Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Econchattimico's Reserve - A Unique Jackson County Historic Site

One of the most unique historic sites in Jackson County is located along the old River Road (Highway 271) about six miles north of Sneads and nine miles or so southeast of Two Egg.

Econchattimico's Reserve was an Indian reservation established in 1823 by the terms of the Treaty of Moultrie Creek. Covering four square miles along the west side of the Chattahoochee River, it provided a home for the Lower Creek chief Econchattimico and his followers, most of whom had been born and lived their lives in what is now Jackson County.

Econchattimico, a title that means roughly "Red Ground King," had fought against the United States in the War of 1812 and the First Seminole War of 1817-1818, but by 1823 he was tired of war and was living in peace with his new white neighbors. Jackson County was formed that same year and the chief and his followers actually lived in some of the finest homes in the county at that time. Records of the time indicate that many of them lived in nice frame homes or sturdy log cabins, surrounded by fields and orchards that were enclosed with split rail fences. Econchattimico owned a mill and the reservation also had a blacksmith shop and other necessities of life.

The chief and his followers lived on their lands until 1838, when they were forced west to what is now Oklahoma at gunpoint by soldiers from the U.S. Army and Florida militia. Their removal to the west was part of the episode remembered today as the Trail of Tears.

To learn more, please visit You can also learn more by reading The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years available here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blue Spring was an important Confederate camp

Although most Civil War camps were temporary affairs, the one at Jackson County's Blue Spring was occupied for three years by troops assigned to protect the area from Union attacks and raids by irregular bands that secreted the swamps of the Apalachicola, Chipola and Choctawhatchee Rivers.

The spring was then part of Sylvania, the plantation of Governor John Milton who had been elected in 1860 just as war was about to erupt between the South and the North. Because of its abundant supply of fresh water, access to plentiful supplies of food from the surrounding farms and plantations and location along what was then the primary road connecting Marianna with Chattahoochee, Tallahassee and the ferry landings at Port Jackson and Bellview, Blue Spring was selected in 1862 as a site for a Confederate encampment.

The first unit documented to have been stationed at the camp at Blue Spring was Captain Richard L. Smith's Marianna Dragoons. This was an independent mounted unit raised in Jackson County during the spring of 1862. It was later consolidated with other similar companies from Alabama and Florida to become Company B, 15th Confederate Cavalry.

Other units known to have been stationed in the camp over the years 1862-1865 included, at various times, Companies E and G of the 5th Florida Cavalry and Captain Robert Chisolm's "Woodville Scouts," a militia cavalry company sent down from Alabama to help protect Marianna.  Chisolm's unit was praised by Governor Milton for the courage it showed during the Battle of Marianna and ultimately became Company I, 5th Florida Cavalry.

The camp at Blue Spring was just a small part of the beautiful landmark's history. You can learn more at or by reading The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Battle of Ocheesee, Florida

This week marks the 192nd anniversary of the Battle of Ocheesee, an important Seminole War engagement fought on the Apalachicola River at the southeast corner of Jackson County.

The battle began on December 15, 1817, when hundreds (if not thousands) of Seminole and Creek warriors attacked a small flotilla of U.S. Army supply boats as it rounded the bend in the river between Ocheesee Bluff and Rock Bluff. These former location is in Calhoun County and the latter is now part of Torreya State Park in Liberty County.

Over the next four or five days, the warriors pinned down the soldiers on their boats in midstream, killing at least two and wounding another thirteen. The fire from both banks of the river was so bad that the soldiers aboard the boats could not even raise their heads above the bulwarks to fire back without being shot themselves.

The stalemate continued until December 19th, when General Edmund Gaines commanding at Fort Scott, Georgia (on today's Lake Seminole), sent a covered boat down with materials to be used in better fortifying the supply boats. The relief boat was also equipped with a special anchor that could be rowed ahead of the other boats and dropped. The soliders could then pull on the anchor rope to slowly move the boats forward. Eventually they managed to get moving again and the attack ended as the boats slowly gained headway.

I've launched a new webpage on the Battle of Ocheesee that you might enjoy checking out. Just follow this link to take a look:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jackson County and the Lost Confederate Gold

by Dale Cox

Parramore -
One of the most interesting of Jackson County's legends involves a portion of the famed lost Confederate treasury. When Jefferson Davis and other Southern officials fled Richmond, Virginia at the end of the War Between the States, they took with them the Confederate treasury. According to legend, at least part of that massive haul of gold and silver wound up in Jackson County.

Composed of kegs and boxes filled with silver and gold, the Confederate treasury was valued at somewhere around $500,000 when it was removed from Richmond. In modern terms, it would have been worth millions.

Some of the money disappeared and was likely buried during the time that Davis and the Confederate Cabinet paused in Danville, Virginia. More of the money was used to pay soldiers in the Carolinas and when the fleeing officials reached Washington, Georgia. From there, however, the remaining gold and silver was dispersed in multiple directions. To this day, the final whereabouts of most of the money is a subject of controversy.

It is known that the remaining Confederate officials spread out to minimize the risk that they would be captured by Union cavalry that was desperately searching for them. All were heading for Florida, but they all went by different routes. The goal was to reach the coast where arrangements could be made to flee to Cuba or Texas.

Jefferson Davis was captured near Irwinville, Georgia, as he tried to make his way to Florida, but some officials made it through. Most of the treasure, however, did not. Around $35,000 was seized by the Union army near Gainesville in June of 1865, but otherwise the Confederate gold and silver vanished into history.

THe men involved in hiding it kept some for their own use and spirited some away to support fleeing Confederate officials, but otherwise they never talked about what happened to the money. In various places in Florida and Georgia, however, bits and pieces of the treasure have been found. One of those places, curiously, is Jackson County.

Local tradition has long held that some of the treasure was buried in the corner of a field near the Parramore community in eastern Jackson COunty. The site was then near Bellview Landing, the primary crossing of the Chattahoochee RIver between Chattahoochee and Neal's Landing in 1865 and a likely crossing point into Florida for Confederate authorities or soldiers fleeing Union troops.

During the 1980s, two $20 gold pieces were found at the site, coins that otherwise had no logical reason for being there as the location is not near any old home places. The coins were of the proper date and were consistent with the gold known to have been part of the lost Confederate treasurer.

Could there be more? Or were the two coins left behind when the hidden stash was dug up and removed? Only time and more searching will answer that question.

Note: If you would like to learn more about Jackson County history, please consider my books: The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years;The Battle of Marianna, Florida and Two Egg, Florida: A Collection of Ghost Stories, Legends and Unusual Facts. They are available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Annual Homecoming Remembers Old Parramore

The 48th annual Oak Grove Homecoming was held on October 4, 2009, in the historic Jackson County "ghost town" of Old Parramore.

The event celebrates the memory of the community and the people who lived there and has continued with crowds large and small for nearly fifty years. Other than for an occasional wedding or funeral, Oak Grove Baptist Church is used only once each year, for the annual homecoming.

More than 100 people attended this year's event, which featured music by the Covenant Quartet, a popular Gospel group, a message from Rev. Lucius B. "Cap" Pooser and a discussion of the history of Parramore by me. Most popular, however, was the annual dinner on the grounds which gave those in attendance the opportunity to interact and remember old friends and make new ones.

Many descendants of Parramore residents use the annual reunion as an opportunity to learn more about the historic community and to explore their family genealogies.

Parramore was an important riverboat town that grew on the high ground back from the Chattahoochee River during the 1880s and 1890s. The area had been settled as early as the 1750s by members of the Perryman family, English traders who settled with and married into the local Creek Indians. They operated large farms and cattle ranches at Parramore through both the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Other settlers came following the transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States in 1821 and by the time of the War Between the States numerous farms and homes stood through the area.

Local men and boys served in numerous regiments during the War Between the States and also fought at the Battle of Marianna as members of local home guard units. At least one significant skirmish took place in the vicinity when a band of organized deserters and Unionists attacked and disarmed a company of Confederate cavalry.

