. Sometimes, the sun beams would fall on one headstone or marker causing it to light up as if a spotlight was shining on it as if trying to get my attention.

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Unfortunately, our time had to be cut short to get back on the road. Between this cemetery, another close by, the town and a reportedly haunted bed and breakfast, you can be sure that my next pass in the area will be much longer.


Bouncing Around the Panhandle

I took a road trip to Virginia via the Florida Panhandle last week. I visited my son in Marianna and while I was there, I thought I would do a little exploring.

Marianna is loaded with history, old buildings and beautiful scenery. This church is now abandoned. St. Luke’s Baptist Church was built in 1921. It sits atop a high point of the city.


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I made a point to find Riverside Cemetery-the final resting place of several soldiers that were killed during the Battle of Marianna during the Civil War. I had mistakenly read it as “the river side cemetery” instead of “Riverside Cemetery”. Established in 1829, it has an old feel and some really interesting markers and grave sites.

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Also, these are the graves of the unknown soldiers killed during the battle.

Marker for the unknown

Marker for the unknown

Backside of marker

Backside of marker

Unknown Confederate graves

Unknown Confederate graves

For more on the battle, you can read about it in a previous post: The Battle of Marianna

I also visited Chipley and took some shots of their old downtown.

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After leaving the panhandle, I was off to Roanoke, Virginia, but that is another story.

Lost Miami by David Bulit


Several months ago, I was contacted by David Bulit, the administrator for the site Abandoned Florida and asked if I would be interested in writing a few pieces for a book he was working on. Honestly, I jumped at the chance and was given a choice of topics. I ended up writing three articles, Crandon Park Zoo, Richmond NAS and a little bio for Barron Collier.

I enjoyed the research and learned a lot, but I tried to stay reserved because lots can happen between the writing and publishing of a book. Not to mention that it can sometimes take years.

Well, none of that was a problem. The book was released on August 31st and I got my copy today. Dave’s photography is outstanding and the stories cover places that many might see, but few know the story behind them. Places like the NIKE missile site, The Homestead UFO House, The Coconut Grove Playhouse and several others.

The book would be a good addition to any Florida History collection or anyone that enjoys photographs of abandoned, forgotten places.

It can be purchased on Amazon.Lost Miami:Stories and Secrets Behind Magic City Ruins

The best for me is seeing my name listed as a contributing author. Just a little something that makes me smile.


Payne’s Creek Historic State Park and others!


My daughter and I set out for adventure over the weekend and the hopes of seeing something interesting. Well, we did that.

Our first stop was Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. I love this place because you can just never tell what kind of wildlife you are going to see. Today added a new one to the list for me. While driving down the road, I saw this guy crossing. Now I would have loved to have invite several dozen of his cousins to a steam bath of Old Bay, lemon and beer, but since he was a lone straggler, I moved him out of the road and carried on.DSCF2773

As we continued down the road we found some deer enjoying breakfast. My daughter got out of the truck to get a better look at them.





It was still early in the day, so we were off to Payne’s Creek Historic State Park in Bowling Green. I wanted to see the fort site and the grave marker.

Site of Fort Chokonikla 1849.

Site of Fort Chokonikla 1849.

This is a beautiful park. I was surprised by how quiet it was, but the heat index was also over 100. Smart people may have stayed inside! Payne’s Creek has a very nice visitor center/museum along with trails that take you to the site of the trading post and to the historic marker on the spot where two men were killed during a Seminole raid.

Marker commemorating Capt. George Payne and Dempsy Whiddon

Marker commemorating Capt. George Payne and Dempsey Whiddon

Kennedy-Darling Trading Post site from the overlook.

Kennedy-Darling Trading Post site from the overlook.



The trails are loaded with great views of the river, but the best is from the suspension bridge.

Suspension Bridge over the Peace River

Suspension Bridge over the Peace River

On the way home, I decided to detour through Arcadia and visit the ghost town of Pine Level. We got there mere moments before one of the hardest rain storms I have driven through in years. I did not make it to the cemetery or get photos of the hanging tree. I will have to go back!

Pine Level Historic Marker

Pine Level Historic Marker

I also made a sad discovery as well. Some of you may remember the post I made about the Lockett Estate in Basinger. Well, driving by Saturday I discovered that the roof of the barn has finally caved in. I suspect that the walls will follow soon. On an up note, it looks as if someone is doing some work on the site. The fences have been repaired and the grass is mowed.

