By JEFFREY POWELL
Since the dawn of mankind transportation routes have led to the rise and fall of communities and cultural centers. Very early humans followed game trails in search of sustenance. These game trails led to areas early man later settled. As river and sea travel advanced many communities developed on natural harbors or important river landings, usually founded by indigenous residents. In Walton County the early communities of Alaqua and Eucheeanna were founded, in large part, due to the terminus of Alaqua Creek and Bruce Creek respectively.
Native Americans had been using these routes for many years before Scottish settlers came to the area. From the 1820s to the 1870s these towns were the cultural centers of Walton County. Small courthouses, churches, businesses and residences were built and life flourished for over 50 years in these areas until one day in the early 1880s.
It is said that Col. W.D. Chipley, Maj. W.J. Van Kirk and Thomas Wright, while surveying for Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, came across a body of water they called Open Pond and sat down on a small rise. The trio felt the site was a good place for a railway stop. It could be argued that that moment was the death knell to many small communities in rural Walton County as the railroad stop created a new town.
DeFuniak Springs soon turned into the county seat and much of the county’s commerce was relocated there before 1890. In the following years many of the outlying communities dwindled, becoming but a memory. Recently, a Pensacola based archaeologist approached the Walton County Board of County Commissioners with a proposal to locate and record these settlements before they are completely lost to time.
In his proposal, Panamerican Consultants, Inc. Senior Archaeologist Greg Mikell states he is seeking support and funding to document several settlements in the area through “assimilation of historic documents and records, recorded folklore, informant interviews and archaeological investigation.”
Among those communities on the list are Eucheeanna, Knox Hill, Mossy Bend, Alaqua, LaGrange City, Alaqua Blockhouse and several stagecoach lines and lumber mills. Mikell hopes to fund the project through a Special Category Grant or as a grant from Walton County and other benefactors. He would also like to team up with the Northwest Florida Water Management District and the E. O. Wison Biophilia Center.
“My main interest is in the period before 1870 which means the period before the railroad,” Mikell said while examining the Eucheeanna area. “Searching for the lost towns of Walton County would be meaningful and significant archeology. Eucheeanna and several of the other settlements are, for the most part, lost. Through this endeavor it could be found and recorded for educational purposes, our children will be able to know these areas.”
Some of the property Mikell would examine, if given permission, is private and he wants people to know whether, in the event something is found the artifacts, it would belong to the property owner.