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Posted July 13, 2020 | By Scott Mitchell, director of the Silver River Museum

Carmichael & Son Whiskey jug

George Carmichael and his son Columbus Ed (known as C. Ed) were successful whiskey distillers in Ocala during the late 1800s. Although alcohol was illegal in many Florida counties, a loophole in interstate commerce laws allowed for the shipment of spirits to these areas. The Carmichaels moved their product by rail and made a fortune.

When changes in liquor laws threatened their business in 1890, the younger Carmichael purchased land around Silver Springs and developed a rail and steamboat freight depot. He soon realized the real money was in tourism and built a bathhouse and pavilion for visitors. The decision proved to be a wise one.

Just as whiskey was outlawed locally in 1915, tourism was booming at Silver Springs. In 1924, Carmichael leased Silver Springs to Carl Ray and “Shorty” Davidson, who developed the area into one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country (SRM1992-19-02).