Alachua County History

Alachua County History

18th Century

18th Century

During the early 1700s, the English and their Indian allies destroyed these missions. Later, the Seminole Indians made settlements around Micanopy. In 1774, British naturalist William Bartram visited the Alachua region twice and described the region's natural beauty and scenic wonders. Spain had a difficult time controlling the vast territory of Florida and, unable to stop the influx of American settlers, finally ceded the area to the United States in 1821. Originally part of the Arredondo grant, Alachua County ("Alachua" is thought to be a Spanish corruption of the Timucuan word for "big jug") was created in 1824 as a massive county, extending from the Georgia border to Tampa Bay.

19th Century

19th Century

Constant partitioning and The Second Seminole War slowed the county's development, but the coming of the Florida Railroad opened up the interior for both settlement and trading. The route cut diagonally across the county and bypassed the county seat at Newnansville in the northwest. As a result, it was decided at a Boulware Springs meeting on September 6, 1853, to move the county seat near the railroad and create the new town of Gainesville. By 1860, Alachua County had more than 8,000 inhabitants, while Gainesville, its main city, had some 232 residents. During the Civil War, Gainesville served as a major Confederate Commissary and was the site of two battles, a skirmish on February 14, 1864, and a larger battle on August 17, 1864, in which J. J. Dickison routed superior Union forces to deter the Union occupation of North Florida. Reconstruction brought martial law, Republican rule, the immigration of freed slaves and economic prosperity. Two main schools were established, The Union Academy for African-Americans and East Florida Seminary for whites.

By the end of Reconstruction, Alachua County had a population of more than 18,000, while Gainesville, with 1,400 residents, was a mercantile center for cotton and vegetable crops. During the next 25 years, the county continued to prosper as the citrus and phosphate industries gave it a secure economic base. After two major fires in the 1880s, Gainesville rebuilt with an emphasis on brick structures, and an imposing new red-brick courthouse symbolized its growth from town to city. Gainesville's central location brought two more railroad connections, with trains coming down Main Street. With a population approaching 3,000, the city was one of the state's largest. The town had an opera house, paved streets, city water, telephones and electric lights. East Florida Seminary expanded, becoming a military school, while a new public school was erected. Merchants such as Dutton, Miller and Baird built fine new homes near downtown and fashionable districts were created in the southeast and along University Avenue.

New towns--including Archer, High Springs, Melrose and Hawthorne- -spawned by the railroad expansion and the citrus and phosphate boom welcomed investors, tourists and speculators. Although severe freezes in the 1890s blighted much of this prosperity, Alachua County entered the 20th century with a population of 32,000 and a growing economy centered in the phosphate, cotton and vegetable industries.

20th Century

20th Century

The first two decades of the new century brought Alachua County's agricultural-based economy troubled times as the boll weevil blighted the cotton crops, while World War I brought an end to the phosphate industry in the area. Still, one of the most significant events in the history of the county occurred in 1905, when Gainesville was chosen as the site for the University of Florida. When the university opened a year later, it had only 102 students, 15 faculty and two unfinished buildings.

Twenty years later, the student body numbered 2,000, and students went to classes in 13 Gothic buildings, including a library, a gymnasium and an auditorium. By the 1930s, the university had become the most important staple in the county's economy and helped it weather both the land boom collapse of the mid 1920s and the Depression of the 1930s.

During the years before World War II, the county's population remained fairly constant, at nearly 40,000, but Gainesville rose to almost 14,000, nearly four times its size in 1900. These years witnessed the construction of a magnificent new post office, the White House Hotel, Trinity Church, the Seagle Building and a public hospital. In 1928, William Reuben Thomas opened the Thomas Hotel, which served as the town's social and cultural center for the next 30 years.

World War II deeply affected both the county and Gainesville, as thousands of men and women from the county and the university served in the war. Some died as heroes, including Milton Lewis; some became war aces, including John Alison; and one, Colonel Paul Tibbets, piloted the plane which dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Historical Figures

Historical Figures

Hernando De Soto This Spanish explorer and warrior marched through the Alachua region in the summer of 1539 on his way north, ravaging the land and plundering villages throughout North Central Florida. Cowkeeper A Seminole chief who lived near Micanopy in Tuscawilla, Cowkeeper hosted William Bartram during his Alachua County visits. A noted warrior, he despised the Spanish rule.

