Exploring Fort Caroline National Memorial

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Operated by the National Park Service, Fort Caroline National Memorial memorializes the short-lived French presence in sixteenth century Florida. Here you will find stories of exploration, survival, religious disputes, territorial battles, and first contact between American Indians and Europeans. In addition, Fort Caroline National Memorial hosts the Timucuan Preserve Visitor Center.



The Theodore Roosevelt Area (aka Willie Brown Nature Preserve)



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The Theodore Roosevelt Area is open 9:00 to 4:45 daily. It is a 600-acre natural treasure of hardwood forest, wetlands, and scrub vegetation. It is also rich in cultural history.

Visitors can experience miles of thickly wooded peaceful nature trails, vast grassland that supports both water and land animals, ancient piles of discarded oyster shells which yield clues about an extinct culture, and the legacy of preservation bequeathed to all by this property's last private owner, Willie Browne.

In 1960 Willie gave seven acres of land along Mt. Pleasant Road to the Campfire Girls organization for a place to build a campground and lodge. During the last years of his life Willie struggled to keep his property. Though real estate developers eagerly offered him millions of dollars for his property, Willie refused to sell. “Money cannot buy happiness and this place makes me happy,” Willie once said. Willie worried that there would come a time when Jacksonville would be so densely populated and developed that no wild areas would remain where people could enjoy the natural beauty of “Old Florida.”

In 1969 Willie Browne donated all his land to The Nature Conservancy with the stipulation that it or any future owner would keep the land in its natural state. Willie requested that the property be named for his hero, former president Theodore Roosevelt. In December 1970, Willie Browne died alone in his cabin, content that he had done everything possible to nurture, conserve, and protect the gift of land bequeathed to him by his father. With his passing, Willie bequeathed his conservation values and his precious gift to all of us, for all time.
http://wikimapia.org/1448827/The-Theodore-Roosevelt-Area-aka-Willie-Brown-Nature-Preserve










Employing 380 workers, BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards is situated on 81-acres at the intersection of the Intercoastal Waterway and the St. Johns River, roughly two miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The ship repair facility opened in 1966 as the Atlantic Dry Dock Corporation. BAE acquired Atlantic Marine in 2010 for $352 million.




J.Lauritzen A/S (JL) was founded in 1884 and has been a leading supplier of ocean transport solutions for 125 years. This Lauritzen tanker was headed out of JAXPORT.


The Story of Willie Brown



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In 1882 real estate attorney William Henry Brown II and wife Eliza moved to Jacksonville, Florida from New York City. Shortly thereafter their two daughters, aged 1 and 5, died in a yellow fever epidemic that killed many people in northeast Florida. Following this tragedy, Mrs. Browne bore another child named William Henry Browne III.

In an effort to safeguard the child from the then unknown cause of yellow fever the Brownes purchased a 600 acre tract of land far from the more populated areas of Jacksonville. In 1890, when son William III was six months old, the family moved into an existing two-story home that overlooked a beautiful circular shaped salt marsh. The following year another son, Saxon, was born. This home once stood in what is now the Theodore Roosevelt Area.

In this rural maritime setting the Browne boys flourished. Their mother, a trained school teacher, taught the boys to read, write, and do basic mathematics. When not under their mother’s tutelage the boys fished, roamed the vast shell mounds, and explored the ruins of old Confederate gun batteries on St. Johns Bluff. From atop the Bluff, which is ninety feet high, young “Willie” could see the Atlantic Ocean five miles to the east. The boys tended the family’s cattle, chickens, citrus trees, and vegetable garden. One hundred years ago the property was isolated. At that time the city limits of Jacksonville did not reach this far into eastern Duval County. The nearest towns were Mayport (2 miles east), Fulton (1 mile west), and Cosmo (2 miles west). Transportation to and from Jacksonville was available by catching a river ferry, named the Hessie, which made a daily roundtrip from Fulton.

In the early 1900’s a fire destroyed the Browne’s two-story home Shell Mount. Mr. and Mrs. Browne moved back to Jacksonville while Willie and Saxon stayed on the property. The boys built the one room cabin where they would live the rest of their lives. The foundations of this cabin can be visited along the Willie Browne Trail.

