Congratulations, Pomona Park, regardless of how old you are
by Jody Delzell
May 16, 2014 | 589 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Officials in Pomona Park aren’t quite sure when their community came into being, but they celebrated their 120th birthday anyhow. They are to be congratulated that it even exists. Like most small towns, it has sometimes struggled, but survived when many other attempts to create communities during that period did not fare so well.

Back during this nation’s bicentennial a pair of inspired local women decided to celebrate it by researching documents, mostly back issues of newspapers, and put significant events of this area’s history in a book for posterity. Nancy Alvers and Janice Mahaffey titled their book, “Our Place in Time.” It’s a jewel which I have referenced on numerous occasions. And, it contains some information that gives us a clue on how, and when, Pomona Park came to be.

Like many early Florida settlements, Pomona was started by a small group of people from the North who came south after the Civil War strife was over and travel accommodations became improved. A family could board a luxury steamboat in most northern ports and disembark in Florida, many of them right here in what became Putnam County, because this is where their highway—the St. Johns River– brought them. Palatka was the turn-around point for most of those big double side-wheelers.

In the case of Pomona, newspaper accounts say six families from Nashua, N.H., settled on the high ground between Dunns Lake (Crescent Lake) and another lake that came to be called Broward. They first landed at a spot near the north end of Crescent Lake which came to be called Pomona Landing, which still appears on most marine maps.

Developers at that time usually put together family groups, religious groups, etc., to move together. Every community, to be successful, needed such artisans as a sawmill operator, a blacksmith, a wheelwright, etc. A doctor or a teacher in the mix would be an added luxury. The “Pomona” people intended to call their settlement Nashua, after their former home town, which was a common practice. Several such names still exist along the St. Johns River, namely Bridgeport, Saratoga, Norwalk, Astor, et al.

Apparently, they quickly set about planting crops and fruit trees. We must assume most were citrus trees because oranges were all the rage at that time and became a wonderful cash crop that could be shipped north without much spoilage. One newspaper item stated that by 1880 they were calling their settlement “Pomona” after the Roman goddess of fruit, gardens and orchards.

I believe the best date attached to the settlement might be 1874, because newspaper accounts report that date and they began receiving mail at a post office in Potter’s Store, a few miles away in the community of Lake Como.

Sometimes events occur that create changes, and that may have been the case with Pomona. It appears that another group from Nashua came down about that same time and settled on the St. Johns River at a location between Satsuma and Welaka. It became a fuel stop for steamboats on the river and quickly grew into a sizeable community. They called their settlement Nashua and it still exists on area maps, but the settlement mostly died out.

Large steamboats could not navigate the narrow and twisting Dunns Creek. But never mind—about that same time, the Jacksonville, Tampa, Key West Railroad laid tracks just west of Lake Broward. Roads were just wagon ruts, but the growers of “Pomona” could row their products across the lake to the railhead. Thus the railroad began to attract both business and residences and Pomona migrated to where it is located today.

The railroads finally put steamboats out of business, and most of their former stopping places along the St Johns River simply are remembered in name only. It was not until around 1960 that the municipality added “Park” to its name to avoid mix-ups in shipping between several other towns with similar spellings.

Today, small municipalities have a hard time financially, but Pomona has endured. It is a lovely area of Florida, and if Lake Broward doesn’t dry up and their government continues to function, it will surely attract other families from “up nawth” or elsewhere, to come and make their home there like those early hearty pioneers. Perhaps even some from Nashua, N.H.

Jody Delzell is a former publisher of the Daily News.

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