Florida Historical Markers Programs - Marker: Santa Rosa

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Santa Rosa

Location:Intersection of Gulf Breeze Parkway and Fairpoint Dr.
County: Santa Rosa
City: Gulf Breeze
Description: Begun by a military detachment from Pensacola in 1824, the first federal highway in Florida was designed to connect the two principal cities of the new territory. Construction was later contracted to John Bellamy, wealthy Jefferson County planter, and the majority of the road was built under Bellamy's direction by slave labor. It was completed in May, 1826 at a cost of $23,000.
Location:4620 Forsyth Street
County: Santa Rosa
City: Bagdad
Description: This antebellum home, constructed ca. 1847 by Benjamin Woodson Thompson (1809-1876), partner in the Forsyth and Simpson sawmill enterprise in Bagdad, is the best remaining Florida Panhandle example of a symmetrical Greek Revival structure having a double verandah with balustrade and gable roof. The house was built of local heart pine lumber with the structure of columns, windows and doors reflecting the Doric order. Interior walls are plaster reinforced with animal hair. Window sashes with rolled glass are flanked by operable shutters. During the Civil War, Union troops from the 2nd Maine Cavalry, 1st Florida Cavalry, 19th Iowa Infantry and United States Colored Troops of the 25th, 82nd and 86th regiments raided Bagdad and Milton and camped in and around the house, leaving graffiti including drawings and signatures on the plaster walls. In 1913 the house, which originally faced the Blackwater River, was moved directly back to its present location when the mill complex expanded. Confederate forces, evacuating Pensacola in early 1862, burned Bagdad’s lumber mills. During the remainder of the Civil War, both sides maintained a presence in Santa Rosa County. Union forces periodically conducted reconnaissance raids and captured building materials for use at the Pensacola Navy Yard. Confederate forces posted cavalry troops to watch for Union movement towards the critical rail junction at Pollard, Alabama. During one such raid on October 18, 1864, Lt. Colonel A. B. Spurling, commanding Union troops consisting of some 200 men of the 19th Iowa Infantry Regiment and a section of the locally recruited 1st Florida Battery aboard the steamer Planter, landed 3.5 miles south of here to salvage logs intended for the Bagdad mills. Some 300 Confederates, including Company I, 15th CSA Cavalry Regiment and local militia, were alerted and engaged Spurling’s force. After a two-hour skirmish, the Confederate forces withdrew and Spurling’s men, sustaining minor casualties, re-embarked while managing to salvage 140 logs. One week later Spurling again raided Bagdad and Milton routing Confederate forces in a running battle through town. Afterward, Union troops briefly occupied Bagdad and the Thompson House.
Location:Milton Riverwalk Park, S Willing Street
County: Santa Rosa
City: Milton
Description: Side 1: Blackwater River was first named Rio Del Almirante by Spanish explorers in the late 17th century. During Pensacola’s British Period (1763-1781) it was called Middle River because of its location between the Yellow River to the east and the Escambia River to the west. In 1821, the river became known as Blackwater River because of its dark-colored water. In the 1830s, Blackwater Landing included the present-day cities of Milton and Bagdad. The City of Milton, which became the hub of the Blackwater River’s lumber trade during the 1800s because of the river’s prominent bluffs, was incorporated in 1844. Lumbermen referred to these bluffs as Blackwater Landing, Scratch Ankle, and Mill Town. Logs felled up river were floated in rafts to Blackwater Landing where they were loaded on barges and schooners for shipment around the world. Each day Blackwater Landing’s docks were busy with local lumbermen, farmers, textile workers, and manufacturers who sold their goods to brokers from the Southeast and overseas ports. These goods included such items as bricks, lumber, buckets, marine parts, sashes, textiles, fresh produce, and raw cotton. This trade helped make Blackwater Landing a major hub of commerce for Northwest Florida. Side 2: The advent of steam power around 1800 allowed cargo ships to travel farther up rivers and inlets, which resulted in an economic boom to Northwest Florida’s inland towns. From them, merchandise was loaded onto ocean-going sailing ships and steamers for shipment around the world. When local vessels reached the end of their useful life, they were often scuttled and burnt to the water line. Remains of at least 15 commercial vessels are located in the Blackwater River near Milton and Bagdad. The Bethune Blackwater Schooner, located near the former Morton Brickyard and Mill, is well-preserved, with nearly its entire hull intact. Other shipwrecks include the Cedar Wreck in Wright Basin and the Snapper Ketch above Bagdad’s Shipyard Point. The most visible shipwrecks are located in Shield’s Cove near the historic Bay Point Mill. Ships sunk here, including the “Palafox”, “Dinty Moore”, “George T. Locke” and “Guanacastle”, transported lumber. In the 1920s, the passenger steamer “City of Tampa” caught fire, and was pushed from the Bay Point docks and sank in Blackwater Bay. These and other shipwrecks are part of Santa Rosa County’s vibrant maritime heritage that made this region a center of commerce from the late 1800s through the 1930s.