William Bartram This famed naturalist writer twice visited the Alachua region in 1774 and wrote extensively about Paynes Prairie, the Alachua Sink and Seminole culture.

King Payne Cowkeeper's successor, who routed Col. Newnan's militia in a one-week battle near presentday Newnan's Lake. Payne's Prairie was named after him.

James Bailey One of the earliest county settlers who helped found Gainesville and worked to make it the county seat. His plantation was located near Sweetwater Branch and his house, built in 1854, is the oldest one in the city.

J. J. Dickison A cavalry captain who some called Florida's finest soldier. He led the Confederate forces in their August 1864 defeat of Union forces at Gainesville.

Madison Starke Perry A prosperous Alachua planter from Rochelle, Perry became Florida's fourth governor.

Josiah Walls Wells was the most important African-American political leader in Alachua County after the Civil War. He was the first African-American elected to Congress from Florida and served as Gainesville's mayor.

Leonard G. Dennis An ex-Union soldier who became the political boss of Alachua County during the Reconstruction period. He perpetrated the Archer vote fraud of 1876, which altered a national presidential race.

Henry F. Dutton Another ex-Union officer who migrated south and became the county's leading businessman. He ran the region's largest cotton gin, and His Sea Island cotton was prized in northern markets. His Dutton Phosphate Mining Co. was the largest phosphate exporter in the Southeast. William Reuben Thomas A long-time mayor of Gainesville, Thomas helped bring the University of Florida to Gainesville. He ran the White House Hotel and built the Thomas Hotel, which later became the Thomas Center.

Christopher Matheson A Gainesville lawyer, Matheson served as the city's mayor from 1911 to 1917. Although he became a Presbyterian minister in Oklahoma, he retained his family home--the second oldest one in the city--and finally returned to it. His wife Sara, a prominent civic leader, left the Matheson home as a museum.

A. A. Murphree He was the second president of the University of Florida, serving from 1909 to 1927. Murphree oversaw the growth of the small college from 200 student to more that 2,000. He also organized the university into four colleges and oversaw the construction of 11 new buildings, including the library and auditorium.

Eberle Baird Baird founded his hardware store in 1890, and by 1910 it was one of the largest in the state. He constructed the Baird Warehouse on South Main Street. He opened the Baird Opera House on the south side of the square and purchased the adjoining block.

Sarah Lucretia Robb Refused medical training in the United States because she was a female, Robb had to obtain her degree in Germany. She practiced in Gainesville as the county's first female doctor and specialized in the care of women and children. Her home has been restored as a museum and Medical Society office.

C. Addison Pound Pound became president of Baird Hardware in 1930, which was Gainesville's largest business for 40 years.

W. A. Shands A prominent Gainesville businessman, Shands served in the State Senate from 1940 to the 1958. As president of the Senate, he secured the first public medical school in the state, which was at the University of Florida. UF's teaching hospital is named after him.

John J. Tigert The longest-serving president of the University of Florida, Tigert guided the school through the Depression. During his tenure, UF granted its first doctor of philosophy degrees. During his 19 years as president, Tigert transformed UF from a somewhat parochial college of 2,300 students into a major research institution of 9,000 students.

U.S. "Preacher" Gordon For 40 years, Gordon served as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. He was noted for his tolerance and wit.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings A resident of Cross Creek from 1928 until her death, Rawlings writings about the area garnered her international acclaim. The Yearling won a Pulitzer Prize in 1938, while her book Cross Creek artfully captured "Cracker" Florida.

Jessie Aaron A folk sculptor from Gainesville, Aaron did not begin his work until he was 81, when he responded to a religious call. From then until his death at 92, he carved hundreds of expressive figures and animal forms from stumps and cedar logs.

Sid Martin A Hawthorne native who served as a county commissioner for 18 years and then served in the Florida House for 15, Martin was noted as being the voice of the ordinary man as well as a fighter for racial equality, the environment and controlled growth.

Neil Butler A Gainesville native who grew up under segregation, Butler went on to become the first African-American to serve on the city commission and to become mayor since Reconstruction. Manning Dauer earned all his degrees at the University of Florida and taught in its Political Science Department for 47 years. He wrote the Florida reapportionment law of 1967, which ended the dominance of the rural "Pork Chop Gang" that had controlled the Legislature.

