Pine Castle Pioneer Days, 1974


Early Conway
by Mrs.Eulene Mizell Smith

I first saw the light of day in a rude log structure on the place where Mrs. Joe Barber now lives. Neighbors were few and far between, and the coming of an infant occasioned some visiting to welcome the newcomer, and I am told I was no exception. The whole country was as nature had planted it except for the few farms opened up. The deer and turkey were bountiful and cattle ranged and roamed at freedom. Cotton, sweet potatoes, and corn were the principal crops and everyone had a vegetable garden. Extreme neighborliness existed. When one went to call on a neighbor and visited the gardens there, if there was anything there the didn't have in their garden, they were told to help themselves.

Conway was then called "Prospect.". Who named it that or later who gave it the name of "Conway," I do not know. The social life centered around a log structure of small dimensions built in 1875. It was located in the northeast corner of the present Methodist church lot, and was called the church and schoolhouse. It had wooden shutters and the seats were of the crudest make. The winters were then mild and during the school period in winter if it was thought cold enough to justify it there would be a pine knot fire built outside and a few of the children let out at a time to get warm. They were supposed to take their books and study, but of that there was little done. There were no passers-by, so there was no reason why that couldn't have been done. Later on, a stick and dirt chimney was added to this building and a few desks put in. The swallows would nest in this chimney and on Sundays when some good saint would be talking, they would burst forth in song much to the merriment of the younger set. Mr. John S. Ball, one of the early teachers of this school, was a social leader as well. He, being a singer of some note and not having any musical instruments, he would raise the tune with a tuning fork. Notes were used, but at times it would take several efforts to get the exact note shaped.

Prayer meetings would be held at the neighbors' houses during the week, usually on Wednesday night. Each one had worked hard hoeing or plowing his crop. But all that would be forgotten when they got to singing "Shall We Gather at the River" or "There's a Land That is Fairer Than Day" from the only book called The Temple Harp. Usually the people would walk to these places as the animals would be too tired from their part of the day's program.

The roads in the early days were repaired by the local citizens. The county officials would appoint the date that each man would give a day's work on the road. If a tree fell on the road, a detour would me made until the time came for that stretch of road to be repaired. New progressive citizens came in and it was found necessary to have a real church and schoolhouse. It took much sacrifice and hard work to get them ready for use and it was a proud day when we moved into a framed building.

About this time a colony of Englishmen came in also who opened up East Conway. They planted groves and built houses. Everything was going merrily along when the freeze of '95 came. That proved a disaster such as only those who passed though it know. Homes and groves were abandoned and lots of these places were later sold for taxes. Later on we had another freeze, but it didn't prove nearly so disastrous for people had gotten on a more stable footing.

Since the Conway, like other parts of Florida, has been steadily climbing and I can foresee for her a great future with all the men and women who are working to make a community that all Florida will be proud of. When I ride over the hard-surfaced roads and see beautiful homes all along the way where I used to see cows and hogs roaming, I can hardly think I am in the same spot where I arrived many years ago.

Mrs. Eulene Mizell Smith was born in 1872 and died in December 1954, aged 82.
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