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.