Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#93 Irwin's Mill Creek (100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida)

Irwin's Mill Creek in Jackson County, Florida
Irwin's Mill Creek, a beautiful clear-water stream, is #93 on our list of 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.  Please click here to see previous installments on the list.

Once called the Ekanachattehatchee or "Red Ground Creek," Irwin's Mill Creek is fed by small springs just north of the Alabama state line. It flows to the southeast through Alabama's Chattahoochee State Park and across the line into the northeast corner of Jackson County. It flows into the Chattahoochee River just north of the State Highway 2 bridge into Georgia. The nearest landing is at Neal's Landing Park.

Irwin's Mill Creek
The creek is an ecological treasure. Very few spring-fed streams flow into the Chattahoochee River and Lake Seminole, but Irwin's Mill Creek looks more like one of the beautiful spring runs that feed the Chipola River than it does one of the sloughs and backwaters of Lake Seminole. It winds through a stunning floodplain swamp and at most times of the year is so clear that the bottom is clearly visible.

Historically, it flows through one of the most significant spots in Jackson County. The famed Money Pond, which supposedly holds the treasure of the pirate and adventurer William Augustus Bowles ("Billy Bowlegs"), is near and the creek forms the northern limits of the 18th century Creek Indian town of Ekanachatte ("Red Ground"). Please click here for more on the Money Pond.

Irwin's Mill Creek
Even before the late 1700s and the time of Bowles and Ekanachatte, the creek was a major landmark.The Spanish first pushed west from Mission San Luis (present-day Tallahassee) during the 1600 to bring the Christian faith to the Chacato (or Chatot) Indians. This tribe lived between the Chipola River and Holmes Creek in western Jackson County, northeastern Washington County and southwestern Houston County, Alabama. They were closely allied with a neighboring tribe that the Spanish called the Chisca but which many researchers believe were the ancestors of the modern Yuchi.

Irwin's Mill Creek
The Yuchi today are considered by the U.S. Government to be part of the Creek or Muscogee Nation, but historically they were an independent people. They have their own language, customs, ceremonial practices and traditions. They helped incite the Chacato people to rebel against and drive out the Franciscan missionaries, an act that brought the wrath of the Spanish military down on both groups.

When the Spanish first arrived, it appears that the Chisca or Yuchi lived in a village along the banks of Irwin's Mill Creek. The fled west into Walton and Okaloosa Counties after the Chacato rebellion, but for nearly one century afterward the site of their village on Irwin's Mill Creek was known as the Chiscatalofa Old Fields. The word "Chiscatalofa" literally means Chisca Town.  A village by that name remained associated with the Lower Creeks until their removal on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, but the original Chiscatalofa was in the northeast corner of Jackson County.

Irwin's Mill Creek
When the Red Ground Creeks arrived to establish Ekanachatte in the 1760s, they settled on the Chiscatalofa Old Fields since they were easier to clear for farming than the surrounding old grown forests.

After Ekanachatte was destroyed in 1818 and while Florida was still a Spanish colony, American settlers began to drift into the vicinity and settle on the abandoned fields of the village. Among those who established farms along what they called the "Conchatty Hatchy" were Joseph Brown, William Brown, Joseph Brooks, William Chamblis, James Irwin, Adam Kimbrough, William McDonald, William H. Pyke, George Sharp and Allis Wood.

James Irwin, one of these settlers who arrived in 1819-1820, built a dam and watermill on the creek where it crosses from Alabama into Florida. The dam and ruins of the mill still survive and represent the oldest American structural remains in Jackson County.

From that time until today, the stream has been known as Irwin's Mill Creek and it is one of the 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your list is pretty neat. I loot forward to you posting something I haven't heard of yet.
Matt Basford