Hawthorne life in the 1880s
W.S. Moore opened the first hotel in 1882. He put together different structures, one build by the Moores, one purchased from the railroad, and one that had been the two-story schoolhouse building. The school building had been located across the main street from the Moores. W.S. Moore moved it with logs and mules. The sections of the hotel were linked together by a porch. The hotel had the first running water in town, supplied by a tank and windmill. Sportsmen from the north filled the hotel in season, enjoying the hunter's breakfasts and giant dinners.
The Gainesville Sun article on the celebration of Founder's Day in Hawthorne (March 30,21,1979) by Barbara Crawford gives some examples of life in the community. In 1883 a lively bit of frontier life occurred; James Pascall, the town marshal, was shot by John Fullenlove, who had been incarcerated in the lockup and fined for being drunk. Citizens complained about the condition of the public roads, especially the Praire Creek bridge on the Hawthorne Road which went to Gainesville. The north-south road, Johnson Street, went through Hawthorne, crossing the road to Gainesville in the northern part of town.
Carl Webber, who published Eden of the South in 1883, described Hawthorne as located at junction of the Florida Southern and Peninsular Railways. Hawthorne had a fine Baptist Church, some five or six stores, two hotels, two cotton-gins, two wagons, a blacksmith, a livery and feed stable, and sawmills. A good academic school was open, and there was a newspaper, Jess Davis wrote that the newspaper was the Hawthorne Graphic. He mentioned prominent citizens T.J. McRae, the Adkins brothers, and R . B. Smith, being landowners, railroad agents, and merchants. T.J. McRae was known around the entire area; he is mentioned in a book about Melrose, Florida , as a prominent Hawthorne businessman. R.B. Smith farmed a 200 acre farm, one hundred acres of which he planted to corn and Sea Island cotton. He also had an eight-acre orange grove.
Hawthorne flourished as an agricultural center. In June 1883 the Weekly Bee, a Gainesville paper, reported that Hawthorne should not brag about its apples, as Gainesville had the finest in the state.
Zonira Hunter Tolles in her Melrose history gives a picture of the interactions among the communities in the region due to the improved technology of the period, when the towns had trains, steamer service, and telegraph service. When the steamer Alert from Waldo connected with the F. C. & P. railway, the railroad from Green Cove Sprints, and the hacks from Hawthorne on the Florida Southern railway brought in a lively crowd of all ages to socialize and dance in Melrose. In 1884 there was a major train wreck of the Florida Southern near Gainesville; news was telegraphed to Hawthorne of injuries to J. F. Hammond and John McRae.
In other news the local papers described the 1885 hit of roller skating, saying that skater L. Wertheim went out the window of a two-story house 18 feet from the ground, landed on his feet, and went on skating.
In 1885 merchant T. J. McRae, who operated a general store and stable in Hawthorne, was appointed to the Alachua County School Board. Along with his brother, he owned a 500-acre farm, which was sizable for the area. (Source ... history of Alachua County Schools.)
The Official Path Finder, a reprint of the Florida State Gazetteer and business directory of 1886-1887, listed Hawthorne as one of the railroad junctions of Florida, being a station for the Florida Railway and Navigation Company with Waits Crossing being a station for the Florida Southern Railway; these two had separate depots one half mile apart. An ad by the Hawthorne Spring House at the Waits Crossing by C. J. Schomerus, proprietor, said that the great kidney and liver cure spring was close to the house. The Florida Railway and Navigation Company line took travelers from Fernandina on the Atlantic south through many stops; in Alachua County, Waldo, Orange Heights, Dixie, Hawthorne, and Lochloosa. Silver Spring in Ocala, Marion county, was a favorite destination. At Hawthorne the traveler could get the hack line for Melrose.
In 1887 the Alachua Advocate ran a list of people living in the immediate neighborhood of Hawthorne: M. Hall, M. Hinson, J. Holder, J. Fennell, J. Tompkins, J. M. Hawthorn, J. Denn, G. Ford, Mrs. McNabb, Mrs. Dering, Mrs. Graddick, Mrs. Tompkins, M rs. Tyner, Mrs. Fennell, Mrs. Styles, Henry Smith (colored), Jack Jenkins (colored), and H. Montgomery (colored).
A subdivision called Hawthorn was recorded with six large lots in May, 1887. It was near the crossroads of the two major rail lines.
In 1889 a committee was appointed by the Baptists to look after the cemetery on their land. Members of founding families of Hawthorne are buried there, with gravestones visible today.
