Monday, March 31, 2008

Native American Hiding Places at Florida Caverns

Since a brief article about the archaeology of Florida Caverns State Park appeared online at last week, I've had the pleasure of hearing from several individuals who trace their roots back to the families of Native Americans who once used the caves as hiding places during the Seminole Wars.
There are old legends in Jackson County that Native Americans regularly used the caves to elude capture during the Seminole Wars. According to the emails I've received, there is strong tradition in local Native American families that the legends are true.
One writer indicated that over the years her family had developed a tradition regarding the caves. She remembered how her grandfather would take the family children and show them the cave in which their ancestors hid to avoid capture and being shipped west on the Trail of Tears.
It is a little known fact that a number of small bands of Native Americans somehow managed to elude capture at the time of the Trail of Tears in the region (1836-1844) and remained hidden in secluded areas of Jackson County (and neighboring Calhoun) until they were able to blend with their white neighbors and enough time passed that the forced removals ended. Even so, the elder members of such groups urged continued secrecy about their ancestry out of fear of reprisals.
If you did not catch the original article and would like to read it, just click here. You can also learn more about the colorful history of Florida Caverns State Park by visiting and looking for the Florida Caverns heading.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Holden House and the Battle of Marianna

This beautiful old structure on West Lafayette Street in Marianna is the Holden House. Built in 1849, it is one of the oldest structures in Marianna.
During the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864, Confederate troops were positioned in ambush behind a fence and shrubbery in front of the house and a portion of the battle was fought on the grounds.
After the battle, Union troops engaged in widespread vandalism and theft around the town and the Holden House was not spared. According to legend, a Union soldier was looking through the house for valuables and became frustrated with a stuck closet door. He pulled out his saber and struck it against the door, splitting it from top to bottom to gain access to the contents of the closet. The residents of the house later put the door back together. I had a chance to examine the wooden door during the late 1980s and, sure enough, there is a repaired crack running down it from top to bottom. Near the middle, the clear mark of a sword impact could be seen.
Another story that survives from the Battle of Marianna also involves the Holden House and shows that the prankster nature of some of the Union troops. According to family tradition, a group of Northern soldiers placed a cannonball in the center of the parlor floor and told the residents of the house that if they moved the projectile, it would explode. It sat in the middle of the parlor floor for more than 100 years before a local history teacher (Billy Grant) saw it and picked it up, much to the mortification of the lady then living in the house. It proved to be a 12-pound solid shot (made of solid iron with no gunpowder inside).
The pranksters who left the cannonball were probably members of Company M, 2nd Maine Cavalry. This company was at the Battle of Marianna and manned the regiment's two 12-pound howitzers.
The cannonball incident was the only recorded use of artillery at the Battle of Marianna.
If you would like to read more on the Battle of Marianna, please visit

Thursday, March 27, 2008

An Early Description of the Florida Caverns

From the time human beings first discovered what is now Jackson County, they have been fascinated with the beautiful caves in the Marianna area. Written accounts of the caves date back to 1693, when Spanish missionaries wrote of them in their journals.
One of my favorite early accounts was written in 1842 by the editor of the Tallahassee Sentinel newspaper. He participated in an exploration of a cave at today's Florida Caverns State Park:
"A few weeks since, in company with some eight or ten ladies and gentlemen, we explored one of the largest and most interesting caves yet discovered in Florida. It is situated some four miles from Marianna, near the east bank of the Chipola river, and in the vicinity of Dr. Cheeseborough’s plantation. Its entrance is on the side of a small hill, the mouth sufficiently large to admit two persons at a time in a standing posture. After furnishing ourselves with lighted candles we commenced our “exploring expedition.” A few steps led us into a large subterranean hall, of very irregular and curious structure. Its floor was quite uneven; and its roof thickly studded with glittering stalactites, forming a splendid arch, apparently supported by finely chiseled pillars of solid rock. After proceeding some distance, clambering over rocks, jumping ravines, now ascending land, anon descending, we at length reached a fine, cool spring, which gushed forth from a cleft in a large rock situated in a remote corner of the first apartment. After refreshing ourselves at this beautiful fountain, we pursued our uneven course, into the next apartment, which presented much the appearance of the first. Having by this time become somewhat fatigued – the atmosphere being rather oppressive – we retraced our steps, and once more emerged into the light of day without meeting with any accident. We think the position of the cave we explored was about 150 yards in length and ranging, in height, from 6 to 16 feet. It is said to contain other apartments."
You can read more about the history of Florida Caverns State Park at Just follow the link and look for the Florida Caverns heading.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Legend of Florida's "Rip Van Winkle"

