Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Book - Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas

I'm pleased to announce the release of my new book, Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas.

While this book does not deal in specific with Jackson County, it does include a great deal of information on surrounding locations including the Apalachicola River, Fort Gadsden Historic Site, the Choctawhatchee River, Wakulla Springs and St. Marks.

Milly Francis was a Creek Indian woman who was born in the Alabama (Alibamo) villages of the Upper Creeks in around 1803. She spent her early childhood on the Alabama River not far from today's Montgomery, Alabama.

Milly was the daughter of Josiah Francis, a man also known as the Prophet Francis or Hillis Hadjo ("Warrior of Crazy Medicine"). He ignited a religious movement among the Creek Indians in 1812-1813 that resulted in the outbreak of the Creek War of 1813-1814.

19th century image of Milly saving Duncan McCrimmon
The Red Sticks, a name given to the followers of the Prophet Francis because they displayed red war clubs in their towns, were defeated by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the survivors either surrendered or fled south to Spanish Florida.  Milly and her family were among those who fled.

By the time she was 15, in fact, Milly Francis had survived three wars and a desperate flight to refugee camps in Florida.

Despite the hardships she had endured, in 1818 she saved the life of a young American soldier named Duncan McCrimmon (sometimes spelled McKrimmon). He had been captured by warrior's from the Prophet's new town on the Wakulla River in Florida and was about to be executed when Milly intervened and pleaded for his life. In a true Pocahontas like incident, the warriors relented and spared McCrimmon.

Another 19th century image of Milly saving McCrimmon
The soldier later offered to marry Milly in a demonstration of his gratitude, but she refused, telling him that she would have done the same for anyone else in such a circumstance.

The story of how Milly Francis saved Duncan McCrimmon was picked up by newspapers across the United States and in Europe. She became known far and wide as the "new Pocahontas" or "modern Pocahontas." Parents across the United States named their newborn daughters Milly in her honor throughout the 1820s and 1830s.

But Milly's story was far from over. With her children she walked through miserable conditions and freezing cold on the Trail of Tears when the Creeks were driven west to what is now Oklahoma by the U.S. Army. There she lived out her life in a humble cabin on the outskirts of the modern city of Muskogee. In the final days of her life, the United States finally awakened and remembered the debt of gratitude owed her.

Milly Francis subsequently became the first woman ever to be awarded a special medal of honor by the U.S. Congress.

To read her story and the story of her times, please consider the new book. You can order it through by following these links:

Paperback - Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas ($19.95)

Kindle - Milly Francis: The Life & Times of the Creek Pocahontas ($7.99)

You can read a brief version of her story at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Battle of Marianna, Florida - 149th Anniversary

Battle of Marianna Monument
Today marks the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Marianna.

Fought on September 27, 1864, it was the climax of the deepest invasion of Florida by Union troops during the four years of the War Between the States. On their way to and from Marianna, the soldiers in blue covered more miles than Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's men did on their infamous March to the Sea.

Fighting had erupted as the Federal column of Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth pushed into Jackson County the previous afternoon (see Skirmish near Campbellton). Despite resistance by the outnumbered men of Captain Alexander Godwin's Campbellton Cavalry, the Union troops reached Campbellton on the evening of the 26th and camped there for the night.

Early they next morning they continued their advance on Marianna, following the Old Campbellton Road, a portion of which followed today's Union Road. Along the way the did as much damage as possible to small farms as well as the large Waddell, Russ, Barnes and White plantations.

Col. Alexander Montgomery (left)
Photo taken late in his life at Rome, Georgia
As the troops advanced, they were watched by three companies of mounted Confederates. Col. Alexander Montgomery had arrived from Marianna late on the 26th to reinforce the Campbellton men with Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (mounted) and Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts (mounted) of the Alabama State Militia.

When it became evident that the Union column was heading for Marianna instead of the crossing of the Chipola River at Bellamy Bridge, Montgomery sent couriers to Marianna and Greenwood to order out the citizen soldiers of the home guards. Other riders headed for Washington and Calhoun Counties to alert other companies and call them to Marianna. The telegraph operator in Marianna sent pleas to Quincy and Tallahassee for help, but despite the flurry of activity only the Greenwood company would reach town in time for the battle.

