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Friday, December 11, 2020

100+ Covid-19 Deaths reported in Jackson County

4,000+ Cases, 100+ Deaths in Jackson County since February 

by Dale Cox

Nearly one-tenth of the population of Jackson County has contracted Covid-19 since the pandemic first struck the area in February. More than 100 of those with the illness have died.

The county reached the sad milestone last night when the Florida Department of Health reported statistics through Tuesday night, December 8, 2020. Current statistics for the county are:

  • 102 Deaths 
  • 4,082 Cases (4,030 Residents and 42- Non-Residents)
  • 246 Hospitalizations.

Jackson County's death rate from Covid-19 is significantly higher than that of neighboring Gadsden County, although the two counties are similar in population size. 

Jackson County's estimated population is 46,414, while Gadsden County's is estimated at 45,660. As of this week, 102 people have died from Covid-19 in Jackson County while Gadsden County reports 58 deaths.

Statewide the number of deaths has fallen this week, despite a dramatic surge in numbers of new cases. In local counties, the death toll from the pandemic is as follows:

  • Bay County (180 deaths)
  • Calhoun County (22 deaths)
  • Gadsden County (58 deaths)
  • Holmes County (17 deaths)
  • Jackson County (102 deaths)
  • Liberty County (14 deaths)
  • Walton County (39 deaths, )
  • Washington County (27 deaths)

You can check daily statistics for any county by visiting Florida's Covid-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.  


Monday, November 30, 2020

Archaeology & History mark Seminole War Battle Anniversary

Today marks the 203rd anniversary of the Scott Battle of 1817. The first Native American victory of the Seminole Wars, this engagement took place on the bank of the Apalachicola River at what is now River Landing Park in Chattahoochee, Florida. Click play above to learn more about the battle and a new archaeology project that is aimed at finding key evidence from the battlefield itself!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Return to Gator Hole Cave!

Click play to watch Two Egg TV's return to Gator Hole Cave at Merritt's Mill Pond as Jackson County prepares to end the drawdown that has temporarily exposed the cave. It will soon be underwater again!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

StarLink expanding to area in January!

 Internet Speeds to Soar as Elon Musk's Dream reaches Rural USA

News broke this morning that residents of Northwest Florida, Southeast Alabama, and Southwest Georgia will FINALLY have a real option for high-speed internet. 

StarLink, the low-earth orbiting satellite constellation pioneered by Tesla and Space-X founder Elon Musk, will expand throughout the United States in January. Every household in the region will be able to receive it regardless of location.

The service is currently available in Canada and the northern United States, providing speeds of up to 100 Mbps (megabytes per second). By comparison, CenturyLink currently limits some customers in Jackson County, Florida, for example, to less than 10 Mbps. They completely refuse to connect other customers. Similarly, internet via cellular service is not available in many areas. 

StarLink provides low-latency service from arrays of satellites that it has been launching from Cape Canaveral. Unlike HughesNet and other current satellite providers, which provide limited service at speeds of around 25 Mbps, Starlink does not experience "delays" between the ground and the satellite that cause difficulty with internet connections, particularly in streaming video such as movies and television programs. 

StarLink also does not currently place data caps on its service.

The service is designed primarily for customers in rural areas who either have no internet or who have long suffered from substandard service provided by companies that focus on more populated areas. 

The present cost of the service is $99 per month and customers are responsible for purchasing their own antenna in order to receive the signal. More information is expected from the company soon.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Yaupon Holly: Nature at Florida Caverns

Yaupon Holly, a wild shrub found at Florida Caverns State Park and throughout the region, produces more natural caffeine than any other native plant in North America. 

Southeastern Native Americans - including the Muscogee (Creek), Yuchi, Seminole, and others - used it as a primary ingredient in the preparation of the "black drink." 

Learn more from Asst. Park Manager Billy Bailey of Florida Caverns by clicking the play button above:

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hog Killing Time is Coming!