Hawthorne's active life in the early 1890s
The 1890 Census showed Alachua County as having 20,449 acres in cotton, with Sea Island cotton bringing up to $100 per bale. The County also produced tobacco, cane sugar, and molasses. Many of the workers were African-American who came to Alachua County to get land (Sowell, FHQ 1985). Generally, the African-Americans worked in agriculture, domestic service, laboring jobs, and on the railroad.
The Center Hotel/McMeekin house was build on Johnson Street in 1890. A new Baptist Church building was constructed in 1891 with Joseph McCarroll as the contractor. Gus Martin, who was born near Hawthorne in 1894, wrote that the old building was moved south on Johnson Street to about where the old two-story school that became part of the Moore Hotel stood. The Methodist Church cornerstone is dated 1891. The building lot was purchased for $55 from James Hawthorn. The town hall was the scene of many entertainments, ice cream suppers, school plays, traveling shows. It was also the Justice of the Peace courts. Frank Price was the Justice of the Peace and Mayor of Hawthorne.
In 1891 there was a cry from Susan Theresa Carlton, a new baby girl, the sixth girl born to a family living four miles south of Hawthorne. The Carltons later bought a home in Hawthorne so that the children could attend school easily. Susan became a nun; as Sister M. Regina Carlton, SSJ, she described Hawthorne in a book she wrote about growing up in Florida. She wrote about the small town set amidst the orange groves and lakes. It enjoyed prosperity, with its main road being Johnson Street, which had stores and large tourist accommodations such as the Moore Hotel. The city was a meeting place for people like salesmen traveling east and west from Gainesville to Palatka, and north and south between Starke and Ocala. A famous boardwalk almost joined the two train stations of the two railroads serving the town, the Seaboard with its station in the northern section of Hawthorne and the Atlantic Coast Line which crossed the Seaboard at right angles toward the southern end of the town having its station there. The boardwalk served the businesses, and formed a promenade for young Hawthorne girls who used the train arrivals to show off their best clothes.
Importance of schools in Hawthorne
Hawthorne early gained a reputation for educational opportunities. The townspeople refuted the criticism of rural schools as inadequate, and fought to keep their schools (History of Alachua County Schools). The birth of Chester Shell in 1892 was important, because he would grow up to secure educational facilities for colored children. Gus Martin described how his father, Robert H. Martin, built a house close to town so that his six children could walk to school. Gus said his first day in school was in 1890; Professor W. F. Melton was principal and Mrs. Melton taught the primary grades in the small frame building that later became the home of the Stringfellow family. Mr. Harry Stringfellow was postmaster in a little building owned by Mrs. McGinnis located just south of Johnson's drugstore. The small city was thriving; citizens felt strongly about the importance of their school and resisted the move to consolidation of schools proposed by Alachua County. The townspeople feared that Hawthorne students would be sent to other communities to school.
The great freezes
The beginning of winter in 1894-95 was mild; the orange trees were sprouting when a terrific freezing spell hit the area and remained for several hours. Temperatures as low as 11 degrees were recorded in North Florida. Every orange tree in the Hawthorne area froze; Sister Regina remembered children sticking their fingers into the fruits and sucking juice while the owners calculated their losses. Hawthorne residents decided to form a special taxing district to raise revenues to fund the school after the freeze. Another freeze in 1899 signaled the end of the orange industry. The packing houses became dust gatherers, and farmers were despondent until Henry Flagger came to the rescue by lending money for seeds and expenses.
Flagger carried produce on his railroad, and the farmers learned to grow vegetables for the growing cities of Florida. The era of truck farming began. Willie Carlton became postmaster in Micanopy and the family moved there. The Carltons continued to return in summers to their farm near Hawthorne where they grew produce that they sold in Hawthorne on weekends (Sister M. Regina, "Time Exposure", Florida Living, April 1994).
After the turn of the century, development continued in Hawthorne. Jess Davis wrote that R. A. Smith and T. C. Holden started a turpentine still; later E. L. Johnson and A. L. Johnson operated the still and the turpentine business. R. H. Smith operated a cotton gin. Frank McDonald around 1905 described the city as exceedingly prosperous because of its agricultural business. The well paid employees of the cotton gin traded in Hawthorne. The boll weevil ended the Sea Island cotton business after the first years of the twentieth century. Hawthorne found new sources of income. McDonald mentioned the kaolin deposits and clay suitable for brick. During this period a union station was built by the railroads a few feet north of Waits Crossing.
