Thursday, December 28, 2023

Ma Barker House

After a life of crime Ma Barker and her son Fred decided to lay low and rented a vacation house on Lake Weir in Ocklawaha where they probably thought they'd never be found. Wrong, the FBI eventually found them and on January 16, 1935 after the longest gun battle in Bureau history, which put a couple of thousand rounds of ammunition into the house, the Barkers were dead. A lot has been written about the Barkers and a movie was made starring Shelley Winters which I am told may have stretched the truth a bit.. 

The Ma Barker house on Carney Island

The house stood on about seven acres on Lake Weir and the original owners sold the land and donated the house to Marion County who in 2016 floated it across Lake Weir to Carney Island. I'm not going to say much more because at you can get a detailed history of the house and the Ma Barker family. You can also sign up for the house tour which I enjoyed and includes a really interesting lecture on events of the period. Following the battle the exterior of the house was repaired but you'll still see plenty of patched bullet holes in the interior drywall!

In the house were 3 tommy guns - one with a 100 shell magazine, handguns, rifles, magazines, ammunition and bulletproof vests.

Before it was moved I remember riding out to Ocklawaha to see the house but as it was private property only got a glimpse of it through the bushes. Later, Fred Hemsley who owns the old gas station on Hwy 25 just north of Weirsdale told me there had been a 50th anniversary celebration of the gun battle in 1985. Unexpectedly, over forty thousand people turned up shutting down the highway for miles which at the time was part of Route 441 - chaos!

Kudos to Marilu Burden for reminding me to write about Ma Barker and inspiring me to do the tour.