We had a little touch of chilly weather this morning! It reminds us that winter is on the horizon and it won't be long until Hog Killing Time is here. Click the play button to learn about this old-timey tradition from a great storyteller at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement in Blountstown, Florida.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Eastern Red Cedar: Nature at Florida Caverns

Eastern Red Cedar is much loved for the scent and color that it gives to closets and cedar trunks, but did you know that it also is a vital part of the ecology of the United States and Canada? Play the video to learn more from Billy Bailey, Assistant Park Manager at Florida Caverns State Park!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Jackson Blue Spring Construction Update (11/5/2020)

The massive overhaul of Jackson Blue Springs at the head of Merritt's Mill Pond near Marianna, Florida, is on-schedule and showing impressive progress! Click play to watch the latest update from Two Egg TV's Lindsay Kiefer.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ghost of Bellamy Bridge: Storytelling at Landmark Park

Sit back and enjoy an old-fashioned storytelling event at Landmark Park in Dothan, Alabama! The focus of this story is Marianna, Florida's notorious "ghost of Bellamy Bridge."

The Black Willow: Creek and Seminole Indian Headache Cure!

Creek and Seminole Indians (and their ancestors!) used a tree common in the Apalachicola, Chipola, and Choctawhatchee River valleys as a headache cure long before pharmacies dotted the landscape! Learn more in "Nature at Florida Caverns," a special feature from Assistant Park Manager Billy Bailey of Florida Caverns State Park.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Merritt's Drawdown Impact on Fish & Ecology

What impact is the drawdown of Merritt's Mill Pond having on its world record fish? And how long will the drawdown last? Those are just two of the questions that Lindsay and Crystal answer in this look at the ecological impact of the mill pond drawdown! Click the play button to watch.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Marianna UFO of 1955

UFO (unidentified flying object) stories are now part of American culture, albeit a hotly debated part. In 1955, however, they were breaking news and the military often kept them top secret. Such was the case with an incident that year in the skies over Jackson County that ranks as one of the nation's first government-verified UFO sightings.

Today's Marianna Municipal Airport was the home of Graham Air Base in 1955. Opened in 1953, Graham Air Base was a U.S. Air Force Contract Primary Flying Training Base where many of America's top Cold War and Vietnam era pilots were trained. Home to the 3300th Pilot Training Group, it provided pilot training on AT-6, PA-18, T-28, and T-34 propeller aircraft until 1957 when T-37 jet trainers were added to compliment.

On December 6, 1955, a civilian radar operator was working his normal shift at Graham Air Base when he detected something unusual on his scope. An unidentified object suddenly streaked into radar range, entering Jackson County from the south at a high rate of speed.

As the operator watched by radar, the UFO flew over Jackson County at a speed faster than any known U.S. Air Force plane. It first appeared to be following the Apalachicola River but angled to the northwest as it passed over Jackson County, a route that carried it close to both Marianna and the airbase.

USAF Record Card of Marianna UFO
When first observed, the object was flying at an altitude of about 15,000 feet, but as it streaked north over Alabama it climbed to an altitude of 30,000 feet.  It was lost from radar as it passed over Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Alarmed by the approach of the object, the Flight Service Center commander at Maxwell notified the Air Defense Command at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the Air Force Chief of Staff in Washington, DC:

...One unidentified flying object sighted over Marianna FLA at 0100E Aircraft radar. Object at 15000 feet over Marianna FLA. Object proceeded to Montgomery ALA climbing to 30,000 FT elapsed time of object from Marianna FLA to Montgomery ALA five minutes. Object presently over Maxwell AFB. - Project Blue Book Record, U.S. Air Force, December 6, 1955.

Graham Air Base Historical Marker
Whatever it was, the UFO traveled the distance from Marianna to Montgomery (around 140 miles) in just five minutes. That equals around 28 miles per minute or 1,680 miles per hour.

Kept top secret at the time, the sighting was investigated by the U.S. Air Force as part of its "Project Blue Book." Between 1952 and 1970, Air Force investigators examined 12,618 alleged UFO incidents. Of that number, only 701 remain listed as "unidentified." The 1955 Marianna incident is one of those 701 cases.

Graham Air Base in the 1950s.
State Archives of Florida/Memory Collection
According to the Project Blue Book record card for the incident, investigators were unable to classify the UFO sighting due to "insufficient data for evaluation."

