Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jeff Milton - Faster than the Fastest Gun in the West

By Dale Cox

Blue Spring – On Blue Springs Road a few miles east of Marianna, a state marker points out the site of “Sylvania,” the home of Governor John Milton. The marker provides the basic story of Governor Milton, Florida’s Confederate leader.

An important fact overlooked by the writer of the marker text, however, is that “Sylvania” was also the birthplace of Jefferson Davis Milton, a lawman who faced down the “fastest gun in the West” and lived to tell about it.
Jeff Milton was born at Sylvania in November of 1861 and was just four years old when his father died from a gun blast in one of the bedrooms. It was the beginning of a remarkably turbulent and yet highly successful life.
Like many young Southern men of his era, Milton turned his back on his home state and headed west for Texas. Only fifteen years old, he worked as a cowboy for a time but soon embarked on a career in which he achieved lasting fame.
In 1878, when he was just seventeen years old, Jeff Milton lied about his age and became a Texas Ranger. Four years later he moved west to New Mexico and spent the 1880s and 1890s working as a deputy U.S. marshal, sheriff’s deputy, police chief and in other law enforcement roles.
One thing is for certain, Jeff Milton had one of the fastest draws of any gunfighter in the Old West. He was responsible over the years for the gunfight shootings of such desperadoes as “Bronco Bill” Walters, “Three Fingered Jack” Dunlop and “Bravo Juan” Yoas. His famous quote, “I never killed a man who didn’t need killing,” is among the best known attributed to any gunfighter.
Milton’s most remarkable accomplishment, however, may well have been the stand he made as Police Chief of El Paso, Texas, against the man some believe was the deadliest gunfighter of them all, John Wesley Hardin. Often described as “the fastest gun in the West,” Hardin killed between 30 and 60 men over the years – many of them lawmen.
Jeff Milton had signed on as the head of El Paso’s police force in 1894 and vowed to bring law and order to the boisterous frontier town. Almost immediately he heard that the infamous Hardin was on his way to town, heavily armed and accompanied by several others. Despite Hardin’s fearsome reputation, Milton met him face to face in the streets of El Paso where he informed the gunfighter that he would not be allowed to carry weapons in the city. It was a remarkable scene, the man called by his biographer “a good man with a gun” facing down the “Dark Angel” of Texas. In the end, not a shot was fired. For one of a very few times in his life, Hardin calculated his odds and decided against a gunfight with Jeff Milton. He meekly turned over his weapons and submitted to Milton’s orders.
John Wesley Hardin died not long after, shot in the back of the head by an adversary while he rolled dice in an El Paso saloon. Jeff Milton, however, went on to live a long and productive life. In 1904 he accepted employment with the Immigration Service and continued with the agency until he was 72 years old.
Jefferson Davis Milton died in Tucson, Arizona, on May 7, 1947. His ashes were sprinkled over the deserts that he came to love, far away from his birthplace in Jackson County. He is remembered today by officers of the U.S. Border Patrol as “America’s First Border Patrolman.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge - Part Three

We continue today with our series of excerpts from my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. We are detailing the story of Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge of the Chipola River at Florida Caverns State Park:


The army continued forward on the morning of May 11, 1818. Crossing the hills between Blue Spring and the Chipola River, they arrived by around midday at the natural bridge. It was here that the supposed incident involving Andrew Jackson took place, but Captain Young did not record it in his journal. Instead, he wrote that the men were well aware that they were crossing a natural bridge and even offered a theory as to how it had been formed:

The Natural Bridge is in the center of a large swamp and appears to be a deposit of earth on a raft or some similar obstruction. The passage is narrow and the creek, with a rapid current is visible both above and below.

Young, of course, was mistaken about the formation of the bridge. It is actually created by the sudden disappearance of the Chipola River into a series of limestone passages. It flows underground through these for a short distance, before rising back to the surface. Nineteenth century loggers cut a canal across the top of the feature to allow them to float timber across to a downstream mill, taking away some of the unique appearance of the natural bridge, but it can still be seen today.

The absence of any mention of the legendary natural bridge incident in Young’s account is curious. A careful examination of his memoir, however, provides an explanation.
There was an incident involving a natural bridge during Jackson’s invasion, but according to Young it took place between St. Marks and Suwannee Old Town at the Natural Bridge of the Econfina. Jackson and the main body crossed over that bridge, but had to wait for a second column to catch up. When the soldiers arrived, they explained that it had been necessary for them to build rafts to cross a river.
Somehow, over time, the real incident at the Econfina Natural Bridge was claimed by the early settlers of Jackson County and relocated to the Natural Bridge of the Chipola. A number of the soldiers in Jackson’s army came back to settle Jackson County and it is possible that in later years their descendents remembered their story about the natural bridge incident and assumed they were talking about the one at today’s Florida Caverns.
A second legend about Jackson’s passage through Jackson County, however, appears to have more of a basis in truth. According to local tradition, as the army made its way through the area of Florida Caverns State Park, they were carefully watched by alarmed Native Americans who hid in caves and rock shelters as the soldiers marched past. A visit to the park in May, the month during which the expedition took place, reveals that this was clearly possible. The heavy spring growth of the forest obscures many rock bluffs and caves that look out on the route followed by the soldiers.
Native American families still living in Jackson County preserve strong oral tradition about this incident. A representative of one family indicated in 2007 that for many years, older members of the family would take younger members to the area of the natural bridge and point out caves in which their grandparents said they had hidden while the soldiers marched past.
After crossing the natural bridge, Jackson’s soldiers continued on past Blue Hole Spring and the Rock Arch Cave before turning to the northwest again and marching out of what is now Jackson County near present-day Graceville. The trail they followed took them through some of the fine farmlands between the Chipola River and Holmes Creek. The country was impressive and they knew that once the Seminole War was over, would likely be wide open for settlement.
Jackson’s topographer, Captain Hugh Young, clearly had the future settlement of the area in mind as he recorded his observations of the country through which the army passed. Describing the area below and around present-day Grand Ridge, for example, he noted that it was “good pine land with reddish soil.” With regard to the land west of the Chipola River through which the army marched, he wrote that it was “excellent land” with a “mixed growth of oak, pine and hickory with several sinks affording abundance of excellent water.”
(End of Excerpt)

If you are interested in learning more about the history of Jackson County, please consider my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. The book can be purchased online by simply clicking the title. It is also available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna. They are located on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant and are directly across from the Battle of Marianna monument.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Anniversary of Scott's Massacre - November 30, 1817

Today marks the 191st anniversary of the Seminole War battle remembered as Scott's Massacre.

This bloody fight took place on November 30, 1817, on the Apalachicola River in roughly the area of Chattahoochee Landing between Chattahoochee and Sneads.

The battle began when Seminole and Creek warriors attacked a U.S. Army supply boat from the Gadsden County side of the river. The current had forced the boat to navigate close to the shore, allowing the warriors to fire from point blank range.

After firing a volley of musket and rifle fire that killed or wounded most of the able-bodied U.S. soldiers on the boat, the warriors (reportedly led by the refugee Creek chief Homathlemico and others) waded into the river and overwhelmed the survivors. The incident was widely mentioned in 19th century histories of the United States, but has now faded into obscurity. Illustrations like the one shown here were used in a number of books of that era.
The attack resulted in the deaths of at least 34 U.S. soldiers, 6 women (wives of soldiers) and 4 children. Four other soldiers were wounded, but escaped by leaping into the river and swimming away to the opposite bank. Only three people survived without injury. Two of them were soldiers that escaped to the opposite bank. The third, Elizabeth Stewart, was taken captive by the warriors and held in various villages until the following spring when she was rescued by troops under Andrew Jackson.

The event marked the deadliest day in the history of Gadsden and Jackson Counties. If you would like to learn more, please consider my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. The book can be ordered by following the link and can also be purchased at Chipola River Book and Tea in Marianna (downtown across from the Battle of Marianna monument). It will be available through other locations in January.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge - Part Two

We continue tonight with the story of Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge of the Chipola River.

This article is part two of a series of excerpts from The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One, a new book published this year.


From Fort Gadsden, Jackson’s army swept east through much of the Big Bend region of Florida. He destroyed the Seminole towns of Tallahassee Talofa (“Old Field Town”) and Miccosukee and defeated a large force of Seminole, Creek and African American warriors at the Battle of Miccosukee on April 1, 1818. Turning south, he marched to the coast and forced the surrender of the Spanish fort of San Marcos de Apalache (Fort St. Marks). There he captured a Scottish trader named Alexander Arbuthnot as well as the Creek Prophet Josiah Francis and the Red Stick chief Homathlemico. Arbuthnot was accused of inciting the war, while Francis and Homathlemico were old enemies of Jackson’s from the Creek War. Both of the chiefs were summarily hanged, but Arbuthnot was held as a prisoner.

