Florida: Jefferson County

Jefferson County (pop. 14,761) is the only Florida county that stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the state of Georgia.

The county has no stoplights.

It is one of 25 Jefferson counties (and one Jefferson Parish), all named, directly or indirectly, for President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826).

The county seat, Monticello (pop. 2,507), was named for Jefferson’s estate in Virginia. It’s pronounced “mont-i-SEL-o” – not “mont-i-CHEL-o,” as in Virginia.

Jefferson County Courthouse (1909)

The old Jefferson County jail in Monticello is now a museum.

Built in 1909

Monticello has been called “The South’s Most-Haunted Small Town.” Ghost tours are available.

The Letchworth-Love Mounds Archaeological State Park, west of Monticello, preserve Florida’s tallest prehistoric Native American ceremonial earthwork mounds.

46 feet high

Nearby, the unincorporated community of Lloyd is well-known for its “Johnny Donutseed” figure.

In front of  a truck stop

In the 1940s and ’50s, the community of Capps was home of the Tungston Plantation – with 8,000 acres of tung trees, their seeds harvested for tung oil used in paints and varnishes.

No longer produced in Florida

Ted Turner and Jane Fonda were married in 1991 at Turner’s Avalon Plantation near Capps.

They divorced in 2001.

NEXT: TAYLOR COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida: Wakulla County

Wakulla County (pop. 30,776) is south of Tallahassee, on the Gulf of Mexico. Its only incorporated cities are Sopchoppy (pop. 458) and St. Marks (pop. 294).

Sopchoppy’s name is of undetermined Native American origin. The city hosts an annual Worm Gruntin’ Festival, honoring the tradition of driving worms up to the surface to be collected as fishing bait.

Youngsters learning to charm the worms

The old Sopchoppy High School gymnasium was built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built of native limestone

St. Marks is the site of Fort St. Marks – now San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park – formerly an important military fort, dating back to Spanish colonial days in the 17th century.

Not much remains

St. Marks Light (1842), Florida’s second-oldest lighthouse, is a few miles away, at the mouth of the St. Marks River.

Still in use

The county seat of Wakulla County is Crawfordville – the only unincorporated county seat in Florida. The old wooden courthouse is now the home of the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce.

Built in 1893

A much-photographed sight in Crawfordville is the Harvey Family’s collection of old Ford trucks, dating from the early 1900s to the 1970s, along U.S. Highway 319.

All were used on the family farm.

The unincorporated community of Panacea apparently got its name because the local springs were reputed to be all-healing. It is America’s only Panacea.

The Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Panacea has a small aquarium that is open to the public.

Touching is encouraged.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is the site of Wakulla Springs, one of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs. The spring’s opening is 180 feet below the surface.

Cave divers have explored underwater.

When the water is clear, glass-bottom boat tours are available.

Usually late winter or early spring

The “Wakulla Volcano” was the name of a mysterious 19th-century phenomenon  in the county’s swamps – a column of smoke, sometimes accompanied by bright lights. The cause was never determined.

Possibly peat moss fires

NEXT: JEFFERSON COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

 

 

 

Florida: Leon County

Leon County (pop. 275,487) is east of Gadsden County, on the border with Georgia. The population has grown from 51,590 in 1950.

The only other Leon County is in Texas.

The county was named for Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521).

The county seat of Leon County, and the capital of Florida, is the city of Tallahassee (pop. 181,376).

Old Capitol (1845)

Florida built a new, 22-story Capitol building in the 1970s. It’s the newest state capitol building in the U.S., and the third-tallest.

Capitol Complex

Tallahassee is the home of Florida State University (1851), with about 42,000 students. Residents of Leon County have the highest average level of education among Florida’s 67 counties.

Westcott Building (1910)

Among Tallahassee’s other institutions of higher learning is Florida A&M University (1887), a historically African-American school with about 9,000 students – third-largest enrollment among all African-American universities.

The women’s teams are the Lady Rattlers.

The Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee (1956) was built to resemble Andrew Jackson’s “Hermitage” in Nashville. It is now occupied by Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott.

Tours are available.

Leon High School in Tallahassee, one of America’s oldest high schools, was founded in 1831.

Faye Dunaway was Class of ’58.

The Tallahassee Automobile Museum has more than 140 automobiles (including three Batmobiles), plus fishing lures, pianos, golf clubs, baseball cards, baby bottles, and much more.

