St. Johns County, Florida
St. Johns River
Tocoi comes from a Native American word for Water Lily. During the 1st Spanish Period this was the home of
Franciscan mission called San Diego de Salamototo.
Building the St. Johns Railway
In 1858 the St. Johns Railway was chartered. This would be the alternative to the ocean voyage over the bar or the trip
to Picolata and the ride on the stage. James Westcott, a civil engineer who resided in St. Augustine, surveyed the
railroad alignment and served as president of the company. In August 1859, Tocoi resident Richard Floyd deeded the
company property for a depot and farther inland Francis Ferrira and John Hanson conveyed 800-foot rights-of-way for
the alignment to extend through their respective properties. The land was graded from Tocoi to a mile and a quarter
from the city limit. Track was laid for five and a half miles, new freight cars were ordered along with a passenger salon
from Murphy & Allison Manufactures in Philadelphia and finally a steam engine but the Civil War interrupted the
construction and the iron rail was hauled away by the United States Army and Navy.
In 1860, the schooner J. B. Bleeker had navigated the river to Tocoi, where it delivered railroad tracks, spikes, and
rolling stock for the nascent St. Johns Railway, a harbinger that would spell the end of the steamboat era within several
In 1862 the Ottawa, Seneca, and Pembia sailed up the St. Johns and demolished the railroad dock, burned the
company's rolling stock, tore apart the steam engine and took the rails to Hilton Head.
John Steinbeck (the grandfather of the famous writer John Steinbeck) lived in Tocoi in the 1850s. His wife was Emily and
he had two sons Charles and Albert on the 1860 census. He was impressed into Confederate service during the Civil
War, taken prisoner and paroled. His son John Steinbeck was born in Florida in 1862.
After the War
In 1871 construction started again on the railway. With a shortage of metal the tracks were made of wood covered with
strips of iron. The rail cars were pulled by either horses or mules and the trip of fifteen-miles took from four to five hours.
Tickets were $2
Dr. John Westcott
Dr. John Westcott (1807-1888) the former surveyor-general of Florida decided that this route was shorter to St.
Augustine than the Picolata route. Prior to the civil war the 15 mile St. Johns Railway had been built from Tocoi, on the
St. John's River to St. Augustine. During 1876, after being purchased by William Astor, the line was rehabilitated with
steel rails, supplanting those of wood and scrap iron, and steam locomotives displacing temperamental mule power."
The Tocoi Railroad (Palmetto-Leaves by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1873)
On landing, we found that we must pay for the pleasure and coolness of coming up river in "The Florence" by waiting
two or three mortal hours till "The Starlight" arrived; for the railroad-car would not start till the full complement of
passengers was secured. We had a good opportunity then of testing what the heat of a Florida sun might be,
untempered by live-oaks and orange shades, and unalleviated by ice-water; and the lesson was an impressive one.
The railroad across to St. Augustine is made of wooden rails; and the cars are drawn by horses.
There was one handsome car like those used on the New-York horse-railroads; the others were the roughest things
imaginable. Travellers have usually spoken of this road with execration for its slowness and roughness; but over this,
such as it was, all the rank and fashion of our pleasure-seekers, the last winter, have been pouring in unbroken daily
streams. In the height of the season, when the cars were crowded, four hours were said to be consumed in performing
this fifteen miles. We, however, did it in about two.
The Great South by Edward King (1875)
Crossing the river to Picolata, a wharf with a prospective town, the steamer follows the eastern bank until it arrives at
Tocoi, whence an extempore horse-railway conducts the traveler to St. Augustine. The traveler was formerly condemned
to journey from Picolata to St. Augustine, over a terrible road, through cypress clumps and masses of briars, and
palmettos, in a species of volante, in which his bones were so racked that he rarely recovered before it was time to
make the journey again.
Out through a seemingly interminable forest leads a straight road, bordered here by pines, and there by the palmettos
which spring in dense beds from the rolling ground. There is a little group of houses at Tocoi, and along the river bank,
under the shade of the beautiful moss-hung oaks, several Northerners have established charming homes. A few miles
back from the river, on either side, are good sugar-lands, and the negroes about the station are munching stalks of
cane. An old mill near by is half-buried under a wilderness of tropical vegetation. At intervals in the forest, palm-trees
shoot up their slender, graceful trunks.
It is eighteen miles from Tocoi to St. Augustine. The journey is made partly on iron, partly on wooden rails; but is
comfortable, and affords one an excellent chance to see a veritable Florida back-country. There is not a house along
the route; hardly a sign of life. Sometimes the roll of the wheels startles an alligator who has been napping on the track;
and once, the conductor says, they found two little brown bears asleep in the run directly in their path.