Three prisoners of the Indians were also found in the fort. William Hambly and Edmund Doyle, the traders captured at Spanish Bluff, had been turned over to the Spanish for safe keeping by their captors. With them was found a Georgia militiaman named Duncan McKrimmon. He had been captured by some of Francis’ warriors near Fort Gadsden and was on the verge of being executed when the prophet’s daughter, Milly Francis, intervened on his behalf and convinced his captors to spare his life. She later became known as the “Creek Pocahontas” and was authorized a special medal of honor and pension by the U.S. Congress in recognition of her act of mercy.

Jackson then turned east for the Suwannee, to attack the large village of Chief Boleck (also called “Bowlegs”) near what is now Suwannee Old Town. En route, however, his scouts discovered a large force of Red Sticks under the chief Peter McQueen at the Natural Bridge of the Econfina River (Note: Not to be confused with Econfina Creek). McQueen was attacked and his warriors all but annihilated in a bloody one-sided confrontation. More than 100 women and children were captured, including Mrs. Stewart, the captive survivor of Scott’s Massacre.

The army pushed on to Suwannee Old Town, where another sharp battle took place. Boleck’s village was destroyed, but most of its inhabitants managed to escape across the Suwannee River to safety. Two British interlopers, however, were not so fortunate. Sending out parties to round up any warriors that might be hiding in the area, Jackson managed to capture a schooner that had tied up near the mouth of the Suwannee. On board were Peter Cook and Robert Ambrister. Cook was a clerk to Alexander Arbuthnot, the trader captured at Fort St. Marks, while Ambrister had been a lieutenant in the British Marines and a subordinate to Colonel Nicolls and Major Woodbine during the War of 1812.
Jackson took them back to St. Marks where a military trial was convened. Cook agreed to testify for the prosecution, as did Hambly and Doyle. Arbuthnot and Ambrister were found guilty and executed by order of the general.
Believing the war was now virtually over, Jackson ordered most of his men back to Fort Scott for discharge and then returned in person to Fort Gadsden. Upon arriving there, however, he received intelligence that Spanish authorities in Pensacola were providing arms and supplies to Red Stick warriors. Assembling a force of 1,092 men and two pieces of artillery, he marched back up the east side of the Apalachicola River and on May 9, 1818, crossed over to Ocheesee Bluff.

The army turned to the northwest on the morning of May 10th and crossed into Jackson County. Their route led them across the approximate site of Grand Ridge to Blue Spring, where they camped for the night. Captain Hugh Young, Jackson’s topographer, called the spot “Big Spring,” a name it would hold for a number of years. He described it as being “forty yards in diameter and of considerable depth with a rock bottom and a clean rapid current.”

The soldiers in Jackson’s army marveled at the beauty and richness of the surrounding countryside. Young himself kept careful records of the quality of the lands through which they marched.
(End of Excerpt)

Copies of The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One are available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant, across the street from the Battle of Marianna monument). You can also order the book online by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge - Part One

The Natural Bridge of the Chipola River, seen here, is one of the most significant historic sites in Jackson County.
Now part of Florida Caverns State Park, the bridge is a place where the Chipola River sinks underground for a short distance before rising again and continuing down to eventually merge with the Apalachicola.
In 1818, the army of General Andrew Jackson crossed the bridge on its way to attack the Spanish city of Pensacola. The march provided many of Jackson's men with their first view of the area they would soon return to settle. It also provided Jackson County with one of its most fascinating legends, the story of Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge.
The following is excerpted from my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. Signed copies of the book can be purchased in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea (on the same block as the Gazebo restaurant, across from the Battle of Marianna monument). It can also be ordered online by clicking here. I post additional parts of this story over coming days:
Excerpt from Chapter Two: Andrew Jackson and the Natural Bridge
A fascinating legend about the First Seminole War can still be heard at Florida Caverns State Park near Marianna. The story revolves around Andrew Jackson’s march through Northwest Florida during the spring of 1818 and his crossing of the Chipola River at the natural bridge in the park.
According to the oft-recited legend, Jackson’s army was moving forward in two columns. One column, led by the general himself and guided by the chief John Blunt, crossed the river at the natural bridge. The second column, moving by a route more to the north, was forced to halt the river and build rafts so the men and artillery could get across. Jackson’s column reached the planned rendezvous point west of the river and the general, known for his temper, supposedly became irate when the second column failed to appear on schedule.
When the bedraggled men finally trudged into camp, it is said that Jackson berated their officers, demanding to know the reason for the delay. His temper supposedly soared even higher when they explained the reason for their lateness, as he had seen no river. The legend holds that it was not until John Blunt explained the phenomenon of the natural bridge that Jackson could be placated.
It is a fascinating little story and one of the few that survive about Andrew Jackson in the county that today bears his name. Mrs. Janie Smith Rhyne, a Jackson County writer and historian of the 20th century, even memorialized the event in poem:

“About first candle-light he spied
His draggled cavalcade
Emerging from the northward swamp –
No sooner seen than sprayed

With oaths as hot as shrapnel shells.
They pled, ‘We built a raft
To cross the river;’ Jackson yapped
‘No river there, you’re daft!’

‘I crossed no stream.’ ‘Then come;’ they led
Him to Chipola’s bank.
He saw, and spat another oath;
Then all his mind seemed blank.”

There is some basis of truth behind the legend. Andrew Jackson did cross the Natural Bridge of the Chipola during the First Seminole War. It was part of his only visit to the county that would later be named in his honor.

Leaving Fort Scott on March 11, 1818, Jackson invaded Spanish Florida with an army of around 3,000 men. The size of this force grew as he advanced due to the arrival of two regiments of Tennessee militia and Colonel William McIntosh’s 900 U.S. Creek Auxiliaries. Pushing down the east side of the Apalachicola River through what are now Gadsden and Liberty Counties, Jackson paused briefly at Alum Bluff just north of Bristol when his men sighted supply boats coming up the river. The army was on the verge of starvation when the vessels hove into sight.

Replenished with provisions, the men continued down the east bank until they arrived at Prospect Bluff where the “Negro Fort” had stood until its destruction two years earlier. The ruins of the fort could still be seen and the site was scattered with debris including rusted muskets that, when cleaned, would still fire.
Here Jackson ordered his engineer, Lieutenant James Gadsden, to design and construct a new fort that could serve as a base for his operations in Florida. Gadsden used the surviving water battery of the destroyed fort to construct a new work that stood immediately on the face of the bluff overlooking the river. Pleased with the lieutenant’s efforts, the general named the new post Fort Gadsden in his honor.
(More coming in future posts...)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Remarkable Story of Elizabeth Stewart Dill

By Dale Cox

Apalachicola River – In a recent article we explored the history of Scott’s Massacre, a battle fought on the Apalachicola River between Sneads and Chattahoochee on November 30, 1817. If you missed the article, you can read it online by scrolling down this page.

The battle took place when Creek and Seminole warriors attacked a U.S. Army supply boat commanded by Lieutenant Richard W. Scott of the 7th Infantry Regiment. Casualties were severe. Of the 40 men, 7 women and 4 children on board, 34 men, 6 women and all 4 children were killed.

The only female survivor of the massacre was Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart. Twenty-nine years old and a native of Maryland, she was the wife of a soldier stationed at Fort Scott. The old fort was located on the Flint River arm of what is now Lake Seminole and was the headquarters of General Edmund P. Gaines and the First Brigade.

Although six other women and four children died in the attack, Mrs. Stewart was saved through the intervention of one of the chiefs. Taken to the Seminole town of Miccosukie near present-day Tallahassee, she was assigned to the women belonging to a band of Creek refugees led by Chief Peter McQueen. A key leader in the Creek War of 1813-1814, McQueen had fled to Florida following the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Alabama.

Although records mentioning her captivity are rare, Mrs. Stewart appears to have performed tasks such as cooking and watching over the children of McQueen’s band. One of these was a nine year old boy then called “Billy” or “Powell.” In later years he became the great Seminole leader Osceola and it is his life that is memorialized today at Florida State University football games by “Chief Osceola,” the mascot of the Seminoles. In 1817 he was among the refugees that had fled to Florida from Alabama with Peter McQueen.

Enough mention of Mrs. Stewart appears in correspondence and military records of the time to verify that U.S. Army officers knew she was alive. The chances of locating and rescuing her, however, must have seemed remote.

In April of 1818, however, Andrew Jackson’s troops attacked McQueen’s warriors at Econfina Natural Bridge between Tallahassee and the Suwannee River. As the fight developed, Mrs. Stewart was seen hiding in the brush by Timpoochee Barnard, a Creek warrior fighting on the side of the United States. Barnard fought his way through the action to Mrs. Stewart and carried her safely to General Jackson.

