By Mike Miller Updated February 24, 2023
Williston is about 22 miles southwest of Gainesville. It is a typical small Florida town that has not changed as much as others have over the years.
The population is about 2,800. For more than 25 years, Williston has hosted the Central Florida Harvest and Peanut Festival held in October.
Williston was founded by Dr. Jesse M. Willis in 1853 who reportedly named it for himself. He established a plantation in the area.
Eventually Williston became one of the largest producers of cucumbers in the world, with as many as 75 carloads a day shipped out by rail.
Other highlights in the history include the opening of the first church in 1856 and the first school in 1857.
The first store was opened and owned by John Epperson, who had married Pencie Willis, the daughter of Dr. Willis.
This history has been obtained from a Levy County website, Florida and the Birth of Levy County.
Williston is a working town close enough to the University of Florida for commuting.
People who don't commute find jobs in forestry, manufacturing and farming.
The town is a major regional crossroads with US-27, US-41, SR-121 and a host of other state and county roads meandering through town. It is about 10 miles west of I-75.
The area around town has a lot of horse farms.
One of the town's claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of Foolish Pleasure, the winner of the 1975 Kentucky Derby.
Another attraction in the area is Two Tails Ranch, an animal refuge that specializes in taking care of elephants.
Over the years the ranch has taken care of more than 250 elephants. The video above shows you a bit about the ranch.
The limestone formations underlying the area around Williston have created many interesting features including several springs that are attractive to cave divers.
The two most popular of these are Blue Grotto Springs and Devil's Den Springs.
Each of these springs is set up with a vendor that can make your cave diving experience an enjoyable one.
These vendors charge an admission fee, and you should check their websites for fees and hours of operation.
Train lovers will enjoy visiting Kirby Family Farm.
It features a narrow gauge railway (3 feet wide) known as the Great America Railway and claiming to be Florida's largest private railroad.
The farm is an educational facility and is not open to the general public. You have to visit their website and make a reservation.
The Ivy House is a two restaurant operation, with the other one being in Ocala. The Williston location is in a beautiful old building in downtown Willison that looks like a boarding house or large home from yesteryear.
It feels a bit like dining in an elegant antique store. There are several dining rooms and each is furnished in period pieces that give you a feeling of going back in time.
Read More About The Ivy House Restaurant and Boutique
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By Mike Miller, Copyright 2009-2023
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