Friday, December 14, 2007

The Apalachicola Arsenal at Chattahoochee, Florida

The historic Apalachicola Arsenal is actually across the river from Jackson County in neighboring Gadsden County, but played an important role in the history of both counties. The facility was an important military post prior to the Civil War and was used as a training facility by the Confederates. It also served as a state prison during the Reconstruction era and eventually formed the core of today's Florida State Hospital.

I'm in the process of making a series of postings about the arsenal on a sister blog,, that you might find of interest. Just scroll down the page when you get there to read them all and be sure to check back over the next few days as I make more additions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jackson County in 1823

This map in the National Archives is one of the first known to have been drawn following the creation of Jackson County.

Although settlements had been established in the area by 1823, when the map was drawn, the only one shown is "Tocktechla" (or Tocktoethla), a Native American town occupied by the followers of Econchatimico. This village had been established in 1818 following the destruction of the chief's former town, Ekanachatte, by U.S. forces during the First Seminole War.

Tocktoethla, which roughly means "River Junction" when translated from the Creek language, was located on a site now inundated by Lake Seminole. It was adjacent to the later sites of Port Jackson and Butler Landing. The surrounding area today is part of the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area north of Sneads.

A couple of other features of importance are shown on the map in the modern Jackson County area. The "Forks of the Creek" at the head of the Chipola River are clearly visible, although they were drawn a bit larger than life by the mapmaker. Three important early trails are shown. Two of these connected Tocktoethla with the Chipola River, one by way of the Natural Bridge at today's Florida Caverns State Park and the second is what today is known as the "Fort Road," which leads across the modern sites of Two Egg and Greenwood before crossing the Chipola at Bellamy Bridge. The third is the "River Road," a pathway that has been in use for hundreds if not thousands of years. It leads up the west side of the Chattahoochee River. Portions of the original track can still be seen along the sides of County Road 271 (River Road).
The map also shows the Natural Bridge of the Chipola as well as another important early landmark, the "Rocky Mount" near the present site of Sneads. This feature was shown on maps as early as 1778. The "mount" today is known as Gorrie Hill and is located along the south border of Three Rivers State Park. Part is inside the park and part is on the adjoining private land.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Jackson County's own St. Nicholas

It is a little known fact that the first European settlement in Jackson County was named for St. Nicholas or, as we remember him these days, Santa Claus.
The Spanish mission of San Nicolas was founded in 1674 by Franciscan missionaries who made their way west from the mission center of San Luis in present-day Tallahassee. Located at a large village of Chatot or Chacato Indians (sometimes confused with the Choctaw, even though they never lived in the area), San Nicolas consisted of a rough church, a home for the priest Fray Rodrigo de la Barreda and a storage building.
Mission San Nicolas was only occupied for about one year before a rebellion among the Chatot forced a wounded Fray Rodrigo to flee for his life. Although it is not believed that the church was ever again occupied, the site of San Nicolas remained an important landmark and camping spot for Spanish explorers over the next few decades.
The exact site of the mission has never been determined. Based on a journal kept my Fray Rodrigo, it is evident that the church stood at the mouth of a large cave somewhere west of the Chipola River. He mentions passing Calistoble (Blue) Spring and a severe swamp (the Natural Bridge of the Chipola) before arriving at the site. The cave at the mission site was described as extremely large and with a stream of water flowing inside.
The two most likely possibilities for the mission site are the now largely collapsed cave at Waddell's Mill Pond and the well-known Arch Cave about three miles northwest of Marianna. No evidence of the mission's existence has ever been found at these sites, but they are the only known caves in the area matching the priest's descriptions. Both are on private property and the owners do an admirable job of protecting the caves from damage.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers

This photograph was taken from the Jackson County shore of the Apalachicola River during the 1940s and provides a rare view of the original confluence of "forks" of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. Construction was just beginning on the Jim Woodruff Dam at the time.

Today, the scenery shown here is completely submerged by Lake Seminole, the huge reservoir created by the completion of the dam.

