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.

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