NAME: Electra
COUNTY: Marion
CLIMATE: Hot in Summer
COMMENTS: Electra Cemetery is located on the east side of Highway 314-A about four miles south of Highway 40 in Marion County, Florida.
REMAINS: Cemetery.

The History of Electra Cemetery

Electra Cemetery is located on the east side of Highway 314-A about four miles south of Highway 40 in Marion County, Florida.

It appears from census records that some of the earliest families to arrive in Marion County and live east of the Ocklawaha River in this part of the county which later became Electra were the Griggs ca. 1848, the Sellers ca. 1849 and Fort ca. 1851/53. The Sellers came from North Carolina. The Griggs and Forts came from South Carolina, both first moving to Alabama for a few years, and then moving on down to Marion County by the above dates.

It wasn't long before all of the above families' children married into each other's families and into new families arriving in the area, such as the families of Barber, Brant, Brinson, Folkes, Freer, Halford, Heath, Holton, Hudnell, Meadows, Mock, Snell, Tillis, and others. The Barcliffs, Pillans, Stebeltons and Waters moved into the area. All of these then became the primary families that lived in Electra and are buried in Electra Cemetery.

When Mary Nickie Fears Waters arrived in September 1882, she named the community Electra. Mary was well educated and chose this name from literature written about a famous Greek tragedy that took place in the House of Agamemnon. Three versions of Electra's life were portrayed by Sophocles (497-405 B.C.), Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.), and Euripides (480-406 B.C.). A later “Electra” was written by Jean Giraudoux, a French playwright, in 1937. Two of the most famous New York productions of Electra's life were "Mourning Becomes Electra" by Eugene O'Neill. and "The Prodigal" by Jack Richardson in 1960. Many other plays, novels and poems have portrayed the life of Electra and probably many more will be written as man continues to try to develop his civilization.

The National Archives Trust Fund, Washington, D. C., has a list of all Post Masters who served the post office at Electra, Marion County, Florida. They are: Wm. R. C. Barcliff appointed 29 April 1886, Geo. W. Waters appointed 18 August 1890, John J. Brown appointed 7 September 1893, Geo. F. Manson appointed 22 November 1897, James C. Pillans appointed 26 October 1899, Charles F. Harris appointed 11 September 1925. He served until15 May 1931 when it was discontinued and mail sent to Umatilla, Florida.

It is believed Electra had three separate post office buildings over the years. According to Ethel Fair Pillans Alsop, the second post office/general store building was built, owned and operated by Ethel’s Grandfather James Christopher Pillans. It was located about one city block south of Electra Cemetery on the west side of the road. It was a wooden building with windows. The windows were just openings with no glass but had shutters. It also had a porch. James’ house was across 314-A from the post office and general store. Orange groves were also on both sides of the road. James also grew sugar cane and they had cane grindings. Ethel Fair Pillans Alsop’s daughter has a photograph of this Electra Post Office and General Store. Standing in front of the post office and general store are three of James Christopher Pillans’ children, Charles Palmer Pillans, Porter Perry Pillans and Louis Hinely Pillans. Also in the photo is a fourth unidentified young man. We have a photograph of Jonas H. Halford standing in front of his horse and buggy holding the mail bag, in front of an old wooden general store and post office which was Electra. The sign on the store says U. S. Post Office. Jonas delivered the mail.

Ruth Clara Harris Griggs remembered Mr. Pillans operated the Electra Post Office and General Store for sometime after she and her family arrived in June 1922. Her father, Charles Field Harris, purchased their homestead on 314-A north of the cemetery and he then built their home and the last Electra Post Office and General Store. This post office and general store still stands about a half mile north of Electra Cemetery on the east side of 314-A. This is the only home Ruth ever lived in since coming to Florida because when she married, she and her husband, Percy Eliot Griggs, continued to live there. Ruth lived in the home until her death on 27 February 2001. Ruth remembered her dad also had a gasoline pump at his business and gasoline was 12 cents a gallon. Another source reminded us that these early gasoline pumps were mechanically pumped. Ruth remembered Andrew Jackson Holton was the man who brought the mail from Ocklawaha by auto.

Unfortunately, prior to her death, Ruth said she needed to have this last Electra Post Office and General Store demolished soon as it is crumbling so badly. She states it was made of the stucco popular at the time spread over wire mesh and is much too deteriorated to be moved or restored. It is a shame that this building cannot be moved into the cemetery and restored. When this is gone, our only memory of Electra and its early families will be Electra Cemetery.

Electra had a school house which was also used as the voting precinct and as a meeting place for the Masons. It was located south of the cemetery on the east side of 314-A across the side road that is just south of the Moose Lodge. Later a Masonic Lodge was built north of a later post office and general store on the east side of the road. These buildings no longer exist. Electra also had a large turpentine still.