Although early frontiersman Thomas Woodward told a vivid story later in life of the death of “Sergeant Stewart” at Scott’s Massacre, records of the time indicate that Woodward was repeating a fictional story. There was no soldier named Stewart killed during the battle and General William McIntosh, the famed Creek leader of Coweta, wrote a few days after Mrs. Stewart’s rescue that she had been returned to “her father and husband” who he said were with General Jackson.

The Stewarts settled about sixty miles north of Jackson County in Fort Gaines, Georgia. He died there in the early 1820s and she remarried a local merchant named Thomas Dill. The couple was one of the wealthiest on the frontier and a Fort Gaines legend holds that their riches originated during Elizabeth’s captivity. As the story goes, Native American warriors considered paper money worthless to them and would throw it away as they returned from raids. Elizabeth collected the money from the ground and stashed it away. By the time of her rescue, she is said to have collected a fortune.

Elizabeth Stewart Dill is buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Fort Gaines and her beautiful home – seen above and supposedly built with the paper money collected in Florida – still stands as a beautiful landmark in the picturesque old town. Her story is truly one of the most remarkable in area history.

Editor’s Note: The story of Scott’s Massacre is presented in detail in Dale Cox’s new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. The book is available in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea downtown and can be ordered online by clicking here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Florida to Save Natural Bridge Battlefield

There was a major announcement today regarding a site closely associated with the history of Jackson County.

The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida was fought on March 6, 1865 and preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi not captured by Union troops during the Civil War.

One of the last significant Confederate victories of the war, the battle was of critical importance to North Florida and involved troops from numerous counties, including Jackson.

Major William H. Milton, of Marianna, commanded the right wing of the Confederate army during the battle. Lt. Col. W.D. Barnes, also of Marianna, commanded the Southern center. Jackson County men and boys fought at Natural Bridge in the 2nd and 5th Florida Cavalries, 1st Florida Infantry Reserves and in various artillery units.

Today, Florida Governor Charlie Christ and the state cabinet voted to save nearly 55 acres of threatened land adjoining Natural Bridge Historic State Park. The land includes the scene where Major Milton and Lt. Col. Barnes and their men held the right center and right flank of the Confederate line during the battle. It is one of the first major moves by the state to preserve an important Civil War site in Florida in many, many years.

If you would like to learn more about the battle, please click here to visit my Battle of Natural Bridge website. Also please consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument) or for order online by clicking here.

Here is the official announcement released today by the Florida Forever program:

~Florida Forever acquisition preserves 54.74 acres adjacent to Natural Bridge
Historic State Park~

TALLAHASSEE— Governor Crist and Cabinet today approved the purchase of 54.74 acres of land adjacent to the Natural Bridge Historic State Park in Leon County. The acquired parcel is significant to the protection of a first magnitude spring and features a Civil War battlefield.

“This important purchase is a part of the Florida First Magnitude Springs project and one of the top projects on the Florida Forever priority list,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard. “This acquisition ensures that the geological, historical and cultural integrity of this property and the surrounding water resources are preserved for Floridians and visitors from all over the world to enjoy for years to come.”

This Florida Forever project focuses on land that provides increased protection for Florida’s First Magnitude Springs that discharge more than 100 cubic feet of water per second. Florida’s springs, scattered through northern and central Florida, draw from the Floridan aquifer system, which is the state’s primary source of drinking water. Springs, with clear, continuously flowing waters, are among the state’s most important natural resources and are famous attractions. This acquisition brings the Florida First Magnitude Springs project closer to completion, with 7,844 acres of the 14,081 acre project remaining.

The property contains many karst features such as sink holes, natural bridges, swallets, karst windows and submerged cave systems. By preserving the surrounding land, this project will preserve the area’s geological significance and protect Florida’s water resources from the effects of commercial, residential and agricultural runoff and other potential impacts.

The property is also the site of Florida’s second largest Civil War battle. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and cited as one of the top ten endangered Civil War sites in the United States by the Civil War Preservation Trust. In 1865, during the final week of the Civil War, the battle at natural bridge preserved Tallahassee as the only Confederate Capitol east of the Mississippi that did not surrender to Union forces. Today, important historical and cultural, resources can be found on the property dating from the Paleo-Indian period (10,000 B.C.) to the Civil War. The property will eventually be managed by DEP’s Division of Recreation and Parks as part of the Natural Bridge Historic State Park.

Originally established in 1999, the 10-year, $3 billion Florida Forever program is the largest land-buying initiative in the nation, conserving environmentally sensitive land, restoring water resources and preserving important cultural and historical sites. More than two million acres throughout the state have been placed in public ownership under Florida Forever and its predecessor program, Preservation 2000 (P2000). For more information on the Florida Forever program, visit

To view maps that outline the subject parcel in this purchase, visit the following links:


Friday, November 14, 2008

Remembering Scott's Massacre of 1817

The grave visible in the background here (near the fence) is that of Elizabeth Stewart Dill, the only female survivor of a fierce battle that took place on the Apalachicola River between Chattahoochee and Sneads in November of 1817.
Remembered today as Scott's Massacre, the devastating attack on a U.S. supply boat by a combined force of Creek and Seminole warriors was the action that prompted Washington to order General Andrew Jackson to invade Florida...
Remembering Scott’s Massacre: Forgotten Battle Took Place 191 Years Ago This Month

By Dale Cox

Apalachicola River – The deadliest battle in the history of Jackson County took place 191 years ago this month on the Apalachicola River between Sneads and Chattahoochee. Remembered by history as Scott’s Massacre, it was the event that led Andrew Jackson to invade Florida and eventually brought many of his soldiers to Jackson County as settlers.

In November of 1817, following a determined but peaceful standoff between the Lower Creek Chief Neamathla and Major David E. Twiggs, the commanding officer at Fort Scott (located on the Flint River arm of today’s Lake Seminole), Major General Edmund P. Gaines ordered the movement of nearly 1,000 U.S. troops to the fort. Supplies for the soldiers were sent via the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola River on boats escorted by troops from the 4th U.S. Infantry.
When he arrived at Fort Scott in person, General Gaines ordered Lieutenant Richard W. Scott to take 40 men down the Apalachicola on a boat to assist the supply vessels in reaching the fort. He then sent 250 men under Major Twiggs to Fowltown, the village of Neamathla, with orders to bring the chief to Fort Scott.
Neamathla and his warriors resisted and on November 21 and 23, 1817, the first and second Battles of Fowltown opened the conflict remembered today as the First Seminole War.
Infuriated by what he considered unprovoked attacks, Neamathla called for reinforcements from other Creek and Seminole villages across North Florida and ordered one of his sub-chiefs to stop the supply boats from reaching Fort Scott. Hundreds of warriors (some reports estimated as many as 2,000) flooded to the banks of the Apalachicola River in anticipation of a battle against the supply flotilla.
Unexpectedly, though, the commander of the flotilla did not keep all of Lieutenant Scott’s men to reinforce his own force. Instead he took only 20 of Scott’s men and then put 20 men that were sick with fever, 7 women (wives of soldiers) and 4 children on the lieutenant’s boat and ordered him to return upriver to the fort. Neither officer knew of the attacks on Fowltown or the outbreak of war with the Seminoles and Creeks.
Following his orders, Lieutenant Scott started back upriver but on November 28, 1817, was warned at present-day Blountstown by the friendly chief John Blunt and the traders William Hambly and Edmund Doyle that a large force was assembling upstream and it would be extremely dangerous for him to continue. He sent a letter overland to Fort Scott requesting help, but then inexplicably continued his journey up the Apalachicola.
On November 30, 1817, as Scott’s boat rounded the sharp bend in the Apalachicola River between today’s Sneads and Chattahoochee, he was suddenly attacked by hundreds of Native American warriors.
The Creeks and Seminoles had formed along the Gadsden County bank of the river at a point where they knew the current would force the military boat close to shore. According to the reports of survivors, they ambushed the lieutenant and his men from the cover of trees and brush, killing Scott and most of his able-bodied men with their first volley. They then waded out into the river and stormed the boat, fighting hand to hand with the rest of the soldiers and killing most of them with hatchets, knives and war clubs.
Only 6 of the 40 soldiers on the boat survived and four of them were wounded. They leaped overboard and swam across the river to the Jackson County shore and safety. Six of the women and all 4 children were also killed. In less than 15 minutes, the Creeks and Seminoles had taken their revenge for the attacks on Fowltown and killed 44 of the 51 men, women and children on Lieutenant Scott’s boat.
The six surviving soldiers made their way overland to Fort Scott with news of the disaster. The only surviving woman, Mrs. Elizabeth Stewart (or Stuart), was taken captive by the warriors and carried away to their villages. Her story became one of the most remarkable of the era and we will detail it in next week’s article.
Scott’s Massacre outraged authorities in Washington, D.C., and Major General Andrew Jackson was ordered to assemble an army and head for the frontier. His campaign would carry him through today’s Jackson County, where many of his soldiers were so impressed with the quality of the lands that they returned over the next few years as the area’s first settlers.
Editor’s Note: The story of Scott’s Massacre is told in-depth in Dale Cox’s book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Marianna or for order directly from the printer at

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Abstract Office - Marianna's Oldest Business Structure

This charming little frame building facing the west side of Courthouse Square in Marianna has been known to generations as the "Abstract Office."

