If your ancestors helped settle the Florida panhandle in the early 19th century, at some point they lived in either Escambia, Walton or Jackson counties because that was the earliest panhandle counties. In 1821, Escambia was the only county in the panhandle. The following year Jackson was added. In 1823, Gadsden separated the eastern part of the panhandle from the western part and in 1824 Walton County was authorized and added between Escambia and Jackson. My early Florida families settled in the northern stretch of Escambia/Walton, in what would become Santa Rosa in 1842. Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for both Walton and Santa Rosa counties. It is in the northern parts of these and Okaloosa and Holmes counties where we can still get a feel for what our ancestors saw. We can still see some of their houses back in the woods and drive on roads that are slip-and-slides after a rain and whack-a-mole exercises when it is dry. I love driving along Highway 2 and imagining what it was like in 1825, or 1870, or 1913. Let’s take a glimpse at Walton County of a hundred years ago by exploring the Pensacola Journal pages highlighting Walton County in 1913.
Page eleven and the first page of the Walton County Edition of the March 1913 newspaper begins with an article by John L. McKinnon, a name known to any of us interested in Walton County. According to the Editor’s Note at the beginning of the article, it was written just a few days before McKinnon died. The article fits the pattern of most of the general articles found in the Pensacola Journal as they highlighted various other Panhandle counties. Full of praise and good points for the county and not much covered on any downside but there is still usually some good information about the county to be found. This one is well written. He mentions the Uchee Indians and the railroad and, of course, the great agricultural and timberland. The Chautauqua is there and in the middle of the article is a list of the post offices in Walton Co. in 1913. At the end of McKinnon’s article is one on the “Official Life” of Walton County that lists the mayor and Councilmembers of DeFuniak Springs and the county officials. The last article highlights DeFuniak Springs. Surnames on the page include KING, CAWTHORN, LAIRD, MADER, SIMMONS, WARD, CAMPBELL, GORDON, PARRISH, McLEAN, GILLIS, BELL, TROTMAN, TURNER and ARMES.
Page twelve starts with an article on the agricultural possibilities for Walton County but much of the space on the page is dedicated to DeFuniak Springs. There is a reasonably good picture of R. W. STORRS, who was the Editor for the DeFuniak Breeze at the time. In the article on DeFuniak, it mentions there are six churches and mentions the pastors’ names for each. There are two interesting short articles: one on the people voting for “modern hard roads” and the other on Company K, National Guard of Florida which was composed of sixty-five men from Walton County. W. W. FLOURNOY was Captain, J. M. FLOURNOY was 1st Lieutenant and Judge D. S. GILLIS was 2nd Lieutenant at its mustering in. They were designated as the escort for the Governor at the review of troops at Lake City and the escort company for President Roosevelt at Jacksonville. Both of these events occurred in 1905. Harley CAWTHORN became Captain in 1908. It was under Captain Cawthorn that the company became known as the “famous sharpshooters of DeFuniak”. A large ad for Murphree’s Chill Tonic claims to cure “Chills and Fever, Colds, LaGrippe, Malaria and Dengue Fever.”
Page thirteen has a variety of articles from “Good Health is Everywhere” to an article on Charles F. TURNER, a booster of Walton County that includes a photo of Turner. There is a dark picture of the Old Knox Hill School House and a number of ads for local businesses, King & Company General Merchandise (a distant cousin of mine), Murray’s Model Restaurant and Bakery, Adams Automobile and Machine Works and Beach Rogers & Co Manufacturers of Yellow Pine lumber.
Palmer College highlights page fourteen. Palmer was a small Presbyterian college started about 1908 utilizing the buildings that had once housed the State Normal College in DeFuniak Springs (see 24Oct2016 for my personal connection to the State Normal College). There is a nice photo of the girls’ dormitory at the college and details on how the college curriculum was structured. There is an interesting article by William KEMPER, the Principal of Palmer College on the change occurring during the era of the early 20th century and the need for a strong educational system. There is also an article on W. H. DANIEL, proprietor of the San Gala Hotel and resident of Freeport, with an accompanying photo. The rest of the page is ads but hidden in them are some insights and genealogy gems. Dr. E. L. TOWNSEND, a dentist in DeFuniak Springs, guarantees his work and indicates he is soliciting “white” patrons. DeFuniak Furniture as a complete stock of all manner of household items and is managed by D. D. McCASKILL. The First National Bank officers were J. J. McCASKILL, G. B. CAMPBELL and W. O. CAMPBELL in 1913.
