The name Cork Station showed up on a obscure map in an obscure book about the Civil War history of Florida . Most people reading the book would not have thought a second moment about the place, which would be obscure even to most residents of the Tampa Bay area. I am not most people–Cork Station happens to be where I grew up as a child from the age of 3 to 14. I went to school at Cork Elementary School, originally founded in 1867 (just after the Civil War) almost twenty years before the railroad arrived and Plant City was founded. Unlike the vast majority of people who would look at that map, I not only recognized Cork Station, but I knew it well.
Why do I mention this? I am a historian, with special interests in the 19th century and the American Civil War. Additionally, I am someone who grew up in an obscure country area that has a long history that is nearly entirely unknown, even by reasonably longtime residents (my family included–which has lived there since the mid 1960’s). What was it that led Cork Station to appear on a civil war map involving cattle drives and Union efforts to stop them? What historical documents show the early history of the exurban area where I grew up, rode bikes, fought bullies, and read endless books about the Civil War, none of which talked about the area where I lived.
I can understand why few would know or care about Cork Station. If they only saw it as a little spot on a map in a book, they would think nothing of it before merely noting its presence and moving on. They have not grown up among its strawberry fields and country roads, seeing the clash of the old agricultural Central Florida with the new suburban subdivisions filled with people who know and care nothing about history. They have not seen the mixture of clever Yankees, crusty unreconstructed Confederates, yuppie suburbanites, and Mexican-American farm laborers that fills the area. It’s an odd area, to be sure, but it is one I know well from its feed supply stores and butcher shops to its farms and Baptist churches. In its school I competed in chess tournaments and spelling bees and math and science fairs (even landing my name on plaque in the school).
Cork Station has a largely forgotten history, but since it involves the Civil War and Reconstruction, it is bound to be an interesting history, if any information about it could be located (sadly, Central Florida as a whole is a place that is strangely forgetful of history, lax in preserving fortresses and battlefields and the other awe-inspiring remnants of history that make young men and women proud to be from somewhere important and noteworthy) . The cattle from Florida’s nearly forgotten cowboy country in the area is what fed Confederate troops in Virginia for most of the war, but Florida still languishes as a nearly completely forgotten outpost of ferocious conflict between whites and blacks, planters and yeomen, and rebels and unionists from the local population.
And yet the area is where I grew up from a young child to a teenager, its conflicts still existed in the seething hostility of the young people to proud Northerners like myself, young people who without fully knowing why participated in “coon-hunting” expeditions in the black part of town, or flied Confederate battle flags, or threw beer bottles in the ditch after partying on Saturday nights. Hopefully something remains of the history there to be understood and brought to a wider audience. Why an obscure area in West Central Florida would have the name of an Irish port town, and why its history (and almost its name) have been obliterated in local history, is a mystery worth solving. To understand ourselves, we must understand where we came from . To forget our past is to lose a part of our own identity. Surely someone must recognize that–and those who treasure and seek to preserve the memory of history elsewhere cannot help but start with their own history and their own lives. For we are all truly a part of things much greater and much more complicated than our lives alone.
 To find out more about what I think about where I come from in Cork, see the story in footnote 3 of the following link: