Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mission San Carlos - One of the Oldest Settlements in Jackson County

West Bank Overlook near Sneads
Noted for its beautiful views of Lake Seminole, the West Bank Overlook near Sneads also holds the distinction of being one of the most significant historic sites in Jackson County. It was here during the 1680s and 1690s that the Spanish maintained the mission of San Carlos de Chacatos.

A mission was a religious center where Franciscan friars worked to convert Native Americans - in this case Chacato Indians - to Christianity.
View of Jim Woodruff Dam from the Overlook

Mission San Carlos was established in around 1680 to serve a group of Christian Chacatos that had relocated to the hilltop near Sneads from their original homes west of the Chipola River in Jackson and Washington County. A 1675 rebellion involving part of the tribe had destroyed the original Mission San Carlos, thought to have been located near Falling Waters State Park in Washington County. A sister mission, San Nicolas, was destroyed in what is now Jackson County at the same time.

Both of these original missions had been dedicated in 1674, but lasted for less than one year. Spanish soldiers and allied Apalachee warriors retaliated against the Chatot by invading their territory and destroying their towns and fields.
Lake Seminole

Not all of the Chacato had been involved in the rebellion, however, as several hundred members of the tribe had accepted Christianity through the teachings of the Franciscans. Opting to remain close to the Spanish, they relocated to the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers (today's Lake Seminole), where they built a new town on the high ground where the West Bank Overlook can be seen today. The site was then directly across the Chattahoochee River from Mission Santa Cruz de Sabacola, which stood in what is now Seminole County, Georgia.

In around 1680 the Franciscans responded to the calls of the Chacato and established a new Mission San Carlos at the site near Sneads. It would remain for the entire time of its existence the westernmost establishment on the Florida mission chain and the most outlying post of the King of Spain in the Florida colony.
Part of the Mission San Carlos Site

This status gave Mission San Carlos a unique place in history. In 1686, for example, Marcos Delgado left the mission on a noted overland expedition to establish an alliance with the Upper Creeks of Alabama. Seven years later in 1693, Governor Don Laureano de Torres y Ayala rested briefly at San Carlos while making the first known overland crossing of the Florida Panhandle by Europeans. Both expeditions also stopped at another well-known Jackson County landmark, Blue Springs.
Another view of the Mission Site

Mission San Carlos, tragically, did not survive the decade of the 1690s. Attacked by war parties of Creek Indians from Alabama and Georgia, the mission was destroyed. Many of its people were slaughtered and others carried away into slavery to be sold to the English in South Carolina. The church was desecrated and its religious objects either destroyed or carried away as booty.

The site of the mission was rediscovered in 1948 by Florida archaeologist Ripley P. Bullen. Working on the hilltop at the west end of the then under construction Jim Woodruff Dam, Bullen found pieces of Spanish ceramics and other artificacts indicating the presence of the mission site. The West Bank Overlook now crowns the hill where Bullen conducted his work.

There are no interpretive markers at the site noting it as the location of the long forgotten mission, but perhaps the future will bring about an effort to place one there.  To learn more about Mission San Carlos and other Spanish sites in Jackson County, please consider my book: The History Of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years.

It is also available for Amazon Kindle by clicking here: The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Shooting of Deputy Dave Ham - Part Two

Deputy Dave Ham
Last week I posted an excerpt on the fatal shooting in 1934 from Deputy Dave Ham from my new book, The Claude Neal Lynching (Please click here to read The Shooting of Deputy Dave Ham - Part One).

A young father with a growing family, Ham was shot in an escape attempt by two convicted bankrobbers on the evening of the same night that murder suspect Claude Neal was taken from a jail in Brewton, Alabama. The deputy was rushed to a hospital in Chipley and by late night was in surgery. He would live only two more days.

The following is a second excerpt from The Claude Neal Lynching about the night that Deputy Ham was shot:

The shooting of a law enforcement officer always creates chaos and this incident was no different. Besides worrying about his wounded employee and a wounded prisoner as well, Sheriff Chambliss had to get Buford Mears to a secure location while also trying to find out how he had managed to get his hands on a pistol.

That information soon came out and deputies arrested Horace Johns on charges that he had slipped Mears the gun during the trial. The bank robber had managed to keep it concealed until he pulled it out and started shooting inside the sheriff’s car.[i]

While the sheriff and his deputies tried to deal with this situation, the caravan of cars driven by the lynch mob slowly made its way along the back roads along the line dividing Florida from Alabama. When Mears opened fire that evening, he created such chaos that Chambliss was unable to give due attention to the situation in the northeastern part of the county. In fact, the sheriff spent much of the night dealing with the chaos caused by the failed escape attempt and in worrying about his severely wounded deputy.

