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Northwest Florida

Florida: Empire of the Sun


Northwest Florida, including that great area with its red clay hills and rushing rivers which lies to the west of the Suwannee River, differs from the rest of Florida as much in its history as it does in its topography. Along the old Spanish Trail, now a modern paved highway, following an ancient chain of early Spanish missions, are numerous charming towns whose atmosphere is distinctly that of the Old South.

Here the early American settlers established themselves on great plantations and built colonial homes which in many cases are still owned by their descendants. Along the Gulf are many more of those great harbors which are characteristic of the whole West Coast, serving not only as important shipping ports but also as favorite summer resorts for the people of West Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Here also are the vast fish and game preserves of many wealthy hunting and fishing clubs, popular during the winter season. In the thickly wooded hills are to be found many bear, deer, wild turkey and even wildcats to challenge the skill of the hunter.

Madison–The Madison city park is the site of a Seminole War stockade (1735-42). Natural springs and beautiful drives make this an attractive spot. A large sanitarium and the Florida Normal Institute are located in this healthful environment. It was named for Madison Livingston, a pioneer resident.

Monticello–Monticello is reminiscent of Colonial days. First settled by relatives of Thomas Jefferson, the tradition of old Southern hospitality still holds true among the inhabitants of this region. The beautiful estates here offered shelter and rest to the early legislators on their travels to and from Tallahassee. A few miles from Monticello is Wirtland, residence of Dr. Wirt, a son of the attorney general who prosecuted Aaron Burr for treason.

Even earlier history of this site includes a tragic raid made on the mission of San Miguel Ayubale by Governor Moore of South Carolina in 1704. After capturing the mission, Moore beat off a defensive attack sent out from the garrison of San Luis, the Spanish fort near Tallahassee. Seventeen of the captured Mission Indians were burned at the stake, singing hymns like the early Christian martyrs. Great herds of cattle and seven thousand Indians were taken back to Carolina as spoils of the raid.

Tallahassee–The capital of Florida, Tallahassee, or "Old Town" in Seminole language, is so called in memory of a prior settlement of Apalachian Indians who fought De Soto here in 1539. Its Apalachian name was Osaceila. Five years after Jackson's defeat of the Seminoles in 1818, the site of Tallahassee was chosen for the state capital, because it was a halfway point across the state.

In addition to the capitol building there are many interesting places to visit, among them the Florida State College for Women, the exhibits in the state buildings and the tombs of Prince Murat and his wife, who was a niece of Washington. The exhibits include fascinating relics of Spanish days, a wonderful fossil collection of Florida's prehistoric animals and a splendid collection of Florida books and maps.

Lafayette chose this vicinity for the township bestowed on him by the United States. Never able to come himself, he sent many friends here. Prince Murat, a son of the King of Naples and a marshal of Napoleon, selected Tallahassee as a home for his Virginia bride. On his several trips to Europe, he was received with royal welcome.

Located in the Florida hill country, surrounded by beautiful lakes and springs, Tallahassee, with its old houses and delightful rose gardens is always an interesting spot to visit. Wakulla Springs, one hundred and six feet deep, lies south of here in a beautiful grove of oaks, and glass-bottomed boats afford views of its clear depths.

Other attractions for the tourist include golfing, fishing and hunting. The Satsuma orange, the earliest Florida orange to ripen in the fall, is especially delicious in this locality, as are the pecans, pears and blueberries.

Quincy–Broad-leaved, green-hued tobacco plants cover this area for many miles. Quincy is the center of the Sumatra tobacco industry. Fine milk and cream is produced from prize dairy stock, and one of the herds in this section includes a world's champion dairy cow. Good hunting and fishing are ever at hand. This region is also the productive center for eighty per cent of America's fuller's earth.

Marianna–Marianna, on the Chipola River, has several natural phenomena to offer the visitor. The Chipola River, a navigable stream, passes underground into an immense cavern, which the Indians peopled with magic beings, and reappears a mile farther on. Four miles away is a great cave, with stalactites and stalagmites in fantastic formations to awe the visitors. Long Moss Springs is the source of a beautiful stream and also well worth visiting.

Farther south, between Blountsville and Wewahitchka, are the Dead Lakes, a weird panorama of miles of leafless trees in waters which are famous for wonderful fishing. Here, too, is Natural Bridge, where cadets from Tallahassee withstood a Union attack and prevented the capture of the capital city. The site is marked by a handsome monument.

Defuntak Springs–Because of its beautiful spring, a mile in circumference and eighty feet deep, De Funiak Springs has long been a health resort. The second oldest Chautauqua in the United States is here, also Palmer College. Shaded by magnificent pines and moss-draped oaks, it is a city of culture and hospitality, where tourists will find ample recreational facilities for an enjoyable visit. It is two hundred and eighty-five feet above sea level.

Pensacola–Ancient in tradition and history, Pensacola is set upon hills which command a beautiful view of its great land-locked harbor. It is guarded by old Fort Pickens, Fort McRae and Fort Barrancas. Here is a large government naval aviation training station, the navy yard and the winter rendezvous of the submarine flotilla and reserve torpedo boats. Large liners and battleships enter this harbor. The bay is thirty-seven miles long and three miles wide.

