“Wish you were here”

The rock at the sink, near Gainesville

Courtesy of the Matheson Center
Published: Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 2:57 p.m.

Postcards were the Facebook, Twitter and email of the early 20th century. In 1908, the U. S. Post Service handled more than 600,000,000 postcards, and collecting postcards became an American addiction.

This postcard tells the story of Paynes Prairie, one of the region’s natural wonders. A few decades before this photograph was taken, rising water levels on Paynes Prairie engulfed homesteads and flooded roads. According to Lars Anderson, river guide and owner of Adventure Outpost in High Springs, residents in the area looked at their new lakefront property “and brought out their fishing gear.”

The newly flooded prairie brought out the entrepreneurial spirit in the community. P.M. Oliver dammed run-off from Boulware Springs, creating a large swimming pool. He attracted more visitors by building a bowling alley, roller coaster and even a zoo with a large black bear tied to a tree. Perhaps the most notable attraction was the steamboat “Chacala.”

In 1892, the prairie’s water levels dropped by eight feet within 10 days. The Chacala was stranded near Bivens Arm — a monument to the steamboat era.

See more postcards of Florida’s early years at the Matheson Museum’s current exhibition, “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” through June. The exhibit, based on the book with the same title by Dr. Mark V. Barrow and Murray Laurie, uses postcards to reveal a pictorial history of Alachua County. — By Stephanie Pastore

Have a memory to share? Email the executive director of the Matheson Museum at executive director@mathesonmuseum.org.

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