Story and photos by JEFFREY POWELL
Most Walton County residents realize that DeFuniak Springs is the current county seat. Some of those same citizens also believe the Eucheeanna Community was the first county seat of Walton County. After all, there is a roadside marker on McKinnon Bridge Road saying as much. There is however, according to Alaqua community resident Bruce Cosson, much evidence that indicates Alaqua was the true first county seat.
“By 1824 there was a courthouse at Alaqua. That courthouse was at William Baley’s home,” said Cosson. “The first superior court was also held in Alaqua in 1830 and was presided over by Henry M. Brackenridge. Brackenridge has been overlooked by many historians which is a mistake, he has great significance not only in Walton County History but also Florida history.”
Cosson also contends there was a jail, post office, stagecoach stop, church and a river route to Alaqua Bayou and Choctawhatchee Bay in place by 1830. A Methodist church was started in 1827 by Charles Jones, who was also the postmaster.
Over the years Cosson has compiled reams of evidence he has gathered through the Florida state archives and University of Florida websites. The confusion about which community was the first county seat arises from people getting their information strictly from one source. That source is the book The History of Walton County by John L. McKinnon.
“Most people believe the John L. McKinnon book is factual,” said Cosson. “The truth is there are missing links in this book. It is a valuable resource but it is not gospel. We need to have an accurate history. What we have now excludes many important details and facts. People base their opinions on stories that have been passed on but when you do the research you have to think outside of the box.”
Cosson has been interested in history throughout his life but has really been doing serious research for almost two years. He has traced his own family to the 1850 Walton County census. He also credits his research success to fellow “history detectives” Brenda Rees and Don Perring whose help has been “invaluable.”
“I am not doing this to claim Alaqua is more important that Eucheeanna,” said Cosson. “This is about historical facts. A complete and accurate history of the whole county is very important. This is a record for future generations.”