You probably have heard or read Washington Irving's famous story of Rip Van Winkle, the old settler of the Hudson River Valley in New York who had an infamous encounter with the "little people," drank some of their liquor, and promptly went to sleep for decades.
You may not have heard, however, that a similar story is one of the legends surrounding Jackson County's Florida Caverns State Park. Local folklore holds that a group of picnickers were exploring one of the caves at the park during the 19th century when they unexpectedly came across an old man who claimed to have been sleeping in the cave for 100 years.
This story is one of the ones I've included in my new website on Florida Caverns. You can read it and learn much more about the history of the park by visiting Just follow the link and you will see the heading on the main page.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shepard's Mill

If, like me, you grew up in or around Jackson County, you very well may have enjoyed cornbread or grits made from grain ground at Shepard's Mill across the river in Gadsden County.

The old mill has been grinding corn since 1875, when it opened for business at Telogia Creek on the outskirts of present-day Greensboro. It is one of the last operating commercial gristmills in the South.

Unlike many surviving gristmills that are now in parks or that operate occassionally, Shepard's Mill continues to serve the purpose for which it was built. The owners operate the mill to make cornmeal, grits and a variety of other products that are sold around the world. If you would like to read more on this unique old water mill, please visit

Shepard's Mill is similar to a number of such industries that once stood in Jackson County, at least one of which (Kent Mill) still operates from time to time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March is Archaeology Month in Florida

Jackson County and the surrounding area has one of the richest archaeological heritages of any region in the South. March is Archaeology Month in Florida, so I thought we would spend some time this week exploring the archaeology of our county.

This photograph (taken from the air last week) shows the site of the Chattahoochee Landing/Curlee mound complex, one of the most signficant archaeological settings in the Jackson County area.

At its height during the Fort Walton era (A.D. 900 - A.D. 1540), the land seen in this photograph was the scene of at least 8 known Native American mounds and a major village site. Fort Walton (named for the large temple mound at Fort Walton on the Gulf Coast) was the name given to the Mississippian Culture in our region of Florida.

Seven of the mounds, comprising a unique ceremonial center, were located on the far bank of the Apalachicola River in Gadsden County. Consisting of six smaller mounds forming a semi circle around a large platform mound (visible here just to the right of the bridges and behind the boat dock), the Chattahoochee Landing complex was one of the most impressive in Florida. On the Jackson County side of the river, they were joined by the Curlee Mound, a large burial/platform mound that faced across the river at the main ceremonial complex at Chattahoochee Landing. A large village stretched along the riverbank around the Curlee Mound.

These mounds were constructed to function as a giant astronomical observatory. Standing atop the Curlee Mound on the Jackson County side of the river, it was possible to look across the river and see the sun rise directly above the main Chattahoochee Landing mound on the longest day of the year. The other mounds at Chattahoochee Landing were designed so that on certain days of the year, an observer could stand atop the largest mound and see stars and constellations oriented so that they appeared to be directly over the center of the surrounding mounds. In this way, the occupants of the site could predict the changing of the seasons. The entire complex was something of giant earthen calender/observatory, indicating that the people who built the mounds were much more advanced than we often given them credit for being.

Today the largest mound at Chattahoochee Landing and the remnants of two of the smaller mounds can still be seen. The landing is now a park area maintained by Chattahoochee and is open to the public on a daily basis. The mounds can be seen, but other than one small sign on the largest earthwork, no impretative displays are available at the park. The site is protected and digging can lead to a quick arrest.

