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    Published 12-8-2020

    There's a special place in West Volusia County where you can time travel. Barberville Pioneer Settlement transports you back to the turn of the century when Florida was the wild frontier. The buildings range from the late 1800s to early 1900s and present a way of life that is all but forgotten now. It's the perfect place to blend education with fun in a safe, mainly-outdoor environment.

    It all began in 1976 with the Central School of Barberville circa 1919 (the image in the title picture) and over the years became a complete Florida pioneer settlement. Debra West, the settlement manager, met us at the entrance which was once the 1920s bridge tender’s house from the bridge where SR 40 crossed the St. Johns River at Astor. When a new raised bridge was built, the bridge tender was no longer needed. The building now serves as a gift shop and admissions office for the Pioneer Settlement. Debra showed us around. She told us a few of the smaller buildings are closed to the public due to Corona safety requirements. However, most of the settlement is open to the public. They plan to hold their annual Charistmas event in a safe manner.

    Country Store at Barberville Pioneer Settlement
    A country store was the heart of every small Florida settlement. This was where farmers bought tools and supplies. His wife bought material and groceries. These stores stocked a little of everything an early settler needed. Due to Covid, all the items for sale at the Country Store are now in the Bridge Tender House.

    country church at Barberville Pioneer Settlement
    church interior  at Barberville Pioneer Settlement

    These settlers were, for the most part, good people. The village church was an important part of a settlement. The church here is the Midway United Methodist Church circa 1890. It's a one-story wood structure. The inside is beautiful in its simplicity.

    turpintine still
    The Turpentine Still’s roof structure had become unstable, due to wear and tear over time, and is currently in need of a contractor to help out with the rebuild, but the brickworks and barrel are still there. Turpentineing was an important job at that time. The still dates to about 1924.

    1933 fire truck

    fire truck 1919

    Since most structures were wood, fire was a fierce enemy in early Florida. The settlement has two fire trucks, a 1933 Hahn and a 1918 American LaFrance.

    wagons  at Barberville Pioneer Settlement
    Numerous other wagons are on the site, ranging from a covered wagon to farm wagons. Naturally, a blacksmith was needed to maintain all these wheels and horseshoes as well as to create many needed implements. There is a well-equipped blacksmith shop. During events, there would be a real blacksmith making things at the flaming forge as well as docents in costume at the cabins and around the grounds.

    depot and caboose
    Trains were a main form of transportation those days. Pierson Railroad Depot was built in 1885 along the new Jacksonville, Tampa, Key West Railway Line at Pierson, Florida, then a busy agricultural community. It served the community for over 100 years. The railway later became part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The depot was moved to the Barberville Pioneer Settlement in 1982. The caboose was moved the following year.

    lewis cabin

    lewis cabin int

    The homes range from the simple to the elaborate. The Lewis Log Cabin is the oldest building in the settlement dating to 1875. We toured the inside. It is amazing how people lived happily in such simple structures. The living and sleeping area was downstairs and in warmer weather, the children slept in the loft. Jim and Mary Lewis had twelve children and all but the youngest was born in this house. It's the only building not native to Florida. It came from South Georgia but is typical of houses that would have been built here at that period.

    underhill house
    The most upscale home there is the Underhill House. It was built for Joseph and Lucretia Underhill in 1879 and was the first brick home built in Volusia County.  The bricks were built from clay from an area near Deep Creek just about two miles away.

    underhill house interior
    Debra told us a fascinating story about the family history. Back sometime after the house was built, Joseph, Lucretia, and another couple went on a boat to Tick Island between Lake Woodruff and Lake George where he had an orange grove. On the trip, one of the ladies needed to use the bathroom. They put ashore and somehow Joseph accidentally shot himself in his leg. The other man got him over to a store in town where a train would stop and while waiting for the train, Joseph died.

    Several years later Lucretia remarried a con-man named Joseph Lichtenstein. He went through her inheritance and then skipped out with another woman.

    The house has a fantastic history. Some of the teachers who taught at the school boarded here. There are lots of items found in the house and pictures of the renovation.

    timicuan canoe
    Central School of Barberville is filled with treasures. There is a Timucuan canoe dating back between 600 to 800 years old. Clothing a Seminole would have worn.

    sewing machines
    The hall contains a display of old treadle sewing machines, narrow shoes that no living woman could squeeze her foot into today, a display of handmade quilts, and memorabilia and photos from that time period.

    One room is arranged as a typical classroom of that era would have looked. The desks all have inkwells. The teacher's desk has an old fashioned world globe on it. There is a blackboard of course since no computer screens were available. A dunce cap and stool to seat the wearer are in front in plain view. Yes, teachers engaged in public shaming of students who didn’t do their homework and know the correct answer then.

    Another room is dedicated to the art of weaving. Who knew there were so many different kinds of looms. You'll see various kinds of yarn and samples of woven articles. If you wanted a rug or a blanket or even a sweater those days, you couldn't just order from Amazon.

    As would be normal in a pioneer settlement, there are real live animals there. The peacocks were my favorite but there are chickens, goats, donkeys, and more.

    wings  at Barberville Pioneer Settlement
    There is one more treat you wouldn't normally find in a living history setting. Wings of the West artist Erica Group has painted a wings mural trail in sites that reflect West Volusia County life. The wings at the settlement are vibrant peacock wings painted on an antique wooden building. Do take your picture posing at the wings.

    This is just a touch of what you will find. Now is the perfect time to explore Barberville Pioneer Settlement and discover the Florida Cracker way of life before televisions, cell phones, internet, and Covid.

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