Battle marker on Courthouse Square
The Marianna Home Guard, headed by Captain Jesse J. Norwood, gathered at the courthouse. It was court day in Marianna and the sheriff, judge, lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants and even prisoners from the county jail took up arms to help in the defense of the town. They were joined by the boys from the Marianna Academy and every other man or boy in town capable of bearing arms.

The Greenwood Club Cavalry, a company made up of the school boys from the academy in Greenwood, arrived at mid-morning under the command of their teacher, Captain Henry Robinson. Many of the older men of Greenwood had joined them as they rode for Marianna.

Gen. Alexander Asboth
At about the same time, Col. Montgomery and the three companies of Confederates watching Asboth's approach turned on him at Hopkins' Branch, a swampy stream three miles northwest of downtown Marianna. A sharp skirmish broke out, with the Union troops forming into a line of battle and charging through the woods and swamps at the resisting Confederates. Montgomery was forced to fall back, but Union soldiers wrote that his men continued to fight as they went.

When the retreating Confederate horsemen reached the edge of Marianna, they took a logging road (today's Kelson Avenue) around the northern edge of town and then followed Caledonia Street into the city. Montgomery and a couple of his officers remained west of town to watch and see what the Federals would do.

As the three companies arrived in town, they joined all of the gathered home guards and volunteers in a general advance through the center of town along Lafayette Street to the west side of Marianna. A barricade of wagons and debris was placed across the street in the area of today's Pizza Hut to slow any charge down the street by Union soldiers. The mounted men formed in a line at the intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets, while the men with no horses took up positions in houses and buildings and behind fences, trees and shrubs on each side of Lafayette Street from the barricade back to the area of St. Luke's Episcopal Church.

Grave of Arthur Lewis, killed in the battle.
From his position west of town, Col. Montgomery watched as the Union troops divided into two columns. One thundered along the old logging road (Caledonia Street) in pursuit of the retreating Confederate cavalry, while the other headed straight for town along what is now Lafayette Street. Realizing that he was going to be flanked and attacked from front and rear at the same time, the colonel galloped up to his mounted men at the intersection of Lafayette and Russ Streets and ordered them to retreat.

Not realizing the danger, the men objected. Montgomery was trying to explain the situation when Major Nathan Cutler's battalion from the 2nd Maine Cavalry came around the curve on Lafayette Street and red headlong into the mounted Confederates spread across the street in front of today's Russ House. The Confederates opened fire and drove them back.

Ely Mansion in Marianna
Infuriated at his men for retreating, Gen. Asboth yelled "For shame!" at them and ordered Major Eben Hutchinson's battalion from the 2nd Maine to follow him forward. The Confederates had not had time to reload and fell back up the street with the Federals in hot pursuit. During this stage of the fighting, the front of the beautiful old Ely Mansion was showered with bullets and a cannon shot passed through its attic.

The Confederates passed the barricade with the Union troops hot on their heels. Just as the head of the Federal column rode over the line of wagons, however, the Marianna Home Guard and other volunteers ambushed them from both sides of Lafayette Street. Asboth fell wounded from two bullets and nearly 30 men from the 2nd Maine Cavalry fell killed or wounded. It was the bloodiest day of the war for the regiment.

Grave of a Union officer killed in the battle.
The flanking party sent around what is now Caledonia Street had entered town behind the Confederates, however, and the situation rapidly deteriorated. Colonel Montgomery and the mounted men tried to cut their way through. The colonel was thrown by his horse and captured on the southeast corner of Courthouse Square, but most of his horsemen made it to the Chipola River Bridge (then at the end of Jackson Street) where they tore up the floorboards and made a stand, fighting with Union soldiers as they tried to approach the bridge.

The Marianna Home Guard and some of the volunteers, meanwhile were penned up at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. The church then was surrounded by a board fence, which they used as a makeshift fort as Union troops closed in on them from all directions. Severe fighting followed which included a bayonet charge over the fence by black Union soldiers from detachments of the 82nd and 86th U.S. Colored Troops.

St. Luke's Cemetery, scene of heavy fighting.
St. Luke's and two adjacent homes were burned to the ground, along with the doctor's office and drugstore of Dr. R.A. Sanders. The men of the Marianna Home Guard fought until they ran low on ammunition and were overwhelmed. Four men died in the burning church rather than surrender.

It was one of the most severe small battles of the war and is remembered today with Marianna Day observances each year. This year's memorial service will take place tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 28th) morning at 9 a.m. at Confederate Park in downtown Marianna.

