Walton County, Florida
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Cities~ Towns~Communities

Walton

Argyle
Lakewood
Rosemary Beach
DeFuniak Springs Miramar Beach
Santa Rosa
Euchee Valley
Mossy Head
Seacrest
Freeport Point Washington
Seagrove
Grayton Beach
Red Bay Seaside

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DeFuniak Springs

Founded in 1880, DeFuniak Springs is located in northern Walton County, and is the county seat.  A focal feature of this historic city is one of only two naturally occurring, round, spring-fed lakes in the world.  It is thought to have been formed by a meteor, and is approximately one mile in circumference.  The other lake is located near Zurich, Switzerland.  DeFuniak Springs was developed as a railroad town, and served as a stop on the route of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.  In 1885, the Chautauqua Assembly held its first winter celebration in DeFuniak Springs.  The Assembly was a cultural celebration originally held on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York.  Occurring annually, this brought in entertainers, speakers, preachers, teachers, and musicians, which was largely responsible for transforming DeFuniak Springs into one of the cultural centers of the southeast until the late 1920's.

 

Other historic features of the city include the DeFuniak Springs Library, and the historic district.   The Walton-DeFuniak Library was established in 1886, and is the oldest library in the state still serving the public (the library in St. Augustine is only library that is older). Also located in the historic district is the Depot Station, which today houses the Walton County Heritage Association and Museum, filled with relics from Walton County’s past. Down the street, the Historic Chautauqua Building (aka Hall of Brotherhood) was established in 1909 and served as an enclosed amphitheater. The building was severely damaged during a Hurricane Eloise in 1975; however, several portions of the building have been restored. The building continues to serve as a focal point of the community, and is used for a wide variety of activities.

 

For thousands of years, the area today known as DeFuniak Springs was inhabited by Native Americans. On March 4, 1881 the Florida State Legislature incorporated the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad. As the survey party set out from Pensacola to survey the route for the railroad, they happened across an open area with a round lake. The party camped on the shores of the lake and their leader, W. D. Chipley, declared this would the perfect spot for a town and ordered the virgin forest not be cut around this spot and a stop would be made along the line here. The location as named after Frederick DeFuniak, president of the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad. First known as Lake DeFuniak the name was later changed to DeFuniak Springs. 

Chipley, T. T. Wright, C. C. Banfill, W. J. Van Kirk, and a few others worked to turn the small stop along the tracks into a town, forming the Lake DeFuniak Land Company in 1885. They began to sell real estate and find ways to attract people to the fledgling Heath and Hunting Resort they envisioned. Through a chance meeting while attending the Chautauqua Institution in New York in 1883, Van Kirk learned they were seeking a winter location to extend the program. After meeting with the leaders of Chautauqua and returning to DeFuniak Springs, the group decided this was the perfect draw to bring people to the new village. In 1884, the Florida Chautauqua Association was formed and would operate here until 1936, holding its last annual Assembly in 1927. During this period a State Normal School, a free college to educate teachers, was placed here by the state, and operated from 1887-1905. McCormick University was established here but only operated from 1886-1888, when its buildings were destroyed by a hurricane. Palmer College formed here in 1907 and operated until 1936. Along with the DeFuniak Business College, a preparatory school for the Normal School, as well as the Thomas Industrial Institute, DeFuniak Springs was known as the educational center of the south during this period. The Florida Teachers Association was formed here in 1886.

Arbor Day in the state of Florida started here in DeFuniak Springs. The first planting of trees, in honor of Arbor Day in the state of Florida, were planted on the shores of Lake DeFuniak on December 17, 1885 during the Southern Forestry Congress. It is believed some of those trees planted then still stand on the shores of Lake DeFuniak. After Chautauqua ended its run, DeFuniak continued to be a destination of choice for people seeking culture. An annual Music Festival in the 30s and 40s would draw thousands to watch bands, from all across the state, come to compete.

