Friday, February 29, 2008

The Falls are falling at Falling Waters

One of my favorite places in the area surrounding Jackson County is Falling Waters State Park near Chipley. Only about 20 minutes from Marianna in neighboring Washington County, the park is the home of Florida's tallest waterfall.
The falls are created by a small stream that tumbles over the edge of an impressive cylindrical sink. The waterfall is 73 feet tall, a rather impressive height for Florida.
Like many small Florida streams, the creek feeding the waterfall flows better at some times of the year than at others. During the hot summer months it is little more than a trickle, but it usually runs nicely during the late winter and early spring or after a period of heavy rains.
Northwest Florida has received a lot of rain over the past week and that means that the falls are running nicely at Falling Waters. So if you would like to see them, this is an ideal time to go.
In addition to the waterfall, the park has picnic areas, a swimming lake, nature trails, a seasonal butterfly garden and more. To reach Falling Waters State Park, just exit Interstate 10 at the Chipley Exit, turn left on State Highway 77 and follow the signs. The turn-off to the park is only a short distance south of the interstate, so if you wind up in Wausau and see the "Possum Monument," you went too far!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Early Spanish Account of Blue Spring

Blue Spring, near Marianna, has been a Jackson County landmark for centuries.
In 1693, a Spanish missionary named Rodrigo de la Barreda visited the spring and wrote a fascinating account in his journal. Friar Barreda called the spring by its early name, "Calistoble." Possibly a Chacato Indian word, its exact meaning is unknown.
Here is Friar Barreda's description:
On June 11 we proceeded northwest through various woods and pine groves and in about five leagues, reached such a large and excellent spring that a stream deep enough for canoes actually issues from it - the Indians sail on it. This stream joins the Apalachicola river a league more or less above where the latter empties into the sea. This spring is entirely surrounded by woods with many walnut, evergreen oak, laurel, common oak, sassafras, and some pine trees; around it are numerous huge rocks and habitable caves frequented by the Indians on their hunting trips for bear, deer and bufflo, of which there is an abundance. The soil for three or four leagues round about is rich and suitable for all kinds of cultivation. There are very excellent wild grapes on the many vines, and many luscious chestnuts. Here we spent the night, thanking God for such a pleasant and delightful spot uninhabited save for the wild animals who enjoy it.
Friar Barreda's description provides a unique view of the spring and Spring Creek before the latter was dammed to create today's Merritt's Mill Pond. He measured distance in Spanish leagues, which measured about the same as three miles.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge

One of Florida's best known legends centers around this old iron-frame bridge spanning the Chipola River a few miles north of Marianna.
It is the centerpiece of Jackson County's tale of the Ghost of Bellamy Bridge. The story revolves around the 19th century marriage of Samuel and Elizabeth Jane Bellamy and her supposed death by fire at her own wedding.
I'm often asked about this story and have received a number of inquiries following the ghost hunt over the weekend at the Russ House in Marianna by a group of "paranormal investigators." So, I've started a new series on our sister blog, Two Egg, Florida. If you would like to know the true story behind this fascinating legend, just click here to check out the series!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida

Most people who grew up in Florida have at least heard of the Battle of Natural Bridge. The Civil War battle on the banks of the St. Marks River preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi River not taken by Union troops.
A number of men from Jackson County took part in this battle and others were on the march trying to get there when the fight broke out.
If you are interested in learning more, I've started a new series on Natural Bridge at our sister blog, Civil War Florida. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be following the troop movements and events of the Natural Bridge campaign, so if Florida's Civil War history is of interest, come over and join us!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Irwin's Mill Area of Jackson County

I have been enjoying a fascinating exchange of emails with Mr. William Ted McKenzie about the Irwin's Mill area of Jackson County (and Houston County, Alabama) and it has reminded of the fascinating history of the vicinity.

If you aren't familiar with Irwin's Mill, it was an old water powered grist mill that stood on Irwin's Mill Creek in the very northeast corner of Jackson County immediately on the Alabama line. The photo here shows the creek above the old mill site. The mill itself no longer stands, but its foundations can still be seen.
I've mentioned Irwin's Mill here before, along with the earlier history of the area as the site of the Native American village of Ekanachatte.
Another episode of the history of the Irwin's Mill area that is little known today is the presence there in 1799, when Florida was still a Spanish colony, of a surveyor's camp commanded by Col. Andrew Ellicott, the U.S. Commissioner of Limits and Capt. Stephen Minor, his Spanish counterpart.
The two officers came, along with a military escort, to meet here with a party of surveyors who had come across country from near Mobile, Alabama. They built a camp on the west bank of the Chattahoochee River near Irwin's Mill Creek and conducted astronomical observations to determine the exact site of the border between Florida and what is now Alabama. They marked what they believed to be the border with a series of earthen mounds, often confused today for "Indian Mounds."
Ellicott and Minor got it pretty close in some areas, but due to rough conditions and faulty instruments, they also got the line as much as one mile off in other areas. More recent surveys corrected the errors, but the Ellicott Line remains a fascinating aspect of Northwest Florida (and South Alabama) history.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Riverside Cemetery - Marianna, Florida