St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Cemetery will be open for tours from 10 a.m. until 12 noon.  I will be there at 9:45 to talk about the battle, so be sure to come if you would like to learn more!

Also, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available in both print and Kindle format at or you can buy it locally at Chipola River Book & Tea in downtown Marianna. I will be there from 2 until 4 this afternoon (Friday, Sept. 27th) to sign copies.

Also be sure to visit

Skirmish near Campbellton took place 149 years ago today (September 26, 1864)

Campbellton Baptist Church
Occupied by Union troops on September 26, 1864
Word traveled fast as the horsemen approached the creek and by the late morning of September 26, 1864, Campbellton was alive with rumors that "something was up" in Holmes County. The town was home to one of Jackson County's three home guard companies.

Organized by order of Governor John Milton, the Campbellton Cavalry was a mounted unit of around 30 citizen soldiers. The men were farmers, laborers and merchants from throughout western and norther Jackson County. Their captain, Alexander Godwin, owned a large plantation north of what is now Cottondale. By September 1864 they were operating as part of a mounted battalion organized by Captain W.W. Poe of the 1st Florida Infantry Reserves.

Gov. John Milton
On the morning of September 26th they were called to arms as rumors reached Campbellton that Union soldiers were advancing east through Holmes County. One member recalled that they formed in town and road southwest on the road to Holmes Creek.

Graceville had not been founded in 1864 and the road followed by the Campbellton Cavalry as it rode for Holmes Creek followed the route of today's Highway 273 to the Galilee Community and from there along a series of roads - some still in use, some not - to the Marianna ford over Holmes Creek near today's Tri-County Airport.

The Campbellton men waded their horses across the creek and before long saw the head of the Union column advancing in their direction along the same road. As the Federal vanguard moved toward them, they fell back across the creek into Jackson County.  The Union troops followed.

Gen. Alexander Asboth
Asboth's men struck at homes and farms all along the route to Campbellton. At the Nelson Watford farm near Galilee, they took everything they wanted and destroyed what they couldn't take with them. Even the big molasses barrel was dug up from the ground and its contents poured out at spoiled. At the home of Captain Henry Grace, who would later help found Graceville, they terrorized his wife and daughter, taking their food, livestock and anything else they could find.

At some point during the afternoon, however, the 30 or so men of the Campbellton Cavalry advanced on the head of the 700 man Union column. Exactly what happened remains something of a mystery, but three of the Confederates were captured that afternoon. Asboth reported that "rebel troops" were constantly in the vicinity of his column as he marched from the Choctawhatchee to Marianna, fighting with the men forming the vanguard at the head of his command.

Wartime Sketch of Asboth on the Move
His dogs always accompanied him.
Because they were so severely outnumbered, the Confederates of Captain Godwin's company did not try to make a stand against Asboth's column. Instead they followed tactics their ancestors had developed during the American Revolution. They would ride up to within range of the Federals and fire, then fall back until they could reload and make another advance. This style of fighting was used successfully in Georgia and the Carolinas during the American Revolution and the men of the Campbellton Cavalry used it effectively on the afternoon of September 26, 1864.

Where Union troops camped on the night of the 26th
The hit and run resistance slowed the advance of Asboth's column, forcing him to halt for the night when he reached Campbellton instead of advancing on to Marianna. His men camped in the town itself, in camps that reached from the town square area east along what is now SR 2 to Campbellton Baptist Church.

A courier sent to Marianna by Captain Godwin, meanwhile, arrived in town and alerted Colonel Alexander B. Montgomery that Union troops were in Jackson County. He immediately mounted up with the two companies available to him - Company C, 1st Florida Reserves (Mounted) and Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts, Alabama State Militia - and rode north up the Campbellton road to assess the situation.

The Battle of Marianna would be fought the next day.

To learn more about the Raid on Marianna, please consider my book, The Battle of Marianna, Florida. It is available on the right side of this page or from or your favorite online bookseller. It is also available at Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna and I will be there tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 27th) afternoon signing copies.

Also be sure to check out my website on the battle at

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yankees in Holmes County as Marianna Raid continues (149 years ago)

Cerrogordo in Holmes County, Florida
149 years ago today on September 25, 1864, the Union column of Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth crossed the Choctawhatchee River in Holmes County, Florida.

