A Travellerspoint blog

Day 136 - Leaving St. Augustine (Photo's Added)

First I visited the Old Spanish Quarter and Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, then we started West (via Jacksonville), stopping at an 1864 Civil War battlefield.

rain 48 °F

Yes! I finally have a good internet connection, two actually (modem and wifi both work here)! I will also edit this entry again, since I have video's to add.

We originally planned to stay one day in St. Augustine. So far we spent Sunday and Monday here and I still had one more thing I really wanted to see. I thought we could visit the Old Spanish Quarter Monday afternoon, but then Mom really wanted to visit the Old Florida Museum. So we visited that Monday afternoon and stayed over to visit the Old Spanish Quarter Tuesday morning. The trolley company allowed us to park at their station right in the heart of historic St Augustine. I hadn't been thrilled with forking over the bucks for the trolley tickets, but can't say enough about how nice those folks have been. In the end, we certainly did get our money's worth as well.

I didn't really know what the Old Spanish Quarter was, but it sounded interesting. At first I thought it was just the heart of the Shopping area in historic St. Augustine. This is St. George Street, which is where I started my quest:

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BTW - Mom was pretty tired from all the sightseeing Sunday and Monday, so elected to stay in the RV. She did get out a little later for the Drugstore however. In the meantime, I did bring her some goodies back for lunch (hot chocolate and apple crumb cake) and she can learn about what she missed on the blog if she wishes).

I had a brochure advertising the Old Spanish Quarter (OSQ) so I showed it to a couple of people, who were happy to point me to places that didn't pan out. This is one place someone pointed out - it's not OSQ, but still looked interesting. The waterwheel was originally used to turn a grist mill for grinding corn or wheat into flour. It's now a tavern however and the waterwheel looks like it's turned by a motor - but it turns.

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Even though this wasn't the right place, a few doors farther down was a small sign above a door saying "The Old Spanish Quarter". This was the opening to a fairly large group of structures and yards that have been reconstructed on their original locations in the 1740's style. Each had characters in period costume who interpret the daily activities for people in that era. It is a 'Living History Museum' and was well worth staying the extra day. The buildings are reproductions on the sites of the original buildings. Here are a couple of thumbnails (click to enlarge and get more info) of some - the reproduction is built of the same materials and style as the originals (tabby, pine & cypress, etc.)

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Inside I met John, who represented a Church Scribe from the 1740's.

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This was a typical two room house for that era. He had a sparse bedroom and a second room where he did his work as well as cooking or any other activities.

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There were about 2,000 people living in St. Augustine in that period, only about 10% could read and write. There were about 15 scribes (people who read/wrote professionally) in three different classes. Clerks kept official records. Secretaries wrote/read letters or documents for people (for a fee), and the Church Scribe, which was a high end clerk.

Normally, writing was done with a very small script because paper was so expensive and difficult to obtain. Parchment could also be used, but was VERY expensive. (Parchment is made from sheepskin, soaked in lanolin from sheeps fat to preserve it). Only proclaimations or announcements would use large letters such as the ones John demonstrated for me. This sort of writing is more drawing then writing (a form of artwork). John makes his own quill pens. In Spain, these would have been from Goose flight feathers, but they didn't have any geese in St. Augustine so he makes his pens from Peafowl feathers from the Fountain of Youth park we visited yesterday. John said that once he learned to make his own pens, he could never go back to metal ones (the 2008 John speaking I believe).

This is what he wrote for me, the line with 'La Familia Johnston':

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Since the scribe had finished my commission, I moved on to the Blacksmith Shop, the Herrero. This looked about the same as British and American blacksmith shops we'd seen earlier on or trip except for the bellows. The Spanish used something called a concertina, which pumped the bellows by moving boards back and forth. The affect was the same however.

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The blacksmith was making a candle holder and the man pumping the bellows gave me a nice commentary on the Spanish of this era. It is clear this group of living history interpretors have really studied their history! The man working the bellows said he felt the reason Spain's development fell behind the rest of Europe was because of their staunch Catholicism and associated embrace of Scholasticism, whereas the more Protestant areas had moved on to Humanism.

