Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

It’s Fine to Call Them Crackers

Saturday March 26, 2016                                                                          Most Recent Posts:
Silver Springs State Park                                                                          
A Side Trip to Alexander Springs
Silver Springs, Florida                                                                               The Silver River Never Disappoints         



No I’m not talking about Saltines.  These are the pioneer people of central Florida and the name is not a slur, they are proud to have it.


Cracker Village Map

The Cracker Homestead is located on land adjacent to the Silver River Museum at Silver Springs State Park.  This  collection of representative buildings found on the Florida frontier in the 1800’s includes two houses, a church/school building, a blacksmith’s shop, outhouses, a cane grinder, a smokehouse, a syrup kettle and furnace and several storage buildings.

Some of these are authentic, but most are replicas moved or created here and used during the week to teach local and Florida history to the county school 4th and 5th graders.

On the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month the buildings are open and docents provide tours.  At 10:00 we find ourselves walking down the path labeled Enter-Exit toward the Godwin Family Home, a replica of the classic Florida “Cracker” cabin in which builder Freeman Godwin was raised.






We gather on the porch with a few other people here for the tour.  Two docents are here.  The school teacher and her cousin who is visiting, join us.





We learn about the pioneers of Silver Springs including the Godwins.   During the eighteen hundreds, many people came into Florida after hearing tales of free, fertile land. What the new immigrants encountered was not the promised paradise, but hardship and work. Early settlers were faced with a Florida full of mosquitoes, sandy soil, oppressive heat and very little development.




The pioneers of this area allowed their livestock, mainly pigs and cows, to roam free.  They would round up their herds using a big bull whip,  not to whip their cattle but to direct them.  They would “crack the whip” on the side opposite where they wanted the cattle to go.  Thus they were whip crackers.   Mr. Al demonstrates the whip for us and it really does CRACK.  He tells us these men did not like to be called cowboys, they called themselves cow hunters.  He also tells us that cracking the whip was used to signal ones neighbors as well.   These people were proud to be Crackers.

No one knew how the term came to be such a derogatory name for the poorer people of other southern states. 




We move inside the house which has two rooms.  This is the main room with a wood stove off to the left and out of the picture.  There is also a separate bedroom.   The bed in this room was used for the school teacher when it was the family’s turn to host.  Each family in the community took a turn.

The front and back doors face each other to allow for a breeze.  Out the back door is the “dog trot” which leads to the separate kitchen.  Kitchens in this time were often separate buildings to keep fire away from the main house.  But I’m not sure how well that would work with the dog trot connecting them.




She shows us the rope bed and the turn screw for tightening the ropes.  It was covered by a spanish moss tick.  The spanish moss used was boiled and dried to rid it of the bugs that live in it.   The old saying “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” comes from these rope beds.  Tighten the ropes and hope the bugs aren’t around to bite.   Since I heard that saying a lot from my mother to her mother and the furniture in this little home is very reminiscent of things I inherited and we used at the farm, this is an interesting tour for me.



Just turn the ropes and tighten them up on the peg.




The bedroom had nets over the baby and adult beds.  No glass or screens on the doors only full shutters with hinges.




Looking out the dog trot to the kitchen.




Cooking was done on a wood stove.  Candles were  made for light.






Very nice old pie safe with tin panels below.   Looks like our similar cupboards at the farm, full of canned food.


We’ve seen all of the Godwin house and head outside to see the outbuildings and the Blacksmith’s area.




Pretty sure a Cracker Homestead did not have a Seminole Chickee behind its buildings but this is a teaching area and much earlier Florida history would include the Native Americans whose homes and shelters looked like this.




Corn and sugar cane were two of the main crops so every homestead would have  place grind and boil the cane.




I laugh as I”m walking over to the Blacksmith’s forge.  It looks like folks bellying up to the bar.



Mr. Al tells us all about the importance of the smith in shoeing the horses and making the tools.  He says few homesteads would have an actual forge but a traveling blacksmith would come around to take care of your needs.







Chickens were very well protected.




With all the chores done, it would be time to head over to the school house which was also the church on Sunday.  The teacher was hired by the local families who provided her board and room.  If she got married, she had to resign.  Often one of the former pupils became the teacher.




