Last updateWed, 30 Nov 2016 11pm

Early Settlers to Northwest Alachua County Featured in New Book

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Kent Doke and Gerry Vaugn review materials used in producing “Pioneers of Northwest Alachua County, Florida. A group of 22 writers have collaborated for over six years in putting the 460-page book together. Today Photo/C.M. WALKER

ALACHUA COUNTY – Anyone interested in the history of the early settlers of Alachua County will be in for a treat. “Pioneers of Northwest Alachua County, Florida” is a historic compilation written by descendants of settlers to the northwest Alachua County area. Concentrating mostly on the areas north and south of County Road 236, family stories, histories of schools and churches long gone and humorous anecdotes about growing up in the Bland, Santa Fe, Sugar Hill and Traxler communities abound in this 460-page hardbound book.

Historical photos of those early settlers and a map showing where each family, church or school was located is also included in this comprehensive and entertaining book.

Some may wonder how so many family histories could have been compiled into one book and who took on the challenge of gathering folks together to compile such a comprehensive look at early northwest Alachua County. Kent Doke, a dapper 86-year-old Alachua resident with a deep, mellow voice one would expect to hear on National Public Radio, tackled the task of bringing everyone together and establishing some guidelines for the 22 writers who contributed to this historical tome.

“As chairman of the Alachua High School Reunion Group I earlier helped put together a history of the school, said Doke. “It was a nice little notebook which we donated to the Alachua Branch Library. They asked if they could digitize the notebook and we agreed,” he said.

“I asked a variety of people what they thought about doing a larger notebook to document some of the schools that disappeared so long ago, that the Alachua County School Board admitted they had never heard of them,” he said. “People seemed interested, but what finally got the process going was an elderly resident who finally said, 'Look, we're not going to live forever. When are you going to get this project going?'” As it turned out, she did not live to see the book completed, but she did contribute her family's history before she died, according to Doke.

“I would never have tackled this project if it hadn't been for Irene Bryant who agreed to dedicate the hours it took to help successfully complete the project,” said Doke. “She was a major contributor and editor, along with some other wonderful editors we had throughout the project.”

“We are in the process of wrapping it up now. We have a few stories that need final touches and we are contemplating listing the stories in chronological order.” If that's how they decide the articles will be listed, a story about the Spanish Mission, which was written by Doke, is likely to be the first article.

Although they didn't think to include these areas originally, it turned out that the area north of LaCrosse and the Newnansville area were mentioned in the stories.

Once the group met, they decided they had a rather exclusive setting right where they all lived. The Santa Fe River would be their northern border, “because if we crossed the river we would be in Union and Columbia counties,” said Doke. Due to the placement of the river separating the counties and because many original settlers' descendants remained in the area, “we believed we had a unique location in which to confine our efforts,” he said.

Doke and his group of 15-20 people first began their journey on May 26, 2010. “There were 11 families there and as time went by, other families heard about our efforts and offered to provide more articles, information and anecdotes,” he said. Some of these families have been in the area from when Florida was acquired from Spain.

The group met every third Wednesday of the month with the exception of December, “because people were busy with the holidays.” Oral tradition and storytelling is included along with factual information about who married whom and how many children they had.

Doke admitted these schools and families included in the book were for the most part white. “We have one black contributor,” he said. “The black population had already written a half dozen or so booklets about their history when we began the project. They were so far advanced that we felt we had better catch up,” he said.

The group was asked to list any ancestors who had held office in Florida or in the county somewhere, what their ancestors did for a living, identify where their family settled and when, include funny stories and anecdotes and generally tell the story of their families.

“There is a photo of a school class standing outside of the Bland school house,” said Doke. “All of the children in the row were barefooted except one child. The story goes that his mother found out in advance that school photos were being taken that day and that's why he had shoes on,” chuckled Doke. It's just one of many anecdotes included in the book.

“Of course the book will be available as long as we have them,” said Doke, “but pre-sales will help us determine how many books to print.”