William C. Thomas A beloved Gainesville physician who helped found Alachua General Hospital and was its first chief of staff. In his long career, he delivered 8,000 children and saw patients until his death at 81.

A. Quinn Jones Jones spent more than 70 years as a teacher and then principal of the county's two most important African-American schools, Union Academy and Lincoln High School. He served as the principal of Lincoln from its opening in 1923 until the 1970s. The school was renamed in his honor.

Larger Historic Towns

Larger Historic Towns

Gainesville Officially incorporated in 1869, Gainesville's beginnings can be traced to a picnic at Boulware Springs in 1853. A group of county residents voted to move the county seat from Newnansville to a new site, near the proposed route of the Florida Railroad. Legend has it that at this meeting a number of veterans of the Seminole Wars suggested naming the new town after General Edmund P. Gaines, under whom they had served.

Micanopy A former Seminole town, once called Cuscowilla and visited by William Bartram, it was settled in 1821 as Wanton's town. The oldest inland town in Florida, it suffered under Indian attack during the Seminole War and later experienced a citrus boom in the 1880s. Now it is a haven for artists and filled with antique shops.

Archer In the mid 1850s, a small settlement called Deer Hammock was established here as a possible town along the proposed Florida Railroad line. In 1858, the town, then called Archer after Florida's first secretary of state, James T. Archer, was laid out. David Yulee built a plantation here which hosted the Confederate "Gold Train" in 1865.

Newberry After the discovery of rich phosphate deposits in western Alachua County, a town called "Newton" was established on a new railroad line in 1894. The name was soon changed to Newberry, after a South Carolina town and incorporated as such in 1895. It prospered as a railway and mining center and then had a tung oil industry in the 1930s.

High Springs Another town created by the phosphate boom of the 1880s and the coming of the railroad, the town was originally called Santaffey in 1884, then successively Sante Fe, Fairmont and Orion. In 1888, it became High Springs. Once the phosphate industry receded, High Springs became a major rail center until after World War II. Now a regional center for antiques and collectibles, it is a major tourist attraction in Alachua County.

Alachua When a railroad line bypassed Newnansville in 1884, the town of Alachua was created and quickly became an agricultural center. It has become a location for many major industries, including Dollar General, Hunter Marine and several bio-technical companies.

Waldo The second oldest town in the county, Waldo was known as Bellamy Station in the 1820s and as Ft. Harlee during the Seminole War. When the Florida Railroad reached the town in 1859, the city was renamed Waldo to honor Dr. Benjamin Waldo of Ocala, a doctor and member of the State Legislature. A popular tourist spot in 1880s, it was a railroad center until the late 1920s.

Melrose Platted in 1877 and once called Banana, the town thrived with the opening of Sante Fe Canal, connecting the town with Waldo. Melrose became a tourist center, with many hotels and winter residents during the 1880s and a shipping center for citrus and vegetables. The freezes of the 1890s destroyed both the citrus industry and tourism, but the city's fine homes survived and today Melrose features scores of older restored homes and a historic district.

Hawthorne In the 1850s, Hawthorne was a small settlement called Morrison's Mills. When the railroad arrived in 1879, the town was renamed to honor James Hawthorn, a prominent landowner. Throughout the 1880s, its citrus industry and tourism boomed, but the freezes of the 1890s ended that prosperity. Throughout the 20th century, the town has remained an agricultural center.

Postwar Era

Postwar Era

The postwar era brought Alachua County a tremendous population growth and economic expansion. The influx of thousands of veterans seeking an education transformed both the university and Gainesville. The university expanded to more than 9,000 students, then admitted women in 1947 and built a medical school in the next decades. By 1970, the university had a student body of 23,000.

By the end of the century, the university: 

  • would enroll 44,000 students,   
  • be admitted to the prestigious Association of American Universities,   
  • become one of the major research institutions in the South, and   
  • win the national championship in football in 1996.
Significant Buildings

Significant Buildings

Thomas Center Constructed in 1910 as a private residence by William Reuben Thomas, it was converted into a luxurious Mediterranean Style hotel in 1928 and for decades was the social and cultural center of Gainesville. After a stint as the campus for Santa Fe Community College, it was saved from demolition and fully restored to serve as the city offices.

