Friday, April 25, 2008

The Apalachicola River

The Apalachicola River, which forms part of Jackson County's eastern border, is one of the most historic rivers in Florida.
I've started a new series on historic sites along the river on our sister page, Civil War Florida. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing information with you on a wide variety of interesting places along the Apalachicola River. Some are in Jackson County and most of the others are less than one hour away.
You can access it by visiting

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Circle Hill Baptist Church - Parramore Community

This is Circle Hill Baptist Church, located in the Parramore community near Two Egg.

The church was founded during the late 1800s by residents of the surrounding area. Originally formed under a brush arbor, the church is one of the oldest still functioning Baptist churches in its area of the county.

The original brush arbor was replaced by a series of wooden structures that eventually gave way to the sanctuary now in use.

A center of activity for residents of the "lost town" of Parramore, Circle Hill survived even though the small riverboat port eventually faded away. The church is still active today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cox School - A One Room Schoolhouse

This old wooden structure near the Parramore community in Jackson County has a fascinating history.
This was the Cox School, a one room school used during the 1870s and 1880s. The school served around 30 students who walked to class each day from a distance of as far as three or four miles. All ages attended class together and sat on wooden benches.
There were once many such schools in Jackson County, but very few remain today. The Cox School survived the fate of most of the others because it was converted for use as a detached kitchen on the home of William Henry Cox, a veteran of the Battle of Marianna. When the school closed in favor of a larger facility nearby, the little schoolhouse was rolled on logs to its present location and connected to the back of Cox's large dogtrot house by a covered walk. The house no longer stands, but the "old kitchen" still remains.
A privately funded stabilization and partial restoration of the structure is expected to begin this fall.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Headless Indian Chiefs of Jackson County

Although few people remember it today, there is an old legend about a spot on the Apalachicola River near Sneads that is said to be haunted by the restless spirits of two Indian chiefs. It is said that on foggy nights, their headless bodies can be seen standing by the river, evidently hoping for the return of their heads.

Whether you believe in their supernatural aspects or not, old stories like this one are important reminders of the days before radio and television when long winter evenings were spent telling stories by firelight. As such they represent an important part of Southern culture and often have a basis in some real incident.
The story of the headless Indian chiefs, for example, preserves the dim memory of real events that took place along the Apalachicola River during 1830s. The area bordering the river just north of today’s Gulf Power Plant was then a Native American village called “Walker’s Town.”
The village was part of a reservation set aside by the Treaty of Moultrie Creek for a chief called the “Mulatto King” by the U.S. Government and the “Black King” by the Spanish. He had lived in this spot for many years and gained his name because his father had been a black Spanish trader and he died at his home during the early 1830s.
Following the death of the Mulatto King, the leadership of the village passed to his nephew, a man named John Walker. He stayed on good terms with the neighboring whites and was well known to many Floridians in his day.
During the early years of the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), a large party of refugee Creeks came down into Florida from Alabama. After engaging in a series of battles with white troops, they agreed to surrender if they would be allowed to keep their arms and live with other Native Americans until a boat could be arranged to transport them to the new Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. John Walker offered to let them live at his village and they assembled there in 1837.
One of their leaders was a well-regarded chief named Coa-Hadjo. Shortly after he arrived at Walker’s Town, however, Coa-Hadjo became embroiled in an argument with one of Walker’s followers, a warrior named Lewis. The argument grew out of control and Lewis drew a knife and stabbed Coa-Hadjo. When their chief died from his wounds, Coa-Hadjo’s followers then dragged Lewis from his home and executed him by firing squad according to traditional Creek law.
It would seem that the story might end here. The people of Walker’s Town left for Oklahoma less than one year later and most of Coa-Hadjo’s former followers, now led by the chief Pascofa, fled back into the swamps to continue their war against the whites.
Strangely, though, the heads of both Coa-Hadjo and Lewis soon wound up in the possession of Dr. Joseph R. Buchanan of Cincinnati, Ohio. He wrote a letter from Pensacola in 1839 indicated that he had acquired the skulls of the two men, along with the skull of the long-dead chief Mulatto King as well. Apparently he either dug them up himself or purchased them from some local citizen who did so.
Dr. Buchanan believed he could learn the personality and other aspects of the dead by studying their skulls. He wrote a brief report on the “information” he gathered from the skulls of Coa-Hadjo, Mulatto King and Lewis and then added them to his macabre collection.
The old Apalachicola River legend preserves the memory of this bizarre grave-robbing incident and the headless Indian chiefs of the story are undoubtedly Coa-Hadjo and Mulatto King. What eventually became of their heads is not known.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Econchattimico Goes to Court

This article appeared in this week's issue of the Jackson County Times. I thought you might enjoy reading it:

Econchattimico Goes to Court

by Dale Cox

Lake Seminole – One of the most remarkable court cases in American history took place in Jackson County in the year 1836.

On one side was the Lower Creek chief Econchattimico (“Red Ground King”) who lived on a reservation about 10 miles north of present-day Sneads. On the other side was a white speculator that hoped to take a group of African Americans living on the chief’s reservation into slavery. This man’s name was John Milton and he was the future Confederate governor of Florida.

