Sunday, February 21, 2021

Nichols Cemetery

I’m taking a day out touring and decide to learn more about the Nichols Cemetery, a frequent stop on SLBC rides. My route takes me west on Hwy 475 over the I75 bridge shortly after which I see the sign for Nichols Cemetery and follow CR 246 to the gate.

It is a family cemetery established in 1880 on land donated by W. R. “Bob” Nichols Sr. who was the first to be buried there by his son Judson Nichols. I walk around the older section of the cemetery and find his grave marked with a tombstone on which the family name is spelled “Nickols”. I am disappointed by not finding anything else about him until I use the men’s washroom where I find his picture on the wall - Bingo!
 Afterward I continue south along CR 246 but instead of taking the left turn back to 475 I decide to ride straight up the stone, grass and sand road to Scenic View Alpacas and take some pictures before finding my way back to Hwy 475 and having lunch at the bar of the Whispering Pines Winery. A seriously good ride.


On one of my favorite rides along Sunset Harbor Road I turn left at the Stanton Baptist Church onto SE 140th Avenue. Just before SE 155th Street on my left I see the stone ballast, all that remains of the railroad that ran beside Lake Weir. This is where in 1881, Stanton Perrin founded the town that bore his name. He built a lumber mill on Lake Weir and a steam boat to raft wood across. By 1885 a population of 300 was cutting 30,000 board feet of lumber a day, growing oranges, manufacturing shingles and bricks, and had two general stores. All of this was short lived as the town rapidly declined after the great freezes of 1894/5 destroyed the citrus and overharvesting ended  the lumber industry.

I continue riding east on SE 155th Street past the Ocala Road (Hwy 25) and on the left side of the road l see this home which was built in 1895. It is built of wood felled on Carney Island, rafted across Lake Weir and sawn at the Stanton mill.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Leesburg to Wildwood by Train

Leesburg Station – since repurposed as a fitness center by Beacon College 

Starting at Leesburg station I follow the rail trail through Montclair where the train would have made its first stop. As I continue the trail unfortunately ends at the Leesburg city limit a half mile before Whitney where the train would have stopped at packing houses to deliver supplies and pick up produce.

 From Whitney Road you can see the easement extending west through the trees. I continue west on SR 44 to the next stop at Bamboo about a half mile east of Morse Blvd, where a now vanished sawmill used the rails to transport lumber.
 The sawmill at Bamboo – you can see a train on the right.
Then I turn right off 44 onto CR 143 which parallels the rail easement which is on my right. At the entrance to Lake Deaton you can see old railroad ties in the grass. When I reach the jog to the right that crosses the easement onto 44A I am in the center of Orange Home, a settlement squeezed between Lakes Deaton and Okahumpka. Here the train would have picked up citrus and vegetables and delivered supplies.
Continuing on 44A the easement is now on my left and I see the beautifully conserved Baker House on my right. Senator David H. Baker completed the home just before 1895 in time for the great freezes that destroyed the area citrus industry. Disaster for many but it enabled him to accumulate 1200 acres of land at bargain prices. As he had donated land for the railroad the train would have stopped here on request and his family traveled free.
 The Baker House

From there it is non-stop to Wildwood and I ride along 44A where the easement is easily identified on my left. As I enter Wildwood across from the Elementary School I can see the remains of the track which is now occasionally used to turn around locomotives.