Last Tuesday I was up on the Suwannee River for a very special event. A dedication for the new Fort Fanning Park next to Fanning Springs State Park.
The town of Fanning Springs has a small population and sits on the boarder of two counties, Levy & Gilchrist. The fort site is on the Gilchrist side. This area of Florida is called the nature coast, and it is one of my favorite in the state.
For a long time we wondered where the site of Fort Fanning was; if it was in the fence line of Fanning Springs State Park, under the highway, or elsewhere. Well archaeological work has settled that question, and a park is now open on the site.
Fort Fanning's history shows that it was typical of many of the forts built during the war. Until the end of the war, the fort was occupied and abandon several times. It was burned twice after abandoned, and when it was active, sickness was common and devastating against the garrison. Not easy frontier duty.
The book "Romantic and Historic Levy County," by Ruth Verrill describes the last remains of Fort Fanning:
"The fine, square gateposts at old Fort Fanning may still be standing for they were built of apparently hand selected field stones set in very hard cement. Passing between these massive, artfully constructed columns, and keeping somewhat to the right for a few yards, one comes to two underground water cisterns. These are bottle shaped, lined with well-smoothed mortar and may be nine feet or more in depth. Probably to provide water for the fort were it under siege."
The gateposts are not standing, but one is sitting on its side in the park--probably moved there several years ago by an attempt at developing the property. Study has determined that it was indeed constructed in the 1830s.
Today the park entrance has a recreated gateway of the fort with stone pillars by the parking area. Right here is an open field with some benches along a split-rail cypress fence where you can sit overlooking the Suwannee River. The two ends of this park will connect two rails-to-trails parks, the Nature Coast Trail, and the Suwannee Trail. A bridge will be connected under the highway on the edge of the river so you can walk over to Fanning Springs.
Directly east of the gate posts and across a small street you will see one of the original gate posts on its side. Past there is an amphitheater where programs will be held. Further down across the field is a small, former church building that will be converted to a visitor center. There is a chickee somewhere on the park, and plans are to recreate a Seminole village.
The park was dedicated by Mayor Carol McQueen on October 24th, 2006, and her husband and former Mayor Roy McQueen. They are descendants of Peter McQueen's Creek Indian clan who settled in this area of Florida, whom Osceola came from.
This was a great event to create a local park by people who really care about it. It will be great to have some living history events here.