The Curlee Mound, across the river in Jackson County, has been washed away by the Apalachicola River and no longer exists.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Historic Butler Road

This is a view of historic Butler Road as it leads west from Lake Seminole. This road is one of the oldest publicly constructed roads in Jackson County and (as you can see here) it hasn't changed much in the last 175 years or so.
The road was originally built in the 1830s to connect the Chattahoochee River settlement of Brownsville with the new county seat of Marianna. The name "Brownsville" only remained in use for a few year's before it was changed to Brown's Ferry.
Located on the river adjacent to the reservation established by the Treaty of Moultrie Creek for the Native American chief Econchatimico ("Red Ground King") and his followers, the ferry was one of the primary landing sites where passengers and commerce coming and going to Marianna caught the paddlewheel riverboats that steamed up and down the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers. A flatboat ferry also crossed the river to the Georgia bank at the site.
The Butler Road (then called the Brown's Ferry Road) was constructed to replace the originally woods trail that led from the landing to Marianna. It is clearly shown on survey plats dating from the late 1830s and early 1840s. Heading west from the landing, it passed Cowpen Pond before merging with the Blue Springs Road just west of today's Dellwood Community.
The name "Butler" came into use because Butler Landing was the final incarnation of the old Brownsville Settlement. Over time the landing site migrated slightly south and went through a series of names - Brownsville, Brown's Ferry, Port Jackson and finally Butler Landing.

The Site of San Carlos - Sneads, Florida

I've mentioned before here the site of the Spanish mission of Senor San Carlos de Chacatos near present-day Sneads.
The mission was the last Spanish settlement in Jackson County and was established in 1680 by Franciscan missionaries. The site is located at the west end of the Jim Woodruff Dam at the West Bank Overlook Park and is, of course, protected by Federal law.
This aerial photograph, taken last week, provides a good view of the San Carlos Site. The spillway of the dam can be seen in the right of the photograph, along with the blue waters of Lake Seminole. The mission was located on the hilltop overlooking the lake (a large swamp in 1680). The paved parking area visible in the left center of the photograph is the West Bank Overlook, where archaeologists found traces of the mission during the 1950s.
San Carlos was established to minister to a village of Christian Chacato Indians who had relocated to the site from western Jackson County and eastern Washington County between 1676 and 1680. The had been converted to Christianity in 1674-1675 by missionaries working at the missions of San Nicolas and San Carlos west of the Chipola River. Both missions were destroyed in a rebellion by part of the Chacato in 1675. The portion of the tribe that had accepted Christianity relocated to this hilltop near Sneads over the next few years and the Spanish responded by establishing a new mission for them.
Senor San Carlos was occupied for about 16 years and was the westernmost mission and Spanish post in Florida during its existance. It is described in several Spanish documents of the time and was destroyed in 1696 during an English inspired raid by Native American warriors from Alabama and Georgia.
There are no markers at the site.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Cox Indian Mound - near Two Egg

This aerial photo shows one of Jackson County's least known archaeological sites, the Cox Indian Mound.
The mound is located on a small island in a pond about five miles east of Two Egg. It is on private property and is very well preserved, unlike many Native American mound sites in the area.
The Cox Mound has never been excavated, so its exact age is not known. Artifacts found in a plowed field nearby, however, are of the Weeden Island type, a strong indication that the mound probably dates from the same time period. This would mean it was likely built between A.D. 300 and A.D. 900 and is more than one thousand years old.
It is unknown whether the mound was a burial mound or was simply built to serve as a platform for a residence or other structure in the swampy area. A second mound (now largely destroyed) stood roughly 1/4 mile east of this one and appears to have been a platform mound.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