There would be only 3 or 4 books including the Bible. All of those were for the teacher. The children had no books. They had only the slate and chalk you see on the tables.  Not much homework apparently.






The boys would take turns bringing wood for the stove and keeping it stoked.  The girls cleaned all the slates and swept the floors.




The teacher is chastising this pupil for his incorrect a in the word he has been asked to write.



He’s corrected his mistake.



But still it appears he has to stay after class.



At the far end of the village is the Hinton Family Home which was built by in the 1870’s by Jimmy L. Hinton near the Ocklawaha River into which the Silver River empties nearby. 

It is an authentic Cracker home though of a much more well to do family as it is much larger and has glass windows and a large attached kitchen wing.   It was moved here and donated by the MacAteer Family.




These were fiercely independent families who lived off the land, making do with what the land supplied, subsidized by their ingenuity   What we learn here today reminds me a great deal of the pioneers who settled the Blue Ridge Mountains near our farm.  My relatives were among them until my great grandmother Barbara Ann Ott’s family moved, in the 1860’s, from Rockhingham County Virginia, near our farm, to Lewisburg Ohio near where I was born.   She was the original owner of most of the period furniture which came down to me through my Aunt Carrie.

The village folks are closing up for the day.




Just outside the village is another school building.  It was the African American school in Silver Springs the 1930’s and was also donated to the museum.




It reminds me very much of the elementary school I first attended in the mid 1950’s.



As we walk down the lane, we look back through the trees at this really wonderful educational exhibit. Try to be at Silver Springs on the 2nd or 4th week-end to see inside the buildings for yourself.




The End



  1. Just checking to see if you get more attention as a trouble maker, which seems to be the case here. She was a very excellent model of the school marm of the day I think. Very nicely played the role for us and I am sure for all the school kids as well.

  2. Interesting that the teacher had to resign when she got married. Guess they wanted their teachers to be chaste.
    Very elaborate mosquito netting over the beds, but I'm sure they were bothered by them all day long, too. Guess that's why they wore those long skirts.

  3. I love seeing old schoolhouses. I've just been looking at photos of the school in SD where Laura Ingalls Wilder taught (Little House on the Prairie). I've heard "Don't let the bedbugs bite" many times.

  4. This is my type history! I really enjoy these living museum experiences. Wish I had been along with you two for this tour. Thanks for sharing details about the village, buildings, and people.

  5. Funny but when you said it was okay to call them crackers my first thought was how the folks in Newfoundland call Bunchberries "crackers"! I've never eaten one but I assume they must be crunchy.

  6. What a fun tour -- I feel like I was right along with you thanks to your photos. Definitely a place we'll visit next year when we go to Silver Springs. Living history museums are the best!

  7. Living history is such a fun way to really learn by being more exposed to the reality of life in the past. This looks like a great tour.

  8. Great tour and something we need to do the next time we visit Silver Springs. I have a feeling that was not the first time David was kept after school;o))

  9. I enjoy living history. Looks like a great place to visit and learn. Great picture tour..I always feel almost like I'm there. Looks like the actors were very good and, yes, some of the furniture definitely reminds of the farm.

  10. Great tour, thanks for sharing. I must say the title had me wondering what you were up to now.

  11. My, you ARE well preserved for someone born in the 1860's. ;)

    1. Ha ha Judy, great catch on the Misplaced modifier. I fixed it just for you.

  12. Fascinating! This is the sort of place I'd enjoy visiting.

  13. I love those living history museums. I think it is important to remember how far we've come.

  14. What a great tour, it was really fun being there with you. There was a man cracking a bull whip in Williams, and you could hear it from blocks away! Love the rope beds. Would love no homework even more :-) Of course they all had lots of chores to keep them busy I'm sure. That white (ironic) schoolhouse is lovely inside - wonderful big windows.

  15. What a fascinating and educational tour. I've heard of Crackers but did not really find time to learn why the pioneers there were called as such and now I know, thanks to your tour.
    I grew up using mosquito nets as we called them in the Philippines. It is rectangle following the shape of the bed. My grandmother used to hide bread under those mosquito nets, hidden from us scoundrels.


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