For centuries, however, the "forks" was a major landmark for both Native Americans and early European explorers and settlers. Eventually the point where the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers met came to be accepted as the official dividing line between Georgia and Florida. The Spanish maintained a mission, La Encarnacion a la Santa Cruz de Sabacola on the point of land visible near the center of the photograph between the two rivers during the late 1600s. Later this was the site of the large fort and town of the Native American leader Chislacasliche ("Cherokee Killer").

The right bank of the river, visible here, was the site of a fort constructed in 1814 by British troops during the closing months of the War of 1812. The fort was an outpost of the better known British fort at Prospect Bluff that later became known as the "Negro Fort" of the Apalachicola River.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Faye Dunaway birthplace - Two Egg, Florida

If you aren't familiar with this slowly deteriorating old frame home, it was the birthplace of famed film and stage actress Faye Dunaway.

Born near Two Egg in 1941, Dunaway became one of the top actresses of the 1970s, starring in such blockbuster films as Bonnie and Clyde and Little Big Man. She officially lists Bascom as her birthplace.

My appreciation to Ashley Pollette for submitting this photograph. He took it while working on the Southern Heritage program that he co-hosts on Chipola College TV (CCTV).

Monday, November 19, 2007

World War II in Two Egg

I've been learning more about World War II activities in Jackson County over recent weeks and have been amazed by the number of fatal military aircraft crashes in and around Two Egg during the war.
At least three fatal crashes, and possibly more, took place within a one mile radius of the community between 1943 and 1945.
Apparently Two Egg was prone to such accidents because a manned radio beacon there was used by aircraft approaching and leaving the Marianna Army Airfield (later Graham Air Force Base and today's Marianna Municipal Airport). In addition, the beacon served as a key navigation point for pilots in training. As a result, they often used it as a center point for practicing bombing and strafing runs.
Military training was extremely dangerous in those days and, as a result, over 1,000 men died in aircraft accidents in Florida alone during World War II. At least six of them lost their lives in and around Two Egg.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blue Spring - A Jackson County historic landmark

Located off Blue Springs Road northeast of Marianna, Blue Spring (or Blue Springs, as some prefer) is one of the largest springs in Florida. The submerged cave system below the spring, in fact, is one of the deepest in the world.

Now a popular recreation area that is open during the spring and summer, Blue Spring is one of the most historic spots in Jackson County. The spring was on the primary trail connecting the Apalachicola River with the Chatot or Chacato (sometimes incorrectly confused with the Chatot) Indian villages of the Chipola River valley. Spanish missionaries followed this trail in 1674 when they passed through the area on their way to establish the missions of San Nicolas and San Carlos west of the Chipola. One of the priests, Fray Rodrigo de la Barreda, left an account of Blue or Calistoble Spring, which he described as being of great depth and located in the center of a vast forest. He reported seeing buffalo in the area and noted that the stream coming from the spring was large enough that the Indians sailed on it in canoes. He also mentioned that caves in the area were used as shelters by Chatot hunters.

The Robinson family settled around Blue Spring at the time of Florida's transfer from Spain to the United States and it became the center of a large plantation. The Robinson home stood on the hill overlooking the spring and was the first home in Jackson County with running water. The owner, Col. Robinson, devised a unique apparatus to move water up from the spring to a holding tank at his house. By 1825, the spring was known as "Robinson's Big Spring" or the "Big Spring of the Chipola."

By the time of the War Between the States, the land had passed into the ownership of Florida's Confederate governor, John Milton. Milton's home, Sylvania, stood a little more than one mile from the spring, but according to one antebellum diarist, he often fished there. A camp of Confederate cavalry was maintained at the spring during much of the war and Captain Robert Chisolm's company of cavalry from the Alabama Militia was stationed at Blue Spring during the days leading up to the Battle of Marianna.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Blue Spring was developed as a popular resort. Guests from the Chipola Hotel in downtown Marianna were carried out in carriages to bathe in the waters, which were believed to have healing properties.

