Saturday, August 7, 2021

1899 Early - A New Era - E. E. Edge

1899 - Elliott Erastus Edge and Wife Cornelia Arrive in Taylorville

   In the early part of 1899, Elliott Erastus Edge and his wife Cornelia, coming from Georgia, arrived in what was still known as Taylorville.

   The Edge family was described in the writings of Robert James Merritt's family history:
   "I have found the Edges to be nice honest truthful people every one of them. They always helped the poor and needy far and near. Was nice to everybody."
   "Mr. E. E. Edge, with a group of Negro families (Andersons, Baldwins, Blues, and Wrights) came into the area from Georgia. Some said they came in wagons drawn by oxen. Some of the earliest white families to arrive were the Averitts, the Rices, and the O'Neals."

   Along with Edge came numerous African American workers and their families.    Albert S. Blue relocated to Taylorville along with the families of:
       and Wright.
    All were recruited to come here by E. E. Edge.

    Due to Albert Blue's efforts, the first African-American school was built in Groveland.

   Many of these families have local streets named for them (Baldwin, Blue, Gadsen, Hart, and Wright).

   Experienced in the naval store business (those products made from the sap of pine trees), upon arrival to this area, he bought the home and turpentine business of the Taylor brothers.
   E.E. Edge would soon become one of Groveland's influencial founders.
   A true entrepreneur, Edges's various businesses would soon include: turpentine operation, sawmill, farms, commissary, citrus groves, funeral service, the county's largest department store, hardware store, clothing store, furniture store, animal feed store, auto service and fuel station, and propane delivery.

   In 1902, The Edge House was built by Elliott & Cornelia on the site of what is today Hardee's. The Queen Anna style home is on the National Register of Historic Places.

   In 1988, the house was moved 1 mile west on HWY 50, where it remains today.

   In 1905, Edge built a general store and a post office, at the corners of what is now Broad Street and Main Avenue

   The writings of the Merritt history also state:
"It was said that Mr. E. E. Edge bought the rights to the turpentine business... buying a huge block of long-leaf yellow pine in an area that stretched from Taylorille to Dade City. He then had a line of turpentine stills that stretched from here to Dade City. To communicate with these stills, he sent out a rider telling each still what they were to do."
   Edge owned a number of turpentine camps (nine between here and Dade City). For communication within his empire, he first used riders on horseback to run instructions to the various camps.
   As technology advanced, Edge created a telephone network to send messages to the camps faster. That network grew into the Lake Telephone Company and eventually became the Florida Telephone Company.

About 1900 - A Young Lacy Day Edge Sitting in Buggy with Men Who Worked for E. E. Edge

   Did E. E. Edge buy out the Taylors' small sawmill or did he begin his own? It is not clear because another source states:
   "The lumber mill originally was started by E. E. Edge after the turpentine business was severely crippled due to the drought of 1907 that killed many of the long-leaf pines."

   E. E. Edge, in his sawmill business, would form a partnership in 1908 with Robert Dowling, a lumber baron, from Live Oak, Florida.

Early Sawmill in Taylorville Located Along the North Side of Today's Crittenden Ave

1910 - J. Ray Arnold Rides To Town

   J. Ray Arnold, a sawmill machinery salesman, rode into town in 1910, on horseback, stayed, and would end up marrying Robert Dowling's daughter.

J. Ray Arnold

   Arnold then took over Dowling's interest in the sawmill and would later buy out Edge's share of the sawmill.

   "There was a gentlemen's agreement between J. Ray Arnold and E. E. Edge. J. Ray Arnold ran the sawmill, while Edge ran the turpentine business and the mercantile business. They would work together in managing the town.
   This agreement, whether true or not, was honored until the end of the sawmill at which time Edge then ran the town." - Julian Rowe (b. 1915 in Taylorville)

Abt. 1912 - Looking Westward along Today's Crittenden Blvd

1915 - Downtown Taylorville - Looking East from the Intersection of HWY 50 and HWY 19

1915 - Downtown Taylorville - Showing the First Bank Building on the Corner of HWY 50 and S Main Ave.

1915 - Lacy Day Edge Becomes The Youngest Ever Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives

   Lacy Day Edge, son of E. E. Edge, also made noticeable accomplishments. Beginning in 1915, he represented Lake County as a state legislator and, in 1923, became the youngest ever Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives at age 25. He would also serve in the Florida Senate.

