WILKS - A Short Avenue Long on History
Part Two: The FATHER
Wilks Avenue in Pine Castle, two separated sections on either side of Hansel Avenue, comprise an ideal artery upon which to locate a historical society whose stated mission is preserving South Orange County’s history. Named 105 years ago, the easily missed side street truly personifies the origins of central Florida itself.
Like that of Orlando’s iconic Lake Eola - #EolaNamesake - or 1840s Fort Reid (Reed), 1880s Webber (Weber) Street in Orlando, and Ghost Town Mackinnon (McKinnon) at the Orange / Osceola County line – the mystery of Wilks Avenue exists today largely because the name was misspelled during the earliest days of central Florida’s recorded history.
James A. Wilkes was among an impressive list of property owners upon which the two portions of Wilks Avenue now exists. Born 1880 near Adel, Georgia, Wilkes presumably did not realize his name had been misspelled on part of the Orange County recorded plat of 1914. The plat title was recorded as “J. A. Wilks Subdivision”, and the named Wilks Avenue is shown on that plat. Among owners listed on the plat however is “J. A. Wilkes”. The road north of Wilks was not named at that time, but later, the unidentified 1914 road became Hoffner Avenue.
1914 "J. A. Wilks Subdivision (East of Randolph)
Although there are a few Orange County deeds showing the “Wilks” spelling, most deeds show the surname of James as “Wilkes”, including a 1920 transaction in which “J. A. Wilkes and wife Lula P.” transferred part of “Lot 10 of the Will Wallace Harney Homestead” to “E. D. M. Perkins”. A Pine Castle merchant, Epaminondas D. M. Perkins was named postmaster of Pine Castle on the 20th day of November 1914. He was also the brother in law of James A. Wilkes. Perkins Road in Pine Castle – spelled correctly - was named for Epaminondas.
James A, Wilkes owned and platted the block east of Hansel, Lot 3 of the original Will Wallace Harney Homestead, but he also acquired, in 1912, the corner lot at what is now Orange Avenue and Wilks, west of the parcel where Pine Castle Historical Society is located.
Part One of this series introduced the son of James A. & Lula (Parker) Wilkes. Wallace Harney Wilkes, said his WWII draft registration, was born December 11, 1913 at Pine Castle – twenty months after the death of Pine Castle’s founder, Will Wallace Harney, on March 12, 1912.
James A. Wilkes died in 1932 at Detroit, Michigan, twenty years after owning a piece of the Harney Homestead, and twenty years after naming his son in honor of the town founder. Then 52 years old, the Georgia native had been working as a Caretaker at an Apartment building.
Part Three of my series will be posted next Saturday – on the 107th Anniversary of J. A. Wilkes purchasing the corner lot at Wilks Avenue and Orange Avenue. Mark your calendar too for Saturday, November 30th, for on that day, Pine Castle Historical Society will open its doors at 631 Wilks Avenue (not Wilkes) - from 10 AM until 3 PM, where holiday shoppers can pick up a signed author’s copy of “Will Wallace Harney, Orlando’s First Renaissance Man.”
Third in a Pine Castle Historical Society series
Central Florida history - the PERFECT holiday gift for every history lover in the family.
Watch for my upcoming Christmas holiday series: “12 Days of a Central Florida Christmas.” Hum the classic tune while reading a daily feature beginning Friday, November 29, 2019, and running thru Tuesday, December 12th.