History & Culture

Ichetucknee (Painting by Edna McCormick, 1961)


1539:   Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto passes through the vicinity en route to Apalachee.

1565:   The North Florida Timucua (Native Americans, including those in the area of the Ichetucknee) have limited contact with the French outpost at Fort Caroline.

1608:   Martin Prieto founds the first permanent Timucua missions, including San Martin de Timucua at Fig (now Mission) Springs on the Ichetucknee River.

1614-1617:   Smallpox, measles and typhus sweep the Timucua missions.

1649-1656:   Disease epidemics decimate the Timucua who are living at the missions.

1656:   The Timucua Revolt is centered at Mission San Martin de Timucua on the Ichetucknee.

1706:   Final collapse of the Timucua missions. Ichetucknee’s Mission San Martin de Timucua is abandoned by this date.

1760(?):   The area near Ichetucknee is first inhabited by Seminole Indians.

1778:   Joseph Purcell maps North Florida.

1824:   The first federally funded road in Florida, the Bellamy Road, is constructed with the stipulation that “the route of the road should follow the old Indian trails as closely as possible.” The Bellamy Road passes around the Ichetucknee headspring through what is now the parking lot at the north entrance of Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

1830-1860:   A gristmill is built sometime during this period at what is now known as Mill Pond Spring.

April 1837:   Army surgeon Jacob Motte describes “Ichetuckney”:

Ichetuckney was the name of this terrestrial paradise…In a hollow dell where the very air seemed concentrated in coolness, a grassy slope of the most rich and velvet green extended to the margin of a translucent and placid spring, whereon was faithfully reflected the green foliage that thickened over it; and in its transparent water might be clearly discerned the tiniest object at the bottom, clothed in the blent hues of the o’er arching sky; the babbling of the stream, and faint rustlings of the foliage as the breeze passed gently over the impending shrubbery, were the only sounds heard in this sweetest of sylvan solitudes. Various kinds of fruit trees glowing with blossoms were bright in loveliness around us.

 1839:   Limited activity during the Second Seminole War. Fort White established.

1841:  A small settlement of 21 people, eight of whom are slaves, is established at Cedar Hammock northeast of the Ichetucknee headspring.

May 15, 1855:  President Franklin Pierce gives Charles E. Washington Collins a land grant of approximately 160 acres in the Ichetucknee River basin.

April 1, 1859:   President James Buchanan gives Charles E. Washington Collins a land grant of 320 acres in the Ichetucknee River basin.

The 1855 and 1859 land grants were probably given in recognition of Collins’ service in the Seminole Indian War. Charles E. W. Collins then owned and operated a general store, blacksmith shop and gristmill at Mill Pond Spring.

Late 1860s:   Ambrose Hart and S.B. Thompson become supervisors of a 1000-acre plantation on “a strip of … land connecting about the head of Echotucknee Spring and running down to the Santa Fe River.” The plantation grows cotton, corn and 8-10 acres of orange trees.

October 15, 1878:   The Postmaster General of the United States appoints William H. C. Collins, son of Charles E. W. Collins and great-grandfather of Ichetucknee Alliance Founding Director Charles Maxwell, as postmaster at “Ichatucknee.” The post office was located at Mill Pond Spring.

c. 1890:   Dutton Phosphate Company begins mining a large tract at the north end of the Ichetucknee River.

Early 1900s:   Rail travel from Lake City to the Ichetucknee area encourages visitors to Ichetucknee Springs.

1920:   Loncala Phosphate takes over Dutton Phosphate Company’s mining operation and remains in control of land surrounding Ichetucknee Springs for 50 years.

1920s:   Local citizens build a bathhouse at the springs but it does not survive the decade. The Ichetucknee community at Mill Pond Spring also consists of a gristmill and post office operated by William Henry Collins (son of William H.C. Collins), a general store, a few cabins and a blacksmith.

1920s-1930s:   Car travel replaces train travel to Ichetucknee Springs. Roads are improved and bring more visitors to the springs.

1930s-1940s:   Elim Baptist Church performs baptisms at the springs.

July 13, 1949:   On a canoe trip down the Ichetucknee with his students, archaeologist John Goggin stops to investigate a spring run and finds “lots of Spanish pottery.”

1950s:   Goggin returns to the site at Mission Springs to increase his collection of potsherds.

1958:   The Save Ichetucknee Springs advocacy group promotes governmental oversight of the area in order to save it from private development.

Late 1950s:   A University of Florida professor with the last name of Cole finds mastodon bones in the river, possibly at Blue Hole according to Charles Maxwell. Maxwell believes the bones may still be in the university’s possession.

1960s:   Elim Baptist Church performs baptisms at the Ichetucknee.

Early 1960s:  Carlos M. Maxwell, district supervisor for the Florida Park Service, and Sam Kelly, president of Loncala Phosphate Company (Loncala is a London-based company that also had established an operation in Ocala, Florida—thus the contraction of London and Ocala as “Loncala”), collaborate on several occasions to get the State of Florida to purchase the Ichetucknee.

Carlos Maxwell, Charles Maxwell’s father, and Sam Kelly were personal friends and Sam Kelly’s son, Bryan, was married to Carlos Maxwell’s daughter, Martha. Sam Kelly was aware that businesses were approaching Loncala to purchase the property for development and Carlos Maxwell thought that the Ichetucknee basin should become a unit of the state park system. According to Charles Maxwell, “These are the people who made it happen!”

Note: The common objection to adding Ichetucknee to the state park system was that there would then be two state parks in close proximity to each other, since O’Leno State Park is only 10 miles from Ichetucknee. Private businesses were offering more money than the state, but Kelly’s persistence prevailed.