I also learned that iron was very expensive in 1740's St. Augustine. 8 nails could be bought for one Peso (or a pieces of 8, aka 8 Reale coin - the most common coin minted in Spain and the Spainish colonies at the time an used throughout the world for commerce. In fact, the first American coinage after the Rev. War was the silver dollar, inspired by the Peso and made from a similar weight and size). To put this in perspective, the average commoner in Spain made about 25 peso's a year. An infantry soldier stationed in St. Augustine might make 200 peso's a year, but part of that was paid in rations. So there weren't very many coins circulating in St. Augustine and most commerce was by barter. But at 8 nails for a peso, most houses were built with wooden pegs ("tree nails") and used iron nails or other iron components only when absolutely necessary.

Just beyond the blacksmith shop was a carpintero, or carpenter. Brad was working on a small wood carving when I stopped by. In the 1740's, woodworkers in St. Augustine repaired furniture, made small items and assisted in constructing buildings.

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I asked Brad where he got his tools from, knowing that Toledo, Spain was known to produce superior steel. No, he did not get his tools from Toledo. Their steel was just famous for making swords. Everybody knew that the best and most affordable tools came from Britain. In fact, when British ships were not in the harbor to attack St. Augustine, they were often in the harbor to trade with the local citizens. So the woodworker got his chisels and tools from England. Once again the Spanish merchants (in Toledo this time) did not sieze the opportunity to branch out into new products in demand, but were content to stay with what they knew while other producers (Britain) jumped in to meet the customer demands.

As in all the other buildings, the Gallegos house also had a 'costumed interpreter' working as Senora Gallegos. I met her while she was tending medicinal plants in her garden, including Yarrow and Comfrey. By the way, this locaion is where the garden actually was, but originally it was about twice as long as it is now.

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Since her husband was a sergent, they were slightly better off than some townsfolk - but still had very little cash. Like many housewives, she would barter to get things the family needed and also engage in some sort of industry to help the family, whether it was growing extra things in the garden to sell (or barter) or sewing for some of the single soldiers. Here is an example of her bobbin weaving.

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The Gallegos home also had a large bed, but only the adults had a bed. The childred would have 'sofa' beds that were rolled up during the day. They look (and are) basically straw sacks. You could hit them to fluff them up a bit before bedding down for the night - or 'hit the sack'.

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The main room also had a brassaro in it, but much larger then the other's I'd seen. Still, since it is much warmer in St. Augustine then in the north American colonies, this might make more sense then a large fireplace. Also, wood was scarce around St. Augustine by the mid 1700's. What trees hadn't been cut down for fire or building materials would have been removed to give the Castillo de San Marcos a clear range of fire.

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The kitchen had a really nice valda, or hanging shelf similar to the one in the Scribes house (now I want one for my kitchen!).

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But the most interesting part of the kitchen was the stove. This was basically a brick (Coquina) structure called a fogon and was common around the Mediterranean. Senora Gallegos said historians have even traced it's use to ancient Rome! The opening in the top holds charcoal and has a grate that can be placed over it for kettles or roasting spits. This does not have a baking oven. Senior Gallegos prepares her daily bread dough, then has one of the kids take it to a baker down the street. She sends a little extra for the baker to keep (or sell elsewhere) to pay for baking her loaves - the source of the term 'bakers dozen' (make 13 loaves, give one to the baker in exchange for baking the other 12). While barter resulted in many petty disputes, it was the only choice they had since they didn't have much free currancy.

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After learning about all this stuff, I still had one more stop today in OSP, the Gomez house. It is now the leater workers house and Mark and Moroquinero were busy making a leather beer mug.

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The Spanish did not use dairy cattle, at least not in St. Augustine (they used Olive Oil for cooking, not butter). They did however keep beef cattle on Anastasia Island for rations. The hides would be tanned up north on the St. Johns River (present day Jacksonville) and used to make all sorts of bags, pouches, shoes and mugs. It takes several hours to make a beer mug, and the completed mug needed to be soaked in beeswax or pine tar to seal it. I asked if maybe it wouldn't be easier to make their mugs out of pottery, but it seems the Spanish never established pottery in St. Augustine. This was always just a support community for the Castillo de San Marcos, it was never intended to provide industry and profit on it's own as Jamestown and Plymouth were.

