A History of Waldo, Florida, USA

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Table of Contents -

Preface #
Saint Augustine #
Indigenous Peoples #
Bellamy Station #
Civil War #
Waldo #
Railroad *
Santa Fe Canal *
Economy *
Waldo's Historic Houses *
Waldo's Historic Businesses *
Resident's Oral Histories *
Outdoors *

Waldo Links *
Contact WaldoHistory.com *

# Located on this web page.
* Located on a separate web page.



In compiling the History of Waldo and the surrounding area, there was no single source for information. Many books had references, but there would only be a paragraph or a sentence in each. The next step was trying to contact older people who could relate what they know or information they have saved about the settlement of the area.

This was very productive since many people had information and pictures.  It was a challenge to gather the bits and pieces and assemble them in one place. People in the Waldo area have been most cooperative in supplying what they could and suggesting others who may have additional input.

Bette DeSha wrote a small book in which she related   interviews with local residents. It was an interesting collection of her efforts. Somewhat like a diary of her work. She generously gave permission to use any part of it toward writing a more complete history.

Some of the early Black Heritage of Florida has been adapted from a pamphlet  Florida's Black Heritage by the Florida Department of State.

Black Americans have played a significant role in Florida's history.  It has woven a vibrant pattern through the fabric of history, from the time that blacks participated in the early exploration of Florida to the 1990's, when a black person became Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court.

Some may think it is reaching too far back in relating the settlement of St. Augustine, but there is a continuity of events that lead to Waldo existing where it is now located.



In 1567 the mission work by the Jesuits was started. This period of work lasted for five years, then they were wiped out by uprisings. The Franciscans arrived in St. Augustine in 1573. They worked hard to develop the missions across North Florida and reached the peak of their works in 1675. They built thirty-four missions in that period of time. During the early 1700's, the English hired their Indian allies to destroy the missions.

In 1675, a Chisia (Yuchi) woman escaped from slavery in Carolina and reported that English men were teaching the Chichinecoa and Westos tribes to Attack Florida and destroy the Timucua and Apalache Indians. 

Black people  participated in the early 16th century Spanish explorations and were involved in the establishment of St. Augustine in 1565.  In the 17th and 18th centuries African born slaves escaped from English plantations in Georgia and South Carolina to seek asylum in Spanish  Florida.  Slavery laws were less harsh in Florida.  The Spanish slave system offered two routes out of slavery: conversion to Roman Catholicism and military service to the Spanish government.  As early as 1683, a company of black and mulatto militia was formed in St. Augustine.   In 1738, Spain established a fortified town specifically for runaway slaves under the command of black captain Francisco Menendez.  The resulting Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose (Fort Mose) was the first legally sanctioned free black town in the United States.  The fort was occupied until the end of the French and Indian Wars in 1763 when Florida was turned over to the British and the Spanish were forced to evacuate.   A number of the black  people left with the Spaniards for Cuba.

Spain regained control of Florida at the end of the American Revolution in 1783, another fort, at Prospect Bluff, a strategic point on the Apalachicola River, became the center of contention between the United States and Spain.   The British had abandoned  "the Negro fort ," as it was then known, to the Indians and former slaves.  In 1816, American gunboats assaulted the fort, firing heated cannon balls, which struck the magazine, igniting the gunpowder.  The resulting explosion destroyed the fort and killed many occupants.

Unable to maintain effective control over the area, Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821, it became an American slave territory.   Spain received no compensation for the Florida Territory.

England was late in her efforts to explore and settle other lands, they did very little exploration but rather moved in on the lands opened by others. The Colonies of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, were given as a Proprietorship to seven Lords from England. It was granted perpetually for their use, to govern, build cities, conduct trade and generally act as a possession of their own. Charles II of England made this grant in the year 1663.

Through the mismanagement of the Lords and abuse of power, the people complained to the King , asking that he remove the Lords. The King said that it could only be solved if the Lords would sell out their shares. Five of the Lords sold out, Lord Greystone kept his share in North Carolina and Lord Anthony Ashley kept his share in South Carolina.

Lord Ashley arranged with Col. James Moore to assemble an army of Creek Indians of Georgia and other renegades from South Carolina, to go into North Florida to destroy the missions. They were completely destroyed by 1704. This brought the mission era to an end. The Indians who were not killed in the battles, were captured and sold into slavery to the Plantation owners in the Caribbean Islands.

The path used by the missionaries to walk or ride horseback from one mission Settlement to another was at the time named the path. This path is directly involved with the history of Waldo, since it ran through the town. It extended from St. Augustine to Pensacola. It was a difficult way to travel through swamps, crossing rivers and heavy underbrush in wooded areas.  This path is an important part of the History of Waldo.It eventually became Bellamy Road.