The town itself was a product of growing commerce on the Chattahoochee River during the 1870s and 1880s. Timber and turpentine operations in the vast longleaf pine forests of the area led to the development of an industrial complex that spurred the growth of the community. By 1900, Parramore had a post office, cotton gin, sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop, a number of stores and several landings on the Chattahoochee where limber and barrels of rosin could be loaded aboard paddlewheel steamboats for transport either down to Apalachicola or up to Columbus, Georgia.

The fading of the naval stores industry after World War I also sparked the doom of the town. The riverboats slowly stopped running and by 1950, the old town was gone. One by one the remaining structures disappeared until only a few remain today. Parramore is once again a quiet community in the piney woods of Jackson County.

Be sure to watch for my commemorative book, Old Parramore: The History of a Florida Ghost Town, which will be released later this fall. I'll keep you up to date on release plans. All proceeds from the book will benefit the care of Oak Grove Church and Cemetery, the annual Oak Grove Homecoming, and the Central School Reunion in Old Parramore.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Memory of Clinton T. Cox, 1925-2009

Clinton T. Cox passed away in his sleep on September 27, 2009.

He was the best friend, the best example, the best adviser and the best father any man ever had or ever will.

He was a member of the "greatest generation" and a veteran of the United States Navy. Although he was a veteran of World War II, Korea and the Cuban Missile Crisis, his greatest battle was against cancer. In the end he was victorious, as we all know that Heaven sings tonight with the voice of a new saint.

May I someday be able to live up to the example that he set.

The Battle of Marianna took place 145 Years Ago Today

Now that the smoke of the reenactments has faded away, it is a good time to remember what really happened on the streets of Marianna 145 years ago today.

The real Battle of Marianna started at around 10 o'clock in the morning on September 27, 1864, when Union troops riding south from Campbellton reached Hopkins' Branch, a small swampy stream about three miles northwest of town. Heavy rains had fallen for the previous two weeks and the swamp was full of water as they approached, creating a natural barrier that Confederate forces hoped might help in holding back the oncoming Federals.

As the head of the Union column approached, three companies of Confederates led in person by Colonel Alexander Montgomery opened fire on them from the opposite side of the swamp. Following a brisk firefight, however, the Southern troops were forced back and started to withdraw to Marianna, fighting as they went.

The Union column followed and by 11:30 a.m. had reached a point just west of town about where the McDonald's on West Lafayette Street stands today. The area was then open fields and woods. It was here that Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, the commander of the Union force, was shown that a small logging road diverged from the main road and followed the route of today's Kelson Avenue around the northern edge of town. Sending part of his men down that road, he moved directly up the Campbellton Road (today's Lafayette Street) with the main body of his command.

Not knowing that the Federals would try to flank the town, the Confederates had prepared their defenses at Ely Corner, the intersection of today's Lafayette and Russ Streets. This was then the western edge of Marianna and Colonel Montgomery placed his four companies of mounted men in a line of battle across the intersection. Most of these men were home guards or militia ("citizen soldiers") and they did not wear Confederate uniforms but instead came to fight wearing their regular work clothes and carrying shotguns, old muskets or any other weapons they had to bring.

Up Lafayette Street behind them, the men of Captain Jesse Norwood's Marianna Home Guard, another "citizen soldier" unit made up of local men and boys, pushed wagons across the street to form a barricade of sorts at about the point where Pizza Hut is located today. Contrary to legend, they did not stand behind this wall, but instead placed it in the street simply to slow down a Union cavalry charge. Like most of the other Confederates who fought at Marianna, Norwood's men did not wear uniforms and carried pretty much any gun they could get their hands on. Some were school boys who had come to fight led by their teacher, Charles Tucker. Others were doctors, lawyers, ministers and even the sheriff and circuit judge. The took up positions hidden behind trees, fences, shrubs and in buildings along each side of Lafayette Street, planning to ambush the Union soldiers if they made it past the mounted men lined up at Ely Corner.

By most accounts it was high noon when the first Union soldiers rounded the bend at Ely Corner. Today's four-lane street was then a narrow dirt road that passed through a heavy grove of trees just before reaching the intersection. As they came around the curve, they were stunned by Montgomery and his mounted Confederates who fired on them from short range. The Union troops tried to charge, but faltered and retreated in confusion, much to the chagrin of General Asboth who shouted "For Shame! For Shame!" at them as they fell back.

Asboth then spurred his horse forward and ordered more of his men to charge, leading them himself. Charging around the curve, they hit the Confederate line before Montgomery and his men could reload their muzzle-loading weapons. Unable to fire back, the Southern horsemen began to withdraw up Lafayette Street toward the center of town with the Northern soldiers hot on their heels.

The Confederates knew about the barricade of wagons and made their way around it, but the Union soldiers were forced to halt in the street to find a way through or around the line of wagons. When they did, Captain Norwood and the men and the boys of the Marianna Home Guard opened fire from their hidden positions along both sides of the street. According to eyewitnesses, "every officer and man at the head of their column" was shot down. General Asboth was wounded in both the face and arm and toppled from his horse. Captain M.M. Young, one of his staff members, was killed on the spot. Majors Nathan Cutler and Eben Hutchinson were severely wounded, as were numerous others.

As deadly as the ambush was, however, it was not enough. Some of the Union troops continued to purse the retreating Southern cavalry while others turned on the local men and boys who had ambushed them. Colonel Montgomery and his horsemen reached Courthouse Square where they ran head on into Asboth's flanking party. Hand to hand fighting took place all around the square and the colonel was knocked from his horse and captured there. Most of his men, however, reached the bridge over the Chipola River (then located on Jackson Street as Lafayette Street had not been extended down the hill at that time), where they held back their attackers until they could cross over and tear up the wooden floor of the bridge.

Back along what is now West Lafayette Street, a fierce battle erupted between the other Union soldiers and the men and boys of the Marianna Home Guard. Those south of the street were driven down the hill to Stage Creek and either killed, wounded, captured or dispersed. Those north of the street fell back onto the grounds of St. Luke's Episcopal Church where a fierce fight was waged for about 30 minutes until the Confederates ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender. Some were wounded after they had surrendered before Union officers could bring their men under control.

A few Confederates inside St. Luke's Church and two nearby homes refused to surrender and were either burned out or burned to death. In the end, 10 Confederates and 8 Federals were either killed or mortally wounded. Several dozen more were injured and scores were taken prisoner. Participants on both sides described the fight at Marianna as one of the most intense of the war for its size.

In less than one hour, more than 25% of the male population of Marianna had been killed, wounded or captured. On the Union side, the 2nd Maine Cavalry suffered its greatest losses of the war.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Marianna, please consider my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available online at or in Downtown Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea. You can also read more at

Saturday, September 26, 2009

145th Anniversary of the Battle of Campbellton

Today, September 26th, marks the 145th anniversary of the 1864 skirmish remembered in Jackson County as the "Battle of Campbellton."

The encounter took place as Union troops crossed Holmes Creek about halfway between Graceville and Chipley (neither of which then existed) on their way to the Battle of Marianna. As they entered Jackson County, the Federal soldiers began to do as much damage as possible to the farms and plantations they encountered.

At the Nelson Watford farm in today's Galilee Community area, for example, they drove off the livestock, took or destroyed the forage, collected all the foodstuffs they could find and even dug up the syrup and lard barrels from the ground and poured them out. Such actions were part of the North's concept of "total war," designed to bring the Confederacy to its knees by destroying anything that might be used to support the Southern armies while also creating so much hardship on the homefront that Confederate soldiers would give up the fight to go home and take care of their families.

