March 8, 2023
Women’s History Month in Clay County
GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla – In March, we celebrate and honor Women’s History Month and in Clay County, women have made a significant contribution to the area. From creating international symbols to honor our military to establishing local property, longstanding churches and more. Their names and stories continue to live on within Clay County.
Let’s take a look at some of the most notable women that have contributed to Clay County’s history.
Orange Park’s Leading Lady
Carrie Clarke was an influential resident of Orange Park in the early 1900s. Among her credits, she was an active member of the Orange Park Garden Club and the Woman’s Club of Orange Park. She also is credited for helping start the First Baptist Church of Orange Park by holding Sunday School on her front porch in 1921. She helped purchase land for the first sanctuary at a county bankruptcy sale with a bid of $1.
Carrie Clarke was active in helping her husband plant, harvest and pack pecans for their family business – the Clarke’s Pecan Groves located on Kingsley Avenue in Orange Park.
Today, Carrie Clarke Day is celebrated every Spring at the Clarke House Park Playground and Clarke House, located on Kingsley Avenue in Orange Park. The Orange Park Historical Society offers an open house and tours of the Clarke House on the second Sunday of each month from 2 pm. to 4 p.m. The park’s massive playground is a popular attraction for families.
The Origin of Fleming Island and Hibernia
Passed down after the death of his father in 1821, Lewis Fleming owned 1,000-acres of property in Clay County known as Hibernia. He married his second wife, Margaret Seton Fleming in 1837. After the Civil War and the death of Lewis, Margaret Fleming converted the property’s plantation house into a tourist resort, attracting visitors along the St. Johns River. Her dream was to build a church on the Hibernia property. Construction began in 1875 and the church was named in honor of Saint Margaret of Scotland. The first service, held on April 6, 1878 was for Margaret Fleming’s funeral.
In 1880, the church was relocated to its current location in Fleming Island at 6874 Old Church Road. The impressive wooden Gothic Vernacular church has a memorial window to Margaret Fleming showing her teaching young children. The church’s adjacent cemetery serves as the final resting place for the Fleming family – George; Lewis; Margaret Fleming and their son, Francis P. Fleming, Florida Governor from 1889-1893.
Clay County’s Connection to the POW/MIA Flag
Orange Park resident, Mary Helen Hoff served as the inspiration for the POW/MIA flag after her husband, Navy Cmdr. Michael G. Hoff was shot down in combat and declared missing in Vietnam. Mrs. Hoff contacted a national flag maker and shared the idea of creating a flag for those military members that served, only never to return home. Moody Avenue in Orange Park received a Honorary Roadway Designation in her honor with an official plaque placed at Moody Avenue Park.
History Runs Deep in Clay with Anna Kingsley
As one of the major roadways in Clay County, Kingsley is a familiar name, however its namesake serves as an important piece of Clay County history. Born in 1793, Anna Kingsley was a slave from Senegal who eventually became the wife of plantation owner and slave trader Zephaniah Kingsley.
Once she was married, Anna became a slave owner herself, with farming property in Clay County named Laurel Grove with cotton being its main cash crop. Years later, they expanded the property to also include orange groves. Anna and Zephaniah Kingsley made their home along the St. Johns River in Clay County dating back to the early 1800s.
Other Notable Women Leaders in Clay County
Clay County’s own Civil Rights movement icon, Maude Jackson and Augusta Savage, one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance also have deep roots within our area. Learn more about both of these remarkable ladies in our Explore Clay blog highlighting Black History Month. To learn more about the people and places of Clay County or to plan your visit to the area, go to www.ExploreClay.com.