Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Chipola Settlement in 1828

The name "Chipola Settlement" actually applied to a fairly large area of Jackson County that included the Waddell Spring, Baker Creek and Webbville areas. These communities were located a few miles northwest of Marianna.
One of the first settled areas of the county, this region realized quick prosperity through the cultivation of sugar cane and cotton, as well as food crops, and grew rapidly as settlers flooded into Jackson County following its creation in 1823.
The following item appeared in the Pensacola Gazette, an early Florida newspaper, on August 5, 1828:
A letter from Chipola, Florida, dated 16th July says, “lands have risen at least 300 per cent in price, and are daily advancing – the tide of emigration is flowing in most rapidly, and the country still proves uninterruptedly healthy; the Physicians to avoid starvation are removing away: Our crops two or three weeks ago were as fine as I ever saw; the most gratifying prospects were presented to the planters; since then however we have had a drought which prevails and produces much alarm; it is a critical time, for the corn is now in milk. The cane crops are not yet injured; they are said by persons acquainted with its growth to be as fine as ever seen; indeed nothing can surpass the luxuriance of their appearance.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Webbville - Jackson County, Florida

I've devoted some attention over the last month or two to exploring the historic site of Webbville, Jackson County's "lost town" and one time county seat.
The community was founded during the 1820s and once vied with Marianna to be named County Seat of Jackson County. In fact, the U.S. Congress gave Webbville the "temporary designation" but the Florida Territorial Council, favoring Marianna, imposed fines on public officials who refused to conduct business from the latter city. As a result, Webbville slowly faded away and today is a pine covered hilltop, despite the fact that it may still be the official county seat of Jackson County.
Unlike many of the faded communities in Jackson County, Webbville was an actual town, incorporated by act of the Florida Territorial Council. Here is the act in its entirety:
To incorporate Webbville, in Jackson County.

Be it enacted by the Governor and Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, That Harris B. Crews, Hosea Presler, E.J. Bower, Richard L. Watson and Sears Bryan, and their successors in office, be and they are hereby created a body corporate a politic, by the name and style of “Commissioners for the Town of Webbville,” and as such, may assume the rights and privileges and a body politic or corporate, with the trust, powers and duties hereinafter provided.

Sec. 2. Be it further enacted, That said Commissioners shall hold their respective offices for and during the term of one year, from the date of their appointments; and they shall have power, and it is hereby made their duty, to fill all vacancies that may happen in their body, by death, resignation or removal, and shall in regular succession, at the expiration of their term of service, hold an election on the first Monday in January next, for the requisite number of members, (citizens of said place: ) Provided, that in all cases when the said Commissioners shall fail to hold an election, as is prescribed, it shall and may be lawful for any justice of the peace, residing within the limits of the aforesaid incorporation, or most convenient thereto, to appoint three discrete persons, citizens of the Town of Webbville, whose duty it shall be to give three days notice of an election to be held to fill such vacancies, and proceed to hold such election.

Sec. 3. Be it further enacted, That all free white male citizens of the age of twenty-one years, residing within the limits of said town, shall be entitled to vote in the election of Commissioners of said Town.

Sec. 4. Be it further enacted, That said Commissioners shall from their body elect a Chairman, who shall be known & described as “The Magistrate of Police,” and not more nor less than three of said Commissioners shall be necessary to constitute a Board for the transaction of business.

Sec. 5. Be it further enacted, That the Chairman or Magistrate of Police is hereby invested with the authority to convene the Board as often as he may deem necessary, and in case of absence or neglect of said chairman or magistrate of police to convene said Commissioners, they may convene and appoint a chairman or magistrate of police for the time being, for the transaction of business.

Sec. 6. Be it further enacted, That said Commissioners shall have full power, and are hereby invested with the authority to prevent or remove nuisances, to license retailers of spirituous liquors, and prescribe such rules and regulations as may be deemed necessary for the good order and quietude of said town. They shall furthermore have the power to prohibit all sorts of gambling, to regulate markets, to commission and license weighers, to direct the safe keeping of the standard of weights and measures, to provide for the opening and preservation of streets, squares, wells, pumps, and other public structures, to appoint patrols for said town, and prescribe rules and regulations for their government, and generally to provide such laws and regulations for the police and good government of said place as they may deem necessary.

