Suwannee Valley Times is distributed into the following cities and towns: Lake City, Live Oak, Madison, Branford, Dowling Park, Falmouth, Lee, Wellborn, Jasper, White Springs, Fort White, High Springs and Alachua

Honoring Black History Month
–Local resident loans artifacts found on property to museum

New exhibit at the Suwannee County Historical Museum in time to honor Black History Month. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

By Tami Stevenson

Live Oak, Fla., – There are a couple new exhibits at the Suwannee County Historical Museum and one of them is honoring African American heritage in Suwannee County. On her Century Pioneer Family Farm, Pat Hines Mitchell has found many artifacts from the civil war days and beyond. She recently decided to share them with museum and set up a new exhibit to honor Black History Month.

Her farm was designated as a centennial home in 2019. A sign now stands from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that reads: Century Pioneer Family Farm - Hines Family Farm established 1885.

The property was purchased by her great, great, great grandfather, Christmas Hemming, a newly freed slave. He paid $1,100 cash for 640 acres on January 3, 1885. Mitchell still has the original receipt of the sale, signed by Hemming with an ‘X’. The family still lives on 160 acres that did not get sold off through the years. Hemming bought the property from Charles T. Irvine. The county named a road after him, that today, is Irvin Avenue, (Hwy 51).

In the course of investigating more about her family, she found through word-of-mouth there was a railroad that ran through the property at one time. She began searching with the help of Jennings Bunn, using a metal detector. They ultimately found a long rail about a foot down under the ground.

“I was beside myself when we found that rail.” She finally had some tangible proof for the stories she had heard.

During the ongoing search, so far, they have uncovered many other artifacts from the Civil War days and even, she believes, some artifacts may be from the Seminole Wars. They found bits of pottery, glass, nails, rail spikes, tools and many other things.

Mitchell suspects there may have been a military encampment there because of the artifacts. She decided, as a member of the Suwannee County Historical Society and a board member of the museum, to put together a display for everyone to appreciate. Her search began in 2014 and continues today.

An article about some of the discoveries she had made to that point was printed in the Suwannee Democrat, dated April 17, 2017. She held on to the article and it is now on display at the museum with the artifacts. The article also tells of her exploits as the first African American (man or woman) to work as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in Suwannee County in the 1980’s.

In the article, Mitchell stated, and still says today, “I want people to know that African Americans contributed to this county and history. There are some parts of history that people never find out about, but knowing who you are and where you came from gives you a sense of direction, a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose.”

In honor of the newly designated Hines Century Pioneer Family Farm, the county recently renamed the road she lives on from 116th Street to Christmas Hemming Street.

Mitchell has authored a book and is currently working on getting it published. It is all about her great, great, great grandfather, Christmas Hemming. She said there is so much information, there may be a book number two.

Along with belt buckles, spent gun cartridges, tools and an Indian head penny dated 1893, the metal box in the upper left corner of this photo shows a Prince Albert Tobacco can Christmas Hemming secured to the wall of his house, just out of sight along the rear door entrance. He used the can as a homemade wall safe. -SVT Photos by Tami Stevenson

Fossilized bones and other artifacts. -SVT Photos by Tami Stevenson

Along with the artifacts, this photo hangs as part of the exhibit. Students at the Florida Memorial College in Live Oak

Photos above: Various artifacts found at the Hines farm.

When toys were scarce during the Civil War days, mamies made their master’s children Plantation Babies out of handkerchiefs.