Lawtey Florida

FEATURED LISTING: Florida ::: Lawtey


Make sure you slow down on the highway when you near Lawtey as it is a nationally notorious speed trap. It is in fact one of the two official speed traps recognized by the AAA. Otherwise, there is little in this town in Bradford County Florida to bring you there; unless of course the law brings you there.

Lawtey has a population of less than seven hundred people with about one third of them of African American origin. There are no new immigrants or people of foreign birth here; in fact, a few have left town in the recent past. Lawtey occupies less than 2 square miles and has little to recommend itself, unless you are a sociologist, interested in the first Faith and Character Institution for prisoners, or a historian with an interest in old Florida.

The Lawtey Correctional Institution was started in1973 as a vocational center for work release inmates. In1977 it became a correctional housing institute for adult males. In 2004, it took on a new role as Faith and Character Institution for men. Now approximately 50 men of 32 different faiths receive religious services and life skills training here. While any religion may be represented, it is not necessary for the inmates to follow any religion or partake in the religious activities. The program aims at personal growth, character building, and self-reflection. It helps to rehabilitate and integrate prisoners into society. The Institution provides basic educational facilities as well as computer aided drafting courses, wellness education and substance abuse cessation programs. The inmates can also avail of library services and chaplaincy services. The Dinsmore Work Release Institution is under the Lawtey Correctional Institution.

Lawtey was meant to be a grander town. In 1877, Capt Burrin established a sawmill on eighteen thousand acres of property that he bought. He donated part of it for a town and sold the rest of it.30 people from Chicago decided to follow their ambition to develop a town in the warm climes of Florida. Lawtey was the name of the son-in-law of one of them! The town grew to have its own school and Kelly General Stores. Orange orchards and later strawberry farming made it prosperous. It bloomed into a Farmers Market and a train depot. The Grace United Methodist Church of those days stands even today.

The wealthy northerners built stately mansions but there was a sharp divide in the community as the original settlers refused to socialize with the ‘crackers’ and the people who moved there later. In fact, the early 1900s saw a lot of hostility and fighting in the streets. Lawtey never recovered from the depression that affected all of Florida. Now many of the buildings have fallen into disuse and are in a decrepit condition. Efforts are being made to improve the quality of life of the city. A 5-mile waste water system and storm water drains were constructed recently. The city has numerous churches including the Faith Baptist Church and Mount Zion Church.

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