Elijah Bryan's Plantation and Family

Great-Oaks-1As you go north from Hwy 90 on State Road 71, about two blocks before you reach the Caverns Road, you enter the Bryan's plantation. The southwest corner is about two blocks south of the Caverns Road on the United States Road.

The northwest corner of Hwy 71 and Caverns Road is the corner of the Marianna Airport which was the Army Air Corps base from 1942 to 1945. It was called Graham Air Base from 1952 to 1961.

When you get to the fire rescue station you are at the airport entry. After that you are passing the residential area of the air base which is now Sunland Training Center.

When you pass its entrance, the great green area was the parade ground. Between 1942 and 1945 and between 1953 and 1961, the cadets passed in review there every Saturday morning.

If you look across the parade ground into the trees, you can see two white buildings, the Chapel and Headquarters. They date from WW II. They are still used for the same purpose. This was the location of the Bryan home at that time which burnt in 1960. Hamilton then built a new home for his mother and sisters which is now known as Great Oaks.

Here I want to list the family members with their birth and death dates. I want you to get acquainted with them because they will show up at times as we go forward. This information comes from their family Bible.

  • Bible Family Record – 4th Generation
  • Elijah Bryan married Elizabeth Penelope Bryan, Jan. 1824
  • (father of) Elijah Bryan born Nov. 17, 1793 – died May 25, 1852
  • (mother of) Elizabeth Penelope Bryan born April 25, 1808 – died August 12, 1870
  • Edwin Norval and Ann Elizabeth died in infancy
  • Harriet Mary, born Aug. 28, 1826 – died Nov. 21 1886
  • Joseph., born 1830 – died 1906
  • Hamilton G. born August 26, 1831 – died October 21, 1886
  • Franklin, born 1832 – died Dec. 25, 1848
  • (Lost his life – drowned at University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.)
  • Penelope A., born March 18, 1835 – died August 18, 1857
  • Georgia C., born March 10, 1837 – died June 23, 1909
  • Annie, born Feb. 7, 1839 – died October 27, 1912
  • Laura Virginia, born Jan. 25, 1841 – died March 14, 1914
  • Emily M., born November 10, 1842 – died March 25, 1915
  • Robert Blackshear, born 1846-1885
  • Elijah James, born November 9, 1848 – died June 8, 1915
  • Elizabeth Jenette, born September 1852 – died May 8, 1908

The plantation extends on north to the traffic light in Greenwood. Think of this area as one great farm. Notice how nearly level the land is. It has no drainage problems. Also think how wise Mr. Bryan was to select this particular site. He was only 33 years old when he got his first land (1826) and 63 when he died.

Next week we will continue about the family and begin the restoration of Great Oaks.

We have received the following information from Mary Neale Robbins which will be a good lesson for us all and I wish to share it with you. Please see the Letter to the Editor to the right.


Dear Editor:

I'm thrilled that Claude Reese is going to do a series on Greenwood history. However the idea, put forth by some past writers, that Andrew Jackson named Jackson County for himself is incorrect. I realized this in 2001 while doing research for the DAR cookbook, Recipes from Historic Jackson County.

Andrew Jackson received the Floridas from Spanish authorities in Pensacola on July 17, 1821. (Spain did not sign the treaty until 1822, at least six months later.) Jackson left for The Hermitage, his home in Tennessee, about the eighth of October and by November 1821 resigned as United States Commissioner and Governor of the Territories of East and West Florida.

The unified government of Florida was established on March 30, 1822 by President James Monroe, and William Pope DuVal had become the first Territorial Governor by the time Jackson County was formed by the first Legislative Council on August 12, 1822. Meeting near Pensacola the council divided the counties of Escambia and St. Johns, that had been established just over a year before (on July 21, 1821) while Andrew Jackson was Governor of the Territories of East and West Florida, thus forming the third county Jackson and the fourth county Duval.

Just so you know. Mary Neale Robbins Long Time History Buff Marianna


Chipola Historical Trust Hears Judge Roy Roulhac

By: Homer Hirt  The Chipola Historical Trust met on Tuesday at the Ely Criglar House, a perfect setting for the book signing by Judge Roy L. Roulhac, a Jackson County resident and a descendant of slaves, who has become an administrative court judge.

Roulhac's book, Slave Genealogy of the Roulhac Family, is subtitled "French Masters & the Africans They Enslaved", and was in the making for thirty years. The author not only researched his own ancestors throughout their days of servitude, but tied in the French family who owned them and moved them from the Carolinas to Jackson County as the plantation culture of the Old South moved to northern Florida.

When Roy Roulhac spoke to the Trust last year from the same setting, he described a young African American boy, growing up in Marianna but walking past the Ely Criglar house every school day, attending the segregated schools and acquiring an education that took him to Edward Waters College and eventually to the bench in Michigan.

On this occasion he spoke as a retired judge who had decided to find all he could about his slave ancestors. As he pursued this goal, he realized that the masters, from which his ancestors gained their last name when they were freed, were an essential part of the trail that he sought. He told of his searches in newspapers, in archives, in courthouse records, all adding up to the history of a remarkable family that may well be typical of many African American citizens of the United States.

Such a man as Roy Roulhac was fated to have an interesting life, and much of it he relates in his book, such as his opportunity to serve Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr when he was a waiter at the National Press Club. He got Dr. King's autograph on the back of his employment agency business card, and he still carries it with him.