Antique outboard motors

Natural Bridge Battlefield Historic State Park, southeast of Tallahassee, commemorates the Civil War Battle of Natural Bridge. Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi that was not captured by Union troops.

The annual reenactment

NEXT: WAKULLA COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

 

 

 

Florida: Gadsden County

Gadsden County (pop. 46,389) is northeast of Liberty County, on the border with Georgia.

Gadsden County in 1900

The county was historically a major center for the growth of “shade tobacco” – used for wrapping cigars. The U.S. shade tobacco industry is now limited to the Connecticut River Valley.

The 1905 Florida State Fair

Gadsden County is the only county in Florida in which the majority of residents (about 56%) are African-Americans, and one of the few counties in the Panhandle that consistently votes Democratic.

Gadsden County in the middle, mostly blue

The county seat of Gadsden County is the city of Quincy (pop. 8,183), named for John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States.

Gadsden County Courthouse (1913)

Quincy has a restored 1950s-era Gulf service station, along U.S. Highway 90.

Not open for business

The Leaf Theatre in Quincy was built in 1949; the name refers to the local tobacco industry. It’s now the home of the Quincy Music Theatre.

Closed for movies in 1980

Country singer Billy Dean was born in Quincy in 1962 and was on the basketball team at Robert F. Munroe Day School.

The city of Chattahoochee (pop. 3,618) is the home of the Florida State Hospital, established in 1876. The site was previously the home of the Apalachicola Arsenal, built in the 1830s as a supply depot during the Seminole Wars.

Former Arsenal Officers’ Quarters

It has been claimed that kitty litter was discovered in Gadsden County; the area has historically been a center of mining the clay known as “Fuller’s earth.”

Fuller’s earth plant in Quincy, 1929

NEXT: LEON COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida: Liberty County

Liberty County (pop. 8,365), north of Franklin County, is Florida’s least-populous county.

The county is bordered on the west by the Apalachicola River and on the east by the Ochlockonee River.

Bluffs on Apalachicola River

About half of Liberty County is in the 600,000-acre Apalachicola National Forest.

Mud Swamp/New River Wilderness

The county seat of Liberty County is the city of Bristol (pop. 998), Florida’s smallest county seat.

Veterans Memorial Park in Bristol is the home of the mile-long, narrow-gauge Veterans Memorial Railroad.

Since 2002

In the 1950s, Baptist pastor Elvy E. Callaway declared, after much research, that Bristol was the site of the original Garden of Eden.

NEXT: GADSDEN COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

Florida: Franklin County

Franklin County (pop. 11,549) is east of Gulf County, along the Gulf of Mexico. It is Florida’s third-least-populous county.

It is one of 25 Franklin counties, and one of 23 named for Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790).

Ben apparently never went to Florida.

Much of the county is in Tate’s Hell State Forest, where the wildlife includes bald eagles, Florida black bears, and gopher tortoises.

Also alligators

According to legend, the area was named for a local farmer who got lost in the swamp for seven days and nights in 1875. His dying words were, “My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came from Hell.”

Mr. Tate’s parents

During World War II, inland Franklin County was used for jungle training, and the beaches and islands were used for amphibious training.

Preparing for the Normandy Invasion at Camp Gordon Johnston

The county seat of Franklin County is the city of Apalachicola (pop. 2,231).  The city reached its peak population of 3,268 in 1940.

Franklin County Courthouse (1940)

The word “Apalachicola” was apparently derived from the same Native American tribe, in the Florida Panhandle, that gave the Appalachian Mountains their name.

The Appalachians are some distance to the north.

The John Gorrie Museum in Apalachicola honors Dr. Gorrie, a pioneer in the field of air conditioning and refrigeration. He received the first U.S. patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851.

Ice-making machine

Apalachicola is the traditional center of Florida’s oyster fishery. The city has hosted the Florida Seafood Festival for 51 years.

East of Apalachicola, the city of Carrabelle (pop. 2,778) is the home of the Crooked River Light (1895).

Bald Point State Park is at the eastern end of the county.

Popular for fishing, swimming, birding.

NEXT: LIBERTY COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

 

 

 

Florida: Gulf County

Gulf County (pop. 15,863) is south of Calhoun County, along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the only Gulf County in the U.S.

The part of the county along the Gulf of Mexico is in the Eastern Time Zone, and most of the rest is in the Central Time Zone.

