By MARCIA LANE
More than 100 Putnam County Historical Society members, guests and area dignitaries including Count Commissioner Chip Laibl, Putnam Property Appraiser Tim Parker and Tax Collector (and Society treasurer) Linda Myers attended the annual meeting/Christmas party.
Also on hand was Larry Beaton. He became a member in 1966 when the Society officially incorporated. He was a teen when his mother and grandmother, also original members, put his name on the membership list. He is now the Society’s official historian.
Outgoing president Coenraad Van Rensburg and his wife, Elizabeth, were saluted for their work. In his three years as president, Van Rensburg has increased membership, involved the Society in projects around the county, helped bring in a Smithsonian exhibit on waterways this summer and been the spark behind efforts to save Noah’s Ark, a boat that once hosted national industrialists and movie stars when they came to fish on the St. Johns River.
Providing music for the event was The Sandspurs, who came early and stayed on to entertain guests in the decorated-for-Christmas Bronson-Mulholland House.
Founded in 1961
The Historical Society was established in 1961 and officially incorporated as a non-profit by the State of Florida in June of 1966. Early members were instrumental in saving the Bronson-Mulholland House, which was built in 1854 and is now on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Although plans were to tear it down, public opinion and strong protests led to its being saved and the city getting grants for its restoration.
Today, the house belongs to the City of Palatka, and the Society owns the furnishings and uses a small house that once was part of Fort Shannon as a museum.
The house was built by Judge Isaac Bronson, a New Yorker who was a lawyer and member of the 25th Congress. Bronson was one of four circuit state judges appointed when Florida became a state in 1845. Bronson prepared and sponsored the city charter for Palatka in the state legislature. He only got to live in the house for a year before his death. Mary Mulholland came into the property in 1904.