The Walton DeFuniak Library, established in 1886 is said to be the oldest library in the state still operating as a library in its original building. Step inside and step back to an earlier time. See current sections of the library as well as original editions that date back to the beginning of the library and even a historic armor collection.

DeFuniak Springs once was home to a Federal Agricultural Research station, as well as many orchards of blueberries, Le Conte pears, satsuma oranges, and other crops that were shipped to points all across the nation. DeFuniak Springs was also the location of two large sawmills that provided high quality yellow pine to the nation.

DeFuniak Springs was also home to 22nd Governor of Florida, Sidney J. Catts, whose accomplishments include reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill and of convicts. He also began road improvements, tax reforms and labor reforms. He appointed a woman to his staff and endorsed suffrage for women. Statewide Prohibition Act was also passed at his prodding.


Many of the same things that made DeFuniak Springs so popular in its early years are still found here today. A quiet friendly community, today it still hosts cultural events like the Florida Chautauqua Assembly, Florida Chautauqua Theater, Grit and Grace, various Arts and Crafts groups, and a sense of community unique to itself.  The historic district has changed very little over the years. Many of the homes built in early years, by visitors to the Florida Chautauqua who moved here from the north, along with businessmen of the time, still stand. Homes built by people like Wallace Bruce, internationally known author, lecturer, longest president of the Florida Chautauqua, and former U. S. Consul to Edinburgh Scotland, as well as Isabella McDonald Alden, known by her pen name Pansy, who wrote many loved Christian children’s novels, to name a few.


Today the historic train depot, owned by the City of DeFuniak Springs, houses the Walton Heritage Museum operated by the Walton Heritage Association. The City also owns the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood, which was built to replace the old Tabernacle auditorium built in 1884. Built in less than a year, the new Hall of Brotherhood was first used Feb 3rd, 1909 for the opening exercises of the Florida Chautauqua. At that time it was known as the most modern auditorium in the south with color dissolving lighting, seating for 4000, and a grand entryway designed to look like the U. S. Capitol. The stage in the auditorium was said to be able to hold 100 actors. In 1975 hurricane Eloise destroyed the recently restored auditorium, so today only the front lobby and classroom portion remain and are rented out for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and reunions. Historic down town remains much as it did when visitors would arrive by train 100 years ago; the buildings retain their historic look.


Historic DeFuniak Springs has a rich and broad history that affected the nation, a small town that did great things, and still continues to do great things today.

Freeport

With the introduction of sawmills, logging, and turpentine processing, other areas in Walton County began to grow and prosper. The town of Freeport benefited greatly from these industries and soon became a renowned shipbuilding center along the gulf coast. The town’s name is derived from its early roots as a shipping port that was free from any type of imported goods tax. Due to this, the ships would deliver or pick up goods tax-free, making it a popular and successful port in Walton County.

Paxton

Located near the north edge of the county, Paxton became home to the area's first sawmill in 1903. As the commerce around the mill increased, the community grew. Today, Paxton continues to flourish and grow from its early farming roots and is also the site of the highest point in Florida at 345 feet above sea level. Known as Britton Hill in the Lakewood County Park, the unique Florida plateau is photographed by hundreds of visitors each year.


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Argyle

The community is located on U.S. Route 90, 4.2 miles (6.8 km) east of DeFuniak Springs.  A post office has been in operation in Argyle since 1883.  The community was named after Argyle, in Scotland, the homeland of a large share of the first settlers.


Euchee Valley

Eucheeanna, the first Scottish settlement in territorial Florida, was named in honor of the Euchee Indians. Tradition holds that the first slave child was born in the settlement.

Eucheeanna consisted of a school, court house, jail, Masonic and Odd Fellows halls, general stores, a sawmill, and a grist mill. The first monument in Florida erected to Confederate dead was located in Eucheeanna in 1868 by the Ladies’ Monument Association. At that time, Eucheeanna was the county seat for Walton County until the courthouse was burned by an arsonist in May 1885.