Hippodrome Theater Originally used as the main Post Office, this impressive Beaux Arts building is dominated by a monumental portico with six Corinthian columns. In 1980, it was converted into the Hippodrome State Theater.

Matheson Museum Now the home of the Alachua County Historic Trust, the building was formerly the American Legion center. Remodeled into a museum, it features exhibits and displays chronicling Alachua County's history and serves as the main reference library and research center for the county.

Epworth Hall Built in 1884 as the main classroom for the East Florida Seminary, this red brick Second Empire structure was converted into part of the First United Methodist Church and renamed Epworth Hall in 1911.

Kirby Smith Center Built in 1900 as a public graded and high school, it was later expanded and renamed in honor of Confederate Gen. Kirby Smith. After 80 years of serving students, it became the Alachua County School Board headquarters but still retains a period room to show how students were once taught. Baird Opera House Originally a two story downtown opera house, it was remodeled in 1906 to its present size and served as the city's main entertainment establishment until the 1930s. Cox furniture used the building for over fifty years and in the 1990s Ken and Linda McGurn remodeled it into a restaurant and offices. Seagle Building Begun during the boom times of the 1920s, this was to be an 11-story luxury hotel, but it remained unfinished until 1936. It then served as a university museum and general education center until 1983, when it was renovated as condominiums, professional offices and a restaurant.

Cox Furniture Warehouse This commercial building, constructed in 1913 for a wholesale grocery business, had an interior railroad car entrance for the unloading of produce. Cox Furniture purchased it for storage and shipping in 1925. It has been artfully remodeled into office space.

University of Florida Historic District The central part of the campus surrounding the Plaza of the Americas, this district includes 19 buildings. The most significant ones are Buckman and Thomas Halls. Anderson, Peabody, Griffin-Floyd halls, built in the 1910s have been restored as classrooms. The University Auditorium and Smathers Library, both built in 1925, are both examples of the Collegiate Gothic style found on campus.

Thrasher Warehouse This large wooden building with a large painted Coca-Cola sign on its north wall was used as a storage area and sometimes as a store from 1890 on. Purchased by Micanopy in 1989, it was restored and transformed into a local historical museum. Kanapaha Presbyterian Church This site of the first Presbyterian Church built in the Gainesville are was dedicated in 1886 and is one of the oldest existing churches in the county.

Newberry Municipal Building Built in 1938, this stone building was constructed as a WPA project during the Depression years. Originally housing city offices, it now is a community meeting place.

High Springs Opera House Built in 1896, this two-story Romanesque Revival brick building had stores on its main floor and had an opera house, theater, movie palace and community center on the second. In 1986, the Outdoors Trading Co. restored the building, opened a successful restaurant and created a Theater of Memory in the old opera area.

Moore Hotel Opened in 1882 as a tourist hotel for Hawthorne visitors and sportsmen and run continuously by the Moore family until the present, it now is used as an apartment complex. Rochelle School Originally called the Martha Perry Institute to honor the wife of Florida Governor Madison Starke Perry, this large two-story school operated from 1885 to 1935.

Evinston Community Store and Post Office Built as a warehouse in 1882, the building became a combination country store and post office run by H.D. Wood in 1910. It has remained in the Wood family ever since that time.

Significant Dates

Significant Dates

1513 First European landing in Florida by Ponce de Leon

1539 Hernando de Soto explores Florida, marches through present-day Alachua County and crosses the Sante Fe River at Oleno Park.

1562-1565 French and Spanish build settlements in Florida

1565 Spanish found St. Augustine

1606 First Spanish missions in the areas started among the Potano Indians

1646 Spanish cattle ranch called La Chua begun on Paynes Prairie

1702 English raids destroy missions and decimate Indian population

1740s Creek Indians from Alabama and Georgia, later known as Seminoles, move into the territory

1763 Florida ceded to Britain

1774 William Bartram visits Alachua County and writes of it in his memoirs

1783 Florida returned to Spain

1812 Patriots War and Newnan's Battle in Alachua

1817-1818 First Seminole War and Florida campaign of Andrew Jackson

1817 Arredondo Grant gives most of present-day Alachua to Spanish merchant

1821 Settling of Micanopy by Edward Wanton. Florida ceded to the United States and becomes a territory

1824 Alachua County created, with boundaries from the Georgia border to Port Charlotte

1826 Bellamy Road, linking St. Augustine to Pensacola, finished

1828 County seat established at Dells, renamed Newnansville

1835-1842 Second Seminole War fought. Forts established in Alachua and many battles fought here

