Written by Cleve Powell
Originally published in the March 2008 OAI Newsletter

In researching the history of Arlington, the Gilmore area history falls time wise right in line with the communities of Eggleston and Floral Bluff. Old Arlington’s eastern boundary is the Mill Creek and Hartsfield road corridors; Gilmore is therefore included in our history.
The location of the Gilmore community is generally defined by the area occupied by the descendents of the Gilmore families and other early settlers who were their neighbors. Gilmore is bounded by the St. Johns River on the north; by Townsend Boulevard on the west; Jones Creek on the east, which takes in the Gilmore Cemetery; and by Merrill Road on the south, with an additional area along Gilmore Heights Road for a half mile south of Merrill.

With no Spanish Grants in Gilmore, land titles began with homestead deeds. Archibald Gilmore received a deed for 160 acres in 1885, which was a mile long, a half-mile either side of what is now Merrill Road, and a quarter mile wide. The part lying south of the old J.M. & P. R.R. (north of Merrill) was subdivided in 1914. His son Archibald Gilmore Jr. got a deed for 80 acres in 1895 south of Merrill and it was subdivided in 1925. Gilmore Heights Road separated the two tracts and at one time ran from Ft. Caroline to Atlantic Boulevard. Replaced in part by the Southside Connector. Part of Gilmore is considered in the Regency area.

Some of the other homesteaders in the area are as follows: L. Baldwin, 1860, this area includes Mitchell Bluff with its large Indian mound(s). Below the Baldwin tract was a parcel deeded to Frank E. Southern, 160 acres, it included “Southern Pond” now known as Rondette Lake. Below him was James Shields, 1885, 99 acres, probably the origin of the Shields Indian mound. South of Shields and Southern was Helena Chase, 160 acres, 1890 and Dr. Auburn Cuzner, 74 Acres, 1910. The Fernandina and Jacksonville RR Company had 80 acres, which ran 1/2 mile along Merrill where the Food Line Shopping center is now.

East of Hartsfield Road, south of Ft. Caroline Road was Allen Scott, 40 acres, 1885, and below him Peter Dumas, 80 acres, 1854, and then H. H. Menager, 40 acres in 1885 which takes you again to Merrill road. Dumas and Menager’s land was subdivided in 1917 by Dr. Auburn Cuzner as a replat of Auburn. The original Auburn Subdivision was filed ca. 1892. The Gilmore School was located in lots 6-8, which is now Don Brewer School. Merrill Road School is also in this subdivision. Next to Cuzner’s Subdivision was a deed to John Peterson for 80 acres in 1879; above Peterson to the river and over to the east boundary was John Pitchell, 1851; this parcel contains most of the riverfront land in Gilmore. Below Pitchell and west of Spanish Bluff Drive was 40 acres to James H. Seavboy(?) in 1856. This is where the Gilmore Cemetery is located. Below him down to Merrill Road is 40 acres to Geo Cook and Henry? 1881, south of Merrill. East of Gilmore Sr.’s land was 80 acres to Agnes Carr.

Although confusing those are the names of the original settlers and descendents of the Gilmores and Cuzners that still live in the area.

Per John Ross, long time resident of Gilmore 90 years young, Gilmore had a post office on the river serviced by river boats before Arlington had one.

The J.M. & P. R.R. opened for business in the summer of 1888 and had a station at Gilmore. The J.M.&P. also delivered mail, passengers and goods and literally put Gilmore on the maps. The Station is believed to have been about where the Crest Chevrolet show room is now located. The railroad ceased operation ca. 1897 but the tracks remained until ca. 1900, and access to Gilmore was facilitated by handcars to deliver the mail and for transportation to town. After the rails were removed the roadbed continued to provide access and the alignment can be easily seen on the 1918 Quad map. The railroad curved through Gilmore around the head of Mill Creek to avoid the wetlands.

Indian Mounds: There are 3 Indian mounds in the Mitchell Bluff area of Gilmore, recorded by Moore in 1895, (west to east) Grant Mound, Shields Mound, and the Gilbert Mound.* * There is also the Monroe Mound and low mounds; a midden called Buckskin Trail, and other small sites. What remains of these sites are all on private property.

Gilmore/Cameron Cemetery: Located on the east side Rio Cove dr. just north of Ft. Caroline Road, the earliest grave is Jones, 1859. It has 36 graves and evidence of more. Bob Sikes was told that the cemetery originated when one of the settlers, W. L. Jones, was looking for a high spot to bury someone and ended up on his neighbor, Mr. Cameron’s land. Family names in the Cemetery are: Bacon, Gilmore, Cameron, Cuzner, Jones, Highsmith, Potter, Preuett, Ross, Hahn, and Wingate.

1880 Census: Heads of household who appear to be in or near to the Gilmore area (voting district 14 pgs. 9-12) are in order with some names skipped. Gilmore, Archibald 48 farmer/painter Ireland; Jones, W. L. 61 farmer North Carolina; Cameron, John A. 55 farmer North Carolina; Cox, George 35; Scott, Allen 45 farmer; Bartley, Frank 34; Demps, Anthoney 40; Faulkner J. W. farmer 42; Parsons, J. B. 42 Steamboat captain; Johnson, Jackson 24 farmer; Wingate, C. W. 35 farmer; Cameron, Archibald 21 laborer; Reider, James 43, Farmer.

Per K. Marion Reeder, current Gilmore resident, James Reider was his grandfather and from Germany and his son married Violet Torkelson who lived next to the Manning’s fish camp. Her father was Halvor Torkelson from Norway and her mother was A. Gilmore’s oldest daughter Margaret.

Gilmore School: A school was built ca. 1890, which lasted until Arlington Grammar was opened in 1921. One of its original teachers, Margaret McMillen, was from Ohio and later married Charles Sikes, who was a fisherman and a bus driver.

Gilmore Methodist Church: Located at the end of Eve Ross Road. The Methodist Church was founded in 1921 and built on land donated by Archibald Gilmore.

The Ponga Restaurant: Opened ca. 1940 – it was located on Ft. Caroline just west of where 9A now crosses. Anyone who lived in Jacksonville in the forties will remember their slogan “Bonga Bonga let’s go to the Ponga.” It was a lively place from what I’ve been told.

Larson’s Grocery: Located on Ft. Caroline just east of 9A.

Dr. Auburn Thomas Cuzner lived in Gilmore and treated Mr. Wm. Hawley (Arlingtonian author) during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1888 (first was 1857). Mr. Hawley later married his daughter Eve and moved to Gilmore. I believe that Dr. Cuzner may have been a surgeon during the Civil War, in conversation with Mrs. Shirley Hawley 4-29-07; he was originally from England and came to Arlington by way of New York State. He bought twenty acres on the river where he built a home, which was also his office. Mrs. Hawley said he was the only Doctor between Mayport and Jacksonville and practiced on both sides of the river. He was a pioneer in cancer research and planted many herbs and fruit trees looking for a cure. He also wrote a book on their effects including diagrams; he was also an artist. Dr. Cuzner is buried in the Gilmore Cemetery.

Also see:

Map of Gilmore (1918)
1895 Indians Mounds Map
1896 Indians Mounds Map
Archibald and Jane Gilmore
Letter postmarked at the Gilmore Post Office to Maggie Gilmore (1906)Letter postmarked at the Gilmore Post Office to Frances Hawley (1907)Letter postmarked at the Gilmore Post Office to Maggie Gilmore (1908)
Jacksonville Pablo Mayport Tour
J.M. & P. R.R. route Clifton to Cosmo