The county seat of Gulf County is the city of Port St. Joe (pop. 3,445), on St. Joseph Bay. The highest point in Port St. Joe is eight feet above sea level.

Centennial Building, Port St. Joe (1938)

Constitution Convention Museum State Park commemorates Florida’s first constitutional convention, held in 1838 in the community of St. Joseph – which no longer exists.

Life-size, animated delegates discuss the future of Florida.

T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is known for its long name and its miles of sugar white beaches.

Camping, picnicking, hiking, canoeing, and more

The Cape San Blas Light (1885) was moved in 2014 from Cape San Blas, at the southern end of the St. Joseph Peninsula, to Port St. Joe.

The shoreline had receded too much at its original site.

The city of Wewahitchka (pop. 1,981) was the county seat until 1965.

Former courthouse (1927)

Wewahitchka (known locally as “Wewa”) is a center of Florida’s beekeeping industry. The 1997 movie “Ulee’s Gold,” about a beekeeper, was filmed in the area.

Fonda had an Academy Award nomination.

The Dead Lakes State Recreation Area is just north of Wewahitchka. Swimming is not recommended.

There are alligators.

NEXT: FRANKLIN COUNTY

florida counties - working

Florida: Calhoun County

Calhoun County (pop. 14,625) is south of Jackson County. It is the fifth-least-populous county in Florida.

There are 11 Calhoun counties in the U.S., all named for John C. Calhoun (1782-1850), vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.

Longtime South Carolina senator

Calhoun County is in the Central Time Zone. The Apalachicola River is the county’s eastern border; the other side of the river is in the Eastern Time Zone.

The county seat of Calhoun County, and the only incorporated city, is Blountstown (pop. 2,514).

Old Courthouse (1904)

From 1909 to 1972, the 29-mile Marianna and Blountstown Railroad connected Blountstown to the national rail network. It was Florida’s shortest railroad line.

Locomotive #444

The four-mile Blountstown Greenway uses some of the former railroad right-of-way.

Part of the Florida National Scenic Trail

The Panhandle Pioneer Settlement in Blountstown is a living-history museum with a collection of 18 historic buildings, dating from 1820 to the 1940s.

The buildings were moved to the site.

In the town of Altha (pop. 536), the Altha Public School is a one-building school serving grades K-12.

NEXT: GULF COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

Florida: Jackson County

Jackson County (pop. 49,746) is the only Florida county that touches both Alabama and Georgia. It’s one of 24 Jackson counties in the U.S.

The Chattahoochee River is the border between Jackson County and Georgia.

The county was named for Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), seventh president of the United States.

Born in the Carolinas

The county seat of Jackson County is the city of Marianna (pop. 6,102).

Marianna is the home of Chipola College, a state college that offers both bachelor’s and associate degrees. Established in 1947, it has about 2,000 students.

Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin played for Chipola.

John Milton (1807-1865), Florida’s fifth governor, lived in the Marianna area. He committed suicide shortly before the end of the Civil War and is buried in Marianna.

“Death would be preferable to reunion”

Florida Caverns State Park, near Marianna, has Florida’s only air-filled (not water-filled) caves that are accessible to tourists.

Established in 1942

The unincorporated community of Two Egg is northeast of Marianna. The derivation of its name is uncertain.

NEXT: CALHOUN COUNTY

florida counties - working

Florida: Holmes County

Holmes County (pop. 19,927) is north of Washington County, along the border with Alabama. The only other Holmes counties are in Ohio and Mississippi.

It’s not certain how the county got its name.

The county seat of Holmes County is the city of Bonifay (pop. 2,793).

Downtown Bonifay

The nearby city of Ponce de Leon (pop. 598) was named for Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521), who led the first Spanish expedition to Florida and was associated with the search for the “Fountain of Youth.”

He named Florida (“flowers”).

Ponce de Leon Springs State Recreation Area is in Ponce de Leon. The spring brings 68-degree water year-round from an underground aquifer.

Popular for swimming and snorkeling

Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband, Almanzo, and their daughter, Rose, lived in Westville (pop. now 289) for a time in 1891.

NEXT: JACKSON COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

Florida: Washington County

Washington County (pop. 24,935) is north of Bay County. It’s one of 30 Washington counties, and one Washington Parish, in the U.S.

Washington County has some of the highest points in Florida, including Oak Hill (#2, at 331 feet), High Hill (#3, 323 feet), and Sand Mountain (250 feet).

Near Chipley

Falling Waters State Park has the highest waterfall in the state.