Water was high as the rain from a stalled tropical system had been falling for at least seven straight days, so the crossing was difficult, perilous and slow. The soldiers moved over in detachments aboard a small barge that local people used as a ferry, while the horses swam across the muddy river. Gen. Asboth described the boat as a "small scow," which in his terminology meant it was a flat-bottomed boat with a blunt bow.

Choctawhatchee River where Asboth crossed
The crossing took place at Cerrogordo, then the county seat of Holmes County. Located around five miles north of today's Westville, the community in 1864 consisted of a small courthouse, a jail, one store and a scattering houses. The total population numbered around 25 people.

The 700 Union soldiers had spent the night of September 24th in Cerrogordo after moving north from Eucheeanna in Walton County (see First Fighting of the Marianna Raid) by way of Ponce de Leon Springs. Although a skirmish had been fought at Eucheeanna, the only casualty of the raid so far had been sustained at Ponce de Leon when a Union soldier was wounded in an accidental shooting.

Asboth practiced Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's concept of "total war." As he advanced, his men did as much damage as possible to the businesses and farms they encountered. The objective was to inflict so much suffering on the civilian population that Confederate soldiers in the main armies would desert to go home and care for their families.

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park
n Walton and Holmes Counties, barns were burned, livestock stolen or killed, foodstuffs taken or destroyed and a population made up primarily of the elderly, the disabled, women and children was left with little food or anything else with which to survive the coming winter. The log hotel or inn at Ponce de Leon Springs was "broken up" by the soldiers. The store, homes and courthouse at Cerrogordo were damaged.

The crossing of the Choctawhatchee moved slowly and it took all of the rainy day of September 25, 1864, for the soldiers to get across. They camped for the night in the mud on the east bank of the river, within view of their campsite of the previous evening at Cerrogordo across the water.

Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth
They would continue their advance on Marianna the next day, moving first on Campbellton. The Battle of Marianna was now just two days away.

A memorial service commemorating the 149th anniversary of the battle will be held in Marianna on Saturday, September 28th. The commemoration will begin at 9 a.m. (central) at Confederate Park in downtown Marianna (intersection of Lafayette and Caledonia Streets). The public is encouraged to attend. Historic St. Luke's Episcopal Church, where heavy fighting took place during the battle, will be open from 10 a.m. until 12 noon, with young people from the church and the Blue Springs Society of the Children of the American Revolution as hosts.

To learn more about the Marianna Raid, please consider my book - The Battle of Marianna, Florida - which is available on the right side of this page, through your favorite online bookseller or from the Walton County Historical Museum in Defuniak Springs, the Washington County Historical Museum in Chipley and Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna.

You can read more anytime at

Monday, September 23, 2013

First Fighting of Marianna Raid was 149 Year Ago Today

Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church in Eucheeanna
It was 149 years ago today on September 23, 1864, that the first fighting of the Marianna Raid took place.

Having left Pensacola Bay on September 18, 1864, Union troops led by Brig. Gen. Alexander Asboth reached the outskirts of the small community of Eucheeanna in Walton County during the pre-dawn darkness of September 23rd.

Aware that two detachments of Confederate cavalry were camped in the village, which was then the county seat of Walton County, Gen. Asboth ordered the 2nd Maine Cavalry to form a line of battle and charge. Led by Lt. Col. Andrew Spurling, the Maine cavalry hit Eucheeanna at daybreak, taking the Confederates there completely by surprise.

Church and Cemetery in Eucheeanna
The brief skirmish at Eucheeanna, in which no one was reported wounded on either side, was the first clash of Asboth's Raid on Marianna, an expedition that would culminate on September 27, 1864, at the Battle of Marianna.

Eucheeanna, Florida
The Confederates at Eucheeanna consisted of two detachments of cavalry. One, from the Fifteenth Confederate Cavalry, had come over from the large Confederate post in Pollard, Alabama.  The other, from Captain Robert Chisolm's Woodville Scouts of the Alabama State Militia, had been sent from Marianna. Both detachments were "enforcing the conscription." In 1864 terminology, "enforcing the conscription" meant the same thing as drafting soldiers would mean today.

