Jefferson County’s Lost Towns

 

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Jefferson County’s Lost Towns

by Anne Haw Holt

 What makes a town a town? Does it take a post office to make it official? A church? A store? A graveyard? How about a name on a map?

Someone told me about a town that once existed on the Aucilla River in lower Jefferson County called “Cash Money.” What a wonderful name. I decided to search some old maps for lost towns in our county. I never found the little town of “Cash Money,” but to my astonishment, I found dozens of lost town names on local maps dated from antebellum times until today.

We still recognize Fanlew as a town, although the post office, church and store are gone and only a few houses mark the place. Ashville and Lyndhurst are down to one house a piece. I found town names such as Nash, Drifton, Walker’s Springs and Dills. These towns were once someone’s home—at one time, Lickskillet was someone’s hometown.

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People tell me that whatever their name, most towns in Jefferson County were around eight miles from our courthouse in Monticello. We started out just as we are now, a farming county, and this was so a farmer and his family could make it to the county seat and back home in a wagon pulled by mules in one day’s light. Our remaining towns seem to be about eight miles apart.

Lost towns are an intriguing mystery. Why did Pinhook, Beazley, Bailey Mills, Aucilla and Jarrett disappear? It’s easy to understand why Monticello no longer has two hotels and several more large stores—we used to be on a main east-west route for travelers. That traffic has moved to Routes 10 and other routes. Lamont, Lloyd and Drifton were railroad towns, some boasting several saloons. They are naturally smaller now. But what happened to Cash Money, Bunker Hill, Fort Hamilton and so many others?

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Monticello Courthouse

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Jefferson County’s Aucilla River

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By Anne Haw Holt

 

Today, in autumn, the river is dry under the Ashville Highway Bridge. In early spring I spent more than three quiet hours in the bow of a friend’s canoe, wandering among the channels, wide pools and small bays created by the overflow. I snapped photograph after photograph of water birds, the pale new leaves of rampant undergrowth and gently greening cypress forest.

In the hot Florida summer, from Lamont south to our landing near the lost town of “Cash Money” we paddled a wide, strong and full-flowing river. The water sometimes tumbled and rushed over rapids, cutting into high banks. We found fallen trees blocking our canoes, forcing a portage through the underbrush alongside the stream. Once we pushed lightened canoes across a partially submerged log. Wide-winged birds flew off into the forest at the sound of our paddles. The sun sparkled on water rippling over hidden stones and swirling around cypress knees.

The Aucilla disappears underground near Goose Pasture. Rushing, it dives into the depths of a limestone labyrinth for somewhere between four and five miles. The water intermittently surfaces through windows in the rock to create tiny ponds and graceful lakes, some with floating islands made of lily pads. The “Aucilla Sinks” are bordered by a well-known hiking trail.

Near Nutall Rise the water comes back to the surface where it is joined and augmented by the spring-fed Wacissa River. From there the Aucilla flows wide and deep to wander around Ward Island, curve into Apalachee Bay and race out into the Gulf of Mexico. On the far side of Apalachee Bay, hidden in the sawgrass, we found the narrow channel of the lost Pinhook River.