The first orange grove on record was on Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, owned by Jose Fish, Sr. in 1763. The seeds were brought over by the Spaniards from southern Spain carried by the Moors from Africa.
The (Lou Gim Gong) Orange was brought to America by a Chinaman. There is an orange named after this man. As a child he worked in Massachusetts, later coming here and planting a grove.
The five large shell mounds were so old that great trees grew atop them and lined the lagoon – by that time called Mosquito Lagoon, for a very good reason, the mosquitoes were very, very bad.
Soon after the War of 1812, the Live Oak trade began. Audubon Society visited the Halifax and St. Johns rivers. In 1831-32, they reported seeing a schooner from New York wait at “Live Oak Point” on the Halifax River for a load of timber. The Swift brothers were cutting, shaping and taking out live oak and cedar on government contracts for shipbuilding.
Across the river opposite what is now the town were Shipyard Islands, not far from Turtle Mound.
Oak Hill was settled shortly after the War Between the States by native Floridians, subsequently joined by settlers from the New England states and New York. A historic place in “Live Oak Hill” was the place originally named from whence ships carried away immense quantities of live oak timber for shipbuilding purposes,
At “Seminole Rest”, known as Snyder Hill is the hill that once had an oak tree, and in a hurricane before 1911, it was blown down and died. So it was changed to “Oak Hill’ to be of “Live Oak Hill”. This hill is one of the five huge mounds of shells, believed were put there by the Timucuan Indians. Shellfish was a favorite and good food for them, and must have been plentiful. It is still to this day a very good place get very tasty oysters, clams, fish, shrimp and crabs.
Soon after 1900, the Snyder houses were built and owned by Lord and Lady Hatton Turnor, an English minister. The most southern house was built so every room you happened to be in you had a beautiful view of the river. It had 14 sprawling, graciously proportioned rooms, all paneled inside.
The daughter of W.K. Snyder, Mrs. James Porta, or Owensboro, Kentucky lived there with her 13-year-old son, while her husband saw duty in Vietnam.
W.K. Snyder bought the place from Lord and Lady Turnor and they went back to England, but they made many trips back for visits, a very favorite place to visit. Mrs. Porta’s grandfather wouldn’t let anyone haul off his shell and this is the only mound left. You have to look at it in a different way, though, people wouldn’t have had shell roads and the railroad used much of it also for the bedding of the tracks.
Glen Montgomery used to say one of his joys was to cut wood for the then wood-burning engines for the trains. Everyone loved knowing the train was running through here.
The tracks for the trains were started by Henry Flagler in 1892 and were finished by 1912 – all the way to Key West. Mr. Ball started out helping him.
The others owning shell mounds here were Allen Hill (his mound was 1/2 mile north of Snyder mound). Lafayette Allen’s was one half mile from them to the south known as Hotel Mound. The other one was located at Bill’s Hill and owned by a black slave, William Williams. Then there was the southern part of Snyder Hill owned by A.A. Berry and his wife. Bissit Mound was the most northern one.
Most of the north part of the huge hill was owned and occupied by W.C. Howse. He was postmaster there and he ran a general store. It is now owned by Mrs. E.A. (Eunice) Smith. The first to run the post office there was Seagrave Adams. They lived in a house closer to the water than the Snyder houses.
The very large mound called Hotel Mound is where “Atlantic House Hotel” was built, owned by Mr. H.J. Faulkner. Mr. McMurray helped build it. The Hotel was supplied with a water wheel turned by an overflow of a swimming pool. The pool was supplied by a six-inch flow well. This water was a bit salty, according to one of the oldtimers, Glen Montgomery. The Hotel lasted about 7 or 8 years and then burned to the ground in 1893.
“Seminole Rest” on Snyder Hill now is owned by another one of Mr. Snyder’s daughters, Penny and her husband, Frank Instone, still keeping it in the Snyder family. The house was built in 1911.
Mary Jane Anderson, born in 1889, and still living at age 95 (as of February 28, 1984) recalls most of the development of Oak Hill. Her mind and memory are still excellent. By word of mouth from her mother, it appears that the first families to settle Oak Hill were her mother, Sarah J. Johnson, whose first husband was Jonathon Washington Fountain from Thomasville, Georgia, and a black family by the name of Bill Williams, settling near them six months later. They used lumber from shipwrecks to build their homes at a place called Bill’s Hill on the riverfront. There was a large shell mound near the water’s edge similar to what is known as Turtle Mound several miles northeast of Oak Hill on the beachside. Years later a man by the name of Scobie removed the shell to build roads around the area. Bill’s Hill then was also referred to as Scobie’s shell pit. They settled here in 1863.