As the raiders slowly moved forward, news of their presence spread like lightning through the northwestern corner of Jackson County and the men of Captain Alexander Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry, a "home guard" unit of citizen soldiers, began to assemble on the town square in Campbellton. When Governor John Milton had issued his executive order forming the state's home guard companies during the summer of 1864, he had specified that they were to move immediately to oppose any enemy incursion or raid, while at the same time sending a courier to the nearest Confederate headquarters to summon reinforcements.

This is what the Campbellton men did on the morning of September 26th. As their courier started down the road to Marianna, the men rode out under Captain Godwin to locate the Federal troops and find out what was happening.

Exactly what happened near Campbellton that day is not known. Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, the commander of the Union force, simply reported that "rebel troops" hovered around his column and engaged in "frequent skirmishes" with his vanguard. Surviving records also indicate that two men serving under Captain Godwin were captured that day. Otherwise, no written accounts of the fighting have been found.

Local tradition, however, holds that Godwin and his men fought the oncoming Federals even though they were outnumbered by more than 12 to 1. As Asboth's account indicates, they probably found in the partisan style of their ancestors who had served under such men as the "Swamp Fox" Francis Marion during the American Revolution. Riding up to within range of the enemy, they would fire and then fall back to reload and wait for another opportunity.

The fighting slowed but did not stop the Federals and by nightfall on the 26th they had reached Campbellton and were camped throughout the community. The town square and nearby Campbellton Baptist Church are mentioned by tradition as sites where Union soldiers bedded down for the night. The Battle of Marianna would take place the next day and I will have more on that in the next post.

If you would like to learn more about the raid and the Battle of Marianna, please consider my book: The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available through or locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna (on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant). You can also visit for more information.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Forgotten Indians of Jackson County, Florida

by Dale Cox

It is an often overlooked fact that even after the tragedy of the Trail of Tears, several small groups of Native Americans continued to live in Jackson County. Some had hidden in the woods as the U.S. Army and state militia rounded up most of the Indians in the area, while others either married into or had white families as guardians.
The photo seen here, for example, is of Ola Avery Cox, a Jackson County resident descended from William Brown (Efau Emathla), a noted chief of the Yuchi Creeks.

When Chief Pascofa and his band of Creeks were loaded aboard the steamboat William Gaston and shipped west in January of 1843, newspapers across the region proclaimed that the last Indian had been removed from Northwest Florida. The claim was a bit premature and in less than one year the U.S. Army was once again combing the woods and swamps south of Jackson County for bands of refugee Creeks. Some corn fields were burned and a few people captured, but for the most part the Native Americans once again slipped into the swamps and disappeared.
The situation soon quieted and the presence of hidden bands of Indians in the area was forgotten by the people of Jackson County. That all changed on an October morning in 1851 when three warriors boldly appeared on the main street of Marianna. “Three Indians made their appearance in town on Tuesday last,” reported the Marianna Whig newspaper, “and for the time being created quite a stir.”
“Though apparently friendly,” it was reported, “their belligerent aspects and terrible accoutrements of long knives, tomahawks and battle axes, seem to breathe forth anything but a spirit of peace and amity.”
What happened to these bold warriors was not recorded, although a mysterious note at the end of the newspaper article that the Indians apparently had been “seeking the spirit land” by appearing in Marianna suggests they could have been killed.
The three brave warriors were not alone. One family of Native Americans lived among the slaves on the plantation of Adam McNealy, a member of the Jackson County Commission, during the years leading up to the Civil War. Their family traditions preserve memories not only of the years on the McNealy plantation, but also of how their ancestors hid in the caves at today’s Florida Caverns State Park when Andrew Jackson’s army passed through in 1818.
Other small families, most of Creek ancestry, also continued to live in Jackson County, for the most part in isolated piney woods locations away from the prime areas taken by white settlers. Their exact numbers are impossible to determine as most attempted to assimilate with their white neighbors as other settlers moved into their neighborhoods. A number of families around the Parramore area of eastern Jackson County and along the Calhoun County border area south of Marianna can trace their family trees back to verifiable Native Americans.
It is also worth noting that the 1860 census of Jackson County lists 36 people as “mulatto.” Although the term was generally used in the years after the Civil War to identify individuals of mixed white and black ancestry, during the years before the war it usually referred to those of mixed white and Indian ancestry.
Although many Jackson County residents with Native American ancestry have no knowledge of their Indian heritage, others still preserve legends, traditions and relics of their Indian ancestors. Even though more than 160 years have passed since the end of the Trail of Tears, the descendents of those who escaped the great tragedy of Indian Removal can still be found in Jackson County.
Note: To learn more about the history of the area, please consider my books: The History of Jackson County Florida: The Early Years, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, Two Egg, Florida and The Early History of Gadsden County. They are available online at or locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Searching for Econchattimico's Town

By Dale Cox

Lake Seminole – One of the most significant historic sites in Jackson County lay somewhere north of Sneads along the bank of the Chattahoochee River. Tocktoethla (“River Junction”) was the last Florida home of Econchattimico, the “Red Ground King” who once battled Andrew Jackson’s army for control of Florida and became one of the few Indian chiefs ever to win a major battle in the Federal court. The exact site of his final home has never been identified.

Econchattimico left his original home at Ekanchatte, a Lower Creek town that stood on the site of today’s Neal’s Landing for more than 50 years, after it was destroyed by Colonel William McIntosh and a large force of U.S. Creek Auxiliaries in 1818. After hiding for a time in the swamps of the upper Chipola River, where he kept large herds of livestock, the chief moved back to the Chattahoochee River and settled a new town about halfway between Neal’s Landing and Sneads. He lived there until 1838 when U.S. troops led by Zachary Taylor used muskets and bayonets to force the elderly chief and his people west to the Indian Nations in what is now Oklahoma.
Upon the departure of the chief and his followers, the cabins and fields of Tocktoethla were occupied by white settlers who dubbed their new community “Indian Town.” Located near the important riverboat landing of Port Jackson, “Indian Town” remained an identifiable settlement through the time of the War Between the States, but eventually faded from local memory.
Archaeologists searched for traces of Econchattimico’s settlements during the 1940s and again in 1979-1980. They found enough shattered pieces of Creek pottery to identify general areas of Indian presence, but never found the site of the chief’s primary town.
A comparison of Colonel James Gadsden’s original survey plat and notes of the chief’s reservation with George Houston’s 1843 survey plat and notes shows that “Indian Town” or Tocktoethla was originally located in about the center of the northern half of Section 28 of Township 5 North, Range 7 West in Jackson County. Both surveys show the actual settlement site.
The site was roughly three-quarters of a mile due east of today’s Arnold Landing at the Apalachee Wildlife Management Area north of Sneads. It was completely flooded by the completion of Lake Seminole during the 1950s and no trace of the original town location remains above water.
Some areas of the original reservation assigned to Econchattimico at the Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823 do remain above water. In fact, a section of today’s River Road (Highway 271) passes through the old reservation from just south of its intersection with Butler Road north for about two miles. Some of the original fields farmed by Econchattimico and his people are still in use today.
Note: If you would like to learn more about Econchattimico and the other Native Americans of Jackson County, please consider purchasing my book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. It is available in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea (downtown on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant) or online at

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The "Red Ground" Trail was an important local pathway

By Dale Cox

Campbellton – Along the north side of State Highway 2 east of Campbellton, traces of an old road can be seen winding through the woods and leading down into the swamps of Forks of the Creek. Although few drivers on the modern highway realize it, the old road bed they pass each day is what remains of the “Red Ground” Trail, one of the oldest and most important pathways in Florida.

It is impossible to know the exact age of the trail, but it was used by Native Americans long before the first settlers appeared in Jackson County. The section paralleling State Highway 2 through northern Jackson County connected the Yuchi Indian village of Chiscatalofa (“Yuchi Town”) near today’s Neal’s Landing with another Yuchi town in what is now Walton County. Since both of these towns existed by 1674, the old trail was certainly in use by that date.