One of the world's rarest trees - the Florida Torreya

Jackson County was once part of the natural habitat of the Florida Torreya tree.
Tens of thousands of these trees could be found growing in the region during the early 1800s, but today only around 200 survive on the entire earth.
Local legend holds that the Florida Torreya was the gopher wood from which Noah built the ark. While scientists do not confirm this, they do tell us that the Torreya is one of the oldest species of tree found on the earth. They are also working hard to try to save it from extinction.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden, working in cooperation with the Florida Park Service, has implemented a program to grow seedlings from the few surviving Florida Torreya trees. These seedlings are now being planted in the steephead ravines of Torreya State Park (across the river in Gadsden County). It is hoped that over time the replantings will lead to slow but steady growth in the living Torreya population.
If you are interested in seeing these extremely rare trees, the largest concentration in our area is at Torreya State Park between Chattahoochee and Bristol. A living Torreya can also be seen at Florida Caverns State Park. It is growing along the walkway leading from the parking lot to the Visitor Center.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring at Torreya State Park

If you are looking for a great place to get out and enjoy the spring weather over the next few weeks, Torreya State Park in neighboring Gadsden County is one of the most fascinating places in our area.
The spring blooms are beginning to come out at Torreya and things are starting to green up nicely.
The park is named for the extremely rare Florida Torreya tree. When first discovered by botonist Hardy Bryan Croom in 1835, the Torreya grew in magnificent groves along the Apalachicola River valley. From an estimated 600,000 trees in 1835, the Torreya population has fallen to a mere 200 today. Many of the surviving trees can be seen at Torreya State Park.
The park also features the historic Gregory House, an 1849 antebellum mansion that originally stood at Ocheese Landing. Just down the hill from the house are the surviving earthworks of a Confederate artillery battery constructed during the Civil War.
The park is located between Chattahoochee and Bristol and is easy to find (just follow the brown signs from pretty much any direction). To reach it from I-10, just head east and exit at the Chattahoochee exit and follow the signs. To learn more and see additional pictures, please visit

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Willis House - Greenwood, Florida

The Willis House in Greenwood is another of the community's beautiful old historic homes.
Often mistaken for an antebellum mansion, the home actually dates from well after the Civil War. Even so, its setting amidst a grove of beautiful old oaks gives it a distinctly Southern feel and appearance.
The house faces Fort Road (Highway 69) on the east side of town. It remains a private home today, just as it has been throughout its century or so of history.

Great Oaks - Greenwood, Florida

This week I'm taking some time to explore some of the fascinating historic sites in the Jackson County town of Greenwood. The community is always worth a visit, but especially this time of year when the spring flowers start coming out.
This historic home is one of the most eyecatching landmarks in Greenwood. Called "Great Oaks" because of the massive live oaks on the grounds, it was built in 1860 and was one of the last antebellum mansions constructed in the South.
Facing State Highway 71 South, the home has captured the imaginations of travelers for years. It was built in 1860 by Hamilton Bryan and was restored between 1961-1965 by the Claude Reese family. Although it is now a private residence, the home as served a variety of purposes over the years. Twice it functioned as a school.
A marker stands in front of the house to provide those who pull over to take a look with more information on the history of this beautiful old structure. Great Oaks is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pender's Store - Greenwood, Florida

From the time it was first settled in around 1824, Greenwood has been an important trading community.
It is somewhat appropriate that one of Florida's oldest commercial structures can still be found there. There is reason to believe that Pender's Store in Greenwood might be the oldest operating business in its original location in Florida.
The historic store faces State Highway 71 downtown (right around the corner from the Erwin House). This is more than just a business, though, it is a living landmark. The store maintains a wide variety of items and if you can't find something anywhere else, the odds are you can find it here. Since the late 1800s, the store has been a focal point of life in Greenwood and it remains so today.

The Hayes-Long Mansion - Greenwood, Florida

Over the next few days, I'll continue posting articles about some of the interesting historic sites around Greenwood.
This beautiful old home is the Hayes-Long Mansion. Located on State Highway 71 north in Greenwood, it is one of my favorite historic homes in Jackson County.
The Hayes-Long Mansion was built in around 1840 by James Hayes, a prominent early Jackson County resident and land owner. The home was built of native longleaf pine lumber and was originally a frame structure. The bricks were added during the early 1900s.
Mr. Hayes (spelling his name without the "e" as "Hays") enlisted in the Confederate Army on March 18, 1862 in Marianna. On the same day he was commissioned as the 2nd Lieutenant of Company D, 6th Florida Infantry. He was shot and killed at the Battle of Chickamauga in September of 1863.
The house remained in the hands of his estate until 1885. It was then owned by several families until it was purchased in 1913 by William H. Long. He renovated the home, adding the brick, and it remained in the hands of his family until 1984.
Beautifully restored, the historic mansion is a private residence today, but can be viewed along Highway 71 North in Greenwood. A historic marker, placed by the Chipola Historical Trust, stands in front of the house and provides details on its history.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Erwin House - Greenwood, Florida