On May 27, 1886, a commission approved moving the Walton County seat to DeFuniak Springs. Finally, the monument was moved to Euchee Valley Presbyterian Church and later moved to DeFuniak Springs. The Civil War came to Eucheeanna on September 23, 1864 when the federal troops, under General Ashboth, came to raze and plunder on their way to Marianna and Tallahassee.


Euchee Region: Scottish History

A History of Florida

1904

Neil McLendon. Some adventurous Americans had made homes for themselves in Florida without waiting for the exchange of flags. Among these was Neil M. McLendon, a hardy pioneer, who, in the spring of 1820, made his way into what is now Walton County. He was the first white man who had entered that region for the purpose of making a home. His parents had come from Scotland to Wilmington, North Carolina, but McLendon liked the pioneer's life, and, when North Carolina became more thickly settled, said he must go to a new country for "elbow room."

There was "elbow room" in Florida, so, with his wife and children, he set out on his journey along the Indian trail leading from the Atlantic coast to the Spanish settlements on the Gulf coast. They were often hungry, and suffered many hardships on their way through the forest.


The Euchee Valley. He remained several months in what is now Santa Rosa County, then, leaving his family there, continued his journey on foot into the Euchee Valley. On the way he found a tribe of Euchee Indians, and met their chief. McLendon and the chief trusted and liked each other from the very beginning. In proof of this feeling the chief presented McLendon with his tomahawk, and invited him to live with him and to take for his own as much land as he chose to "blaze" around.

Who was the first white settler of the Euchee "region?" When and where did he first settle? To what place did he move?

With its fine climate, good water, and fertile soil, this country seemed just what McLendon had been looking for; so he willingly accepted the offer and set off, to return soon with his wife and children. Before long he was joined by his brothers with their families, and so began the white settlement of Walton County.

To his friends in North Carolina McLendon wrote: "Come, I have found a land teeming with production, abounding in game and good grazing . . . The woods are full of all sorts of grasses and berries . . . There is no better stock country to be found. Water pure and plenty and nothing to create sickness."

How was he received by the Indians? What were the attractions which this region offered? Who were induced to follow him?


Source:
Excerpt from Part Two, Chapter Four, "The Scotch Pioneers of the Euchee Region" A History of Florida, 1904.



Grayton Beach

Along the beach, there was also activity. In 1885, Army Major, Charles T. Gray built a homestead along the coast. At the time, the federal government owned much of the land and few people had reason to settle there. The soil was too sandy to farm, and there was better timberland inland. The closest settlement was at Point Washington to the north. Five years later, Army General William Miller and William Wilson moved their families there, and mapped out where the village's streets and blocks would be built. Named after Major Gray, Grayton Beach celebrated its 110 year anniversary in 2000.


Reaching Grayton Beach at that time was not easy. There were no bridges over the Choctawhatchee Bay, and what roads existed were merely sand trails. In 1913, W. H. Butler and his son, Van R. Butler, made the day-long trip from DeFuniak Springs to Grayton Beach and ended up staying. W. H. Butler decided to start a resort project and bought most of what is now Grayton Beach. The Butler family built and rented cottages, sold an occasional lot and operated the town’s general store and a dance hall (site of the present-day Red Bar).


Access to Grayton Beach became easier with the construction of Highway 98 and the Highway 331 bridge in the 1930s, and Grayton began booming. In the 1940s, the addition of electricity and the beginning of World War II brought more people to the town. In 1942, the U. S. Coast Guard established a 40-man station here, and the federal government rented many of the homes for barracks and offices. The only building still standing in Grayton Beach that is thought to date back to the beginning of the town is a two-story home, known as the Wash-A-Way, at the end of County Road 283. In the Wash-A-Way, you can find the name of one guardsman written in ink on the wall of a closet he used as a darkroom.