At least one person reported seeing an object in the sky over northern Jackson County at about the time of the incident. The eyewitness later recalled that he was on a trip from Alabama to Florida with his parents along US 231 when they suddenly saw an unidentified object fly over the highway near the Florida-Alabama line. He described it as a saucer-shaped object with red lights around its bottom. It made no sound. Whether it was the UFO picked up by radar operators is not known.

To this day, the Marianna UFO of 1955 has never been explained. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Marianna imposes mandatory Mask Order for businesses


The Marianna City Commission imposed the following by a 4-1 at its meeting on Tuesday, September 1, 2020. It takes effect immediately:




WHEREAS, The City of Marinna (“City”) is a municipality granted home rule authority pursuant to Article VIII, Section 2 of the Constitution of the State of Florida and may exercise its governmental, corporate and proprietary powers for municipal purposes, including to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety and welfare; and

WHEREAS, the City of Marianna is empowered, pursuant to Section 166.041(3)(b), Florida Statutes, to adopt emergency ordinances by a two-thirds majority vote; and WHEREAS, the World Health Organization, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, President of the United States, Governor of the State of Florida and the City of Marianna have all acknowledged and declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, to be an international, national, state and local emergency; and

WHEREAS, on March 9, 2020, the Governor of the State of Florida issued Executive Order 20-52 authorizing, among other things, local governments to execute their authority under the State Emergency Management Act; and

WHEREAS, since March 17, 2020, the City Commission has taken careful and measured action by Resolution and Emergency Ordinances to balance the public health and safety while also monitoring the need to allow for recreational and commercial activity to safely continue; and

WHEREAS, on June 3, 2020, the Governor of the State of Florida issued Executive Order 20-139 enacting the “Phase 2: Safe. Smart. Step-By-Step Plan for Florida’s Recovery” which expanded guidelines on safe congregations and recreational activities; and 

WHEREAS, the City is home to the Florida Caverns, Blue Springs, the Chipola River and other natural and eco-friendly areas to many visitors each year, while also serving as the permanent home for approximately 6,500 residents; and

WHEREAS, U. S. Highways 90, 71 and 73 as well as Interstate 10 are main travel routes for visitors coming into the State of Florida from other states and for Floridians traveling east toward Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando and central and south Florida, and traveling west toward Pensacola, Mobile, New Orleans and other states; and

WHEREAS, since the reopening of the City’s recreational areas and local businesses under the enactment of Phase 2 Reopening, the City has seen an influx of visitors, and many of these visitors are exhibiting an attitude of carefreeness and indifference for CDC guidelines, regarding social distancing; and

WHEREAS, the City has observed that the reopening of the State has led to a corresponding rise in contact between individuals, the potential for increased community spread of COVID-19, and a rise in COVID-19 diagnoses in the City and in Jackson County; and

WHEREAS, since April 3, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (the “CDC”) has identified cloth face coverings by the public as an effective mitigation tool against the spread of COVID-19 transmission and provides guidance on how to wear, make and maintain cloth face coverings; and

WHEREAS, on June 22, 2020, State Surgeon General, Scott Rivkees, issued an additional public health advisory recommending people wear face coverings in any setting where social distancing is not possible, stating that in gatherings of fewer than 50 people, individuals should maintain at least six feet distance from each other or wear a face covering; and

WHEREAS, on July 12, 2020, the United States Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, issued recommendations that mandatory mask orders be put in place at “local and state levels”; and

WHEREAS, on July14, 2020, the CDC Director stated that “(c)loth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families and their communities”; and

WHEREAS, the CDC, writing in the Journal of American Medical Association, stated that "c)ommunity-level protection afforded by use of cloth face coverings can reduce the number of new infections and facilitate cautious easing of more societally disruptive community interventions such as stay-at-home orders and business closings”and placed special emphasis on wearing face coverings while indoors or in poorly ventilated areas; and

WHEREAS, on July 14, 2020, President Donald Trump, speaking with CBS News, urged Americans to follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask; and

WHEREAS, the City Commission finds that, based upon the recommendations of the medical community and the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the City and Jackson County, the continued risk of COVID-19 infection necessitates emergency measures to mitigate the spread;


SECTION 1. FINDING OF EMERGENCY: The foregoing recitals are true and correct and incorporated herein as if set out in full. For the reasons set out in the above recitals, the Commission finds and determines that the public health emergency facing the City requires enhanced restrictions adopted by this ordinance which are needed immediately to help address the dangers present in our nation, state and community.