I spent a few minutes roaming around Greenwood today and was struck by the beautiful redbud tree coming into bloom in front of the old Erwin House, so I snapped a photo to share with you.
Most likely the oldest standing structure in Jackson County, the Erwin House was built during the 1830s by John A. Syfrett. It became the hold of Col. John M. F. Erwin in 1861.
The beautiful old home was an important landmark in Jackson County's early history. Its location adjacent to the main crossroads in Greenwood placed it at the center of life in the community. Travelers often stopped here for a meal or spend the night and the original Greenwood town well can still be seen in one corner of the yard. According to legend, the attic of the home was used as a hiding place by Luke Lott, the "Calhoun County Assassin," after he shot a Northern official during an outbreak of Reconstruction era violence in Calhoun County.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A steamboat arrives in Marianna - 1861

To look at the beautiful and pristine Chipola River today, it is hard to believe that our ancestors considered it an important avenue for commerce and transportation.
Soon after they first began clearing land in Jackson County, however, early settlers started navigating the Chipola with large pole boats and flat-bottomed barges. The Florida Territorial Council required residents of the county to spend a few days each year in helping to clear the river of fallen logs, establish a hope of developing the Chipola that would continue for many years.
A landmark day in the history of Jackson County came on January 27, 1861, when the first steamboat specially built to navigate the Chipola steamed upstream to Marianna and took on cargo from the farmers of the region. The steamboat was the Jackson, built in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1860 and owned by Captain Fry of Apalachicola.
According to an article at the time in the Columbus, Georgia, Enquirer, the Jackson was 100 feet long and a "model of symmetry and beautiful proportion. Her accommodations for passengers, though limited, are of the most comfortable kind – the berths wide and airy, and the passages arranged to secure the best ventilation."
The captain and crew of the boat were treated at a banquet in Marianna and then, on January 30th, the paddlewheeler set off back down the river with a cargo of 274 bales of Jackson County cotton.
The Civil War soon interrupted commerce on the Chipola, however, and the Jackson was used on the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers to move troops and supplies for Confederate troops. Steamboat commerce was not reopened on the Chipola until 1867.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Oil Drilling in 1919-1920

I've become interested recently in the wildcat efforts to find oil in Jackson and Washington Counties during the early 20th century. A number of oil wells were drilled in the region stretching from Cypress in Jackson County across to the Choctawhatchee River in Washington County.

Mostly funded by local investors, these wildcat rigs were fairly primitive. The derricks were constructed of locally milled timber, yet succeeded in reaching significant depths. This photo, taken in 1920, shows one of the rigs.

At least one of the 1919-1920 wells reached a depth of 3,900 feet, making it one of the deepest oil wells drilled in Florida before the 1950s.

None of the wells, however, resulted in the discovery of "commercial" amounts of crude and the investors lost their money. This is not to say that oil was not discovered, just that not enough was found to make it worth pumping out. The wildcatters also found some pockets of natural gas in the region.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fort Marianna - 1836

It is a little known fact that Marianna was the site of a log fort during the Second Seminole War. The presence of such a fortification has been a part of the city's folklore for many years, but proof has been difficult to find.

According to tradition, the fort stood on the site of today's Chipola Apartments (the old Chipola Hotel) at the intersection of Caledonia and Constitution, facing the Battle of Marianna monument in downtown Marianna.

Recently, I have been able to uncover some proof of the existence of this nearly forgotten fort. During the spring of 1836, the Seminole War was underway, but had not really impacted the Jackson County area. A second war broke out, however, when a portion of the Creek Nation attacked towns and homesteads in the Creek Nation of Alabama and Georgia. These attacks caused great fear in the region that the Creeks might try to make their way south to Florida and join forces with the Seminoles.

