Tosohatchee's Historic Buildings and Ruins

The Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area use to have a lot of old buildings. Some dating as far back as the early 1900s. Unfortunately a lot of them were destroyed by fires or they just simply collapsed over time. This page attempts to document their locations and provide some of the history behind them. It's an on going effort so please check back later for any updates.

Hoot Owl Inn

This is the infamous Grim Reaper's home or Hoot Owl Inn before it was bulldozed away. It used to be located off the Florida Trail near St. Nicholas Road and Tosohatchee Creek near coordinates N28 30.814 W80 58.692. One of the park staff members used it as a storage shed which explains all the junk that was found inside of it.1

Hoot Owl Inn in 1999 Inside Hoot Owl Inn in 1999 Inside Hoot Owl Inn in 1999

Turkey Cabin

Turkey Cabin most likely got its name from the 100's of turkey claws that were hammered to the interior walls. It had all the creature comforts you  could ask for -- a gas range, generator, hot water heater and a flushing toilet. There was even running water piped in from an artesian well. Hikers would come in from nearby Tiger Branch campsite and get water from a hose out back and shower up. This continued until one day a high official from from Tallahassee had the trail spur leading to the camp closed so he wouldn't be disturbed by hikers.2

This is what Turkey Camp looked like before a wild fire destroyed it. The building was  located along Fish Hole Road at coordinates N28 28.666 W80 57.431.

Turkey Camp (circa 1996) Turkey Camp Kitchen (circa 1996) Turkey Camp Dining Room (circa 1996)

This is what Turkey Camp looked liked several years after the fire. I'm not sure when it burned down, but I do remember it was caused by a wild fire during Charlie Matthews tenure as Park Manager at Tosohatchee. He told me a hot ember must have blown inside and lit the place up. As you can see from the pictures, the fire left very little standing. You can still see the foundation, the metal roof, the water heater and the old gas stove.

Turkey Camp Ruin in 2009 Turkey Camp Gas Stove in 2009 Turkey Camp Kitchen Sink in 2009 Turkey Camp Water Heater in 2009

Interestingly there are two well water test sites nearby which appear to have been put in after the fire. Both had St. Johns Water Management District ID numbers on them. There's also an older well covered with bricks with no ID. This might be the artesian well mentioned earlier. According to a USGS ground-water report, one well is 120 ft deep and the other two go down 17 ft.

Turkey Camp Well Site in 2009 Turkey Camp Well Site in 2009 Turkey Camp Artesian Well in 2009

I looked around for anything that might date the structure but didn't find anything. Someone, I believe it might have been Charlie, told me it was built as a hunting lodge during the 1950s. Too bad it had to go up in smoke.

Bumby Camp or Camp Blanton

Is it called the Bumby Camp or Camp Blanton? The park staff refer to it as the Bumby Camp, but on George McCulloch's map, it's known as Camp Blanton. Both appear to be located in the same area along Jim Creek south of SR 528 at coordinates N28 26.696 W80 56.981.

George McCulloch's Survey Map

I'm not sure when or how it burned down, but you can still find plenty of remnants of the old hunt camp including a brick chimney, several rusted out appliances, car parts, lots of bottles, bed springs and an artesian well capped off with a valve.

Bumby Camp Chimney in 2004

A 1939 aerial map shows something was in that area, but no obvious roads except for Taylor Creek Road way off to the west. On the1947 aerial map you can start seeing more of a road or a trail winding along Jim Creek towards the camp. By 1958 the new improved Long Bluff Road was put in with a side road going towards the camp. This aerial image clearly shows the Bumby Camp still standing.

Bumby Camp 1939 Aerial Map Bumby Camp 1947 Aerial Map Bumby Camp 1958 Aerial Map

Beehead Ranch

The Beehead Ranch was still active when the State purchased Tosohatchee back in 1977. Most of the structures were functional at that time, but over the years they eventually fell down except for one. The Beehead Ranch House, which was built back in 1914 by Syndey O. Chase near coordinates N28 29.724 W80 56.410, was one of the lucky ones. In 1993 it was relocated to the Fort Christmas Historical Park where it's now on display.