Sec. 7. Be it further enacted, That said Commissioners through their chairman or magistrate of police, shall have power to carry into effect all laws and regulations of their own Board: Provided nevertheless, that no punishment by imprisonment, for contempt or other violation of the ordinances of said commissioners, shall exceed twenty-four hours, nor shall any fine exceed the sum of ten dollars.

Sec. 8. Be it further enacted, That said Commissioners shall have the power and authority to appoint a constable, whose duty it shall be to serve all process emenating from the said corporate body, and to suppress all riots, routs, affrays, and breaches of the peace, contrary to the good order and harmony of society; and for this purpose, he is hereby vested with all the authority, rights and privileges of the constables of the several magistrates’ districts in this Territory.

Sec. 9. Be it further enacted, That said Commissioners shall have power to enforce the collection of any fines, debts, dues, demands or forfeitures due said corporation; Provided nevertheless, the parties may be heard in person or by counsel, and that appeals to the county or superior courts be not allowed; And provided further, that the said constable shall receive, exact, or claim no other or greater fees for his services than are provided in similar cases by law; the said commissioners shall have the power to levy a tax on town lots, and apply the same to such useful public and charitable purposes as they may deem necessary to advance the interest and welfare of said town.

Sec. 10. Be it further enacted, That the chairman or magistrate of police shall keep a book, in which he shall record the proceedings and orders of the Commissioners at their several meetings; he shall keep a fair and correct account of all the receipts and money coming into his hands, and of all disbursements made by the Commissioners; it shall be his duty to issue all notices, advertisements, process and receipts, for and on behalf of said corporation, to preside at their meetings, and to preside on all process emanating, by virtue of this act; and when disbursements or appropriations of money are to be made, to notify all the Commissioners, or so many thereof as may be within the reach of his process, to attend at the meeting pending, wherein there is to be a disbursement or appropriations of money.

Sec. 11. Be it further enacted, That this act shall take effect from and after its passage.

Passed, Novemebr 19th, 1829.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jackson County's Indian Reservations

This field on the shore of Lake Seminole north of Sneads has been farmed since it was first cleared by Native Americans more than 180 years ago. In around 1818 or 1819, a party of Creeks led by Econchatimico ("Red Ground King") moved to a new village site here on the Chattahoochee River after their town at present-day Neal's Landing was destroyed during the First Seminole War.
By 1823, they had managed to clear fields, build homes and settle in at the new location, about 10 miles north of Sneads. In the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, signed that year, the U.S. Government reserved a four square mile piece of land surrounding the new village for Econchatimico and his people. A second, smaller reservation was also established on the Apalachicola River near the present Jackson County Port Authority site for a second chief, Mulatto King, and his followers.
The rest of the land in Jackson County, however, was opened to settlement and the last few hundred Native Americans living there were confined to the reservations.
Econchatimico remained on his land until 1838 when, based on prior agreement, he and his followers were removed by U.S. Army troops commanded by future President, Colonel Zachary Taylor.
The reservation was immediately occupied by white settlers, who began farming the newly abandoned fields and the communities of Brown's Ferry, Port Jackson and Butler Landing eventually grew here. Most of the old reservation was flooded when Lake Seminole was created during the 1950s, but a few small portions remain above water level and can still be seen in the vicinity of the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area along River Road north of Sneads.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jackson County Militia, 1860

On May 7, 1860, at the order of Governor Madison S. Perry, an election was held in Florida for officers of the State Militia. Similar to today's National Guard, the State Militia served in times of crisis and performed a variety of other functions.

The militia consisted of five brigades, each made up of regiments raised in each county of the state. The counties in West Florida were part of the First Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General William E. Anderson of Marianna.