73 feet high

The county seat of Washington County is the city of Chipley (pop. 3,605).

The Seacrest Wolf Preserve, south of Chipley, is the largest wolf preserve in the Southeast.

Basketball star Artis Gilmore was born in Chipley in 1949. A 7’2″ center, he played in the American Basketball Association for six years, and later was a six-time NBA all-star.

With the ABA Kentucky Colonels

The original county seat of Washington County was Vernon (pop. 744), located in the geographic center of the county. It was named for George Washington’s home in Virginia.

Mount Vernon

Filmmaker Errol Morris’s documentary “Vernon, Florida” was released in 1981.

Original title: “Nub City”

The town of Wausau calls itself “The Possum Capital of the World.” The city has an annual Possum Festival and a Possum Monument, honoring the animal for its historic contribution of “food and fur” to the local population.

Inscription on the monument

In the southwestern corner of the county is the Ebro Greyhound Park and Poker Room, established in 1955.

The season runs from May to September.

NEXT: HOLMES COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

Florida: Bay County

Bay County (pop. 168,852) is east of Walton County, along the Gulf of Mexico. The only other Bay County is in Michigan, on Saginaw Bay.

The county is centered on St. Andrews Bay.

The county seat of Bay County is Panama City (pop. 36,484). It was incorporated in 1909, at the time of the construction of the Panama Canal.

On a line between Chicago and Panama

The Bay County Courthouse dates from 1915.

Classical Revival style

The separate city of Panama City Beach (pop. 12,018) has been called “The Spring Break Capital of the World.”

The beach can be crowded.

Panama City Beach’s many attractions for tourists include a Goofy Golf miniature golf course, dating from 1959, and a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! museum shaped like a sinking ocean liner.

Including authentic shrunken heads

At Big Willy’s Surf & Swim, customers enter the building through the mouth of a killer whale.

Nearby, Tyndall Air Force Base (established 1941) is home of the 325th Fighter Wing of the Air Combat Command.

Mexico Beach (pop. 1,072) has one of the world’s largest chairs, available for photos.

An Adirondack chair

The city of Lynn Haven (pop. 18,493) was established in 1913 as a retirement community for retired Union soldiers. In Monument Park is America’s southernmost monument dedicated to Civil War soldiers from the North.

The soldier is facing north.

The unincorporated community of Fountain, in the northern part of the county, has a barbecue smoker in the shape of a pig at Austin’s Smokin’ Butt Hut.

NEXT: WASHINGTON COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

 

Florida: Walton County

Walton County (pop. 55,043) is east of Okaloosa County. The only other Walton County is in northern Georgia.

The county was named for George Walton (1786-1859), secretary of Florida Territory from 1822 to 1826.

His father signed the Declaration of Independence.

Britton Hill (345 feet), in the northern part of the county, is the highest point in Florida. It’s the lowest high point in the U.S.

A very short walk from the parking lot

The county seat of Walton County is DeFuniak Springs (pop. 5,089). The city was named for Frederick R. De Funiak (1839-1905), who served as president of the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad.

Walton County Courthouse (1927)

DeFuniak Springs was established as a destination resort on the railroad, serving as headquarters of the Florida Chautauqua Association. The Florida Teachers Association was founded there in 1886.

Activities were centered on DeFuniak Lake.

The Walton DeFuniak Library (1887) is the oldest library building in Florida that is still operating as a library.

St. Agatha’s Episcopal Church in DeFuniak Springs dates from 1896.

Carpenter Gothic style

The Walton County Heritage Museum is in the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot.

South of DeFuniak Springs, on the Gulf of Mexico, is the unincorporated community of Miramar Beach – which is nowhere near the city of Miramar, located in Broward County in South Florida.

“World’s Largest Fishing Lure”

The unincorporated, master-planned community of Seaside, east of Miramar Beach, was established in 1981.

Seaside was the setting for the 1998 Jim Carrey film “The Truman Show.”

An example of the “New Urbanism.”

NEXT: BAY COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

Florida: Okaloosa County

Okaloosa County (pop 180,822) is east of Santa Rosa County. “Okaloosa” comes from a Choctaw word meaning “black water.”

Much of the southern part of the county is in Eglin Air Force Base, home of the 96th Test Wing, a test and evaluation center for weapons, navigation, and guidance systems.

Established in 1935

Eglin extends into Santa Rosa County to the west and Walton County to the east.

