Flourishing Montbrook - 1906

A look at Montbrook, in Levy county, a short distance west of the Marion line, and 42 miles from Ocala, via the A. C. L. R. R., soon reveals the fact that lumber and turpentine interests dominate the business of the place. Those who are at the head of the lumber business are Messrs. John F. McNair, N. G. Wade and D. W. McArthur, president, vice president and secretary and treasurer respectively of the Florida Land Company, incorporated, the title under which they conduct their immense business. They own thousands of acres of land in that section and employ several hundred hands in their business. D. W. McArthur looks after the business interests of the company at Montbrook, while Mr. Wade has the contract for extending the A. C. L. R. R.  from Oldtown, on the Suwannee river, to Perry, and Mr. McNair is a large factor in the turpentine world. F. C. Bryson is the bookkeeper for this company, and is a pleasant gentleman to meet.

The Tyler Lumber Company is another large concern, whose mill dries and dresses lumber for the markets of the world. Mr. Reed is its manager. 

D. M. Flynn & Co., operate an extensive turpentine plant, whose interests are closely looked after by Mr. Sosser, whose years of experience make him a valuable employee.

These extensive interests have the hearty co-operation of two railroads, as the S. A. L. has a branch coming down from Archer, and goes to the Standard phosphate mines in Marion, several miles southeast of Morriston, both roads using the same track from Morriston to Archer.

We have given the manufacturing interests of Montbrook to convey to the reader the volume of business these companies give to the merchants of the place, as none of them run commissaries, and all trade is tributary to the stores of the town, and as over 400 men are employed in the industrial output, the value of trade can be easily imagined, and the parties in the past who have supplied this demand were Messrs. C. C. Rawls and F. E. Crawford, under the firm name of the Rawls, Crawford Co., and Mr. James S. Blitch, who quite recently purchased the immense stock of goods, which constituted the base of supplies of the Rawls, Crawford Co., their accounts and good will is now really the only merchant in the place, but with facilities in merchandise and patrons to supply the large volume of trade that comes from the mills, and also from the surrounding country, embracing miles in extent, for the reputation of the Montbrook merchants for large stock and low prices has been the magnet that has drawn many customers through other trading points and past merchants in other places not a thousand miles from Montbrook.

The commercial event of the place is the transfer of the Rawls, Crawford Co.’s stock, by a cash purchase to Mr. J. S. Blitch, who is one of the best known men of the Montbrook section, because he has been the railroad agent there ever since the “iron horse” invaded the place, which was on June 15, 1892, when the old F. C. & P. R. R. now the S. A. L. “snorted its first snort,” which reverberated with startling effect through the pines of that section and caused the farmers and fruit growers of that day to hail its thrilling notes with pleasure. In January, 1894, shortly after the old Plant System put in operation its West Coast line, Mr. Blitch became the joint agent of both roads, and so faithfully and satisfactorily performed the arduous duties of his position and became so popular with the public that his employers separated from him with great reluctance. Mr. Blitch is not, however, a stranger to merchandising, nor to the trade of that section as he was a partner with Mr. C. C. Rawls for two years when Mr. R. entered the commercial world in 1886, and for the past two years has superintended a prosperous merchandising business of his own. So, by business training and experience, he comes splendidly equipped to take up the work which Messrs. Rawls and Crawford have conducted so successfully for years, and built up from small beginnings to mammoth proportions.

Mr. Blitch is not only a fine business man, but possesses a character for probity, honesty and fair dealing to every relation of life that has made him a leader in his community, and every honor that has been possible for the people to bestow on him locally has been conferred, and he never betrayed their trust. He is truly a shining example of what a young man can accomplish in life if he has the heart and brain to persevere, and these are the sterling characteristics of J. S. Blitch. That he will succeed, there is no question, as it is the wish of every man, woman and child in his section, and they all know him as a man worthy of their esteem and whose confidence he has.

Mr. J. S. Blitch is the son of ex State Senator Newton A. Blitch, who is at present state insector of convicts.

Messrs. Rawls and Crawford will embark on outside enterprises, notably turpentine and timber, and may good fortune attend their business steps.

The new railroad agent at Montbrook to succeed Mr. Blitch is John Morgan, a young man who was a pupil under Mr. Blitch for the past four years, and that he will reflect credit on his able preceptor there is no question.

During our stay at Montbrook we enjoyed creature comforts at the hostelry conducted by Mrs. R. J. Davis. That she conducts an up-to-date edible institution is attested by twenty-five satisfied boarders, and C. H. Dame who is a judge of “good grub” and comfortable beds, says the place is hard to beat.

Professor Diamond of West Florida, a graduate of the state school that was run at DeFuniak, is principal of the Montbrook school, and his assistant is Miss Allie Reed od Boardman, both excellent teachers, and are conducting a school Montbrook is proud of. We had the pleasure of visiting the school and talking to the children, who seemed to enjoy it as much as we did.

