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One of the earliest references to what is now known as Florala is taken from E.W. Creswell’s book entitled “On To Pensacola,’’ Mr. Creswell is the northwest Florida historian, and his book describes General Andrew Jackson’s march from Apalachicola, Florida, to Pensacola. ‘General Andrew Jackson and his army headed downhill’ after leaving the Alabama-Florida border in the Florala-Paxton area. They were on perhaps centuries-old road from the upper Creek Nation to Escambia Bay. Jackson called it the Red Ground Trail. It had converged with lesser trails at David’s Lake to make that place one of considerable importance in frontier commerce and communication. The downhill grade was so gradual, however, that it probably was little noticed by the tired horses and men-” It must have been with some reluctance that they marched away from the lake, which John Lee Williams (a government surveyor) described seven years later (1825) thusly: A branch of Shoal River rises in a fine lake, adjoining the Alabama line, and is about seven or eight miles in circumference. It is a charming sheet of spring water, and it is surrounded with good pineland; a handsome settlement is progressing on its banks. The soil here is rather clayey.
On June 24, 1966, the Alabama Historical Association unveiled and dedicated a monument on the shore of Lake Jackson inscribed as follows, "LAKE JACKSON.” Andrew Jackson in Seminole War with an army of l200 camped here in May 1818, enroute westward from Fort Gadsden to subdue marauding Indians abetted by Spaniards at Pensacola. Jackson determined to seize Pensacola and thus altered the course of history on this continent.
An earlier historian had his to say about Jackson’s camp on the lake. ‘The English, and also the Spaniards at Pensacola, furnished ammunition to Indians and runaway Negroes to go about the country, assaulting intruders to the area. General Jackson, on his way to Pensacola to stop these outrages, camped several weeks on the shores of our lake, because his soldiers had smallpox. Sending the convalescents back to Tennessee, he took the other soldiers to Pensacola. It is a matter of history how he meted out punishment to the marauders. Later, Jackson, after the battle of New Orleans against the English, invaded Florida and overthrew the Seminole Indians. He was Florida’s first Territorial—Governor, and later the seventh President of the United States.’’ He was the first Democratic President.
The town of Florala is located at the junction of highways 15 and 55, in the southeast corner of the country. A beautiful little city, with wide streets, it borders on the north shores of Lake Jackson, which is partly in Florida and partly in Alabama. The name Florala is taken front first letters of both names.
The earliest settlers at what is now Florala homesteaded on the south side of the lake nearer he site of Paxton, Florida, than Florala. Among the earliest of these was a man named McDade, whose real name was McDavid, but who for some reason changed his name to McDade. For many years Lake Jackson was known as McDades Pond.
Early maps of this area show different locations of the boundary line between Alabama and Florida. One has the line several miles north of Florala. A map made by John Lee Williams has the lake named as David’s Lake, and a property survey dated May 16, l855, has the lake named as Jackson’s Pond. Another legendary name McDade’s pond. The date of the changing of the name to Lake Jackson is not known.
Mr. McDade built a house on the little stream that is now known as Paxton Creek and began milling operations there with a small hand mill. He also did some farming and stock raising. He had three sons, John, Joel and Henry whose children and grandchildren still reside in this section of Alabama.
In 1837, W.J.D. Cawthon moved from what is now is Dothan and bought the property of McDade. The Cawthon history is an interesting one. Mr. Cawthon was a Georgian, coming from near Columbia, Alabama, on the Georgia side of the Chattahoochee.
The Cawthon family had moved west across Alabama, driving their many cows and other stock before them. Arriving at what is now Dothan with his covered wagons and family effects, he decided to stay a while. His roundup grounds began to be known as “Cowpens’’ and the place that is now Dothan was known by that name for a long time.
According to Dr. Miller, there was a conflict in religious views between Cawthon and his wife while they were living at Dothan, so he left his wife and started west again, still driving his herds before Florala became his next home.
Mr. Cawthon went back to Georgia and purchased a set of mill rocks and installed them on the little creek near his home. Parts of the old mill are still there, just below where the Florala Sawmill Company later built their huge mill.
He also had his slaves to saw out lumber with a whipsaw to build the first frame house of the section. There are few people living today who remember seeing a whipsaw in use. It was the only method of sawing timber in those days.
After the gristmill was in operation, he added machinery for cleaning rice and wheat. His mill was one of the community gathering places for many years.
Much later than the Millers and the Cawthons, one of the find settlers to make his home in what is now the cooperate limits of Florala was James Edwin Hughes, who was born in Dale County, Alabama. He arrived in Florala by ox cart in December of 1865, after the ending of the Civil War. Mr. Hughes, while serving in the Confederate Army, had traded for a 160 acre trac of land from a soldier in his company, who was from Covington County. This man had bargained for the 160 acres from the government for $15.00.
He was anxious to get from under this load and swapped the land for a pair of oxen. This tract is now the central part of the City of Florala. Upon his arrival here with widowed mother, Mr. Hughes found a small log building, just north of the present location of the Florala Hardware Company. In this building he established his home for several years until he built a home approximately on the present site of the Florala Hardware Company. He bought more land and soon owned much of the surrounding territory. He kept a little store, his stock of goods consisting of needles, pins, thread, etc., which he kept in a big gourd under his bed and brought it out whenever a customer came in. Later his store increased to large proportions, and he made trips to market in Troy, Alabama, and Milton, Florida.
There was a stagecoach that made the trips from Columbus, Georgia, to Geneva, and Florala, then to Milton. Mr. Hughes always took care of the men and the horses. He evidently realized the great future in store for the section, and he bought up as much land as he could afford. He soon owned much of the surrounding territory.
The Bank of Florala still Operates today (1970s) as it did in 1909 on this corner. To the right is the" Flat Iron Building," so named because of its resemblance to an old flat iron. The Lamar Britton Mercantile Company is on the far left. At that time the Central of Georgia Railroad track ran between the buildings. Trolleys ran on the tracks hi the early part of the century but were discontinued after automobiles became popular.
However, in later years of development, he gave away hundreds of acres in order to promote industrial growth. He gave the Jackson Lumber Company many acres to induce them to locate near Florala. Mr. Hughes was known as the "Daddy of Florala" and died in 1936 at the age of 97.
As time passed, other settlers arrived in the area until the population grew which warranted the establishment of a post office on January 11, 1875. The post office was established in the home of Mr. Hughes, who had been named postmaster, and was named Lake City, Alabama. The name of the community was changed to Lakeview Alabama, on May 18, 1877, and finally to Florala, on June 22 1891, this name being derived by assigning the first four letters of Florida and the first three letters in Alabama.
