|The Chipola River flows past the site of Howell's Mills.|
Joseph H. Howell owned the west or right bank of the river
at this point. Richard Keith Call owned the east or left bank.
Marianna was founded that year by Robert and Anna Maria Beveridge, igniting an almost instant political war with nearby Webbville over which town would emerge as the permanent county seat. Webbville in turn announced a sale of town lots to fund the construction of Jackson County's first public school. Dr. H.B. Crews of Webbville fought the first recorded duel in county history against Mr. J.O. Sewall at the Alabama line near present-day Campbellton on July 30, 1829. Please see: A Duel near Campbellton in 1829.
The Florida Territorial Council, meeting in Tallahassee on November 10, approved the construction of a water mill south of Marianna on the Chipola River by Mr. Joseph H. Howell:
Be it enacted by the Governor and Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, That Joseph H. Howell, be, and he is hereby authorised and vested with all the rights and privileges of building a set of mills, gins, or any other machine on the Chipola river in Jackson County, where the same runs thro' section twenty three, in Township four, range ten, north and west, and to use the waters of said river for the use of said mills, or machine, in any way he may think proper. Provided he shall in no case, obstruct the passage and free navigation of said river.
|Paddlers stop to climb a tree at the site of Howell's Mills.|
It is not known how long it took for Joseph Howell to get his mills into operation following the receipt of approval from the Territorial Council. He clearly had activity underway on the site by the end of 1830 when he obtained a patent for 79.68 acres from the Tallahassee Land Office in a cash entry purchase. The parcel made up the West 1/2 of the Southeast 1/4 of Section 23, Township 4 North, Range 10 West.
The other half of the quarter section was claimed on the same date by Richard Keith Call, a noted associate of President Andrew Jackson and future governor of Florida. He was also involved in the simultaneous development of Marianna and his acquisition of land directly across the river from Howell's Mills is a clear indication that he expected them to become a landmark on the Chipola.
|Section 23, the site of Howell's Mills, as shown on an 1826|
survey plat. Spring Creek enters the Chipola River at upper
right. Bridge Creek flows in at lower right. The mills stood on
the left side of the river near the bottom of Section 23.
The mills probably included a grist mill, sawmill and cotton gin. Timber and cotton were among the county's earliest exports, with Florida newspapers reporting the arrival of cargoes of each from up the Chipola on barges and pole boats. Most Chipola River commerce went to Apalachicola (then called West Point), but some was portaged over from the river into Bear Creek and St. Andrew Bay for transport via the small port that had developed near the site of today's Deer Point Dam.
The Chipola River would continue to be used as a way of moving commerce for more than 100 years, proving the wisdom of the Legislative Council's requirement that Howell's operation not "obstruct the passage and free navigation of said river."
|The author paddles down crystal clear Spring Creek on the way|
to see the site of Howell's Mills in Jackson County, Florida.
The mills no longer stand. A few cut limestone blocks can still be seen beneath the water at the site when the river is clear, silent reminders to one of Jackson County's earliest industries.
To learn more about the early history of Jackson County, please consider my book: The History Of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years.
January 27, 2017