The earliest known description of the path was written in 1768 by Lieutenant Ph. Pittman, the Assistant Engineer of the British 15th Regiment. Assigned to the small British garrison at Fort St. Marks (today’s St. Marks, Florida), Pittman interviewed traders and others about trails and other features of the little known Florida interior. One of these was what would later become known as the “Red Ground” trail:

…From hence (i.e. the Choctawhatchee River) he must go to Chipouly going nearly east about twenty miles, the land is level being pine barren, and the road is very good quite to Ichiscafaloufa (Chiscatalofa) which is an Indian village situated on the west side of the N.W. branch of the river Apalachicola (i.e. the Chattahoochee) forty miles above the forks and twenty from Chapouly.

By the time of Pittman’s report, Chiscatalofa had been abandoned by its original inhabitants and was occupied by the Ekanachatte or “Red Ground” band of Lower Creeks. The old name soon faded away and by the time of the American Revolution, the town was known as Ekanachatte.
A British military force crossed the Red Ground Trail on its way from Pensacola to St. Augustine in 1778, reporting that it was part of a much longer path dubbed the “Pensacola-St. Augustine Road.” In fact, the old road trace near Campbellton is an important landmark of the American Revolution. It was used by British forces from 1778 until the end of the war to move troops and supplies back and forth between Pensacola and St. Augustine.

The Red Ground Trail remained an important pathway through the early settlement days of Jackson County. The first communities in the county were established on Spring Creek just north of Campbellton and on the old Ekanachatte site at Neal’s Landing. The trail provided an important means of communication between these two groups of early settlers.

Although it no longer holds significance as a route connecting Pensacola and St. Augustine, the general route of the trail is still in use today as State Highway 2.

Note: To learn more about local history, please consider my books on Jackson County. They include The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years, The Battle of Marianna, Florida, and Two Egg, Florida. The books are available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Mission to a Jackson County Indian Village in 1771

By Dale Cox

Although they would side with the British during the American Revolution, the Native Americans of Jackson County did not immediately like the English when they took control of Florida in 1763. This was clearly demonstrated in 1771 when a party of warriors from Tomatley, a town located near present-day Sneads, attacked an English settlement in what is now southern Mississippi.

Two people were killed and several slaves - a man, a woman and their children - were carried away as prisoners. The slaves were also Native Americans and were taken back to Tomatley by their captors. John Stuart, the British agent for Indian affairs, dispatched a letter to the principal chiefs of the Lower Creeks on January 20, 1772, asking for the return of the surviving prisoners:

A Party of the Tomautley People some time ago carried away a Family of Indians Slaves, who belong to a planter on Pascagaula River, the Man they Killed or Burnt, the Woman is still among them. (Y)ou have no right to keep this Woman and Children. They were poor defenceless Slaves, could not be your Enemies being brought from a Country far to the Westward of the Mississippi, where you never go to War. I wish to Know if you the Chiefs of the Nation suffer such proceedings. There is no honor in taking and Killing a poor Slave the property of your Friends. I hope you will send your Talk that the Woman and Children may be restored to their Master.

Stuart sent his assistant David Taitt to carry the message to the Lower Creek chiefs. Taitt traveled to the primary Creek towns but was unable to obtain a response to Stuart’s demand. Accordingly, he decided to visit Tomatley in person.

He purchased a canoe for this purpose, but this plan greatly alarmed the chiefs of the Lower Creek towns and they pleaded with him not to attempt the journey. In his words, they “desired me not to go down the River in a Canoe as they alledged there was some dangerous Whirlpools in the river which they said would sink the Canoe.”

The chiefs undoubtedly were concerned that the Tomatley warriors would kill Taitt and they continued to present reasons why he should not make his journey. Finally they agreed to send two head warriors to Tomatley, but insisted that Taitt not go in person, “alledging the danger of the River and badness of the people there.”

On May 4, 1772, Taitt gave the two emissaries a letter to James Burgess, the trader at Tomatley, asking for his assistance in freeing the slaves as well as a white woman that was reported to be living in the village. He identified his messengers by name as Chimhuchi and Topahatkee. On the same day he sent a message back to Stuart relaying new information he had obtained about the attacks and the status of the prisoners:

…The Eufalla people say that they have done no wrong as the house they burnt was on their own land but this I shall talk to them about…I intended to come down the River to Tamatley and had prepared a Canoe for that purpose by permission of the Indians here, since they have raised many objections aledging that there is several dangerous whirlpools in the rivers and the people there are a set of runagadoes from every Town in the Nation…I shall send two head men from this Town to Tomatley for the two Slaves which are alive, although the Boy is sold to a Trader there, the Man and Girl they murdered at the place where they took them.

The trader referenced in Taitt’s letter was John Mealy, who lived and operated at trading post at Ocheesee Bluff.

The emissaries sent down the river by Taitt met with success and returned to the upriver towns on May 22nd. They brought with them the slave woman captured on the Pascagoula, but the young boy purchased by John Mealy had already been sent to the populated areas of Georgia. The white woman that Taitt also hoped to retrieve, however, refused to come. She had married a warrior in Tomatley and fled into the woods rather than return with the two messengers.

Note: This article is excerpted from the book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. It is available in Jackson County at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Steamboat Attack on the Apalachicola River

The Story of a Forgotten Attack of the Second Seminole War

By Dale Cox

One of the more unusual incidents of the Second Seminole War took place in July of 1840 when a party of refugee Creek warriors attacked the steamboat Irwinton as it was churning its way up the Apalachicola River between Jackson and Gadsden Counties.

There were fifteen passengers on the boat at the time, several of them children, and the boat’s captain had become somewhat alarmed after having spotted smoke rising in several locations. According to an account that appeared in New Orleans newspapers a short time later, the captain quickly advised the passengers to retire to their cabins for their safety:
They had only done so when a volley was fired, killing a cabin boy, named John Gill, of Pittsburg. The Indians fired from both shores. Some of the bullets passed through the cabin, and the passengers threw themselves on the floor and escaped the shots. The pilots also cast themselves upon the deck and were unhurt. The captain was at this time below crowding the fires. An alarm was now given that the boat was crowded with Indians, and “we are lost.”
The Irwinton was towing a barge on her trip up the river and eleven of the attacking warriors paddled a canoe out to the barge and were trying to climb aboard when the canoe suddenly overturned, dumping most of the Indians into the river. Three, however, managed to climb onto the barge and make their way over to the steamboat itself:
Two of the Indians who got on board the Irwington, were killed by the engineer and mate, who knocked them down with their wrenches, and threw them into the wheel where they were torn to pieces. The third, who appeared to be the leader, and who supposed his men were with him, entered the cabin calling loudly to the others to follow him. Most of the passengers hid themselves, and the Indian posted himself at the head of the table, apparently waiting a moment for reinforcement. Mr. P. Hendricks seized a chair, as the only weapon of defence at hand, when the chief threw a chair at him across the table. Mr. Metchner, of Randolph county, Ga., a stout man of about fifty years of age, then clasped the Indian in his arms from behind, and endeavored to force him out of the cabin, but was not able. At this time the mate came in and stabbed him in the abdomen, and threw him also in the wheel.
The attack on the Irwinton was the last reported attack on a boat on the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers during the Seminole Wars. The steamboat continued on its way upstream.
To learn more about other Seminole War events in and around Jackson County, please consider The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. The book is available at or in Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea on Lafayette Street downtown.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dozier School "Mystery Graves" were there in 1940

USDA Aerial Photographs Show “Controversial” Cemetery Existed Before World War II
by Dale Cox

