Hawthorne celebrates its simple way of life


Wally Russell shows Mary Hay and her grandaughter Mackenzie Hay, 7, how to pump water during the Second Annual Hawthorne Heritage Day at the Hawthorne Historical Museum. "This is how we used to get water," Russell said. "My grandmother used to have one of them." The event celebrated Hawthorne's history with old fashioned activities, a car show and food.

Elizabeth Hamilton / Correspondent
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.

HAWTHORNE — The smell of barbecue hung in the air along with the sounds of old-timey music, country music and classic rock. The city of Hawthorne celebrated its community, history and culture with the second annual Hawthorne Heritage Day on Saturday at the Hawthorne Museum and Cultural Center.

The event was first held last year to celebrate the museum's 10-year anniversary. Organizers decided to make the event an annual tradition in order to celebrate the community's simple lifestyle, its people and their resilience, said Bonita Dewiliby, president of the Hawthorne Area Historical Society.

"We are trying to expose people to the heritage of where they come from," Dewiliby said. "I think we forget because of technology … [that] there is so much more to living — the simple parts of living — that we want to celebrate."

The museum — once the New Hope Methodist Church, which was originally built in 1907 and located near Town Lake — houses the artwork of the late local artist Francis Moore as well as historical photographs, a large quilt displaying the town's historic buildings, railroad memorabilia and other historical relics.

The church was moved section-by-section to its present location at Wait's Crossing in 1993 and then restored, according to historical society members.

While the food was cooking, Dewiliby and Janis Brown, vice president of the historical society, took to the stage to introduce lifelong citizens of Hawthorne whose families' heritage reaches back to the late 1800s: Ellen Vause, Hawthorne's city manager; Lenton "Pop" Heering, a well-known member of the community; and Hawthorne's mayor, Matthew Surrency.

Each spoke for a few minutes about their family history and their connection to Hawthorne.

Herring spoke, among other things, about his childhood memories of the church that is now a museum.

"That's the church where I grew up in," he said to the crowd. "Many mornings, I would get up in the morning early and run across town to ring the bell in that church."

Surrency ended his speech by pointing out what ties the community together and makes it so special.

"A lot of the people who are from here normally live here still and still can trace (their) generations back," he said. "So it's one of those places that, I guess, you don't have to look any further to find a better place to call home — you always come back here."

The celebration continued after the speeches as some event-goers braved karaoke provided by professional DJs Touch of Class, while others ate barbecue chicken.

Crones' Cradle Conserve supplied a slew of old-time activities for families and children, including candle-dipping, rope-making and making bird houses. They also had stations available for children to hand-pump water, dig for potatoes and to use a scrub board and hand wringer for washing clothes.

In addition, Candice David, a library specialist from the Alachua County Public Library's Hawthorne branch, told stories that focused on North Central Florida, which were taken from "Tellable Cracker Tales," a collection of Florida fables and stories. And Willy the Losen, dressed in era britches, suspenders and pants, showed festival-goers how Hawthorne's original settlers would have hewed logs used for making cabins.

Vendors were on-hand selling baked goods, jewelry and produce, and Oak Hollow Cottage sold organic jams and gourmet mustards.

Hawthorne is unique for many reasons, Dewiliby said. It was shaped primarily by agriculture and the trains that once stopped at the town's two depots. It has also recently seen economic depression due to the Georgia-Pacific plywood mill's closing in late 2011.

Though agriculture and industry have influenced the town's character, what really gives the town its character, Dewiliby said, are its people.

"The people are very generous and very kind," she said. "There are not a lot of jobs around here, so people have tended to pull together and try to help each other."

More than 400 people were in attendance throughout the day, Dewiliby said, which she said is double the attendance from last year.

Ed Card, a Hawthorne resident of 15 years, came Saturday to be with his family and to see other community members. Card said that such events are helpful by maintaining cohesion in the community.

"You start making contacts with people that you may have drifted away from because all of us either grew up here or raised our kids here," he said. "Our kids all went to school together, and it's just a good place to meet up with people (who) you haven't seen in awhile."

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