It is actually the oldest commercial structure still standing in Marianna. Believed to have been built by Dr. W.S. Wilson as a medical office in the 1840s, it was originally located on nearby Market Street. The building was moved to its present location on South Jefferson in 1910.
Wilson was practicing in partnership with Dr. William H. Whitehead by 1858 and provided medical services to Marianna residents through the Civil War.
On September 27, 1864, he was among the citizens that turned out with the Marianna Home Guard to defend the city against Union attack. The doctor fought in the Battle of Marianna and treated wounded men after the fight. Some may have been brought to this structure for care.
Dr. Wilson died in 1868, but his office has continued to serve the community ever since. It was the home of Marianna's first telephone exchange and later served as an abstract office for Florida Land Title and Trust for over 90 years.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jackson County Soldiers Accused of Seminole War Attrocity

This image from the Library of Congress shows a Native American town in Florida at the time of the Second Seminole War.
The war attracted widespread criticism in the United States, largely because of alleged attrocities and growing national sympathy with the plight of tribes such as the Seminoles and Creeks.
It was in this environment that a unit of militia soldiers (equivalent of today's National Guard) from Jackson County became involved in a bloody incident remembered today as the Alaqua Massacre.
“One of the Most Outrageous Acts Civilized Men Could Be Guilty Of”
Jackson County Soldiers Accused of Seminole War Atrocity

By Dale Cox

Marianna – During the spring of 1837 brutal warfare spilled over into Northwest Florida from Alabama as militia forces from that state drove a large party of Creek warriors and their families down the valley of the Choctawhatchee River. Fighting soon broke out between the warriors and the early settlers of Walton County and appeals for help went out to other area counties. Jackson County responded by sending a force of local militia (the equivalent of today’s National Guard) to join the fight.

Commanded by Colonel Levin Brown, the force of 73 drafted men left Marianna on the morning of May 6, 1837, and marched to Campbellton where supply wagons were waiting. Supplies to put in the wagons were difficult to obtain, however, and it was not until the morning of May 11th that the little army marched west for the Choctawhatchee River.

Two days later the soldiers crossed the river at Pittman’s Ferry in what is now Holmes County and then turned south for the community of Eucheeanna, the original county seat of Walton County. They did a lot of marching back and forth, but encountered no Creeks until the 23rd of May when Brown and his men succeeded in capturing a party of four warriors and thirteen hungry women and children near Alaqua Creek.
Colonel Brown tried to force one of the warriors to lead the soldiers on to where the main party of Creeks was hiding, but instead he intentionally led them astray. After spending a day hacking their way through dense forests and wading in waist-deep mud, the Jackson County soldiers let their frustrations get the best of them.
As Colonel Brown reported in a letter to Florida’s governor, things turned violent when the men of Captain Stephen Daniel’s company suddenly opened fire on their unfortunate guide:
Captain Daniels’ company having charge of the prisoners in the rear, when Capt. D. and nearly all his company fired on the Indian prisoner who had led us through so many difficulties during the night. The women and children, taking fright at this, started to run, when they were all shot down, and left on the ground.
The massacre of the unfortunate women and children was one of the great tragedies of the conflict remembered today as the Second Seminole War and undoubtedly was one of the darkest days in the history of Jackson County.
Lieutenant J.G. Reynolds of the regular U.S. Army investigated the incident and made clear in his report that the attack was even more brutal than described in Colonel Brown’s account:
The shrieks of the poor children were distinctly heard at the house, distant, I should think, one-quarter of a mile. Several were scalped and all who had earrings had their ears slit with knives in order to possess themselves of the silver. I do think this is one of the most outrageous acts civilized men could be guilty of.
Despite the severity of Reynolds’ report, no action was ever taken against the Jackson County soldiers for their role in the Alaqua Massacre.
Note: This article is based on a chapter in the new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. The book can be purchased from Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna or online at

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Rough and Tumble Election of 1849

As Jackson County voters go to the polls for this year's General Election, it should be a peaceful experience. In our modern times election day is still exciting, but doesn't quite involve the bodily risk that it did in earlier times! Consider the election of 1849 for example.

The following is excerpted from my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One...

One of the more fascinating documents to survive from the early days of Jackson County is an autobiography written by Dr. Charles Hentz. The doctor maintained a medical practice in Port Jackson on the Chattahoochee River in the year 1849. His writings, based on his memories and a shorter diary he kept during his time in the area, reveal much about the rough and tumble nature of life in the rural areas of Jackson County during the late 1840s.

In one fascinating passage, he described the election of 1849 as a day of drinking, rowdiness, drug use and murder:

…It was an eventful day, in more ways than one. In the forenoon, some of the reckless, drinking men came to me to ask me to give them some chloroform; they having heard of its wonderful effects in the way of sudden exhilaration; I did my best to get rid of them; told them they had too much aboard already &c., &c., but they insisted so perseveringly, and declared that I should be held blameless, I finally announced loudly from my window what was going to happen, and warned everybody to look out; I got several of them – the two Keels, a man named Bowers, &c., &c. – to roll their handkerchiefs up, & I poured in a good dose of chloroform into each, and told them to walk up and down under the cotton shed, & smell deep and hard. It was not long before I regretted my folly.

It is difficult to imagine such a scene today. Not only was Hentz a trained physician, but he was the clerk and inspector for the Port Jackson precinct in the election that was underway. In addition to administering chloroform to the crowd of rowdy voters, he was also accepting ballots through the window of his office.

His description of what happened next is nothing short of bizarre:

…A wild scene of confusion took place; yelling & screaming; & flying fists created for a while a pandemonium; one of them came bounding in the window, seeking shelter from one of the Keels, who looked like a raging demon.

Old Tommy Hair (sic.) was leaning against a cotton bale, in a state of blissful repletion with his favorite beverage, not noticing the wild chloroform excitement, when he received a clip on the side of the head that sent him off in a summerset to one side….

Once he recovered from the attack and discovered the cause of the frenzy, Hare grabbed a stick and rampaged up and down outside Hentz’s office, cursing him for giving the men “stuff that made them crazy.” Apparently it was a lesson well learned, as Hentz noted that he was “careful never to give any chloroform again to such a set of people as we had about us there.”

It might have been expected, however, that such a day would not end without further violence. It came later in the afternoon when a man named Jordan left the voting precinct accompanied by a second man named Lott Owens. Jordan had been accused of paying improper attention to the wife of one of his neighbors, B.F. Wood. Jordan and Owens had not been gone from Port Jackson for more than about thirty minutes when Owens suddenly reappeared:

…Owens made his appearance, on foot, out of breath from running and excitement; and called out to the crowd about the store, “Boys, Wood has killed Jordan, get on your horses all, & come up the road.” There was immediately wild excitement; everybody mounted, I had my horse saddled, & joined the crowd.

The party found Jordan lying face down on a dirt road. Upon examination it was found that he had been killed by a shotgun blast to the chest. Owens, who had witnessed the killing, described how he and Jordan were riding in a wagon along the road when they saw Wood approaching them on foot with a whip in one hand and a shotgun over his shoulder. Wood blocked the road, dropped to one knee, aimed his gun and showed “Stop Sir.” At that, Owens said he took shelter behind a tree, but Jordan tried to rush their assailant. Wood fired and Jordan was killed.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One, please visit for information on how to order the book directly from the printer.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge

Jackson County's best known ghost story is the strange tale of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge.

The story revolves around Bellamy Bridge, an old iron-frame structure that spans the Chipola River a few miles north of Marianna. Now accessible only by boat or a long hike through the swamps on the west side of the river, the bridge is a relic of Jackson County's early 20th century road building efforts.

The iron bridge replaced earlier wooden structures at the same site and over the years has become the accepted centerpiece of the Bellamy Bridge legend.

As the story goes, the area around the bridge is haunted by the restless spirit of Elizabeth Jane Bellamy. Legend holds that she died in a tragic wedding night fire during the early 1800s and was buried in a lonely grave nearby.

While Elizabeth Bellamy's true story is quite different from the legend, it is still a fascinating and sad tale.