The little cemetery near Dozier School that has been the subject of so much controversy of late actually existed for decades prior to the current allegations. In fact, aerial photographs taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture clearly show that the cemetery was part of the Marianna landscape as early as 1940.
Historical records indicate that most of the graves in the burial ground, which is located on the hill behind the Jackson County Correctional Complex, probably date from 1914 and 1918.
A deadly accidental fire took place at what was then the Florida Reform School in 1914, claiming the lives of six students and two staff members. A Jackson County Grand Jury report indicates that the fire was caused either by a faulty heater or spontaneous combustion from a nearby pile of oily rags. Regardless of the cause, however, it quickly spread through a dormitory at the school threatening the lives of everyone inside.
While more than fifty students were led to safety by staff members, five other students and two staff members were trapped by the flames. Grand Jury records indicate that a desperate effort was made to save them. Several staff members, including the facility’s superintendent, received severe burns in an unsuccessful effort to reach the unfortunate individuals. A sixth student died after he ran back into the building to try to save one of the staff members. A letter written in 1914 from the superintendent to the mother of one of the victims indicates that those who died in the fire were burned beyond recognition and were buried on the grounds.
A second tragedy at the school in 1918 claimed at least 13 more lives. According to U.S. health records, what is now Dozier School was severely impacted by the terrible influenza epidemic that year that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. A federal health inspector visited the Florida Reform School and found that hundreds of students and all of the staff members were severely ill with the flu. According to his report, one dozen students and one staff member had already died in the epidemic and many others were near death.
These two incidents alone count for the deaths of at least 21 people at the school prior to 1920, all of whom are believed to have been buried on the grounds. Records also verify the deaths of other individuals at the school over the years, from causes ranging from accidental drowning to the murder of a student by another student.
The fact that the little cemetery there existed during the early 1900s can be confirmed by aerial photographs taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A series of photographs taken through the 1940s show that the Dozier Cemetery then looked much as it does today. The initial photograph, taken in 1940, shows the cemetery on the hilltop where itcan still be seen. . Another, taken in 1960, shows the cemetery surrounded by trees as it is today.

While this new evidence does not prove or disprove the stories of abuse at the school, it does show that the little cemetery has been a part of the Jackson County landscape for nearly sixty years.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Early Settlers of Jackson County, Florida

By Dale Cox

The smoke had barely cleared from the First Seminole War when the first settlers began to make their way back to the rich lands they had explored with Andrew Jackson in 1818. It was a risky proposition at best. The area that would become Jackson County was still Spanish territory at the time and there was the possibility of violent confrontation with Native American warriors still angered over their losses in the war.
Despite such dangers, however, several dozen frontier families made their way into the area by 1820. Their initial settlements were along Spring Creek in the Campbellton area, on the old Indian fields along Irwin’s Mill Creek and along the Apalachicola River south of the Native American towns of Tomatley and Choconicla.
Some of the names of these first settlers are recognizable in Jackson County today. The Spring Creek settlement, for example, included John Williams, James Falk, William T. Nelson, Abraham Philips, Benjamin Hamilton, Owen Williams, Micajah Cadwell, Joseph Parrot, John Ward, Nathan A. Ward, William Philips, James Ward, Andrew Farmer, Robert Thomas, John Hays, Samuel C. Fowler, Nathaniel Hudson, Wilie Blount, Moses Brantley, Robert Thompson, Guthrie Moore, Stephen Daniel, John Gwinn, John Jones, Allaway Roach, Henry Moses, Joel Porter, Simeon Cook, James C. Roach, John Smith and Presley Scurlock.
Their farms stretched from Holmes Creek on the west across the present site of Campbellton and then down Spring Creek to its junction with the headwaters of the Chipola River. To the south their lands extended about as far down as today’s Waddell’s Mill Pond, while to the north other settlements lay just across the Alabama line.
None of these farms were the large plantations for which Jackson County later became known. The largest had around 40 acres in cultivation, but the average settler farmed less than 15 acres. It was a start, though, and qualified each of them to later claim 640 acres after Florida was ceded by Spain to the United States in 1821.
The settlement at Irwin’s Mill Creek, then called “Conchatty Hatchy” or “Red Ground Creek,” included Joseph Brown, William Brown, Joseph Brooks, William Chamblis, James Irwin, Adam Kimbrough, William McDonald, William H. Pyke, George Sharp and Allis Wood.
Down on the Apalachicola, meanwhile, were Charles Barnes, Adam Hunter, John H. King and Reuben Littleton. These men all lived along the stretch of the river north Ocheesee Bluff, where Thomas and Stephen Richards had settled.
Other settlers known to have been in Jackson County prior to 1821 included James Dennard, Jonathan Hagan, John Hopson, Hugh Robertson, Joshua Scurlock and Robert Sullivan, all of whom settled along the upper Chipola east of the Spring Creek settlement, and William Pyles who staked a claim at Blue Spring.
Note: This article is excerpted from The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Second Seminole War Attack in Jackson County

By Dale Cox

Fought in virtually every corner of Florida, the Second Seminole War was a bloody conflict that deteriorated into guerrilla raids by the forces of both sides. Jackson County became the target of such a raid in July of 1841 when a party of Creek warriors emerged from the swamps south of Marianna and attacked the home of Morris Simms.

According to a report carried by newspapers across the nation, the attack took place with around 30 warriors struck the Simms’ home, located near the Chipola River about 12 miles south of Marianna. Subsequent events indicate that the warriors responsible for the raid were part of a group that had eluded capture by hiding with their families deep in what was then a wilderness area surrounding St. Andrew Bay. Between 1840 and 1844 they carried out a series of raids against isolated farms and homes, primarily to obtain food and other supplies.

The attacks were usually swift and bloody. In the attack on the Simms’ settlement, for example, the warriors killed two of Morris Simms’ young daughters. “The little girls were found in the cowpen,” read a letter received in Tallahassee from Marianna, “pierced with spiked arrows, and their brains dashed out with lightwood knots.” The oldest of the girls was seven, while the youngest was only two.

The war party also carried away a large quantity of bacon from the smokehouse, a barrel of flour and any other provisions it could find, before killing two hogs and crippling Simms’ horses by shooting barbed arrows into their legs.

Such attacks, sadly, were commonplace during the war and were not limited to Indian warriors. A party of Jackson County militia had been accused four years earlier of killing a number of women and children in a brutal massacre in Walton County.

As soon as news of the raid was received in Marianna, a group of local men took up arms and formed into a volunteer company. Led by Major Bryan, the rode south to the Simms’ settlement. They reached the scene of the attack and managed to pick up the trail of the retreating warriors, “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.”

News of the Simms’ attack prompted the U.S. Army to send regular troops into the region. In November of 1841, about four months after the raid, Lieutenant James W. Smith and a company of men from the 3rd U.S. Infantry established Fort Chipola south of Marianna. Located where the Federal Road crossed the Chipola River on the Jackson-Calhoun line, the fort served as a base for operations against scattered parties of Indians in the region for at least the next year.

Note: This article is excerpted from my 2008 book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jackson County's "Other" Civil War Battle

The Battle on the Upper Chipola

by Dale Cox

While the story of the Battle of Marianna is pretty well known in Jackson County, few people are aware of a second engagement that took place in the swamps of Forks of the Creek between Campbellton and Malone during the summer of 1863.

