by KATE DUFFY, Antiquarian & Keeper of Jenksiana
Loyal readers will recall that J.W.P. Jenks spent a great deal of time at Oak Lodge, a rustic resort in rural Florida that catered to naturalists. He even constructed a kind of satellite Jenks Museum on the premises.
But then Oak Lodge burned down — not once, but twice.
What’s left at the site are archeological fragments: curious shards of melted glass and corroded metal. The late Walter Obermayr of Melbourne Beach, FL — described to me as “a renaissance man who loved local history” — collected these remnants.
Mr. Obermayr’s son-in-law, Robert McKnight, sent us the pictures below. I would like to thank him and Ann Downing of the Brevard County Historical Commission for their kindness in providing more information about Oak Lodge to the Jenks Society.
Could some of this melted glass have come from Jenks’ Oak Lodge exhibit cases, once stuffed with swamp creatures?
As Mr. Obermayr researched the history of Oak Lodge, he also looked into a Native American burial mound that once existed nearby. Likely created by the Ais, the mound dated to 750-1565 A.D. Sometime around 1906, New Englander Charles N. Jenks — not to be confused with our J.W.P. — excavated it. He brought the skeleton of a “chief,” which he found sitting on a “bier of oyster shells,” back with him to the Yale Peabody Museum.
Charles N. Jenks may have been J.W.P. Jenks’ nephew. But while J.W.P. did collect indigenous artifacts, he did not desecrate any graves himself, as far as well know.
Today a highway covers the area of the burial mound.