Our History

The History of Trenton and Gilchrist County, Florida
“The little county in the middle of nowhere, that’s close to everything”
Originally named Joppa, the area became known as Trenton when a Confederate Soldier was forced out of his hometown of Trenton, Tennessee after what most say was a “racetrack brawl”. 18 year-old Ben Boyd relocated to the Joppa area of North Florida and by most accounts, just decided to change the name. And it stuck. In 1883, the name Trenton was officially given to the Joppa Post Office and in 1886 the plot of land that is now the City of Trenton was purchased from the Florida State Board of Education for $1.25 an acre in the extreme western portion of Alachua County. An area rich with fertile soil lead to great agricultural crops. Pulpwood, turpentine, cotton and of course, watermelons were the main exports from the area. In 1906 the Atlantic Coast Railroad came through Trenton, connecting it to Perry and Tallahassee which made exporting agricultural commodities much easier and more fruitful. Excuse the pun.
In 1908 the State of Florida granted Trenton its charter. By 1912, “main street” boasted a post office and drug store, which shared a building, a dry goods store, the Farmers and Merchants Bank, a meat market and a general store that is said to have sold everything from “toothpicks to coffins”. By 1925, Trenton had grown to have a pool hall and a cafe, with hitching posts nearby, in addition to a movie theatre and a barber shop, which by some accounts would be busy until 10 or 11 o’clock at night on Saturdays.
In late 1925, citizens of Trenton and western Alachua County were growing increasingly frustrated with the Board of County Commissioners due to unmet demands of a suitable road from the Suwannee River, through Trenton and on to Gainesville, the county seat, which was over 40 miles away. A petition to the Board was formed demanding the road needs be met or a bill would be introduced in the state legislature to form a new county. The Board of Commissioners laughed off the threat but allowed a vote to be held. The vote of western Alachua County was 267 to 21 in favor of forming a new county. Thus, Melon County was formed. However, after the death of former Governor Albert Gilchrist the name Gilchrist was given to the young county. In May of 1926 an election was held to determine the county seat and Trenton was ultimately chosen over Bell by a margin of 867 to 508 votes.
At the 1935 census, Gilchrist County, the last county allowed a charter in the state, had a population of 3,467.
To date, Gilchrist County remains one of the smallest in the state. Agriculture remains the largest economic stimuli and many visitors come yearly to camp and enjoy our freshwater springs and rivers. The only red-light in the county finds its home at the intersection of US Highway 129 and State Route 26 in Trenton. We, as Gilchrist Count-ians, are forever grateful for the tenacious spirit and resiliency of our forefathers who refused to have the needs of their geographical region discarded. We are thankful for the resources and bountiful beauty of Gilchrist County and the salt of the earth people who have chosen to live here. From the flowing waters of the flat woods, to the hills and rolling farmlands, to the magnificent tannic brown water of the Suwannee River, we are forever thankful for the road that quite literally built,
Gilchrist County.