Events now began to take on a life of their own. With the sheriff in Chipley waiting to learn the results of the surgery on Ham and the people of Marianna electrified by news of the shooting, the lynch mob slowly closed in on Brewton, Alabama. They had picked their route well and avoided all contact with law enforcement as they moved west. When they reached their destination later that night, their arrival would come as a total surprise.

The gunfire between Cottondale and Chipley on the evening of October 25th played a significant but often underestimated or even ignored role in the events of the next two days. The attention of the sheriff and his deputies was necessarily distracted at a critical moment.

 The calmness that he likely felt was finally settling on the county was shattered when Buford Mears pulled a .32 caliber pistol and shot Deputy Dave Ham. The evening of the 25th turned chaotic and the chaos would continue for days to come. Literally before the sheriff had time to even consider what was happening, events began to overwhelm him.


The new book is available at Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna (same block as the Gazebo Restaurant) for $19.95. 

It can also be ordered online as either a book or a Kindle download at by following these links:

Book ($19.95)  The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady

Kindle ($6.96)  The Claude Neal Lynching

[i] St. Petersburg Times, October 28, 1934.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Shooting of Deputy Dave Ham - Part One

Deputy Dave Ham
Killed in the Line of Duty, 1934
The following is excerpted from my new book, The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady. It is available now at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna (same block as the Gazebo Restaurant) or can be ordered online in either book or Kindle formats at or

One of the least mentioned incidents associated with the October 1934 outbreak of violence in Jackson County was the fatal shooting of Deputy Dave Ham.

He and Sheriff W.F. "Flake" Chambliss were escorting two convicted bank robbers to the Washington County Jail in Chipley when a shootout erupted inside the car.

Buford Mears and Harrison McKinney had been convicted that day of robbing the Bank of Malone earlier in the year and then taking off for Chicago with the loot. For their security, they were being moved to the jail in Chipley.

The following is from Chapter Seven of the new book:

...[C]ourt activity ended for the day and Sheriff Chambliss and Deputy Dave Ham moved Mears and McKinney from the holding cell into a Model A Ford to begin the trip back to the Washington County Jail in Chipley, where they were being held for their own safety. The third bank robber, M.F. Dudley, was younger than the other two and was released to go home pending his sentencing.
The black car carrying the four men made its way out of Marianna and west on U.S. Highway 90. The 1939 Works Progress Administration guide to Florida, published just five years later, described the route as “a fertile hilly area producing Satsuma oranges, pecans, sugar cane, and peanuts.” Cottondale, through which the lawmen passed with their prisoners, was described by the guide in colorful terms:

COTTONDALE…is a farming, fishing and hunting center. The fish in neighboring streams and lakes are so voracious, it is said, that fisherman have to stand out of sight behind trees while baiting their hooks. Unlike visitors, old residents refuse to fish on Sundays, for, as one explained, ‘I ain’t got nothing’ else to do on weekdays.’[i]

The four men may even have talked about the things they had in common, hunting, fishing and farming, as they made their way along the winding highway. Chambliss and Ham may have discussed the Claude Neal case. Whatever their topic of conversation, they did not reach Chipley.
As the Model A passed through the pine woods and fields between Cottondale and Chipley, Buford Mears suddenly pulled a pistol and opened fire. Deputy Ham drew his own pistol and returned fire as the car careened off the road. By the time Sheriff Chambliss could knock the gun from Mears’ hand and subdue him, both Ham and the other bank robber, Harrison McKinney, had been seriously wounded. [ii]
In a motion filed in circuit court the next morning, State Attorney John Carter provided more information on the wounding of the deputy:

…Dave Ham, while transporting certain prisoners from Marianna to the County Jail at Chipley, Florida., at about 8:00 P.M. last night, was seriously wounded by being shot with a pistol by one of said prisoners. Said pistol was a 32 caliber, and the bullet entered said Dave Ham in the left arm, passing through his left arm and into the left side of his body just below the shoulder, and passed through his body just below the right shoulder. That he is now confined in the hospital of Dr. Watson, in Chipley, Florida, and is in a serious condition as a result of said wound….[iii]

The wounded prisoner, McKinney, was brought back to Marianna to the Baltzell Hospital while Ham, as noted above, was taken to Chipley for care.
I will post a second excerpt about the shooting of Deputy Ham in coming days, so be sure to check back. If you are interested in reading the entire book, it can be purchased for $19.95 from Chipola Book and Tea or ordered online from by clicking here:

The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady

[i] Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Projects Administration for the State of Florida, Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, Oxford University Press, 1939, p. 444.
[ii] Chambliss, Lynching Report; St. Petersburg Times, October 28, 1934, p. 3.
[iii] Motion for Mistrial in State of Florida vs. Rudolph Godwin, alias Love Godwin, submitted by State Attorney John Carter, Jr., October 26, 1934.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Book: "The Claude Neal Lynching" now available!

