Orange Mills Putnam County Florida Florida East Coast Railway St. Johns River
Orange Mills is six miles northeast of Palatka and was part of the old St. Augustine and Indian River Railway. Oranges and vegetables were the chief crops. In 1835 a freeze destroyed the groves. A saw mill was later built and the name became Orange Mills. It is located 2.4 miles from East Palatka and 4.5 miles from Hastings.
Slavery Secession and Success by John Francis Tenney Before the Civil War John Francis Tenney who would later be the founder of the town at Federal Point traveled up the St. Johns river. He stopped at Orange Mill on the first night: "We spent the first night at Orange Mills, at that time a thriving place, with a large saw mill that was run at its full capacity. Here we got the best meal we ever ate." The second trip was after the Civil War in the November/December of 1865: "When we reached Orange Mills we found the big sawmill a heap of ashes, the large wharf gone, and only two families living there---that of Colonel F. S. Dancy and Mr. John B. Hazel. Col. Dancy had just returned to his home after a sojourn in the interior of the state during the war. Mrs. Hazel had bravely remained at her home with her little brood of children while her husband was fighting in the cause of the Southern Confederacy." "On his return on this trip he: "ran across Mr. Simpkins, who owned a beautiful residence at Orange Mills, and desired that we move into it to protect it from further depredations, which we eventually did."... "We soon moved our family into Mr. Simpkins' house at Orange Mills. That winter we spent our time in doing odd jobs here and there and making frequent trips to Jacksonville for supplies."
"...while residing at Orange Mills that one of the most pathetic scenes that came to our notice was enacted. One cold, dark, rainy night a steamer blew for the landing, and as we were living not far away we lit our latern and went to take her lines as she tied up. She landed Dr. R. G. Mays and wife, an aged couple, who were coming home for the first time after the close of the war. Their house stood about one-half mile from the landing, and to reach it they had to cross a foot bridge through a small swamp. Their house had been shelled by a Union gun-boat during the war and robbed of nearly all its furniture. They were formerly wealthy people, owning many slaves and a large cotton plantation, besides an interest in the big saw-mill that lay in ashes. The night was very dark, cold and stormy, as I have written. We gave them our lantern and saw them start off through the gloom unattended, with feelings too deep to be written in cold type."
After the war the groves at Orange Mills were owned by Dr. R. L. Mays and F. L. Dancy. The grove of Dr. Mays was set out by Zephaniah Kingsley soon after the transfer of Florida to the United States. These groves were in full bearing, and the excellence of their fruit was the incentive for the numerous groves that were subsequently planted. The grove of F. L. Dancy was set out by himself, more for family use than with an idea of profit; but as it turned out it afforded him and family a comfortable support during his declining years.
Col. Francis Littlebury Dancy Francis Littlebury Dancy constructed the seawall at St. Augustine He was born Feb 5, 1806 in Tarboro Edgecomb County, NC. He had married Florida Reid (Oct 17, 1833) the daughter of Robert Raymond Reid Sr. a territorial governor of Florida. He was a West Point graduate from the class of 1828 (same class as Jefferson Davis.)
At Orange Mill they used a pit saw to saw logs into boards for their house. Their plantation also had a corn-sheller and a mill for the corn. (After the war the family use a hopper machine to grind grain. The house was built on light wood blocks with cypress log walls. It was fifty feet in length by twenty feet width with a ten foot hallway and a twelve foot plaza front and back. The entire structure was built in 1844 without nails using wooden pegs.
Dancy later became the Surveyor General of Florida by President James Buchanan. Robert F. Dancy his son was selected as chief clerk in his office, while a nephew, Edward Foxhall, of Tarboro, North Carolina, was chosen as draftsman to make up maps of surveys as made by U. S. Deputy surveyors in the field. At the start of the war Dancy turned over the United States Surveyor General's office records to the Confederate Commission of Lands of the State of Florida.