1845 Florida becomes a state

1853 County seat moved from Newnansville to newly created town of Gainesville

1856 First courthouse built

1857-1861 Madison Starke Perry, an Alachua planter, serves as governor of Florida

1858 Town of Archer incorporated

1859 The Florida Railroad reaches Gainesville

1861 Florida secedes from the Union

1864 Gainesville occupied by Union forces and skirmish fought

1864 Battle of Gainesville. Confederate J. J. Dickison routs Union forces

1865 Confederate Treasure Train (wagons) in Archer

1869 Gainesville officially incorporated

1871-1876 Josiah Walls of Alachua serves as the first African-American from Florida in Congress

1880s Orange industry prospers in county. Windsor, Melrose and Hawthorne enjoy a tourist boom

1881 Sante Fe Canal, connecting Waldo with Melrose, completed

1882 Dutton Cotton Ginnery, the largest producer of Sea Island Cotton in Florida, established.

1884 Major fire destroys north and west sides of the Gainesville square. City of Alachua founded on new railroad line and Newnansville becomes deserted.

1885 Second courthouse built

1886 Second major downtown fire on south side of Gainesville square

1888 Phosphate mining becomes a major industry.

1890s High Springs and Newberry founded. Yellow fever epidemic in Gainesville

1889, 1895 Severe freezes destroy county's orange industry.

1900 Gainesville Graded and High School built (later named Kirby Smith Center). County population is 32,000. Gainesville population is 3,633, making it one of the largest cities in the state

1906 University of Florida opens with two buildings and 102 students

1909 A.A. Murphree becomes second president of University of Florida. White House Hotel opens

1911 Post Office built

1914 World War I begins, stopping the overseas shipment of phosphate, dooming the industry

1917 First library opens. Boll Weevil destroys cotton production in county

1923 New high school built (Buchholz High)

1925 Gilchrist County formed from western part of county

1926 Dixie Hotel constructed (later finished as Seagle Building)

1928 Hotel Thomas opens. J. J. Tigert becomes president of University of Florida. First public hospital opened

1935 Gainesville airport constructed

1939 Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' The Yearling wins a Pulitzer Prize

1942 Milton Lewis becomes first Alachua County casualty in World War II

1943 John Alison becomes war hero as flying ace

1946-7 Veterans enroll at University of Florida, increasing enrollment to 9,000. UF goes coed

1948 Main Street train discontinued

1950 City adopts quadrant system for street names

1956 UF medical center opens

1960 Old courthouse razed and replaced by modern structure. County population is 74,000, with Gainesville at 46,000

1963 Civic Action Association elects two candidates and controls City Commission

1964 New Post Office built. Interstate 75 opens and city expansion moves westward

1966 Sante Fe Community College established

1967 Veterans Administration Hospital opens

1968 Thomas Hotel closed and leased to Sante Fe Community College

1969 Neil Butler becomes the first African-American elected to the City Commission since Reconstruction. Butler becomes mayor in 1972.

1971 Gainesville voted the "All American City"

1972 Historic Gainesville, Inc., a preservation group, formed and saves the Thomas Hotel from destruction

1976 Thomas Center restoration undertaken

1977 Oaks Mall opens

1979 New Regional Airport opens

1980 Northeast Historic District approved. Gainesville population is 81,000 and the county's is 151,000

1983 Historic Preservation Ordinance enacted. North Florida Regional Hospital opens.

1986 University named to Association of American Universities. Enrollment hits 34,000

1987 First African American woman serves on City Commission

1990 Harn Museum opens, followed by Center for Performing Arts in 1991

1991 UF football team wins first SEC championship. New downtown library opens

1994 Money Magazine names Gainesville No. 1 Livable City in America

1996 UF football team wins national championship

2000 County population is 210,000, with Gainesville over 100,000

Significant Homes

Significant Homes

Bailey House Built by slave labor in 1854, this house is oldest extant dwelling Gainesville. An early county settler, Bailey was instrumental in creating the town of Gainesville and transferring the county seat here.

