Dan's Day Trips Part Three
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News
The towns of Newnansville and Levyville have disappeared from modern maps. But 150 years ago, they were the county seats of Alachua and Levy counties, respectively. It takes a little imagination--but its a day trip back in time worth taking.
The two towns are connected by more than just their cemeteries. In the beginning, when Levy county was created in 1845, the land office was in Newnansville, the area's most important town. And the end for both places was strikingly similar. The train schedule served as a death sentence for both communities.
Not much remains of Newnansville, just a record of the people who lived and died here. For Mary Lois Forrester, who's written a book about the town, it's not something to forget.
"This is really the birthplace of the town of Alachua," says Forrester. "I think everyone should come out and view this beautiful cemetery."
The cemetery lies a few miles northeast of Alachua on Route 235. The community of Dell's Post Office was created here around 1814. It became the county seat and was renamed Newnansville in 1828. Except for a few years in the 1830s, it remained the center of the county until 1854, when the seat was moved to the railroad town of Gainesville.
Lindon Lindsey tells a similar story in the Levyville cemetery. Lindsey started visiting cemeteries more than 50 years ago looking for his grandfather's grave.
"It really gets you," says Lindsey. "The first thing you know, you really get hooked, and I got hooked."
No county records exist before 1850. What is known, is that by 1861, there was already a heated debate to move the county seat to Bronson.
In the middle of Levyville's heyday was the Civil War. There are six known Confederate soldiers buried here. Each has a Confederate flag like next to the tombstone.
Though a new courthouse was finished about 1867, just two years later, a vote making Bronson the county seat made it useless. It was sold to a masonic lodge for 502 dollars. Again, it was the train whistle in Bronson that served as the death knell.
"I believe Levyville would be the county seat if it wasn't for the railroad," Lindsey says. "The railroad just killed Levyville."
Today, the cemetery is all that's left. It's off County Road 134 between Chiefland and Bronson.
Many of the inscriptions are hard to make out. But it doesn't take away from their significance or the possibility of a good history lesson.
"Realize the significance of what has happened here," says Forrester. "Because they can be told by looking at the tombstones and reading the markers that indicate about the town."
One of the fun things you can do at a cemetery is a gravestone rubbing. All you need is a piece of paper and some tape and a crayon. You tape over a gravestone inscription, and then gently color with the broad side of the crayon. Many of the designs have some special meaning behind it. In this case, these flowers which represent sorrow and a premature death. It becomes your own record of the past.
"I think people should come and relive their ancestors and remember what they done," says Lindsey. "How they done and what it took for them to clear the land."
"The past brings about the future," says Forrester. "So we need to remember the past."
A very special thanks to Mary Lois Forrester and Lindon Lindsey for sharing their knowledge and research about the cemeteries. But we're not done with the trips revolving around the Iron Horse. In Thursday's Day Trip, I'll bring you story of a sunken steamer that was also killed by the railroad.