Ethan Allen Hitchcock, an officer in the U.S. Army, was then making his way east from Louisiana with an unrelated message for President Andrew Jackson in Washington, D.C. His route carried him across Northwest Florida and he reached Marianna during the summer of 1836.

According to Hitchcock's diary, the people of Marianna were in a near panic state because of rumors that groups of Creek warriors were roaming Jackson County. Many people from the country had come into town and, he reported, the citizens were busy building fortifications to defend the city.

Confirmation of the existence of the fort has also been found in the archives of the Tallahassee and Columbus, Georgia newspapers. Newspaper reports in the 1836 issues confirm that a fort had been established at Marianna and that Jackson County had activated its militia companies.

The scare finally eased some, but the fort provided an important measure of security for residents of Marianna until the Seminole War finally ended in 1842.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Memorializing the enduring, edible possum!

One of my favorite sights anywhere near Jackson County is this beautifully carved memorial in the Washington County town of Wausau. In case you don't recognize it, it is that community's famed Possum Monument.
Erected in 1982, the monument memorializes the role the possum has played in providing food to generations of Southerners in good times and bad. Wausau, of course, proclaims itself as the "Possum Capital of the World" and is the home of the annual Fun Day and Possum Festival.
What you may not realize, however, is that the first Saturday in August of each year has been officially designated as "Possum Day in the Great State of Florida" by the state legislature. Democrats and Republicans might not always agree on much in the Sunshine State, but they overwhelmingly passed this resolution in both the House and Senate on a single day back in 1982.
If you would like to read more, please visit: and look for the heading for the Possum Monument.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Forgotten "Malone Railroad"

This image is a section from a 1940 ma of Florida housed in the National Archives. It is unique because it shows the route of a railroad leading down from the Alabama to Malone and then on to Greenwood. Few traces remain of this railroad today.
The railroad was developed during the early 20th century by connecting a series of smaller lines. It extended south from Ardilla (on the outskirts of Dothan) to Cottonwood, Alabama and on across the state line to Malone. Eventually the tracks were extended to Greenwood.
As late as the early 1970s, some sections of the track from the railroad could still be seen, stretching across the cow pastures east of State Road 71 between Malone and Greenwood. By the 1980s, the tracks were gone and all that remains today is an occasional segment of visible grade and railroad spikes that still turn up in freshly plowed fields along the site of the line.
I would love to hear from anyone who remembers seeing this train when it was still running.

The 1845 Marianna Hanging

In 1845, the citizens of Jackson County were plagued by a band of outlaws led by a man named Avant. He and his fellow outlaws hid in the vast woods between Marianna and the Gulf Coast. He had been accused in the murder of a sheriff in Alabama and was implicated in the death of another officer in Jackson County.

In June of 1845, the citizens of the area had finally had enough. They went after Avant and his men. The outlaw leader and another man named Powers were taken to the courthouse in Marianna and summarily hanged without trial or due process.

This is the report that was repeated in the Southern Patriot newspaper on July 9, 1845:

LYNCH LAW. – A man named Avant and one of his confederates, were recently hanged at Marianna, Jackson county, Florida, without the form of trail, Notice was also given to four black legs to leave town or share the same fate. The Pensacola Gazette, though it thinks this summary mode of punishment should generally be condemned, thus justifies the present case.

Avant was a monster in human form, and his life for a series of years has been marked by crimes of the deepest die. He came to our city some years ago, a fugitive from justice from the State of Alabama, where he had murdered a sheriff. He had not been here long before he attempted the assassination of one of our citizens, and being obliged to fly from here he went to Marianna, where he was concerned in the murder of another officer – he then fled to the swamps contiguous to that town, where he has since, up to the time of his apprehension, and at the head of a band of outlaws, perpetrated murder and robbery upon all who fell in his way. To such a length had his audacity been carried, it was considered dangerous to travel through that part of the State. The peace and well-being of the community demanded that such a villain should meet with retribution for his outrages – and owing to the inefficiency of our Territorial government no jails have been provided for the security of criminals; he and his accomplice, therefore, in order to insure their punishment were brought to a speedy execution. Those concerned were actuated by a nother motive; there are still remaining a number of men of the same desperate character in the swamps about the country, and an example which, the slow process of law could not afford, was necessary to strike them with terror. The only sentiment which we can express on the subject is, a regret that the necessity of the case should have demanded an application of Lynch’s code.

