Clegg Holden House Interview #1 at Holden House
Kent: Today is June 13, 2001. This is Judith Kent speaking from the Holden House in Bunnell, Florida. Library Director Doug Cisney, photographer William Ryan and I are here to record an interview with local historian John A. Clegg. We are on the second floor of the house where the Historical Society has displayed a number of old photographs depicting Flagler County History. Mr. Clegg has agreed to comment on some of these from his rich store of memories.
Clegg: We’re about to get the train back now. [Indicating the Bunnell photo.]
Clegg: It will probably be a few years before they get all the stations built.
Clegg: This is Dupont. Up until 1917, this was part of Volusia County. And when they were developing, (just as when they developed Palm Coast ) they did it in the same way. They brought people down by train and they kept them here in the hotel.
And they had the railroad that ran out through the country to the farms and they sold forty-acre farms. And they had a sawmill at Dupont. And this was the interior… two interiors of the hotel.
Cisney: Tell me why there was so much wood.
Clegg: Yes, well it was readily available and cheap. They had a sawmill and a planing mill, I guess. is some of the farm scenes. This is some of the farm scenes. The train went out through the farm sections. Each farmer had a siding and they would load the potatoes in barrels. This was the shopping center. It was a store, I guess with living quarters upstairs. I don’t know.
Cisney: What is that?
Clegg: There were two big buildings there. I believe that was the manager’s residence. It wasn’t as big as that one [the hotel] but it was quite ostentatious. It’s all gone now.
I don’t come up here very often, but all those [framed photos] are mine. I just brought them here to fill up a wall. I doubt if I’ll take them back. I just had them in my office, some of the public figures that I’ve been friendly with.
Cisney: You were president of the bank, right?
Clegg: Yes that was an accomplishment for a number of years.
This man ran for lieutenant governor, [points to photos] this was a senator. These are a couple of senators and state representatives and the top people from the state. They had a Chamber of Commerce here and they decided they were going to run… I forget the man’s name now. But they picked the candidate for governor at this meeting and he ran for governor and got elected.
Kent: That looks like it might be Flagler Beach [Florida]. Is that the pier?
Clegg: Yes that’s the pier at Flagler Beach. I built (I say I built) I was president when we built that bank there right at the pier.
And these are… I started this file of clippings, pictures, letters and so forth on different subjects. I don’t think anybody is keeping it up now, but at least we started it. We have a lot of information on the Princes Place. You could write a whole book on it. I don’t know if we will put it together. Well, we might. Anyway, we saved all that stuff. Al Hadeed Al Hadeed is very much interested in history. And when they were researching for the museum, he came across all this information on that part of Flagler County. Here’s some profiles on Raymon Tucker, some of the Moodys, and so forth.
These were copies of the pictures, sketches in my book.
And, this is Korona, a little Polish community about five miles south of here.
Korona- the people back in Detroit (most of them came from Detroit) bought the land in Korona. Bought the whole parcel of land, divided it up among themselves, put the money up, brought their priest and brought the money for the church. They came and it was the earliest church in Flagler County. This chapel was built about 1914- 15. It doesn’t say there. They’re all Polish. There is still a Polish Catholic Church. The Polish people from Daytona and Ormond all come there for Polish service. And they had (I guess he still lives there) they had a Polish priest there for quite some time who was a roommate of the Pope when they were in Poland as college students- seminary students. They call him Monsignor now, but he would always get letters and birthday greetings from the Pope. I think he still lives there, but I don’t think he conducts services anymore.
Kent: So that was another development like Dupont.
Clegg: Well, a separate and unusual type of development in that they planned everything before they came and saw it. And the last person who came [the original settlers from Detroit] died last year. Her father built this; they called it the White Eagle Hotel. They had their dances there, their socials, the church socials and everything that went on. That was the community center but the upstairs was the hotel. And when they built US 1 through there, they tore down the hotel. They have a White Eagle bar there now. They still use the name. But the last person who came from Detroit died last year.
You sure don’t get much air up here. These are files and some materials from the Princess Place.
