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Clay County

Fleming Island Margaret Seton Fleming had a working knowledge of trade, business and politics, as well as domestic subjects. In 1837, the highly disciplined and spiritual Fleming moved to Hibernia Plantation with her new husband, Lewis Fleming, whose father George had received Fleming Island as a 1970 land grant from the king of Spain. In the years to come, she would twice witness the destruction of the plantation and twice bring it back from ashes. Her dream from the time she arrived at Hibernia was to have a proper chapel on the grounds. Construction on the church in the Carpenter Gothic style began in 1875 and was completed in 1878. Sadly, Margaret died only months before its completion, and its first service was her funeral. Today, Fleming Island is one of the fastest-growing areas in the county. The area has many organized activities for people of all ages. There is an active 55-plus group, a number of championship-quality golf courses, organized tennis, soccer and all types of programs for children.
Green Cove Springs Green Cove Springs was a booming town on a bend of the St. Johns River early in the 1900s. River steamers brought visitors to the  “Saratoga of the South,” noted for the health-giving qualities of its spring. Its hotels and boarding houses rivaled the best northern resorts. As an expanding railroad system carried tourists south, Green Cove Springs saw its first decline. Grand hotels, most made of wood, were left in disrepair or burned down. The city experienced renewed development in the 1940s with the wartime construction of Benjamin Lee Field, a 1,500-acre air auxiliary complex, by the U.S. Navy. After the war, the base became home port to a fleet of 600 ships. Green Cove Springs experienced yet another decline when the Navy decommissioned its base in 1961. But Green Cove, as most locals refer to the county seat, has been coming back. Its population is about 7,000. There are many older homes in Green Cove, and in and around town a lot of new homes continue to be built. Magnolia Point, a gated golf, tennis and country club off U.S. Highway 17, is zoned for about 975 homes, with 800 already built and inhabited. Keystone Heights Keystone Heights is a community found at the southern tip of Clay County amid numerous sand-bottomed lakes. Keystone was settled by Pennysylvanians drawn to the numerous lakes in the early 1920s. The town’s name was derived from Pennysylvania’s nickname- the Keystone State- and for the area’s unusual hilly terrain. Keystone Heights is also home to one of the country’s moon trees. When Apollo 14 launched in 1971, it carried with it hundreds of tree seeds, part of a joint NASA/USFS project. Upon return to Earth, the seeds that survived reentry were germinated by the U.S. Forest Service. Known as the “moon trees,” the resulting seedlings were planted  throughout the U.S. and around the world. Unfortunately no systematic effort was made to track the trees, but one of the rare trees stands beside the library at the corner of Lawrence Boulevard and Orchid Avenue in Keystone Heights. Today, Keystone Heights is a small, peaceful, family-oriented town, with many family-owned businesses. There are numerous recreational opportunities, including a beach with bathhouses and shaded picnic tables, public boat ramps, lighted tennis courts, nature trails and the former Keystone Heights golf course, renamed Lakeside Links Golf Club in 2015. Keystone Heights Airpark, constructed in 1942 as Crystal Lake Airfield, also calls the area home. The 2,500-acre park has one of few aviation sports facilities in Florida and also offers flight training. The Airpark Authority also leases wildlife area to a sportsman’s club, with designated areas for corporate leasing and access to the taxiways, and a large area for an industrial park. Middleburg Middleburg started in the early 1800s as Clark’s Ferry. Nearby Fort Heilman protected settlers at Clark’s Ferry where it was a major depot for Florida’s east coast. From 1833 to 1850, the area was then known as Gary’s Ferry, and in 1853 the area was finally called Middleburg. The town traded in timber, citrus fruits and crops from farmland. When Clay County was created in 1858, Middleburg became the temporary county seat until 1874. Decades ago, dirt roads were common. Visitors rarely saw a street sign, and most residents came to Middleburg, southwest of Orange Park, looking for a way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Now, most if not all of that has changed. Middleburg covers a nearly 20 square mile area in Clay County and had a little more than 13,000 residents in 2016. Spurred by infrastructure improvements a few years ago, with water and septic lines coming into the community, a great deal of commercial building has occurred, including new fast-food restaurants and retail outlets. This has led to increased property values and has made Middleburg more appealing to commuters. The community is still considered somewhat rural, offering a laid-back lifestyle, larger home lots and a chance to commune with nature. Potential buyers have numerous choices, from manufactured housing to million-dollar properties. Orange Park The town of Orange Park stretches along the western bank of the St. Johns River, the nation’s longest north-flowing river and Florida’s largest. Once known as Laurel Grove after the name of the old Kingsley Plantation, the area was incorporated into Clay County in 1877. Orange groves, a valuable commodity planted by developers from Massachusetts, originally enticed many new residents to the area. The groves died out in harsh freezes in the mid-1890s, but a strong community flourishes in their place. Orange Park is now Clay County’s largest city, with about 8,570 residents. Orange Park sits on a high and dry area featuring beautiful oak trees and splendid vistas along the St. Johns River. Convenient to Interstates 10, 95 and 295, many residents work elsewhere and raise their families in this community. Wells Road has been dubbed “Restaurant Row” for all of its dining options. Jacksonville International Airport, downtown Jacksonville and the beaches are all within a 45-minute drive. Orange Park also boasts a nine-mile jogging and mountain biking trail that winds parallel with U.S. Highway 17 and a 1.5-mile concrete river walk along the St. Johns River. The Orange Park Kennel Club (now known as the bestbet Orange Park) has been in the area since the 1930s.