Sunday, October 2, 2011

Old Parramore marks 50th Annual Oak Grove Homecoming

Rev. Cap Pooser leads the Veterans Memorial Dedication
One of Jackson County's most unique events marked its 50th anniversary today as a crowd gathered in the ghost town of Old Parramore to celebrate the annual Oak Grove Homecoming.
Each year on the first Sunday of October, the old town comes back to life as former residents and their families gather to share memories, friendship and dinner on the grounds in what was once the heart of a thriving Chattahoochee River trading community. This year's event was the 50th such gathering and featured cannon firings, music from the Sheila Smith Trio and the dedication of a memorial to local veterans.

Memorial and Flag
Parramore grew as a significant community during the years after the Civil War due to a surge in the value of timber and turpentine products from the vast longleaf pine forests that once covered eastern Jackson County. Paddlewheel riverboats nudged up to landings at the community, providing a means of transportation for its products and commerce. The steamboat traffic sparked the growth of a thriving business community.

By the end of the 19th century, Parramore had become a signficant commercial, industrial and population center. The main business district boasted five stores, a cotton gin, sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop, mule lot and other businesses. Turpentine stills operated at locations surrounding the community and rafts of pine timber were floated down the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers to the shipyards at Apalachicola.

The Sheila Smith Trio
The introduction of paved highways and truck traffic in the first half of the 20th century, however, spelled the end of Parramore's days as a business center. Trucks replaced riverboats as the primary means of moving forest products and steamboat traffic on the Chattahoochee River faded away during the 1930s and 1940s. The town of Old Parramore faded away with the boats.

In 1961, however, current and former residents of the area began a tradition that continues to this day. The annual Oak Grove Homecoming at Old Parramore was initiated as a way to preserve the memory of the town and its former residents. Some of those present for today's 50th anniversary celebration were on hand for that original gathering.

Rev. Cap Pooser, Alfred Cox and James Harrell with Cannon
The annual event spurred the preservation of Oak Grove Cemetery and the adjoining site of the original Oak Grove Freewill Baptist Church as a grounds for the homecoming. A modern brick church, which opens its doors only once each year, was built at the site as a memorial to the pioneer families of the area.

So far as is known, the annual Oak Grove Homecoming is the only annual gathering at a Florida ghost town that has continued for five decades. It is a unique part of Florida culture.

To learn more about the history of the community, please consider my book: Old Parramore: The History of a Florida Ghost Town. It can be ordered on the right side of this page or as an instant download for Amazon Kindle at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/kindle. It is also available at Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna.

2 comments:

APK said...

Being a Parramore whose family hails from the panhandle, I am most interested in this event. How can I get on a mailing list for future Old Parramore days and events?
Aimee Parramore Kincaid
Orlando, FL

Dale said...

Aimee, There isn't really a mailing list for the reunion, but I will make sure that I do some advance posts on it here for next year. It is always held on the first Sunday in October and always begins at 10:30 a.m. (Central). I hope you will come up for the next one! If you and friends would ever like a tour of the area, just let me know!

Best,
Dale