At the Jacksonville Historical Society, we’re making history every day. Our monthly Speakers Series offers in-depth information on surprising and diverse aspects of our city’s past, and our fun Pop Up events are designed to bring attention to the forgotten history buried in our own back yard. Throughout the year, we also lead countless school groups on “insider tours” of our city’s most significant landmarks and events. Why don’t you join us?
At 4 a.m. on April 1, 1864, the Union transport Maple Leaf, returning to Jacksonville from Palatka with the equipment of three regiments, struck a torpedo in the St. Johns River and sank in seven minutes. Two nights earlier, Confederates had placed 12 torpedos in the river channel near Mandarin Point. While extraordinary relics from the ship were salvaged by a small, tenacious group of locals and placed in Florida museums, 150 years later, the Civil War transport still holds 90 percent of its cargo and rests in 20 feet of water and seven feet of mud. Join us for the century-and-a-half saga of the Maple Leaf, from its sinking to its salvage.
Debuting a Jacksonville Historical Society film–Jacksonville History in 30 Minutes! The history of the town in 30 minutes? Wll, the high points are covered: the French colony of La Caroline; the founding of Cowford; a town in ruins post Civil War; a winter tourist destination and movie making center; the Great Fire; a burgeoning skyline; the military presence; consolidation; overnight status as the largest city in the free world; and yes, even fleeting fame as a Super Bowl city! Following the film’s debut, scholars and arm chair historians will discuss what was left out.
The Mad Atlas of Virginia King by Tim Gilmore
with Hurley Winkler and Kiley Secrest
Listen to Tim Gilmore’s interview with WJCT’s Jessica Palombo as they walk through Riverside and discuss Virginia King.
Virginia King wrote an 8,448-page highly inaccurate book about her hometown of Jacksonville. The title was almost as long. She said her brother was dead. He said he’d never heard of her. Always dirt poor, she called the wealthiest people in the city “my little friends.” From 1915 to 2001, Virginia lived in 18 different residences, mostly in Riverside, and residents who remember her call her a “Riverside character.”
This new nonfiction novel about Virginia King includes reminiscences from local residents Helen Lane, Wayne Wood, Sarah Van Cleve, Pokey Towers Lyerly, Elizabeth Towers, Charlie Towers, Jerry Ferguson, Joel McEachin, and many others. The book celebrates the strange treasures of the Jacksonville Historical Society archives.
The book includes meaningful musings by Hurley Winkler, of Perversion Magazine and Swamp Radio, and hand-drawn maps by Springfield resident and architectural portraitist Kiley Secrest. Though she got so much of Jacksonville’s history wrong, her work touches innumerable aspects of it, and her devotion and commitment are perhaps unmatched. When Reverend Tom Are gave Virginia’s eulogy, he said, “It seems to me that Virginia King served as something of a prophet in our town.”
The reception and book signing will begin at 6:30pm. Dr. Gilmore will present his findings on Jacksonville’s unique character, Virginia King, at 7pm.
Dr. Gilmore is the author of several books, including In Search of Eartha White, Storehouse for the People (2014), Stalking Ottis Toole: A Southern Gothic (2013) and This Kind of City: Ghost Stories and Psychological Landscapes (2012). He’s the creator of Jax Psycho Geo, which features nearly 250 stories about significant places across Jacksonville, Florida. He teaches Literature and Composition at Florida State College at Jacksonville.
This program and the 2015-16 JHS program series is generously sponsored by Retina Associates, P.A., Dr. Fred H. Lambrou, Jr.
April’s Lecture Series event at the Jacksonville Historical Society will feature George R. Burns, Vice-President of the Cowford Archaeological Research Society (CARS), speaking on the Jacksonville Wall Project.
CARS has been at work on locating and identifying evidence of the security wall built by the U.S. Army around Jacksonville during the U.S. Civil War. Recently CARS and the Jacksonville Historical Society collaborated in the establishment of an historical marker at the site of Ft. Hatch, a strongpoint in the Jacksonville Wall.
Mr. Burns, of Jacksonville, holds an MA in anthropology, and is a member of the Register of Professional Archaeologists.