The detachments escaped via the Geneva Road, although several prisoners were taken by the attacking Federals. Among those captured was Lt. Francis Gordon of the Fifteenth Confederate Cavalry. Several civilians also were captured during the attack, among them William Cawthon, Allen Hart and Col. William Torrance. Cawthon and Hart were cattle ranchers with large herds in the Walton County area. Torrance was a former officer from the Alabama State Militia who had been sent down to purchase beef for his state's troops.

Historic Marker at Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church
The Union troops also captured 46 horses, 8 mules, 26 stand of arms and a quantity of bar lead bearing the stamp of a factory in Baltimore, Maryland. They also helped themselves to all the corn, hogs, chickens, smoked meat and anything else of value they could find in the homes of the little community. Many families were left without a scrap of food and no way of getting any when the soldiers left Eucheeanna the next morning.

One of the Union soldiers also raped a woman and her teenage daughter after finding them at home alone in a remote area just outside the village.

The county seat of Walton County has since been moved to DeFuniak Springs, but the little community still exists and can be found about three miles southeast of DeFuniak Springs. The historic Euchee Valley Presyterian Church and Cemetery predate the War Between the States.

I will post more about the Marianna Raid and the Battle of Marianna over coming days, so be sure to check back often.  Until then you can read more at

If you haven't read it, be sure to check out my book - The Battle of Marianna, Florida.  It is available through or your favorite online book seller as well as at the Walton County Heritage Museum in Defuniak Springs, the Washington County Historical Museum in Chipley and Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna. If you prefer, you can order it by clicking the book cover on the right side of this page.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Editor supports targeting of my deceased dad over Dozier story

On Saturday (9/7/2013) I posted a statement here that a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times was investigating my deceased father because of my personal stand on the Dozier School Cemetery issue.

Please follow this link to read my original statement: Tampa reporter targets my deceased father over Dozier story.

My father was never an employee of Dozier School, had no association of any kind with the Dozier School Cemetery and no involvement with the "White House" abuse allegations involving Dozier School.  The reporter, Ben Montgomery, indicates he is investigating my father because he is "trying to figure out why you're so vociferous."

In other words, Mr. Montgomery admits he is investigating my late father because I dared to exercise my rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

I have filed a protest of his conduct with both the President/CEO and Managing Editor of his newspaper. I have received the following response from Mike Nelson, Managing Editor of the Tampa Bay Times:

From: ""
To: Dale Cox
Sent: Monday, September 9, 2013 11:28 AM
Subject: Re: Improper conduct by Times reporter

Dear Mr. Cox,

As I told you before, Ben Montgomery has the Tampa Bay Times' full support in his efforts to find the truth of what happened at Dozier.


Mike Wilson
Managing Editor
(phone) 727-892-2924 | (fax) 727-893-8675
Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times)
Florida’s largest newspaper now has a name that matches the region it serves.
twitter: @mwilsontimes | Facebook: 


Mr. Wilson's statement indicates to me that if you use your First Amendment rights to speak out against any issue on which his newspaper has taken a position, he will consider it acceptable for his newspaper's reporter to target and investigate your deceased parents.

In my view, this conduct on the part of the Tampa Bay Times is unethical, immoral and improper. If you would like to voice your opinion to Mr. Wilson, his email is

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tampa reporter targets my deceased father over Dozier story

At 11:06 p.m. on Friday night (September 6, 2013), Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times) informed me that he is investigating my late father.

Mr. Montgomery sent me an email informing me of this action on his part roughly 10 minutes after sending out a Tweet demanding that I change the content of a story I posted on this blog two days ago about a dog being exhumed by the University of South Florida at the Dozier School Cemetery. I have refused to make the change requested by Mr. Montgomery.

Subsequently, ten minutes after making his demand for the story change, he sent me the following email:

 ----- Forwarded Message -----
From: ""
To: Dale Cox
Sent: Friday, September 6, 2013 11:06 PM
Subject: Re: Dozier

Dale --

Do you know what your father's role was at ACI? I've requested his employment records, but I was wondering if you might shed any light on his time there. I know trustees from ACI were often involved in helping track down Dozier escapees, but do you know whether your father would have been involved in any of those efforts? 


Sent from my iPhone


As you can see, Mr. Montgomery indicates he has requested my late father's employment records. 

I find this action on his part to be uncalled for and disgusting. My father was never an employee of Dozier School for Boys and died at about the time the whole "White House Boys" story first developed. He was never involved with the story.