To read the true story of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge and learn more about the alleged ghost sightings, please visit

Friday, October 24, 2008

Perryman's Town was an important early landmark in Jackson County

By Dale Cox

Parramore – In writing or discussing the history of Jackson County, it is often easy to forget that the “first settlers” of the area were not really the “first.” The county had a rich Native American history for centuries before the first American settlers drifted into the area in around 1819.

Among the noteworthy Creek settlements in Jackson County was a place called Tellmochesses or “Perryman’s Town.”
Located just east of the “River Road” near today’s Parramore Landing, Perryman’s Town was an important Creek village established by Chief William Perryman at some point prior to the American Revolution. The inhabitants of the settlement lived in cabins and farmed and were of the “civilized” or pro-white faction of the Lower Creeks. Perryman himself was the grandson of an early English trader named Theophilus Perryman.
Perryman’s Town was noteworthy because of the role of its occupants in a number of highly significant events of early U.S. history. William Perryman, for example, was a Loyalist and joined the British forces in St. Augustine with his warriors to fight against the colonists during the American Revolution. He took part in a number of British attacks on Georgia and was engaged in several little known but significant Revolutionary War battles.
After the war, he became an associate his brother-in-law, the notorious pirate William Augustus Bowles. The later individual had married Perryman’s sister and dreamed of establishing an empire for himself in the wilderness of what is now North Florida. He commissioned a flotilla of pirate ships that struck against Spanish and civilian vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and frequented Perryman’s Town. The two had a falling out during the late 1800s, however, when Bowles threatened to execute Perryman’s father, Thomas, and William Perryman thereafter assisted the Spanish in apprehending the pirate and adventurer.
Later, William Perryman again served the British during the War of 1812 and was an officer in a force of Native American auxiliaries raised by the English for a planned invasion of Georgia. When the war ended and the British disappeared, however, he saw the writing on the wall and thereafter allied himself with the United States.
When the First Seminole War erupted in 1817, Perryman led a party of his warriors down to present-day Blountstown to rescue Chief John Blunt, who also had allied himself with the United States. Blunt’s village and the nearby plantations of traders Edmund Doyle and William Hambly were under threat of attack by a large force of Seminole and Creek warriors. Perryman arrived just as the attack materialized and was killed in the resulting battle, although his mission to rescue Blunt ended in success.
The death of their charismatic leader and beginning of the First Seminole War prompted the people of Perryman’s Town to abandon their long occupied village site in Jackson County. They relocated up to the Creek Nation in Alabama and Georgia and the old village site was slowly reclaimed by the woods. The site today is indistinguishable from the pine forest that now covers it.
If you are interested in learning more about William Perryman and Perryman's Town, please consider my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. You can order the book online directly from the printer by visiting

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Annual Central School Reunion set for Saturday

Former students of Central School will gather with their families this Saturday at the old school site for their annual reunion.
The last of the schools that served the Parramore community over the years, Central was active from 1927 to 1952. Students from throughout the area attended.
The old school structure no longer stands, having burned down during the 1960s as a result of a lightning strike, but the grounds are preserved as a memorial by former students. A monument stands in front of the ruins of the old building and each October a reunion is held to share memories and remember childhood days.
This year's reunion will take place on Saturday and people should start gathering by around 10:30 or 11.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Excerpt from New Book: "The History of Jackson County"

The 19th century U.S. soldier shown here was Captain Hugh Young, a topographer or mapmaker assigned to the army of General Andrew Jackson when it marched through what is now Jackson County in 1818.

Young wrote one of the earliest American accounts of the Jackson County area and his description of the area helped attract many early settlers to the region.

The following is an excerpt from the new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One. You can obtain information on how to order the book by clicking here.


"The army turned to the northwest on the morning of May 10th and crossed into Jackson County. Their route led them across the approximate site of Grand Ridge to Blue Spring, where they camped for the night. Captain Hugh Young, Jackson’s topographer, called the spot “Big Spring,” a name it would hold for a number of years. He described it as being “forty yards in diameter and of considerable depth with a rock bottom and a clean rapid current.”

"The soldiers in Jackson’s army marveled at the beauty and richness of the surrounding countryside. Young himself kept careful records of the quality of the lands through which they marched.

"The army continued forward on the morning of May 11, 1818. Crossing the hills between Blue Spring and the Chipola River, they arrived by around midday at the natural bridge. It was here that the supposed incident involving Andrew Jackson took place, but Captain Young did not record it in his journal. Instead, he wrote that the men were well aware that they were crossing a natural bridge and even offered a theory as to how it had been formed:

"'The Natural Bridge is in the center of a large swamp and appears to be a deposit of earth on a raft or some similar obstruction. The passage is narrow and the creek, with a rapid current is visible both above and below.'

"Young, of course, was mistaken about the formation of the bridge. It is actually created by the sudden disappearance of the Chipola River into a series of limestone passages. It flows underground through these for a short distance, before rising back to the surface. Nineteenth century loggers cut a canal across the top of the feature to allow them to float timber across to a downstream mill, taking away some of the unique appearance of the natural bridge, but it can still be seen today."

I will post additional excerpts from the new book over the days to come.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Looking for photos of "Old Parramore"

I am trying to find old photographs of the Parramore community in Jackson County.

If you have family connections to the area and have something that you think might be of interest, please let me know by visiting and dropping me an email.

Basically, I am looking for photos from roughly 1870-1950 of places, buildings, homes, stores, schools, people, families, etc. I don't need your originals, but would like to obtain copies if possible.

We will be launching an effort in November to restore the old one-room school that you see here and I would like to use them as part of the project.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stories from the new History of Jackson County, Florida

Beginning today, I will start sharing some excerpts from my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One.
If you would like to purchase a copy, you can do so at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna (across from the Battle of Marianna monument) or online directly from the printer at
Excerpt from Chapter One (Pages 5-6)
(Copyright 2008 by Dale Cox)
The new people, called the Mississippians because they spread east from the Mississippi River Valley, brought with them new techniques, new styles of pottery and a new religion. Archaeologists and anthropologists debate today whether their eastward movement was due to military conquest or religious fervor, but one thing is clear: they were a powerful, militaristic society.

The Mississippians were the ancestors of most of the Native American nations we recognize today. The Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole people can all trace their history to the Mississippian culture. Some older groups such as the Yuchi and Hitchiti are believed to have descended from the earlier people already living in the region when the Mississippians arrived.
From A.D. 900 until A.D. 1540, the Mississippians were the absolute masters of the Southeast. In Jackson County, the largest known early Mississippian settlement was the Curlee Site near Sneads. This site was occupied by around A.D. 1000 and consisted of a large village and mound on the banks of the Apalachicola River near where the U.S. 90 Bridge crosses between Chattahoochee and Sneads. Paired with a large seven mound ceremonial center across the river at Chattahoochee Landing, where the remains of a large platform mound can still be seen, the Curlee village was an important center supported by vast fields and a trading network that made use of the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers.
Although it has now been largely washed away by the river, the Curlee Site is one of the best researched Native American sites in Jackson County. Prior to the destruction of the site by erosion, archaeologists conducted numerous seasons of fieldwork at the site and learned a great deal about the lives of its inhabitants. They ground grain and baked bread, grew squash, melons and other crops, made both ceremonial and utility pottery, used tiny triangular points to tip their arrows and made tools from stone, wood and bone. They even made bone fishhooks for use in harvesting food from the Apalachicola River.
One of the most stunning aspects of the Curlee inhabitants, however, is that they seem to have developed the capability to perform brain surgery. A skull from the site and now in the possession of a private collector in Chattahoochee had a rectangular hole that had apparently been cut using stone tools. Most surprising, however, is the fact that the bone surrounding the hole had begun to refuse, confirming to anthropologists that the unfortunate individual had survived his primitive surgery.
Although scientists have speculated as to why inhabitants of Curlee would conduct brain surgery on a resident of their village, the best they can do is guess. Some have suggested that the individual may have suffered from migraine headaches or somehow been injured, but we may never know.
At some point around 1250-1350 A.D., Curlee and other Mississippian sites along the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers in Jackson County were suddenly abandoned. No one is quite sure why. At the same time, however, a new Mississippian society suddenly appeared between the Chipola River and Holmes Creek in western Jackson County. We know more about this society than any of the ones before it because these people were still living in the area when Spanish explorers penetrated the area west of the Apalachicola River.
Watch over the coming days for more excerpts from the new book!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Remembering the Casualties of the Battle of Marianna