The county seat of Okaloosa County is the city of Crestview (pop. 20,978). Crestview was historically known as “The Icebox of Florida,” with the coolest temperatures in the state.

January average high 62, low 38

North of Crestview, near the Alabama border, is the city of Laurel Hill (pop. 549), where the high school’s athletic teams are known as the “Hoboes.”

The girls’ teams are the “Lady Hoboes.”

In the southern part of the county, Fort Walton Beach (pop. 19,507) is an important beach resort on the Gulf of Mexico.

Fort Walton Beach averages 69 inches of rain a year – the highest total in Florida.

Summer is the rainiest season.

Goofy Golf, a miniature golf course in Fort Walton Beach, has been operating since 1958.

Two 17-hole courses

The city of Destin (pop. 12,305) is east of Fort Walton Beach.

Outside of McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin is a double-decker bus full of mannequins.

The nearby city of Niceville (pop. 12,749) was originally known as Boggy. It is unclear why the named was changed to Niceville, in 1910.

It may have been named for Nice, France.

NEXT: WALTON COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

Florida: Santa Rosa County

Santa Rosa County (pop. 151,372) is in the western part of the Florida Panhandle. Its population has grown from just 37,741 in 1970, with the expansion of bedroom communities for military bases in Santa Rosa and adjacent Escambia and Okaloosa counties.

The only Santa Rosa County in the U.S., it was named for Saint Rosa of Viterbo (c. 1233-1251), who reportedly converted all the residents of an Italian village by standing for three hours in the flames of a burning pyre and walking out unscathed.

Canonized in 1457

The county seat of Santa Rosa County is the city of Milton (pop. 8,863).

Downtown Milton

In Milton’s early years, it was known as Scratch Ankle, because of the briars along the banks of the Blackwater River.

There’s an annual festival.

The former Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot (1909) in Milton is now the West Florida Railroad Museum.

Open Fridays and Saturdays

Milton is the home of Naval Air Station Whiting Field, one of the Navy’s two primary flight-training bases.

The city of Gulf Breeze (pop. 5,763) is on the Fairport Peninsula, which extends west into Pensacola Bay, with Escambia County on three sides.

Shoreline Park in Gulf Breeze has a reputation as a center for UFO sightings.

The movie “Jaws 2″ (1978) was filmed at Navarre Beach, east of Gulf Breeze.

The community of Bagdad is the hometown of golfer Gerry Lester “Bubba” Watson, who won the Masters Tournament in 2012 and 2014.

The community of Chumuckla, northwest of Milton, canceled its 17-year-old Redneck Christmas Parade in 2014 because of excessive rowdiness.

The parade was replaced with a “Redneck Mud Run.”

Much of the northern part of Santa Rosa County is in Blackwater River State Forest.

Many longleaf pines

NEXT: OKALOOSA COUNTY

florida counties - working

 

 

Florida: Escambia County

We begin our virtual trip through the 67 counties of Florida in Escambia County (pop. 297,619), located at the western tip of the Panhandle. This is the route that we’ll be taking.

florida counties - all

The county was named for the 258-mile Escambia River, whose name may have been derived from a Creek work meaning “clearwater.” The only other Escambia County is just to the north, in Alabama.

In Alabama, it’s called the Conecuh River.

Escambia County was one of Florida’s two original counties – along with St. Johns County, both organized in 1821. Escambia County included all land west of the Suwannee River.

The county seat of Escambia County is the city of Pensacola (pop. 51,923), located on Pensacola Bay on the Gulf of Mexico.

Naval Air Station Pensacola, just southwest of the city, is the initial training base for all Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aviators, as well as all naval flight officers.

Home base of the Blue Angels

The University of West Florida (1963) is a public university in Pensacola. It has about 13,000 students.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Double-A Southern League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, play at Pensacola Bayfront Stadium (2012).

Facing Pensacola Bay

The Crystal Ice Company Building (1932) in Pensacola was built to resemble a giant block of ice.

No longer in use

The Saenger Theatre in Pensacola dates from 1925.

Home of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra

The unincorporated community of Pensacola Beach is on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island that protects the city of Pensacola from the Gulf of Mexico.

The beach is about eight miles long.

The “UFO House” in Pensacola Beach dates from the 1960s.

Sometimes open for tours

Escambia County’s western border, with Alabama, is the Perdido River; the eastern border is the Escambia River.

NEXT: SANTA ROSA COUNTY

florida counties - working