There were only 3 white families and on Negro family living there. Their supplies were brought in by boat from Jacksonville in barrels and meal, grits and flour were distributed among the families. “As the boys grew older they would hunt small game, and there was always a garden and a milk cow.” Then in 1894, W.C. Howse built his general store.
The Fountains had three boys and girl, born at the riverfront settlement. The baby girl named Elizabeth lived only nine days – she was born in 1870. The deceased baby’s body was taken on a borrowed horse, as the family looked for a pretty place and high ground to bury her. Her body was the first one to be buried at the present Oak Hill Cemetery. Years ago, there were a lot more cedar and oak trees at that site.
Later, Fountain secured 80 acres at $1.00 per acre north of the present Halifax Avenue and west of US1. They built and lived in a log cabin about 1/4 of a mile south of where they laid the little baby to rest. They had other children. Jonathan died in 1884 at the age of 71. He was buried at the head of Little Elizabeth’s grave. Sarah later married Lawrence J. Johnson. Two daughters were born to this couple, Mary and Clara. Clara married Anchor Damgaard. They had a large family. Three of their children still live in Oak Hill. Oscar and wife live in Edgewater. Louise Rowles lives in Edgewater as a widow.
Mary determined when she got married she’d never have children like her sister had. She kept on every two years having a baby until the count totaled 10. “Kids! Kids! Kids! I won’t do that.”
It was not until 1919, when she was 30 years old, that a Swedish fisherman, named Joseph H. Anderson, won her heart. They were married and shared 37 years together until his death in 1956 when he was buried in the family plot. She kept her vow, having only one son, and not a large family as her sister, Clara. The son, Lloyd, who is today New Smyrna Beach’s Faulkner Street Elementary School principal and has been for many years. He faithfully visits his mother twice a week, and they “always have supper out on the porch.” He keeps up the old homestead, the grounds and four acres of citrus groves.
Mrs. Anderson said her father worked in the swamp, “riving out shingles from cypress.” She recalls him putting the shingles on the first church in Oak Hill, the building that remains on the corner of Lagoon Avenue and Howe Street.
Mrs. Anderson says, “I only left this place one time in my whole life. I spent about three months with my half-sister and her husband packing tomatoes.” She attended grades one through eight at the Oak Hill School, located at that time on the property at the corner of Sargent and Gaines Streets. After completing eighth grade, Mrs. Patty Howes, the wife of the store owner, volunteered to teach the ninth grade work to anyone who wanted to continue their studies, but Mary was the only one that showed, so Mrs. Howes went ahead until Mary finished her ninth grade schooling.
Mary has been a member of the First Baptist Church here over 70 years, being baptized as a teenager by Brother Moone; his wife’s sister was Jean, she was a schoolteacher here. Later, Brother Moone and she were married. They moved to Lake Helen, but he kept on coming over here for the weekend and holding services for many years until too old he felt to travel that far.
Lloyd is also a Baptist minister – he has lived in New Smyrna many years and is a fill-in minister when needed.
Mary is still living in a small frame house about 150 feet south of where the log cabin stood in the early twenties. Mary welcomes anyone to her home who likes to talk about “old times.”
Ollaf Damgaarder was a first cousin to Mrs. Mary Anderson; their mothers were sisters.
Maude was his reliable eight-year-old Morgan horse and was trusty as the day was long. They live about three miles out in the woods north and near the railroad tracks. He was also born and grew up at the same place.
“Just me and my horse and my dog. That’s all that is out there.”
He was a blacksmith by trade, he made the prairie schooner himself a few years ago. “It’s just a source of transportation, but it gets you there,” he said. “I put a bed in it and stove and go where I want to go. It’s home, sweet home.”
Every little bit he goes to the river and gets a few mullet to barbecue. He fries them, then puts barbecue sauce on them and bakes them – really tasty.
Having his photo taken is nothing new to Ollaf. He’s kinda used to it. Stories have been written about him and Maude. “Had to give up my truck,” he says. “Eyes got so bad, I had to quit. But Maude, here, she does the driving, I don’t.”