1. A river named after a 16th century French explorer
Stretching six miles in length and flowing northward, the Ribault River is a tributary of the Trout River. It is named in honor of Jean Ribault (1520-1565), a French naval officer and colonizer of what would eventually become known as the southeastern United States or lowcountry. An officer under Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, Ribault was over command of the French colony of Fort Carolina. He one first European to undertake a detailed exploration of the St. Johns River in the 16th century. Ribault and several of his followers were killed by the Spanish near St. Augustine in 1565.
A cannon from a shipwreck of a 16th-century French ship was found off the coast of St. Augustine in 2016. The shipwreck is thought to be Ribault’s flagship La Trinite. Image courtesy of Global Marine Exploration, Inc.
2. How Lem Turner Road received its name
During the period of Florida’s 18th century British Occupation, land around the Ribault River became home to isolated plantations that used enslaved African labor to cultivate cotton, tobacco, indigo and other crops. By the early 19th century, much of the property along the Ribault and Trout rivers had become the site of Turner Place. In 1834, Lemuel “Lem” Turner was born at the old family homestead east of Capper Road.
The road now known as Lem Turner Road was known as “Turner Ferry Road” at the turn of the century. It included a bridge over the Trout River that was burned by the Union during the Civil War, leading Lem to start a ferry service. The ferry was known as Turner’s Ferry. In addition, Turner was active in the lumber industry, owning and operating a shingle mill in the present day Dinsmore area. Very successful at buying and selling land, Turner once owned land that eventually became the 20th century neighborhoods of Lem Turner Park, Lake Forest, Lake Forest Hills and the Highlands. Further up the Trout River, Blockhouse Creek was named after an old “block house” that used to house the Turner family plantation’s enslaved. After the 1950s opening of Gateway Mall, Lem Turner Road rapidly developed into the primary commercial thoroughfare crossing the Ribault and Trout Rivers.
3. Jacksonville’s million dollar suburb
The Riverview Town Hall in 1914. Photograph courtesy of the City of Jacksonville.
Perched on hills and bluffs between the Trout and Ribault Rivers, Riverview is one of the few neighborhoods outside of the historic urban core that was designed to be every bit as walkable and grand as Riverside/Avondale, Springfield, and San Marco. Attempting to take advantage of the area’s popularity and energy, Dr. E.H. Armstrong started the development of the Riverview neighborhood in 1911.
At the time, Armstrong envisioned Jacksonville growing to a population of 400,000 within a few short years (a feat that would not be accomplished until the 1968 city/county merger) and his Riverview becoming the area’s most valuable property. Calling it a million dollar suburb, Riverview contained three thousand residential lots on six hundred acres of hills, gridded streets and waterfront.
Despite Armstrong’s vision, investment, and marketing of Riverview, his community’s greatest years of development would not occur until after World War II when suburban growth accelerated north of Jacksonville. In 1968, 57 years after Armstrong’s plat of Riverside, it finally became a part of Jacksonville when the city consolidated with Duval County.
Waterfront residences along the northbank of the Ribault River in Riverview.
4. Florida’s first segregation era Black golf & country club
To counteract segregation, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, the president of Florida’s first Black-owned life insurance company, established the nine-hole Lincoln Golf and Country Club for African-Americans in 1926. Located on New Kings Road, just north of the Ribault River, for many years it was the social and recreational center for affluent Black Jaxsons. Hosting tournaments for Black women and southern Black colleges as early as 1930, it quickly rose to become the pride and showcase of Black golf across the south. In 1933, three-time national champion John Brooks Dendy made history with a hole-in-one at the 342-yard, par-four first hole and then three consecutive birdies. His 1-2-3-4, six-under par start was later acknowledged in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Between 1941 and 1949, golf pro Ralph Dawkins, Sr., the first African American golfer to win a tournament in the state of Florida and grandfather of NFL Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins, served as the club’s formal golf instructor between 1941 and 1949.
A 1952 aerial of Lincoln Golf and Country Club along the banks of the Ribault River.
In 1947, the country club closed due to the death of founder Abraham Lincoln Lewis. However, it reopened later in the year as the city’s first integrated golf club by admitting new members regardless of color. One of the most famous celebrities to golf at Lincoln was heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who came to Lincoln in 1949 to promote interest in sport within the African-American community. Lewis returned in 1952 with a field of 75 professional and 50 amateur shotmakers for a three-day, 72-hole affair. Lincoln Golf and Country Club’s prominence declined as a result of integration. Following its early 1960s closure, the property was developed into the mid-century Lincoln Estates and Carver Manor subdivisions that still stand today.