This weekend marks the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna.
Union troops attacked Marianna on September 27, 1864, and remained in the city until early on the morning of the 28th.
For many years the anniversary was memorialized each year across Florida as "Marianna Day." It was a time when citizens across the state paused to remember the sacrifices made that day by the defenders of Marianna, many of them just every day civilians that took up arms to defend their homes, families and communities.
"Marianna Day" is no longer recognized in Florida. The day of remembrance has passed into history. Observances still take place in Jackson County, but it is a tragedy of modern times that we so easily forget the sacrifices of those who came before us.
It reminds me of the words of a friend and former business associate of mine. We were walking the National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas, a few years ago because he had asked to see the grave of General William Darby, the father of the U.S. Army Rangers as we know them today. My friend had been an Army Ranger and visiting the grave of this World War II hero had a great impact on him.
He told me that day that "Americans have very short memories." His words come back to me often when I visit the graves of America's heroes, whether they be the veterans of recent wars or those that served and died long ago. We let their memory fade away much too soon.
The following are the lists of the casualties, Confederate and Union, of the Battle of Marianna:
Confederate Dead:
Henry O. Bassett - Marianna Home Guard (officer home on leave)
James H. Brett - Marianna Home Guard
John C. Carter - Marianna Home Guard
M.N. Dickson - Marianna Home Guard
Arthur Lewis (Sr.) - Marianna Home Guard
Woodbury Nickels - Marianna Home Guard
Solomon Sullivan - Marianna Home Guard
Francis Allen - Greenwood Club Cavalry
M.A. Butler - Greenwood Club Cavalry
Littleton Myrick - Co. B, 15th Confederate Cavalry
Confederate Wounded:
A.F. Bount - Marianna Home Guard
Thomas Baltzell - Marianna Home Guard
John Chason - Marianna Home Guard
John Davis, Sr., - Marianna Home Guard
Peyton Gwin - Marianna Home Guard
Thaddeus W. Hentz - Marianna Home Guard
R.C.B. Lawrence - Marianna Home Guard
Adam McNealy - Marianna Home Guard
Samuel Bosworth - Campbellton Cavalry
William Mathews - Campbellton Cavalry
Isaac King - Company B, 15th Confederate Cavalry
John J. Dickson - Greenwood Club Cavalry
C.N. Sheats - Chisolm's Company, Alabama State Militia
W.N.W. Shiver - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves
William McPherson - Company G, 5th Florida Cavalry
Oliver Sellers - George Robinson's Home Guard
Confederate Prisoners of War:
Jesse J. Norwood - Marianna Home Guard
C.J. Staley - Marianna Home Guard
Allen H. Bush - Marianna Home Guard
William B. Wynn - Marianna Home Guard (Died in Prison)
J.B. Justiss - Marianna Home Guard
Samuel Gammon - Marianna Home Guard (Died in Prison)
James O'Neal - Marianna Home Guard (Died in Prison)
Ellis Davis - Marianna Home Guard
Albert G. Bush - Marianna Home Guard
J.B. Whitehurst - Marianna Home Guard
Charles Tucker - Marianna Home Guard
W.E. Anderson - Marianna Home Guard
Alex Merritt - Marianna Home Guard
J.W. Hartsfield - Marianna Home Guard (Died in Prison)
John Blaney - Marianna Home Guard (Died in Prison)
Miles Everett - Marianna Home Guard
J.T. Myrick, Jr. - Marianna Home Guard
Nicholas A. Long - Marianna Home Guard
Felix H.G. Long - Marianna Home Guard
F.R. Pittman - Marianna Home Guard
J. Austin - Marianna Home Guard (Died in Prison)
Israel McBright - Marianna Home Guard
Samuel Harrison - Marianna Home Guard
W.A. Abercrombie - Campbellton Cavalry (Died in Prison)
T.B. Haywood - Campbellton Cavalry
William Daniel - Campbellton Cavalry (Died in Prison)
Mark Elmore - Campbellton Cavalry
Cullin Curl - Campbellton Cavalry
W.H. Kimball - Greenwood Club Cavalry
T.D. Newsome - Greenwood Club Cavalry
Hansel Grice - Greenwood Club Cavalry
B.J. Fordham - Chisolm's Company, Alabama State Militia
W.L. Hatton - Chisolm's Company, Alabama State Militia (Died in Prison)
H.R. Pittman - Chisolm's Company, Alabama State Militia
Peter Abercrombie - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (Died in Prison)
John Alley - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (Died in Prison)
John Anderson - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves
Miles Sims - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (Died in Prison)
J.M. Brown - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves
J.R. Williams - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (Died in Prison)
Mathney Kiel - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves
A.B. Montgomery - Provisional Army of the Confederate States (Colonel)
J.B. Roulhac - Company B, 15th Confederate Cavalry
Lawson Daniels - Company B, 15th Confederate Cavalry (Died in Prison)
Union Dead:
Nicholas Francis - Company E, 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry
Mahlon M. Young - Company H, 7th Vermont Infantry
Silas Campbell - Company E, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Thomas A. Davis - Company J, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Ellis Ayer - Company I, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Ansel Brackett - Company F, 2nd Maine Cavalry
David C. Whitney - Company F, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Union Wounded:
Alexander Asboth - U.S. Volunteers (Brigadier General)
Nathan Cutler - 2nd Maine Cavalry
Eben Hutchinson - 2nd Maine Cavalry
Elisa E. Clark - Company L, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Orrin Evans - Company L, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Charles Clough, Jr. - Company L, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Luthor Pollard - Company G, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Joshua R. Adams - Company M, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Sanford Pendleton - Company E, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Samuel Stoddard, Jr. - Company F, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Unknown - Company D, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Unknown - 2nd Maine Cavalry
Unknown - 2nd Maine Cavalry
Isaac Anderson - Company C, 86th U.S. Colored Infantry
Solomon Johnson - Company C, 86th U.S. Colored Infantry
James Breckenridge - Company C, 86th U.S. Colored Infantry
Unknown - 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry
Unknown - 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry
Lyman W. Rowley - Company B, 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry
Union Prisoners of War:
Henry O'Neal - Company D, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Chester Whitney - Company I, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Moses Sims - Company M, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Henry Brown - Company E, 2nd Maine Cavalry
Daniel Ellis - Company H, 2nd Maine Cavalry (Died in Prison)
Abiel N. Linscott - Company E, 2nd Maine Cavalry
George W. Williams - Company I, 2nd Maine Cavalry
G. Shuman - Company G, 2nd Maine Cavalry

Friday, September 19, 2008

Skirmish at Campbellton was important preliminary to the Battle of Marianna

Campbellton – The Battle of Marianna is a well known part of local history, but fewer people know about a smaller but also important skirmish that took place the previous day near Campbellton.

The fight developed as 700 Union soldiers from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 1st Florida U.S. Cavalry and 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Infantries splashed their way across Holmes Creek and began moving northeast up the old road leading from the “Marianna Ford” to Campbellton. This road followed roughly the route of today’s Tri-County Road to the Galilee community before eventually leading along the approximate route of Highway 273 to Campbellton.
As the Federal troops crossed into Jackson County on the morning of September 26, 1864, word spread like lightning throughout the area. The community had a local “home guard” or volunteer military unit and its commander, Captain A.R. Godwin, soon summoned his men to arms.
Godwin’s company was known as the “Campbellton Cavalry” and its volunteer members were under standing orders from Governor John Milton to resist any attack until reinforcements could arrive from the nearest Confederate headquarters, in this case Marianna. Following their orders to the letter, Godwin and his men sent a courier to Marianna with news that an enemy force was in the county and then rode out to oppose the oncoming Federals.
The Union troops, commanded by Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, moved slowly that morning, pausing to strike at homes and farms along the road. They confiscated provisions and livestock, freed slaves and did as much damage as possible to the local economy as they advanced.
As the day progressed, the Federals began to encounter resistance from Captain Godwin and his men. Exactly where the fighting started is not clear. Asboth said only that “rebel troops” were constantly hovering around the head of his column, engaging in “frequent skirmishes” with his men.
The Campbellton men, numbering less than 50, engaged in a standard cavalry practice of the time by approaching the Union troops on horseback, firing on them and then retreating back out of range. The routine was repeated time after time as Asboth’s column continued to move up the road to Campbellton.
There is no indication that any of Godwin’s men were killed or wounded in the fighting, but at least two were taken prisoner. Union records note that William Clayton and Charles Tipton were captured by Asboth’s men on September 26, 1864. Clayton identified himself as a member of Godwin’s company and Tipton reported that he was a Confederate soldier home on leave from the 11th Florida Infantry. He had turned out with his neighbors to oppose the raid.
Despite the resistance of Godwin and his men (against odds of more than 12 to 1), the Union troops finally reached Campbellton late in the afternoon. His soldiers exhausted from a day of riding and fighting, General Asboth set up camp in the town and halted his advance on Marianna until the next morning. The Campbellton Cavalry hovered in the distance, watching and waiting, until they were reinforced during the evening by Colonel Alexander Montgomery and two companies of Southern troops from Marianna.
The Union troops would move on the next morning and by noon would fight the Campbellton men again, this time at the Battle of Marianna.
Note: This article appeared in this week's issue of the Jackson County Times. You can visit the paper online at

Friday, September 5, 2008

Remembering Northwest Florida's "Great Tide"

By Dale Cox

Port St. Joe – Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gustav have had all eyes on the Gulf of Mexico lately. This always brings my mind back to the legend of Northwest Florida’s “Great Tide.”