Under Creek law, the property of a chief passed down to the chief’s brother, rather than to his sons. When the brother died, the former chief’s property then passed on to the chief’s sister’s oldest son. This was because under Creek law, the chief’s oldest nephew (his oldest sister’s oldest son) was next in line to become chief. The sons of a chief had no rights to his estate.
Econchattimico was the nephew and heir of a chief named Falehigee. Living with Falehigee at the time of his death were four African Americans named Sally, Hannah, Tyler and Tom. Under white culture of the time, they were considered slaves. Under Native American culture, they were under the guardianship of the chief. A portion of their crops was given to the chief each year, but otherwise they were free to enjoy life pretty much as they chose. They could come and go, marry, participate equally in tribal events, own firearms and property, and take part in Creek war parties on equal terms with other members of the village.

In 1832, a group of Creek chiefs signed what became known as the Treaty of 1832. This document, signed against the wishes of most in the nation, provided an agreement for the Creeks to either leave for new land west of the Mississippi or lose their protection from the Federal government.

Anticipating the wholesale “removal” of the Creeks, white speculators began to purchase rights to Indian property. One of these speculators was a Columbus, Georgia, resident named John Milton. A future Florida resident who would become the Confederate Governor of the state, Milton purchased a bill of sale for ten African Americans from a Creek man named Hawkins. It had been obtained from Wamelika, a son of Falehigee.

When Milton tried to take possession of the individuals covered by his “bill of sale” to take them into slavery in Georgia, however, he found that they were living with Econchattimico and that the chief had no intention of allowing the whites to take them. Milton promptly filed suit in Jackson County.

The matter was referred to James D. Wescott, the acting Governor of Florida, who notified U.S. District Judge J.A. Cameron. The judge placed a hold on any action by the Jackson County court until he could review the matter. Milton quickly realized that there were problems with his “purchase” and dismissed his claim. He did, however, sell his “bill of sale” to other speculators.
After a detailed review of the matter, Judge Cameron issued a remarkable ruling that Creek law should be followed in the matter. Econchattimico, the judge determined, had acted legally when he defended the individuals in question. It was a remarkable case of a Federal judge upholding the rights of Native Americans and African Americans at a time when non-white individuals were extremely limited by law in their rights to participate in the judicial system.

Sadly, it did not end there. Just weeks after Cameron’s ruling, the speculators that had purchased Milton’s claim entered Econchattimico’s reservation, severely beat the old chief and carried away ten African American members of his band. Although a U.S. Grand Jury in Marianna indicted the speculators for felony theft, they were never brought to justice and the kidnapped members of Econchattimico’s tribe were never returned.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Namesake of Jackson County's first church

This is a painting of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, the Italian saint for whom the early Jackson County Spanish mission of San Nicolas de Tolentino was anmed.
The mission was established on June 22, 1674, by a party of Spanish missionaries and soldiers who had entered the area to minister to the Chacato Indians then living between the Chipola River and Holmes Creek. The journal of Fray Rodrigo de la Barreda, a Franciscan missionary, indicates that Mission San Nicolas stood in a Chacato village located at the mouth of a large cave. Of the more than 200 known caves in Jackson County, the only one that closely matches the description left by Fray Barreda is Gerrard's Cave located about two and one-half miles northwest of Marianna.
Spanish documents indicate that a church was built at San Nicolas in June of 1674 and was dedicated on June 22, 1674, with a special mass. This was the first recorded Christian religious ceremony in Jackson County history. An infant nephew of the Chacato chief of the village was baptized on the same day, the first recorded baptism in the history of the county.
Mission San Nicolas lasted only about one year before the church was destroyed and the resident missionary driven away in a Chacato uprising. It was visited several times in later years by Spanish explorers, but each time was described as "abandoned."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Great Jackson County Land Boom

During its earliest days, Jackson County was a land speculator's dream. When Florida because a U.S. territory in 1821, the county was pretty much wide open land.

From a population of only a few dozen in 1821, the county grew to become the home of several thousand people in just the next ten years. All of this rapid growth, of course, meant good business for those promoting the settling of the region.

This item appeared in the South Carolina State Gazette and Columbia Advertiser in August of 1828. I find it fascinating because it combines the great promise of the area with a bit of bad news about a local drought:

A letter from Chipola, Florida, dated 18th July, says, “Lands have risen at least 300 per cent in price, and are daily advancing – the trade of emigration is flowing in most rapidly, and the country still proves uninterruptedly healthy; the Physicians, to avoid starvation, are moving 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 still 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 were ever seen, indeed nothing can surpass the luxuriance of their appearance.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Maclay Gardens in Full Bloom

One of the most spectacular sites in the South can be found less than a one-hour drive from Jackson County each spring.
Maclay Gardens State Park, located only one-half mile from Interstate 10 in Tallahassee, reaches full bloom in March and the flowers remain quite beautiful into April.
Planted by Alfred B. and Louis Maclay beginning in 1924, the gardens are considered a "masterpiece of floral architecture." They cover dozens of acres along the shorts of Lake Hall and feature dogwoods, azaleas, camellias and a wide array of other blooming trees and shrubs. Donated to the people of Florida in 1953, Maclay Gardens is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
To reach Maclay Gardens from Jackson County, just head east on Interstate 10 until you reach Tallahassee and following the U.S. 319 Exit (Thomasville Road). Turn left as you come off the exit and the state park entrance is only one-half mile ahead on your left.
To read more about Maclay Gardens and see additional photographs, please visit