John Darling Vann was born in 1832 in north Georgia. His mother was an Indian princess of the Cherokee tribe and his father was a Dutch trader. He married her so that he could come and go to trade with the Indians.

His trading post was somewhere around Chatsworth, Georgia. There is a statue monument called the Vann House just outside of Chatsworth where the trading post used to be.

John Darling Vann came to Florida in the 1850s. He first came down on a sailing ship and worked as a sailor on the ship.

Later, on another ship came Hannah from Denmark. He was Captain of the ship she was on. They got married soon after meeting and he then went to work for the government.

John came to Allenhurst, Florida in 1863 and got a job helping haul boats on the old Haulover canal with mules and oxen. He homesteaded a 160-acre plot south of the old Haulover canal. After a few years, he became a Coast Watcher for the government. He would walk the beach from Shiloh to Titusville looking for ships and people in trouble on the beach. While doing this, he found enough lumber on the beach to build a fine house of Mahogany and lumber from shipwrecks and later used it on Vann’s Island to do just that. (At that time, Haulover Canal was only a ditch).

John Vann moved to Vann’s Island in 1872; this island was the only high shell island (being about 10 acres) in the whole area of mangrove islands around. He farmed, growing all of his vegetables and onions which he sold in large quantities to the travelers by boats coming and going down the waterways. He also did fishing and sold most of his supplies in the Shiloh area.

He had served as a private in the confederate army before getting married. He and his wife lived and raised two children on the Island until she died in 1896. He continued to live there with his son, John Daniel and the daughter, Mabel, until his son John left and moved to Oak Hill.

John Daniel Vann was born January 11. 1889 on Vann’s Island where he grew up. He helped his father farm and fish all through his youth.

John Darling and his wife were very prominent people and had many friends from all over Florida and Georgia and the Carolinas. People would come down for the winter and stay on the island, as they weren’t many safe places for them to stay on the mainland. Vann’s Island was listed on all of the sailing charts as a haven for travelers. John Daniel, the son, told his children that they held parties and dances that would start on Friday and last until the middle of the next week. All of the people who came would stay with them, sometimes being forty or fifty people.

John Daniel left the Island when he was 18 years old and moved to Oak Hill. He met Henriette (Lena) Hagin at a dance at Hagin’s Hill, which was down on the west shore just past the Lopez property on River Drive. It also is known to be “Hill Mound”, the largest shell mound of the five known mounds along the shore line at that time. Henriette’s parents were Edward and Sadie Hagin, settling there after coming from Quag, Florida in about 1907. Quag is near Fort Pierce. The Hagins later moved and settled on what is now known as Orange or Hagin’s Island west of Eldora. John Daniel and Henrietta were married November 22, 1911. They bought 11 acres in what is known as the “Hammock” located off Palm Avenue at the river’s edge or bay edge. They lived their entire lives out on this property.

They raised 11 children: 5 boys and 6 girls. He was a commercial fisherman all of his life. His sideline job during prohibition was running illegal whiskey from the Bahama Islands along with about a dozen other prominent citizens of Oak Hill.

He built and lived in three different houses down on the old home place, the last being a five bedroom, 60 X 48 house. Its value was $25,000 in 1930, but in 1932 the house burned. John then went back to his raisings and commercial fished the rest of his life. He died in 1952 at the age of 62 years old. His wife died in 1942 at the age of 47 years. She was born September 25, 1895.

The youngest girl, Merle and her husband Roy A. Malphurs now own the old home property. The other children were Gertrude, Lenora, Lucille, Viola, J.D., Leona, Edward, Curtis, Arnold and Jimmie.

John and Lena Vann have many descendants throughout Florida and all are very well liked by all that knew them.

L.L. Mosbys Department Store on right, and V. B. Baldwins General Store on the left. Originally built by W.C. Howse in 1894

L.L. Mosbys Department Store on right, and
V. B. Baldwins General Store on the left.
Originally built by W.C. Howse in 1894

Van Buren Baldwin Sr. was born at Osteen, Florida on September 19, 1896. Following the end of World War I, Van Buren and Mary L. (Mosby) Baldwin with young son, Van Buren Jr. (1 ½ years old) moved to Oak Hill following his discharge from the U.S. Coast Guard, where he was stationed at the Chester Shoals Station (now Kennedy Space Center). “We moved to Oak Hill in September 1919 for him to work for L.L. Mosby in his grocery store as a clerk, which he did until 1925. Mr. Mosby wanted to go into real estate and insurance business. We bought the store, from then on, it was known as “Baldwin’s Store”, and we enjoyed a profitable business due to the “Rum Running days”. Then the fishing village became a very busy town with plenty of money and whiskey changing hands.

