Meet MMHS Board Member Susan Ford and learn why she loves Mandarin. Susan was one of the founding members of MMHS, served as President for several years, and was the person who first worked with and organized the collection of objects and artifacts given to the museum. She is seen here in the Mandarin Cemetery, holding Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Palmetto Leaves.”
“When I moved to Mandarin over 30 years ago, I never imagined how much history there was in the area. Frankly, I always considered history to be dry and boring in high school and college. Moving to Mandarin and hearing about Harriet Beecher Stowe living here planted a seed in me. Also, learning about the sinking of the Union ship Maple Leaf made me excited to learn more. I saw history disappearing and it became my deep desire to collect everything which had to do with Mandarin’s past. Even before the establishment of the museum I spent my days collecting and preserving as much as I could concerning Mandarin.
Growing up as a Midwesterner from Northbrook, Illinois, little did I know my parents wanted to move away from the snow and ice and retire in Florida. As I was an only child, I knew they wanted to be near me as I attended college in Lakeland, Florida, and they had a secret plan that I would meet a ‘Florida Man,’ get married and live near them. The plan worked, as I married a boy I met at Florida Southern. I graduated with degrees in Psychology and English. We had two boys and my life was full of T-ball, helping with schoolwork and teaching children to swim.
Following a divorce and remarriage to my husband Todd, we found Mandarin and built our house in 1984. This is when I fell in love with the rich history here and immersed myself in it. My love of gardening led me to become a Master Gardener and joining the Mandarin Garden Club. Through our involvement at the Church of Our Saviour, I met Jean Morrow, who was born and raised in Mandarin. She was so full of knowledge and memories that she was called ‘Mandarin’s Historian.’ Because of her passion and friendship, my desire became even stronger to learn about this very special place.
The establishment of the Mandarin Museum began with just a handful of people – more like a family. Before the museum was built we were fortunate to be able to rent and restore a small room at the Mandarin Community Club (it used to be the Kate Monson Baby Clinic). We also completely restored the Walter Jones Post Office and General Store, which MMHS leases from the Community Club.
I just assumed we would someday have a small museum – never imagined what would follow. The 11 acres of the Webb/Jones farm was purchased by the City of Jacksonville. Our small group approached the city about having our museum on this special property – so full of the history of two families. It was soon decided that the city would build a cracker-style building to be the home of the Mandarin Museum. So we finally had a place to preserve and store all of our history. That was over 10 years ago.
We finally had a place to display our collection related to the Maple Leaf, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlie Brown, Memphis Wood, Timuquan pottery and much more. We had put together what was almost a dream. And today, we still have a committed Board of Directors and many volunteers and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone!”