Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Hidden in the woods of the Croom Wildlife Management Area you'll find the forgotten ghost town of Oriole, that is if you know where to find it. The town of Oriole began when families began settling in the area back in the 1800's. These early settlers built farms and started orange groves and traded amongst themselves. In order to get to the area, many people would have take a ferry across the Withlacoochee River to get to this remote location. Eventually the first post office of Oriole was established in 1884 and a railroad line reached the town bringing in further growth. Around this time phosphate mining was a booming industry and the town got their mining permit in 1890 and operated in the industry until around 1915. The town's cemetery can still be seen today if you know where to look. It is known as both the Oriole Cemetery as well as the Giddens Homestead Cemetery. The Giddens family was one of the first families to settle in the area. The cemetery is believed to be the third oldest in Hernando County. Oriole was a small town with only about 100 people at its biggest. Just like many other small Florida towns the great freezes of 1894 and 1895 wiped out the majority of the crops that folks depended on for sustenance. An outbreak of influenza claimed many lives of settlers in the area, most of which were very young judging from the dates on many of the tombstones. Eventually the town of Oriole was abandoned but the land was used by ranchers who built homesteads during the 1900's to the mid 1920's while raising cattle and various crops. Remains from these homesteads can also be found in these woods, there's even a windmill that is still standing serving as a reminder of this bygone era.