Willie lived a reclusive, isolated existence seldom leaving his property. Water was hand- pumped each day from a well, located close to the cabin, and carried indoors in a metal bucket. A single lightbulb and a radio were powered by a Model-T car battery. This style of low-technology dependence seemed to be all Willie needed or desired. Willie demonstrated his love for people by giving away parcels of land to people in need and to those who would value the land’s natural beauty.
In 1960 Willie gave seven acres of land along Mt. Pleasant Road to the Campfire Girls organization for a place to build a campground and lodge. During the last years of his life Willie struggled to keep his property. Though real estate developers eagerly offered him millions of dollars for his property, Willie refused to sell. “Money cannot buy happiness and this place makes me happy,” Willie once said. Willie worried that there would come a time when Jacksonville would be so densely populated and developed that no wild areas would remain where people could enjoy the natural beauty of “Old Florida.”
In 1969 Willie Browne donated all his land to The Nature Conservancy with the stipulation that it or any future owner would keep the land in its natural state. Willie requested that the property be named for his hero, former president Theodore Roosevelt. In December 1970, Willie Browne died alone in his cabin, content that he had done everything possible to nurture, conserve, and protect the gift of land bequeathed to him by his father. With his passing, Willie bequeathed his conservation values and his precious gift to all of us, for all time.
Last updated: December 15, 2020