SECTION 2. DEFINITIONS: For purposes of this Ordinance, the following terms shall have the meanings proscribed below:

A. “Business” means a location with a roof overhead under which any business is conducted, good are made, stored, processed, sold, or made available for sale, or where services are rendered. The term includes transportation network companies, such as Ubers and Lyft; vehicles operated for mass transit delivery services, taxis, limousines for hire, other enclosed passenger vehicles for hire.

B. “Face Covering” means a material that covers the nose and mouth in a manner that fits snugly against the sides of the face so there are no gaps. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk or linen.

C. “Wear a Face Covering” means the securing of a face covering over the person’s nose and mouth and snuggly against the sides of the face.

D. “Lodging Establishment” means any unit, group of units, dwelling, building, or group of buildings within a single complex of buildings which is rented to guests more than three (3) times in a calendar year for periods of less than 30 days or one (1) calendar month, whichever is less, or which is advertised or held out to the public as a place regularly rented to guests.

E. “Food Service Establishment” means a business licensed to sell food covered by Executive Order 20-139

F. “Bar” means a business licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption which is not also licensed to sell food.


A. Business Employees. All persons who own or manage a Business shall assure that all persons who are employed or contracted by a Business wear a Face Covering while working indoors within the course of and scope of their employment or contract with that Business unless specifically exempted in Section 4 of this Ordinance.

B. Signage. Each Business shall conspicuously post signage at all points of public entry in substantially the form provided by the City, notifying individuals of the requirements of this Ordinance, and encouraging all patrons to abide by CDC guidelines regarding the use of face coverings and social distancing.

SECTON 4. EXCEPTIONS. Section 3B of this Ordinance shall not apply to the following:

A. An individual with a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act shall be allowed to request a reasonable modification of this requirement from a Business subject to this Ordinance. Such reasonable accommodation shall include requiring a scarf, looser Face Covering or face shield, allowing curbside pick-up, outdoor service, or removal of the face mask.

B. A person who is communicating with an individual who is hearing impaired who needs to see the mouth of the person speaking to facilitate communication.

C. Public safety, police, fire and other life safety and health care personnel whose use of personal protective equipment requirements are governed by their respective agencies and employers, while engaged in such employment.

D. Business owners, managers, employees and contractors who are in an area of a Business that is not open to customers, patrons, or the public while maintaining social distancing, excluding individuals involved in the preparation and service of food and beverages.


Retail Establishments, Food Service Establishments and Bars shall be subject to the following additional standards contained herein: 

A. Patron Waiting Procedures. Each Indoor Amusement, Retail Establishment, Food Service Establishment and Bar shall implement procedures designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 transmission through the following means:

1. Placing clearly marked areas for individual groups to congregate spaced at least six feet from other waiting congregations. Businesses may utilize designated parking spaces as a patron waiting area to implement this procedure.

2. Placing clear markers for patrons to maintain at least six feet social distancing in checkout areas.

B. Employee Screening. Retail Establishments, Food Service Establishments and Bars must daily screen each employee to ensure that no employee who is exhibiting symptoms of COPVID-19 is permitted to work. Upon discovering that a current employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the establishment shall immediately close and disinfect the building interior. Businesses must notify the public of such closure and shall be permitted to reopen upon certification by the City’s Code Enforcement Department, by the contractor licensed by the State of Florida in biomedical waste treatment and disposal.

C. 50% Capacity. Indoor Amusements, Restaurants, Retail Establishments and Bars shall operate at 50% of their indoor capacity, excluding employees, as determined by the Fire Inspector. This capacity limitation shall be modified from time to time as the executive orders from the Governor are amended.

SECTION 6. ENFORCEMENT. Any violation of this Ordinance may be enforced by a member of the City’s Policy Department, Fire Department or Code Enforcement Officer as follows:

A. First Offense. An initial violation shall be memorialized by a written warning and staff shall be directed to educate the violator of the substance of this Ordinance. For any first violation of Section 3 of this Ordinance, a violator without a Face Covering shall be supplied one.