The community and the state have helped keep Grayton Beach small by virtually surrounding the community with park land. In 1967, the state used its land east of the town to create Grayton Beach State Recreation Area. In 1985, after years of lobbying by residents, Florida bought the village's beachfront and the dunes and forest land to the west and north.


Historically the development of Walton County can be attributed to its largest industry at the time, farming. As time passed, other industries such as logging and the harvesting of pine gum and turpentine played a vital role in the growth of the area.


Today, tourism contributes greatly to the county’s success. Annual events and historical and cultural festivals throughout the year showcase Walton County's rich heritage.

Lakewood

Lakewood is an unincorporated community in Walton County, Florida, located in the panhandle. Lakewood is on the Florida/Alabama border near Florida's highest point, Britton Hill (345 feet). Lakewood and most of Walton County differ from the rest of Florida in terms of scenery and geography, and the fauna and flora are those typical of the Deep South.

Miramar Beach

Miramar Beach is a census-designated place (CDP) in Walton County, Florida.  The population was 6,146 at the 2010 census. Although many other localities in Florida have appended "Beach" to their names to distinguish themselves from an adjacent inland or cross-bay municipality – such as Miami Beach, St. Pete Beach, Pensacola Beach, Melbourne Beach, Cocoa Beach, and Jacksonville Beach – the city of Miramar, Florida is actually over 600 miles (970 km) away in South Florida. 

Mossy Head

Mossy Head is an unincorporated community in Walton County, Florida, located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and County Road 1087, 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the north end of State Road 285. It is at the head of Mossy Head Branch, a tributary of the Shoal River.


In 1951, Mossy Head became the interchange point for a base railroad constructed between the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and Eglin Air Force Base, located partially in Walton County. The line operated until the early 1980s, and a short section on the north end of the alignment still exists for rail shipments.

Point Washington

The historic community of Point Washington lies on the Choctawhatchee Bay and includes several bayous. A busy sawmill was the center of activity around the turn of the century, shipping lumber around the world. Today, the historic Wesley Mansion, located in Eden State Gardens, is one of the few historic treasures that still exist in South Walton.

Red Bay

Former Walton County resident DeWayne Ray has fond memories of fishing and hunting around the Red Bay area of Walton County.


According to Ray, his ancestors the Chamberlains, Tiners and McDonalds spent time fishing and hunting at Lost Lake (now named Lost Lake at Tilley Landing) as far back as the 1830s. The family owned property where the old road began to the lake from Red Bay.


“My grandfather use to maintain the old logging road which crossed much of their property and lead to the Lost Lake.  My ancestors fished, trapped and hunted this area since the 1830s,” said Ray.


“The landing area still appears has it did more than 50 years ago. My family and other local native Red Bay families fished the lakes on a regular basis, especially my grandmother and great aunt.”


Ray generously shared with Walton Outdoors photos taken in 1961 and 1962. The photos depict his family enjoying fishing and hunting along Lost Lake near the Choctawhatchee River.


“The small boys are me and my brother with my mother (Joan Stiller Ray), father (Walter Ray) and my grandparents (Nellie Chamberlain Stiller and Wayland Stiller).

 

Walton Outdoors asked Ray about the old cypress trees in the area touting square cutouts. Ray contacted his father and this is his historical response:

“I spoke to my Dad, Walter Ray.  The cuts in the cypress are likely either loggers were starting to ‘deaden the tree’ and immediately notice the trees were hollow and stopped the process.  Only solid cypress were  deadened, then harvested.  Since “green” solid cypress would not float, the loggers would first “deaden” the tree by cutting a notch around the bottom of the tree, which would kill it over time, making the tree able to be floated out of the swamp to the main river for transport.

There is another reason cuts were made in the cypress, so loggers could insert boards to stand on while they cross-cut the tree down.  Likely they noticed during this process the tree was hollow and stopped and moved on to solid cypress.