So, having visited several houses, worked shops and 'costumed interpreters' I fully expected to see lots of tempting crafts type things for sale at the gift shop. That was not the case however and I escaped with most of my limited peso's intact (other than for an absolutely essential book). I can however highly recommend that if you are ever in St. Augustine, leave yourself enough time to visit the "Old Spanish Quarter" living history museum.

Across the street from OSQ was a very old wooden building touting itself as the "Oldest Wooden School" in America. It's quite the tourist focus, but probably does live up to it's claim. The building was constructed of red cedar and cypress between 1780 and 1788 as a dwelling. It was used as a school in the early 1800's, then again from 1854 to 1864. The structure is original.

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The interior is a little corny, you can push a button and the figures play a recorded talk. However, they were all set up during a reunion from the last class of students (from 1864) in 1931 as to how the room was laid out, where the students sat, types of cloths they wore, etc., so corny or not it's probably quite authentic. They have found a record that in 1858, students paid $0.25/week for schooling, although this was often in goods or services (such as chopping firewood).

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Finally I headed back to the RV to see how Mom was doing and also to start thinking about heading out of town. Of course, on the way back I had to stop at a chocolate shop and a couple other places. And of course, Mom was fine and had decided to fix lunch, so I added my goodies as the dessert course and we ate quite well. Just around the corner was an old drugstore from the 1800's that had saved a lot of thier original inventory as a museum, so Mom joined me in checking this out in honor of all the medical folks in our family.

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Now I was ready to leave town. Yes, believe it or not - we finally left Saint Augustine. There were still several things I'd like to have seen (or heard as in the case of a pipe organ) - but we must get moving again or we'll never get home. Now we are officially on the road home. Key West was the 1/2 way point, but we had skipped most of Florida to get to Miami while my son was on winter break - so now we've visited the east coast of Florida and can really start west in earnest.

Mom wanted to get off the freeway after we'd driven a couple of hours and take Hwy 90 instead, although I'm not sure why - maybe she wanted to get back to being a tourist after having spent the morning in the RV (or got her second wind back)? Anyway, shortly after we did this, we passed signs about an "Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park". We went ahead and pulled in. This is the location of a 1864 Civil War battle where the Union attacked Confederate defenders so they could cut off supplies to the Confederate Army operating up north. There was a small, unmanned visitors center with several displays about the battle and the war in general, a monument outside, and walking trails and signage to help explain what happened. As Civil War battles go, this one was neither large nor decisive, but it was quite bloody for a 1/2 battle and was the largest Civil War battle fought in Florida.

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It was very quiet the day we stopped by, but in mid February, a large, multi day re-enactment is planned and I expect the place will really come alive.

We left the battlefield and continued heading west. Closer to Lake City we saw a camping sign for Ocean Pond, part of the Osceola National Forest. We stopped in for the night, had good, warm showers and a good internet signal for the last time in several days.

Musings:

Just to keep the placeholder readers current, today we visited the Suwannee River where Florida has a Stephen Foster Museum and Carillon. We got as far as Tallahassee and decided to drive down to the coast rather than stay on I-10. Along the way we stopped at a Leon Sinks (USFS site in Apalachicola National Forest - a sink hole complex). I walked part of the trail while Mom rested. It's been pouring rain all day but we've made it part way across Florida and taken in a couple of interesting sights. Tonight we're on a waterfront campground on the gulf coast, very nice and about 1/2 the cost of the one we stayed in near St. Augustine.

Got to sign off now and get some sleep - I plan to do some laundry tommorrow, so may even get this caught up again before heading out?

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 134
Camped at Ocean Pond National Forest CG. Our campsite was not too far from the water (50'?), hot showers, great internet signal over the data modem.

I asked the camp host why it was called Ocean Pond - it seems nobody is quite sure, but when the wind blows the pond is big enough to whip up small waves?

Posted by jl98584 20:45 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Comments

Nice to see you making progress and heading westward again--though the thought of your getting home someday means I won't have my favorite evening entertainment, looking up your blog to see where you are and what you've seen. Are you planning to stick to the coast along the South? You may have to plan another trip to see the country's heartland. There are many great places there, too.

by msj

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