The companies from Jackson County comprised the Sixth (6th) Regiment of the Florida Militia. Each company was raised in a section or "beat" of the county. Here are the officers elected to command the Jackson County companies during the 1860 election:

Sixth Regiment of Florida Militia (Jackson County)

Benjamin F. Parker, Colonel
J.D. Bassett, Lieutenant Colonel
W.B. Watts, Major

Company, Beat 1

Captain Lafayette McClung
1st Lt. Jno. E. Collier
2nd Lt. L.F. Stanton

Company, Beat 2

Captain J.M. Williams
1st Lt. A.M. Lambert
2nd Lt. J.N. Underwood

Company, Beat 3

Captain W.H. Dubose
1st Lt. H.J. Watson
2nd Lt. F.M. Farley

Company, Beat 4

Captain David Beacham
1st Lt. Lewis Hyatt

Company, Beat 5

Captain S.H. Chisolm
1st Lt. Henry Irwin
2nd Lt. N.M. Havens

Company, Beat 6

Captain E.S. Hamilton
1st Lt. John Lanier
2d Lt. Henry Pope

Company, Beat 7

Captain G.N. Hartsfield
1st Lt. H.G. Sims
2nd Lt. G.W. McNealey

Company, Beat 8

Captain A. Sneed
1st Lt. T.E. Grover
2nd Lt. E.A. Ellerby

Company, Beat 9

Captain D.W. Johnson
1st Lt. William Vickery
2d Lt. Jno. H. Porter

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Chipola - The Town that Almost Existed

This is a view looking east down Waddell Mill Pond. In 1826, lots were sold here for a town that developers believed would one day become the County Seat of Jackson County. According to land records, the site was on the south or right bank of the creek coming from Waddell Spring about halfway down today's Mill Pond. Most of the location remains open farm land, but a small portion was flooded by the creation of the pond.
To be called the "Town of Chipola," the community was designed to be constructed around a central square. Streets would then lead out at right angles to form city blocks for the construction of homes. The developers pledged a portion of the profits from the land sale to be used in constructing a courthouse and other civil improvements.
The town's name came from the "Chipola Settlement," a scattering of homes and farms stretching from about Waddell Spring south to Webbville and east to the Chipola River.
The Town of Chipola, however, never became a reality. Although lots were sold and the community was originally thought to hold great promise, the development of the city of Marianna much closer to the Chipola River stalled the project before it ever got off the ground. Several of the developers soon became involved in the scheme to develop the town of Webbville as a county seat, a project that also failed.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Drilling for Oil in Jackson and Washington Counties

A little known part of the history of Jackson County was the effort by wildcat drillers to find oil in the region during the years 1915-1925.
The unique land formations in Jackson and Washington Counties led to speculation that they might be "oil domes" containing rich supplies of crude oil. Wildcatters (independent oil drillers) erected large wooden rigs and drilled holes in a number of places across the two counties.
The site of one such drilling operation (pictured here) has been preserved at Falling Waters State Park just across the line in Washington County. Drillers here reached a depth of 4,912 feet before giving up and capping the well. They struck natural gas and found oil, but not in quantities sufficient to meet the standards of the day.
Similar results were reported at other drill sites in both Jackson and Washington Counties. The results of these explorations are interesting, as they did prove that both natural gas and oil could be found in the area.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The History of Lovedale

Continuing its effort to publish the histories of communities across Jackson County, the Jackson County Times newspaper this week will feature the history of the community Lovedale.
Founded during the late 1800s, Lovedale is a charming community with a rich history. The community was built around a square, now the site of Lovedale Baptist Church and Cemetery, and is unique among the small communities of Jackson County for its well planned and airy design.
To read the article, pick up a copy of this week's issue of The Jackson County Times. If you live outside of Jackson County or are a local resident who would like to subscribe to the paper for delivery by mail, you can do so by going to:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Florida's "Lost City"