My Grandfather Stiller was born in a logging company train box car in 1906 and logged the Walton County area all of his life.  When he was a very young man they still used oxen and cross-cut saws – way before tractors and power saws. As a result, his wrists were massive.  You can tell where cross-cut saws were used by stumps being 2 or 3 feet above the grounds surface.  There are a couple of these stumps on our property.  There is one, now very decayed, in the Northwest Florida Water Water Manage swamp, near our property, that’s approximately 10-12 feet across!  My Grandfather said they cut down this massive native pine and could not get it up the “bluff” with the oxen because the longs were just too heavy (circa 1920s).  How I have wished that tree would have remained uncut,” Ray responded.


These days, Lost Lake at Tilley Landing is part of the Choctawhatchee River Wildlife Management Area, and is managed in cooperation with Northwest Florida Water Management District and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is open to fishing, hunting, boating, and primitive camping. It has picnic tables, pavilion, and a portable restroom facility.


(Source:  Walton Outdoors, 06 October 2013)

Rosemary Beach

Rosemary Beach is an unincorporated master planned community in Walton County, Florida, United States on the Gulf Coast.  Rosemary Beach is developed on land originally part of the older Inlet Beach neighborhood.


The town was founded by Patrick D. Bienvenue as President of Leucadia Financial Corporation in 1995, and was designed by Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company.  The town is around 105 acres, and upon completion had just over 400 homesites and a mixed use town center with shops, restaurants, and activities. The town is a master-planned community located on a beachside road, CR 30A.


Rosemary Beach is full of charm that draws visitors back again and again — which is just one reason why this beach neighborhood was named by CNN as one of America’s most romantic small towns.

Santa Rosa Beach

In the late 1800s, towns were beginning to form south of the Choctawhatchee Bay. By the early 1900s, Hogtown Bayou in Santa Rosa Beach was a bustling town center. Steamboats bringing in residents from Mobile and Pensacola helped to quickly grow the area’s population to nearly 1,200 people.

Unfortunately, a crop disaster followed by a hurricane spelled doom for the town. The town eventually took on a lawless "Wild West" vibe and many residents boarded steamboats and left en masse. The town's hotels, churches, stores, cafés, and cottages took on the feeling of a true ghost town. The few remaining locals eventually dismantled the town for lumber.

Today, Cessna Landing (named for the town founder) is a public park and quiet place with picnic areas and a fishing dock. Next to the park, the Bayou Arts Center of Walton County hosts groups for art classes, workshops and other cultural events.

Seacrest

Seacrest and Seacrest Beach are communities along County Road 30A in the Florida Panhandle. They are located at the eastern end of scenic 30A. Recreational opportunities at the beach community include fishing, kayaking, swimming, golfing, and beachgoing. Nearby Camp Creek Lake offers hiking and bird watching in an area of coastal dunes.

Seagrove

Seagrove Beach, Florida is a two-mile-long beach community located in the Florida Panhandle, on the Gulf of Mexico, in Walton County, Florida. It is located along County Highway 30a, east of Seaside, Florida and west of Seacrest Beach. Seagrove Beach is recognized locally as an independent neighborhood, however its official mailing address is Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.


Like the other communities along 30a and Florida's Emerald Coast in general, Seagrove Beach is known for its scenic and appealing "sugar white" beaches and blue/green waters. Tourism website "Visitsouthwalton.com" describes Seagrove Beach as "laid back, but luxurious" and home to upscale boutiques, casual cafes, a state park and rare coastal dune lakes.

Seaside

Seaside is an unincorporated master-planned community in the Florida panhandle in Walton County, between Panama City Beach and Destin.   Being one of the first cities in America designed on the principles of New Urbanism, the town has become the topic of slide lectures in architectural schools, in housing-industry magazines, and is visited by design professionals from all over the United States.


The town rose to global fame as being the main filming location of the movie The Truman Show. On April 18, 2012, the American Institute of Architects's Florida Chapter placed the community on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places as the Seaside – New Urbanism Township.


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