The Winding River Road Part 4
ASHS Column for April 13, 2006
Margaret Collier

    By the time that you read this, the celebration of the naming of Century will have been held, but you will have to wait until next week for the details since these columns are written the week before the publication of The Ledger. We can report that the white elephant sale started the week before the event so was bringing in some money then. Several inquiries came in as the word got out, so from the date of this writing (April 5, 06) we are optimistic about having a good turnout for a great time in the James Houston Jones Historic Park.
    Another item to report is that several of us were inspired by the McCaskill story and the Winding River Road account, so off we went on a fascinating field trip. Wednesday, 4-5-06, Jerry Fischer, Tour Guide Extraordinaire, guided us along sections of where the River Road was and is. He gave names and short accounts of the significant areas along the way.
    The Coon Hill Cemetery was of special interest. Tom McMillan found some of the stones of his ancestors. We noted lots of Campbells, McDavids, McCaskills and Mayos. I remembered that Luman Mayo wrote a story about Allen Mayo, his great-grandfather, for Scrapbook III, so it was interesting to find Allen's stone in the Mayo plot in Coon Hill.
    Another interesting stop was at the springs in Chumuckla. The springs are going strong, but the hotel is no longer there - just a collection of trailers being used for fish camps. My trusty film camera recorded much of what we saw on this trip, so we may be able to get at least one good shot for you soon. The "we" of this trip: Margaret Collier, Jerry Fischer, Tom McMillan, Donald Sales, and Jerry Simmons.
                                * * *
    It is time now to learn a little about why almost all of the Spanish settlers left this area so soon after the territory was purchased. Tradition reveals many of them had been accused of helping slaves to slip across the line from Alabama into Florida and harboring them against being returned by their owners. Many Spaniards including high officials in the territory had been accused of inciting the Indians in Florida and in Alabama to make war against the United States or Alabama.
    Naturally, when this area became a part of the United States, many Spanish settlers expected the people living in Alabama who had slaves, livestock and other property stolen and brought to Spanish territory to organize, arm themselves and come in to Florida seeking their lost property and revenge against any Spanish remaining in Florida. This is probably why the quick exit of the Spanish settlers from this area.
    Soon after the purchase of Florida, settlers began to move in from Alabama and other parts of the United States. However, little progress was made in the timber industry during the first few years after Florida became a part of the United States. By 1830 the business of cutting and marketing hewn timber had made considerable advancement. Many round logs were being floated down the river to the Pensacola market. Like the hewn timber the logs were rafted to Ferry Pass, the head of Escambia Bay, and towed from there by tug boats.
    By 1837 all the abandoned Spanish cabins had been repaired and occupied. Many others were built and occupied by logging workers. One or two small saw mills using upright saws had been built on creeks supplying waterpower. Business was prosperous in certain areas along the then Old Indian Trading Trail. In these prosperous areas short stretches of the trail had been beaten out later to become a part of the Winding River Road. Two or three log landings had been established on the river. Much hewn timber was being marketed. Many long spars were being sold along with round logs.
    In 1837 the timber market suddenly slumped. All logging and timber operations closed down. There was no employment throughout the area. Money was scarce. The words "hard times" were heard everywhere. What was a prosperous area a few weeks before now seemed destined for a famine. The settlers who had been making money by raising beef cattle on the range and selling them for good prices now found themselves without a market.
    The Panic was not without its benefits. The stalwart pioneers did not stroll up and down their log roads gazing at the logs and timbers cut and ready for market or sit around log landings looking at big rafts of logs and hewn timber tied up in the river and think of the hundreds of dollars they would have gotten for them if the market had not suddenly slumped. 
    They did not sit around in comfortable places on the seventeenth joint of their backbones and sing a mournful song of distress to some government agency for help. They showed their bulldog courage and resourcefulness by clearing fertile areas of swamp land hammock lands and planting them in corn, peas, sweet potatoes, sugarcane and vegetables. They learned how to conserve fish and game like they had seen the Indians do a few years before. Truly, they turned the unfortunate Panic into a blessing. This was the beginning of Agriculture in the northwestern part of Santa Rosa County.
                                  * * *
    Next week you'll read about after the Panic, so be sure to keep buying the Ledger to get all of this.

This page last modified on Monday, May 01, 2006