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Higher Learning

Kay’s mystery tour took us to the Walter Jones Historical Park in Mandarin. Open on Saturdays, it is staffed by gracious, knowledgeable, enthusiastic volunteers from the Mandarin area.

There are 10 acres of natural Florida landscape with huge oaks, magnolias, pines, and bay trees. But most important are the buildings on the property. The home of the Mandarin Historical Society itself is not old, but it is built in the style of early Florida structures. There is an original barn from 1876 and a farmhouse from 1875 in addition to the Losco Winery and the old Wheeler Sawmill.

But the real reason for going is definitely vintage: The one-room St. Joseph Mission Schoolhouse for African American Children built in 1898.

It is well preserved and sports original flooring, some wavy old glass panes in the windows, and wonderful pictures of the heroines of this story: The Sisters of St. Joseph from LePuy, France.

The nuns came at the call of then Bishop of St. Augustine, Bishop Verot, in 1866, for the express purpose of educating the recently freed slaves - especially the children. For their efforts, they were imprisoned for a short while in St. Augustine.

Signage in the building reveals the heroic efforts of these brave women and cites the great success they had in teaching these children to read and write, to understand math, and to realize how the big the world really is through geography and history.

Taught by the good sisters, these children (as well as many of their elders) had the opportunity for "higher learning" indeed! Such an inspirational story right there on Mandarin Road in our own city!

The Mandarin Museum houses treasures found on the recently excavated Union Transport Ship, the Maple Leaf, sunk by the Confederates in the St. Johns River during the Civil War. These artifacts supply so much information about life during that bitter time. Come and see for yourself.

There is a boardwalk nature trail that leads from the Museum out to the St. Johns River with picnic tables and a clean, well-stocked restroom facility along the way.Every part of the property and buildings are wheelchair accessible.

The huge tree canopy offers cooling shade and makes a picnic a good way to spend a morning with family and friends while visiting this fascinating Historical Park.

Call 255-7930 or visit for covered picnic pavilions reservations.

While you are there, be sure to ask about the Mandarin Frogs! It's a great story and shows that good people, willing to sacrifice and work for the well-being of others, abound in every period of our history—even today!

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