The area of swamps and wetlands along the Alabama line is formed by Cowarts and Marshalls Creeks as they flow south into Jackson County to a confluence or “forks” that marks the head of the Chipola River. In 1863 this was an almost impenetrable area that had become the hiding place of a large band of Confederate deserters and Southern Unionists. Made up of men from both Alabama and Florida, the group taunted authorities on both sides of the state line and occasionally ventured forth to raid for food, supplies and valuables.
Pleas for help went up to Governor John Gill Shorter of Alabama from residents living along the Alabama side of the line and, noting that the hiding place of the raiders was reported to be in “the swamps of the Chipola River and its tributaries,” he ordered Captain W.T. Armstrong of the 6th Alabama Cavalry to proceed to the area. Armstrong was ordered to assist 2nd Lieutenant G. Newman of General James Clanton’s staff in arresting the men and was authorized such force from his own company and the mounted militia company of Captain Robert J. Chisolm as he felt necessary to conduct the operation.
Armstrong and Newman launched their campaign in late July of 1863 and penetrated deep into the swamps of the Forks of the Creek area. They succeeded in capturing 6 or 7 of the refugees, but were unable to locate the main body of the raider band. Likely this was because the raiders were busy laying a trap for the Alabama troops.
The Confederate officers detached a small body of men to escort the prisoners back to Alabama for safe-keeping, but instead the soldiers of this detachment walked into an ambush laid for them by the raiders. Fighting broke out and one of the Alabama soldiers was wounded, but the heavily wooded nature of the terrain prevented additional casualties. All of the prisoners, however, were released.
The exact location of the skirmish is not know, but it took place somewhere between the confluence of Cowarts and Marshalls Creeks and the Alabama state line. The danger of additional ambushes prompted Armstrong and Newman to withdraw into Alabama and Governor Shorter soon appealed to General Howell Cobb in Quincy for help in rounding up the raiders. Cobb appealed to his commander, General P.G.T. Beauregard in Charleston, for men as well as for permission to set an example by hanging a few of the raiders. “If authority can be had to hang a few of these traitors,” he wrote, “we will soon hear no more complaints of the kind.”
Cobb also promised to investigate allegations by Governor Shorter that soldiers from Companies C and F, 11th Florida Infantry, were not only communicating with the deserters, but were also providing them with arms and ammunition. The two units were then camped at Campbellton and, in support of Shorter’s allegations, records reveal that 22 men from the companies deserted in July and August of 1863.
The raider band was never rooted out of the swamps and, with several other similar organized groups, continued to harass the residents and authorities in Northwest Florida and South Alabama until the end of the war.

Friday, March 13, 2009

International Military Delegations Tours Marianna Battlefield

Improved recognition of the national and even international significance of a local Civil War event is drawing growing numbers of tourists to Jackson County. They are coming to see the site of the Battle of Marianna, but are also visiting local hotels, restaurants and business.

For example, a group of more than 60 military officers from around the world recently visited Marianna to learn about the tactics of the 1864 battle and see sites associated with the fighting. It was the second time Fort Rucker has arranged for a large group to visit the battlefield within the past year and countries ranging from Canada and Mexico to Germany and even the Philippines were represented.

U.S. officials indicate that part of their goal in hosting officers from around the world is to provide them examples for the futures of their own country by illustrating how the United States has developed into a great nation from a time of great division and conflict during the War Between the States.

The military contingent was just one of many groups, large and small, that have been making their way to Jackson County to learn about the battle.

The group aheard from Commander Robert Daffin of the Theophilus West Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and had an opportunity to visit with men and women portraying citizens of the era. The tour was coordinated by SCV member Ashley Pollette.

In just the last six months I’ve visited with an amazing variety of people wanting to learn more about the Battle of Marianna. There have been visitors from as far away as Texas, Kansas and Maine in addition to the military groups. There is so much about this battle that has been traditionally overlooked, from the fact that a Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded for an incident during the fighting to the role of women and even children in the battle.

The Battle of Marianna involved both white and black troops and that more than 600 Jackson Countians held in slavery gained their freedom as a result of the engagement. For most of the local participants, though, it was about defending their homes and families.

Although it was small in size, the battle was of enormous significance. Jackson and three nearby counties sustained more economic damage as a result of the raid on Marianna than any other area of Florida, South Georgia or South Alabama. The expedition to Marianna, in fact, covered more ground than Sherman’s March to the Sea.

To learn more, please visit Also please consider my 2007 book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available in Downtown Marianna at Chipola River Book and Tea or online at

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Three Rivers appears likely to remain a state park!

Outstanding news today from Tallahassee. Governor Charlie Crist has recommended that all Florida State Parks, including Three Rivers State Park in Jackson County, remain open!

There had been a proposal from the Department of Environmental Protection to close a number of Florida's state parks as a cost saving measure, despite the fact that the state's budget has more than doubled in just the last ten years alone. Three Rivers was one of two parks that the state was considering closing permanently and turning over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps had indicated that it did not have money to operate the facility and would likely lock the gates.

But in his new budget, Governor Crist has recommended keeping all of the state parks open. This will likely save Three Rivers for enjoyment by present and future generations of Floridians. A spokesperson for the governor indicated that the public support for keeping the parks open did play a role in the decision.

Three Rivers is located on River Road just north of Sneads and, for a cost of less than $200,000, pumps more than $1,000,000 into the local economy each year and also offers outstanding recreational opportunities along the shores of Lake Seminole.

To learn more about the park, visit

Friday, March 6, 2009

Battle of Natural Bridge Anniversary

Today is the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida.

Fought on the St. Marks River south of Tallahassee on March 6, 1865, the battle was the last significant Confederate victory of the War Between the States and preserved Tallahassee's status as the only Southern capital east of the Mississippi not conquered by Union troops.

Men and boys from Jackson County played an important role in the fighting. Major William Henry Milton, a Marianna lawyer, son of Governor John Milton and an officer in the 5th Florida Cavalry, commanded the right wing of the Confederate lines during the battle. Lieutenant Colonel W.D. Barnes, of Webbville, assumed command of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves in the fighting following the wounding of the regiment's colonel, J.J. Daniel.

Others from Jackson County who took part in the fighting included John Milton (Jr.) and several other boys who fought as members of the Corps of Cadets from the West Florida Seminary (today's Florida State University). Company G of the 5th Florida Cavalry was heavily engaged at Natural Bridge and was largely from Jackson County. There were also Jackson County men in the 2nd Florida Cavalry, Company E of the 5th Florida Cavalry and in the various artillery units on the field.

The annual Natural Bridge reenactment will take place this weekend at the battlefield, which is now a state park near Woodville, a small town south of Tallahassee. The main events will take place on Sunday with a memorial service at 1 p.m. (Eastern time), followed by the primary battle reenactment.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Natural Bridge, please visit

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Old U.S. Road played a key role in Jackson County's history

By Dale Cox

The “Old U.S. Road” and a second road that followed the route of modern State Highway 2 west from Campbellton to the Choctawhatchee River were created by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on July 2, 1836. Leading south from Daleville, Alabama, by way of the modern community of Cottonwood, the new road ran through the rich farmland east of the Chipola River. Highway 167, still known as the “Old U.S. Road,” follows the route of this early wagon trail from the Alabama line to the outskirts of Marianna.

The original road entered Marianna via the bridge then located at the foot of Jackson Street. It then led south to Apalachicola by way of the new and booming coastal city of St. Joseph (on the site of today’s Port St. Joe).
On March 3, 1837, the President signed a second appropriation for the project, designating $20,313 for use in continuing the construction of the road. Despite the violence that had erupted between the United States and many of the warriors of the Creek and Seminole Nations, the work went forward.
The primary purpose for Federal involvement in the construction of the new road was to provide a reliable route for the delivery of mail to Marianna, St. Joseph and Apalachicola. Bids for delivery were let by the postal service in 1836 and the contractor was required to have his route up and running by February 1, 1837. Under the provisions outlined by the postal service, mail would be carried from Marianna to Daleville, an estimated distance of 60 miles, once each week. A second tier of stages would provide mail delivery between Marianna and St. Joseph twice each week, an estimated distance of 90 miles.
A second contract was let at the same time to provide mail stage service from Campbellton to Pensacola on a weekly basis. The distance, by way of Pittman’s Ferry on the Choctawhatchee and Floridatown, was estimated to be 120 miles.
The fact that the Postmaster General expected the new routes to be in service by February 1, 1837, is an indication that progress on the construction of the new roads was believed to be going well. It took somewhat longer than expected to get the mails running, but by November the Tallahassee Floridian was able to report that the speed of communication with St. Joseph would soon be running “from three to four days earlier.”
The new U.S. Road was finished by 1838 and became part of a growing transportation network in Jackson County.
Note: This article is excerpted from the book The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. The book is Volume One of a planned three volume set. It is available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Calhoun County War of 1860 - Part One

One of the most fascinating episodes in Jackson County history took place during the fall of 1860 when the county became entangled in an outbreak of fighting in neighboring Calhoun County. The situation became so severe that Circuit Judge J.J. Finley of Marianna (seen here) declared a "state of insurrection" and ordered out the First Brigade of the Florida Militia.