B. Second Offense. Punishable by a civil citation of $50.00.

C. Third or Subsequent Offenses are as follows:

1. Punishable by a civil violation of $150.00; or 

2. An order to cease operation, as a public nuisance, for twenty-four (24) hours. The Commission specifically finds repeat violations of the provision of this Ordinance to be a threat to the public health, safety and welfare of the City. 


If any word, phrase, clause, section or portion of this Ordinance shall be held invalid or unenforceable by a court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of this Ordinance shall continue in full force and effect.


Upon passage by two-thirds of the members of the City Commission, this Ordinance shall take effect at 5:00 P.M. on September __, 2020, without further reading or publication, to address the real and present public health emergency presented by the spread of the COVID-19 virus and shall remain in effect until 12:00 P. M. on , 2020, unless such date is otherwise extended by resolution of the City Commission.

THIS ORDINANCE shall be effective immediately upon passage.

PASSED by the City Commission of the City of Marianna, Florida, in session on

the ______ day of September, 2020.




ATTEST: ______________________________

 Kimberly Applewhite, CLERK

Monday, July 6, 2020

State approves $50,000 for Chattahoochee's River Landing Park

Major Archaeology Project to Begin Soon.

by Rachael Conrad

Historical Markers and the large temple mound
at Chattahoochee's River Landing Park.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the state legislature have approved a $50,000 grant for River Landing Park in Chattahoochee, Florida. It is the second year in a row that the park has received significant funding through the state Division of Historical Resources.

The park is the location of noted multi-cultural archaeological and historical sites. Among these are Native American mounds, a War of 1812 fort, the battlefield where the first U.S. defeat of the Seminole Wars took place, wrecks of 19th and early 20th-century paddlewheel steamboats, historic Victory Bridge, and even an original section of the 17th-century Old Spanish Trail.

Historian and author Dale Cox, who wrote the grant application for free as a donation to the community, said that the money will fund the most significant archaeological research project in the history of the Chattahoochee Landing site.

River Landing Park as seen from the air.

"These dollars, which the community is so blessed to receive in a year when the Governor was forced to cut over $1 billion in spending from the state budget, shows just how important this site is to Chattahoochee, our area, and the state as a whole," he said.

The grant is available immediately and will be used to better determine the specific sites of archaeological and historical features at the park so they can be preserved while clearing the way for future development and improvements.

"This project is really unique," Cox said, "because it provides a chance to preserve the past while assuring the future. The City of Chattahoochee wants to add a canoe launch and make other improvements to the park. This will help move that project forward while, at the same time, it will save the prehistoric mounds from further erosion and protect precious parts of the past."

The grant was submitted in early 2019 by Chattahoochee Main Street. A previous grant, also for $50,000, funded a new interpretive trail that will be installed at River Landing Park later this month. Combined, the two projects provide a total investment of $100,000 in the cultural resources at the park.

Enjoy this video to learn more about the history of River Landing Park:

Friday, June 12, 2020

Street Philosophy Institute rejects NAACP call to preserve "Claude Neal" tree

Statement from Darien Pollock

The "Claude Neal" tree in Marianna, Florida
The following statement was issued this evening by Darien Pollock, the President of the Street Philosophy Institute, Inc., in response to a statement from the Jackson County NAACP expressing support for preserving the "Claude Neal" tree at the courthouse in Marianna:


As the President of the Street Philosophy Institute, Inc., and native of Jackson County, Florida, I want to express publicly that I am thoroughly disappointed in our local NAACP chapter for failing to be sensitive to the desires and interests of not only the Black community but the citizens of Jackson County at large.

This recent statement by the NAACP is a prime example of why Jackson County and surrounding areas continue to be (at least) 30 years behind the rest of our country culturally and politically. It’s also a grave reminder of how many of our (white-minded) Black leaders have sold out the integrity and credibility of our historically Black institutions, exploiting them for personal gain against the benefit and at the detriment of the most vulnerable and silenced members of our community.

On behalf of SPI, and the close to 6,000 signatories of our recent petition to remove the Claude Neal lynching tree and establish a memorial in honor of *all* victims of racial terrorism in Jackson, County, I want to emphasize that I wholeheartedly reject this proclamation by our local NAACP chapter and view it as an example of gross political malpractice.

