Friday, November 14, 2008

One little girl's grave marker

Today, we rabbits head south of Orlando to the former town of Taft.

I say "former," because Taft is no longer officially incorporated, though the name persists along with a sense of identity amongst residents.

The town was formerly known both as Newellton and Smithville until 1909, when entrepreneurs from Orlando and Kissimmee got together to buy-up 6,000 acres in this little corner of heaven to establish "Prosper Colony."

They subdivided the land and advertized extensively in the Saturday Evening Post. More than a thousand folks eventually bought farmsteads here, though they chose to rename their "colony" for President William Howard Taft.

One of the remaining vestiges of the defunct municipality is its cemetery, established in 1920 at what is now designated 501 Landstreet Road.

Among the earliest stones here belongs to a little girl named Alice Hayes (19 Dec 1917 - 23 Nov 1922). It caught my attention for two reasons. First, it has a really interesting carving of a dove on the top face. Second, it has a nasty crack obscuring the poor little girl's vital dates.

I checked some of the local census records, so can tell you Little Alice was the daughter of a fellow named Sydney Hayes (1871-1932), who is buried nearby. Mr. Hayes was a black teamster who came to Florida from his native South Carolina in the early 1900s, and evidently worked in the region's thriving turpentine industry.

*1910 Census, Pine Castle, Orange County, Florida, page 191a.
*1920 Census, Taft, Orange County, Florida, page 193a.

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