Florida It's Scenery, climate, and History by Sidney Lanier, 1876
About five miles above [from Picolata] (these river-distances are always to be regarded, indeed, as involving an "about"
of a couple of miles or so) is Tocoi, where the St. Johns Railway takes on passengers for St. Augustine, fifteen miles
distant. The name Tocoi is probably the same as Toccoa, the Creek name of the famous falls in Georgia, and indicates
the derivation of the Seminoles (whose name is said to mean "runaway") from the Creek tribe. Here is a factory for
preparing the gray moss for market.
Some of the Steamers that would land in Tocoi
Dictator, City Point, Lizzie Baker, Brocks Line, Florence, Darlington, and Hattie.
Spanish Moss Factory
One of the side industries of Tocoi was having a "Spanish Moss Factory". The moss was dried, debugged and put to
use as stuffing inside
Sale (St. Augustine Evening Record July 24, 1903)
Mr. E. L. Barnes has just sold the Skidmore tract of timber land at Tocoi to James A. McDonald, of Racey Point. There
are 1,250 acres in the piece and the consideration was $1,250 or $1 per acre.
U. J. White Died Last Night After Lengthy Illness (St. Augustine Evening Record, February 21, 1917)
Utley James White passed into the Great Beyond last evening, about 6 o'clock. He had been seriously ill for several
months but from each sinking spell he would rally and arouse new hopes for recovery. His condition became critical
during the past two week, and he was moved from his home on Anastasia island to the East Coast Hospital. His life was
undoubtedly prolongued by expert care, and he was kept from suffering. His death was sudden, despite the fact that no
hope was entertained for his recovery. He seemed to be feeling better yesterday and enjoyed his meals. He was
conscious almost up to the last and passed away painlessly.
Mr. White was one of the pioneer residents and developers of this section. He was born at Brockport, N. Y. 72 years
agao and he with his family came to St. Augustine 41 years ago. They located at Tocoi for about a year and Mr. White
during that time laid the iron rails from Tocoi to this city, completing the first railway to serve the Ancient City. Mr. White
also brought the first train to St. Augustine, being in charge of the initial trip of the train from Tocoi. Mr. White and family
moved into St. Augustine and resided here several years before moving to San Mateo, where Mr. White engaged in
logging business. He built the logging railroad from Rolleston to the Tomoka river and this subsequently became part of
the F.E.C. System. Mr. White also was one of the pioneer developers of Ormond, of Hastings and of Dupont. He owned
a large tract at Hastings, then known as Merrifield, and this tract was drained and planted in Irish demonstrating the
worth of the soil at Hastings. Mr. White sold his land in Hastings and turned his attention to Dupont, where he acquired a
vast tract of land. With his usual energy and foresight he devoted himself to the task of making the land produce. He
engaged in farming, turpentining and logging. In 1912 a land company located in Pennsylvania purchased the Dupont
holdings entire and Mr. White retired from active business, oving with his family to St. Augustine. They built a palatial
home on Anastasia island, and also acquired considerable property there, which they proceeded to improve.
Mr. White was not only a keen business man and a great developer, but he was of a most genial disposition and was
esteemed for his many sterling qualities and kindly nature as much as for his integrity and business acumen. St.
Augustine loses one of her formost citizens in the death of Mr. White.
Mr. White is survived by his wife and one daughter, Miss Lilla, also by one sister, Mrs. W. H. Erwin, a resident of
The funeral will be held tomorrow morning at 10:30 o'clock from the family residence on Anastasia island. Rev. I. F.
Hindry, of Trinity Episcopal church, will conduct the services. Moulton & Kyle, of Jacksonville are the undertakers in
charge. The interment will be at Evergreen Cemetery.
Mr. White was a member of Ashlar Lodge, F and A. M., and the Masons will also conduct a service following the church
Frustrate Attempt to Wreck Train (Gulfport Daily Herald, July 25, 1922)
Officials of the Florida East Coast railway today announced that a section foreman frustrated a deliberate attempt to
wreck a passenger train at Tocoi Junction. The foreman discovered the switch lock had been filed and broken and the
switch thrown and propped open with a piece of wood.
The Fishing Village
By 1939 Tocoi was a fishing settlement with a population of 8.
|State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/24483
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
With the General Sedgwick
|St. Augustine Examiner
January 7, 1860
St. Augustine Examiner
Nov 12, 1859
|St. Johns County Communities