James M. Dancy his son was born on 15 day of January, 1845 He would write about his experiences in the Civil War in the 1930s when he was 88 years old. His schooling before the war consisted of a split board shack on the east bank of the St. Johns River about one-fourth of a mile up from their plantation and about the same distance down from our nearest neighbor, Morecio Sanchez and his family of two sons, Emanuel and Henry, and three daughters, Panchita, Deloris, and Eugenia, as scholars. His first teacher was a tall thin elderly woman, an old maid sister of, my father's, Elizabeth Dancy, from Tarboro, North Carolina.
The next teacher was a large, stout Englishman, who had resided in Boston, Massachusetts, for some years. He was very fastidious about his eating, especially meat, it must be hung up in the shady air until he could begin to see it move about, then it was to be takes down and cooked. Of course no one but he would eat it. And poultry must be treated in the same way. They must be tied up by the tail feathers until they dropped out.
His next teacher, a young New Yorker threatened with consumption, was just from college. In a short time he regained his health entirely. One night his father was awakened by loud singing and by the voice of some one leading in prayer out at the servant's quarters. He went out and found his teacher, Mr. Benjamin W. Thompson, having a prayer meeting with the servants. This was more than his father's hot Southern blood could stand. He broke up the meeting. Next morning at breakfast he informed the young man that he could pack up his belongings and leave. This he did. He went Fernandina, Florida, where he had friends, and obtained a position which retained until out war and secession was declared. He went back home to New York, where he went into a U. S. Volunteer army and was promoted to a brigadier generalship. After the war he sent to his brother Benjamin, for (he claimed) his name's sake, the first ten-dollars greenback they saw after the war.
James became a member of Capt. J.J. Dickinson forces at Rallston on the banks of the St. Johns River six miles above their home. He would later serve in Dunham's artillery.
Col. Francis Dancy became chief commissary officer of the Florida Confederate troops from Lake City and his son Robert was killed at the battle of Olustee.
The Dancy family returned to Orange Mills after the war. He was at one time Floridas largest citrus grower and developed the Dancy tangerine. Francis Dancy would die on Oct 23 1890 at Buena Vista in Putnam County. His grandson was born on 18 Sep 1882 to Edward Dummit Dancy and Sallie Champion. He passed away on 31 Jan 1918 in Jacksonville Duval, Florida, USA.
MRS. F. F. DANCY DEAD (April 18, 1894, issue of the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida) After A Long and Memorable Life She Seeks Her Reward
Mrs. F. F. Dancy died at her home near Orange Mills in Putnam County at 8 o'clock Monday night after an illness of some time. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon under the direction of undertaker Gordon of this city and the internment was in the family burying ground.
Mrs. Dancy was one of the oldest residents of Florida and was a lovely and amiable woman. Under disadvantages in the way of church and schooling, she reared a very large family. She was loved by all who knew her and her life has been one of usefulness.
Mrs. Florida Forsyth Dancy was born in or near Augusta, Georgia, in the year 1818 and was the daughter of United States Judge Robert Raymond Reed, afterwards Governor of Florida under the Territorial Government. She lived with her parents in Georgia until she was 14 years of age, when she removed with them to St. Augustine, where she was afterwards married to Lt. Francis L. Dancy of the United States Army, a native of North Carolina. It will be remembered that Col. Dancy built the sea wall at St. Augustine. They lived in St. Augustine until the close of the Seminole War when her husband resigned his commission as lieutenant in the Army and they moved to the plantation at Buena Vista which has been their home ever since.
Her husband died a little over three years ago. She leaves eight children, six sons and two daughters: Lee of Savannah, Robert, Dr. W. McL., Edward, James M., and Benjamin; Mrs. Porcher L'Engle, and Miss Jennie.
Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick Hazel Another former resident of Orange Mills was Ellen Fitzapatrick Hazel. During the Civil War she was arrested by the Confederate government as a Federal spy and taken to Jacksonville. There she let it known that she was a British subject and she was returned to Orange Mills.