Alford looks like a typical small town in Florida, with shops and restaurants that dot the highway, but there’s more behind it all.
The Barfield Country Store offers fresh fruit, candy, Tshirts and souvenir items while Something Special Sweets & Cafe is one of the town’s popular eateries. The Alford Schoolhouse was converted into La Maison de Lucy, a luxury bed & breakfast with 12 suites, each representing a different country.
The town is also the site of one of the few working gristmills in Florida. Built in the 1880s, Dilmore’s Mill is privately owned, and makes its share of cornmeal. Its owner remembers riding a horse and carriage into Alford as a young boy with his father, and visiting one of the gristmills, along with the drug store and barbershop.
“There used to be grist mills because everybody depended on them,” he said. However, people in the southern-most town situated along Highway 231 depend on something else these days—each other.
A story has circulated over the past decade about one of the town’s former mayors, which shows the character of Alford’s citizens. A church group driving through Alford in a tour bus experienced mechanical difficulties as they headed north. The town’s mayor, Donald Smith, heard of the group’s troubles and offered his help. He found the group a place to stay and took them down to the community center so they could eat.
“Donald was good at doing that. The people of Alford are great people,” one long-time resident said.
The lucky visitors returned home, and were so grateful, they wrote the town a thank-you letter.
The residents may not travel with horses and buggies anymore, but the town is small enough that most stores, restaurants and churches are within walking distance.
However, these days the residents depend on each other. If someone’s house burns down, people show up with boxes of clothes and supplies.
“It’s a quiet, easy place to live,” one resident said. “It’s a good place to raise a family.”
Many of the town’s residents have lived there all their lives, and found that the small dot on the map is big enough for them. “People help people here, that’s what I like about it,” one resident said.