Will Britton was one of the builders of the town of Florala. Mr. Britton built the Bank of Florala and the brick building joining the bank building, known as the Lamar-Britton Mercantile Company, which was later the Britton Grocery Company and the present Florala City Hall. The city building was sold to C. W. Lamar, who sold it to the Bank of Florala. He also built the Opera House, which was destroyed by fire in the spring or 1913, and in 1904 he built the Colonial House which was destroyed by fire in 1966. He organized the Bank of Florala in May in 1904 and was its first president. W.C. McLaughlin was vice president and Theo S. Lanz was cashier. He was one of the recognized business factors of the section, and it was a great loss to the community when he died in 1909 following an operation for appendicitis while attending the Kentucky Derby. The Opera House was financed by a corporation and was located across Fifth Avenue from the old C, of G. Railroad depot. It was upstairs over several stores and it was never rebuilt after burning.
Dr. Ad Hovelle had a photograph gallery upstairs in the Opera House building. At the same time, he operated Florala’s first picture show where the Smith 66 Service Station now stands. Dr. Hovelle was also an eye specialist and served in the French Army. He was a prisoner in Germany during the siege of Paris in 1871. The late James R. Shepherd, Sr., established the Shepherd Furniture Company in 1905. Mr. Shepherd was a native Alabamian and came here just in time to take part in the 24th of June Celebration that year. He was an active Mason, an active church and Sunday School worker in the Baptist Church. He died in the prime of life and his son, James R. Shepherd, Jr., and his daughter, Miss Winnie Shepherd, continued the business. After James and ‘is family moved to Houston, Texas, Miss Winnie operated the business for many years selling out shortly before her death to Gamier-Dunn Company.
About 1897, M.W.C. McLaughlin moved from Geneva County to Florala. He had been in the turpentine business there. He was also a surveyor and it waste who made the preliminary survey for the A & F Division of the L & N Railroad of the track age which runs from Georgiana to Gainesville, Florida.
Mr. McLaughlin was prominent in business and civic circles of Florala for many years and served as first mayor of the town. He was instrumental in having the County High School located at Florala. He helped to organize the Presbyterian Church and was a ruling elder until his death.
The Flat Iron Building in Florala is so named because of its peculiar wedge shape. This early 1905 photo shows several of the town's first businesses and the man who ran them. On the bottom left is the office of the Florala Jewelry Store; to the right of that is the shoe store. In the upstairs center was J.F. Gibson Cleaners; to the right is W. Turnquist, Tailor; to the right was the Florala News. Identified in the picture is: (third from left) Wilmar Turnquist; (fourth from left) Oscar Gustafson; (top third from left) William Turnquist; (top fourth from left) Fred Turnquist.
He was first vice president of the Bank of Florala president of Florala Merchants Company and of the Scotch Manufacturing Company at Milligan. Associated with him during his activities, were W.R. McDuffie, D.P. Ray, W.A. Monroe, H.A. Ray, Jim Rozier, and Fairly Ray. The Ray brothers were called in the naval stores business for many year, and were among the very first to establish, this business in this section.
The Yellow River Railroad came into Paxton from Crestview in 1894. However, it was of little use as a passenger medium for many years since it was used primarily for logging.
When the L & N bought the Railroad in 19O2, they instituted regular passenger and freight service, connecting with their line in Covington at Paxton. The first depot in Florala was burned soon after it was built and for several months service was rendered from a couple of boxcars. In 1902, the present station was built. The first agent was J.A. Vaughan.
The Central of Georgia came about l904 and made connections L & N in Florala for points east. The Central is gone now and the station is serving as a medical center. The first agent for this line was CC. Bennett. Agents who have served the Florala agency of the L & N are: J A. Garrett, joint agent of the Yellow River Railroad and L & N, March 20, 1903 to March 2, 19IO to January 1, 1948; and E.C. Green, January 1, 1948, incumbent. In 1905, J.N. McClung built an ice plant and added an electric light plant in 1906, they continued in this business until approximately 1926, and the Colonel P.S. McClung sold to the Alabama Power Company. The Burgess Brothers operated a jewelry store and later went into general merchandise and men’s furnishings business here in the early I 900.
Daniel Ingram Britton Adkinson advertised in a 1907 Florala newspaper that he owned the oldest store in Florala. Descendants say that this is true but they are unsure whether the photo above is the first or second store owned by Adkinson. This picture was made in 1911 or earlier and Adkinson stands in front of his business when it was located on 5th Avenue and the East side of Sixth Street. As one comes into the main street of Florala on Highway 331 from Opp the store would have sat just to the left and on the south side of the street. On the front left of the door is an old gum machine.
Perhaps the first drug store was Dr. Adams’ office where he kept medicines and druggist’s sundries, with Mr. Jeff Williams as assistant. A regular prescription store was opened in 1903 where the present Florala Pharmacy stands and was owned by Steven Wynn and John McLean with the name of the firm being the Florala Pharmacy. Mr. Wynn moved to Oklahoma, and Samuel H. Williams of Columbus, Georgia bought his interest. In 1912, the Pharmacy was sold to, D.W. Quillin. The O.K. Drug Store was established in 1912 and was operated by H.H. McDougald. The Quillin brothers operated store near the Chautauqua Building.
They moved from Falco to a place located one-mile north of Hacoda in 1871. This place was named Martha in honor of Adkison’s wife. At Martha, Adkinson’s had a 90 x 40 general merchandise building. Jim Hughes reportedly went to Adkinson and talked him into moving his business to Florala. Adkinson did and this is reportedly the first business to ever operate in the city. According to descendants of Adkinson the business sat where Public Gas Co is now. This was in 1897.
Mr. Adkison’s advertisement in a 1912 publication states that his place of business was located at Fifth Avenue and east side of Sixth Street, and that his was the oldest business house in Florala. This is believed to have been his second business location in the city.
Among those who came to this section about 1900 were Henry Elliot ands W.R. McDuffie, both of North Carolina, and who were pioneer Naval Stores operators in the Natural Bridge area. Then came Evander Patterson and Jamses N. Mclean, also from North Carolina, who bought out McLean and Patterson Naval Stores Company. Mr. Patterson was a charter member of the Presbyterian Church, and Mr. McLean was an early Mayor and prominent citizen. Mrs. Williamson, who after her husband’s death, sold her turpentine interests, moved to Florala and bought the old I.E. Hughes home. It later burned, and the lot was sold to W.H. Britton and J.E. Hughes at a sale for partition and distribution of the Williamson Estate. The large oaks in the front yard were cut down to straighten out Fifth Avenue and to make way for business houses.
J.A. McNeil and Jack Johnson of North Carolina operated the first turpentine still in this section. It was located three or four miles east of Florala on the road to Natural Bridge. They later sold the business to Henry Elliot, W.R. McDuffie, and W.C. McLaughlin, and it was known as the Florala Naval Stores Company. CC. McRae was one of the turpentine operators in this section and was very successful. McRae Station on he old Central of Georgia was named for him. Mr. McRae was the builder and owner of the Flatiron Building, which was later owned by Mr. Mike Laurie. John McLean and Gorden Williams, both young men, went into the Naval business in the Pond Creek Section. John McLean also had a turpentine business north of town, which was known long afterwards as “McLean’s Quarters.”