Beehead Ranch House in 1985 Beehead Ranch House at Fort Christmas Historical Park in 2009

To the south of the Beehead Ranch House near coordinates N28 29.630 W80 56.366 was a bunkhouse made out of logs, also known as the log cabin on George McCulloch's map.  I'm not sure what happened to it. The structure may have been removed when the Ranch House was relocated. The only remains I could find were some of the old logs, chicken wire, part of the roof and a crushed barrel.

Beehead Ranch Bunkhouse in 1980 Beehead Ranch Bunkhouse Ruins in 2009

There was a larger barn with stables located at coordinates N28 29.581 W80 56.369. It had an artesian well out back that flowed from a ceramic pipe and into a concrete water trough. This provided continuous fresh water for the livestock. Also close by  was a cattle dipping vat that was used to eradicate fever ticks during the early 1900s.

Large Barn at the Beehead Ranch in 2000 Free Flowing Well at the Beehead Ranch in 2000 Dipping Vat in 2009

A corral with another dipping vat was located at coordinates N28 29.440 W80 56.395. A lot of the fencing is still visible today.

Corral Gate in 2009 Corral Gate in 2009 Dipping Vat in Corral in 2009

If you look at the aerial maps from the 1940s and 50s, you can clearly see the pasture for the Beehead Ranch along Jim Creek. Since the closing of the ranch and removal of some of the dikes, this area is quickly returning back to its former state.

1943 Aerial Map of Beehead Ranch 1958 Aerial Map of Beehead Ranch

George McCulloch's map shows some other interesting items in the Beehead Ranch area. For example, there's a "rock" identified on the map just north of the "log cabin". I'm not sure what that's all about.  Also there's a "mule pen" just outside the fenced in area to the southwest at coordinates N28 29.171 W80 56.791.

George McCulloch's Survey Map of the Beehead Ranch

Bottle Camp

According to George McCulloch's map there use to be a place called Bottle Camp located near coordinates N28 30.469 W80 57.255. A search of the area did not reveal any sign of a structure but I did notice that a lot of cows frequent this area. It's as if their instinct to return to a particular spot is passed down from one cow generation to another. Who knows. This might have been where they were fed and corralled many years ago.

George McCulloch Survey Map of Bottle Camp

Fish Holes Camp

According to a story  written by Joan Chase Hargadon and published in Carl Patterson's Windermere Among the Lakes book, there was a camp located just east of the confluence of 3 creeks: First, Second and Tosohatchee Creek. I really believe she meant Jim, Second and Settlement, since Tosohatchee Creek doesn't come close to Second Creek and there is no First Creek.  But Jim, Second and Settlement Creeks do join together near Fish Hole Road.

A search around this area near coordinates N28 27.480 W80 56.806 revealed some interesting finds. For example there is a 7 foot pole covered with nails still standing near the creek. Most of the surrounding palm trees had rusty nails still sticking out of them as if may be they were used to tie off a tent or a hammock. Unfortunately the flooding of the creek has probably removed all other evidence of the camp. I did however find a couple whiskey bottles dated 1959 but they could have been washed down from somewhere else.

Fish Holes Camp Pole in 2009 Jim Creek at Fish Holes in 2009

According to George McCulloch's map of Tosohatchee, there was a camp called Fish Holes Camp located in this very spot. The map shoes several trails converging into this one location. A detailed 1920s St. Johns Drainage District survey map also shows these trails. Both maps give us a good idea where to look for the camp.

George McCulloch's Survey Map of Fish Holes 1920 Survey Map of Fish Holes

Walt's Camp

The name of this camp was a mystery for the longest time until I got a hold of George McCulloch's map. It shows a place called Walt's Camp with a little fence around it just south of Second Creek and SR 528 near the edge of Tosohatchee at coordinates N28 26.991 W80 57.682.

George McCulloch's Survey Map of Walt's Camp

Remnants of the old fence can still be found as well as some rusty appliances and foundation stones with interesting bird prints on them.. 

Walt's Camp Freezer in 2009 Walt's Camp Fence Post in 2009 Walt's Camp Turkey Print in 2009

Old bottles and broken china date the area to be around the 1950s,  but aerial maps from the late 1930s and 40s show this place being used back then.