Jackson County NAACP supports preserving "Claude Neal" tree

President Linda B. Franklin issued the following statement on Friday, June 12, 2020:

The "Claude Neal" tree in Marianna, Florida
The Jackson County NAACP understands the history of what has been named the “Claude Neal” tree as it relates to the horrific event that took place at the Jackson County Courthouse in 1934. The display of Mr. Claude Neal’s deceased body being hung on the tree was a sign of the deeply rooted hatred that existed in
Jackson County due to racism. It is a part of Jackson County’s history that will not be forgotten. It is history which should be taught to every generation of all races. 

This tree not only represents the horrific events surrounding the lynching of Mr. Claude Neal. It also represents the entrepreneurship of one of the first African Americans that was awarded a contract by Jackson County. This entrepreneur was Mr. Aesop Bellamy who planted this tree and many others around the courthouse in 1873. Therefore, history of the planting of the tree should be taught along with the events that led up to the hanging of Mr. Neal’s body and the events that followed. 

This tree can be used as a visual to teach the good and the bad history of Jackson County. For this reason, the Jackson County NAACP stands with the descendants of Mr. Neal and takes the position of the “Claude Neal” tree being preserved and not cut down. We hope the conversations surrounding the tree will bring awareness of the past, healing to the present and knowledge to the future. Dr. Maya Angelou said, “History despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” 

Linda B. Franklin, President
Jackson County NAACP

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Two Trees, a Lynching, and the Future

Dealing with yesterday to improve tomorrow.

A Commentary by Dale Cox

The actual "Claude Neal" tree at the Jackson
County Courthouse faces Madison Street. 
Thirty years before I was born, six men took a man named Claude Neal into the deep swamps of the Chattahoochee River in Jackson County, Florida. They chained him to a tree, tortured him, and murdered him.

The crime was so brutal that residents miles away heard the farm laborer's screams. After Neal was dead, the men of the self-dubbed "Committee of Six" threw his body onto the back bumper of a car and carried it to the Cannady farm near Greenwood. The remains were kicked from the bumper as the vehicle approached the house. The body was dragged by the neck into the yard.

Claude Neal was accused of killing Lola Cannady, the 18-year-old daughter of farmer and furniture maker George Cannady. She was attacked as she pumped water for the family livestock, beaten with a hammer, and thrown into a muddy pen for the hogs to eat. She regained consciousness, climbed over a fence, and started to crawl across a peanut field, but her murderer saw her and attacked her again. This time she was dragged deep into a wooded area where her skull was crushed with an oak limb. Her body was hidden beneath fallen trees and debris.

The Jackson County Courthouse as it appeared in
1934. The structure was later demolished.
Lola Cannady slept in a cold grave by the time Claude Neal's body was shot full of bullet holes in the front yard of the Cannady home. He was already dead by then. Neighbors threw his body onto a flatbed truck and carried it to Marianna. 

Neal was hanged from a tree outside the courthouse as a message to Sheriff W.F. "Flake" Chambliss, who had gone to extraordinary lengths to save the unfortunate man from death at the hands of the mob. The lawman found the body a short time later, cut it down, and carried it to the nearby jail.

Claude Neal was black. Lola Cannady was white. He was married with a young daughter. She was engaged to be married. Both were murdered in the most brutal ways imaginable. Rumors about them turned into legends, which many now accept as fact. As if anything could excuse murder and the brutal way in which the two of them were killed.

The ghosts of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady still haunt Jackson County, crying out for justice. 

Lola is the more forgotten of the two. Not even a gravestone reminds us that she ever lived. For some reason, people seem not to care, yet she was a victim too.

"Cut it Down," and "Claude Neal" signs were
posted hist week on an oak tree at the Jackson
County Courthouse. The actual tree is visible at
left in the background.
Claude is better remembered. And there is the controversy that rises again to wrap itself around Marianna and Jackson County. A petition is circulating on the internet, demanding that a tree in front of the courthouse be cut down (see it here). Signs also went up on one of the courthouse oaks this week, pointing it out as the "Claude Neal" tree with the demand "Cut it down."