1675 Map of the Path222KB



The Timicuan People lived in a large area from north of present Jacksonville, south to the present Ocala region. They were a peaceful people, living in villages. They hunted for meat and planted crops which they stored for winter for the whole village.  There were five tribes.

It is important to include their history with that of Waldo because they lived in this area where settlers arrived in the 1500's,  until they were wiped out in the middle of the 18th century.  In 1573 Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founder and governor of the colony at St. Augustine, arranged with the Franciscan missionary friars to work among the Timucua.  An alphabet was developed for them and they learned to read and write.  Their population was decreased by diseases of the white man,  and by battles and capture by  invading Seminole Indians  from Georgia hired by the English.

They wore very few clothes.  The men were tall and stately,  dressed in loin cloth, a headdress of feathers, and wore jewelry of shells, pearls, and animal teeth.  The women were attractive, smaller than the men, making skirts from vines.  They were all hard workers for survival and with so many lakes and rivers were good swimmers.


Fortified Indian Village.  A fence made of thick round poles, some 12 feet high, surrounded the village. Two guard stations with attendant warriors protected the main,  spiral-like entrance. Most villages were located by streams which were redirected to flow by the central entrance. In the center of the village was a large assembly area around which could be found the huts of the Chief and principal elders.
The Timucuan Indians hunted alligators by thrusting large poles into the alligator's open mouth.  They then turned the impaled creature on his back and with clubs and arrows pounded and pierced his soft stomach. Alligator meat is used to this day.


In 1750 the Creek Nation Conference took place in Georgia.  Part of the Nation was discontented and broke from the main group. They became the Seminoles.  This warlike group moved into North Florida starting the Seminole Wars. They couldn't live peacefully with their own people and were not tolerant of white settlers.  As a result there were several Seminole Wars against the settlers and villages.   

The Second Seminole War (1835-1842) disrupted Florida's territorial years. During these wars, people of Waldo took refuge in Ft. Harlee, three miles away from the town.  Although many black people had gained their freedom by escaping to Florida, many others had become slaves of the Seminoles.  Their servitude was benign, however, as the Indians allowed black people to live in separate villages and demanded only 1/3 of their crops.  The black people were expert cultivators and provided food for the Seminoles.  In addition, the former slaves, who spoke both the Indian languages and English, were valuable interpreters for the Seminoles during treaty negotiations.   They sometimes fought with the Indians against the U.S.Army.

Before Florida was taken from the Spanish,  in order to try to stop the Indian uprisings in West Florda, General Andrew Jackson drove the Seminoles into Alachua County in 1818. 

As the fortunes of war turned against the Seminoles, some black people changed their loyalties and served as guides and interpreters for the U.S.Army.  Many  accompanied their 'masters' to the Indian territory at the end of the war,  when the Seminoles were forced to give up their lands in Florida.   Descendants of these 'Black Seminoles' still live in Oklahoma and Texas.   Others were returned to or brought back by their former white owners.  The last remnant of the Seminoles retreated to the Everglades in 1937,  where there are a few still living.



The Sparkman family came into Florida in 1819, then moved into Alachua County in the 1920's to settle along the west side of Lake Alto. A village developed on the NW shore of Lake Alto as more settlers moved into the area. It was located on a corner of the Sparkman Plantation. This village was burned by the invading Seminoles but was rebuilt.

The site of the new capitol of Florida, Tallahassee, was chosen  by  John Lee Williams of Pensacola and Dr. W.H.Simmons of St. Augustine at a meeting with Governor William P. Duval in March 1823. By November 1824 a one room log house was erected for Legislative Council meetings.   Plans for a two story building were approved in 1825.  One year later one wing was completed November 1826.  

In 1845 Florida entered the Union as the twenty-seventh state.

Due to the need for a better road across North Florida,on February 28, 1824  Congress authorized the building of a road from Pensacola to St. Augustine, passing near Waldo.  Col. John Bellamy offered his slaves, wagons and teams for this project . The road was to be constructed over the old path to make it passable for wagons and other transportation.   The segment of road closest to the settlement was called Bellamy Road and the settlement was named Bellamy Station in 1826.

According to the account given by Bette DeSha in her book.  East Side of Eden,  two of the main roads of Alachua County were Bellamy Road and the Micanopy Trail which crossed at the southeast corner of the Sparkman homestead.  Bellamy Road ran east almost parallel to the Bradford County line past a small settlement called Louise which was named for Louise DeSha. .  It then curved South to border Bellamy Station.  Several of the streets merged at this point.  The road then went south along Lake Alto shore past the Franklin DeSha plantation, about two miles south of Waldo bearing left to Earleton and on to Melrose.