Pensacola vies with New Orleans and St. Augustine in picturesqueness and interest. The flags of five nations have flown over it, and on thirteen different occasions it has passed from one government to another. The Spanish, French, English and again the Spanish ruled the territory until General Andrew Jackson wrested it from the Spanish and set up a provisional government. Later, the Confederate flag floated over the city.

The formal transfer of Florida to the United States was made in 1821, and for ten months the territory was held under provisional military government, with General Jackson, stationed at Pensacola, at its head. During the War Between the States, Confederate forces invested the town and occupied all forts with the exception of Fort Pickens, which remained in the hands of the Federals.

Pensacola's earliest history dates back to 1559, when Tristan de Luna established a settlement here, only to abandon it two years later. The next colonization effort did not take place until one hundred and thirty-five years later, when Adreas D'Arriola built Fort San Carlos on Santa Rosa Island on the site where Fort Barrancas now stands. Because of the strategic position of the harbor, the French from Mobile and New Orleans periodically captured it, only to be ousted again by Spanish forces.

The Treaty of Paris in 1763, gave possession to the English, who laid out the city on the mainland, where it became the center of Panton, Leslie & Company's thriving Indian trade. After twenty years of occupation by the English, it was again captured by Spain and the Spanish names given to the streets. It remained in Spanish control until General Jackson forced the cession of West Florida to the United States. There are sixty miles of surf bathing and numerous inlets of still water available for fishing along the Gulf in this vicinity.

Panama City is located on St. Andrew's Bay, a splendid deepwater harbor on the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing, boating of all kinds, golfing and both fresh-water and salt-water bathing furnish varied entertainment. The Dead Lakes, delight of enthusiastic Waltonians, are easily accessible from here.

Lynn Haven–Lynn Haven is also on St. Andrew's Bay. This is the site of the St. Andrew's Bay Golf Club. Tennis, water sports and recreational games are other attractions. The Bob Jones College, coeducational, is a new and up-to-date institution located here.

Apalachicola–-Apalachicola has an unusually large harbor from which the Apalachicola River reaches across Florida and into Georgia, with a navigable depth for three hundred miles. In English times, this wide river was the dividing line between East and West Florida. The Bay is the "Bay of Horses" visited by Narvaez and De Soto. Nearby were General Jackson's headquarters in 1818. Here also, in 1845, lived Dr. John Gorrie, inventor of the first ice machine, one of Florida's two representatives in the Hall of Fame in Washington. Apalachicola is famous for its succulent oysters, taken from the surrounding waters.

It is interesting to note that the famous Biblical "Cedar of Lebanon" grows wild nowhere outside the Lebanon Mountain range except in the Apalachicola River valley.

Port St. Joe–West of Apalachicola the beautiful Gulf Coastal Highway leads to Port St. Joe, twenty-eight miles distant, located on St. Joseph's Bay. This is the site of Florida's first constitutional convention, held here in 1838.

Valparaiso–Through the pines and live oaks of the Florida National Forest, a smooth paved highway connects the towns of Valparaiso and Crestview, a distance of eighteen miles. Inlets and bayous around Valparaiso are alive with ducks and wild geese in season. Wild turkeys, quail and squirrel are plentiful; bass and trout fishing is excellent.

The Chicago Country Club is located on a peninsula pointing out into Choctawhatchee Bay, with a golf course that twists and winds over a series of hills separated by two lakes.

Wewahitchka, Blountstown, Chipley, Bonifay–These are interesting towns to visit in Northwestern Florida, located in a fine game and fish region. Blountstown is the site of Fort Blount, built by the English in 1814 and blown up in 1816 with a loss of three hundred and thirty lives. Near Chipley are the Fallen Water Caves and to the south is Compass Lake.

St. Marks–After the series of raids against Spanish missions made by Governor Moore in the period 1702-1706, the scattered and fleeing Apalachian Indians found refuge under the walls of Fort San Marco, built at St. Marks in 1718. Nearby was a royal Spanish plantation which shipped much dried venison, honey and many vegetables to Cuba and St. Augustine by boat. The English traders, Arbuthnot and Armbrister, were captured here in 1818, and hanged by General Jackson's orders for inciting Indians against the United States. The St. Marks River is thought to have its source in Lake Miccosukee, for the lake's outlet disappears into a "lime sink'' and the river rises abruptly from the earth a short distance beyond.

Perry–Southeast of Tallahassee, on the west branch of the Dixie Highway, is the town of Perry, where hunting and fishing are at their best. Sportsmen will find excellent accommodations for either a short or extended visit. Game such as geese, ducks, wild turkey, squirrel and deer are plentiful here.

Hampton Springs–Near Perry is Hampton Springs, a delightful resort with a club house, and a splendid mineral spring. Golfing, tennis, horseback riding and other sports are available. Hunting and fishing in the virgin wilderness, through which flows the rock-ribbed Fenholloway River, attracts many a sportsman.

Excerpt from "Florida: Empire of the Sun" Published by the Florida State Hotel Commission, Tallahassee, Florida. 1930.


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