Monday, March 3, 2008

An Indian Attack in Jackson County - 1841

From 1835 until 1842 (even later in some areas), Florida was the scene of a bloodbath remembered today as the Second Seminole War. The following article relates one incident of the war that took place in Jackson County about 12 miles south of Marianna. It appeared in the Augusta Chronicle on August 4, 1841.

Keep in mind as you read this, that neither side (white or Native American) fighting in this war particularly liked each other. The Jackson County Militia had been accused just a couple of years earlier of massacring a group of unarmed Indians in Walton County. Acts such as this were perpetrated by individuals on both sides:

We learn by a letter received by the last mail from Marianna, that a few days since, a part of Indians, supposed to number about 30 visited the settlement of Mr. Morris Simms, in Jackson county, about 12 miles below Mariana, near the Chipola river, murdered his two daughters, the one seven and the other two years of age, plundered his smoke house of a quantity of bacon, a barrel of flour, and what other provisioins they could find, killed several hogs and crippled two horses with spears or spiked arrows. The little girls were found in the cowpen, pierced with spiked arrows, and their brains dashed out with lightwood knots.

As soon as the news of the murder reached Mariana, a company of volunteers under the command of Maj. W.C. Bryant started off in pursuit of the skulking assassins. But they had made good their retreat, and their trail could be traced no further than a hammock some three or four miles from the scene of the outrage.

The Hurricane of 1856 strikes Jackson County

While conducting some research on Jackson County a few years ago, I came across the following article from the Marianna Patriot of November 2, 1856. Since it is one of the better historical accounts of a hurricane passing through Jackson County, I thought it might be of interest:

We were visited on Saturday and Sunday last with a repetition of the storm of August 23d, 1850. Trees, outhouses and fences were swept down and our beautiful town made almost a complete wreck. Majestic oaks and strongly implanted mulberry trees - which had, for years, stood as ornaments to our village, and which had braved all former gales, were either rent assuner or uplifted by the roots. - Two of the chimneys of the Corut House, and others about town, some of them newly built, were blown down; but we are glad to say none of our dwelling houses were materially injured, and fortunately no lives lost. The surrounding country, we are afraid, suffered severely. We have heard that Gen. Milton, Messrs. Wynn, Battle, and James L. Robinson, had their Gin Houses blown down, and Mr. F.R. Ely lost his Sugar house and a number of other houses, and had two yoke of oxen killed. Dr. R.A. Sanders had two mules killed. The roads are impassable, from the quantity of logs across them.

We understand that the new Methodist Church at Greenwood was blown down during the gale, and that the Chipola river has risen very rapidly since, from the immense quantity of water fallen.

The crops are completely ruined in this county. - Cotton and Corn have been blown down and beaten in the ground. One gentleman had only one boll of open Cotton left standing on his plantation, and another had one third of his corn buried in the sand.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Battle of Natural Bridge anniversary is this week.

Coming up in this week's print issue of the Jackson County Times, we will remember the anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida and explore how the battle impacted Jackson County even though it was fought near Tallahassee.
The last significant Confederate victory of the Civil War, the battle was fought on March 6, 1865 at the Natural Bridge of the St. Marks River. Troops from all over Florida, including Jackson County, took part in the fight and two of the three officers commanding the main Confederate line were from Marianna.
The Battle of Natural Bridge preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital city east of the Mississippi River not taken by Union troops during the Civil War. It also prevented massive destruction of infrastructure, governmental capability, industry and other resources.
To learn more about the battle, please visit or consider my book, The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida, now available at Chipola River Book and Tea in downtown Marianna. You can also purchase it through, or by order through most bookstores.