Over the next few days I will be posting a series of excerpts from my book - The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Year Years - that tell the story of the "Calhoun County War." The book is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or from


(Excerpt from Chapter Twenty-Four: The Calhoun County War)

In the fall of 1860, eleven months after John Brown’s ill-fated raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, a party of “regulators” launched a wave of violence in Northwest Florida that ended only with the intervention of the state militia. Virtually forgotten today, the Calhoun County “Insurrection” of 1860 lasted only three weeks and was quickly overshadowed by the outbreak of the Civil War. Not even a historical marker stands to call to mind the outbreak and there are no memorials to the dead.

Calhoun County, which then included the territory of today’s Gulf County, was a sparsely populated area in 1860. Founded in 1838 when it was widely believed that the coastal city of St. Joseph would emerge as one of Florida’s primary ports and commercial centers, the county never realized its economic potential. Yellow fever and a devastating hurricane spelled an end to the St. Joseph dream and by 1860 the county seat had moved inland to Abe Springs. Although there were a few large plantations near the county seat and along the Apalachicola River, most of the county’s 1,446 residents lived on small farms carved from the wilderness. Among these pre-Civil War inhabitants were the Durdens and the Musgroves.
According to the 1860 census, Jesse Durden was a 31-year-old farmer who headed a household consisting of his wife, Mary, and six children. His farm was near Abe Springs, but his extended family spread across the line into neighboring Jackson County. The same was true of his neighbors, Willis and Larkin Musgrove. Willis was a 36-year-old farmer who ran small farms in both Calhoun and Jackson Counties and was married with three children. His brother, Larkin, also had land on both sides of the county line and was the head of a household that included his wife and five children. Based on their census and tax records, the Durdens and Musgroves were typical of hundreds of other farm families in Northwest Florida. They did not own slaves and lived by the labor of their own hands.
They were set apart from their neighbors in 1860, however, when they became the targets of a large and well-armed band of vigilantes. These men, who dubbed themselves “regulators,” circulated a petition at a fish fry in Calhoun County calling for the removal or extermination of the Durdens. Then, on September 24th, they struck the family with brutal force:

Yesterday a party in Calhoun, styling themselves `Regulators,’ went to the house of one Jesse Durden, and we learn shot him, giving him a mortal wound. They then met and shot Willis Musgrove from his horse, who died instantly, also wounding Larkin C. Musgrove. These are the facts as we have been able to gather them, but it is believed that last night another battle was fought between the Regulators and the Durdens. All this happened near Abe’s Spring Bluff, in Calhoun Co.

The report of the death of Willis Musgrove appears to have been premature, as a man of that name was still alive ten years later in Jackson County. Jesse Durden and Larkin Musgrove, however, were gunned down by the vigilantes and their outraged and frightened families fought back with a vengeance. Neighbors joined them and open warfare spread through the piney woods of Calhoun and southern Jackson Counties.
What led to the attack is not clear. A contemporary Florida newspaper claimed that the Durdens had feuded with another local family several years earlier and that the calls for their extermination resulted from lingering hard feelings from that earlier confrontation. Another report, published in the Augusta, Georgia, Chronicle and Sentinel on October 17, 1860, and apparently written from the point of view of the “regulators,” described the Durdens as “notorious for immorality and crime.”
The “immorality” that so outraged the regulators was never explained, but local legend holds that the two families favored the abolition of slavery. At least one modern historian has asserted that abolition meetings were held at the Durden home, but his cited sources do not verify the claim.
It is clear, however, that many Southerners opposed slavery and there is abundant evidence that individuals with pro-Union or abolitionist views were targeted by regulator gangs in Florida and elsewhere during the months leading up to the General Election of 1860. These bands of outlaws used intimidation to silence opposition as the Southern states hurtled towards secession and civil war.
It is interesting to note that although they farmed more than 400 acres, neither the Durdens nor the Musgroves owned slaves. This was a significant acreage for the time and their operation was among the largest in Northwest Florida that did not make use of slave laborers. It is also interesting to note that there was an escalation of slave disappearances from the plantations of the region throughout the year 1860 and fingers were steadily pointed at Calhoun County.
One of the more widely publicized incidents took place only two weeks before the attack on the Durdens and Musgroves:

We are in the receipt of a letter from Dr. David L. White, of Gadsden County, informing us of an attempt to decoy off two of his negro boys. They were young, and decoyed off about the first of this month. Elias H. Kemp, Esq., of our county, captured one of the boys, and the other returned home. The boys say a white man in West Florida persuaded them off, mounted upon pony horses, and told them as soon as they crossed the Chattahoochee river to leave the telegraph road, which they did. Evidently the man or men who decoyed off these boys resides in West Florida. Let our citizens give an eye to this matter, and soon the thieves will be brought to justice. – There is yet another negro with the thief at the time Dr. White’s negro left, who has not been captured. – The public had better be on the look out.

The report provides pretty solid evidence that someone living west of the Apalachicola River was involved in an aggressive effort to lead slaves away from the plantations of the region.
(End of Excerpt)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Grave of Captain Henry Robinson

This is the grave of Captain Henry J. Robinson, a key figure in the Battle of Marianna.

Born in 1840, Robinson was only 20 years old when Florida seceeded from the Union. He originally served in Company D of the 6th Florida Infantry, a regiment mustered into the Confederate service in the spring of 1862 at the arsenal in Chattahoochee (today's Florida State Hospital).

By 1864, Robinson was a teacher at the academy in Greenwood. As Florida required all male citizens over the age of 15 to enlist in either the regular military or state militia units, he organized the boys who studied under him into a company of cadets known as the Greenwood Club Cavalry.

After completing their lessons for the day, the boys would take part in military drills led by Robinson, who also served as their captain.

On the morning of September 27, 1864, Captain Robinson was notified that a Union force was approaching Marianna and ordered to bring the boys of the Greenwood Club Cavalry to help defend the city. Many of the older men of Greenwood were unwilling to see the teenagers ride off to fight alone, so they mounted up and went with them.

The unit fought bravely at the Battle of Marianna. Francis B. Carter, a 76-year-old Greenwood resident who rode in with the boys, was killed in the fighting at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, as was Dr. M.A. Butler, another Greenwood resident who rode in with Robinson's Company.

John J. Dickson, a 59-year-old wheelwright from Greenwood who also fought with the company, was wounded in the battle by a severe blow to the head and taken prisoner. He died in a Union prison camp in New York.

Three other members of Captain Robinson's company - W.H. Kimball, T.D. Newsome and Hansel Grice - were also captured in the fighting at Marianna.

Captain Robinson was not captured during the battle, but instead was among the Confederate cavalrymen who retreated across the Chipola River. He and his men joined other Southern soldiers in tearing up the planking of the old wooden bridge and holding off Union efforts to drive them away and capture the bridge.

He did not long survive the hard times of the war, but died in 1866 and the young age of 26. He is buried at Hays Cemetery, located west of Greenwood off the Old U.S. Road. To learn more about the Battle of Marianna, please visit

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Walking in the Footsteps of Marcos Delgado

Spanish Expedition Marched from Sneads to Campbellton in 1686

By Dale Cox

After learning in 1686 that a French settlement had been established somewhere near the mouth of the Mississippi River (the actual location was in Texas), the Spanish governor of Florida sent out an expedition to locate and expel the interlopers.

Headed by Marcos Delgado, the expedition consisted of 13 Spanish soldiers and 40 Native American warriors. Heading northwest from Mission San Luis (now a historical landmark in Tallahassee), the party crossed the Apalachicola River near Sneads and eventually passed out of what is now Jackson County near Campbellton.

