We are known as the Keystone County, the only Florida county that reaches from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico. The county was chartered in 1827 while Florida was a Territory. Ante-bellum and Victorian architecture, giant live oaks forming canopy roads, spring dogwoods and summer crape myrtles make the county a beautiful visit or a delightful home.
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The Jefferson County Courthouse, in the southernmost part of the district, is surrounded by the buildings of the commercial area. The present Courthouse dates from 1909 and is the focal point on entering the community on either the Jefferson Street axis or the Washington Street axis. The major portions of the commercial area of Monticello are in blocks immediately to the south of the Courthouse and in the six blocks to the north between Washington, Mulberry, Pearl and Waukeenah Streets.
The Monticello Opera House in the Perkins Building was constructed in 1890. It is a stop on the Jefferson County Historic Tours and a center of art, culture and community life. Click here to visit their website where you’ll learn of the Opera House’s history and its restoration. The site features information about the community chorus, the theater group, the Artists-in-Schools program and the local artists’ association. For more information about scheduled activities or about booking the facilities, contact The Monticello Opera House, Jan Rickey, director.
Jefferson County’s Keystone Genealogical Society assists local enthusiasts in tracking family histories and conducting genealogical research. The Society maintains a library at 695 East Washington Street, Monticello, open 9am to 4pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays or by appointment. It publishes a quarterly journal, The Keystone Kin. Subscription information is available from Bonney McClellan, editor, at 904-997-3304, or e-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. An extensive genealogical collection is housed in the Florida State Archives, R.A. Gray Building in nearby Tallahassee.
The Tung Tree. In the early spring, as one tours the country roads and lanes of Jefferson County, you notice an attractive blooming tree, particularly in fence rows. Clusters of whitish, rose-throated flowers and broad, heart-shaped dark green leaves indicate you are looking at a tung tree, Aleurites fordii. All parts of the tung are poisonous, but the nut is especially toxic. Tung has been grown commercially in its native China for 40 centuries. It is grown for the oil that is extracted from its seed, or nut. Once, tung oil was considered “the world’s finest quick-drying paint oil.”
Tung was introduced into the US in the Jefferson County area in 1906. By the late-1950s, there were over 12,000 acres of tung planted in the county, the center of Florida production. Tung oil was used in paint, varnish, linoleum and printer’s ink.
All tung orchards in Jefferson County today have been abandoned. Most plantings have been bulldozed and the land used for other crops, pasture or timber.
Boots Thomas and Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. Sgt. Ernest I. (“Boots”) Thomas, Jr. was born in Tampa, Florida, on March 10, 1924. His family moved to Monticello when he was a child and he attended public school here. Sgt. Thomas enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor. A monument on US Highway 90, West Washington Street in Monticello memorializes Boots Thomas, stating:
IN RECOGNITION OF PLATOON SERGEANT ERNEST I. THOMAS U.S.M.C.R. WHO ON FEBRUARY 23, 1945, LED HIS PLATOON TO RAISE THE FIRST FLAG ON IWO JIMA, THE FIRST JAPANESE TERRITORY TAKEN IN WORLD WAR II. ON MARCH 3rd, EIGHT DAYS AFTER THE FIRST FLAG RAISING AND TEN DAYS AFTER HE EARNED THE NAVY CROSS FOR HEROISM IN ACTION, HE WAS KILLED LEADING HIS MEN IN COMBAT.
MARCH 10, 1924 – MARCH 3, 1945
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