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Walton County's Early History
Source:  Walton County Heritage Association

In the spring of 1820, Neil McLendon of Richmond County, North Carolina, his brother Lochlin, brother-in-law Daniel D. Campbell, John Folk and their families started out with their teams in the direction of Pensacola, Florida.  After many days full of eventful happenings, the travelers reached Bluff Springs, Florida and camped for a while along the banks of the Escambia and Blackwater rivers.  While in Pensacola on a trading trip, McLendon learned about a beautiful area up the choctawhatchee Bay that was then inhabited by a friendly tribe of Indians known as the Euchees.  Soon afterwards, Sam Story, the chief of the tribe, was introduced to McLendon and extended to him a very cordial  invitation.  Upon seeing the new country, McLendon was well pleased.  He chose a new home for his entire company.  This settlement was on Bruce Creek opposite what is now known as Eucheeanna.

News of the new country spread...
News of the new country spread rapidly and soon emigrants from North and South Carolina began to roll into Florida.  these emigrants settled in a fertile valley twenty-five miles wide where farming and the raising of sheep and cattle provided a good living for all.  This valley was named Euchee Valley in honor of the friendly Euchee Indians who lived there for many generations.

Walton County was created in 1824...
Walton County was created in 1824; its present area is 1,028 square miles.  Portions of territory were given in 1846 to help form Washington County.  In 1848 a northeastern portion was given to Holmes County and in 1915, a western portion of Walton and an eastern portion of Santa Rosa counties were untitled to form Okaloosa County.

The census of 1920 reported...
The Census of 1920 reported the county population as 12,119.  The 1980 census was 23,000, and the census of 1990 was 27,759.  There are three incorporated towns in Walton County.  DeFuniak Springs, the county seat, was incorporated in 1901, Paxton in 1953 and Freeport in 1963.

The county was named for...
The county was named for Colonel George Walton, secretary of West Florida during the territorial governorship of Andrew Jackson.  Walton was the son of George Walton, Governor of Georgia and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Since the early days, farming...
Since the early days, farming has been an important occupation of the majority of the citizens in Walton County.  The soils of the county vary in character from the heavy river bottom lands to the lighter sandy loam of the hills, under-laid by clay subsoil.  The latter type is especially adapted to the growing of wild Satsuma, grapes, pears, figs and peaches.  The staple crops most produced are corn, soybeans, peanuts, wheat, sugar cane, sweet potatoes and forage crops.

One of the principal industrial developments...
One of the principal industrial developments of the county was poultry raising.  The dairy and beef cattle businesses are established industries.  Timber and related products (especially pine) are primary resources.  tourism is also one of the largest industries in the county.  The sugar white beaches are reported to be the most beautiful anywhere.

In 1881, Colonel W.D. Chipley...
In 1881, colonel W.D. Chipley, Major W.J. Vankirk and W.T. Wright, members of a surveying party seeking a route for the projected Louisville and Nashville Railroad, planned the town of DeFuniak Springs.  As they roamed through the dense pine forest and rested on the grassy slopes near what is now known as Lake DeFuniak, they envisioned a prosperous settlement and named the location for Mr. DeFuniak, a then prominent official of the L&N Railroad.

A bond company was formed, a hotel built...
A bond company was formed, a hotel built and soon recruits began to arrive.  among the first visitors was Dr. A.H. Gillet of the New York Chautauqua who was looking for a desirable location for the winter assembly.  Dr. Gillet's visit resulted in the organization of the Florida Chautauqua Association in August 1884.  Arrangements were made for the first assembly to be held February 10 to March 7, attracted much attention and soon families from near and far began to gather about the little town where they saw the realization of their desire for better educational advantages.

The success of the Florida Chautauqua programs...
The success of the Florida Chautauqua programs, presented continuously from 1885 to 1922, may be attributed to the genius and unselfish devotion of the Honorable Wallace Bruce and his son, Mr. Kenneth Bruce, whose combined years of leadership nearly spanned the life of the original Florida chautauqua era.  In 1976 the citizens of Walton County expressed a great desire to preserve this great heritage and revived the Chautauqua spirit by way of an annual calendar of events.

The first institution for higher learning...
The first institution for higher learning in Walton County was the Knox Hill Academy which was founded in 1884.  For more than half a century, this school rendered a real service to the youth.  The most outstanding recognition gained by the school was during the years when Professor John Newton, a pioneer schoolmaster of Pennsylvania, directed its activities.

The State Normal School...
The State Normal School for white students was authorized by the Constitution of 1885, and opened in DeFuniak Springs on Monday, October 3, 1887.  it was devoted exclusively to preparation of teachers for the schools of Florida and was, at that time, the only school of its kind in the state.  In 1904, the Normal School was purchased from the state by the Honorable Daniel Campbell and others of DeFuniak Springs in 1906.  It was the purpose of the purchasers to give to the public an institution of learning where people of all denominations might send their children to be educated under distinctly Christian influences.  The institution was named Palmer College in honor of the late Reverend B. M. Palmer, the first moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.  The school opened on October 2, 1907 and, through 1916, offered four-year college degrees as well as preparatory courses.  General elementary school and secondary school courses were offered through the spring term of 1936.  Due to financial difficulties, the trustees decided not to open the school in the fall of that year.

The Thomas Industrial Institute was founded...
The Thomas Industrial Institute was founded as a memorial to Dr. Hiram W. Thomas of Chicago, Illinois.  Dr. Thomas was a great believer in industrial education long before vocational features wee introduced in the schools of the country.

The county's first high school was...
The county's first high school was established in DeFuniak Springs in 1903, just a year before the close of the Normal School.  It was constructed in 1901 at a cost of $15,000 and was said to be second to none in the state.  Many of the early teachers were also pastors of country-side churches.  In numerous instances, the same building was a classroom on weekdays and place of worship on Sunday.

Tivoli Elementary and Junior High Schools were established...
Tivoli Elementary and Junior High Schools were established in 1912 for black students.  Grade 10 was added in the 1935-36 school year, grade 11 in 1936-37 and grad 12 in 1937-38.  The schools were closed in 1969.  Currently, the Tivoli Complex is used for district administrative offices.

The historic downtown area is home to...
The historic downtown area is home to Lake DeFuniak, a naturally round lake that is approximately one mile in circumference and perhaps fed by a small natural spring.  The lake is surrounded by beautiful homes and three churches, along with the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood and the Walton-DeFuniak Library, which is the oldest continuously operating library in the state of Florida.

The lake yard is home to Christmas Reflections...
The lake yard is home to Christmas Reflections from the day after Thanksgiving to December 31.  Millions of lights illuminate the pines and oaks along with seasonal displays.

Beautiful historic DeFuniak Springs is located...
Beautiful historic DeFuniak Springs is located in the heart of Florida's panhandle at the crossroads of Highway 331 and Interstate 10 and has an estimated population of 5,200.