“Pioneers of Northwest Alachua County, Florida” is planned to be printed and available for Christmas gift-giving. Anyone who wishes to order the book in advance may contact Martha Morton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Celita Withey at 386-454-1266. The cost is $35. Checks are to be made out to Celita Withey, Bland Notebook.

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Santa Fe High School student National Merit Finalist

ALACHUA – One of the 26 Alachua County Public School students that have been named semifinalists in the prestigious 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program (NMSP) is from Santa Fe High School. Seventeen-year-old Tiffany Triplett from High Springs is that student.

NMSP semifinalists are chosen based on their high scores on a college entrance exam. The program is run by the College Board, which administers the SAT.

Semifinalist status has long been recognized as a marker of academic excellence. To achieve semifinalist status, the students had to earn among the nation’s highest scores on the Preliminary SAT/National Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). This year more than 1.5 million students took the college entrance exam, with only 16,000 earning semifinalist status, placing them among the top one percent of high school seniors in the nation who took the exam. National Merit semifinalists are highly recruited by the nation’s colleges and universities.

“It's an honor to be one of the 16,000 chosen to be a semifinalist,” said Triplett. “My father works for an internet service provider as a service technician and my mother works for an eye doctor as an ophthalmic technician in Gainesville. They are both very proud and share my academic achievements with the rest of our family,” she said.

“In order to become a finalist, you have to apply,” she said. I'm hoping to get that distinction. It can really help with scholarships. College is costly and I intend to go to graduate school so to have some of my undergraduate degree covered by scholarships would help me out quite a bit,” she said.

Triplett, who will graduate June 2016, wants to get her undergraduate degree in science and nursing. Her graduate school options are still open, but her undergraduate degree will qualify her to go into advanced practice nursing or to become a nurse anesthetist, a nurse practitioner, a physicians assistant or even apply to medical school.

In addition to Triplett, 25 others were named in Alachua County. Buchholz High School has 11 of this year’s semifinalists. Nine of the district’s semifinalists attend Eastside High School and five are students at Gainesville High School.

The students named semifinalists are now eligible to become National Merit Finalists. In addition to earning high SAT scores, the students must also have high grades, teacher recommendations and write an essay to achieve finalist status. Finalists will be announced in the spring and are eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarships provided by businesses, colleges, universities and other organizations.

This year’s semifinalists in addition to Tiffany Triplett of Santa Fe High School are Christopher Campo, Tawhid Khan, Elijah Killingsworth, Eugene Kim, Kim-Anh Nguyen, Marie Shiau, Joanna Song, Thor Stead, Harish Vemuri, Elizabeth Woodward and Jason Zhang of Buchholz High School; Celena Dong, Amber Gillette, Marisa Hobert, Sahar Kaleem, Stephanie Lampotang, Dacheng Li, Patrick Rao, Tanner Ropp and Risham Sidhu of Eastside High School; and Thomas Kemp, Logan Locascio, William Reneke, Elizabeth Scott and Alexander Shuping of Gainesville High School.

Four Eastside students, two Gainesville High students and three Buchholz students were also honored in the National Hispanic Recognition Program, which is also coordinated by the College Board and based on high PSAT/NMSQT scores. They are Marisa Hobert, Taylor Kyes, Luz Rosales and Neil Hare of Eastside High School, Thomas Kemp and William Reneke of Gainesville High School and Dupee Spencer, Elijah Killingsworth and Thor Stead of Buchholz High School. They are among the 5,000 top scorers of the 250,000 Hispanic/Latino students who took the test.

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Alachua Woman Battered by Ex-Boyfriend

ALACHUA – The Alachua Police Department (APD) responded to a reported burglary and domestic abuse at 2:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 15. The female victim reported she had been battered by her ex-boyfriend.

According to an APD report, “Montravis Devon English entered [the victim’s] residence through a window located in a child's bedroom. Once inside, English proceeded to strike the victim in the head, face, chest, and back causing injury. English then used a stun gun on the victim before she was able to break free from the residence.”

When officers arrived, English barricaded himself inside the residence and armed himself with a knife, refusing officer’s commands to come out of the home.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) and the High Springs Police Department responded to assist. An ACSO crisis negotiator talked with English, who eventually surrendered.

