Dixie County, Florida Genealogy and History
Genealogy Trails 2021
On April 25, 1921, Dixie County was created from the southern part of Lafayette County. (Chap. 8514, Acts 1921) In swift review we note the evolution of this county under many names, each succeeding name encompassed by diminished boundaries, since Spain ceded the Floridas to the United States on February 22, 1821. (pp. 28, 29, 30, Compiled General Laws of Florida 1927)
During the ensuing one hundred years, the area now known as Dixie County, was included, in orderly succession, as a part of the following political divisions:
Province of West Florida, received from Spain by formal ceremony and proclamation of Major General Andrew Jackson, Commissioner of the United States, on July 17, 1821 (p. 3, Com. Gen. Laws of Florida 1927);
Escambia County, created from West Florida on July 21, 1821 by Major General Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Provinces of Florida (p. 28, Com. Gen. Laws of Florida 1927);
Jackson County, divided from Escambia County by Territorial Act approved August 12, 1822 (p. 28, Com. Gen. Laws of Florida 1927);
Gadsden County, divided from Jackson County, by Act approved June 24, 1823 (p. 29, Com. Gen. Laws of Florida 1927);
Leon County, divided from Gadsden County by an Act approved December 29, 1824 (p. 260, Acts of 1824; p. 29, Com. Gen. Laws of Florida 1927);
Madison County, divided from Leon County, by an Act approved December 26, 1827 (p.8, Acts 1827; p. 29, Com. Gen. Laws of Florida 1927);
Lafayette County, divided from Madison County, by an Act approved December 23, 1856 (Laws, Chap. 806; p. 30, Com. Gen. Laws of Florida 1927).
Though the line of Mason and Dixon is a vanished legend, yet to every true American, the name of "Dixie" evokes sacred emotions. This name was actually chosen for a county where the indescribable atmosphere of "Dixie Land" will ever linger. In an unusual and mysterious setting, midst numerous reminders of a day gone by, one sees present-day progress and rich promise of an opulent future.
Dixie County is bounded on the north by Lafayette County, on the east by Gilchrist and Levy Counties, on the south by Levy County and the Gulf of Mexico, on the west by the Gulf of Mexico and Taylor County. The border lines as Nature has outlined them on the east, south and west, have not been altered since the days of West Florida. The changes have affected only the size and shape of the northern areas. (Chap. 8514, Acts 1921)
This is, indeed, a favored spot, protected, enriched and beautified by two superlative miracles of Nature – the glamorous Suwannee washing its eastern shores, the foamy Gulf yielding its treasures on the south and west. Large hammocks, some of which are miles in width, cover the Suwannee River valley. These hammocks are thickly wooded, containing millions of feet of valuable timber, and sheltering harmless creatures of the wild. Songbirds such as the mockingbird, the red cardinal, the thrush, and many other birds abide here the year round.
Several beautiful springs flow into the river. From the riverbanks, weeping willows dip their graceful heads to the sparkling silver and green waters, as if to view their own charms there mirrored. The willows are interspersed with majestic pines, live oak, water oats, ironwood, magnolia, hickory, gum, cedar, and many other varieties of trees, intermingled with rank growths of vine, berry bush and palmetto. A gentle, exhilarating breeze emanates constantly from the Suwannee. Fish, in variety, abound in the waters. A lazy alligator is frequently seen; an enormous frog is frequently heard, as he dives from his sunbath on a log. The enchantment of the Suwannee is such that one, momentarily, forgets time and space; and, awakening, feels in thorough sympathy with the plaint of the old song:...... "I could live and die in Dixie."
An old river landing place, called Jones Landing, at the junction of Lafayette and Dixie counties, indicates a former camping ground which appears to have been long used by Indians, and later as a trading post by white men. Many arrows and Indian relics have been found in this vicinity.
