A TOMAHAWK HAVING NOTHING TO DO WITH SEMINOLES
Yesterday on my “day-off” I visited a property owned by the Diocese of St. Petersburg on the Rainbow River just outside of Donnellan. It is an interesting piece of property with an interesting story. Many priests know nothing of it because of its specialized use and while there has never been any attempt at secrecy, it is largely a secret for reasons I shall soon explain. The property has been called “Tomahawk Lodge” since its inception and here is the story.
In the early sixties, I believe, when all we today know as the Diocese of St. Petersburg was still in the original Florida diocese of St. Augustine, Monsignor George Cummins who was director of Good Counsel Camp in Floral City managed to convince the late Archbishop Hurley to buy almost two acres of land along the Rainbow River in Marion County for a lodge for the campers who would, he envisioned, canoe the twenty-two miles from the camp to the Lodge during their stay at Good Counsel. Archbishop Hurley bought the land which had a four room, two-story, two bath house on it. Th downstairs was all one massive room with a small kitchen and a small bath. The second story was one large bedroom and three smaller bedrooms with one bath. The house was largely constructed of Florida pine and its interior walls and floors were of the same unfinished pine. Campers in the sixties returned to Good Counsel just so they could take the two overnight canoe trips to Good Counsel, paddling from its lake to the Withlacoochie River and then to the Rainbow River and upstream to the camp. The journey took two days with an overnight along the Withlacoochie and then another overnight at Tomahawk.
In 1968 the dioceses of Orlando and St. Petersburg were created by Pope Paul VI and lo and behold Citrus County remained in the new diocese of St. Petersburg so Good Counsel Camp continued to be project of the new diocese but Tomahawk Lodge was in Marion County, just four miles inside the boundaries of the Diocese of Orlando so the property transferred to Orlando. No more overnight canoe trips to the camp’s offsite Lodge. It did not take Bishop Borders, the new and first bishop of Orlando, long to realize he had no use for this property along the Rainbow and Monsignor Cummings, still directing the camp wanted it back. But Orlando, who might have said, “take it off our hands” instead said “buy it” which we did. This property holds several distinctions: it is the only property owned by the diocese outside of our territorial boundaries, albeit only barely outside and we had to purchase it not once but twice.
It remains an outpost for campers during the six week camping season and does not get a lot of other use. The property is stunningly beautiful. The Rainbow River is spring fed and the temperature of the water remains at 76 degrees, winter and summer. It is so clear one can watch the fish swimming by and the banks are marked by large hanging cypress trees in many places providing a canopy from the sun’s rays. So now you know one of the “hidden secrets” of the diocese which is not really a secret at all. The place is a gem. Outside of the camping season it is available for rental and some parishes in the diocese use it for picnics, outings and other brief retreats. Monsignor Cummings had wonderful foresight in many ways. This property was recently appraised in the present real estate market as being worth about $650,000, even with the generally unrepaired solitary lodge building. Father Jim Johnson who currently directs the camp this year invested in a new metal roof and new windows which are a great improvement. I trust you have enjoyed reading about this “gem” and hope sometime you can do as I did yesterday and enjoy the magnificence and beauty of northern Florida and its rivers and lakes.