"The Claude Neal Lynching," my latest book, is now available at

The book examines the 1934 murders of Lola Cannady, Claude Neal and Deputy Dave Ham in Jackson County, Florida.

Nineteen-year-old Lola Cannady was a young woman who lived and worked on a farm just north of the town of Greenwood. On October 18, 1934, she went to water her family's hogs and was never seen alive again by her family. The next morning her badly beaten and battered body was found covered with logs and brush in a nearby wooded area.

Evidence found at the scene led investigators to the nearby home of Claude Neal, a 23-year-old farm worker who eventually confessed to the crime. Neal was arrested in nearby Malone and then moved from jail to jail across the Florida Panhandle and into South Alabama in a desperate effort by law enforcement officers to save him from a mob that was determined to lynch him for the crime.

As the effort to protect Neal was underway, one of Jackson County's handful of deputies was shot and wounded by a convicted bank robber. Deputy Dave Ham would die from his wounds.

The nine days of chaos in Jackson County culminated when Neal was taken from the jail in Brewton, Alabama, by a group of men carrying guns and dynamite. Taken to a remote spot deep in the Chattahoochee River swamps, he was tortured and lynched. On the morning of October 27, 1934, his body was found hanging from a tree at the Jackson County Courthouse in Marianna.

Riots followed and Governor Dave Sholtz was forced to send in the Florida National Guard to occupy Marianna as the only way to calm the outbreak. It was one of the most violent civil disturbances in the history of the South.

The new book reveals never before seen detail on the incidents of October 1934, including information from interviews with two men (now deceased) who were involved in the actual lynching. A chronological history, "The Claude Neal Lynching" explores not just the lynching of Neal, but the murders of Lola Cannady and Dave Ham in great depth, while also detailing the events of the Marianna Riot.

Attention is also devoted to clearing up many of the misconceptions and even outright falsehoods that have surrounded the story of these events, thanks to thousands of writings that have not been based on reliable information.

The book can be purchased for $19.95 for instant delivery through by clicking here:  The Claude Neal Lynching: The 1934 Murders of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady

It is also available as an instant download for Amazon Kindle devices and software for $6.95:  The Claude Neal Lynching

If you live and shop in Marianna, the book will be available at Chipola River Book and Tea in Downtown Marianna by the middle of next week. If you would like to reserve a copy in advance, you can drop in and do that at anytime.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The Claude Neal Lynching" - New Book by Dale Cox now Available for Kindle

My newest book, "The Claude Neal Lynching," is now available for users of Amazon Kindle devices or Amazon's free Kindle software for computer, iPad, etc.  The print edition will be released in another week or so.
The book is an examination of the 1934 Jackson County lynching of Claude Neal and the related murders of 19 year old Lola Cannady and Deputy Dave Ham of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

A farm laborer, Neal was accused of brutally murdering Lola Cannady while she was watering hogs on her family farm between Greenwood and Malone. Taken into custody and moved for his own protection to a series of jails across the Florida Panhandle and South Alabama, he was eventually seized from the jail in Brewton, Alabama, by a group of men armed with both weapons and explosives.

Brought back to Jackson County, Neal was tortured and lynched in the deep swamps of the Chattahoochee River by a group of six men while a crowd of thousands waited at the Cannady farm hoping for a chance to witness or participate in his killing.

As these events were underway, Deputy Ham was shot and mortally wounded in a deadly escape attempt by two bank robbers. The shooting of the officer added to the general chaos.

The eight days of tragedy culminated when rioting broke out in downtown Marianna after Neal's body was found hanging from a tree at the Jackson County Courthouse. The Florida National Guard was called in to restore order.

The new book is a chronological history of the events that took place in Jackson County between October 18-28, 1934. It is the first book on this topic in thirty years and unveils a large amount of new information about those events, including new evidence in the Lola Cannady murder, new detail in the Neal lynching and the first detailed account ever written of the shooting of Deputy Ham and its role in the overall situation.

Please click here to order through or to read an excerpt from the book:

The Claude Neal Lynching

I will let you know as soon as the print edition is out.