The Suwannee is navigable as far north as a point known as Old Troy in Lafayette County. At this point there is an old gunboat which was sunk during the Civil War, parts of which are still visible. Steamboats on the Suwannee River, with cargoes of cotton and other goods, figured conspicuously in the early history of the section. After the Civil War, one hundred bales of cotton were confiscated at Old Town and taken off by "carpet -bag -gers." Claims for this cotton, later made by the owners, are still on file in the archives in Washington – but compensation was never allowed. (1)
The potential value of the Suwannee River as an asset to county, state and nation, can hardly be overestimated. United States Congressman Lex Green, of the third Congressional District of Florida, has for some time been advocating in Washington a needed project whereby power might be converted from the river into lights and other conveniences for farm homes. (2)
In addition to this, the valley of the Suwannee River is an ideal natural park and sanctuary for wildlife-and it should be so preserved, protected, and developed. If it's native flora and fauna were under governmental protection, this could easily be one of the show places of the earth, of tremendous educational and recreational value to present generations and posterity. Without such measures, quail, wild turkeys, squirrels, and many song birds-once so plentiful-are approaching extermination. It is also hoped that adequate drainage will be provided and that the river may be dredged to deepen its channel, so once again it might be navigated by river craft. The waters of the Gulf are warm and shallow, with harbors at the mouths of the Suwannee and Steinhatchee rivers. These waterways are outlets for considerable quantities of lumber and naval stores products. (3)
Dixie County has a historical background of colorful and thrilling interest. One evidence of this is the Old Spanish Trail which crosses the county, a part which is now absorbed by State Road No.19, running east and west. There is also Jackson's Trail. This is a part of the Old Spanish Trail, and so called on account of notable use by General Andrew Jackson during the Civil War. Jackson's Trail was also utilized by General J. R. Butler during his Indian Campaign in 1860. Remains of two forts – namely, Fort Brooke and Fort Griffin, occupied by General Jackson, lie in mouldering decay. A large number of Indian, dirt mounds, distributed throughout the county, also shell mounds on the Gulf coast, are mysterious markers of ancient activities in the "Land of Flowers." A few, old hewn log buildings recall more recent pioneer days. (4)
Dixie County has been fittingly termed, "the last frontier in Florida," for here we still find strips of the forest primeval, and unconquered wilds as yet untrod by the foot of man. Two decades ago vast forests covered the whole county. Other counties were considering reforestation when Dixie County began to market its timber. (5)
Wildlife-once exceedingly abundant, has rapidly decreased, due to ruthless destruction by hunters and from forest fires. The wild game native to the section are deer, black bear, wild cat, panther, turkey, quail, squirrels, ducks, alligators, and o'possums. In limited numbers there are fur-bearing animals such as otter, raccoon, mink, fox and skunk. Eagles are still to be seen in some sections. Some of these measure eight to ten feet from tip to tip. (6) A game preserve in the interior has been maintained during the past few years by the State Board of Forestry. In this there are 125,000 acres (approx.) under fence, with adequate facilities for fire protection. (7) The Gulf Stream tempers the climate of Dixie County, rendering it balmy and mild, free from extremes of either heat or cold. The average temperature is 70 degrees. The average rainfall is 49 inches, and is well distributed throughout the year. (8)
The population of the county in 1921 was about 1,500; in 1936 it was over 6,000. (9) The first official act after creation of the county was the meeting of the Board of County Commissioners in Cross City on June 18, 1921. (p.1, Com. Min., 1) By vote of the people, Cross City - in opposition to Eugene and Old Town was chosen as the county seat and so declared officially on October 3, 1921. (p.23, Com. Min., 1) Cross City is situated on State Road No. 19 and the Atlantic Coast Line Railway. The population in 1921 was approximately 50; in 1937, it is 1,097. (9)
