The Wells Cabin was built during the 1870's by Alexander G. Wells. He and his wife Sarah raised eleven children in the little house and made it a home for nearly 50 years. Bradford and Will, second and third oldest sons, built their homes close by and began their families near the old home place. Will and his wife separated, She and their two daughters moved back in with her parents. Will's father-in-law, Austin Herring stated he would kill Will if he came on his property. On September 5, 1909 Mr. Herring was sitting on his porch when he saw Will approaching on horseback, he went inside and took his rifle from over the door. As Will rode through the gate, Mr. Herring shot him off his horse. Will is buried in the Wells Cemetery along one sister, his parents and three of their grand children. It is also said that Mr. Herring killed Thomas Leton Morgan. He too is buried in the Wells Cemetery.
Last lived in by Woodrow and Lillie Mae Waters in 1947 and used for tobacco storage up until 1973 by the properties current owner T.C. (Buck) McCulley, the Well's Cabin seemed destined to go the way of so many other little pieces of history. Rusty nails, broken glass, an occasional button or buckle are all that's left of the most of the old home places where families poured their blood, sweat, and tears into the land. In one way the Wells Cabin is a testament to one families struggle and in another way it represents the struggles of all the pioneers that carved our nation out of the wilderness. The common people that simply wanted to live free in this new land. These are the little pieces of our history that complete the puzzle, but all too often the forgotten pieces that leave the picture incomplete. The Withlacoochee Trail Ride began as a way to preserve and share this area's history and unique contribution to the great unfinished novel that is the history of America.
The Wells Cabin served as home to many families from around 1870 until 1947. Without running water and electricity it was soon considered uninhabitable. Over the years it stood strong as time marched on and the modern way of life worked its way into society. As with all things manmade, time did begin to take its toll on the structure and by the early 1990's it became apparent to us that something had to be done soon if the old house was to be saved. This became a reality with the beginning of the Withlacoochee Trail Ride in October 1999. Since then the old cabin has been visited by hundreds of trail riders along with many generations of descendants from the families that lived there.
Here's how this era of the Wells Cabin began....
After unsuccessfully attempting to find a historical site willing to move and restore the Well's Cabin, we started trying to figure out a way to preserve the structure and keep it here on the farm. At this point the only way to describe the events that take place is "Divine Intervention." As we were tossing around different ideas to give the cabin purpose, including trail riding, a newly formed Main Street Hamilton County committee was discussing a variety of ways to have fundraisers including hosting a trail ride. Main Street's goals included restoring some of the older buildings in the downtown streets of Hamilton County's three little towns Jennings, Jasper and White Springs. Caller I.D. was still kind of anew thing in the 1999 and one day after getting home from town Dad noticed a name and number on the caller I.D. We sell hay, so just in case it was someone calling for hay, Dad called the number back and got a lady by the name of Jane Harris on the phone. He told her he was just calling the number back to see if it was someone needing hay. Jane misunderstood Dad and thought he said he was checking to see if someone needed "PAY". She paused and said "sure I'll take some pay." Dad didn't notice Jane said "pay" so he asked her "How many bales do you want?" Jane knew it was a misunderstanding when she realized he couldn't be talking about bales of money. After a little laugh about the hay and pay, Jane went on to say that they might need some hay if they could find a location to host a trail ride. Dad told her about our plans and invited her out to discuss the possibility of having the ride here. Jane and director, Ann Hall came out within a few days. As if dialing the wrong number wasn't coincidence enough, while here on that visit, we all figured out how Jane had dialed the wrong number. Ann Hall's phone number was 792-3011 and Dad's number is 938-3011. Jane had intended to call Ann that day and instead of dialing the 792 Jasper prefix, she had used the Jennings prefix 938. Think about having the two phone numbers almost being the same, two parties with common goals being at the end of each of those lines and then factor in the timing of the conception of ideas nearly the same time without either one knowing about the other, and then to have the two parties brought together when one of members of Main Street mistakenly dialed the wrong number. All the pieces were coming together, the old cabin again had purpose and we began working full steam ahead on the project.
Kenneth Waters had earlier agreed for us to use his property for trail riding. Kenneth is the oldest son of Woodrow and Lillie Mae Waters, the last family that lived in the cabin (that's another neat little fact that seems more than coincident). His property, along with his brother Dale and sister Sherry's fish camp, connects our farm with Pot Springs Pasture, owned by S.R.W.M.D. This is officially known as the Withlacoochee Tract, part of the Twin Rivers State Forest and is managed by the Division of Forestry. They welcomed the idea of horseback riding in this area as well as the Blue Springs Tract, a longleaf pine forest connecting to the front of our farm. Rangers, Doug Longshore and Brad Ellis were very helpful in making the trail accessible.
Throughout the summer we continued cleaning the area around the cabin and opening a trail into the site. Jane Harris made contact with Tim Trott at flahorse.com and the dates for the ride were posted on the events calendar of the highly visited website. The interest generated from this along with a good group of our friends and other horse riders brought thirty-two riders/campers together here October 22-24, 1999. It was a beautiful, clear weekend. The harvest moon was full and there was even an early frost that Saturday morning. Everyone had a great time and was captivated with their first ride along the Withlacoochee River. Lunch was served at Pot Springs and some of the riders even took a swim in the cold spring. The evening entertainment was provided by Kylie Williams. Her version of "Cowboy Sweetheart" had everyone on their feet (Kylie would go on to win the 2006 Miss Florida title). Elvis even showed up when Brian McKenzie stepped on stage and kept the party going. After a lot of handshakes and hugs everyone pulled out after lunch that Sunday.
A suggestion had been made by members of the Southern Trail Riders Association to have a ride in the spring as well as the fall. Plans were soon being made for the Spring 2000 ride that included a dedication ceremony at the Wells Cabin. Several generations of the Wells and Waters families were here for that special day. Every fall and spring since, trail riders from across the southeast and several other states have converged here at the farm for what some have called a cross between a trail ride and a family reunion. It has become like an extended family to us as we have gotten to know so many wonderful people. Trail riding clubs from all over Florida and Georgia now make yearly weekend trips here for club ride/campouts.