“Later on, we purchased the Dry Goods Store adjoining the Grocery Store which was owned by H. E. Bennett and L.L. Mosby. Things went along fine until Prohibition became a law and we saw several local dealers bankrupt and the store business with a lot of unpaid debts.

General Country Store, 1911, owned and built by W.C. Howse, then L.L. Mosby, then Van Buren Baldwin, until it burned in 1925

General Country Store, 1911, owned and built by W.C. Howse,
then L.L. Mosby, then Van Buren Baldwin, until it burned in 1925

“Then came the Depression and there were no jobs and not much business for a couple of years. Then calamity struck the Baldwins. Labor Day, September 3, 1935 the entire building, – two stores and living quarters upstairs was completely destroyed by fire. We were left with nothing but a family of six children, ages 8 to 17 years of age. But, as always, the good people of Oak Hill came to our rescue. Clothing, furniture, dishes, etc. were given immediately. The wholesale grocery companies in New Smyrna, Daytona and Jacksonville put us back in business within the week in the V.I.A. Building across the street and we were able to rent living quarters from the Woodman of World Lodge which had disbanded. We then contacted A.P. Gordon, living in Michigan, to see if he would sell the house he had left as it was about the only available house of any size in the town. He was glad to get rid of the property and we found the house had been the base of flourishing liquor business. It had been constructed especially for the attic, and above all the closets space to store quite a lot of cases of liquor.

Baldwin Store after remodeling

Baldwin Store after remodeling

“In April 1936, we built the present “Baldwin’s Store” on the corner of Halifax and Dixie Highway and we enjoyed a nice business of general merchandise, dry goods, hardware, etc., until 1946.”

In the early days in the store after Baldwin bought it they sold general merchandise – everything from ready-to-wear clothing to horse collars. They used oil lamps and gas lights mostly, but did attempt to use an electric plant Mosby purchased, “It was not satisfactory.” When A.P. Gordon built a light plant in 1925, he supplied them with electricity. They put in a walk-in cooler and sold fresh meat. They would open up the store at noon to make fresh meat available to their customers since no one had refrigeration

When Van Buren Baldwin Jr. was discharged from the U.S. Navy at the close of World War II after serving 3 years, he and his wife, Arley, wanted to move to Oak Hill, so they purchased the store which they operated for 35 years. When they retired in 1981, they sold the store to their daughter and son-in-law, Dana and Bobby Greatrex. They are the third generation of Baldwins to run the Baldwin’s Store. It is widely known in this area for selling fishing tackle and all recreation goods, as well as groceries and hardware. They have remodeled the building to look more modern in 1982, but it still carries the name of Baldwin’s Store. They were Baptists, and gave their time and money very generously all of their lives.

Van Buren and Mary Baldwin

Van Buren and Mary Baldwin

Mary remembers coming to a wedding in Oak Hill from Shiloh – it was held in the Congregational Church on the corner of Lagoon and Howe Streets.

Their children are: Van Buren, his wife Arley Meares; Jeanne, her husband Fred Wheeler; Frances, her husband Robert (Bob) Johnson; Florence (Hun), marrying A.W. Meares (brother to Arley); Vanetta who is Director of Women’s Department State Baptist Convention; and last, Charles W. (Bootsie), wife Patty McGiboney.

Van Buren Baldwin Sr. died February 16, 1978 at the age of 82. Van Buren Baldwin Jr. died November 13, 1981 at the age of 63, leaving a widow, Arley (Meares) Baldwin, a daughter, Dana Lee Greatrex, whose husband is Robert (Bobby) Greatrex and they have two sons, Ryan and Cale.

Mary L. Mosby was born August 27, 1897 in Kentucky and Gertrude are sisters of L.L. Mosby.

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