Today, it is a popular swimming area maintained by Jackson County.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ghost of Bellamy Bridge

The photograph at right is of the old Samuel Bellamy mansion in Marianna. This was the home where Elizabeth Jane Bellamy supposedly burned to death on her wedding night, the primary event behind the Bellamy Bridge ghost legend. It is her ghost that is said to haunt the area around the bridge.

The mansion no longer stands, which is a shame because it was said to have been an architectural marvel. It stood in the center of the entire city block bordered by Green, Clinton, Market and Jefferson Streets.

In reality, Elizabeth did not die in a wedding not fire. I've recently updated the Bellamy Bridge story at Just follow the link and take a look, I think you'll find it to be a fascinating historical footnote in the history of Jackson County.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Captain Henry Grace - Graceville

The faded image at right is of Captain Henry B. Grace, one of the men for whom the modern Jackson County city of Graceville is named.

A resident of the Campbellton area at the time of the War Between the States, Grace was elected as captain of a company of Jackson County men who called themselves the "Campbellton Boys." They became Company G of the 6th Florida Infantry in March of 1862. The 6th Florida went on to fight at Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Franklin and Nashville.

While Captain Grace and his men were away in the Confederate service, Union forces marched on Jackson County and the captain's home was one of the one struck during the 1864 Marianna raid. His wife and father in law were at home when Union soldiers passed by on their way to the Battle of Marianna.

After the war, Grace joined with relatives in founding the modern community of Graceville.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Russ House - Marianna

The historic Russ House in Marianna is one of Jackson County's best known landmarks. For generations of the county's school kids, it was the "old haunted house" on West Lafayette Street. Today, however, it is the beautifully restored home of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.
Often mistaken for an antebellum plantation manor, the home was actually constructed in 1895 by Joseph W. Russ, a prominent Marianna businessman and landowner. It was altered some from its original appearance in 1910 and was home to five generations of Russ descendents. In 1995 the home was deeded to the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and was beautifully restored over a four year period beginning in 1996.
At the same time, the grounds of the home were developed into a beautiful public park. The landscaping project eliminated an old gas station that once obstructed the vista of Lafayette Street from the front of the house and added a very nice touch of greenery to an already beautiful section of the city.
The home functions today as offices for the Chamber of Commerce, but is open to the public during normal business hours. Chamber representatives can also answer questions about Jackson County.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Marianna Confederate Reunion

This photograph was taken at one of the last Confederate reunions in Florida. Held in Marianna on September 26-27, 1927, the reunion marked the 63rd anniversary of the 1864 Battle of Marianna.
The small group of men visible on the far left of the photograph were some of the last Confederate veterans still alive in Florida at the time of the reunion. They would have been at least in their late 70s in 1927.
The annual tradition of Confederate veterans gathering in Marianna for "Marianna Day" on the anniversary of the battle ended shortly after 1927. For many years, September 27th was observed as a day of remembrance in Florida, but the tradition has long since faded.
For more information on the Battle of Marianna, please visit

Friday, October 12, 2007

Caroline Lee Hentz - 19th Century Novelist

Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz, pictured at right, was one of America's most popular novelists during the 1840s and 1850s. Noted expecially for her romantic novels set in real-life Southern locations and often based on real-life events, she was acclaimed in the South for Planter's Northern Bride, a rebuttal volume to Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Mrs. Hentz spent the last years of her life in Jackson County, living with her son Charles in a large two-story home across Lafayette Street from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna. It has been thought by many that her book The Long Moss Spring was set in the county, but in reality she completed it while still living in Columbus, Georgia.
Mrs. Hentz died prior to the Civil War and is buried in the family plot at St. Luke's Churchyard. Her son, Thaddeus, was later wounded near her grave while fighting as a member of Norwood's Home Guard during the Battle of Marianna.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The man who saved the "Cutler Bible"

