Monday, August 4, 2008

Article: Florida's Lost County

Remembering Florida’s Lost County

By Dale Cox

Eastern Jackson County – One of the more unique political fiascos in Florida history took place in 1832 when the Territory’s Legislative Council carved off the eastern half of Jackson County to create an entirely new political entity. Called Fayette County (after the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution), the new county was a political boondoggle of the first order.

For five years, the communities of Marianna and Webbville had been engaged in a fierce political battle to become the county seat of Jackson County. Although Webbville received the designation of the U.S. Congress, Marianna ultimately prevailed in the fight when the Legislative Council (the equivalent of today’s state legislature) levied fines against any public officials not doing business from the new city on the Chipola.

Unwilling to give up the fight without one last attempt, the promoters of Webbville devised the bizarre strategy of giving away half of the county in order to win the coveted county seat title. In a flurry of intense lobbying, they convinced the members of the Legislative Council that the people of eastern Jackson County would be happier if they could govern themselves.

Accordingly, on February 9, 1832, the council approved “An Act to organize a county to be called the County of Fayette.” Encompassing the entire area of today’s Jackson and Calhoun Counties between the Chipola and Chattahoochee/Apalachicola River systems, the new county stretched from the Alabama line south to the northern limits of today’s Franklin (then part of Washington) County. The modern communities of Malone, Bascom, Greenwood, Two Egg, Dellwood, Cypress, Grand Ridge, Sneads, Altha and Blountstown are all located within the limits of the original Fayette County.

On the same day, the council also incorporated the “Town of Ocheesee” at Ocheesee Bluff in what is now Calhoun County to serve as a county seat for the new county and construction was soon underway there on both a courthouse and jail.

The dream of the Webbville promoters to remove a large block of pro-Marianna voters from Jackson County, however, was soon dashed. When the council approved a new election to determine a permanent county seat for Jackson County, Governor James D. Westcott quickly realized what was happening. Just two days after the creation of Fayette County, he vetoed the election bill for Jackson County. In a letter to the leaders of the Legislative Council, he noted that after contentious debate the county seat issue in Jackson County had finally been resolved. “I am averse to disturbing the quiet of the county by raising the question again if it can be avoided,” he wrote. The governor also called into question the whole Fayette County debacle, “Had I anticipated the agitation of it, when the bill for forming Fayette county was under consideration, it would have formed an additional objection to that act.”

Webbville’s final effort had failed. Although Fayette County became a reality, it was short-lived. Just one year after the creation of the new county, the Legislative Council responded to pleas from residents living in its northern areas and reunited them with Jackson County. Ten months later, on January 15, 1834, the residents from the remaining part of Fayette County filed a similar petition in Tallahassee.

Fayette County disappeared from the map of Florida on February 1, 1834, when the Legislative Council repealed its earlier act creating the county. In existence for only two years, it is now remembered as “Florida’s Lost County.”

This story is presented in much greater detail in the new book - The History of Jackson County, Florida: Volume One - now available for purchase by clicking here.

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