After spending a few days resting at Mission San Carlos, a Spanish settlement near the west end of the Jim Woodruff Dam, Delgado headed west on September 2, 1686. He arrived at Blue Spring, which he called Calistoble, later that day:
…Departing from the village of the Chacatos to the northwest on the road to Calistoble there is encountered at five leagues a spring of clear water which forms a river that has 48 feet of width. At the spring it is 36 feet in depth and the river below is from one yard to one yard and one-half in depth and is bordered by thickets of large cane about six inches thick.
From Blue Spring the expedition turned to the northwest and crossed the Chipola River somewhere in the vicinity of today’s Bellamy Bridge. He described the crossing place as a “clayey swamp and in its center a stream which has 36 feet of width and a depth of 6 feet.” Once across the Chipola, the explorers began to encounter buffalo for the first time.

Continuing northwest, Delgado crossed Spring Creek near present-day Campbellton and reached the abandoned site of San Antonio. He described it as being roughly 3 miles from the creek, a location that would place it somewhere near the present Alabama line:

…Continuing one league to the northwest we arrived at the chicasa (old town site) called San Antonio which had been a village of the Chacato nation, which has three springs of water within a short distance of each other.
Delgado eventually pushed as far north as present-day Montgomery, Alabama, where he visited with the leaders of Indian tribes that would soon consolidate to become the Creek Nation. The journal of his expedition provides an interesting window into the history of Jackson County.
Note: This account is excerpted from Dale Cox’s recent book, The History of Jackson County: The Early Years. It is available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna or online at

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Battle of Marianna Casualties buried in Pensacola

By Dale Cox

Pensacola – I had the opportunity this week to spend a few minutes walking through the tombstones at Barrancas National Cemetery. Located on board the Pensacola Naval Air Station at Pensacola, this cemetery contains the graves of men and women who served their country from the War of 1812 up until today.

Among the hundreds of graves there are two that contain the remains of seven men who died as a result of the Battle of Marianna on September 27, 1864. Three men are buried in one of the graves, four in the other.
These soldiers were among eight Union men killed or mortally wounded when Federal troops led by Brigadier General Alexander Asboth attacked Marianna following a raid that swept through Walton, Holmes and the northwestern corner of Jackson County.
Among them is Lieutenant Ellis Ayer of Company I, 2nd Maine Cavalry. Serving as a staff officer to General Asboth, he was the first man killed in the Battle of Marianna. Eyewitnesses reported that he was shot down as the Union cavalry rounded the curve at today’s intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets. Confederate cavalry had lined up across the intersection and opened fire on the approaching Federals as they came into range. Armstrong Purdee, an 8-year-old liberated from slavery on the Waddell Plantation by a Union soldier, remembered that Ayer had been shot in the chest and was carried back to a small stream on what is now West Lafayette Street, groaning from his wound.
Another of the Union dead, Captain Mahlon M. Young of the 7th Vermont Veteran Volunteers, was the only member of his regiment to fight at Marianna. Newly married, he had just returned to Pensacola from a trip home when the rest of the 7th Vermont was sent home on furlough. He volunteered to join the raid and was shot and killed by members of the Marianna Home Guard in the fighting along West Lafayette Street. Young had earlier sparked an international incident by arresting Confederate officers protected by a flag of truce as they met with the Spanish Consul in Pensacola.
Ayer, Young and the other Union dead were originally buried at Riverside Cemetery in Marianna in graves apart from those of the town’s citizens. In the years after the war, the government hired contractors to locate and exhume the graves of Union soldiers killed during the War Between the States. Seven graves were located at Riverside and the remains inside relocated to Barrancas National Cemetery.
One body, however, is conspicuously absent from the cemetery. The body of Private Nicholas Francis (sometimes written as Francis Nicholas), who served in Company E of the 82nd U.S. Colored Infantry, was apparently neither located nor exhumed. Because of the nature of the times, as an African American soldier he was buried apart from his white comrades. When the others were removed to Barrancas, he was either overlooked or ignored. A marker has been erected in his honor at another local cemetery, but he probably still rests in an unmarked grave at Riverside.

To learn more about the Battle of Marianna, please visit Read more about the cemetery at

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lost Grave of Former Speaker of the House Rediscovered in Marianna

Members of the Dr. Theophilus West Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) have been involved in a noteworthy project to locate, clean up and repair cemeteries in Jackson County with graves of Confederate veterans.

Today they rediscovered the overgrown and forgotten but extremely historic Long Cemetery in Marianna. The cemetery is located down a steep ridge off Kelson Avenue.

Among those buried there is Richard H. Long, a former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and a delegate to Florida's 1838 Constitutional Convention. He also served as a county judge of Jackson County in the years before the Civil War.

Another noteworthy grave is that of Captain William McPherson, C.S.A. He was the adjutant of the Confederate Post at Marianna and was wounded in the Battle of Marianna.

The photo above and the following list of burials was provided by Ashley Pollette of the West Camp. He indicates the group hopes to begin work soon to clean up and repair the cemetery and also will try to open a trail down the hill to the graves so they can be visited again.


Richard H. Long - (1791-1865)

Ann G. Long - wife of Richard H. Long. - (1795-1846)

Meta L. McPherson - consort of William McPherson.

William McPherson - Capt. CSA. (died January 25, 1867)

Edmund B. Cobb (Died January 25, 1835)

William F. H. Long - son of Richard H. and Ann G. Long (1825-1858

Henry Long (1815-1869)

Dr. Nicholas A. Long - CSA, Capt. Indian Wars

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Evidence of Prehistoric Brain Surgery in Jackson County

Sneads - The Mississippians were the ancestors of most of the Native American nations we recognize today. The Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole people can all trace their history to the Mississippian culture. Some older groups such as the Yuchi and Hitchiti are believed to have descended from earlier people already living in the region when the Mississippians arrived.

From A.D. 900 until A.D. 1540, the Mississippians were the absolute masters of the Southeast. In Jackson County, the largest known early Mississippian settlement was the Curlee Site near Sneads. This site was occupied by around A.D. 1000 and consisted of a large village and mound on the banks of the Apalachicola River near where the U.S. 90 Bridge crosses between Chattahoochee and Sneads. Paired with a large seven mound ceremonial center across the river at Chattahoochee Landing, where the remains of a large platform mound can still be seen, the Curlee village was an important center supported by vast fields and a trading network that made use of the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers.
Although the mound has now been washed away by the river, the Curlee Site is one of the best researched Native American sites in Jackson County. Prior to the destruction of the site by erosion, archaeologists conducted numerous seasons of fieldwork at the site and learned a great deal about the lives of its inhabitants. They ground grain and baked bread, grew squash, melons and other crops, made both ceremonial and utility pottery, used tiny triangular points to tip their arrows and made tools from stone, wood and bone. They even made bone fishhooks for use in harvesting food from the Apalachicola River.
One of the most stunning aspects of the Curlee inhabitants, however, is that they seem to have developed the capability to perform brain surgery. A skull from the site and now in the possession of a private collector in Chattahoochee had a rectangular hole that had apparently been cut using stone tools. Most surprising, however, is the fact that the bone surrounding the hole had begun to refuse or grow back, confirming to anthropologists that the unfortunate individual had survived his primitive surgery.
Although scientists have speculated as to why inhabitants of Curlee would conduct brain surgery on a resident of their village, the best they can do is guess. Some have suggested that the individual may have suffered from migraine headaches or somehow been injured, but we may never know for sure.
At some point around 1250-1350 A.D., Curlee and other Mississippian sites along the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers in Jackson County were suddenly abandoned. No one is quite sure why, although it possibly had to do with the arrival of a new, militaristic group in western Jackson County – the Chacato.
Note: This article is excerpted from Volume One of my new book, The History of Jackson County, Florida. The book is available locally at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna and can also be purchased at