Old Belamy Road
Bellamy Road segment in
northern Alachua County

Existing Remnant of
Bellamy Road, 208KB

When Bellamy Road was completed in 1826 it opened the interior across north Florida to further settlement.  The road was not much better than a trail and extended about 600 miles from St.Augustine to Pensacola.  It was important for transporting cattle, timber, cotton and other crops to ports where they were sent to northern markets.  New towns developed along its route.

In 1847, Peter Sparkman, son of William Sparkman, built a bridge over the Santa Fe River, and by 1850, Bellamy Station had grown having two Main Streets, Sparkman Street and Kennard St. named for local people.



One of the earliest organized calvary units was the Second Florida Calvary which became known as the famous Company H under Captain John Dickerson.   Many Waldo men were in this company.

In 1861 Florida's population of about 141,000 people, roads were few and in rough condition, Agriculture had  been developed very little, there were only a few hundred railways and a small amount of  industry. As a result Confederate Leaders withdrew troops from Florida leaving it defenseless.

Later in the the war the South was depending heavily on the cattle, hogs and salt to provide for their army. By 1863 troops were sent to Florida to defend this supply of food.

Courageous black slaves who remained loyal to the families,   helped the women grow crops for the family which were abundant enough to have food left for the Army.   The whole household would work to supply bandages and help the wounded. These black people in helping the women to maintain the farms, gave courage to the families.

There were many smaller battles with the major battle fought at Olustee. Many reenactments have been staged at that site in commemoration. As a result of the skirmishes much property was destroyed.

When the Civil War ended April 9, 1865, the Union flag was raised over the Capitol Building in Tallahassee, May 20, 1865.  Many outposts were mustered out gradually throughout the state.  Soldiers were stacking their arms and turning in military equipment at Camp Baker near Waldo.  All military units had surrendered by June 8, 1885. It is said that the personal papers of Jefferson Davis were captured at Waldo's railroad station built just a year before.

Men from the famous Company H, Second Florida Calvary, who returned to their homes in the Waldo area were:

W.H.Donaldson, Hicks, Sparkman, James Sparkman, P.W.Sparkman, J.B. Strickland, Y Tillis, B.B. Weeks, J.A.Weeks, S.S. Weeks and S.T.Weeks.

From Company B. the following returned:

T.J. Branning, D.L.Branning, Elmore Cook, Donaldson, H.Granger, J.A.Granger, M.D.Granger, A.J.King, G.W.Sparkman, G.W. Sparkman.  Kennard and Raulerson were mustered out elsewhere.

After the war, the Carpetbaggers and Scallywags moved into Waldo, these two groups created much corruption.  Multiple voting by individuals was prevalent.  Order was eventually restored.

The Confederate loss of the war ushered in reconstruction when blacks and whites struggled with the economic and social turmoil.  Ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 125th amendments to the US constitution was vitally important to the development of values, ideologies and institutions among the Black people.  The Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands created by an Act of Congress in 1865 to deal with the urgent problems created by the sudden emancipation of four million slaves.

The American Revolutionary Biennial Administration had designated the city of Waldo as an official Centennial Community as of April 14, 1976.

THE STACKING OF ARMS anniversary celebration was held May 19-20, 1987, in Waldo. There was a commemoration service held at the Old Waldo Cemetery, Reenactment of the Surrender was held in the town park. Reenactment camps had been set up and were open to the Public.



The region around Waldo is a high area in Alachua County,  it has been considered  since the first settlements to be a very healthful environment in which to live.  It is not noted for severe weather like hurricanes and tornadoes.   In 1879 an earthquake shook up the area of North Florida from the epicenter at Palatka to Cedar Key and north of Jacksonville.  Again in 1886 there was an earthquake which shook North Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  There was little to no damage in the Waldo area.

One of the most important areas of development in Florida after the Civil War was education.  Johathan Gibbs,  Florida's only black cabinet member during Reconstruction was appointed Secretary of State in 1868 and later served as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  He developed the state's first public school system.  This was a milestone as Black Americans had been denied education during the years of slavery.

Waldo's first newspaper was named the Florida Cracker.

Later a weekly newspaper  The Florida Advertizer, was established by J.B.Johnson,  owner and editor.  He was formerly of the Atlanta Constitution and the Troy Enquirer.  Mr. Johnson for five months in the winter was employed as a teacher in the public school, when there was an average attendance of 108.   In the summer the school is run as a private school,  when the attendance was not so large.

Waldo's First School was held in one room of a building erected on the East End of the town park.  Classes were held in the ground floor of the two story wooden building along Main Street (Sparkman St), it was established in 1869.  Capt. John G Smith was the only teacher.   Teachers were paid according to the number and race of their students.  $50. per month for white students up to $80. per month for black students.  The school term lasted 3 months of the year, from sunup to sundown each day. By 1882, the school was outgrown and a new one had to be built.  In 1881, the land for an expanded public school was donated by Hardy Raulerson.   Capt.J.B.Johnston was the first teacher in the new building.