Mr. Rube Hart, Mr. Ben Davis, and Mr. Coleman operated a Naval Stores business between Florala and Samson, and the town of Hacoda was named for these men, the first two letters of Hart, Coleman, and Davis spelling Hacoda. The City of Samson was laid out in 1903 and incorporated in 1906. The first post office in Geneva County was at Geneva in 1896, and the second was at Martha in l906; Martha being named for the wife of D.I.B. Adkison. Mrs. Adkison was Miss Martha Stoker before her marriage. She lived with her husband at Falco, Alabama after he retired from the Civil War and they were married. He cut timber and floated logs down Yellow River to Pensacola and then walked back..
Old settlers tell us that Florala was a very rough town during this period. There were at least nine saloons and they were all well patronized. Street lights were common and records of several shoot-outs exist. With the railroads and sawmills coming in the area the first of the century, many new people came here to live and work. Florala real began to grow.
What is now known as South Fifth Street had not one, not two, but seven saloons all in one row. And a fellow by the name of Carl Smith has the infamous reputation of being the first person to be killed in one of the saloons.
The first church in the section was Chapel Hill, which was organized in 1852 by Rev. D.C. Allen and Rev. Wiley Martin. It was located about eight miles northeast of Florala.
The Ghent brothers arrived early in Florala’s history, it was they who made most of the spinning wheels and looms for the populace. They were master craftsmen at fine woodworking, silversmithing, and goldsmithing.
There were four if these brothers, and one of them, John, married Mary Cawthon, daughter of the old mill operator. Mr.Cawthon opposed the wedding, however, and some say that Ghent never forgave him. Ghent came from a proud. aristocratic family that had never had any trouble of any kind, but apparently Cawthon’s opposition to John, who settled about two miles west of the Cawthon mill, caused him to go astray.
John Ghent kept the Paxton Post Office, high on the hill south of the lake. He also ran a gristmill and connected with him in one way and another was his brother-in-law, Isaac Welch, who was the husband of Martha Ann Cawthon.
Ghent owned a few slaves, among them Chap,’’ who was very devoted to him. It was Chap who performed the last bit of service for him on this Earth.
No one seems to know why, but for some reason Ghent began tampering with the mail that came through his hands. Me would ascertain if there were valuables in letters and packages and if there were, he would transfer them to his own possessions.
Ammon Miller, a young stagecoach driver whose route ran by Paxton, noticed that occasionally Ghent would weigh and otherwise calculate the mail matter. Dale Jordan and Dick Geohagen had also noticed this strange activity. As a result, Ghent was soon under suspicion, especially in view of the fact that complaints were beginning to be registered with the postal authorities.
An inspector by the name of Blackmon sent a marked package on the Pensacola routine and Ghent fell for it. Blackmon soon had him in Tallahassee, Florida, where he was tried in Federal Court. Me was transferred to Pensacola for safekeeping. At two o’clock one morning he removed the bars from his window and jumped leg irons and all, from the second floor.
The jump mortally injured him, and he died the next day. Before he died he “had a last request. He asked that he be buried standing up and with his gun in his hand. This request was ignored, however, he was buried at Milton, where one of his brothers lived. But old Chap, faithful even in death, went to Milton on an ox-wagon and brought his masters body home in a wooden box. After a six-day journey, Ghent’s last request was fulfilled. He was put to rest in the south side of the lake, near his home, standing up, and with his gun In his hand.
Later, his wife Mary, her sister, and brother-in-law left for parts unknown. But before leaving, it is said that they set fire to all the buildings on the place including the outbuildings. Her nephew. Dr. J.H.B Miller says that Mary Ghent lived for many years in Texas after this tragedy broke up her life. This story might have been written differently had old “Cramp’’ Cawthon received his son-in-law a little more cordially.
In 1895 Florala was just a small settlement comprised of the following families, exclusive of the J.E. Hughes family; John F. Gilmer, W.B. Gilmer, Dr. R.L. Miller, Jeff George, Judge Wood, R.H Stallings and the Manning family. Mr. W.B. Manning first settled across the lake where he farmed, then located in Old Florala’’ near the old Masonic Lodge.,where he conducted a store. Later, when the railroad came in, he moved and ran a store in the heart of the town. His son, J.T. Manning, preferred logging to farming and keeping a store. When he had accumulated $1000 he married and built a home near the present home of his son, Ernest Manning. In1888, Mr. Manning was given the management of the large land holdings or the Jackson Lumber Company This was perhaps the finest body of pine timber in the land and comprised 144,000acres. Mr. Manning held this job until the date of his death, exactly fifty year.
Among the early businesses founded in Florala and still operating there is Cox Hardware begun in 1916 by the Cox Brothers, B. C. and Walt W. Cox. This early photo of the inside of the store shows W.W. Cox and B.C. Cox on the left along with two unidentified people.
This little settlement of people could not last long, with new industries coming in, new people from various states, and the Yellow River Railroad train blowing its whistle in the center of town. It was a country village no longer. People flocked in front other states, chiefly North Carolina in the Cape Fear River section that was settled in the early days of Scotch Highlanders. Those people were looking for the long leaf yellow pine to manufacture turpentine and resin and to cut into lumber. Among these were the McPhail brothers, who formed the Lake Lumber Company and built a railroad on the south side of the lake that connected with the Yellow River Railroad, which was chiefly alog road." In 1904, the McPhail retained an Interest in tile new firm. Others taking stock were E.P. Rodwell,Sr., T.J. Britton, Sr., and W.A. Mills. This business started with paid-in capital of $100,000, which was increased to one-half million in 1908. In the year 1907, Mr. Britton bought from the Yawkey Estate, 21,500 acres of land in Walton and Holmes Counties, It was considered one of the finest bodies of pine timber in the state at that time. At its peak of operation, the Britton Lumber Company employed from 300-400 men, owned thirty miles of logging railroad, owned 25,ooo acres of pine timber land, and operated a saw mill and a planking mill with a capacity of 100,000 feet of lumber per day. Mr. Britton was also president of the Bank of Florala and the Lake Jackson Hotel Company. The company was, in association with the C. of G. Railroad, a leader in agriculture in tile area. They owned several large farms and promoted this area in agriculture. The farms were under the management of John Henry Mathews, a brother or Walter Mathews and later by Gene Cannon.
With the advent of the railroad construction, Sara Mozely McDaniel, the widow of William R. McDaniel, moved trl Rose Hill by ox cart to open a boarding house for the railroad workers on the site now occupied by the Piggly Wiggly. Mrs. McDaniel, her five daughters and son Grady McDaniel roomed and served meals to over 100 men each day.
In 1901, a Mr. Blackmon had a blacksmith shop near the location of the old C. of G. Railroad station. After the railroad discontinued its business here, the property was sold to the Gitenstein brothers who later sold it to Dr. Matthews and Dr. O’Neal. and the old station was converted into a clinic. It was later abandoned when the new Florala Memorial Hospital was built, and the building was razed in 1968. The blacksmith shop did a striving business during the years of mules, horses, wagons and buggies. W.J Cawthon and son operated a market here in 1912, and in 1903. T.C. Penton opened a general store with a millinery department.
