Small Towns Have Long Memories
By Anne H. Holt
An exhibit of historical photographs of “Founding Families of Jefferson County” is showing in Jefferson Arts Gallery, open 10 PM to 2 PM every Wednesday and Saturday. The free Exhibit will run through February, 2016. Many of these photographs evoke interesting memories in visitors who have lived the area for years or are descendants of our founding families.
Families from Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina started coming to the town we call Monticello around 1820. They found a few families already here, the Alexanders and others. There was a trading post kept by someone named Roberson or Robertson, perhaps located at the corner of present day Pearl and Jefferson Streets. The spot where our beautiful Jefferson County courthouse now sits was known as Roberson or Robertson’s Corners.
Sometimes a man would come before his family, to find a place to develop a plantation. Wisely, he would search for “old fields,” those burned over areas in the rich red hills where for many years, the Apalachee kept the land cleared and raised their corn. Siting a plantation on old fields meant a planter could raise a crop the first year, not have to wait to clear land before he could plant. That first crop could make all the difference in his success.
Monticello is an extremely small town. Respect for our town’s past glory runs deep. Our shady street are simply lovely. The town is surrounded by the beautiful “Red Hills” of Florida, gracefully rolling hills that still prove congenial to small-scale farmers, breeders of Thoroughbred race horses, planters and conservationists who love the lush and inviting landscape.
The town itself still has many well-preserved houses, shops and small businesses. They all look as though they sprang up of their own accord through the course of a long and virtuous history.
Monticello and Jefferson County’s long history is always with us. The descendants of families who settled here in the 1820s and before live on Washington, Jefferson, Madison and other Streets in Monticello. Plantation families live in Lloyd, Lamont, Ashville, Aucilla, Waukeenah and Wacissa. Descendants of founding families work in our shops, run small farms and businesses and serve in City and County offices. Tiny towns have long memories.
These photographs of early families evoke wonderful stories of romance, historical gossip, even tales about duels fought in the “no-man’s land” along the Georgia state border. I’ve been told that there are two families in Jefferson County who do not speak to this day because of a duel fought before the Civil War. Oh, they say there was a Jefferson County judge who sat in the cupola of the Courthouse and played the violin on summer evenings.