The Florida Chautauqua is featured on page fifteen (see 16 Jan 2017). A very good history of the Florida Chautauqua fills the page, except for the advertisements. The one accompanying photo is very dark. The advertisements include one for the Hotel Chautauqua, proprietor W. J. HUGHES, and assistant manager J. L. MILBURN; the Circle Store, a general merchandise store run by W. T. MAY that carried “fancy groceries”; and an unincorporated bank run by W. L. CAWTHON. The ad for the hotel indicates they had a “free sample room”. I wonder if that was for just viewing or whether you got to sleep in it for one night before you decided to stay.
Freeport dominates page sixteen. A nice little article on the town and another on the Choctawhatchee Lumber Company. Both articles include names of people involved in the subject of the article. There is a great photo of the Freeport Drug Company with two very early cars parked in front and one of the Freeport Hotel. There is a short article on the post office in DeFuniak and the mail routes then current in the county. The rest of the page is ads for Freeport Livery Stable; W. H. ANDERSON; and Gulf Red Cypress Company, President: Sam R. GUYTHER, VP: C. D. CRAIGHEAD and Secretary: Karl E. EWALD.
The Florida Chautauqua returns to grace page seventeen. Across the top of the page under the heading is a nice panoramic view of the Chautauqua Lake, though it is dark and difficult to see detail. Below the photo is a long article by the Honorable Wallace Bruce, Founder of the Chautauqua. One of the remaining articles is on the inland waterway (Choctawhatchee Bay) and the last one is on Golden Acre Farm in Glendale. There is a paragraph in the last that lists the produce raised on the farm. The ads on the page are for the Circle Store, run by W. T. MAY in DeFuniak Springs and a real estate firm run by J. D. RUSS in Freeport.
We come back to DeFuniak Springs on page eighteen with a long article by Dr. C. B. McKinnon and a short article on the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in DeFuniak Springs. Given my knowledge of the rousing industry of bootlegging in the northern stretch of the Panhandle during the 19th and early 20th century, I feel certain these fine ladies had much to keep them busy. The Hughes Auto Supply Co., agents for Ford Cars has a large ad on the page and the Peoples Cash Store in Freeport has a half-page ad across the bottom.
Section Three for this edition of the newspaper also highlights various aspects of Walton County and opens with an article on the Walton County High School by the Principal, T. R. CORR. He discussed the curriculum and names some of the teachers. The article includes a photo of the school with students arrayed across the front but unfortunately, the students aren’t named. There is a half-page ad at the bottom for the San Gala Hotel and the Freeport Drug Co, W. H. DANIEL proprietor for both.
Page twenty gives us a wealth of information on a number of areas of the county. There is a nice, little article on Laurel Hill and one on the Founder of Laurel Hill, John H. GIVENS. An article on the High School in Laurel Hill and another article on Laurel Hill by the Honorable W. H. MAPOLES, the State Representative from Walton County. I guess it isn’t surprising that there is another article on DeFuniak Springs on this page, this one by Judge Stuart GILLIS, then the Mayor of DeFuniak. Euchee Valley is highlighted in an article by a citizen of Argyle who waxes eloquent on the “original settlement of white people” that at the time was approaching its 100th anniversary. There are a couple of small articles on the Chautauqua Hotel and the climate in the county and a number of photos of prominent citizens and locations.
The next page is a full page ad for Laurel Hill, “The Best and Most Centrally Located Farming Section in West Florida.” See the ad above and check out the excellent list of “Business Men” (there is a woman listed) included in the ad.