That was the name given by novelist Rubylea Hall to a legendary hurricane tidal surge that supposedly wiped the city of St. Joseph, Florida, from the map. St. Joseph stood on the present site of Port St. Joe and during the 1830s was the largest city in Florida. Little remains today other than tombstones and a museum to remind visitors that the city ever existed.
Hall’s story of a “city so wicked that God wiped it from the earth” is a Gone with the Wind like tale of life on the plantations of Jackson County and our area’s close connections to the lost city. In the novel, as in real life, St. Joseph prospered only to be devastated by a deadly yellow fever epidemic. The survivors in Hall’s story were at last driven away by a hurricane driven surge that rose from the Gulf and swept St. Joseph into history.
The Great Tide mirrored real history in many ways, with some artistic license. Jackson County did indeed have many strong connections to St. Joseph. Robert Beveridge, the founder of Marianna, moved to St. Joseph less than ten years after he and his workers carved Marianna from the wilderness. He died at St. Joseph during the great yellow fever outbreak and is buried in an unmarked grave in the old cemetery there.
Connected to St. Joseph by direct road, Marianna naturally developed many business and social ties to the coastal boomtown. Residents of Jackson County built “summer homes” in St. Joseph to escape the brutal heat and humidity of the interior. Many original promoters of Webbville also became involved in the new city on the coast, establishing businesses there. St. Joseph’s newspaper, for example, was published by a former Webbville entrepreneur.
By the time that St. Joseph hosted the Florida Constitutional Convention in 1838, the city had grown to become the largest in Florida and its promoters envisioned the day when it would become a major coastal city to rival New Orleans.
It was not to be. A massive yellow fever outbreak hit the city, sending residents fleeing into the interior. Newspapers across the South reported the death toll from St. Joseph. How many people actually died from fever may never be known, but the list was large and the sickness showed no respect for wealth or position. It inflicted a death blow from which St. Joseph never recovered.

During the early 1840s a hurricane did hit the city, but the legends of a “Great Tide” that wiped St. Joseph from the earth grew significantly in the telling. By the time of the Civil War, however, St. Joseph had disappeared as the forest reclaimed the streets, cemetery and ruins of the city.
By the mid-1840s, many Jackson County families that had relocated to St. Joseph returned to their former homes in and around Marianna.
A visit to Port St. Joe today provides a fascinating glimpse back in time. Visitors can explore the history of the lost city at the Constitutional Convention State Museum located on the site of old St. Joseph. Exhibits there include artifacts from St. Joseph and a replica of Florida’s first railroad locomotive. The old St. Joseph Cemetery also survives as a somber reminder of the fever outbreak that doomed what once was Florida’s largest city.

If you would like to learn more about historic St. Joseph and what remains of "Florida's Lost City," please visit

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jackson County's Oldest American Settlement

Campbellton - The smoke had barely cleared from the First Seminole War when the first settlers began to make their way back to the rich lands they had explored with Andrew Jackson in 1818. It was a risky proposition at best. The area that would become Jackson County was still Spanish territory at the time and there was the possibility of violent confrontation with Native American warriors still angered over their losses in the war.

It is unclear whether the first settlers actually intended to cross the international border. Moving down through southern Alabama, they crossed into Florida just north of present-day Campbellton and began to clear farms along Spring Creek. The land in the area was rich, with a good water supply, and the border dividing the United States from Spanish Florida was poorly marked.

Although there are some old Florida history books that claim Campbellton was founded during the American Revolution, this is an inaccurate claim. A community of a similar name existed during the 1700s north of Pensacola, but the Jackson County community was not settled until the early 1800s.

Exactly when the first settlers arrived north of Campbellton is not known, but it was sometime in either late 1818 or early 1819. By the time Florida was transferred from Spain to the United States in 1821, several dozen families had staked claims in the area, clearing small farms ranging in size from 15 to around 40 acres.

Many of the names of these original settlers can still be recognized in Jackson County today. They included members of the Williams, Falk, Nelson, Philips, Hamilton, Cadwell, Parrot, Ward, Farmer, Thomas, Hays, Fowler, Hudson, Blount, Brantley, Robert Thompson, Moore, Daniel, Gwinn, Jones, Roach, Moses, Porter, Cook, Smith and Scurlock families. Their farms stretched from Holmes Creek near present-day Graceville and along Spring Creek in a curving arc just north of the present Campbellton site to the west side of Forks of the Creek.

As the settlement grew, it spread south across the site of Campbellton and by the time of the cession of Florida from Spain to the United States, a settlement had begun to grow there. The area was incorporated into Jackson County in 1822 and in 1825 a landmark event in Florida history took place in the little settlement.

On March 12, 1825, seventeen residents of the area gathered in a grove of oak trees to form what was then known as the Bethlehem Baptist Church. Known today as Campbellton Baptist Church, it is the oldest Baptist congregation in the State of Florida.

The original members of the church were John Beasley, Miller Brady, Sarah Brady, Sexton Camp, Ephriam Chambless, James Chason, Lucy Chason, Elizabeth Daniel, Benjamin Hawkins, Clark Jackson, Richard Lonchsten, Martha Parker, Martha Peacock, W. Peacock, Nancy Phillips, Elizabeth Taylor and Sarah Williams. Elizabeth Owens was taken under the “watch care of the church” for unclear reasons and William Brady was appointed as the first clerk of the congregation. James Chason and Clark Jackson were ordained as the first deacons.

The historic church continues to meet today, a living reminder of the first settlement in Jackson County and of the determination of the early settlers that carved homes and built a new county from the wilderness of Northwest Florida.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Remembering the "Gopher Gang"

Depression Era Vision, Determination and Hard Labor Made Florida Caverns a Success

By Dale Cox

Marianna – People by the thousands pass through Florida Caverns State Park each year, but few realize that perhaps as remarkable as the beautiful scenery is the fact that this major area tourist attraction became a reality during some of the darkest years of American history.

The Great Depression, brought on by the economic collapse of 1929, was felt from coast to coast and the already poor rural areas of the South were particularly hard hit. By the 1930s employment had all but vanished, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes and hunger and misery stalked the land. It is sometimes in the midst of such hardship, however, that great ideas take root and it was during the Great Depression that Dr. J.C. Patterson of Malone gave Jackson County an unforgettable gift.

Dr. Patterson was fascinated with caves and during a visit to Luray Caverns in Virginia he began to ponder the possibility that a similar attraction might be developed in the beautiful caverns north of Marianna. The idea must have seemed farfetched during such a time of economic distress, but in 1935 the doctor invested his own funds to purchase 494 acres forming the heart of today’s state park.

Tom Yancy of the Marianna Chamber of Commerce quickly realized that Patterson was onto something and he soon joined the doctor, with support from other chamber members, in a drive to encourage the state to take over the project. Yancy and Patterson both realized that the creation of a state park at the site would mean construction jobs for local residents and tourism dollars for decades to come.

Florida’s governor and legislature agreed and Florida Caverns became the state’s seventh state park. Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp Number SP-12 was established on the original Patterson parcel and construction work began on the park during the late 1930s.

It is remarkable to think today that the massive cavern now known as the “Tour Cave” at the park was completely unknown to Patterson and his fellow promoters. An opening was discovered beneath the roots of a fallen tree and exploration revealed the beautiful caves and formations that have delighted hundreds of thousands of visitors over the years.

Much of the work on developing the cave was done by a group of men known as the “Gopher Gang.” CCC workers, they moved tons of mud, ran electrical wiring, carved steps and passage ways.

Three different companies of CCC workers labored to build the park. One company was comprised of veterans from World War I, the second was comprised of African Americans from Florida and the third was made up of “junior members.”

Florida Caverns State Park today is one of the most beautiful public places in the South. The tourism it generates produces a major economic boost for Jackson County and the determination, inspiration and labors of the people that worked to create it more than 70 years ago stand today as a spectacular memorial to human endeavor during a time of great suffering.