The Harmony Baptist Church existed on property behind the cemetery. When this church was discontinued, the building was moved to Ocklawaha and was renovated into a house. Many of its members joined the Ocklawaha Bridge Baptist Church. I am told that some of the Forts and the Waters attended the Moss Bluff Church of God.

Before Highway 40 existed, the only route to Volusia County from Marion County was a dirt road that crossed 314-A north of Electra Cemetery, named Volusia Road. The portion of Volusia Road that ran from the west into 314-A was then called Electra Road, so named probably because it became the route the Waters and the Griggs had to travel into the community of Electra. Descendants remember the homes were called "Fields." They were referred to as fields because all were farmers. Waters Field and Griggs Field were located on Electra Road.

A short distance north of Electra Cemetery to the east of 314-A was Sellers Road. This certainly had to have gotten its name because it led to a Sellers home. There is still a Sellers Bear Hole on the Marion County maps. Directly east of Electra into Lake County (originally part of Marion County) is a Lake Sellers. It is probable both of these locations were Sellers’ homes.

Halford Field was located south of the cemetery and some current maps still show a Halford Lake. Halford Field was subdivided into Woods and Lakes Subdivision. The five arms of Lake Halford were each given a separate name when it was subdivided. Over the years the water has become so low that only years with much rain can one traverse the entire five arms of the original Halford Lake.

The original Pillans and Mock families lived on New Road which is a dirt road going west off of 314-A across from the Electra School, This New Road is about a half mile south of Electra Cemetery, just south of the Moose Lodge. It is believed that the Pillans owned land on both sides of 314-A.

Daniel Isaiah and Elinor Baker Fort, parents of Allen Baker Fort, lived south and west of the cemetery but off the road (off of 314-A) on New Road. Perhaps the original Fort home is designated by the Fort Bear Hole that is still on the maps of Marion County just east of Moss Bluff. It is known that Daniel Isaiah Fort’s parents settled in Moss Bluff in 1851/53. Each of the sons and the daughters and their husbands purchased nearby homesteads, Daniel moving four miles up the road from Moss Bluff to Electra.

Daniel Isaiah and Elinor Baker Fort’s daughter, Mary Jane Fort, married William Bowen and purchased their homestead, which is the property where Electra Cemetery is now located. Daniel Isaiah Fort had died just after 1880 and was buried in the Fort Family Cemetery on his Fort Field located on New Road. William Bowen died in 1885 and was buried on Bowen Field. His burial was probably the first burial on the property that became Electra Cemetery. His widow, Mary Jane Fort Bowen, and their children, and Mary Jane’s mother, also now a widow, moved from the area to live beside Mary Jane’s sister, Victoria L. Fort, in Columbia County, Florida. Therefore, neither wives were buried in Electra Cemetery. Daniel Isaiah Fort’s tombstone was found and has been moved from Fort Field into Electra Cemetery.

The earliest date of death on a tombstone in the cemetery is 1887 on a Waters grave. But we know William Bowen was buried there in 1885 without a stone. In 2004, Nettie Geneva Bowen, a granddaughter of William Bowen, purchased and placed a stone in the cemetery for William Bowen. Some folks have thought the Pillans began the cemetery. Others say the families just began the cemetery on forest land. But the forest was not created until 1908. This would have been 23 years after 1885. According to Marion County land records, the cemetery was begun on land owned by William Bowen.

It is remembered by various people that the following homes had their own private cemeteries: Griggs, Fort, Mock, and Sellers. At least one descendant of the Sellers family remembers a grave being moved into Electra Cemetery when the Sellers property was sold outside the family. The Griggs Cemetery still exists at Griggs Field.

Ocala National Forest was created in 1908 and at that time the Federal government bought up all of the land that folks would sell. The areas that are still privately owned are lands where the owners refused to sell. Thus, the Halford homestead property is still privately owned, some of the Hudnell property, some of the Fort property. But most of the original homesteads are now part of the Ocala National Forest. That is the reason the beautiful little community of Electra did not survive.

There are between 30 and 35 graves in Electra Cemetery with no tombstones. Twenty-one have been identified. In 2003, funds were donated by descendants and others and engraved granite markers were placed on these graves. Information will continue to be collected on the early families of Electra and we would appreciate hearing from anyone who can add to, or correct, any information presented here.

By studying the lives of our ancestors buried in Electra Cemetery, it replays for us in a small way what life was like for them in this community with its lovely name, Electra. Keeping in mind that Florida is now on its fourth cut of timber, imagine the large trees that were here when our earliest families arrived. We think the people who made Electra their home, with its many beautiful lakes and rivers, chose some of the most beautiful land in the World. We honor these early settlers by keeping their memory and their resting place a part of our present lives and by teaching all of their descendants the tradition of preserving this part of their history.

Written by:

Rose Marie Barker Nations

E-mail: [email protected]

17 March 2005