The History of Jackson County
Jackson County a Brief History
Established August 12, 1822, Jackson County is Florida’s third oldest county. Jackson County was created by an act of the Territorial Legislature while meeting at Fifteen Mile House near Pensacola. The county was originally stretched from the Choctawhatchee River to the Suwanee River, and from Alabama and Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico.
After a bitter and extended controversy, between the two towns of Marianna and Webbville, Marianna became the permanent county seat of government January 21,1829. Marianna was founded in 1827 by Robert and Anna Maria Beveridge who purchased three eighty acre tracts of land on a beautiful bluff along the Chipola River. They, together with associates, donated land where the first of three courthouses were to eventually stand on the same square. Marianna’s rival town in controversy over location of the county seat, Webbville, located about nine miles northwest of Marianna has long since passed from existence.
Hardy pioneers poured into the rich Chipola Country, blazing their way through a virtual wilderness to establish their new homes. Eventually, and typical of the deep south, cotton became “king” and numerous large plantations thrived on this “fleecy” cotton economy. Though their kingdom was eventually crushed by war and the changes it brought, they established rich family strains and a heritage that would not be blotted out.
After statehood in 1845, there came secession and the War Between the States. Jackson County’s John Milton served as Governor of Confederate Florida. One of the most tragic events in the county’s history occurred on September 27, 1864, when Marianna was raided by a band of Federals from the Union headquarters in Pensacola. A valiant but small group of older and younger citizens attempted to defend the town and a fierce battle ensued, primarily within the boundary of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Street. The church was burned, the community was looted and plundered, homes were countermanded, but miraculously Marianna escaped destruction. The invaders hastily retreated when word was received that Confederate aid was approaching.
Recovery ushered the people into the twentieth century and a return to prosperity. Though growth was never spectacular, Jackson County’s communities have been stable, the economy largely based upon agriculture.
Today the county is developing at the fastest pace in its history, while attempting to preserve its rich heritage.
Jackson County Fast Facts:
· Jackson County has the first building in Florida used specifically for banking; it is still standing today.
· Jackson County was founded by Robert Beveridge, a Scottish native in 1827.
· Florida’s oldest Baptist church is located in Jackson County.
· Creek Indians once occupied the area in Jackson County.
· Andrew Jackson passed the bill in 1822 to create Jackson County; prior to that Florida had only two counties.
· Jackson County was once comprised of two cities; Webbville (established in January) and Marianna (established in September).
· Webbville was the county seat of Jackson County until Robert Beveridge convinced government officials that Marianna should be the county seat with the promise of free land and construction of new government buildings by the end of the year Marianna was the new county seat.
· Spanish settlers documented time in Jackson County at both Blue Springs and crossing where we now call Bellamy Bridge.
· Jackson County has the only walk-through cave tour in Florida. Located at the Florida Caverns State Park.
· There are over 100 historical sites in Jackson County.
· Jackson County is home to one of the most haunted bridges in Florida; the Bellamy Bridge which is said to be haunted by Elizabeth Bellamy.
· Jackson County also houses another infamous haunted house, The Joseph Russ House which currently houses The Visitor’s Center.
· One of Civil Wars bloodiest battles to take place in Florida took place in Jackson County. The Battle of Marianna spanned several miles of land and ended with a large number of casualties from both sides. It has been referred to as “Florida’s Alamo”.
· A bible saved from burning St. Luke’s Church during The Battle of Marianna is still housed at St. Luke’s Church.
· Civil rights leader and journalist T. Thomas Fortune was born in Jackson County and in fact held his first job at The Marianna Courier.
· Caroline L. Hentz; 19th century novelist, lived her later years in Jackson County and was laid to rest at St. Luke’s Church Cemetery. Hentz’s son Thaddeus was wounded fighting near her grave during The Battle of Marianna.
· Actress Faye Dunaway was born in Bascom, FL.
· Governor John Milton, Governor during the Northern War of Aggression is buried at ST. Luke’s Cemetery in Marianna.
· Cole Younger; gunslinger and mastermind behind the criminal gang the James-Younger gang was born in Jackson County in 1844.
· Has more caves than any other county in the state of Florida.
· Only county in Florida that touches two other states.
· There are two species of birds that are only found in Jackson County.
· There are several species of endangered plant life located along the river banks of the Chipola.