Caboose

Caboose

Caboose number 0583, built in 1917, was one of the last wooden-sided cabooses on the Atlantic Coastline Rail. A train conductor’s office was stationed in the caboose, and he rode back there with the engineer and the flagman. The flagman rode in the raised cupola in the center of the car so he could keep an eye on the main body of the train. If he noticed a problem, he would stop the train and then walk back a mile up the track to place warning markers in case another train should come along.

The caboose contained a coal stove, bunk beds, a table, wash basin, water container, tools and spare parts, and a valve for the air brakes.

In 1970 the railroad company decided to retire the caboose, and it was bought by Dr. James West, a physician and the mayor of Lakeland. The caboose was placed on a siding, where Dr. West used it as an office. He installed a commode, cabinets and an examining table, and the caboose was outfitted with electricity.

Dr. West’s wife, Ellen, who also served as Dr. West’s nurse, donated the caboose to Cracker Country in 1983, five years after her husband’s death.

Built 1917, moved to Cracker Country in 1983, first Florida State Fair 1984

Terry Store

Terry Store

 

The J.R. Terry Store was built in the 1800s by the grandfather of Florida’s Governor Lawton Chiles. In 1920, it was bought by Jack Roundtree Terry and his wife, Maude Sparkman Terry. It served as a general store in Fort White, Florida until 1988. In 1992 it was donated to Cracker Country by the Terry’s sons, Jimmy and Bill Terry.

 

Terry Store

 

The J.R. Terry Store currently holds a collection of many original items from the period.

 Built 1800s, moved to Cracker Country in 1992, first Florida State Fair 1993

Smith House

Smith House

 

The Smith House was built in eastern Pasco County by the friends and neighbors of Daniel H. and Elizabeth Geiger Smith, honoring their marriage in 1894. The lumber used in construction was harvested on site, so the only cost for the house was the $15 for blacksmith materials. The house took three days to complete, and was topped by rot-resistant cedar shingles. The Smiths had a separate kitchen building used for cooking, although this structure is not seen at Cracker Country.

The Smiths lived in the house with their four sons. The parents would have slept on the cot, which is original to the house; the trunk was also an original belonging of the Smiths. The boys slept on the floor in front of the fireplace, rather than an upstairs sleeping loft. The family farmed to survive, and once a year gathered their hogs from the woods and drove them to Tampa to sell. The trip to Tampa took one day.

Elizabeth Smith died in 1945, and Daniel Smith died in 1955. The house was donated by the Smiths’ grandson, Willie Smith, and was relocated to Cracker Country in 1979. Today it serves as a memory of the friendship and camaraderie that was shared by the early Floridians.

Built 1894, moved to Cracker Country in 1979, first Florida State Fair 1979

Smoke House

Smoke House

 

The smoke house was a very important aspect of rural communities. Because refrigerators had not yet been invented, the smoke house was the main resource used for keeping meat fresh. This smoke house is an original structure that was built in Sumter County in the early 1900s. In the days that it was used, the meat would be salted down for several weeks to cure it; this removed the moisture from the meat. Next it would be hung in the smoke house and smoked by the fire to enhance the flavor of the meat and to keep insects away. This process helped the pioneers to keep their meat for a longer period of time.

 

The smoke house was donated to Cracker Country by the Southwest Florida Management District. Visitors can walk by and smell the enticing scent of the smoked meats.

 

Built 1900s, moved to Cracker Country in 1979, first Florida State Fair 1980

School House

School House

The school house was built in 1910 in the historical town of Castalia in DeSoto County, and served as a school from 1912 until 1937. The building was constructed from local heart-pine on the site of the old log-cabin school house. The building was donated to Cracker Country in 1980, along with some original furnishings.

Children would walk to school each day of the week, carrying leftovers from dinner or breakfast in their lunch buckets. The youngest children sat in the front of the classroom, while the older students sat in the back, and girls and boys sat on different sides of the rom. Lessons consisted of reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history and physiology (health).

In 1869 the modern public education system was established, guaranteeing free, uniform instruction to Florida residents ages 6-21. Schools were established wherever there were at least twenty-five students; at least ten students had to be actively enrolled in order for a school to remain open. Schools in rural Florida during this time period did not go past eighth grade, and grades 1-8 were all taught in one classroom by the same teacher. Teachers were usually young women who may or may not have progressed past the eighth grade. If a teacher was not available, a parent from the community might teach, or children would simply learn at home from their parents. Beginning in 1893, children 7-16 years old were required to go to school for at least six months; children from farm families could not attend school during plowing in the spring and harvesting in the fall.

 

School House

During the Florida State Fair, the school house is home to an animatronics teacher and students. The characters, added in 1989, bring the school house to life and let visitors experience an early Florida school house.

 

Built 1912, moved to Cracker Country in 1979, first Florida State Fair 1980