In 1865, the last year of the Civil War, many early records of this area were destroyed at the burning of Old Troy, which at that time was the county seat of Lafayette County. The Court House was rebuilt at New Troy, one-quarter of a mile distant. At midnight, December 31, 1892, this Court House was also burned. (10) When Dixie County was organized in 1921, the remaining records belonging to this area were transcribed and made a part of the records of Dixie County. (11)
The N.N. Barber building, the Baptist Church, and the garage building of W.P. Chavous were used temporarily as court rooms during 1921 and 1922. (pp. 12, 49, 82 and 83 Com. Min., 1). A small wooden Court House was erected in January of 1923, by contract from the county to E,M, Barber, for the sum of $299.00, and was so designated officially on February 5, 1923. (p. 141, Com. Min., 1) A resolution was adopted on August 6, 1923, by the County Commissioners to issue interest-bearing time warrants for $35,000 for the purpose of erecting a permanent Court House. (p. 153, Com. Min., 1) Contract was awarded on August 7, 1923, to G. W. Livingston, Contractor, and S. J. Welch, Architect, for the erection of a permanent Court House for the sum of $37,000. Building operations began immediately thereafter. (p. 152, Com. Min., 1) On September 3, 1923, the Dixie County State Bank, Cross City, bid $35,000 for these interest-bearing time warrants, which bid was accepted by the County. (P. 162, Com. Min., 1)
The temporary, wooden Court House was sold on March 3, 1924, at public sale, to J.M. McKinney, with the reservation that the building might be held until completion and acceptance of the new Court House. (p. 201, Com. Min., 1) The permanent Court House, constructed of brick and plaster and still in use, was completed and formally delivered to the county by the contractor on April 7, 1924. The Court House was struck twice by lightning in the summer of 1925, doing some damage to the building and knocking several people unconscious. (12)
In February, 1934, a fire destroyed the office of the Mayor, located over a store building, with all city records then in his office. It so happened that a few volumes of Mayor's Docket and some city registration books were being audited in the Court House at the time, and thus were preserved. (13) Later in 1934, the City Hall was built as a project of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in co-operation with the city, at an approximate cost of $7,500.00 This is a modern, one-story, concrete -block structure, which provides offices for city officials and a fire -proof depository for city records. (14)
The county has an area of 454, 400 acres, with hundreds of millions of feet of standing pine, cypress, hardwoods and cedar. Hammock lands, of rich soil and rank vegetation, appear in spots. The total acreage in farm lands is 123, 406, with 8, 154 available for crops. In farm lands, the types of soil which predominate are the Norfolk Fine Sand and the Blanton Fine Sand. The remaining areas are of poorer soil, being especially adapted to stock raising, because of the excellent quantity of native grasses and other pasturage, abundant water, and temperate climate. The open range is legally available. (15)
The leading industries in the order names: Lumber, turpentine and resin, stock raising, agriculture, fisheries, and poultry raising. (16)
The town of Shamrock, on the outskirts of Cross City, with a population of 2,500, has built up in connection with the large, and modern plant of the Putnam Lumber Company, the largest land-holders in Dixie County, which began operations at this location in 1920. The plant now has a daily capacity of 200,000 feet, board measure, in the manufacture of lumber alone. Other products are veneer, shingles, boxes, crates, staves, coffins, novelties, and ice. This company maintains an average of 2,000 employees, including those engaged in logging. The living quarters provided for employees are comfortable, attractive frame buildings, with lights and water. Cross City and Shamrock are termed, the "Twin Cities." (17) Other large companies which have operated extensively in lumber since 1921 are: Brooks-Scanlon Corporation, Foley, Florida; Wilson Cypress Company, Palatka, Florida; Schollar Box & Crate Company, Shamrock, Florida. (18)
The production of turpentine has been active since 1921. The peak was reached in 1929 and 1930, with tremendous output and large payrolls. Production decreased from 1931 to 1935. The industry has now apparently reached a new, even level, which, through a program of tree conservation, bids fair to continue for an indefinite period. (19) Adcock-Lindsey Company, Shamrock, Florida, and P.C. Crapps & Son, Hines, Florida, are the largest operators.
