Newsletter -- August/September, 2004.


The Historical Society's Mother's Day Tea was a smashing success. Both the morning and afternoon teas were completely sold out. Attendees were greeted on the porch by Rosemary Anderson who offered hats to all ladies desiring to wear one. President George Crawford welcomed guests, which included numerous members of the local chapters of the Red Hat Society, to the Bronson-Mulholland House and B. J. Johns and Mary Makie Connor presented a history of Mother’s Day and afternoon teas. Guests were then treated to poetry readings by Sharon Cobb, Shirley Drake Johnson and the Reverend Robert Bronkema. A fashion show featuring models in vintage attire was well received. Special thanks should go out to our models: Norma Benson, Marcia Douglas, Cortney Hodges, Ashley Johnson, Kristine Kelly, Frances McKenzie, Peggy Murphy, and Jessica Wolf. In addition, vintage ladies’ attire and fashion accessories from the collection of Suzanne Shields was on display.

Any list of volunteers we owe thanks to will probably be incomplete so please accept our apologies if we have forgotten to include anyone. The ladies who made the Tea a success include: Meri-Lin MacGibbon, Sherry Tindall, Suzanne Shields, B. J. Johns, Mary Shoup, Joyce Trease, Christine Phillips, Mary Makie Connor, Rosemary Anderson, Rosie Dolinski, Dottie Withers, Joan Sickels, our models named above, and the many Society members who provided the refreshments. We would also like to thank the many individuals and businesses for their contributions, including: Palatka Office Supply, Andrea’s Bookstore, Holiday Inn, Southwell’s Restaurant, J. C Penney, Mane Attraction, Zales Jewelry, General Nutrition Center, True Lube, Linda W. Nipper, Winn Dixie, Palm Florist, Cynthia’s, Palatka Florist, Cake Lady, Elsie Bells Antiques, Publix, Dot Knight, Rosemary’s Granddaughter, Heather Stinston, the Florida School of the Arts, and the C. H. Price Culinary Arts Program. Thanks should also be given to our resident docent Guy Tillis for assisting in the Mother’s Day Tea.


The existence and current situation of this fine historic structure was brought to our attention in early June. The house was probably built by George and Jane Chester who relocated from Pennsylvania in the 1870’s and purchased 100 acres of land in San Mateo. They established a thriving orange grove on the property. Thomas and Parrie Ladd and their family occupied the house from 1922 until Parrie’s death in 1972. The house is in remarkable condition to be at least 124 years old. It sits on twelve acres of land, some of which is still covered in orange trees, in San Mateo and was acquired by the Board of County Commissioners. The situation that led to the need of the county to purchase the land has changed and the Board is seeking to declare the property surplus and sell it. Should the citizens of Putnam County lose ownership of this treasure there is nothing that can be done to protect the house from being razed.

Our county loses many historic structures every year to fire, decay, and intentional destruction. Once they are gone they are gone forever and a part of our county’s history and identity is lost with it. The Board of Directors of your Society went before the County Commission on July 13th to request a 60 day delay before the Commission will declare the property as surplus and sell it. This gives us time to investigate possible plans to save the structure which we must present to the Commission at their meeting on September 11th. For more information please contact our Society’s President George Crawford at 386-328-8476.


In February the Society was contacted by the City of Palatka concerning a request to remove or demolish the house located at 212 Main Street. The city’s municipal code requires them to consult with the Society’s Board for recommendations for the preservation of the structure. On April 7th your Board responded to the city with a letter stating that the house should neither be demolished nor removed and that it should be preserved as part of the North Historic District of Palatka. This was the same recommendation given to the city by the city’s Historic Preservation Board. A final decision by the city commission concerning the fate of this house is expected at their August 26th meeting.


The August membership meeting of the Putnam County Historical Society will be held on Thursday, August 19th at 7:00 P.M. at the Price-Martin Center, 220 North 11th Street, Palatka. The program for the evening will be “Memories of the Palatka Fire Department,” and will feature a panel of retired Palatka fire fighters who served in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. The panel, moderated by Society Secretary Larry Beaton, includes retired Chief Rudy Howard, Bobby Rivers, Beryl Peterson, Owen Preston, Billy Buck, and Elmer Fulgham. Their recollections of the old fire station, the box alarm system, and major fires of the period will be shared during the evening. We are asking anyone with old photos or memorabilia of the Palatka Fire Department to bring them to this program. We will have a computer and scanner on hand to copy them for the Museum collection. The program is being co-sponsored by the City of Palatka and the Palatka Fire Department. You won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of the events that became a part of our history. Immediately following the program, refreshments will be served.

This program will also serve as a “kick off” to raise funds for the restoration of “Old Engine Number 3.” The 1928 American LaFrance fire engine was used by the Palatka Fire Department for firefighting from the time it was acquired until the 1960’s. Once during a failure of the city water system pump, the truck was used to pump water for the city for three days non-stop. The engine will be on display at our program.

A NEW LOOK . . .

If you’ve read to this point in our newsletter you have no doubt recognized a change in the format. We are trying to give the old newsletter a new, and more modern, appearance. We’ve entitled the newsletter the Putnam Banner in honor of the first newspaper published in Putnam County—the Whig Banner. Of course, we’ve dropped the reference to the long-defunct political party. The Whig Banner was published by George J. Grouard, Jr. in Palatka in 1846-1847. By 1848 Grouard had moved to Ocala and was publishing the Ocala Argus. That endeavor was apparently short lived and Grouard soon disappeared from the historical stage.