Haile Plantation One of the few ante-bellum plantation homes remaining in Florida, it was built in 1850 by Thomas Haile as part of his cotton and rice plantation. The house contains pine beams more than 100 feet long.

Matheson House The second oldest surviving house in Gainesville, it was occupied continuously by the Matheson family from 1867 to 1996 before becoming a house museum. The Matheson family included a prominent merchant, a long-time mayor of the city and a leading club woman.

Rawlings House This traditional cracker cottage was the residence of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings from 1928-1953. Here she wrote most of her novels, including The Yearling. The house, a state historic site, is preserved as she lived in it.

Kelly-Neilson House Built in 1884 during Windsor's orange prosperity, this large mansion with its decorative shingles exemplifies the stick style of rural architecture. A National Register Site, it has been artfully renovated over the past 20 years.

Gracy House Luther C. Gracy, a turpentine and lumber dealer, built this magnificent Colonial Revival mansion in 1906 with lumber from his own mills.

Doig House This Italianate style home was built by James Doig in 1882. A pre-Civil War resident, Doig established a foundry and was an inventor. Restored and remodeled, the house has been adapted as an ophthalmologist's office and museum.

McKenzie House The largest and most elaborate of Gainesville's Victorian homes, its was built in 1895 and was the home for many prominent Gainesville families.

Tigert House This imposing Colonial Revival mansion was the home for two University of Florida presidents and stands at the northern entrance into the Northeast Historic District.

Baird House This three-story house with its striking mansard roof is one of the few remaining examples of the French Second Empire architectural style found in Florida. Built in 1885, it was a Baird family residence for 70 years. Restored in 1990, it became Gainesville's first bed and breakfast.

Herlong House Built in 1875 as a two-story frame house, it was remodeled in 1915 into a large Colonial Revival mansion with extensive walnut and oak paneling and inlaid floors. In the 1980s it was renovated and redesigned as Micanopy's first bed and breakfast inn.

Neal-Wood House One of Archer's picturesque Victorian mansions, it features a spacious porch and twin gazebos on either end. Restored in the 1990s, the house is now filled with antiques and Civil War artifacts.

Williams-Leroy House This Queen Anne mansion, built in 1900 by an Alachua banker and postmaster, features a three-story tower and intricate woodwork. The Williams family occupied the house for 90 years, and it has been remodeled into a restaurant.

Bonnie Mount The oldest house in Melrose, it was built in 1877 by two Kentucky brothers as a one-story farmhouse. Remodeled a number of times, it was beautifully restored in 1986.

Significant Sites

Significant Sites

Paynes Prairie Now a state preserve, this large flat marshy plain embraces 20,000 acres. Named after King Payne, a Seminole chief, it was once the home of Timucuan Indian tribes and was a large Spanish cattle ranch in the 16th century. From 1871 to 1892, when the Alachua Sink was clogged, it became Alachua Lake. Naturalist William Bartram visited the prairie in 1774 and wrote about its wonders. Devil's Millhopper This large sinkhole is a bowl-shaped cavity 500 feet in diameter and 120 feet deep. Its name derives from its funnel or hopper like shape and the superstition that the devil rises from its depths to lure people into his abode.

Boulware Springs Waterworks A natural spring that was a local swimming hole, it became the site of a meeting in 1853 that created the town Gainesville and resulted in moving the county seat from Newnansville. It supplied Gainesville with drinking water for a decade. Its restored pump house museum is the trail head for a 21-mile rails-to-trails path.

Evergreen Cemetery This 50-acre, city-owned cemetery contains the graves of Gainesville's most significant pioneer families, including James Bailey, Rev. William McCormick and William Reuben Thomas.

Dudley Farm This 256-acre pioneer farm includes the Dudley family house and 17 farm buildings. A working farm since 1859, it is one of the oldest historic sites in the county.

Cottonwood Plantation This large cotton plantation in Archer was run by David Levy Yulee, Florida's first U. S. senator. In 1865 it was the terminus for the Confederate Wagon train, carrying gold and Jefferson Davis' personal papers. Now only a bronze plaque marks the spot.

Newnansville Once the site of the largest town in Alachua County and at that time its county seat, Newnansville flourished until the 1850s when it was bypassed by the railroad. When the City of Alachua was founded nearby in the 1880s, Newnansville became a ghost town.