It is a refrain that rises and falls with the times. I have long known that many older people in Jackson County's African American community are sensitive about the tree, and understandably so. Some remember the terror of the riots that followed the Neal lynching and the fear that their homes would be burned down around them. They are fewer in number now, but they are still here.

I admit that I have been surprised by the growing passion among younger generations about the tree, even if there is sometimes confusion about which tree it is (more on that in a minute). This growing passion has caused me much reflection.

Aesop Bellamy's trees are seen here about
20-years after they were planted by the African
American businessman.
The courthouse trees - including the one used for less than one hour to display the body of Claude Neal - are historic in their own right. They were planted in 1873 by a man named Aesop Bellamy. A freedman or former slave, he was one of the county's first black businessmen. In what may be the earliest contract award by Jackson County to an African American, Bellamy was hired to plant 36 live oak trees around the courthouse. Not many of them survive, but they stand as a monument to this early entrepreneur.

The actual "Claude Neal" tree at the Jackson County Courthouse is not the oak in front that many people point to. It is the second tree from the northeast corner on the Madison Street side. The sheriff's office faced Madison Street in 1934, and Neal's body was hung there as a message to Sheriff Chambliss. The actual limb from which the body was suspended is no longer there, it was cut off years ago, but the tree remains.

The tree where the "Committee of Six" killed
Claude Neal was destroyed by Hurricane Michael
in 2018. Only the base of the trunk remains.
The other "Claude Neal" tree is the so-called Hanging Tree near Parramore Landing in eastern Jackson County. He was chained to it while he was tortured and murdered. I have guided classes from Florida State University to the tree on numerous occasions, braving snakes and briars to help them with their studies. Hurricane Michael largely destroyed it, leaving only the base of the trunk. 

So how do we, as a community, begin the process of putting the ghosts of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady to rest? 

That is a question that we should all put some time and thought into answering. The Bible teaches us to be merciful and kind to one another. We all see the world through different eyes, but there are many things that we all have in common, no matter our race or culture or background or religion. We all want our children and grandchildren to have better lives and a better place to live in.

I have some suggestions - and that's all they are, just suggestions - I have no more power than anyone else. Perhaps they are worth considering.
  1. Let's begin by offering the families of Claude Neal and Lola Cannady to place headstones on their graves. Neither grave is marked. If the exact burial spots cannot be identified, then the stones can be placed nearby.
  2. Jackson County, working with the Florida Division of Historical Resources, should place historical markers near the Neal murder site at Parramore Landing and the Cannady/Smith farm sites near Greenwood to interpret the events of 1934. Independent state historians should develop the text for the markers.
  3. The Jackson County Commission should convene a hearing to receive public input on the fate of the actual "Claude Neal" tree on the courthouse square. This tree is the second one south of the northeast corner of the square on the Madison Street side. Despite its historical significance, if the commissioners believe after hearing public input that community healing will result from its removal, it should be taken down and proper interpretive signage placed to explain why.
  4. If the tree is removed, "Aesop Bellamy Trees" rooted from acorns produced by the other oaks on Courthouse Square should be planted each year for 10-years at Jackson Blue Springs and other county parks.
  5. Regardless of the fate of the "Claude Neal" tree, the County Commission should adopt an ordinance declaring the other live oaks planted by Aesop Bellamy on the courthouse square to be Landmark Trees and providing for their permanent protection and care. The county should work with the Florida Division of Historical Resources to prepare an application for listing the trees (less the Claude Neal tree) on the National Register of Historic Places due to their connection to Aesop Bellamy, an African American entrepreneur of the Reconstruction era. The county should place a marker telling the story of Bellamy's trees.
  6. Finally, the Jackson County Tourist Development Council is encouraged to work in cooperation with the Jackson County Commission, the Jackson County Branch of the NAACP, the Florida Panhandle Natural and Cultural Resources Association (FPNCRA), and the Chipola Historical Trust to develop a multi-cultural driving tour of Jackson County. This tour should feature historic sites and landmarks of interest to people of all races and cultures, to inspire our young people and show them that it is possible to rise above circumstances to achieve great things.
These are my suggestions. I welcome you to make suggestions of your own as comments, and perhaps we can come up with a plan to move past the ghosts of the past and into a better future together.

All comments are moderated, so just be polite, and your thoughts will be shared. No bad language!