The original Haulover Canal was used by early white settlers and probably by Indians before them, It was located about one mile SSE of the present canal. A creek ran westward from the lagoon side and another ran eastward from the Indian River, leaving a narrow strip of land between the waters. Boats sailed in as far as possible. After unloading, mules and ropes were used to haul boats onto logs that acted as rollers to move the boats across the land to the opposite creek, wagons moved the cargo across and once the boats were back into the navigable waters, they were reloaded for continued trips.
During the 1870s, a private concern brought in a crew of Conchs from Key West. These men dug, by shovel, at the present site. This new canal resulted in much time being saved by boats traveling this area. However, a fee was charged. A fee-taker lived on the canal bank and kept a chain stretched across it. Rumor has it that local fishermen resented having to pay 5 cents so frequently and retaliated by putting their coins on the manifold of their engines. When the fee taker stuck out his pole with the metal cup nailed on the end, he needed to remember the “locals” or he suffered from burned fingers on removal of the coin from the cup.
Soon after World War I, the government acquired the waterway rights and the fee was dropped. Dredging has improved passage of boats through the canal and a high bridge has replaced the old turning bridge so that cars also have improved passage over the canal.
For well over a hundred years, the Haulover Canal has contributed to commerce, travel and recreation on some of Florida’s prettiest and most productive inland waters.
(As told by Jimmy Wilson (Wallace Crooks), Sam Harris and Paul Whitton.)
Nancy Veronica Kytchen married John Cummings in 1926 in Titusville, Florida living here at the time. She came here in 1926 from New York City. She was doing social work there, but came here to visit and never went back except for visits. She was born in Andalusia, Louisiana, receiving her education there. She started teaching in 1927 and taught here 4 years, then 2 years in New Smyrna and a few years in Daytona. She then came back to Oak Hill and finished 34 years of teaching. She retired from school, but still keeps very busy with all kinds of organizations and helps people all the time. People really look up to her and use her as an example.
She also has park in Oak Hill named after her.
As the record that has been passed on from one generation to another, that have to do with the residences of the Negroes in Oak Hill, starts the record from: A Mr. William (Bill) Williams who was once a slave owner came to New Smyrna Beach and brought with him one of his very faithful Negro workers along with him. This workers assumed the same name as Mr. William (Bill) Williams.
William “Bill” Williams
Mr. Williams lived in New Smyrna and married an Indian lady (Flora), who was working as a maid in the Bouchelle family. Mr. Williams came to work in Oak Hill with his former master and homesteaded several hundred acres of land from the Government. This land ran from the riverfront (known as Bill’s Hill) in Oak Hill to the Big Cypress Swamp (or Turnbull Hammock). After working and improving parcels of land for about 4 years, Mr. Williams brought his wife and little family to Oak Hill, their home. It is stated that when Mrs. Williams arrived with all her children and luggage around her, she began to turn around surveying this new homeland and said, “My Lord, Mr. Williams has bought nothing but a lot of woods!”
As the record states, the first real home for Negroes was on Bill’s Hill. There were no schools in Oak Hill at this time, for the percentage of Negroes were growing and yet still very small. The one small school in Oak Hill served both groups. The Negro children had a few hours very irregularly during the day and some days during the week, in the absence of the other children.
Eventually a room for school purposes was added to the Williams’ home in 1901. The lumber was snaked out of the river as the offering from any disaster or ill-fated cargo of lumber being shipped. The first teacher for the new school was a Dr. Hill from Daytona Beach. They first attended school in the Williams’ parlor. Soon this room served a dual purpose; a school room and a church, as the population begin to increase. Some of the increasing population were: the Gordons, Jones, Taylors, Robinsons and many, many more. This gave rise to another milestone of progress to the race. Various religious buildings began to be erected, such as the Macedonians of Shiloh, St. Martha, Oak Hill and Macedonia. The school was then housed in various churches, furnished by teachers from the county. The time came for the need of a building to properly house school children and school belongings. The first one room county school was built in 1927, and Mrs. Nancy Cummings was the first teacher to instruct in this new county-financed building with around sixty children as students.
One outstanding contribution, among the many Mr. William (Bill) Williams gave to Oak Hill, was the “right-of-way” for the Florida East Coast Railroad to a Mr. Flagler, free – without any strings tied to the gift, because he was elated to have that type of transportation passing through Oak Hill.
The very first Negro church was called a “Brush Harbor” one – it was made out of wooden poles and brush and located near Dixie Highway. They used it until they got a one-room house built. It still stands today, but was added on when Mr. and Mrs. Sam Norman bought it. It is on 118 Church Street.
The pastor was E.L. Merrick and it was called St. Martha’s Baptist Church. Matthew and Green Wood were two of their quartet singers. Rev. Merrick is still their pastor, but it is now located on 270 Flamingo Street.
At that time, the roads were shell, next asphalt with large rocks. It was very difficult to walk barefooted – then in 1947, it was made into four lanes as it is today, and made of of asphalt and very small rocks.
The choir of the church, where Mrs. Norman lives, consisted of two lead singers, Matthew Woods and Mainer Burns; others in the choir were Jim Haines, James Thomas, Willie Marsh Smith, A.D. Evans, James Johnson and Green Woods. “They were known as the Georgia Jubilee Gospel Singers.
While constructing a building, Bill Williams was struck on the head and killed by a falling timber. He is buried in a small cemetery just east of what is now the city dump. His son, John, lived in Oak Hill at another location until about 1960.
The late Hattie Jackson from here was a granddaughter of Bill Williams and niece to John.