By Ladonna Paedae Rodriguez
Photography by Lisa Taylor Hall
Tracing the lineage of one’s family to the 1900s can be challenging. Discovering and verifying those roots to the 1700s is remarkable. Pioneer Lorida family, the Waldrons, know their history well. They are settlers, great story-tellers, history buffs, and perhaps, legend-creators.
This is the multi-generational historical “map” of the Waldron family and their far-reaching family tree, the canopy of which covers generations. It traces back to when Florida was composed of territories split into east and west, and before that to their Georgia home, to being early settlers and township developers in Arcadia, Florida, finally landing today in Lorida, Florida.
Say the word, “pioneer,” and the Waldron family fits snugly into that mold. Withstanding the hardships of sourcing basic needs such as food, water and shelter was challenging to say the least for these early settlers, but the Waldrons came through by sheer grit and determination—not unscathed, but they came through, nevertheless—and they multiplied and were fruitful.
In the early 1800s, Waldron pioneers settled in Colombia County, Florida. David Elias Waldron, Sr., born in the 1750s, served in the Civil War and eventually settled in Manatee County, which at the time encompassed multiple current-day counties, including Hardee and Highlands). He set up camp in a hammock on Fisheating Creek, in the area then known as Indian Prairie (now called Palmdale). He married Mary Ann Thompson, and together they had six children, one of whom was David Elias Waldron, Jr. (born in 1847). Eventually the family built a log cabin on the site.
As an adult, David Elias Waldron, Jr. set up a home in Venus on the upper Fisheating Creek. David and his wife Martha Jane (Driggers) were married in 1871 and eventually became parents to 10 children, one of whom was James Alva “Alvie” Waldron, born in Brownville, Florida, on November 4, 1876. James Alva and Doshie (Layport) Waldron were married in Fort Basinger, Florida on April 8, 1906, and were the parents of Lester (Bud) Waldron as well as at least eight other children. Alvie lived a long life, passing away in 1976 at 99 years old. He is buried in Okeechobee, Florida. David, Sr. died at Fort Bassinger on November 8, 1908 and is buried in a small cemetery near Highway 98.
Lester (Bud) and spouse Rena Tomlinson Waldron were both born in the 1920s and had four children: Ronnie, Loyle, Patricia Ann and Jim (now deceased), which brings us to the current-day Waldron family members who are some of the very “deep roots” of Lorida, Florida. Rena was very active in her close-knit community and in fact was a charter member of the Lorida Baptist Church. Church life was intertwined with social life for the Waldrons and Tomlinsons as well as for most of the people they knew. Pioneer Lorida families such as Boney, Rimes, Ashton, MontsDeOca, and McClelland all attended church alongside the Waldrons.
The Waldron children attended the two-room Lorida schoolhouse, as did lots of cousins and friends. When you live in a very, very small town, your siblings and cousins become your best friends and your partners in mischief, and for the Waldrons it was no different. After school, the clan found themselves participating in local rodeos, fishing and hunting, and helping out with family chores.
In 1952, those chores increased significantly as Bud became an egg farmer. On a 10-acre tract of land in Lorida, the Redwine family, who were experienced egg farmers, took young Bud Waldron under-wing, teaching him all things egg farming. Young sons, Ronnie and Loyle, along with their mother and other friends, collected the eggs in wire baskets and would then tote them by Jeep to the egg room. There more family and employees would wash, weigh and grade the eggs by hand. Bud, Rena and her sister-in-law Reba began hauling chickens back to the farm for the Redwines from another state. One thing led to another, and soon the Waldrons started Sunny Land Egg Farm, which was located in Lorida on Highway 98, close to the then-Red Lantern.
The family of six (Bud, Rena, Ronnie, Loyle, Jim, and Patricia Ann) lived primitively in a two-bedroom, one bath cracker house without air conditioning behind the brick building which housed the eggs. They began with 10,000 laying hens, which required the family to be up before daylight to perform the tasks that would ensure a plenitude of good, healthy eggs. The chicken feed was trucked to Sunny Land from Tampa in large, colorfully decorated burlap feed-sacks. Many Lorida children during those days wore clothing created from sacks that were purchased from Sunny Land for twenty-five cents each.