Lost to Fire: Florida Farmhouse Held Stories Within its Walls

Hayes Home | Bradford County, FL | late 1800s

Each time I visit this home, my imagination spins about what it might’ve looked like and what life was like here. And while it might look rustic by today’s standards, this home is impressive in its own right, once you account for the years and years of harsh Florida weather that this rustic home has endured. 

How many hurricanes? How many thunderstorms? How many lightning strikes has this home lived through?

The Hayes Family in South Carolina

Enos Wilson Hayes and his wife Elizabeth Ann Rogers would marry in Marion County, SC in 1848, and to them, 7 children were born before Elizabeth passed away in 1863. Each of their sons and daughters would stay in South Carolina, except for Nathan Gamewell (sometimes spelled Gainwell)  ‘N.G.’ Hayes who would marry Hannah D. Barry in 1875 near her home in Lacrosse, FL.

Hayes Family home c. early 1900s

The Hayes Family in Florida

Soon after they wed, her father, William F. Barry gave them land near his homeplace in Bradford County, FL where they spent the next years building this house. Hannah and N.G. had 8 children, at least 4 of whom were born in this very building. They grew cotton and raised cattle here, along with other crops like watermelon, soybeans, and tobacco.

The Nathan Gamewell Hayes Family at their property in Bradford County, Florida

Sadly in 1901, Hannah passed away, and soon after, N.G. remarried to Mamie Zeigler Hayes, who would birth a son, Nathan Gamewell Hayes II ‘N.G. II’ in 1904 in this home too.

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Nathan Gamewell Hayes II worked in his early years as a flagman for the railroad in nearby Worthington Springs until he took to farming full-time on the farm his parents had built. He lived here with his wife, Ruby Bethea Hayes, until 1973 when he passed away. The home hasn’t been lived in since.

Notice the shutter on the top floor window that is the same as it was in the photo from the early 1900s above. The home has had very few changes in all these years and was never painted.

1970s- Today

Today, the home is still owned by Hayes Family relatives who care dearly for the old homeplace, although they’ve decided that the house is too far gone to be repaired. Instead, descendants have been offered pieces of the home that are salvageable to be used for another generation. One family member turned some of the doors into dining room tables, ensuring that some parts of this home will continue to live on after she finally falls.

The local Fire Department was on the scene to help control the fire. Photo courtesy of the Hayes Family.

Update

The Hayes Family contacted me in February 2022 to let me know that the house had been lost to fire in January of 2022. A family member was working to clear the land and accidentally lost control of a burn pile and the fire quickly consumed the house. The family is sad about the loss of the old home but over the years, parts of it had been repurposed so I hope that their memories of it and its pictures here can help to ensure she isn’t lost forever.


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17 thoughts on “Lost to Fire: Florida Farmhouse Held Stories Within its Walls”

    1. I just read your post about an old home place in Florida. My maiden name is Tidmore, but the family name was Dittmar in Germany and they changed it to Tidmore when they settled in SC. Are you kin to the Tidmore’s?

      My email is aspiemom06@gmail.com. I would love to hear back.

      Deena Tidmore Kirk

  1. I am new to your site. I am a photographer living in Florida since 1974. I was going through your Florida images and was immediately drawn to this one. It is my favorite.

    I adore history and old structures. I am going to enjoy your site for a long time to come.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Lynne Hough

  2. Marisol Gerritsen

    That house survived so many natural disasters probably. And still standing. Has a good foundation. I think they can reconstruct that house. If they want to. Will be a nice project. You don’t find old houses like that so easily. Beautiful house. Simple life.

  3. I love that you have the before picture as well. The shuttered window to me by surprise. I’m amazed that after all the weather and storms, that it is still standing. Thank you for the picture and story.

  4. The Hayes family picture shows one proud strong family; guessing a grand father, parents, 4-5 kids and maybe the kid’s uncle. The old floppy eared mule and ox and ox cart most surely were considered part of this family. Each one’s facial expressions are true and pure to their family position. In those days pictures were few.
    There’s much more to uncover–cemetery, farm size, etc.
    Let me thank you though for all you do from the bottom of my heart. It’s great.
    Jim Halsey

  5. You should come to Arkansas. Do the ghost town of Rush or the Granny Henderson Cabin up on the Buffalo River. There’s the old salt peter works in the cave on Richland Creek and countless old chimneys where cabins once stood.

  6. Spent my whole life driving past this house and wondering what it’s story was. Wish I could sit on the porch and hear the conversations being had in the late 1800s.

  7. Thank you for taking the time, love and care to photograph and share the history of this beautiful home & family.

  8. I love the stories of these old homes. It’s sad they are left to rot away or be lost to some disaster. I’m glad they repurposed some of the wood and family members are in possession of them. I’d loved to had a door and flooring to put down even though I’m not a family member. I respect and dearly love old wood from older homes. My great grandmothers home was torn down in SC and wasn’t told they were going to do that and I never had a chance to claim anything from it. I remember her well and times as a young child there. Good memories. Isn’t funny how things built back then last and houses today fall apart after a few years?

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