The Bellamy Road Constructed between 1824 and 1827 and running from St. Augustine to Pensacola, this road opened up the interior of Florida for exploration and settlement. Six miles of the road have been designated as scenic.

The Santa Fe Canal Completed in 1881, this canal connected Melrose with Waldo through Lake Alto and Little Santa Fe Lake.

Oak Ridge Cemetery The second oldest cemetery in Alachua County and used primarily by the Micanopy and Rochelle families, it contains the grave and monumental marker for Madison Starke Perry, Florida's fourth governor, who served from 1857 to 1861.

Since 1970

Since 1970

The county and Gainesville also changed dramatically in the postwar years. By 1970, Alachua County had 104,000 inhabitants with three- fourths of them residing in or around Gainesville. Increasingly, the county's economy was dependent on the city's educational and medical facilities. Agriculture employed less than 20 percent of the area's workforce, although the region still led North Florida in the production of peanuts, corn, tobacco, nuts and certain fruits.

During these years, the county's smaller towns changed from being farm centers to become havens for artists, retirees and Gainesville professionals. They also attracted tourists to their historic downtowns. The county's natural wonders, including Paynes Prairie and the Devil's Millhopper were protected by becoming state parks, and historic sites such as the Rawlings house, the Haile Plantation and the Dudlley Farm were preserved. With a population of more than 200,000, the county offers abundant archaeological, historical and natural sites to visitors and residents alike.

Downtown Gainesville has become a professional and government center while retail stores and merchants have moved to large malls in the northwest and southwest areas of the city, especially around Interstate 75. In the 1980s, neighborhoods surrounding Downtown Gainesville such as the Duck Pond, the Southeast and Pleasant Street created historic districts, which helped preserve their unique residential character.

These preservation efforts spurred the city to sponsor restoration projects for the Thomas Center, the Hippodrome, the Seagle Building and the American Legion Building. A new courthouse and a new library were built, while older buildings, including the Star Garage, the Florida Theater and the Bethel Gas Station, were restored. As a climax to these revitalization efforts, Money Magazine named Gainesville the most liveable city in America in 1995.

Smaller Historic Towns

Smaller Historic Towns

Evinston Named after a leading landowner in the region, this town was formed by the arrival of the railroad in 1882. It had extensive orange groves until the freezes of the 1890s.

Traxler Now one of the region's lost towns, it was founded by William Traxler, who established a store, cotton gin and grist mill on the old Bellamy Road. A school, post office and church were nearby.

Hague Another town created by the coming of a railroad line in 1883, it got its name from its first postmaster, Archelaus Hague.

La Crosse Settlers arrived in this area in the 1830s and 1840s and by the 1880s, the town had stores, churches and a hotel. Incorporated in 1897, the town's chief crops were cotton and potatoes. Now vegetables and livestock are its main industries.

Earleton This hamlet was the site of the plantation of General Elias Earle, established in the 1840s around Lake Sante Fe. In the 1870s, a tourist hotel was located here.

Windsor Settled in 1846 as a cotton plantation and named after its English founders, the town prospered as a citrus center in the 1880s. During these years, it also attracted tourists and had a population of more than 400. The freezes of the 1890s destroyed the citrus industry and now only a few homes remain, one a historic site.

Campville Founded in 188l, the town was named for the Camp brothers, who operated a large sawmill in the area. They also established the Campville Brick Co., which became the town's main industry until its closing in 1940.

Rochelle Settled in the 1830s, the town was known as Perry's Junction after Madison Starke Perry, a wealthy plantation owner who served as governor from 1857 to 1861. Renamed Gruelle, it became Rochelle in 1884 to honor Martha Rochelle Perry, his wife. It too had a brief citrus prosperity.

Island Grove Established in 1884, the town received its name because it was surrounded by water. It became a shipping center for citrus and vegetables and had a cigar and moss factory before the severe freezes of the 1890s.

Cross Creek Never more than a few fishing camps, Cross Creek became the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in 1928 and has been immortalized by her two finest books, The Yearling and Cross Creek. Her cracker home is a National Historic Site. Alachua County also has scores of "lost towns," including Traxler, Adam, Bland, Budu, Eve, Paradise, Kokomo, Atlas, Half Moon, Peach Orchard, Tacoma, Gordon, Haile, Hogtown, Dells, Arrendondo, Jonesville, Tioga and Tuscawilla