Mid-1960s:   University of Florida students “discover” Ichetucknee Springs and visitation mushrooms as tubing the Ichetucknee River becomes popular; unfortunately, drinking, nudity and trash accompany the “discovery.”

1968:   Florida Governor Claude Kirk directs a state trooper to “clean up that den of iniquity” at the Ichetucknee.

January 12, 1970:   The State of Florida purchases the land that will become Ichetucknee Springs State Park; 2,241 acres are purchased from Loncala Phosphate for $1.85 million.

1970:   Archaeologist Calvin Jones excavates test pits in the area of Mission Springs and finds Deptford era aboriginal pottery and lithic flakes.

1972:   The federal government designates Ichetucknee Springs as a National Natural Landmark.

1981:  Konglomerati Press (Gulfport, Florida) publishes Florida Poems by Richard Eberhart that contains the poem “Ichetucknee.”

Late 1980s:  Ney Landrum, director of Florida Division of Recreation and Parks, encourages the search for a Spanish mission in one of Florida’s state parks with a long-term goal of reconstructing the mission for public interpretation.

1984:  The State of Florida designates the Ichetucknee River an Outstanding Florida Water. By law, the river is not supposed to undergo any further degradation after receiving this designation.

December 1986:  While searching for the town of Aquacalyquen visited by Hernando de Soto in 1539, an archaeology field crew unearths mission artifacts, human burials and a small patch of possible burned clay floor on the bluff above Mission Springs.

1988-1989:  Archaeological excavations at Mission Springs, a site believed to have been the Franciscan mission of San Martin de Timucua, reveal the remains of a church, priest’s quarters or convento, a large structure of aboriginal construction, a cemetery and rich midden deposits.

1994:  Nine hundred acres at Alligator Lake are acquired for $1.5 million to protect the headwaters of the Ichetucknee River.

1995-2011:  The Ichetucknee Springs Basin Working Group actively works to protect the springs and river from degradation.

1999:  In response to perceived threats from a planned cement plant, Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Struhs tour the Ichetucknee River by canoe. Struhs then directs formation of the Florida Springs Task Force and Bush obtains $2.5 million for a Springs Initiative that continues for 10 years.

2000:  Three hundred fifty-seven acres are acquired for $23 million at the Anderson Columbia Limerock Mine to protect the Ichetucknee from blasting operations.

2001:  Three hundred acres are acquired for $10.2 million at the Kirby Limerock Mine to protect the Ichetucknee from blasting operations.

2002:  Eighty acres are acquired for $181,000 at Ichetucknee Sink to protect the water quality of the Ichetucknee.

2003:  Four acres are acquired for $286,000 at Rose Sink to protect water quality of the Ichetucknee.

June 2003:  The Florida Department of Environmental Protection publishes Old Timers Remember – Ichetucknee Springs by Patricia C. Behnke under the direction of Jim Stevenson.

September 2003:  Fort White High School and Ichetucknee Springs State Park form a ParKnership to create an outdoor and service-learning laboratory to provide a realistic, place-based and relevant educational experience for students in grades 6-12 using their “backyard,” the Ichetucknee River Basin.

2004:  A total of 176 acres is acquired for $727,200 in the Ichetucknee Trace to protect water quality of the Ichetucknee.

2007-2013:  Florida’s Eden partners with Fort White Middle and High Schools to create the Ichetucknee Classroom Model (ICM), an outgrowth of the ParKnership. The ICM uses resident artists, writers and other creatives to assist with the development of a placed-based curriculum that identifies local, natural and cultural assets. Those assets, notably the Ichetucknee River and springs, form the focus and core of a science-humanities curriculum. Students engage in relevant civic issues, teach other students and develop their student advocate voices. A student-filmed video tour of Ichetucknee Springs State Park is currently in development; when completed, it will be made available for educational purposes.

May 2009:  The University Press of Florida publishes Ichetucknee:  Sacred Waters by Steven Earl.

2010:  Thirteen acres are acquired for $200,000 at Rose Creek Swallet to protect water quality of the Ichetucknee. Chinquapin Farm places 3000 acres valued at $300,000 in a conservation easement for the Suwannee River Water Management District, also to protect the water quality of the Ichetucknee.

Margaret Ross Tolbert publishes AQUIFERious:  12 Florida Springs, with Art and Narrative that includes a chapter on the Ichetucknee.


Ichetucknee Then & Now, Photographs by John Moran
Image Used with Permission from Florida’s Eden


2010-2011:  The Blue Path, an exhibition about Florida’s springs created by Florida’s Eden, becomes one of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s most popular draws. Highlights of the exhibition are “then and now” views of the Ichetucknee by noted Florida photographer John Moran. Moran gives Florida’s Eden permission to use those images on postcards to be addressed to Florida legislators.


2011:  Newly elected Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature terminate funds for the Ichetucknee Springs Basin Working Group and the other springs working groups in Florida.

2013:  The Ichetucknee Alliance is formed with the stated mission of restoring, preserving and protecting the Ichetucknee River System. In partnership with other groups, the Alliance successfully negotiates a route change for a natural gas pipeline originally proposed to cross the Ichetucknee River.



Excavations on the Franciscan Frontier:  Archaeology at the Fig Springs Mission by Brent Richards Weisman, University Press of Florida/Florida Museum of Natural History, 1992

Old Timers Remember – Ichetucknee Springs by Patricia C. Behnke (under the direction of Jim Stevenson) for Florida Department of Environmental Protection, June 2003 (Note:  Patricia C. Behnke is now writing as Patricia Zick.)

Charles Maxwell, personal correspondence

Annie Pais, personal correspondence

Jim Stevenson, personal correspondence


See also:

Geology & Early Indigenous Cultures


Sources of Information

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