Mr. Montgomery followed at 12:06 a.m. today with another email explaining that he was investigating my late father because he was "just trying to figure out why you're so vociferous." In other words, he is investigating my late father because I have exercised my Constitutional right of Free Speech.

The media considers itself the guardian of the First Amendment, yet in this case Mr. Montgomery is targeting my late father because I have spoken publicly about the Dozier School story. You can judge for yourself whether that is right or wrong.

My dad, as all who knew him will testify, was an honorable and decent man. To know that a reporter who disagrees with me on the Dozier issue has decided to investigate him is disgusting and sickening.

If you would like to voice your opinion on this matter, I encourage you to do so by writing to the managing editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He is Mr. Montgomery's boss.  His email address is

Dale Cox
September 7, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

White House Boy now claims "missing" boys must have been eaten by hogs or sent to dump!

Student with a Prize Hog
(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory Collection)
Just when it seemed as if the wild stories told by some of the so-called "White House Boys" couldn't get any wilder, one now says that the reason murdered boys won't be found in the current dig at the Dozier School Cemetery is because they were "thrown in the dump" or "fed to the hogs."

Even though various members of the various White House Boys groups have been demanding for years that the cemetery be dug up by the University of South Florida, they now seem to be hedging their bets. This after more than $600,000 in taxpayer money has been provided for the project they demanded and after Governor Rick Scott and the members of the Florida Cabinet overruled the system set up by Florida law for such projects. A circuit judge, the state archaeologist and the Secretary of State all had denied permission for the project to go forward.

Memorial Area of Dozier School Cemetery
In an interview this week with the Graceville News - a Jackson County newspaper - one of the "White House Boys" said that the world would no longer be able to call him "a liar," but then launched into a long explanation of why the bodies of murdered students won't be found.

The man, who I am not identifying because he has received enough publicity from his changing stories, once claimed he had seen a boy burned to death in a dryer at the school's laundry. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, however, he changed his story under oath to claim that he hadn't actually seen the alleged event that the Tampa Bay Times breathlessly reported he had witnessed.

Students tend to hogs at Dozier School
(State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory)
He now says that murdered boys won't be found on the campus of the Marianna school because they were burned in the incinerator, tossed in the dump, buried under the road or even chopped into pieces and fed to the hogs!

Apparently these would be the same hogs that were cared for by the students themselves and that they often entered in the Jackson County Fair, just as did students from other schools throughout the county.

The wild story is just the latest in a series of stories that have grown wilder and wilder since the groups surfaced a little over 5 years ago with claims that boys were beaten to death and murdered at the school more than 50 years ago. They have yet to provide a single name of a single boy they allege was murdered, but the claims by some of them grow wilder and wilder.

All graves exhumed so far were inside the traditional cemetery
and within the view of this photo, which shows the memorial
erected by staff members and students in the background.
The Graceville News also joined the growing list of U.S. newspapers to falsely report that the University of South Florida has located graves "outside the known burial grounds." The reporter seems not to understand that the small memorial of crosses erected by Dozier School employees and students in the 1960s is not the known burial ground, but instead is simply a memorial placed by them in memory of the students and employees known to be buried on the hill.

The actual burial ground is larger, was shown on federal and state maps as far back as the 1940s and originally was surrounded with a wire fence that no longer can be seen, although parts of it were found in the dirt that USF researchers had bulldozed from the cemetery along with ornamental cedar trees that once marked actual grave sites.

Partially surviving row of cedar trees at Dozier School Cemetery
The anthropologists, archaeologists and even a reporter they allowed to help them appear clueless to the fact that in the South, cedar trees often were planted at the head of graves. In earlier times, graves often were marked with wooden crosses or markers that deteriorated with time. To make sure graves could always found, people of earlier generations often planted cedar trees to help mark them far into the future.

The Dozier School Cemetery once included rows of cedar trees marking the actual grave sites. USF, however, had some of these trees pushed away using heavy equipment so researchers could search for graves - apparently not realizing the trees actually marked the graves.

Some of the trees survive and, as expected, one stands directly at the head of one of the two graves exhumed so far.

To read more about the real facts of the dig so far, please visit these links:

Facts from the first phase of the Dozier School Cemetery digging

USF digs up a dog at Dozier School

Thursday, September 5, 2013

USF digs up a dog at Dozier School

Memorial Crosses at Dozier School Cemetery.
They were placed by staff and students in the 1960s.
UPDATED 9/6/2013 - Researchers from the University of South Florida used at least some of the more than $600,000 in taxpayer money they have been given to dig up the grave of a dog at the Dozier School Cemetery.