Walt's Camp 1939 Aerial Map Walt's Camp 1947 Aerial Map Walt's Camp 1958 Aerial Map

According to a USGS topographical map from the 1950s, there was a flowing well right next to the camp. A search of the area only revealed a dry shallow swale running back towards Second Creek. It could have been created by the well when it was in operation.

Walt's Camp Topo Map

Joe Camp

Joe Camp has not been found yet. According to a 1920 St. Johns Drainage District survey map, there was a house located at coordinates  N28 27.331 W80 55.871 which would put it right smack dab in the middle of Long Bluff Road about a 1/4 mile northeast of the SR 528 underpass. On George McCulloch's map, it's more to the east at around coordinates N28 27.316 W80 55.538. Hopefully the remains are still out there some place just waiting to be found.

George McCulloch Survey Map of Joe Camp 1920 Survey Map of Joe Camp

Department of Natural Resources Building

For some reason the Department of Natural Resources decided to build a block house south of SR 528 near the intersection of Spur Road and Long Bluff Road at coordinates N28 26.572 W80 57.004. There wasn't much inside of it -- only a sink and a bench with some sort of ventilation conduit pipe coming down from the ceiling. A water tank was also mounted on the outside of the building. Sometime ago a wild fire destroyed the roof and everything inside was torched. 

DNR Building DNR Building Before the Fire DNR Building After the Fire

Nearby hidden among the palmettos at coordinates N28 26.561 W80 57.009 is an old fire truck rusting away. It was caught in the flames of a much earlier wild fire and had to be abandoned.3

DNR Fire Truck in 2009

Streetman Cabin

The Streetman Cabin was located on Long Bluff near the St. Johns River at coordinates N28 29.382 W80 52.958. A fellow by the name of J.A. Streetman and his wife Verlie use to live in the cabin. Mr. Streetman was the game warden for 7 years at the Tosohatchee Game Preserve.4

George McCulloch's map shows the structure with a fence around it and the Long Bluff Trail leading to it. A 1951 aerial map shows the new improved Long Bluff Road ending at Long Bluff. Later the Department of Natural Resources closed off this section of Long Bluff Road and rerouted the road to the power lines further north so it wouldn't impact an Indian midden.5

Streetman Cabin Survey Map 1951 Aerial Map of Streetman Cabin

Taylor Creek Ranch

I wasn't sure what to call this place. It's located south of SR 520 along the white blazed trail loop at coordinates N28 22.229 W80 54.394. It's not that far from Taylor Creek, hence the name. If you look at the 1943 and 1951 aerial maps below you can clearly see the boundaries of the ranch. Since SR 520 wasn't built until 1956, people had to come in from Taylor Creek Road to get to the ranch. The double-tracked white blazed trail follows a portion of that route before it makes a sharp left turn and heads towards Taylor Creek Slough.

1943 Aerial Map of Taylor Creek Ranch 1951 Aerial Map of Taylor Creek Ranch

A 12x16 foot concrete slab,  a crumpled-up tin roof, a 3-basin sink and some other fire resistant objects can be found in the area.

Taylor Creek Ranch Foundation in 2009 Roof to the Taylor Creek Ranch in 2009 Sink at Taylor Creek Ranch in 2009 Unknown Object at Taylor Creek Ranch in 2009

There's also a dipping vat nearby and an artesian well with a bathtub sitting right next to it. Now I know how those old timers took their baths. Actually the tub along with the artesian well were more likely used to fill the dipping vat with water.

Dip Vat in 2009 Tub with an Artesian Well in 2009

Way in the back hidden in the palmettos at coordinates N28 22.226 W80 54.319 is the rusted remains of an International Harvester Metro Van. They were manufactured between 1938 and 1984. This particular model was probably built in the 1940s or 50s.

Metro Van Hidden by Palmettos in 2009 Metro Van Engine and Steering Wheel in 2009 Metro Van Dash in 2009

Foot Notes

  1. Information on the contents of Hoot Owl Inn was provided by Doug Sphar.
  2. Information about the turkey claws and the use of the artesian well at the Turkey Cabin were provided by Doug Sphar.
  3. Information about the fire truck was provided by Ed Harris.
  4. Information found in the Fort Christmas - A Pictorial History book by the Fort Christmas Historical Society.
  5. Information about the rerouting and the closure of Long Bluff Road was provided by Doug Sphar.

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Last updated on 5-Sep-2009