Cisney: I have some at the Library too, from Al Hadeed’s research.
Clegg: These are some pamphlets, some old high school [year] books. A good many of them are mine I think… pamphlets and so forth collected over the years.
There are about three or four people [living] who knew the Princess. And of course, we are all in our eighties. And I interviewed her when she sold the Princess Place to Lewis Wadsworth and wrote a story for the newspaper. I think there is a copy here, of that story. She was very regal and a beautiful woman. She was 93 years old when she sold the house. And she couldn’t live in it. It didn’t have electric, it didn’t have running water. Of course, Lewis Wadsworth had all that put in when he bought it. But it wasn’t fit… she couldn’t live that way. She had a home two homes in St. Augustine. One she lived in, and one she kept her world travels… things she picked up in foreign countries. In the Princess Place, she left beautiful crystal and china and works of art… a lot of good paintings. Lewis Wadsworth had some appraisal firm from New York come down when he bought it. The paintings and stuff that were in the house… tapestries that she picked up in Pakistan and so forth and all of that material was worth more than he paid for the whole property. She made me… I had to stand up the whole time I was talking to her and I didn’t do much talking. If I asked her a question and she wanted to she would answer. If she didn’t, she talked about something else. She wouldn’t talk about her second marriage, her peculiar second marriage. Donna Wadsworth who lived right next door to the Princess Place, she says that she had been through the Princess’ papers (a trunk full of papers) and found the divorce from her second husband. It specifies that he couldn’t ever get married again.
Clegg: See the pictures out here? That was the old [Florida East Coast] railway station. That was a signal that they had, a post up here. And they put the mail out there on a hanger on that post. When the trains came by they would grab it and didn’t have to stop to pick up the mail. That was after they stopped… after there wasn’t much passenger service. They [railway union workers] went on strike (I don’t remember what year) but they went on strike. Dupont’s son-in-law,
Ed Ball said, “Were going to beat the strike!” They fought for years and he won. It is still a non-union railroad. People quit riding the trains because they were afraid to. And that was what he [Ed Ball] wanted¾ to get rid of the passenger trains¾ because they lost money. He just wanted the freight. They [people] stopped riding the trains so he got rid of the passenger trains. They [union forces] would blow up the tracks and the engines, so he ran a car ahead to determine where the track was damaged and to watch and spot people who were going to shoot at it or something like that. It went on for years but he kept it non-union.
This was the original bathroom. It hasn’t been restored yet. We still have the original fixtures like the old claw bathtub. We’ll probably, well not me, but somebody will restore it someday.
This was downtown Bunnell about 1912 or 15, somewhere along there. That is the Bunnell State Bank. That building is still there. That’s Dunn Lumber and Supply now. All those houses were here. This was another hotel. And they’re making an effort now trying to get the town restored… this street, because these were where all the leaders of the community lived, along this street. They had nice houses.
This room belongs to the Bunnell Pioneers, people who are interested in keeping up the history and traditions of the past. They’re all too old to use it any more, but we still leave the room here and the old furniture. Helen Deen is from two of the old families; she married into an old family. She was the leader of the Pioneers. I think that was her wedding dress, anyway she gave it to them.
There used to be a sign over this door. We call this the Tribune Room. Those are [bound] copies of the Flagler Tribune (from about 1917 I believe) until the News Journal bought it.
Ryan: Those are valuable. Have they ever been recorded on microfilm?
Clegg: Yes, the University of Florida did it last year.
Note: The Flagler Public Library later obtained a complete set of the recorded microfilms which may now be viewed at the Flagler Public Library.
Clegg: I don’t know whether… I thought there were two recordings. One was going to the library and the other was to be kept here. I haven’t seen one, so…
Ryan: I wonder if it ended up in Tallahassee.
Clegg: I don’t know who got it.
Cisney: Let’s check on it, because that would be great to have.
Ryan: Was it put on microfilm or microfiche?
Clegg: I’m not sure how they did it, but they have some kind of machine that you put it through a reader.
Ryan: Probably microfilms.
Cisney: How would I find out about where that went? Do you know?
