A bit of the Wild West once came to central Florida – cowboys, dancehall girls and shootouts – all located close to Silver Springs.
Opened in 1963, Six Gun Territory was one of the first Florida attractions to embraces the Wild West genre. Probably because of the near-tropical nature of Florida, western town recreations never were common in the state. Six Gun and Floridaland near Venice were the main two, at least until Walt Disney World’s Frontierland opened.
As the attraction wrote in one of its brochures: “All aboard … These magic words start your train or sky ride back into history – a hundred years – back into the days of the ‘roaring west’…“
Six Gun Territory was located in Silver Springs – the town, not the attraction. The distinction is important, since over the years, the attraction Silver Springs had a collection of semi-separate attractions such as Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute, Tommy Bartlett’s Deer Ranch and the Prince of Peace Memorial. Silver Springs, the town, is an unincorporated area in Marion County that developed around Silver Springs and the Silver River.
In its early days, Six Gun was made up of a western townscape with most of its expected components – the OK Corral, the Frontier Express steam train, a blacksmith shop, the Old Stage Coach, bank robberies, train robberies and gun fights, the Palace Saloon and Theatre with dancing can-can girls, an Indian village with “authentic” dancing and a Mexican town. Later, the attraction added modern rides – a gondola skyride and the Funland area with 15 different rides including a carousel, kiddie roller coaster, Ferris wheel and bumper cars.
The buildings were complete with interiors, not just fronts of buildings like on a typical movie set. The builders worked hard to make the attraction as authentic as reasonably possible. For instance, the Indian village was considered authentic for its time. There was even a 60 foot high mountain.
The town included some 40 buildings including a functioning hotel where famous visitors could stay and a church that held services on Sunday mornings.
There was a concert area for live music, museums and antique displays and the Rojo’s Roost Restaurant and El Sombrero Cafeteria. Sometimes the titular name was shown with a 6, rather than a Six.
With the coming of the interstate highways and Walt Disney World, most of Florida’s attractions struggled and Six Gun Territory looks to have been one of the ones who had enough issues to eventually close in 1984. The property would be cleared and burned in 1986.
In recent times, some of the magic of Six Gun Territory has come back to life. There’s some private property near Williston that includes some of the original rides (some working, some in pieces), a proper train and track and a partial recreation of the western town. Located on the Kirby Family Farm, there are occasional Six Gun weekends offered, with many of the original Six Gun employees in attendance recreating their old roles as townsfolk, gunmen and can-can dancers.