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Chasing Shadows spurs a childhood memory

Special to the Times

Readers may be interested to know that last week’s Chasing Shadows article (See Dec. 24 Times  “Nightengale’s Journey, from Berlin to bees”) prompted a Port St. Joe man to write a letter telling of his own special relationship with Clara Nightengale in her capacity as a nurse. With his permission, here is his letter:

Dear Pam Richardson:

My name is Joseph Anthony Maige… I have just read your article in the Star… and wanted to tell you of my experience with Mrs. Nightengale.

I was born Nov. 30, 1944 and was two months premature. My parents were Henry R. Maige and Jewell H. Maige. My father was a forester for the St. Joe Paper Company. My father had Mrs. Nightengale come live with us at 805 16th Street, Port St. Joe, and take care of me - the primary reason I am living today. I was told she made an incubator out of hot water bottles that helped keep me warm.

I have pictures of Mrs. Nightengale and me in a wooden wagon when I was about 2 or 3, but I’m afraid they got ruined during Hurricane Michael. I remember going to her apiary on Clark Creek [owned by Clara Nightengale’s partner, Gustave Benecke – P.R.] when I was 5 or 6 years old.

Just wanted to let you know the article brought back many memories. I am sure she touched many people’s hearts with her life and service.

My father was born in Carrabelle, and my grandmother was Mary Ann Yent… In fact, George Core was a distant relative. His middle name was Yent.


Tony Maige

Jeff Smith, standing atop a huge shell mound, approximately 200 yards by 75 yards in size. The shells are all two-inch round Rangia clam shells from Lake Wimico, hardly any oyster shells.
This brick fireplace is the only structure remaining at the shell mound where Clara Nightengale had her "Ranch" and apiary.

Clara Nightengale’s story also prompted Pete Olson and Jeff Smith, neighbors of Richardson, to go exploring up Depot Creek. Olson located the shell mound on GoogleEarth and the two men set out to bushwhack their way from the creek bank to the shell mound. As it turned out, a 10- to 12-foot wide trail, with evidence of an old walkway, was still apparent, and they only had to follow it through the mud.

Upon arrival at the shell mound, they were surprised by its enormity: about 200 yards long, 75 yards wide, and 10 feet high. The top of the mound, now sprouting some palms and other scrub growth, was where Clara had her one-room house, but all that is left of it today is a vine-covered fireplace. Olson and Smith also found some metal mattress springs, some broken pieces of cast iron, the remains of an old propane refrigerator, and poignantly, a couple of struggling fig trees, surely planted by Clara. - Pam Richardson