Live Oak

  • Suwannee County
  • Year Founded: 1859
  • Founded by: Unknown

Story of City’s Founding

In 1857 construction began on an east-west railroad, known as the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad Line, across North Florida, and it was completed in 1861. Near the center of Suwannee County, close to the intersection of present-day Conner Street and Houston Avenue, this railroad passed a particularly massive live oak tree and pond. According to old histories, this was a favorite stopping point on an military road that from varying accounts began in Suwannee Springs, White Springs, or even Georgia, and led to the Gulf of Mexico. This military road was more commonly known as the Old Salt Road, because it led to Deadman’s Bay on the Gulf, a popular area for retrieving salt to be used for the preservation of foods. Settlers and railroad workers would stop at the large live oak tree to rest in the shade, eat their lunches, and water their horses. When asked where to eat, they would say to meet at “the live oak.” When a railroad station was erected near the tree, it seemed only natural to call the station and the surrounding community “Live Oak.”

Little Known Facts

  • In the first years of the 20th Century, Live Oak was the fifth largest city, and largest inland city, in all of Florida
  • Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Paine), a conspirator in President Abraham Lincoln’s murder and the man who wounded Secretary of State William Seward, was from Live Oak
  • The Suwannee Hospital was the first hospital built under the Hill-Burton Act (also known as the Hospital Survey and Construction Act) of 1946 that provided federal funding to improve hospital service to American citizens
    According to several sources, the first automobile owner in Florida was Thomas Dowling, Live Oak operator of railroads, sawmills, and other businesses. Part of his land holdings eventually became the Advent Christian Village, Florida’s first retirement community.
  • Cary Hardee, 23rd governor of Florida from 1921-1925, lived practically all of his adult life in Live Oak. During his term, he established the State Highway System, historical markers and monuments, abolished the state income and inheritance taxes, signed the Convict Anti-Whipping Bill, and 6 new counties were created during his tenure (including Hardee County). After his term as governor ended, he helped to establish the oldest and largest flue-cured tobacco marker in the State and was named a receiver of closed national banks under President Franklin Roosevelt.
  • The 1952 murder of prominent white doctor and Senator-elect Clifford Leroy Adams by African-American Ruby McCollum brought national attention to Live Oak and to racial inequality in the South.
  • The first female mayor south of the Mason-Dixon Line was Ruby Gould Strickland of Live Oak, in 1924.