Page twenty-two gets back to articles with one on the Choctawhatchee National Forest Reserve, one on the alleged Fountain of Youth, one on the People’s Cash Store in Freeport, and one on the first store in DeFuniak Springs, built by W. L. CAWTHON. The ads on the page include 1) the Walton Land and Timber Company, 2) The Pure Food Store, 3) A Dry Goods Store, 4) The Southern States Life Insurance Company. Each of these lists principals in the business.
The next page contains a variety of articles from one on the Gulf Red Cypress Plant in Beatrice, a couple on local businessmen and politicians and one on the two banks in DeFuniak. Then there is a short one on “Should Women Be Allowed to Vote?” Ms. Spooner, the writer, was British and references Parliament, so I assume the article was originally written for the British audience. However, she makes arguments that were pretty common at the time. If you are a woman, likely your grandmother or great-grandmother was an adult at the time she was finally allowed to vote. Ads for Walton County Abstract and Real Estate Company and the Choctawhatchee Lumber Company complete the bottom of the page.
The community of Glendale finds itself highlighted on page twenty-four. I loved the initial paragraph, “ One of the hustling little towns of Walton County is Glendale, 10 miles or 33 minutes by auto from DeFuniak, and located on a branch of the National Highway, which insures the finest kind of roads down Glendale-way forever.” Let that sink in and remember it the next time you think your commute to work is taking too long. The article hits on the diversity of farm and manufacturing present in 1913 Glendale, as well as the retail and phone services available. I. L. SULLIVAN had a demonstration Satsuma orange grove, G. W. MURPHY’s brickyard is mentioned and a photo of the Murphy Building is included, the Glendale Telephone Co is highlighted as successful after only three years in business, the largest store in Glendale is owned by W. J. HOWELL, the postmaster D. E. MURPHY is mentioned, as is Dr. D. H. ADAMS. South of town, the Henderson-Matthews Turpentine Co. is highlighted and east of town the Henderson Bros Saw Mill and Cotton Gin is listed. The article gives a really good view of the community of 300 people.
One article on page twenty-four indicates that the folks of Walton Co believe in automobiles and cites the statistics that over 100 autos are owned in the DeFuniak Springs population of 2,016. Ads on this page are for the Glendale Telephone Company, Dr. D. H. ADAMS, the Glendale Mercantile Co, the Glendale Development Company, and the general merchandise dealer A. W. DANNELLY. Tucked below the photo of the Murphy Building are a couple efforts at humor. It can be interesting to look at humor through time but I did think this one was good:
“The Lady With the Newspaper (much moved by patriotic leader) – I feel, James, that I must do something. Shall I take up nursing or learn rifle-shooting?
James (faintly) – Might I suggest rifle-shooting dear, as likely to cause the less damage.” – Punch
Page twenty-five has a short article by Dr. D. H. Adams on Glendale. Not a lot new in the article but he does mention a few new surnames and businesses. There is a good-sized article inviting the “Northern Homeseeker” to consider Walton County. The article mentions the Union Soldiers, alive and dead, who called DeFuniak Springs home. This article gives some interesting insight into Walton County, and specifically DeFuniak Springs fifty years after the War for Southern Independence (aka War Between the States, Civil War). Ads on this page include one for the general merchandise store W. J. HOWELL & Co.; one for the Stubbs Boat Company that ran mail from Freeport; and one for One Price Cash House, Outfitters for Men, Women, and Children. The entire spread on Walton Co. ends on page twenty-six with a full-page ad for DeFuniak Springs.
Even if you don’t find an ancestor mentioned in these pages from 1913, you can get a real sense of the social energy and forward outlook the folks of Walton County had at the time. The articles extolling agriculture mentions the names of farmers in the county and what was being grown. Coupled with information from the agricultural censuses for Florida, you can get a real sense of the farm and the work your ancestor likely did to make a living and to sustain the family. The ads can be as informative as the articles since nearly all of them include the names of owners, managers and other principals. If you found this series of articles interesting, I would suggest my prior blog posts on Santa Rosa, Washington, and Holmes newspaper articles from the early 20th century.
Until Next Time
- The Pensacola Journal. (Pensacola, Fla.), 16 March 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
- Florida State Census 1885, Agriculture Schedule, Walton County; www.FamilySearch.org.