Yukon, FL… Jacksonville’s Ghost Town

Nestled in the woods, between the Ortega River and NAS Jacksonville, lies a place that time has forgotten. Yukon, FL was established in the late 1800s, and over time became a large community that included over 300 homes, a downtown business district, a Baptist church, a post office, and a railroad station. What was once thriving, is now a desolate ghost town that is barely in existence. Why would such a promising neighborhood be snuffed out? Why would all the occupants be forced to leave?

There are many theories and speculations as to why the neighborhood was suddenly shut down and why all the occupants were forced to leave. One such theory is that the Navy was running experiments on the people in this community. Experiments that turned the population of Yukon into flesh eating zombies. The Navy then had to decimate the neighborhood, and everyone in it, to cover up the experimental mishap. Surely if this theory had any truth to it we would all know by now, right? Maybe not, unless you had the adequate clearance. According to this myth, the Navy barred entry to Yukon from 1963 to 1980 due to the genetic experiments taking place. While we can confirm that the community of Yukon was closed in 1963, the myth about military experiments, however, cannot be confirmed.

There are other speculations as to why the neighborhood was abandoned. Another myth is that there was a UFO crash on the banks of the Ortega River in Yukon. The story says that after the crash landing, the Navy created a top-secret submarine base surrounding the crash site, forcing everyone to leave. We can confirm that there are military barracks that were built for the Army Camp Johnston (which would later become NAS Jax); however, there is no evidence, what so ever, of a top-secret UFO crash site in Yukon.

There have also been reports of a plane crash and that a NASA satellite fell from orbit and crashed in Yukon. From what we’ve been told, these stories do have some truth to them. One of the residents of Yukon, Norris Lackey, stated that a plane had crashed in Yukon about a decade ago, killing both pilots on board. Lackey also relayed some information on the history of Yukon, which confirmed that a NASA satellite crashed in the woods and there were pieces recovered from that satellite. There are even reports of a bomb being found behind the post office that had fallen out of one of the military planes. The bomb was said to be diffused and removed by the Navy. There are many stories surrounding this ghost town neighborhood, but how did it come to be a ghost town?

The history of Yukon dates to the 1800s when much of the land was part of a plantation called Mulberry Grove and was owned by A.M. Reed. Reed wrote of his life on the plantation, and what was happening around him, in a series of diaries from 1874 to 1892. Reed speaks of the Atlantic Coast Line Railways coming through in 1884, and lists the names of famous people who had visited his plantation. Reed recorded that General U.S. Grant visited his plantation on January 6, 1880 and Grover Cleveland on February 22, 1888. Reed recorded a yellow fever epidemic in Jacksonville that killed over 400 people and according to Reed had “citizens of Jacksonville fleeing by the hundreds!” One of the myths surrounding Reed is that he buried a chest of silver during the war and never told anyone the location. His secret died with him in 1899, at the age of 86.

Once Reed died, his family began selling portions of his land. A sizable portion was sold to the U.S. government, where Camp Johnston became a stopping point for soldiers who were headed to France for WWI. Once the war was over, the government sold the land and many of the structures were demolished. The leftover lumber was used to build houses, creating the neighborhood that became Yukon.

NAS Jax was built in 1940, and the military families needed a place to live. Yukon was growing and thriving as an up and coming neighborhood. With more people on the base, there were more planes coming in and out of NAS Jax. The neighborhood of Yukon was deemed to be unsafe and interfered with the naval landing strip. All the occupants were asked to leave and the entire neighborhood was shut down.

What was once a promising community, now consists of empty, half demolished homes and barracks, overgrown foliage and broken roads; however, the Baptist church is still standing along with the post office that is now the business office to the neighboring RV park. Most of the land that made up Yukon, FL is now part of the Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park. The park has many hiking trails that you can visit and wander around this once booming neighborhood. The brick streets that were paved so long ago have withstood the sands of time and are still visible throughout the park. Fowler Park was recently devastated by Hurricane Irma, and is closed until further notice. Once the debris has been cleared and the park reopens, visitors can once again view some of the ruins of Jacksonville’s ghost town.

By: Rebekah Hudson Childs

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