Waldo School - 1899Alachua County established the only county High School in Waldo in 1893, the first class to graduate was in 1906.

Other cultural and social institutions were also established.   The rise of independent black churches unfolded against a background of political crisis, social adjustment, and vivid memories of the slave experience.  The churches were the centers of social and political activities as well as religious life.

The Waldo House, built in 1869, provided quarters for men who worked for the railroad, at $2. per night. the Beckham House offered rooms at half the price.

In the 1870's Waldo was advertised as a Winter Playground attracting Tourists who arrived by railroad to vacation.  There was an opera house which presented plays, lunches served at the Waldo Hotel, baseball, and cruises on the Lake Alto.

1883 Map Of RR and roadsIn 1883 a Chicago Times reporter, Barbour, came to Waldo  on an extended assignment for the Railroad, to prepare a series on tourism for North Florida.  He stayed with the President of the Railroad. 

There were thriving businesses which have been listed on a separate page with names of the owners in most instances. The business section of town faced the line of the railroad.

Public notice was given December 16, 1875 of a meeting to be held January 15, 1876 to considering incorporation of the town. A meeting was held to elect officers and organize a Municipal Government and boundaries were set for the town. There were approximately six miles of streets, and one fourth of the tom was planted in oranges. 

The following is an account of the boundaries of the town, according to the DeSha account.

Starting at the NW corner of SW Quarter (114)of Section fourteen (14)Township eight (8) Rangetwenty-one (21) East and running due south one and one fourth (1 1/4)miles to SW quarter (114)of Section23 Township 8 Range 21. Then east one and one quarter (1 1/4) miles to northeast corner of northwestquarter (1/4) of southwest quarter (114) of Section Thirteen (13) Township eight (8) range 20 then west one and one quarter (1 1/4) miles to starting point.

The first Council: Dr. J.M.Perry, R.B.Weeks, Henry Jenkins,  T.M. Cauthen,  M.S. Cheeves,  L.Howe, Joe Lynn,   W.C. Cheeves,  T.B. Thus, Mayor  - W.T. Cheeves, Marshall Hl. Raulerson - Clerk - Treasurer.

Newly freed blacks began to establish homes and businesses in the white communities.  By the 1880's this created great tension which led to the beginnings of segregation between the blacks and  whites.  In 1887, Eatonsville became the first all black incorporated city in Florida.  A more common form of segregation was the restriction of blacks to a particular area of a community.  One of the earliest examples was Miami's  'Colored town'  which was designated in 1896.  It is now called Overtown one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami.

Florida's Black Americans have contributed richly to the development of our state and Nation.

Newly freed blacks began to establish homes and businesses in the white communities.  By the 1880's this created great tension which led to the beginnings of segregation between the blacks and  whites.  In 1887, Eatonsville became the first all black incorporated city in Florida.  A more common form of segregation was the restriction of blacks to a particular area of a community.  One of the earliest examples was Miami's  'Colored town'  which was designated in 1896.  It is now called Overtown one of the oldest neighborhoods in Miami.

Other cultural and social institutions were also established.   The rise of independent black churches unfolded against a background of political crisis, social adjustment, and vivid memories of the slave experience.  The churches were the centers of social and political activities as well as religious life.

A fire destroyed the heart of the business area in 1893, but the residents quickly rebuilt, only this time in brick.  This was stated in Bettee DeSha's book but no record of a fire can be found at this time.

The Florida Advertiser was a weekly newspaper in Waldo in the 1880's.  The publisher was W.B.Johnson and its editor and proprietor was J.B.Johnson.  The newspaper was in a constant battle with the Railroad   concerning the rundown condition of the Station, and their disregard for the comfort and safety of the passengers.  The paper was sustained by advertising and circulation.

In the 1870's Waldo was advertised as a Winter Playground attracting Tourists who arrived by railroad to vacation.  There was an opera house which presented plays, lunches served at the Waldo Hotel,baseball, and cruises on the Lake Alto

Waldo, circa 1900Waldo, circa 1900

Scenes of Waldo, circa 1900

From Elliots Florida Encyclopedia 1900,  land sold for $10-25. per acre, the population was 800  PostMaster was S.J.Kennard and the Mayor was S.J. Kennard, jr.                   

Waldo is a quiet little city, with a country atmosphere. Located at the junction of State Road 24 (Waldo Road) and US Route 301. Here you will find lakes to fish, sail, and water-ski.  There is a large weekend flea market, some historic homes and several antique shops.

WaldoHistory.com is the work of Mary Louise Ashley Strohmier, who was responsible for the content.  She died on 6 August 2005.  Her obituary can be found at: http://ashleys.net/Louise/Obituary.htm

Family of Louise Ashley

Created: 20030113

Update: 20051211
Waldo, Florida, USA