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February 24, 2007

Blue Spring

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Blue Spring is a first magnitude spring, meaning it discharges approximately 101 million gallons of water a day. Its water source is the Floridian Aquifer, which is replenished every year by rainfall in the area. While rain helps to “refill??? the Aquifer and the Spring, it also carries with it minerals from the ground.

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These minerals promote the growth of algae deep in the Spring, which is why the water is a cloudy bluish-green.

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Underground View

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Manatee Group

The spring water is always 72 degrees, which provides a stable environment for manatees during the colder months. November through March, the manatees leave the colder waters of the St. Johns Rover for the safety and comfort of the 72-degree spring.

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Mom and Baby tail view

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Mom and Baby side view

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Pair of Adult Manatees

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Spring Run
For hundreds of years the Timucuan Indians made the spring area their home.

BIG Fish!! There were SO many fish in the spring run, and some of them were enormous!!

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The spring run, river and surrounding swamps and upland provided food, clothing, shelter and materials for tools and weapons. Snails gathered from the sandbars were a staple food for these people. Over the centuries, the discarded shells formed a massive mound.
Jefferies Wyman, an archaeologist from Harvard, studied the mounds in the 1800’s. His work showed that the mounds were built three to four thousand years ago. Additional to the largest mound running along the south bank, on which the Thursby house was built, was a second mound running opposite to the first on the north bank of the spring, suggesting that the two mounds may have been one but were later separated by the spring outflow.

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The materials unearthed included clay effigies, shell tools, pottery, projectile points, and bone fragments, both animal and human. Wyman wrote that the human bones were punctured in similar ways to the bones of deer, opossum, turtle and alligator that he found. He attributed such “perforations??? to the practice of cannibalism by the native residents of this area.

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St. Johns River

Three years after England acquired Florida from Spain, John Bartram, a prominent British botanist, explored the St. Johns in search for its source and any valuable resources.

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On January 4th, 1766, he rowed his boat past sunning alligators

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and discovered the “surprising fountain???, the clear water of Blue Spring.

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By the mid 1800’s most of the Indians had been killed or driven south and pioneer settlers took their place.

The Thursbys

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After fighting in the Mexican War with the US Army, and exploring California, Lewis Peace Thursby left his hometown of Brooklyn, New York to live in Florida. He, his wife, Mary Ann, and their infant daughter, Mary Alice, arrived in Blue Spring in October 856, on a steamboat by way of Jacksonville. They were the first white permanent settlers in Blue Spring.

The Seminole Wares had removed most of the Indians from Florida, and the upper St Johns area was experiencing a surge in growth. The US was offering land grants and by the mid-1850’s the town of Enterprise, about ten miles south of Blue Spring, had emerged as an important port on the St. Johns River.

The Thursbys purchased 133 acres and a three-room log cabin for four hundred dollars from Samuel Parsons, a nurseryman from New York. Parsons had visited Blue Spring seasonally to collect exotic plants. The acreage was covered with hundred-year-old live oaks, towering pines, cabbage palms, cypress, sweet gum, and wild olive trees. Southwest of the house was a large grove of wild orange trees.

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The House the Thursbys built

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Circa 1900
For several years, the family lived in Parson’s original log cabin and in a more rustic cabin they built during the construction of their new house. Mary Ann Thursby had nine more children, raising them with no conveniences. Medical care was not readily available and the pioneer life could be brutal.

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Three of the Thursby children died in infancy and their first son, Lewis Jr., died after being bitten by a rattlesnake while playing under the house.

Mary Ann Thursby was given the honorary title of “Madame Thursby??? for all of her hard work. To feed the family, oranges, corn, beans, Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes were grown in the garden and hogs and cattle were raised.

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Rainwater was collected in a cistern for washing, cooking, and bathing. Spring water was used for drinking, but not water from the main boil. It was too sulpherous. The Thursbys would row a small skiff up the run to a small side spring and return with glass jigs filled with fresh drinking water.

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The Thursbys burned logs for heating and cooking. Potbelly stoves heated the house and an iron cook stove heated the kitchen.

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Natural air-conditioning kept the house cool. The Thursbys designed the house with tall windows and shutters to moderate temperature extremes in the summer. The porches were an important feature, used for relaxing and working on domestic projects as well as shading the rooms from the direct sun.

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Large Alligator

Posted by Heather at February 24, 2007 08:38 PM


Fantastic, Heather. Underscores the point....you should do this for a living.

Posted by: Mom at February 25, 2007 10:54 AM

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