John McLean, who was one of the early school teachers at Paxton. and Cordon Williams were active in the naval store business. McLean also had a a separate business north of Florala at what was long know” as McLean’s Quartets.
Some of the early merchants and merchants of the later days were 3.F. McRae. W.H. Vaughan. CC. Beasley, lake Bell, D.l B. Adkison, Luther Ray. George Huckabee, D.H. Page, M. Lyric, and Captain Paul Huen.
Some of the business firms in Florala in he year 1912 not aforementioned were: R. Hinote. Blacksmith and Repair; Central Hardware Company; C.H. Spicer, Restaurant and Cafe; l.H. Busbee, Lunch Stand; Loo Young Young Sing, Chinese Laundry; George Seigler, Bowling Alley; Matthews Brothers (W N.J Alto and Charles D.) Grocery; J.K. Everret, Photography Gallery; .J.E. Turner Belle Cace;Hotel Geronimo,• J.W. Byrd, Prop.; B.H. Farmer & Son. Ladies and Gents Furnishings; Lamar’-Britton Mercantile Company; the Busy Corner Cafe; Shooting Gallery; Mrs. Marion Wilson. Bakery; Florala Jewelry Store. 1.14. Burgess; C.P. Cawthon, Plumbing, Heating and Sewerage; The Florala Market Company; The O.K. Cash Grocery; HA. Baggett; The Artesian Star Bottling Works, W.M. Sherpard:Florida Nursery & Trading Company; Florala Bakery, Hughes; Hughes & Davis Livestock and Vehicles' Livery; Burnson-Parker Hardware Company; J .D. Stribling, Stable; The Dixie Plantation Company. Lockhart; Form Land & Real Estate; The Cash Store, D.F. McDougald; T.W. Hodge, barber Shop; Soda Fountain and Cafe; RN Haynes, Blacksmith & Repair Shop; A.B. Joyner, Real Estate & Timber Lands; Byrd White & Son, Cleaning, Pressing & Dyeing; B.H. Farmer. Contractor and Builder; The Florala Democrat, Oscar Smith, Editor; F & W Turnquist Tailors; D.I.B. Adkison, Groceries;CC. Beasley, Dry Goods, Shoes, Hats. Clothing; RN French Real Estate and lnsurance; The Florala News,Newspaper; WI. Cawthon & Company. Butchers and Green Grocers. Some of the Negro business establishments were: Tom Williams, Guns and Watch Repair; Adam Larry, Barber Shop; Will Rivers, Restaurant. Lodging House and Amusement Hall; Robert Jones. Amusement Hall.
The Franklin Ferguson Company was founded in 1932 by Israel Gitenstein. father of the present partners. Milton and Seymour Gitenstein. Mr. Gitenstein moved to Florala from Geneva, Alabama in 1932. Purchasing and financial operations have always been conducted in New York City under the direction of Milton Gitenstein.
Older residents will remember the movies on the silent screens of the Cozy Theatre and the Strand Theatre, these moving picture theatres were operated by W.H. Holloway, Mr. Enzor, and W.D. Patrick. Live music was furnished by Mrs,. Dora Whitcomb on piano. Grady Farmer on drums, and Mrs. Frances Petrey who played the violin.
This hotel destroyed not too many years ago by fire was in one era the "pride and joy" of Florala. located south and facing beautiful Lake Jackson, made this a cool pleasant place to spend an evening on the spacious porch. Most traveling salesmen, who made this area in that day stayed at the Colonial Hotel. It was the scene of many "grand Balls" including the annual 24th of June dances.
At this time there was a well in the center of the city square and a trough for livestock. This well was later replaced by a fountain. Mast of Florala’s streets then had only an occasional dwelling in any direction from the square. This was especially true of South Fifth Street. There was not a single home from the Florala Pharmacy in 1902 to the McDuffie home, later known as the Webb Hooten home. At this time Sam Jones, had moved here and George was the only one of this well-known family living here in 1895, it was only a short time until M.A. George, Sr., moved into town. M.A. George, Jr., was in Florida at this time, but he soon located here. He built the Florala Pharmacy building which replaced a wooden building. The whole section of South Fifth Street, on both sides, was given over to farming, chiefly by R.H. Stallings. Sam Straughn, then a barefoot boy, helped to plow where the fine homes now exist on this street.
Mr. J.E. Hughes had four sons, Dan, Tom, Henry and W.F. (Tank). Dan moved to Ponce Dc Leon, Florida, at an early age and the other three men were all prominent in Florala, in farming, in the mercantile business, and lumber industry. Mr. J.T. (Tom) Hughes was the principal stockholder in the Florala Saw Mill Company and was one of Florala’s most public-spirited citizens. The Florala Saw Mill Company, located at Paxton, Florida, was established in 1903 with a daily capacity of 100,000 feet of lumber in the saw mill and 75,000 feet per day in the planning mill. The officers were: W.D. Johnston of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, President; and J.T. Hughes, Vice President, Secretary and general manager. Mr. Johnston was not active and left the operation of the business to Mr. Hughes. The saw mill was served by both the L & N and the Central of Georgia Railways. After the Florala Saw Mill Company sold out to the Harbeson Lumber Company, Mr. Hughes continued in business as the Florala Lumber Company, which business was carried on by his daughter, Miss Birdie Hughes, for many years.
Several families homesteaded land near Florala before 1900 and never were very active in the affairs of the town, being kept busy with livestock and agriculture. Some of the early family names were Savage, Geohagan, Adams, Eason, Boles, Miller, Williams, and many others.
A few miles northeast of Florala is McRae. Here, C.C. McRae had a turpentine business in those early days, and when the Central of Georgia came through, it named the station for him. Mr. McRae was the builder and owner of the Flatiron Building in Florala.
In 1901, J.F. McRae of Geneva, Alabama, and W.H. Vaughan of near Geneva, came to Florala and formed a partnership in a general merchandise business. In 1905, Mr. Vaughan bought Mr. McRae’s interest and continued until he sold to C.C. Beasley. After Mr. McRae severed his connection with Mr. Vaughan, he became a stockholder and employee of the Florala Hardware Company. He later sold his interest in this business to Luther 0. Ray. Mr. McRae moved to Lake City, Florida, and lived there until his death.
In 1904 Mr. Vaughan bought the Telephone Exchange and operated it until his death in 1946. The Florala Telephone Company has continued to operate under the management of his son, Lloyd 0. Vaughan, since that time. This company was the first telephone company in the United States to secure a loan under the Rural Electrification Administration as amended for the Telephone Act in 1950. This bill was sponsored in the Senate by Alabama’s Lister Hill in the House by Texas’ Pogue, in 1949.
D.I.B. Adkison ran a store where the old Parker Bakery use to be, later the Trammell Building Supply Company, and presently the Fabric Shop.