The legend of St. Joseph, Florida's "Lost City," is well-known in Northwest Florida.
Closely connected with Marianna and Jackson County, the city was founded in 1835 on the present site of Port St. Joe and within three years was home to 12,000 residents. It was virtually wiped out by a yellow fever epidemic in 1841 followed by a hurricane in 1844. In a matter of just a few years, St. Joseph disappeared from the map.
Yet its legacy lives on. St. Joseph was the site of the 1838-1839 Constitutional Convention that drafted Florida's first constitution. Among the delegates attending was Dr. Samuel C. Bellamy, of Marianna. The death of his wife, Elizabeth, is the story behind today's legend of the "Ghost of Bellamy Bridge."
In addition, the highway that Jackson County residents know today as the "Old U.S. Road" was originally constructed by the U.S. government to link the Alabama line with St. Joseph (by way of Marianna).
I've added a new section on old St. Joseph and other historic sites around Port St. Joe to my website at: Just follow the link and you will see the heading.

The Calhoun County War of 1860

I've started a new series of posts about the little known "Calhoun County War" of 1860 on my Civil War Florida blog at

This outbreak took place during the fall of 1860 when a band of "regulators" attacked the home of Jesse Durden in Calhoun County. Durden was killed and two other men, Willis and Larkin Musgrove, were wounded. The Durdens and Musgroves, joined by their neighbors, fought back and open warfare spread through the county.

The Jackson County Militia was finally ordered out and marched into Calhoun County to put down the fighting.

It was a fascinating episode and those with an interest in Jackson County history will probably find the postings of interest. They can be seen by clicking this link:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Landmark Park - Dothan, Alabama

A very nice historic attraction just an hour's drive from Jackson County (less from some areas) can be found at Dothan's outstanding Landmark Park.
Located on U.S. 431 North (go out past the "Circle" and Northside High School and watch for the signs), Landmark Park is rapidly developing into one of the South's premier outdoor museums. The exhibits include an impressive array of historic structures collected from across the Wiregrass Region. Among these are stores, a one-room school house, a beautifully restored church and more. In addition, the park is home to an outstanding living history farm, built around the Waddell House that was for many years a Dothan landmark. The farm operates year round and includes an impressive assembly of buildings and crops, as well as livestock and more.
Other attractions at the park, which has been designated Alabama's Official Museum of Agriculture, include a planetarium, boardwalks, nature trails, activity barn and more.
If you would like to see additional photographs and learn more about Landmark Park, visit and you'll see a headline about the park on the home page.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Davis-West House - Marianna, Florida

This beautiful old home, one of my favorites in Marianna, is the Davis-West House. Constructed well before the Civil War, the home for over 100 years was owned by Dr. Theophilus West and his son, C. Slade West. It is now in the hands of a local historic preservation group and is open for tours by appointment.
Dr. West was a surgeon from Florida during the Civil War. He served in the Army of Northern Virginia and was among the soldiers surrendered by General Robert E. Lee at Appomatox Courthouse, Virginia.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the house is one of a number of 19th century structures still standing in Marianna.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jackson County in 1840

This map from the National Archives, published in 1840, shows Jackson County as it appeared during the final days before Florida. Based on surveys done during the 1830s, the map is especially interesting because it shows a couple of communities that no longer exist. One of these, Webbville, can be seen just to the left and above Marianna (near the center of the image).
Also visible are Campbellton (misspelled as Cambleton), and Mt. Vernon (today's Chattahoochee). Brown's Ferry, visible in the upper right corner of the map, is mislocated at Neal's Landing. The community actually was lower down the river. The large lake visible just below the caption for "Mt. Vernon" on the right side of the map is Ocheese Pond.
This is but one of a number of early maps of Jackson County on file in the National Archives. Looking through them provides a fascinating vew of the growrth of the county.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A murder in Webbville - 1826

This is another view of the site of Webbville. This photograph was taken looking north up the Campbellton Road, which leads from this point across Russ Mill Creek and on to Waddell Mill Pond and Campbellton.
While working on my forthcoming book, A History of Jackson County, Florida, I uncovered quite a bit of new information on Webbville, including what I think may have been the first recorded murder in the history of Jackson County. Here is the report from the November 6, 1826, issue of the Baltimore Gazette:

THE MURDER. – We understand that the body found near Webbville, on Chipola (as mentioned in a communication published in our last) is ascertained to be that of Mr. Morris stranger who had been in the country but a few weeks and who, it has been supposed, brought money with him for the purpose of purchasing land. There is no doubt but this unfortunate individual was murdered, and it is supposed that a young man named Tod is the murderer – It is said Tod was the last person seen with the deceased, that he absconded on Morris’ hourse, which he rode to death, but finding that the alarm had not been given he returned to Chipola, where he remained until the body was found, when he again fled. We have heard that a reward has been offered for his apprehension.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More on Webbville

A few days ago I posted some information on Webbville, one of the earliest settlements in Jackson County and possibly still the "official" county seat. This is another photograph of the site, showing the pine and cedar trees that grow where the bustling little community once stood.
If you are interested in reading about Webbville in a little more depth, an article I wrote on the subject some time ago will be appearing in this week's issue of The Jackson County Times. A weekly newspaper headquartered in Marianna, the Times available at locations throughout Jackson County. You can also subscribe online for delivery by mail at:

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Old Bridge - Marianna

This is a rare photograph of the old iron bridge over the Chipola River at Marianna. The bridge stood just a few feet south of today's U.S. 90 bridge. Its piers can still be seen.
A number of bridges have stood at this site through the years. The date on which the first was constructed is not known, but it was undoubtedly built during the 1830s. It was replaced during the 1850s by an open wooden span with rails on each side. This structure was standing at the time of the Battle of Marianna and Confederate troops held back a Union attempt to cross the river by tearing up the flooring of the bridge. The photograph above shows the river at Marianna much as it appeared at the time of the Battle of Marianna, although the iron bridge did not exist at that time.
After the Civil War, the wooden bridge was replaced by a covered bridge, also of wooden construction. The covered bridge stood for several decades before being replaced by the iron bridge seen here.
This bridge, in turn, was dismantled when the first U.S. 90 bridge was constructed during the early 1900s.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rare Historic Photograph of Downtown Marianna

This photograph, taken before 1900, is one of my favorite historic images of Marianna. It appears to have been taken from the intersection of Lafayette and Green Streets, looking west. The trees in the foreground are located at Confederate Park in downtown Marianna. The Battle of Marianna monument had not been erected by the time of the photograph.
Of particular interest is what some believe was Marianna's first bicycle. If you look just in front of the porch visible in the photograph, you will see an individual riding down the street on a bicycle. It is impossible to say whether this really was Marianna's first bike. They had been around for a number of years by this point.
Even so, it provides a rare look back at downtown Marianna when sidewalks were still made from wood and the streets were still dirt.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Waddell Mill Pond

A Jackson County landmark for more than 150 years, Waddell Mill Pond is located just off the old road that once linked Marianna and Campbellton.
The pond was dammed by plantation owner John R. Waddell during the years before the Civil War to provide power for a water mill. The mill no longer stands, but the much refurbished dam still holds back the water pouring from Waddell Spring, one of the major tributaries of the Chipola River.
Waddell Mill Pond today is completely closed to public access and is on private property. This photograph was taken from the adjoining property of Springfield A.M.E. Church. Please respect the private property rights of the owners.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Baker Creek - Important historic landmark

The sluggish course of Baker Creek, a few miles northwest of Marianna, is virtually the only surviving landmark of one of Jackson County's most important early settlements.

The lands around the creek were the first in the county to sustain large plantations and it was here that successful crops of cotton were first grown in Jackson County.

Among the important farms located in the area bordering the creek was Dr. Samuel Bellamy's Rock Cave plantation. A former resident of North Carolina, Dr. Bellamy moved to Jackson County during the early 1830s with his young wife, Elizabeth. He was the first Jackson County planter to grow Sea Island cotton and sent the first shipment down the Chipola River by barge to the port at Apalachicola.