On his sixteenth birthday Willie was given ownership of the property as a gift from his father. Mr. Browne instructed Willie to nurture and care for the property, “keep hunters off it” and to maintain the land in a natural state. The gift of the property to Willie at such a young age instilled the responsibility and value of wildlife conservation.

Willie and Saxon made their living by farming, commercial fishing, running a saw mill, and selling oystershells taken from the extensive mounds that still dominate the property. They also worked a variety of odd jobs such as landscaping, woodcarving, and boat building.

In the 1920’s, both Mr. and Mrs. Browne died and were buried on the property. From their parents, Willie and Saxon inherited an intense appreciation for the land that led to a lifelong desire to protect the natural bounty they both depended upon for their daily existence.

Willie lived a reclusive, isolated existence seldom leaving his property. Water was hand- pumped each day from a well, located close to the cabin, and carried indoors in a metal bucket. A single lightbulb and a radio were powered by a Model-T car battery. This style of low-technology dependence seemed to be all Willie needed or desired. Willie demonstrated his love for people by giving away parcels of land to people in need and to those who would value the land’s natural beauty.

In 1960 Willie gave seven acres of land along Mt. Pleasant Road to the Campfire Girls organization for a place to build a campground and lodge. During the last years of his life Willie struggled to keep his property. Though real estate developers eagerly offered him millions of dollars for his property, Willie refused to sell. “Money cannot buy happiness and this place makes me happy,” Willie once said. Willie worried that there would come a time when Jacksonville would be so densely populated and developed that no wild areas would remain where people could enjoy the natural beauty of “Old Florida.”

In 1969 Willie Browne donated all his land to The Nature Conservancy with the stipulation that it or any future owner would keep the land in its natural state. Willie requested that the property be named for his hero, former president Theodore Roosevelt. In December 1970, Willie Browne died alone in his cabin, content that he had done everything possible to nurture, conserve, and protect the gift of land bequeathed to him by his father. With his passing, Willie bequeathed his conservation values and his precious gift to all of us, for all time.

http://www.nps.gov/timu/historyculture/tra_willie_earlyyears.htm





Spanish Pond



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Five hundred Spanish soldiers marched four days through marsh, forest tangle, fierce winds, and heavy rainfall to an encampment near here. This is where Menendez and his men camped, exhausted and weary, the night before the attack and capture of Fort Caroline.

Today, Spanish Pond's boardwalk and trail provide an opportunity for a quiet walk and connects you to more trails through pine flatwoods, oak hammock, tidal marsh in the neighboring Theodore Roosevelt Area.
http://www.nps.gov/timu/historyculture/foca_spanishpond.htm















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In 1884 John Nathan Spearing, a machinist and shipbuilder from Clinton, Maine, and owner of a shipyard in Spearing Street in Jacksonville, purchased a 500 acre tract encompassing what is now Theodore Roosevelt Preserve. Spearing, a Confederate soldier stationed at Fort Caroline, eventually built the Spearing “manor” which the Browne family lived in until it was destroyed by fire in 1914.

John’s brother, Warren, had a small cabin near the Indian trail on the bluff overlooking Saint John’s Creek. A baby born to Warren was buried in an unmarked grave at this cabin site. The exact location was unknown. Warren later left on a cattle drive to Texas during the Spanish American War, never to return.

John Spearing died in 1879 leaving behind his pregnant widow, Margaret. Because the location was a day’s trip by wagon from Jacksonville, Margaret decided to move back into town leaving the property in the care of the neighbors, the Brownes.

Although John was in Jacksonville when he died he wanted to be buried on the St. John’s Bluff house site. His body was carried by the steam ship Volusia to the bluff at the Indian trail where his funeral was held.
http://spirit-dust.blogspot.com/2009/03/busy-day-of-exploring.html





The Fort Caroline National Memorial is located on Fort Caroline Road in Jacksonville and is open to the public daily.

Photo tour by Ennis Davis



















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