Among other merchants were George Huckabaa, D.B. Page and Mike Lurie. Capt. Paul Huen was an early resident and had a photograph gallery located where McDaniel Motor Company now stands. He lived on the lake shore near the present residence of Mrs. J.W. Flournoy and owned and operated a double-deck pleasure boat for several years, the name of the boat being “Go Easy.” A pavilion was built over the water where skating and dancing were enjoyed.
In 1901 Florala had no bank, the nearest one being at Geneva. There were eight small store buildings, all of wood construction. Jake Bell’s store was located where the old Strand Theatre was located and the present location of the old post office building.
An organizational meeting for a bank at Florala, Alabama was held on April 14, 1904, with W.C. McLaughlin acting as chairman and W.C. Monroe as secretary. A called meeting of the subscribers to the capital stock of the bank to be known as The Bank of Florala was held on April 18, 1904. The soliciting committee reported that 250 shares of $100.00 per value common stock had been subscribed and an application for incorporation was made, the capital stock to be $25,000. The incorporation and original stockholders consisted of thirty-two men, including W.H. Britton, who was elected president, and W.C. McLaughlin, who was elected as vice president, and Theo S. Lanz was elected cashier and secretary. A board of directors was elected consisting of eleven men including E.P. Rodwell, Sr., who later served as president.
The first published statement on June 21, 1904 showed: Cash on hand $3,791.92, due from banks $68,655.74, loans $10,443.98, fixtures $206.32, expenses $224.64 and total resources $83,322.40. The total liabilities were as follows: deposits $68,062.80, capital stock paid in $15,000.00 and profits $259.60.
The bank bought the building it now occupies from C.W. Lamar in 1911 for the price of $17,000. The building has been remodeled several times since that time. In 1954 the entire building was remodeled in 1966 with walk-up and drive-in windows installed, a Directors Room installed and a new office for the President. Further improvements were made in 1970, with two new offices being added along with a modern storage and supply room.
The Inter-State Bank was in operation during the year 1907, with its president being W.D. Holloway. It was only in existence a short time. In September, 1907 the First National Bank was organized. Its early officers were J.T. Hughes, president; B.H. Meadows, cashier; T.R. Sander-son and J.W. LeMaistre were among the directors. This bank was closed about 1930, during the great depression of that time. In 1912, the officers were: G.H. Malone, president; H.A. Hughes, vice president, and E.R. Partridge, cashier.
Mr. M. Lurie was one of the merchants who came here in 1901 and opened a dry goods store where the Hughes Grocery Company building now stands. Mr. Lurie made the first deposit in the Bank of Florala on its opening day in May 1904. The store was later moved to another location on Fifth Avenue and was operated by his son, Herman Lurie, for several years after Mr. Lurie’s death in 1949. Mr. Israel S. Lurie first opened a furniture store in the Opera House block and later moved to a location on Fifth Avenue. He went out of the furniture business and operated a Variety Store as long as his health permitted. Bracewell Barber Shop was opened in 1903 and continued in business for many years.
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Robert A. French and Clarence Hundley represented the insurance business. Later it was French and Monroe, with offices over the Florala Pharmacy.
In June, 1902, the Jackson Lumber Company began operations as perhaps the largest saw mill company in this area. They were also recognized as being the largest rift pine-flooring mill in the world. The town of Lockhart, which adjoins the city of Florala, was headquarters for this business and was named for a Mr. Lockhart who was a stockholder and whose residence was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The offices of the company were for some months in Florala near where the Hughes Wholesale building now stands. W.S. Harlan was the first general manager of this business, and his untimely death was a blow to this entire section. He will long be remembered as an outstanding citizen who had a very keen interest in the southern part of Covington County.
Two men of fine character and business ability succeeded Mr. Harlan. M.J.Wt LeMaistre, who died in 1929, and Mr. E.C. Gates, who held this position until the sawmill closed down in 1940. During the peak of its operating years, the Jackson Lumber Company had a daily capacity of 250,000 feet, and access to 250,000 acres of yellow pine timber lands. It was incorporated with a capital of $1,800,000.00. It was largely through the influence of J.T. Manning that this giant saw mill was not located at Opp, Alabama, as there was no railroad connection to the northern markets here at the time. Mr. Manning, with the help of others, was able to persuade the L & N to build the railroad here, and as a result, the Company decided to locate at Lockhart.
In 1914, the officers were J.W. Watzek, President; E.F. Jackson, Vice President; E.C. Crossett, Treasurer; R.N. Jackson, Secretary, and W.S. Harlan, Manager. Some of the famous buildings that Dixie Rift flooring manufactured by this mill included Grand Central Station, New York City; Hudson Terminal Building, New York City, Hotel Astor, New York City; B & 0 Railroad Office Richmond, Virginia; Bancroft Hall, Annapolis, Maryland; Court House, New Orleans, Louisiana; and many others.
A Chautauqua building was erected near the lake where the present Women’s Club Mouse now stands. This building was built in the fall of 1908 and was destroyed by fire in 1914. The Chautauqua sessions lasted for as long as five weeks every spring, during which three sessions were given each day. The building was large enough to seat 2,500 people and was often filled on Saturdays, which were excursion days on the railroad; at these sessions many of the outstanding literary speakers and musical organizations in America were on the programs. The speakers and musicians were all guests of the Colonial Motel, which was new and handsome at that time. The hospitable townspeople of that day entertained these visitors, often-worldwide travelers, in their homes, at luncheons, dinners, and other social affairs. In this way many lifelong friendships were formed.
The following information is taken from a Chautauqa program dated in 1911, entitled “Some Facts About Florala, Alabama.” “Perhaps no town in the state has had so quick and substantial development. U.S. Census of 1900 shows a population of 300. A census taken by the city in 1907 shows 2,021. Estimated population now (1911) 3,500. Florala has water works, sewerage system, electric lights, ice factory, 2 banks with combined capital surplus of $105,000, opera house, Chautauqua, three drug stores, three hardware stores, five markets, number of general stores, dry goods, shoe, grocery and furnishings stores, wholesale grocery store, two bakeries, an artificial stone manufactory, a $45,000 hotel, a $10,000 hotel, several good hotels and boarding houses of smaller pretensions, jewelers, barber shops, restaurants, photographers, etc. Four churches with large membership and buildings (the Baptist will soon erect a building to cost $30,000), a fine public school ($20,000 school building will soon be erected). All the varied industries that go to make up a thriving city.
The side of beautiful Lake Jackson situates Florala on the Florida and Alabama State line. This lake affords fine boating, bathing, and fishing, and makes of Florala an ideal winter and summer resort. Pure artesian water and natural drainage insure good health. Statistics show Florala to be the healthiest city in the state.
The lands surrounding Florala are all that could be desired for farming purposes, the soil being a fine sand loam, with clay sub-soil. They are eminently suited to the growth of pecans, figs, grapes and other fruits; 50,000 acres of these lands are now on the market at prices ranging from $5.00 to $20.00 per acre. Home seekers will do well to investigate these lands.