Stock raising, in cattle and hogs, is third in importance to lumber and turpentine; and is on the increase. Cattle herds have been greatly improved by the introduction of blooded stock during recent years. Range herds are now rated as among the finest in the state. Many cattle men lease large areas of land for cattle raising. Such lands are enclosed with fences and planted with improved grasses. (20) Hogs are a valuable source of income, with production rapidly increasing. They thrive on the open range and in pastures. In the fall of each year, marketable hogs are fattened in pastures of peanuts cultivated for that purpose. (21)
Dr. D.M. Treadwell, appointed County Agent in 1930, is due great credit for promoting modernized farming methods, screw worm control, soil conservation, and scientific improvement in the grade and care of stock. Through his faithful service and co-operation of the Agricultural Extension Service, great strides have been made in the advancement of stock raising and agriculture. (22) The work of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the fire-prevention service f the Forestry Division, has also been worth thousands of dollars yearly to the range alone. (23)
Agriculture decreased considerably during the years 1931 to 1935, and has been on an upward trend since that time. The main crops are corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, velvet beans, and watermelons, with some cotton and vegetables. Tobacco has not yet been cultivated in the county although certain areas are suitable for special varieties. (24) The largest fisheries along the Gulf Coast are the Salt Creek Fishery at the mouth of the Suwannee River; the Steinhatchee Fishery at the mouth of the Steinhatchee River; and the Rocky Creek Fishery at the mouth of the Rocky Creek. There are also fisheries at Fishbone, Sherod Island and Horseshoe. (25) The production of chickens, turkeys and eggs is conducted on a small scale, and principally as a diversification of farm activities. (26)
Dixie County is divided into five election districts. The boundaries of these districts were fixed, defined and published on September 27, 1923. (pp. 159 and 173 Com. Min., 1) The Board of County Commissioners is composed of five members, or one representative from each district. (27)
The Dixie County State Bank, providing ample financial facilities, is an important factor in county development. This institution began business in the county on September 19, 1923, with a capital stock of $20,000.00, which was later increased to $30,000.00. This bank stood firm during the depression, and, unlike many small banks, was not forced to borrow. Under the able management of M.L. Fleishel, President until 1925, and Ollie Williams, Cashier until 1926, and J. H. Scales, President, with B. S. Preston, Cashier, from that period to the present time, its business has steadily grown. The growth of prosperity in the county is indicated by deposits of $50,000.00 in 1923, to $180,000.00 as of March, 1937. (28)
Churches have not increased greatly in numbers since 1921, although membership has increased about fifty per cent, and church properties have been renewed and improved. There are now eleven white churches and four colored churches in the county. (29)
There are 15 schools for white children and three schools for colored, in the county. Dixie High School, in Cross City, accommodates six hundred pupils, and all grades from the first to the twelfth, with manual training and the arts included. A school motor bus fleet is operated regularly, affording comfortable transportation to pupils in all parts of the county. County schools are well graded and provide good facilities. Schools have increased wonderfully since 1921. In that year Cross City had only one teacher, with eighteen students; today there are twenty-eight teachers and over nine hundred students to attend the Cross City Schools. Great credit is due Mr. Ollie Williams, Superintendent of County Schools since 1933, who has been ably assisted by the School Board and many public-spirited citizens, for rapid improvement in the status of county schools and the worth of county school property, which is valued at $108,000.00. (30)
The first library in this area was the private library owned by Mr. John Hines, who, during the Civil War, lived about twelve miles north of the present county seat. Mr. W. T. Cash, now State Librarian, during his very early school days, read and received much inspiration from the books of this library, as he was living on the farm of Mr. Hines at that time. (31)
There is a total of 63 miles of improved roads in the county, 40 miles of which are hard-surfaced. The main highways are State Rd. No.19, State Rd. No. 50, the Salt Creek Road, Horseshoe Road, and the Jena Road. State Rd. No. 50, which connects Branford and Old Town, is now being prepared for hard-surfacing. This highway is a very important link between north and south, and will contribute much toward the development of the interior of the county and the West Coast in the section. (32) The Atlantic Coast Railway crosses the county from Hines, through Cross City and Old Town, and thence to South Florida, providing 30 miles of trackage. Numerous spur tracks are used for logging operations. (33) Completion of the wooden bridge across the Suwannee River, where It Intersects State Rd. No. 19 near old Fort Fannin, was formally accepted September 27, 1923, at a joint meeting of the Commissioners of Dixie, Alachua and Levy, which counties bore an equal part in the cost of construction. Dixie County issued interest-bearing time warrants in the amount of $15,000.00 for this purpose. (pp. 159 and 173, Com. Min., 1)
A striking picture is formed by the beautiful steel bridge which now spans the gently rippling river. Built by the State of Florida, it replaced the old bridge in 1935. (24) At either entrance, across a large steel girder overhead, appears an inscription. The traveler, approaching this shining white bridge, is gladdened by a warm welcome, subtly conveyed by these words: "WAY DOWN UPON THE SUWANNEE RIVER."
|Board of Public Instruction|
|Cross City, Florida|
|April 7, 1937|
|Mrs. Sue A. Mahorner|
|Historical Records and State Archives Survey|
|Dear Mrs. Mahorner, I have read the enclosed sketch of Dixie County history, prepared by Mrs. Daisy G. Heising. I feel sure the statements therein are true and are as accurate as may be obtained at the present time.|
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