Sponsors: The Blackwater Pyrates and the Florida Department of State
Location:5709 Mill Pond Lane
County: Santa Rosa
City: Milton
Description: The Arcadia Mill site was the first and largest water-powered industrial complex in antebellum Florida. Arcadia Mill originated in 1817 as part of a Spanish land grant of approximately 680 acres. The site’s ironstone outcropping, a desirable mill seat, a sufficient source of water, and an abundant stand of virgin pine made it well-suited to the timber industry. Between 1828 and 1855, the Arcadia industrial complex developed into a multi-faceted operation that included a railroad, two water-powered sawmills, a bucket factory, shingle mill, textile mill, and an experimental silk cocoonery. In addition to its industrial facilities, the surrounding Arcadia community was an ethnically diverse settlement, populated by enslaved African-American laborers, Anglo-American workers, and an elite management class. In the late 1980s, efforts made by the Santa Rosa Historical Society and the University of West Florida helped to save a portion of the Arcadia Mill site from modern development. Through ongoing archaeological and historical research, many aspects of the site have been investigated including its dam, first sawmill, textile mill, and the residential areas of the Arcadia settlement.
Sponsors: The Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council and the Florida Department of State
Location:US 90 (SR 10) at Marquis Bayou
County: Santa Rosa
City: Milton
Description: The Marquis Bayou Bridge, named for George Marquis, the owner of a local saw mill that operated in the mid-1800s, opened in 1937. A Santa Rosa County delegation that included future Florida Governor Millard Caldwell helped to make the bridge a reality. The bridge was designed by the Florida State Road Department, and Federal funds, some from the Works Progress Administration, were used in the bridge’s construction. Tidewater Construction Company, George D. Auchter Construction Company, and Duval Engineering & Construction Company helped to build the bridge, which provided an economic boost to Milton during the Great Depression. The Marquis Bayou Bridge was a two-lane, reinforced concrete T-beam bridge with a slight curve and a single sidewalk on the north side. Its historic cast concrete railings with distinctive vertical, oval openings were typical of 1920s-30s bridges but few remain in Florida. When the need arose for a new bridge, the Florida Department of Transportation worked closely with the community to design this new two-lane bridge on the same alignment and incorporating some of the historic railings from the original bridge.
Sponsors: The Florida Department of Transportation, and the Florida Department of State
Location:6953 Main Street
County: Santa Rosa
City: Milton
Description: Side One: In 1829, Joseph Forsyth saw economic potential in the vast pine forest of North Florida. Old growth yellow pine was one of the world’s most prized building materials and the deepwater juncture of Pond Creek and the Blackwater River was an open door to the world market. By the early 1830s, Forsyth and his partner Ezekiel Simpson produced 250,000 feet of lumber yearly at Arcadia Mill on Pond Creek. The lumber was moved by flatboat down to the Blackwater River, loaded on larger vessels and shipped to buyers. In 1835 the Florida territorial legislature granted a charter to the Arcadia partners for Florida’s third railroad, The Pond Creek and Blackwater River Canal Company. The railway used mule-drawn carts on iron-covered wood rails to transport lumber from Arcadia to the Bagdad Mill here. A steam-powered sawmill installed at Bagdad in the early 1840s expanded production. Eventually Bagdad’s shipping market reached beyond the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean to North and South Atlantic ports and to Western European, Mediterranean, and Scandinavian countries. When the mill closed in 1939, trade journals recalled the Bagdad Mill as home to one of the most successful lumber organizations in the Western Hemisphere. Side Two: The deepwater channel and abundant forests along the Blackwater River made this area ideal for building wooden ships. During the Revolutionary War, Welsh brothers Jonas and Evan Jones repaired British warships in the vicinity. A shipyard was established near Bagdad by Captain John Gardner in 1833. William Ollinger and Martin Bruce built a repair facility and marine railway at Bagdad’s Shipyard Point in 1858, which operated for 60 years. In 1861 Confederate President Jefferson Davis awarded a contract to Ollinger & Bruce for construction of a 110-foot gunboat for the coast and river defense of Florida. On March 11, 1862, facing Union invasion and racing to demolish anything of use to the federal troops, Confederate forces set fire to industrial facilities in Santa Rosa County, destroying the shipyard, the completed gunboat, and lumber mills at Bagdad. The shipwrights saved their pine-built 500-ton floating dry dock by sinking it in the river. After the war, the dry dock was lifted, used for decades, and then re-submerged. Later it was raised again and found to be in remarkably good condition whereupon it was towed to Pensacola and used continuously and successfully for many years.
Sponsors: Bagdad Waterfronts Florida Partnership, Blackwater Pyrates, Florida Public Archaeology Network