Clegg: There is Jesse Mc Knight…[he might know.]
I was editor, owner and editor of, oh it was called before 1917, before we became a county it was called the St. John’s Tribune and in 1917 it became the Flagler Tribune.
Are those law books over there? What are those? I’ve never seen those before.
Ryan: Tax collector receipts. Historically they are very valuable because they tell who was living here.
Clegg: This was the original typewriter that was in the… when I bought it they still had it. They didn’t use it but they still had it so we just kept it.
Cisney: That’s from the newspaper? [Points to photo]
Clegg: This was the president of ITT- not ITT but ICDC. Dr, what was his name?
Kent: Dr. Young?
Clegg: Young! This was Dr. Young. He was Jewish and he had valuable books, collections that he was going to give for a library. He got run out, so he never gave them. He had an idea of building over there a multi-storied church, a church building and all churches would use that one building. Totally impractical because most of the Protestant churches meet from ten to twelve and there is no way you could have enough parking for them, or big enough auditoriums, or enough auditoriums. He was going to make this a research center for the Jewish library for the whole state of Florida.
Kent: Well, we thank you for the tour. There is a lot of interesting stuff here.
Clegg: We need some younger people to carry it on because there aren’t many younger people interested in the county history. I’m sure there will be. I wrote my autobiography and some of my family… the children of the family just read it. And the parents told us they couldn’t get them to do anything until they finished reading it. They were just so excited about there past. They haven’t been encouraged to become historians yet.
Cisney: Sometimes it takes a while, it really does. Until you have children and whatever of your own…
Kent: Well, in the meantime, I think with Bill’s photography and skills with recording that kind of information, we can step into the breach.
Ryan: This isn’t the first time that I have done this.
Clegg: No, I expect not.
Ryan: I was a general assignment reporter for the Buffalo Evening News in Buffalo New York for a few years.
Clegg: Snow country! I always watch the news when they have a storm to see how much snow they get in Buffalo. [Laughter]
I have a purpose forgetting when you get to be 83…Oh, I was going to say, in my deed of my home (the property), I stated I would like to see a county… a Flagler historical center maintained. And I plan to leave all of my books and collections to the library because I don’t know how long this is going to last [Holden House].
Ryan: I think that a good idea, I agree with you 100%.
Clegg: Maybe they will get this [Holden House]. The county owns this. The Historical Society has a lease and nearly everybody on the board is over 80 years old, and there aren’t any younger ones coming along to take over. So I don’t know what we will do when the lease is up. The county wants this spot. This whole… they own this next door and this little building back here. They [county officials] want to build- they were going to build an administrative building here, now they might get the old hospital and turn it into administration [offices].
Cisney: I read about that in the paper.
Clegg: I was talking to somebody yesterday and they were very much opposed to that. He says they should build a new building and put it out in Palm Coast. A new building would cost them about ten times what remodeling the old hospital would cost them. I don’t believe- Palm Coast won’t pay that extra tax.
Cisney: Well, I think if they used the old hospital they could take all the departments and pull them together. It would probably help them out as it grows and gets more county staff.
Clegg: They’re all separated in little buildings. I had lunch with the Manager¾ County Manager one day one day this week. He said it is hard to organize when everybody is in a different location. I guess all he has there is the planning- the County Planner is in there, I believe. I don’t know who that is now. The County Attorney is off in a little temporary trailer building. The Emergency Services are out in the old stockade.
Cisney: They have very cramped quarters, too, very small.
Clegg: The Building Department is in the old equipment shed. They just built walls around it and put some additions on it. They used it for offices before they could get [something] better and they never got better.
Cisney: Well, Veteran’s Services is here, right?
Clegg: Yes, Veteran’s Services is right back here. You can see it is all scattered around and hard to administer.
All three cities [Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, and Bunnell] refused to go along with the fire department plan. I think they’re all making a mistake. One fire department for the county would be much better, much more economical, better to organize, administer. But, all three cities turned it down- jealous of their little domains. And I think that with one police unit for the whole county we would be better off. Bunnell is having so much trouble with their police department that they might be receptive to turning it over.