To learn more about Florida Caverns State Park and its history and historic sites, please visit

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Medal of Honor awarded for action during the Battle of Marianna

Union Officer Saved the Lives of Local Prisoners and was Honored by His Country

By Dale Cox

Marianna – One of the most nationally significant events in Jackson County history took place on September 27, 1864, during the engagement remembered today as the Battle of Marianna.
A Union officer, Captain George H. Maynard of the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in part for his actions in saving the lives of local men and boys on the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

A Northerner by birth, Maynard had joined the Union army early in the war as a private in Company D of the 13th Massachusetts Infantry. He quickly displayed an unusual combination of both heroism and mercy on the battlefield that attracted the attention of his superior officers.
At the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), Maryland, on September 17, 1862, for example, Maynard personally went under fire to remove two wounded comrades from danger. He then joined each Union regiment advancing to his location of the battlefield and by the time the fight was over had charged the Confederate lines with six different units.

At the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, three months later, he went twice alone into enemy fire to bring wounded men to safety. This heroic act resulted in his promotion to captain and assignment to the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry, a new regiment formed of liberated African American men from Mississippi and Louisiana.

A detachment from the regiment fought at the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, and in the final stages of the fighting, Maynard found himself with his men on the grounds of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church where Captain Jesse Norwood and the local citizens of the Marianna Home Guard refused to surrender.

According to Maynard’s personal account of the battle, the Union troops ceased firing in an effort to talk Norwood and his men into giving up, but the local citizen soldiers intensified their fighting. The action, he said, “infuriated” his men and the battle degenerated into a bloody melee.
Finally, Norwood and his men realized that their situation was hopeless and began to lay down their weapons. To Maynard’s shock and outrage, however, his men began shooting the defenseless prisoners. “I at once dismounted and rushed into the graveyard,” he reported, “just in time to knock away a musket placed at the head of a prisoner.” According to his account, he then leveled his pistol at his own men and “threatened to blow out the brains of the first man who dared to shoot a prisoner.”

According to men present from both North and South, Maynard’s actions at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church prevented the massacre of many of the captured men and boys of Marianna.

The captain was subsequently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism under far, in part for his actions during the Battle of Marianna. The medal survives today, a reminder of a remarkable act of courage and compassion for which Maynard was recognized by his government. The medal is accompanied by the notation that he was honored for being “heroic and humane.”

If you would like to read more about the Battle of Marianna, please visit Also please consider my book - The Battle of Marianna, Florida - available online at and at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Article: Florida's Lost County

Remembering Florida’s Lost County

By Dale Cox

Eastern Jackson County – One of the more unique political fiascos in Florida history took place in 1832 when the Territory’s Legislative Council carved off the eastern half of Jackson County to create an entirely new political entity. Called Fayette County (after the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution), the new county was a political boondoggle of the first order.

For five years, the communities of Marianna and Webbville had been engaged in a fierce political battle to become the county seat of Jackson County. Although Webbville received the designation of the U.S. Congress, Marianna ultimately prevailed in the fight when the Legislative Council (the equivalent of today’s state legislature) levied fines against any public officials not doing business from the new city on the Chipola.

Unwilling to give up the fight without one last attempt, the promoters of Webbville devised the bizarre strategy of giving away half of the county in order to win the coveted county seat title. In a flurry of intense lobbying, they convinced the members of the Legislative Council that the people of eastern Jackson County would be happier if they could govern themselves.

Accordingly, on February 9, 1832, the council approved “An Act to organize a county to be called the County of Fayette.” Encompassing the entire area of today’s Jackson and Calhoun Counties between the Chipola and Chattahoochee/Apalachicola River systems, the new county stretched from the Alabama line south to the northern limits of today’s Franklin (then part of Washington) County. The modern communities of Malone, Bascom, Greenwood, Two Egg, Dellwood, Cypress, Grand Ridge, Sneads, Altha and Blountstown are all located within the limits of the original Fayette County.

On the same day, the council also incorporated the “Town of Ocheesee” at Ocheesee Bluff in what is now Calhoun County to serve as a county seat for the new county and construction was soon underway there on both a courthouse and jail.

The dream of the Webbville promoters to remove a large block of pro-Marianna voters from Jackson County, however, was soon dashed. When the council approved a new election to determine a permanent county seat for Jackson County, Governor James D. Westcott quickly realized what was happening. Just two days after the creation of Fayette County, he vetoed the election bill for Jackson County. In a letter to the leaders of the Legislative Council, he noted that after contentious debate the county seat issue in Jackson County had finally been resolved. “I am averse to disturbing the quiet of the county by raising the question again if it can be avoided,” he wrote. The governor also called into question the whole Fayette County debacle, “Had I anticipated the agitation of it, when the bill for forming Fayette county was under consideration, it would have formed an additional objection to that act.”

Webbville’s final effort had failed. Although Fayette County became a reality, it was short-lived. Just one year after the creation of the new county, the Legislative Council responded to pleas from residents living in its northern areas and reunited them with Jackson County. Ten months later, on January 15, 1834, the residents from the remaining part of Fayette County filed a similar petition in Tallahassee.

Fayette County disappeared from the map of Florida on February 1, 1834, when the Legislative Council repealed its earlier act creating the county. In existence for only two years, it is now remembered as “Florida’s Lost County.”

This story is presented in much greater detail in the new book - The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One - now available for purchase by clicking here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Article: The Federal Road through Jackson County

This article appeared in the July 24th issue of the Jackson County Times. If you haven't subscribed to the paper yet, you can do so by clicking here.
Remembering the “Federal Road”

Florida’s First American-Built Road Passed Through Jackson County

By Dale Cox

Compass Lake – When the United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821, few people had any idea of the dramatic size of the territory. More than 400 miles of wilderness separated Pensacola and St. Augustine, the only two cities in Florida and little more than a rugged footpath that took six weeks to travel connected the two places.

As settlers flooded into the new American territory, the complete lack of a transportation network proved astounding. A call went up to the U.S. Congress for help and on February 28, 1824, an act was passed approving the construction of a “Federal Road” linking Pensacola and St. Augustine.
The task for building this road fell on the shoulders of Captain Daniel Burch, an army officer that had participated in Andrew Jackson’s 1818 campaign. Anticipating the project, he started working in 1823 to consider possible routes and develop cost estimates.
Burch quickly found that the available maps of Florida were extremely inaccurate. In one report, for example, he noted that he had added the course of the “Choppoola” or Chipola River to his charts because the mapmaker had simply not known of its existence.
The more he explored, the more he also came to realize that the plan of Congress to build a 25-foot road all the way from Pensacola to St. Augustine was simply impossible with the means at hand. In fact, he soon became convinced that even removing tree stumps from the path would be unnecessary and impossible. “In opening a road of this kind,” he wrote, “it is altogether unnecessary to dig or cut off the stumps level with the ground, unless occasionally when one happens to stand directly in the route, nor is it necessary to cut it through the open woods wider than for one wagon to pass with ease.”
The actual survey of a proposed route for the road began in late October of 1824, when Burch and a detachment of 22 men from the 4th United States Infantry set out from Pensacola to mark the construction lines of the project. It took them 34 days to reach St. Augustine, but they settled on a route for the highway.
Captain Burch intentionally platted his road to lead through some of the least desirable lands in Florida because the open scrub woods would be easy to clear and speed the construction process. From Deer Point on Pensacola Bay at present-day Gulf Breeze, the proposed route led west to Choctawhatchee Bay then turned to the northeast and crossed the Choctawhatchee River at the “Cow Ford.” So named because it was a place where cows could be driven across the river, the ford was near present-day Ebro in Washington County. From here the route led on to the natural bridge of Econfina Creek and then angled northeast again to a point near the southern shore of Compass Lake. Turning east and southeast, it led through southern Jackson County until it intersected with today’s State Highway 73 about 1.5 miles north of the Calhoun County line. Crossing the Chipola River into Calhoun County at this point, the road led on to Ocheesee Bluff on the Apalachicola River.
Construction on the road began near Pensacola on October 5, 1824 and the section through Jackson and Calhoun Counties was completed in June of 1825.
Although Burch believed his road would become the “great leading road of the country,” he soon learned otherwise. Because his route led primarily through scrub lands, the road proved of little benefit to the actual settlers of Northwest Florida. By 1830, residents in Jackson County had already built a new road linking Marianna and Webbville with Chattahoochee to the east and Holmes Valley to the west. The Federal Road was bypassed and fell into disuse. For Jackson County, at least, it became little more than a wasted government appropriation.
A few miles of the original route can still be traced along dirt roads in the southern edge of Jackson County, but little else remains to remind residents that the Federal Road ever existed. It has been common over the years to mistake today’s “Old U.S. Road” with this original path, but the two were separate. The “Old U.S. Road” was built in 1836-1838 by the U.S. Army to connect Alabama with Apalachicola Bay by way of Marianna. It ran from north to south, while the original Federal Road ran from west to east.