One of the oldest cemeteries in Northwest Florida can be found in the southeast corner of Marianna.
When Marianna was founded and settled during the late 1820s, the hilltop now occupied by Riverside Cemetery was set aside for use as a community burial ground. The original owners of the property, Robert and Anna Beveridge, were also the founders of Marianna.
The oldest graves at Riverside are believed to date from the 1820s. Some of the stones and crypts marking these early burials still exist, but the names have long since faded away.
Among those known to be buried here is Mrs. Beveridge herself, one of the women for whom the city of Marianna is named. She died at Marianna in 1830, shortly after relocating to Florida from Maryland and had not yet reached the age of 30. Her exact burial site is unknown, but the oldest section of the cemetery occupies a hilltop in its western sector.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

1867 Lightning Deaths

Here's another historic newspaper item about Jackson County that might be of interest. This was taken from the June 20, 1867, issue of the Marianna Courier:

THREE FREEDMEN KILLED BY LIGHTNING. – On Monday evening last, a man and two women, in the employment of Amos Hays, Esq., of this county, having retired for shelter from a shower, to a hickory tree near where they were at work, were struck by lightning and killed instantly. The man had a gun, which it is supposed, attracted the electric fluid, after striking a pine tree a short distance from where they were found.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Battle of Marianna, Florida

On my sister blog,, I began today a series of postings that you might find of interest.

They tell the story of the life of Colonel Alexander B. Montgomery, the Confederate commander at the Battle of Marianna. The first of these posts is now up, so if you are interested, please take a look.

The Ely-Crigler House - Marianna, Florida

In my last post I discussed the history of the "1840 House" at the intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets in Marianna. This beautiful old structure was originally a wing of the elegant home shown here.
This is the Ely-Crigler House, which faces Lafayette Street (U.S. 90) in Marianna and is one of the city's most stunning landmarks. An architectural treasure, it is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the national listing of architectural landmarks.
Built in around 1840, the home is unique in that its brick walls run all the way to the ground and are of massive thickness. Likely this is because the house was constructed during the Second Seminole War and was designed to serve as a fortress in the event of an attack. With its original east and west wings, it was one of the largest homes on the entire Gulf Coast. The east wing has since been demolished and the west wing has been disconnected and moved to face Russ Street, where it is now the "1840 House."
Note that I call the home a "house" and not a "mansion," despite the fact that it was definitely of mansion size. This is because I remember well that the last descendents of the Crigler family to occupy the home became quite irate when it was called a "mansion." They considered it a "house."
A portion of the Battle of Marianna was fought in the street in front of the house and a Native American mound once stood on the grounds.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The 1840 House - Marianna, Florida

This beautiful old structure at the intersection of Lafayette (U.S. 90) and Russ Streets in Marianna is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Jackson County.
Now used as a business, the structure was originally one of the two wings of the Ely-Crigler Home, located just around the corner facing Lafayette Street. The home was constructed in around 1840 and originally included the central brick section that survives today as well as large east and west wings. The east wing has since been demolished, but the west wing was moved slightly and turned to face Russ Street during the years after the war.
It is, so far as I know, the only case to be found in Florida of a Civil War home now being located in two places at the same time.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

An Early Mill on the Chipola River

While doing research some time ago, I stumbled across the following while reading through old copies of the Pensacola Gazette. This newspaper served all of West Florida during the 1820s and 1830s, and the following was found on page one of the issue from February 6, 1830:


To authorize Joseph H. Howell to build a Mill on the Chipola River.

Be it enacted by the Governor and Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, That Joseph H. Howell, be, and is hereby authorized, and vested with all the rights and privileges of building a set of mills, gins, or any other machine on the Chipola River in Jackson County, where the same runs through section twenty three, in Township four, range ten, north and west, and to use the waters of said river for the use of said mills, or machine, in any way he may think proper, Provided, he shall in no case, obstruct the passage and free navigation of said river.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That this act shall be in force from and after its passage.

Passed, November 10th, 1829.

The location provided in the act was on the Chipola River just south of Marianna and near the point where Spring Creek flows into the river. The river was then used for barge traffic, which explains why the Legislative Council was clear in its intent that Howell not obstruct the channel in any way.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Irwin's Mill Creek - Northeast Jackson County

This image, taken just a few yards across the Alabama line from Jackson County, shows Irwin's Mill Creek, a clear and cold stream that flows into the northeast corner of Jackson County not far from Neal's Landing.
This stream was an important water resource to early settlers, who dammed it to provide power for a watermill built by Col. Joseph Irwin during the 1820s.
The exact construction date of the mill is not clear. Col. Irwin and his partner, Farish Carter, acquired 160 acres on the creek from the Federal government on September 1, 1827, but this is not necessarily the date they settled there. Early settlers often "squatted" on land before actually filing for ownership of the property.
The mill served residents of Jackson County for more than one hundred years and remained an important landmark and industry well into the 20th century. Untold thousands of bushels of corn were ground on its stones.
The mill itself no longer stands, but its foundations remain and can be seen in the distance by looking downstream from the dam at Chattahoochee State Park just across the Alabama line. They are believed to be the oldest standing structural remains in Jackson County.