Once English was detained, officers entered the residence and found that clothing, furniture, and other items inside had been destroyed by English.

The victim's three children, ages three, four and five, were in the home, located near Sherwood Oaks Apartments, during the attack, but were uninjured. The victim received medical attention at the scene, but was not hospitalized according to Sgt. Jesse Sandusky, APD Public Information Officer.

English was arrested and charged with Burglary, Domestic Battery, and Criminal Mischief. He remains at the Alachua County Jail on a $100,000 bond.

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Newberry Lions Club Hosts Community Yard Sale

NEWBERRY – Gator gear, lawn chairs, power tools, electronics and kitchen cookware could be found among an abundance of other knickknacks and treasures at a community yard sale at the Newberry Lions Clubhouse.

The club rented out 10 feet by 10 feet spaces to community members from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1.

The Lions Club, a service organization with a long history of service to those who are blind or partially sighted, also supports humanitarian efforts worldwide. The club held the yard sale as part of their monthly yard sale series to raise funds and provide community service opportunities for civic-minded individuals.

Membership Chairman Liz Jett, who joined the Newberry Lions Club in 2014, said the yard sales start in fall, and continue for about once a month into the spring.

The yard sale has two goals, according to Jett, and that is to raise funds and provide a community service.

“Whatever people sell and earn is theirs,” Jett said. “The $15 lot rent fee is the only thing we earn.”

The majority of the available spaces were occupied. The funds support maintaining the grounds and club house, and the yard sale provides a place for citizens to engage with the community and sell an assortment of items, including homemade products.

President of Newberry Lions Club Kem McIntosh said the yard sale raised several hundred dollars.

“We give people a chance to get out there and we are affecting people’s lives in a positive way,” he said. “A lot of people are just a member of a club to be a member, but you become alive when you really get involved and can experience the positive impact on people.”

The next yard sale will be held Saturday, Nov. 5. Further updates on the yard sales and other Newberry Lions Club events can be found on the Newberry Lions Club Facebook page and at Newberry City Commission meetings.

Numerous people with different backgrounds such as teaching, the medical field, cosmetology, and even retirees unite in the Lions Club to live up to the club’s motto of “We Serve,” said Jett.

Jett, also known as the “Tail-Twister,” keeps events and meetings fun in addition to raising awareness about the purpose of the Lions Club and providing community service.

“We’ll do trivia games, and games that encourage empathy for the blind,” she said.

The Lions Club of Newberry was established on Mar. 25, 1943, making it one of the oldest active clubs in Florida. The Newberry Lions Club also extends toward the Town of Tioga, Jonesville, Trenton and Archer.

The Lions Club program was founded in Chicago in 1917 by humanitarian Melvin Jones, making the centennial celebration next year for Lions Clubs around the world.

Meeting for the Lions Club of Newberry are held the second and fourth Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the clubhouse located at 25847 W Newberry Road, Newberry.

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High Springs Man Arrested on Burglary Charge

HIGH SPRINGS – A 20-year-old High Springs man remains in jail under $15,000 bond on suspicion of burglarizing an Ice Cube Express self-service ice machine.

Ashton Thomas Hess, was arrested by High Springs Police Department (HSPD) officers and was taken to the Alachua County Jail on Friday.

The machine, located at Poe Springs Road and High Springs Main St., 18232 N.W. 237th Street, has experienced several burglaries over the past few weeks. As a result, HSPD encouraged the business owner to install surveillance cameras at the location.

On Sept. 9 at approximately 2 a.m., the suspect struck the business and successfully stole approximately $30 from the ice machine. According to HSPD, the defendant was captured on video surveillance and was subsequently identified. Less than 10 hours after the burglary occurred, Hess was booked into the jail on charges of Burglary and Petit Theft.

At the time of this report, Hess remains unsentenced. HSPD is investigating two other burglaries at the same location on Sept. 3 and 5. The suspect was unarmed at the time of his arrest according to his jail intake documents.

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