The business we do is indicated by the following figures. About 400 carloads of lumber and naval stores are shipped from this point per week. The L & N Railroad cash freight receipts of this office the past year exceeded $72,000.00, besides more than $120,000.00 at the offices of Lockhart, Paxton and Lakewood, all situated within a radius of three miles of Florala. Post Office receipts $5,000.00. The monthly pay rolls of the various industries in this immediate vicinity amount to more than $100,000.00 per month. Don’t fail to visit Florala during the Chautauqua season.”
In 1906, ladies with a literary turn, organized the first study club in Southeast Alabama, the History Club, which soon affiliated with the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs. Its first president was Mrs. Sam H. Williams. in 1919 the Community Club was organized for civic betterment and it also affiliated with the Alabama Federation. Its first president was Mrs. D.T. Williamson. In the early years of this growing town, a number of civic-minded women banded together into a civic league and did valiant work. Chief among these ladies was Mrs. Dora Whitcomb. The Study Club was organized in 1918 and affiliated with the Alabama Federation in 1919. Its first president was Miss Winnie Shepherd. One of the chief aims of this club was the establishment of a city library, in 1934 Miss Juliette Hughes, Mrs. Frank Petrey, and Mrs. T.C. Smith, all club members, organized the City Library. It was opened with 800 volumes on the shelves, the citizens donating most of them. The library operated for many years upstairs in the Hughes Building on the square until a new one was built in 1969, with a 10,000-book capacity.
According to Alabama’s Archives and History, Florala’s first newspaper could have been “The Inter-State Appeal” which could have been established in 1896. “The Gazette” could have been Florala’s first newspaper, which was established in September 1896. One copy of “The Gazette” dated February 27, 1904, Volume 8, No. 38 was found. W.T. “Bill” Mapoles, one of this area’s most colorful newspapermen of those early days, was publisher and editor of “The Gazette.” Homer Mitchell was owner-publisher of “The Inter-State Appeal.” According to the masthead of “The Gazette” there were probably three newspapers published in Florala prior to 1900 when The Florala News was established. “The Gazette” was consolidated with the “Inter-State Appeal” of Florala in May of 1898 and with the “Citizen” of Florala in April 1899. Included in that consolidation was the “Mail and Express’ of Graceville, Florida in May 1899 and “Our Highland Home” of Laurel Hill, Florida in October, 1899. All these newspapers were established and consolidated prior to 1900.
The Florala News was organized in 1900 though there are two conflicting dates as to what month it was organized. According to the old files, The Florala News could have been established in March or in December of 1900. W.C. McLaughlin was owner-publisher from 1906 until the first of 1913 when J.J. Lamar bought the newspaper and was publisher with W.L. Jowell as editor. On January 30, 1913, Mr. Lamar changed the name of the newspaper to The Florala Weekly News but the name “The Florala News” continued to head the editorial page. The newspaper carried the addition of “Weekly” until the second week in September, 1913.
In 1909 another newspaper was established in Florala. W.S. Harlan established The Florala Democrat and published it until September, 1913 when J.J. Lamar bought The Democrat and it was merged with The Florala News and the name changed to “The Florala News-Democrat.” At that time “The Florala News-Democrat” was owned by J. J. Lamar, who was also editor with Oscar R. Smith, Associate Editor, and W.L. Howell, manager.
D.A. McPhail owned The Florala News from February 4, 1915 until March 8, 1917 when N.J. Lillard took over the Florala News-Democrat. He had come to Florala from Molino where he was editor of the Advertiser and was secretary of the Escatnbia County Fair Association. He owned The Florala News-Democrat into 1919 when W.L. Howell, who had been with The Florala News from 1909, bought the newspaper and changed the name back to “The Florala News.” In 1921 Jessie K. Kimbro bought a half-interest in the newspaper with Mr. Howell and in 1922 his brother-in-law, A.H. Heath, bought Mr. Howell’s interest. He was with The Florala News nearly three years when he sold his interest to Mr. Heath in 1924 and moved to Opp where he had bought The Opp News. Mr. Heath continued to own and publish The Florala News with the assistance of his brother, Charles Heath. Lucille McRae married Benjamin Stewart Woodham of Opp and he came to Florala to work with her uncle, A.H. Heath, at the Florala News. They later bought the newspaper from her uncle and the newspaper continues to be published by her family today. Her husband was publisher-owner until his death in July 1958. Mrs. Woodham was publisher until January 1, 1973 when her son, Larry K. Woodham took over as publisher. He also publishes the DeFuniak Springs, Florida Herald-Breeze.
Following the two newspapers published in Florala since 1900 there was a newspaper published other than The Florala News for about nine months in the early 1930’s. Jimmy Blue established a newspaper at that time but ceased operations in less than a year.
Florala newspapers have never been big money-making deals but apparently the publishers have been dedicated newspaper men and women and rather than sacrifice principle would go hungry.
“The banks of the Coenecuh(sic) during a large portion of the spring are inundated for many miles above the line, down to Pensacola bay with very few exceptions.”
David's Lake, a large and lovely lake, on the Alabama- Florida border, soon became Lake Jackson after General Andrew Jackson’s army camped here en route to Pensacola in May, 1818. At that time, the lake was considered to be inside Florida. A boundary readjustment in later years gave a big slice of the lake to Alabama.
The city of Florala has grown up around the north and eastern shoreline. On the Florida side of the border, the municipality of Paxton is developing to the south of the lake. A main traffic artery through both communities is U. S. 331.
It is unlikely that Jackson’s army had been able to maintain its 14 miles per day average speed in its mark from the Choctowhatchee to David’s Lake. It had crossed numerous creeks and branches while traveling most of the 36 miles through the untracked woods.
Thus, May 14, 15, and 16 may have been consumed in crossing the Choctawhatchee and reaching this unusual lake. Maybe Old Hickory let his men and horses rest here: by the lake for a while, maybe even until early May 18. It would have been difficult to find a lovelier body of water by which to rest.
Alabama has placed a marker by the northern side of the lake, proclaiming that " Andrew Jackson" in Seminole War with an army of 1,200 camped here in May, 1818 en route westward from Fort Gadsden to subdue marauding Indians abetted by Spaniards at Pensacola. Jackson determined to seize Pensacola and thus altered the course of history on this continent.”
Merton Reeves, a Florala area historian whose home is on the south (or Florida) side of the lake, is convinced that it was there that the army actually camped. “I have determined that it was the only part of the lake that had a high and dry shoreline at that time,” said Reeves.
He has studied the area and has found what he considers to be ample evidence that the ancient trails converged at that point. Reeves now own the land where he is convinced that the army camped.
At a later time, at least a portion of the area was reserved for Indian camping. Still later stagecoaches came and went from that spot. The hillside, southeast of Reeves’ home contains an old cemetery that has no markers remaining. The cemetery, like the old trails and stage roads that threaded their way through the woods, has been almost reclaimed by the forest, which seems to be regaining much of its probable former beauty under Reeves' protection.
