© The Jacksonville ObserverMeteor in sky.
"You should have seen it!" shouted a young boy in the crowd. Pointing to a large black stallion drinking from a trough, he added, "It was as big as that ther horse over ther'."

But, we don't need to rely on the word of a child to know that this "rock from another planet" was gigantic. There were dozens who saw it fall and thousands more that touched it.

In January, 1888, several Florida residents witnessed a "large green streak" falling through the sky. Known as a shooting star, the meteorite was visible throughout the entire southeast. Trying to project its final location and landing zone, each witness pointed to a field nearby where they were standing. Whether they lived in Key West, Miami, Palatka or Jacksonville, they would motion in a particular direction and then say, "Its got to be right over there."

It turns out that the monstrous meteorite (the envy of the world) fell to the earth in Middleburg, Florida. It was late in the evening when several passersby witnessed its arrival then heard a tremendous "thud." Every house in the town shook.

© The Jacksonville Observer
Running to farmer J.W. Barber's newly cultivated land, they approached a smoking hole and right there in front of them was this catch of a rock.

Farmer Barber rode up on his horse in his bedclothes and inquired, "What the hell is all the commotion on my land about?"

"Take a look for yerself, knucklehead," one man shouted.

Farmer Barber approached the smoldering hole and said, "Just which one of yous dug this hole and burned some wood."

Shaking his gun like an Indian spear, he said, "I'll use this on ya. I've got rock salt loaded to the top. Doya think I'm crazy?"

Pointing at the large steaming rock, one man shouted, "J.W., have ya ever seen a rock on fire?"

Farmer Barber was now close enough to see the large rock. It had a whiteish appearance and looked similar to a lump of coal just after it was pulled from the fire.

"Now just where did that thing come from?" he inquired. He looked around at everyone, scanning their faces for some type of reaction.

An older boy, unwilling to be shot in the behind said, "Put down that gun and we'll tell ya.'

The farmer obliged and sat the gun on the ground. Lifting his head back up he noticed that everyone was looking to the sky.

Pointing upward, the boy said, "This is going to sound stupid fer sure, but it fell from up der."

The farmer, now with a look of disgust shouted, "Now I've just about had enough." He reached down toward the gun when a big man with a badge stepped on its barrel. It was the local sheriff. He said, "They told you the truth J.W., that thing fell from the sky."

Scratching his head in disbelief, farmer Barber said, "Oh my goodness gracious. Now I've seen dang near everything."

The next morning, farmer Barber was the town's celebrity. Pointing to the
sky like some kind of expert, he could heard saying, "The thing just dropped from the sky and don't let me hear ya say ya don't believe it." He had taken time to build a wooden fence around the hole in order to preserve his find.

Observing a young boy sticking his head through the fence, farmer Barber shouted, "Boy, don't get too close now," People were standing ten deep just to get a peek at his "stone from the heavens."

A neighbor said, "J.W. you are so lucky. That's damn near the largest stone from the sky that anyone has ever found.

Suddenly, a man they termed a "city boy" stepped up and said, "You could be right. There were a couple of meteorites that fell in Spain that might be larger but this one is truly a keeper and may be in the record books."

Florida’s Subtropical Exposition
© The Jacksonville Observer
The timing could not have been better to have a natural amusement enter the earth's atmosphere. It was just weeks before Florida's Subtropical Exposition and this was a unique item. Exposition organizers approached the farmer for permission and after guarantees that his land would be returned to its original state; he accepted their offer to remove the iron stone and display it in Jacksonville.

It was not clear whether the farmer requested the meteorites return after its display.

Block and tackle assisted in its removal and placement on a washboard wagon pulled by several horses. The trip from Middleburg to Jacksonville,
Florida, took nearly two full days.

Kids in Meteorite
© The Jacksonville Observer
For nearly three years, the 200 pound magnificent piece was displayed in
its special cradle. It was touched, sat on, kissed, prayed to and even
painted. It was stroked by the President of the United States, the First
Lady, the Governor, Mayors of several cities and many other dignitaries.
There were those who brought tools to remove a piece for posterity but none were successful. They left empty-handed.

Sometime during its display, Dr. Hahn, meteorite expert from Germany, traveled to Jacksonville to photograph and examine the meteorite. He exclaimed that he had proof of fossils inside the giant ore and wrote a paper outlining his find. Years later, his claims were discredited.

Sadly, after Jacksonville's Subtropical Exposition, the meteor was removed and never seen again. There are several newspaper articles published during this time period throughout the world which suggest a group of thieves would acquire meteors for its mineral deposits. They would melt the rock which would separate each individual metal and sell the results to the highest bidder.

Whether this theft occurred or not the Middleburg Meteor has never been seen again.