Mr. D. M. Limbaugh, one of the factors in the big lumber mill, is mayor of the town and a good one. He is built “from the ground up,” and he only needs to look at a person who thought of violating an ordinance and that person would instantly deny himself that purpose.

T. J. Sheffield is the justice of the piece of that place, and is a credit to the office. 

More About Montbrook

Montbrook is an important place and needs an efficient postmaster, and the people have one in the person of P. O. Sneller, who is a Pennsylvanian by birth, but came to the Montbrook section shortly after the war from Bethlehem, Pa. That he is an A-1 official the testimony of a leading citizen affirms: “None better in the State.” His neat postoffice attests this fact.

Among those who are making a success of farming and trucking, Mr. Mont Brook heads the list. The place is named in his honor, the station was located on his land, and when the “iron horse” first whistled its arrival Mr. Brook was the owner of as handsome an orange grove as you could see in a day’s travel, and lorded over plenty of cattle on the range, but the reader knows conditions have changed. The ice king, by touch of his frigid hand, laid low the groves, and the turpentine and lumber men have destroyed the range, so out of mother earth Mr. Brooks is coining dollars, for in the past six months he has marketed vegetables and produce grown on his place to the value of $1000—not a bad showing. He had over 100 bushels of fall Irish potatoes, which sold readily at $1.25 and $1.50a bushel. For producing sweet potatoes he is great, grows the right kind and gets the lay of the market, and so on down the line. The morning we were in Montbrook he hauled to the store a load of turnips, cabbage and sweet potatoes, for which he found a ready sale. Where there is a will, there is a way. Mr. Brook’s father was a pioneer of that section.

We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Isaac Rawls, who lives in Levy county, but close to the Marion line, and has realty in both counties. He is one of the up-to-date and progressive farmers of that section, never fails to make ends meet and have a bank account to draw on. At the present he is deeply interested in the growing of pecans and is succeeding. He has several acres in bearing, and is putting out ten more, including an orange grove in a very fine hammock he possesses. He said he knew he could mature a pecan grove, and if he couldn’t sell the nuts he could feed them to his hogs, which would make the finest flavored pork on earth.

In passing we must not forget to say that Montbrook has to splended church edifices, Baptist and Methodist, and both have large memberships; also that the place is the home of Hon. N. A. Blitch and Mr. Sistrunk, father of our Sim, Carlos and Henry Sistrunk, and both men of whom any community could feel proud of as citizens.

The night we were in Montbrook the Woodmen camp, No. 126, installed their officers and C. H. Dame initiated three members. Before preceding to disclose the mysteries of the forest, a public meeting was suggested, the word passed quickly around and a good sized audience filled the hall, when Sovereign Dame made a talk that did Woodcraft proud, followed by the editor of the Star. The audience seemed to be pleased at what the speakers said about the benefits of fraternal orders, and Woodcraft in particular.

Williston camp, which numbers some forty members, sent a dozen down on a handcar to give the Montbrook camp fraternal greeting and to assist in the exciting initiatory ceremonies, for Dame introduced some of his new devices for conferring several side-splitting degrees, which we opine are of Dame’s concoction, notably the “99” and “101.” Enough it is to say it was rough on the novices but diverting and comical to the looker-on in Venice. We surely had a night of it. The Montbrookers said it was up in “high ball,” and for our presence they tendered us a vote of thanks and presented us with the “freedom of the city.” The officers of the camp are D. M. Limbaugh, C. C.; J. R. Davis, A. L.; A. G. McDonald, banker; J. T. Flowers, clerk; J. A. Pardon, escort; A. Z. Brown, J. N. Sapp and Mr. Wynn, managers. The camp is composed of royal good fellows and is growing.

Time and space calls a halt, but we will say our time to Montbrook was indeed a pleasure, and the patronage extended the Star deeply appreciated. May the town prosper and all within its domain wax fat is the wish of the writer.

Among those who gave us the glad hand were R. C. Chaires, section foreman of the railroad, and for the last six years has held the record as a track maintainer; Mr. Sasser, the distiller at Flinn & Co’s. turpentine still, and our young friend, Arthur Hodge, son of our late sheriff, B. D. Hodge. Arthur is at home from the Baker Hime School, at Knoxville, Tenn.

Dr. H. McMillen, who made his appearance in Montbrook last June from Tennessee, has proved himself a physician of ability and has one the confidence of the people of all the country around and enjoys a most enviable practice. Not only is he an A-1 M. D., but dispenses drugs, and has become a general favorite with all. He is camp physician for the Woodmen. 

Source: Ocala Evening Star: 1-15 &18-1906

                   Transcribed, Formatted and Submitted by Linda Flowers

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