Reeves knows the names of some of the people buried in the cemetery, but he can’t identify their respective graves. A grave on an adjoining track is an exception. He not only knows the man’s name, he knows something of the man’s career, and the circumstances of his burial. He said the man, who for years had been an invalid with an injured back, was buried as he had lived in his last years, seated in a chair.
The lake’s evaluation is greater than that of Montgomery, Alabama, far to the north, Reeves said. He noted that the lake is almost completely spring fed and is so situated that it has been drained alternately by streams leading to the Yellow River and Pensacola Bay and to the Choctawatchee River and Choctawhatchee Bay during the past 51 years.
Reeves have an exceptionally varied collection of old maps and Indian artifacts. He found many of the arrow heads and other hunting and working tools in the lake area a natural center of Indian activity, and many trails converged on the area.
He said Florida has been “missing a bet” by not matching Alabama with a marker beside the lake. Walton County a few years ago had a marker placed in the Lakewood area, southeast of here, to denote Florida’s highest elevation, 345 feet. Co-operating with the local agencies was the State Board of Parks and Historic Memorials.
“They’ve overlooked some interesting history here at Lake Jackson,” declared Reeves. He said the public is becoming more history conscious, creating a demand for a greater local research effort.
Jackson’s march from a logistical standpoint, created some difficult problems. Feed for the horses was no little item. It had to be brought along in wagons, with time taken out at intervals for the horses to be watered, fed and rested. Although the individual foot soldier probably carried rations for specified periods, each soldier undoubtedly carried his rifle and an allocation of ammunition and a light field pack.
The field pieces, small by standards, surely were horse drawn. Artillery and small arms ammunition reserves were among the wagon-hauled supplies. Even materials for river rafts had to be hauled. In the many baggy places encountered, it is likely that the foot soldiers were called upon to “put their shoulders to the wheel” to keep the wagons rolling. An application of axle grease would have been necessary now and then to keep the wheels from squalling loud complaints as they turned. There was a constant problem of security on the march especially at night. The area ahead had to be scouted, and guards had to be posted at night. The cooks, supply troops, field headquarters and medical personnel had their individual assignments.
Available records fail to indicate whether all supplies were carried with the army on its long march, but there wasn’t much time for other arrangements after Jackson decided at Fort Gadsden on a course of action. He might possibly have sent messengers, traveling lightly, two or three days ahead of the main army to request delivery of supplies from some border outpost to a rendezvous point along the route.
If so, what better place than down the Red Ground Trail to David’s Lake? If such an effort was made, the delivery necessarily would have been skimpy. Unless arranged for in advance, it is unlikely that many outposts would have had supplies in quantity.
It seems theoretically possible for such a messenger to have reached Fort Gaines, for example, by the time or soon after Jackson left Fort Gadsden. Some supplies could have been quickly assembled there or at some nearby Alabama outpost and hauled down the Red Ground Trail to meet Jackson’s army at David’s Lake and headed through the woods in an effort to intersect the Red Ground Trail as quickly as possible.
Something of the supply problem is indicated by the shortages existing when the army marched from Fort Scott, Georgia, on the initial Florida invasion. Each soldier left Fort Scott with a supply of corn (one quart) and pork (freshly slaughtered) sufficient to last three days. Jackson was depending on receiving supplies that were to be brought up river from vessels then near the mouth of the Apalachicola River. Had that supply source failed, his army would have been forced to live off the land or go hungry.
Living off the land would have been extremely difficult in the march across the then wilds of West Florida, except on an individual basis. Under such circumstances, little marching progress could have been made.
It must be assumed, then, that the bulk of the supplies had to be hauled overland from Ft. Gadsden with the army as it marched. Basic food items may have been corn or corn meal, dried beef, bacon and some dried beans and perhaps some rice.
Under the traveling conditions imposed, then, the fourteen miles per day average was fast traveling. Maybe that is why some historians say Jackson’s capture of Pensacola followed a “whirlwind campaign.”
The following names for the rivers, creeks and lakes in Covington County were taken from the Geological Survey of Alabama, Map 51.
The rivers are named the Conecuh and the Yellow. The creeks are Adams, Bay Branch, Bear, Big, Blackwater, Boggie Hollow, Breeds, Buck, Camp, Cassidy Branch, Comet, Cowhead, Crooked, Dry, Fall, Feagin, Five Runs, Flat, Hog, Hog Foot, Indian, Lightwood Knot, Limestone, Mill, Mulberry, Panther (east Covington County). Panther (west Covington County), Patsaliga, Pigeon, Poley, Poplar, Prices, Reedy, Shotbag, and Wolf. The lakes are the Blue, Gantt, Lake Jackson and Point “A”.
As near as can be determined Indians did not habitally occupy the area covered by Covington County on a permanent basis. Rather, it was used as a watering or stops over place while on trips, also used for hunting and fishing.
Andrew Ellicott, in his journal which he kept while surveying the boundary between the United States and Spain in 1799, gives the following recommendations for the establishment of military forts in the area: “Any works on the Coenecuh(sic) river will be unnecessary for sometime to come, there being no inhabitants on it to protest, nor a sufficient number of Indians residing on its waters to make that trade worth attending to. About one mile and a half about the boundary on the east side of the river, there is a place where a trader formerly resided that would answer tolerably well for a small military establishment.
Jackson’s Lake was evidently a stop-over on the Great Southern Trading and Migration Trail which shows on many of the early maps leading off to the southeastern corner of Covington County. This path ran east and west.
Early settlers used the Alabama rivers (going by raft or flat keeled boats) which connected cross country by Indian
moved down the rivers to shipping points until the coming of the railroads made it more economical to ship by rail.
The rivers of the county in truth became the commercial outlet of the entire region and bear our Ellicott’s remarks that “Although West Florida is of but little importance when considered alone, and unconnected with the country north of it, it is of immense consequence when viewed as possessing all the avenues of commerce to, and from a large productive country. A country extending north from the 31st degree of north latitude to the sources of the Pearl, Pascagola, Tombeeby(sic) Alabama, Coenecuh(sic), Chattahocha and Flint Rivers, and at least 300 miles from east to west.” As early as 1821 boats were plying the Conecuh River some capable of carrying some sixty bales of cotton.
The settlers later learned the wisdom of the Indians in not making permanent residence in the area because of the constant threat of flooding by the many creeks and rivers in the county. Even Ellicott remarked in his journal thusly:
A street scene of an early Florala Masonic celebration shows thousands of people milling about, and in the center can be seen an old street car that used to run on rails through the city.
The Florala Masons selected their first King and Queen to reign over the celebration June 24th, 1946. The first king was Jerry McDaniel and the first Queen was Sally Ann Booth ( Mrs. Milton Eisenhower, Jr.). She is now residing in New York, married to a member of one of this nations most prominent family.
Service and Civic organizations are the backbone of any community. It is through their achievements that all phases of community life is enhanced whether it be education, economy or the broadening of the arts.