This faded image is of Major Nathan Cutler, an officer with the 2nd Maine Cavalry during the Civil War. Major Cutler is the man for whom the "Cutler Bible," now preserved at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Marianna, is named.
At the time of the Battle of Marianna, Cutler was a 20 year old officer who had left his studies at Harvard University to join the 2nd Maine Cavalry. He led the first charge on Marianna, but was driven back by strong Confederate fire. Later during the battle, as the story goes, orders were handed down from Colonel L.L. Zulavsky (who had assumed command of the Union forces following the wounding of Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth) to burn St. Luke's Church and two nearby homes to dislodge Confederate soldiers who refused to surrender.
Supposedly Major Cutler objected to the orders, but was overruled. He then dashed into the burning church and saved the Bible, bringing it through the flames to safety. A short time later, he was seriously wounded by two young members of the Marianna home guard and ultimately was taken prisoner after his comrades were forced to leave him behind in Marianna due to the seriousness of his wounds.
In later years Cutler was interviewed about the incident. Although he did not claim to have saved the Bible, he did remember the incident and described how "someone" in the Union force had objected to the burning of the church, but that the objections had been overruled and the orders carried out. A local historian who actually met the major evidently came away convinced the story was true, but that Cutler was simply being modest in the interview.
Either way, the Bible survives and is preserved in a glass case in the church and the legend remains one of Jackson County's most intriguing stories.
For more on the Battle of Marianna, please visit

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Site of Scott's Massacre - November 30, 1817

This photo, actually taken from the Gadsden County side of the Apalachicola River, shows the site of the bloodiest battle of the First Seminole War.
The river here forms the dividing line between Jackson and Gadsden Counties. Jackson County is on the right or west side of the stream and Gadsden County is on the left or east. On November 30, 1817, an army supply boat manned by 40 men from the 7th U.S. Infantry Regiment made its way around the sharp bend seen here. Due to the strength of the current, the boat was forced to navigate close to the east bank of the river. Although they had been warned of the possibility of attack, the soldiers were not prepared when a large force of Creek and Seminole warriors opened fire from hidden positions along the shore.
The commander of the boat, Lieutenant Richard W. Scott, and most of his men were killed or wounded in the first volley. As the warriors stormed the boat, six men managed to escape by leaping overboard and swimming across to the Jackson County shore. The rest were killed. Search parties later found the bodies of 34 men at the site.
In addition to the soldiers, 7 women and 4 children (family members of soldiers) were on the boat at the time of the attack. All but one of these, a Mrs. Stewart, were killed. She was taken prisoner by the warriors, but was rescued the following year by troops under Andrew Jackson.
The attack on Scott's party was made in retaliation for U.S. Army attacks on the Lower Creek village of Fowltown in what is now Decatur County, Georgia. The village, home of the chief Neamathla (Eneah Emathla), was attacked on both November 21st and November 23rd, 1817, after the chief refused to come to nearby Fort Scott for a conference. Fowltown warriors were among those who carried out the retaliatory attack on Scott's command.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Annual "ghost town" homecoming a success

The 46th annual Homecoming at Oak Grove Church in Old Parramore took place this weekend and, once again, was a success. The annual event, unlike many Northwest Florida homecomings, actually celebrates a community rather than a congregation.
Regular services are no longer held at Oak Grove, instead the beautiful little country church serves as a permanent memorial to the Jackson County "ghost town" of Parramore. A prosperous commercial center during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the community once boasted 5 stores, a post office, cotton gin, sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop, churches, schools and more. Several hundred residents lived in the area.
Parramore owed its commercial life to the turpentine industry. Rosin was harvested from the area longleaf pine woods and shipped out in barrels aboard paddlewheel riverboats. Several Chattahoochee River landings served the Parramore area. The most important of these was Peri Landing (pronounced "Pea Rye"), which was listed in 1919 as being one of the few "warehouse landings" along the lower Chattahoochee.
Railroads and modern highways eventually replaced the riverboats as means of transportation and they disappeared by the middle of the 20th century. Parramore all but disappeared with them. The turpentine industry dwindled away after World War II and with it went the stores and other commercial establishments. Today little remains other than gravestones, churches and a scattering of homes.
Each year on the first Sunday in October, former and current residents of Parramore and their families gather at Oak Grove to celebrate the existence of the community.