African-Americans as well as white families built homes in the early years of the twentieth century. The old Gussie Robertson house and the Herring house were frame homes built by their owners in 1900 on Brown Street (now NW 3rd Avenue). The New Hope Unit ed Methodist Church was built at 301 SE 2nd Avenue in 1907. Most African-Americans were employed in farming, turpentine production, and railroad work. The two Jenkins were builders, along with skilled craftsmen Ed Brown, the Stitts, and E. J. Williams, carpenter. The Stitts house on West Lake is a landmark in Hawthorne, because after the second story burned, it was removed. The house was re-roofed, making it an unusual appearing one-story house.
The Stock-Sherouse and Mahan houses were constructed on West Lake Avenue, a fine road that runs from the town lake on the east to Gainesville on the west. The wide verandah on the Mahan house was a feature of Hawthorne homes, but many have either been enclosed or taken down. The Barnett-Holden house was built around 1910 by dry goods merchant Barnett at 101 NW 2nd Street. T. C. Holden ,who had a turpentine business in the 1920s, acquired the house. Later, it became the Nally house and now is owned by the First United Methodist Church. Lifelong Hawthorne resident Francis Moore was born in 1917 in the house his parents bought on West Lake; it was built by Hawthorne builder Charles Birt. The Frank and Blanche Morrison house was built on West Lake in 1916. On Johnson Street the Hammond Warehouse and the McMeekin Feed store buildings were constructed. The first bank in Hawthorne was organized in 1911 on a lot donated by F. J. Mammond; A. L. Webb was the first president. Later, the building became a drugstore; the antique mirrored bar inside was moved from Jacksonville.
The Umberger Additions were recorded on June 23, 1913, along with Lottlefield's Additions, a subdivision of six blocks. Hawthorne in 1913 had a bank boasting $15,000 in capital, six daily mails, telephone and telegraph service, four general stores, three hotels, two furniture shops, a drug store, and a butcher. One general store advertised an annual income of $200,000 from its sale of dry goods, groceries, hardware, and furniture items. The proprietor also offered undertaking services, and had a cotton gin. It was said that at one time this gin produced more bales of cotton than any Sea Island ginnery around.
Hawthorne also had good clay roads, and a busy social life. Associations like the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Woodmen of the World met, as did the Eastern Star and the Hawthorne Woman's Club. The house now owned by the Woman's Club has an interesting history . Build in 1912 by Lulu Peacock, this house served for a few years as an office for the town physician, Dr. G. M. Floyd. In 1920 Mr. Hammond donated the lot to the Woman's Club when the group bought the house. The lot was slightly enlarged by a 1950 gift from the O'Haras, who lived in the house next door. The O'Hara home was formerly the Presbyterian Church; when the Church failed to attract enough members, the congregation disbanded and sold the structure to Mr. O'Hara, who remodeled it. Mrs. O'Hara still lives there.
Charles Birt, who built several Hawthorne houses, built his own home on NW 1st Avenue. In this same vicinity, the First United Methodist Church congregation added the Old Parsonage to their lovely church and grounds. On Johnson Street a house was built in 1915 that would by live in by Mrs. Arnow, a cousin of the Morrisons. Later, Mrs. Arnow installed the first Hawthorne telephone exchange in her front room.
Hawthorne residents continued to lead in the fight against school consolidation. Robert B. Weeks, Hawthorne merchant and grower, served on the Alachua County School Board for 16 years, from 1903 until 1919. During the last two years of his service, Hawthorne succeeded in being designated a Central School location. In 1920 other small schools in the vicinity were being closed, and students sent to Hawthorne: Grove Park in 1920, Orange Heights in 1923, Lochloosa in 1923, Godwin in 1923; Campville in 1923. The loss of the local school in a small rural community is great; the rural school is an integrating force offering regular social contacts, a focus for public life, a place for political rallies, spelling bees, declamations, and required public examinations. Parents, families, and friends attended. The positive effects for Hawthorne involved not only keeping the schools, but also increasing the years of attendance for students. In the 1920s Hawthorne had school through senior high level; despite an attempt to consolidate the high school in 1953, Hawthorne today has integrated schools offering the full public school program from kindergarten through senior high. The town pulls in students from outlying areas; Hawthorne students score well on competitive tests like the SATs.
Boom Times in Hawthorne