During the book signing the Judge had many of his cousins with him, including several that had "raised" some of the white attendees. Also visiting was his 100 year old aunt Mrs. Catherine McElroy of Marianna and his cousin Roger Clay, former Marianna City Commissioner.

The book "Slave Genealogy of the Roulhac Family" is available locally through, with the electronic version soon to be available at Judge Roulhac is also donating a copy to the Jackson County Library.


The Cotton Trade


These late 1800's photographs show bales and bales of cotton, examples of many cotton sales or auctions which were held in the open area, which for many years was called "The Plaza". It is now known as the Confederate Memorial Park in honor of the Confederate Monument which was erected in 1921. The area is still often referred to as "The Plaza" by older Marianna folks.

The land in Jackson County and the surrounding areas was then, as is still today, very good cotton producing land, and Marianna was a good cotton market.

When the cotton bales were ready for shipment after the sale, they would have been loaded on wagons and moved south down the hill to the railroad station where trains had begun operation between Pensacola and the Apalachicola River around 1885. They could have also been taken by wagon to the Apalachicola River where they would have been loaded directly onto river boats and perhaps carried upstream to Columbus, Georgia and points north.

Columbus was a very large textile manufacturing area and the cotton could have been used there to make fabric for clothing. Homer Hirt tells that today there is quite an interesting museum showing how the textile industry changed the raw product from cotton to clothing fabric, often using water power to power the equipment used for textile production.

If the cotton was taken downstream to Apalachicola, it could have been shipped anywhere in the world, as Apalachicola was the second largest cotton port on the Gulf of Mexico.

The long building seen directly behind the bales of cotton was the very large cotton warehouse. South of that was Arthur Calhoun's Livery Stable. In case "livery stable" means nothing to you, that was where they housed and sold mules and horses, which were very important to the farming in this area. There were no self-powered tractors of any kind at this point in time in the Deep South.

Since many families had some size piece of property on which they could raise food for their family, horses and mules were very important to the livelihood of the people in our area at this time. Horses were also the only means of transportation, either to be ridden or to pull wagons and buggies.
Mrs. Mary "Sangy" White, a 100-plus year old African-American lady, tells how she plowed two mules many days on the 40 acre farm she and her husband owned north of Marianna. On one particular day, the horses ran into a yellow jacket nest. She proudly tells that she was able to get the stinging wasps off her mules before they were injured too seriously. She also tells about how she and her husband would pick cotton late in the afternoon and into the evening and bring the large bag of cotton into the house during the night to protect it from the moisture of the dew and theft. Cotton was a crop raised by small farmers as well as larger farming operations. Marianna had a large cotton gin and there were cotton gins all over this area of Florida.

Note that the brick buildings across the north side of Lafayette Street appeared as one long one-story building with a continuous metal awning. Most of the stores were twenty-five feet wide and ran from "Fayette Street" to Market Street as they do now. With no AC they were always open, except in the wintertime, from street to street for air circulation. You can see the electric lines running above "The Plaza". Telephones came to Marianna in 1901.

If you look very carefully above the west end of the one-story buildings on "Fayette" Street, you can see the steeple and the windows of the original Methodist Church. There are also two very large homes or apartment houses in the area where the Post Office sits today. Mr. Dekle's General Store is the two-story building on the corner.

Judging by the large number of people who are standing under the long awning of the stores north of "The Plaza", cotton auctions must have been a very interesting and entertaining event. There is also a very nice collection of buggies to the right of the area where the cotton is being auctioned. The picket fence is in front of the old Chipola Hotel from where these photographs were taken.

The Cotton Industry is still alive and well in Jackson County today! Jeff Pittman, one of our outstanding cotton farmers, says there are approximately 31,000 to 35,000 acres of cotton being grown in the county, with an average yield of 600 pounds per acre. The average price today is 70 cents per pound, down from a record $2.00 per pound about 18 months ago. That price triggered higher production from India and China which lowers the price, since this is a supply and demand product.

He says that the large rectangular modules we see sitting in the fields have been picked by the picking machinery, forming 500 pound bales, with 16 bales making up a module. These are loaded into the large cotton trucks moving along the roadways which are taking the cotton to the cotton gins, most going to gins in Bainbridge or Donaldsonville, Georgia, Hartford, Alabama or Greenwood, Florida. It takes about 1,500 pounds of raw cotton to produce 500 pounds of lint, which is the cotton after the cotton gin process has removed the seeds.

Jeff further states that there are many new varieties of cotton since the 1800's, but while, for many years, tractors and herbicides eliminated the hard work of hoeing and hand labor, the Pigweed and other herbicide resistant weeds have forced the farmers to return to hoeing and hand pulling, which is hard, back-breaking, hot work.

In the fall, as we see the beautiful white fields of cotton being grown, picked, loaded and carried along the roadways, with some blowing onto the road right-of-ways (commonly known as "Southern Snow"), we should take the time to appreciate the hard work that has taken place by the farmer as he has planted this crop, tended it for several months and now has it being taken to the gin to be prepared to be sold to make our cotton clothing and other cotton products which are so important to our comfort and well-being.

Farmers have always been a very important part of our well-being and our standard of living, particularly in our North Florida area. Farmers continue to be very special to us in 2012.

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