Picture of the barn in late 2014.

Picture of the barn in late 2014.

Barn in August 2015

Barn in August 2015


In all it was a great day and really long. We covered more than 300 miles and several counties. Here are some other photos of the day. Enjoy!

Viera Wetlands and River Lakes Conservation Area

I have been wanting to go visit the Viera Wetlands for a while, so when it became apparent that I had nothing to do on Sunday, I decided to get up  and make the drive.

I made it the the wetlands just after sunrise. My hope was to catch some wildlife just starting to stir and maybe snag a pic or two. I wasn’t disappointed. Birds and gators were the order of the day.

Certainly not some of my best photography work. I would like to blame it on low light, cloudy skies or bad planetary alignment, but I think I just sucked!

After leaving the wetlands, I drove a little further down the road to River Lakes Conservation Area. While driving, I spotted this pair standing along the tree line really far away. A doe and a young buck. I also saw two other bucks running, but they did not stop to pose for a photo.

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River Lakes has several trails, but it looks like you need to be serious about it. Both north and south are wide open for a long way. With the August heat and heavy rains we have been having, I decided this is a project better suited to the cooler drier months.

I tool this picture of the trail leading south to give some perspective.


When I got back to the truck, I had this crazy crow pecking at my windshield. I am assuming he was eating bugs from the drive, but I can just see explaining the broken windshield to the insurance company. “No really, a crow ate it!”


A Little House in the Woods

A few months ago, while I was out on one of my drive-abouts, I noticed a small house sitting up in the trees along a rarely traveled back road. I could see that it was old and in a bad state, but since it was behind a locked gate in someone’s cow pasture, I began the hunt for the owners.

This is what it looked like from the road.


I spent a couple of months searching tax records, phone calls, email and even random Facebook messages to complete strangers, but eventually it paid off.


I was told that this house was originally in town, but was moved to the present site sometime in the 1950’s and has sat here since. It served as a home to the cowhands on the ranch and I suspect a hunting camp at one point.


The years have not been kind and mother nature is taking it back one vine covered wall at a time.

When I originally saw the place, I thought it was just one house. Imagine my surprise when I found out there was a second one hiding further back in the hammock. This one is not as old as the first, but it certainly feeling the effects of time and nature.


One can only imagine how nice it would have been to live there at one time. Orange trees outside the front door, the canopy of the hammock keeping the heat of the day at bay and breezes blowing through the Spanish Moss.

With the beautiful location, it makes me wonder what happened. Why did the people leave? This house looks as if they walked out the door and just never came back. Books on the shelves, dish in the cupboard and toy scattered around.

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The owner had asked me not to go inside since the floors were rotten and ceilings are falling in, but that was not a problem since the windows and in several places, the walls, are gone or broken.

I will hopefully be able to get a little more history and details from the owner. I will update the post when I do.


10 Mile Creek Bridge

DSCF2244I have been slacking lately. I have not been up and out for a sunrise in a long while. I had great intentions of remedying that situation on Saturday morning, but, I am ashamed to admit, when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., I just could not muster the energy.

At 7, when I finally got up, I was a little annoyed with myself and decided I needed to sweat a little. So, out the door I went headed to a little place very close to home where I could wander among the oaks, Spanish moss and river swamp.

DSCF2239As you walk the trail, there is a small fork that is overgrown and easy to miss that will take you to the creek and a wooden railroad bridge. I had not been there in a while, so why not?

DSCF2245 DSCF2246 DSCF2249 DSCF2251I did see something that made my mind start to wander and raised questions. Lost among the pile of wood and concrete railroad ties, there was a weathered and faded stuffed bear. I can only guess how it got to this place so far off the path and away from the world. I could only assume that at some point and family was living near or under the bridge. I contemplated bringing the lost bear home and giving it a place to be, but decided against it….for now.

Here is a photo of where the little bear lives now.


And here is the bear’s resting place.

DSCF2242The heat index was 94 when I left the house and it certainly had not gotten any cooler while I was out, so I decided to head home. Unfortunately, the little bear is still on my mind. Who did it belong to? How did it get there? Should I go get it? I guess I may never know the answers to some of those questions.