It was on Rock Cave plantation that Elizabeth Bellamy died from fever in 1834. She is now the central figure in the Bellamy Bridge ghost story. According to the legend, her gown caught fire on her wedding day and she died from the resulting injuries. In truth, however, she and her baby boy died within one week of each other at Rock Cave several years after her marriage.

Elizabeth is buried near Bellamy Bridge on the plantation of Samuel's brother, Dr. Edward C. Bellamy. The two brothers later became involved in a fierce legal battle over control of Rock Cave. The issue was finally decided by the Supreme Court of Florida. Samuel killed himself at Chattahoochee Landing after a severe bout of depression and drunkenness.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Site of Webbville

This hilltop a few miles northeast of Cottondale is the site of the Jackson County ghost town of Webbville. I've received a number of questions recently about Webbville, so here are a few of the facts.
The community was founded during the 1820s, just ahead of the founding of Marianna by Robert and Anna Maria Beveridge, and named for a prominent local attorney. Originally a rival town to Marianna, Webbville battled with the Beveridge's settlement for the status of County Seat of Jackson County. The fight turned into one of the greatest political spats in Florida history.
Although Webbville was a prosperous little community, it was hampered in its political dreams by the fact that it was located on a 16th Section. Under law, these sections were reserved for school purposes. In addition, Marianna was located on the Chipola River and Webbville was pretty much high and dry (although there was a small spring nearby). This was significant because the Chipola was then used to barge bales of cotton downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.
As the political forces of the two communities battled, both the Florida Territorial Council and the U.S. Congress became involved. At one point, an entirely new county (Fayette County) was even carved from eastern Jackson County in an effort to break Marianna's voting success. Fayette County was shortlived, however.
The battle finally seemed to be at an end when the U.S. Congress finally designated Webbville as the County Seat of Jackson County. The Territorial Council (same as today's state legislature), however, fired a final shot that settled the issue for good. Legally unable to overrule the U.S. Congress, the Council voted to impose a fine on any public official in Jackson County who did not conduct business from the courthouse in Marianna.
The threat of paying fines solved things fast and all of the county's public officials moved to Marianna. Webbville eventually faded away and today is nothing more than a dirt road leading across a pine covered hill.
Curiously, though, unless the action of Congress that designated the community as county seat has been changed, Webbville remains the official County Seat for Jackson County.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Dunaway SAR Chapter forms in Jackson County

An event took place in Jackson County yesterday that does not happen very often anywhere in the country, the formation of a new chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. The new William Dunaway Chapter of the SAR is the first chapter formed in Florida since the Emerald Coast Chapter was formed nearly twenty years ago.
The new chapter is the result of decades of work by Fletcher, Harry ("Hap") and Robert ("Kenny") Dunaway and is named in honor of their ancestor, William Dunaway. He served in the 5th Virginia Regiment during the American Revolution and fought during the Yorktown Campaign and also served under Col. Elijah Clarke in Georgia during the final major actions of the American Revolution.
If you live in the Jackson County area, had an ancestor who served during the American Revolution, and would like more information on joining the new chapter, feel free to contact me and I'll be glad to put you in touch with them. You can reach me by following this link:

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Historic Bellview Church - Owens Community

This is the historic Bellview Methodist Church in the Owens Community of eastern Jackson County. The church has not been used for services in many years and is slowly deterioriating, but it has been a landmark of the area for decades.
Located on River Road near Parramore about fifteen miles north of Sneads, the Bellview Church is unique because it was the only Methodist congregation within miles of its location. During the first decades of the 20th century, this was a commercially active area of large farms, turpentine operations and sawmills. Less than 2 miles from the church was the Parramore crossroads, an important commercial center during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Also nearby were several important riverboat landings on the Chattahoochee River.
Adjacent to the church is the historic Owens-Bellview Cemetery. Although the oldest graves here are not marked, several dating from the 19th century can still be seen.