Kent: Timing is everything.[ Taping ends ]
Interviewee: John A. Clegg
John A. Clegg is a prominent citizen of Flagler County. His grandparents arrived in the area in 1900 and John was born in their home in 1918. His early years were spent in Haw Creek, which he still thinks of as “home”. He graduated from the University of Florida with undergraduate and master’s degrees in Education with majors in history and social studies and a minor in English. He served with honor in the United States Army during World War II. Following the war, he found work as a high school English and history teacher in Fort Meade, Florida. When only twenty-six he was asked to serve as superintendent of Schools for Flagler County. After completing a successful four-year term, he left that position for a career in business to better provide for his family. He was active in local retail commerce, banking and owned and edited the Flagler Tribune. He also served two terms as County Commissioner. He has maintained an active interest in the history of the region, and is the author of two books, The History of Flagler County and My First Seventy-Five Years. He is now retired and living at his home in Bunnell where he remains active in church and civic organizations. In spite of recent health problems he continues to enjoy travel and his many friends in the community.
Credibility of interviewee:
Mr. Clegg’s memories and opinions are his own and can not be fully validated by the volunteer team that has recorded them. Mr. Clegg candidly describes undergoing a stroke, serious auto crash, and depression within the last several years. All of these conditions have been successfully treated and do not seem to impair his intellect, memory or judgment. The events, dates and persons that he describes seem consistent with other historical accounts. We therefore believe him to be a highly credible source.
Interviewer: Judith J. Kent
Ms. Kent is a member of the Friends of the Library of Flagler County who has volunteered to participate in the Historical Project as an interviewer. A resident of the county since 1995, she is a retired nurse educator. She gained her interviewing skills in her undergraduate nursing studies at FSU and master’s program at Teacher’s College, Columbia University where she majored in Counseling. Throughout her thirty years of professional nursing and teaching, these skills were practiced in both inpatient and community settings of the baccalaureate-nursing program of the University of Miami.
Photographer: William Ryan
William Ryan’s concern for preserving Flagler County historical documents and photos was the impetus for the Library’s History Project. Mr. Ryan is a graduate of the University of Buffalo. He has had a varied career in journalism and photography. He was a reporter for The Buffalo Evening News, editor of technical publications and magazines for Ansco Photographic, then CEO of several professional/technical companies in the professional photography area. Prior to retiring to Palm Coast he was the owner and CEO of a company specializing in digital photographic recording. He was a national program lecturer and teacher for The Professional Photographers of America, holding a “Craftsman Degree” in that organization. He did research in the beginning days of the Internet, and followed its progress to the present time. His expertise in photography and related technology are apparent in the website that he created for Flagler County.He is an active and valued member of the Friends of the Library.
Also participating in Interview 1: Flagler County Public Library Director, Doug Cisney.
Schedule of interviews:
- June 13, 2001 Conducted at Holden House in Bunnell, FL
- June 21, 2001 Conducted at the Flagler County Public Library at Palm Coast, FL
Blount, Robert S. Spirits of Turpentine: A History of Florida Naval Stores 1528 to 1950. Florida Journal Monograph, Number Three. Florida Agricultural Museum. Tallahassee, Florida. 1993.
Clegg, John A. A History of Flagler County. John A. Clegg. Bunnell, Florida, 1976.
Clegg, John A. My First Seventy-five Years. John A. Clegg. Bunnell, Florida, 1993.
Dupont Land Co. Haw Creek: Florida’s Call to the Farmer. Dupont Land Co. Dupont, Florida.1920(?).
Holland, Mary Ketus Deen, Ed. Unto This Land: A History of the St. Johns Park Area of Flagler County. St. Johns Park Pioneers. Bunnell, Florida,1987.
Otterbein, Naomi and Helbing, Donna, Flagler County School Board. Flagler, the Everything County. North East Florida Educational Consortium, 1980.
Tucker, Gilbert A. Before the Timber Was Cut. Gilbert A. Tucker, Bunnell, Florida, 1999.