The cemetery is located on a hilltop on the campus of the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida. The majority of the graves there date from prior to 1940 and contain the victims of a tragic fire that took place in 1914 and students as well as staff members who died during flue outbreaks in 1918 and during the 1930s.

Local residents and former employees of the school have long warned that some of the graves at the cemetery contain the remains of animals. Those warnings have now been verified.

A source close to the investigation indicates that hours were spent during the first phase of the taxpayer-funded project to dig up the remains of a dog that were buried in an old Coleman-type cooler.

Ben Montgomery, a reporter for a Tampa area publication, did not report that a potential grave revealed a dead dog, but confirms that he was aware of it:

"Dog was found months ago, during trenching. Not during Phase 1. It was modern. Included in report to the state."

Why a reporter covering this story would not consider the discovery newsworthy is not clear. Local residents have long said that animals would be found buried at the site. He incorrectly equates my statement about the "first phase" of the project with "Phase 1" as defined by USF. I was speaking of the phase of the project that involved the trenching he mentions in his post on Twitter.

Pets known to be buried at the cemetery include two dogs and a peacock named Sue. So far as is known, the University of South Florida team has not yet located the remains of the peacock.

All human remains exhumed so far have been found in the
area of this photo. The small memorial placed in the 1960s
can be seen at left. The two human graves were removed from
the area of disturbed earth at right.
The only two human graves exhumed so far turned out to contain the apparent remains of former Dozier students who had been buried - as local residents and former employees predicted - with proper care. The remains had been buried in coffins and one burial even included the pins from a burial shroud such as was used in the early 1900s.

No evidence of criminal activity has been found thus far and neither of the graves exhumed so far proved to be "clandestine" (as researchers and others have repeatedly claimed).

The entire media appears to have decided to ignore the exhumation of the dog, as no stories about the discovery have appeared. In addition, media reports that remains have been found "in the woods" our outside the "traditional boundary" of the cemetery are false. All graves located so far are within the boundary of the old cemetery fence.

To read more about the results of the dig so far, please see yesterday's post:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Facts from the first phase of the Dozier School Cemetery digging

Memorial Area at Dozier School Cemetery
Researchers from the University of South Florida, along with law enforcement volunteers and even reporters, started digging last weekend at the Dozier School Cemetery in Marianna, Florida.

The first phase of their work is now over and they are not expected to return until October or November.

Contrary to what you may have read in newspapers or heard on television, here are the facts so far:
  • NO "clandestine" graves have been found. The graves located so far turned out to be historic graves that clearly demonstrated proper care was given to the bodies at the time they were buried.
  • Evidently unfamiliar with what happens to the terrain around Marianna during seasons of heavy rain, the researchers experienced problems due to the rain soaked condition of the ground at the cemetery. Instead of exhuming 4-5 graves as they expected, they only managed to dig up two.
  • NO graves have been found outside the traditional limits of the cemetery. ALL graves located so far are inside the old fence line of the Dozier School Cemetery and the limits of the cemetery as shown on state plats and federal topographic maps dating from the 1940s. (Some media outlets have incorrectly reported otherwise).
  • The two graves exhumed so far reveal that the bodies were interred in coffins, not just "dumped in holes" as some have claimed, and that proper mortuary procedures of the time were followed when the burials took place. Pins from burial shrouds were even found in the graves.
  • NO evidence of criminal activity has been found.
To make a long story short, investigators at the Dozier School Cemetery have found exactly what local people and former Dozier employees said they would find - historic graves prepared according to proper religious and mortuary practices of the time. 

To correct a few other media errors that have been prevalent this week:
  • The memorial crosses at the cemetery were placed there by Dozier employees, NOT the University of South Florida.
  • The memorial at the cemetery dates back to the 1960s, thirty years earlier than reported by the Tampa Bay Times. 
  • The cable around the memorial crosses is NOT the traditional boundary of the cemetery as some media outlets have reported. The actual traditional boundary surrounds 1-2 acres of land and originally consisted of a wire fence.
I'll post other updates as work continues this fall and winter, but so far researchers have found nothing more than local citizens predicted they would find.