The Lake Weir area has a rich history. The property
has historically supported agricultural uses dating back
to the 1600’s. When the Spanish missionaries first
visited the Lake Weir region around 1600, the Timucuan
Indians occupied Marion County. The diseases carried by
the Europeans decimated the local tribes by mid-1600.
Around 1700, the Creek Indians were forced into Florida
by the British and swiftly became known as the
Seminoles. Many Seminoles settled in the Lake Weir area
where they farmed and raised livestock.
In the 1800’s, the lake was named in honor of U.S.
Army Lieutenant Weir, who was killed near the lake’s
banks by the Seminole Indians in the early 1800’s. In 1875, Captain
John L. Carney and his brother E.L. Carney purchased the
land now known as Carney Island. They
developed a 25 acre orange grove, which later grew in
size. The Carney’s were responsible
for propagating several new varieties of citrus,
including the Parson Brown variety.
For most of the last century, the area
surrounding the Carney groves flourished as a citrus
producing region. The citrus was
shipped by steamboat from a packinghouse on the east
shore of the property across Lake Weir to the railroad.
Pilings still exist on the property today from
A hard freeze in 1894 wiped out
the citrus trees around Lake Weir.
Most groves were re-established, and citrus groves
remained an important agricultural industry until
another widespread freeze in 1984.
Over the years, several fruit growing companies
had interest in the Carney Island property, and it was
eventually acquired by the Coca-Cola Company in 1960
when they purchased the Minute Maid Corporation. In
1990, officials with Coca-Cola agreed to sell the Carney
Island property to Marion County at a price below market
value. The property was acquired using funds from the
“Pennies for Parks” program. The site, which includes
over 750+ acres of sandhill islands, causeways, wetland
systems and shoreline beaches was acquired by Marion
County to protect its ecological character and to
provide a resource-based recreation area.