is a town in Columbia County
, United States
named after a military fort built in the 1830's. The population in 2007 was just over 500. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau
Fort White is located at (29.923001, -82.714299).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 2.3 square miles (6.0 km²), all of it land.
As of the census
of 2000, there were 409 people, 151 households, and 104 families residing in the town. The population density
was 176.8 people per square mile (68.4/km²). There were 184 housing units at an average density of 79.5/sq mi (30.8/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 50.61% White
, 46.70% African American
, 0.24% Native American
, 0.49% Asian
, 0.24% Pacific Islander
, and 1.71% from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 3.42% of the population.
There were 151 households out of which 33.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.7% were married couples living together, 19.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.1% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.35.
In the town the population was spread out with 28.6% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 76.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.5 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $26,250, and the median income for a family was $28,000. Males had a median income of $26,477 versus $26,667 for females. The per capita income for the town was $10,578. About 24.1% of families and 26.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.0% of those under age 18 and 42.0% of those age 65 or over.
Fort White (the actual military fort) was constructed during the Second Seminole War in 1836 to protect the Cow Creek settlement. Supplies were brought in by steamboat on the Santa Fe River
and distributed to other area forts. Due to sickness, flooding along the river and rumors of the railroad coming to the area, the settlement was moved four miles east to its present location.
The town was incorporated in 1884 and grew steadily following the arrival of the railroad in 1888. Phosphate mining, turpentine and agriculture (cotton and oranges) were the foundation of the economy and the population grew to nearly 2000. Sadly, the boom turned to bust as severe freezes in the winters of 1896 & 1897 destroyed the local citrus industry. By 1910, the largest phosphate deposits were depleted and mining ceased. The boll weevil ended cotton farming before World War I and the population shrank to a few hundred people, primarily farmers, ranchers and foresters. There weren't enough children to justify a high school in Fort White; students were bused 20 miles to Columbia High School
in Lake City
. That was the status quo for almost 50 years.
A River runs through it
The locals have always known of and enjoyed the Ichetucknee River
& Springs. However, before 1970, the existence and location of this natural wonder were something of a secret.
The road to the spring was not paved, nor was it marked because the spring was on private property. In 1970, the state of Florida purchased the Ichetucknee spring and river property from the Loncala Phosphate Corporation. Columbia County built a paved road, number 238, providing easier access to the springs. In 1972, the head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior, and word got out: drive to Fort White and float down the Ichetucknee on an inner tube. The main tributary flowing from Ichetucknee Springs soon became the most popular tubing river in the world, attracting over five thousand people a day during the peak summer months. Hundreds of others came to swim and picnic at the headspring, scuba dive in the caves of the famous "blue hole", and walk the nature trails that wind through the park's hammocks and longleaf pine forests
A gas station in Fort White had rented truck inner tubes as a small side business for years. Now, local residents in town and all along the route to the springs opened businesses catering to the tourists. The real estate market became active again. The tourist dollars stimulated the economy like the town had not seen in decades. The population in the south end of the county continued to grow and a new, $25M High School was completed in 1999.