1914 - Lacy Day Edge - Speaking During His 1st Race for Member of House of Representatives

L. D. Edge (center) During the Signing of a Bill While Serving as State Representative

   Around 1898, E.E. Edge purchased the Crenshaw holdings south of Lake Louisa, and before the end of 1917 county commissioners appointed Hon. L. D. Edge, of Groveland, H. L. Johnson, and S. S. Fesler to a commission that would have charge over the preliminary work of draining the marsh.
   This is what Steve Rajtar wrote for the Groveland Mascotte Historical Trail [Note: There are some errors in the following quote *]:
   "The severe freezes in 1894-95 hurt the citrus industry, and this area of Lake County turned to turpentine. T. M. and C. C. Taylor sold their turpentine still in the southern portion of the county and went to Mascotte, planning to start tapping pine trees with a crew of black laborers. However, since Mascotte had never had a black resident, town leader Theodore Ruff refused to let the Taylors set up shop. The Taylors then followed the railroad eastward to a place they named Taylorville, and erected a still on the lot where later L. Day Edge [*E. E. Edge] built his home. His father, Elliott E. Edge, bought out the Taylors in 1899 and laid out the foundation of a town."

   Referred to as the "Father of the Department of Transportation", L. D. Edge influenced the building of Highway 50 through Groveland.

   L. D. Edge became the first mayor of Groveland when the town was incorporated in 1922.

   By the 1920s and '30s, many of the businesses in the downtown area were owned by the Edge family. The Edge Mercantile Company was built in 1923 and was, at the time, one of the largest in the state.

   Upon entering the 1923 Mercantile, one would find clothing on the first floor. There was a machine in the large shoe department that one could stick their feet into to determine their shoe size. Clyde Plowden, the clerk, would help children try on a new pair of Buster Brown shoes.

   The second floor could be reached either by the stairs or what felt like "the world's slowest-moving elevator". On the second floor were bolts of material, various sewing needs, linens, and rugs, among other merchandise. With each purchse customers were given "green stamps". At Christmas time, Santa Claus always made a visit. Residing on the second floor, he would listen to children's Christmas wishes.1

   Also, on the first floor, was the Lake Drug Company. Since the proprieter of a drug store was required to have a special license, it was one of the few stores in Groveland that was not owned by Mr. Edge. He rented out space in his mercantile building to the pharmacist, Dr. T. Grady McFadden. Lake Drug Co. had its own soda fountain and was a favorite place for socializing for several decades. During the 1950s, a cherry coke in a glass cost 5 cents or 7 cents in a paper cup.

More Memories of the Edges

   They bought and sold whatever the public wanted, from trinkets to farm implements. People throughout the Central Florida area were known to come to Groveland for their shopping needs.
   Julian Rowe, born in Taylorville in 1915, once shared how he, as a young boy, was hired to ride on the running board of a car and pass out sale flyers to homes. His route went south to the Polk County line, west almost to Dade City, back through Sumter County, and east to the Winter Garden area.
   Edge Enterprises also included:
      a hardware store,
      furniture/appliance store,
      feed store,
      drug store (complete with soda fountain),
      funeral home,
      grocery (which later evolved into Groveland's A & P),
      dry goods,
      citrus groves,
      heating oil/propane gas company, and
      Edge's fuel station (located at Broad Street and Highway 19), which held the record for being the longest privately-owned fuel station in the country.

   At E.E. Edge's death in 1934, being one of nine charter members of the First Methodist Church in Groveland, the church voted unanimously to change the name to the Edge Memorial Methodist Church in honor of his support of the church and Methodist-supported missions, including Florida Southern College.
   Constructed in 1922, the second oldest building on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, was renamed Edge Hall in 1935 to honor E. E. Edge, who was one of the first large donors to the college.
   Edge, and his son Lacy Day Edge, were lifelong members of the church

   Following the death of his father in 1934, Lacy Day (commonly known as Day Edge) gave up his rise in politics to return home to assume the responsibilities of running the various Edge businesses.

L. D. Edge standing with the artist during portrait unveiling in Tallahassee, Florida

[Contributors: Julian Rowe, Mary Helen Myers, Jason Brown]

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