By DOTTY NIST
Walton County’s 186th birthday was celebrated on Dec. 29 at the home of Lane and Brenda Rees on Eastern Lake.
Guests filled the Rees’ home and deck for the celebration, known as Walton County 200 Countdown. Brenda Rees, a Walton County native and historian, started the annual tradition in 2004 as a countdown to the 200th anniversary of the county’s founding, which will take place in 2024.
One of the state’s oldest counties, Walton County was the eighth county to be created in the state. It was named for George Walton Jr., secretary of the Territory of West Florida from 1821 to 1826 and later acting governor for the state of Florida. Walton was the son of George Walton Sr., a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The junior George Walton’s daughter was Octavia Walton Le Vert. While not well known today, Le Vert was extrremely famous as a socialite and writer during the mid-19th century, and was a close friend of prominent politicians and literary figures of the day. She was honored by Edgar Allan Poe with a poem entitled Octavia.
For the first time last year, one male and one female guest at the Rees’ countdown party were chosen as honorary George Walton and Octavia Walton La Vert for the evening. The tradition was continued this year with the selection of Gloria and E.L. “Sonny” Hollingsworth of DeFuniak Springs as the honorees.
The couple, who are both descendants of families with a long history in Walton County, have attended all the countdown celebrations since they began in 2004. The Hollingsworth have been active volunteers for a number of Walton County organizations, including the Florida Chautauqua Assembly, the First United Methodist Church of DeFuniak Springs, Relay for Life, and the Walton County Heritage Association.