MASONIC LODGE ORGANIZED IN 1852
Before the combined church and lodge was built at Chapel Hill, the nearest Masonic Lodge was located near the Henderson (Pike County) water mill. Its membership was around seventy-five and many would ride horseback o far as sixty to seventy-five miles to attend Lodge. It ~would take those from far away places two or three days ~on the road going and returning from these meetings.
After the Masonic Lodge moved to Chapel Hill in 1852, operated successfully until the Civil War broke out. With the coming of the war, the Lodge disbanded until 1867 when it was reorganized. Those reorganizing the Lodge after cr the war were: W.J.D. Cawthon, Jeff Balkom, Lewis u, M.A. Cawthon, James Mack Williams, and haps others. The charter fee was sixty dollars, which paid by W.J.D. Cawthon and Jeff Balkom.
In the year 1871 the Masonic Lodge was moved from Chapel Hill to McDade’s Pond, now known as Florala. The seven members moved to Florala in 1873, and the lodge was renamed Lake City Lodge No. 377.
Not a great deal is known of the Florala area during the from 1870 to 1900. Masonry has been part of the history of Florala since its beginning, and the annual St. John's Day celebration on June 24, A week-long Centennial and the annual St. 1970, marked 100 Celebration cornmemorated that date. A Masonic Lodge was in existence in the area around 1850, which functioned until the outbreak of the Civil War and was disbanded until the end of the hostilities. The names of same of the more active Masons in the year 1873 were: W.J.D. Cawthon, J.D. Jordan, W.L. Hurst, Alex McSwain, J.M. Chance, T.J. Williams, John Williams, LaFayette Williams, R. Miller, Mex Hart, M.A. George, Sr., and Rev. D.C. Mien. After the Civil War the lodge was reorganized by W.J.D. Cawthon, Jeff Balkom, Lewis Miller, M.A. Cawthon and James Mack Williams.
Few communities have the pleasure and honor of paying tribute in the seventh decade of the twentieth century to their pioneer citizens. But such is the distinction held by Florala for the late .J. E. Hughes, an old pioneer who claimed to have been the first man to settle on the present site of the city.
Mr. Hughes was born in Dale County, Ala., December 1839, and attended the rural schools afforded by the section at the time. Having been born in the country, his first job was chopping cotton. As a youngster, he entered he War Between the States to fight for the freedom and democracy of the South. As a private he went through every battle, with one exception, engaged by his company. In October, before the close of the war, Mr. Hughes returned to his home in Dale County and at the close of the conflict, moved to Covington County where he had bought property while in the Army. Traveling through the improved trails of forest Mr. Hughes came into his new property, driving a team of oxen, to bring his entire household belongings loaded on the antique wagon. On the property, near what is now the business center of Florala, he found a small log schoolhouse. For a while he made this his home. The section at that time was not named Florala but was called Dade’s Pond for the large lake in the vicinity.
Built in 1907, the Lockhart Union Church served as a gathering place at designed times by Baptist, Methodists and Presbyterians. It burned in 1924. To the right of this picture stands the first school in Lockhart Union Church.
Lockhart, located about a mile west of Florala on Highway 55, came into being about 1900 when the huge Jackson Lumber Company mill was constructed there.
An impressive little town grew up around the big lumber mill, and the streets and alleyways are laid out in an orderly fashion. They are named for Indian tribes that once inhabited this section: Seminole, Rappahannoch, Osage, Caddo, Choctaw, Mohegan, Cherokee, Catawba.
At one time around 1912, the mill employing around a thousand workers, was running day and night, and giving added impetus to the already fast growing county. At that time Lockhart was the largest lumber mill in the United States.
A large commissary was maintained in Lockhart for the convenience of the mill employees. H.G. White was manager of the store.
Due to labor shortages brought on by the war and defense activities, the mill was forced to cease operations in 1940.
According to E.C. Gates, former manager and part owner of the mighty Jackson Lumber Company, the closing of the company came about because two of the families, the Jacksons and the Crosetts, wanted to liquidate their holdings and get their money out of the operation.
Gates stated that most of the saw logs had been cut and the replanted timber had not yet come of age. The Jacksons and the Crosetts decided that they did not want to wait for the timber to grow and liquidated their holdings, selling the land to several paper companies.
The Gates and the Watzek families although they preferred to keep the company alive had little choice but to follow suit.
One of the earliest industries in Covington County has to be that derived from the timber that abounds in the area. The county covers a computed area of 665,776 acres and in 1940 less than 3000 acres were unassessed and untaxed. The greater part of the county consists of private lands and much of this is covered in timber.
Many of the communities owed their existence to this giant and one of the first “sawmill towns” was Poley, which came into existence in the 1880’s with the establishment of the Boyer Lumber Company. This company changed hands several times during the ensuing years until it ceased operations in 1918.
Lockhart also came into being as a lumber town when the Jackson Lumber Company was incorporated in 1891 to develop timber holdings in Covington County that had been purchased by Elihu E. Jackson and his associates in the early 1880’s. Subscribers to the incorporation were H.E. Phillips, Covington County; Lester C. Smith, Montgomery, Alabama; Elihu E. Jackson and William H. Jackson, Salisburg, Maryland; William 6. Warden and Henry L. Davis, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wilbur F. Jackson, Baltimore; and Isaac N. Jackson, Washington, D.C.
In the early 1900’s the company was the largest producer of Long Leaf Yellow Pine Rift in the world. The term “rift” designates lumber that is manufactured by special machinery; so that only the edge of the grain in the wood is exposed, thus producing flooring strips that will not sliver or shell through hard usage. It was so widely recognized as being produced under the most improved process of end matching, making joint shaving unnecessary, that It was considered superior to any in the world. Many of the most notable public buildings in Washington had flooring made from Dixie Rift Flooring.
Many public buildings such as the Grand Central Station, New York City; Hotel Astor, New York City; Country Club of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia; Bancroft Hall, Annapolis, Maryland and Stern Brothers New Stores in New York City have floors made from Covington County “rift” flooring.
Due to labor shortages brought on by the war and defense activities the mill was forced to cease operations in 1940.
The great Horseshoe Lumber Company located at River Falls stood on the banks of the Conecuh River at the horseshoe bend just east of the town. The first mill at this location was burned in 1907 and the second one was destroyed by fire on May 19, 1925 while the flood that came on March 14, 1929 washed the third one away. During its hey-day it required the services of some seven to nine hundred men to supply the 100,000 feet a day appetite of the first two big Horseshoe Mills.
One of the leading and most modern plywood plants in the southeast is located in Covington County at River Falls. Helping to fill the increasing demand for today’s production of pine plywood is Dixon Plywood, a division of Dixon Lumber Company. Founded in 1970, it provides jobs for some two hundred and twenty-five persons with a payroll in excess of $1,700,000 annually. The total sales for the Dixon operation exceeded some $21,000,000 in 1972.
The Florala Sawmill Company, located a little more than a mile south of Florala at Paxton, Florida, and the Britton Lumber Company, located two miles east of Florala at Lakewood, Florida, both play a big part in the development of Florala. Although started in the early 1900’s both of these companies are still contributing much of the continued economy of the county.
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