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.

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