Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Welcome to Florida Traces

A brief introduction

As a seventh-generation Floridian on both my paternal and maternal sides, I descended from a long line of pioneer farmers. With this blog I will explore my family's history as it relates to Florida's history, especially the settlement and development of Northwest Florida, but including bordering areas of Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama - the heart of "wiregrass country."

From as far back as I have records, my ancestors were farmers, and little changed as they migrated from Scotland, Ireland, England and other countries to pioneer the mid-Atlantic states during colonial times, then moved on to settle the Georgia, Florida and Alabama frontiers after 1800.

Last in a long line

The last of my direct line to earn a living from Florida soil was my dad, born in 1921. Neither my brother nor I became farmers, but we continue to love the land and to honor our heritage.

Click to enlarge

This was my dad on his way to side dress a field of watermelons. He is standing in front of the barn he built, which in turn stood across the yard from the house his grandfather had built in a previous generation. The mule is Ole Buck. He never trampled the corn or kicked the traces. (Traces are the lines, or chains, that connect each side of the harness to the singletree, which in turn is attached to a plow or other farm implement.)

Traces of Florida's past

Vast areas of this richly beautiful state would be unrecognizable today by the forefathers who settled here nearly two centuries ago. Little of Florida remains untouched, even from my childhood years of the 1950's and '60's.

Understanding the past is key to planning the future. Change is sometimes inevitable: Development has devoured the wilderness and farmlands, technology has diminished tradition, and greed has replaced respect for the earth. We cannot hold onto the past, but perhaps in understanding it we can preserve some of the things that mean the most to us.

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