"Untold: It's really Woods House (Van Brunt/Morris)" Miccosukee by SheMuses

Miccosukee Travel Guide: 43 reviews and 85 photos

A Partial History: VanBrunt/Morris Historic House

My Grandparents, Theo & Thelma Woods moved into this house in the late '30s. Bertha Finley, my great-grandmother, and they raised my father Thomas there, working and improving the property until the late '70s when they had to give it up to be closer to family & medical help. The garden, melon-patch, the fruit (pear, plum, fig) and pecan trees and much of what makes it such a special place is due to their investment. So glad it has been preserved as a historical home...I am moved to mention they deserve most of the credit

Although they did not 'build' the original home, my grandfather did so much to improve it over the years. The entire back half of the house and upper floor were added with the advent of indoor plumbing. Pink-Quartz counters in the kitchen provided a cool surface for my grandmother's famous baking skills. Inch and half high buttermilk biscuits were a treat almost every morning. A coal-stove and tv, set atop the old radio in the small den kept us close on cold days.

The front parlor hosted Thelma's piano students and the open cellar housed the coal bin, stored pecans and shelves of her Leon County Fair Blue Ribbon canned goods. Her fig preserves, candied pecans, pickles and tomatoes won over 50 prizes throughout the years.

When unable raise chickens or hogs anymore, she traded fruits, vegetables (from Granddaddy's 1/3 acre garden) and gossip for fresh eggs over the back fence with Mrs. Billingsley, the town's postmistress. Both taught elementary AND secondary at the one-room schoolhouse for a couple of decades; up to the time Daddy started walking the mile up to US 90 catching a bus to the WPA built showplace that is Leon High in Tallahassee

Did I mention the Garden Club's appreciation for Thelma's hybrid day-lilies? She was always experimenting.

The tire swing hung from the huge Pecan in the center of the property. It also shaded a little work table where it was my happy chore to shuck bushels of corn, peas and pecans. On the hottest days we split open chilled watermelon there--face first into true refreshment—and enjoyed only when all the work was done.

A Partial History (cont.)

Before they widened Thomasville Highway, we would lounge in big rockers on the huge screened porch out front. The entrance bedazzled with a pair of lush king sago palms and a fairy-tale collection of ferns. Stories about Roaring '20s adventures in NYC and Chicago captivated me most evenings...until the cows moseyed up from the pastures to the bob-wire across the street...and I fixated on mooing conversation.

Deacon at the Methodist Church, President of the local Farm Bureau, Theo was the retired General Contractor who built almost a hundred Western Union offices all along the Eastern Seaboard. The annual Farm Bureau fish fry and dance was infamous for expanding local families. Absolutely everyone came, ate, drank, two-stepped and waltzed the night away. There was always a fiddle player in the band.

Another big draw was the church's dinner-on-the-ground. Both events showcased the comfort-food culinary skills of some of the best cooks in the South. Mouths watered in anticipation, friendly competitions sparked for best fried chicken, pecan pie, potato salad or coconut cake. We even wore our Sunday Best out of respect.

Many Summers I helped catch those fish. The 5am walks to Lake Miccosukee with our cane poles and red wigglers came with life lessons and a stop at Reeves' for an Orange Crush. Sometimes there would be a full-immersion baptism going on at the water's edge. Everybody gleaming and dressed in white.

Gladys & Sylvester McCoy might have been there to 'catch' the participants. She did a great work raising my sister and me, with a matchless Faith in God, and commuting to town from her modest but immaculately kept home on Moccasin Gap Road. Sister and I had the pleasure of sleeping over a few times. Syl still lives there, in a sturdier house, raising sweet potatoes and the occasional hog. Her 'ride' was the back of a plywood covered truck...until Daddy taught her how to drive (at 40) and she finally got her first car. Blessed are we to share a second-to none-mother with daughter Rosa.

There was a competing general store across from Ulm's, true corner groceries on the main intersection of Miccosukee Rd @ Thomasville Hwy... and I split my penny candy business between them; like the Grandfolks, to keep peace. Mrs. Ulm was renowned for her butter-cream frosted, rose petaled wedding cakes. Mr. "Pete" Ulm would literally shade-tree mechanic tractors and such under his mighty oak.

Bradley's General Store was down the way, past the Saunders' place with their beautiful horses. Arlene lifted me onto my first saddle and I have never wanted to stop riding. Mr. Bradley Sr.'s stone-ground grits and cornmeal are still ordered from around the world and the pork sausage has never been bettered. All are considered "fancy gourmet" these days.

The donkey/mule driven cane mill is gone now. I think it used to be down a dirt path behind a corn barn somewhere near the farm bureau community center. The syrup kettles and hog-scalding pots have become uppity yard decor, though someone in those parts is still brewing that sweet stuff so that we can enjoy it on our hoecakes and fried grits. Yes Virginia, day-old grits cut into pieces, lightly battered and pan-fried. Oh wait, you city-folk call that polenta?!

The city has finally caught up with Miccosukee. Our red and yellow flashing light crossroads is three tiered now. Trendy-types are claiming it as their own and eating up the fields, farms and gardens with development. Praise for those that have singled out our family's former homestead to let be...as a reminder of simpler and healthier times.

The treasured memories of that little house on that bountiful piece of land are priceless.

Thank you for posting your photos to the world, 850prc. http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/North_America/United_States_of_America/Florida/Miccosukee-763646/General_Tips-Miccosukee-TG-C-1.html#6

Melissa (Woods) Cherry

  • Last visit to Miccosukee: Mar 2007
  • Intro Written May 18, 2012
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Comments (1)

  • rsjett3's Profile Photo
    Mar 4, 2013 at 6:47 AM

    Nice history Melissa. I drove that by that area last month. I think that is not only my favorite part of Leon County, but of Florida. What a treasure of memories you must have. That was a wonderful time and place for your dad to grow up.

SheMuses Used To Live Here!

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