Pat Crisp

Pat Crisp

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1900s Downtown Marianna Florida

The oldest photo shows downtown Marianna as it was about the turn of the Century. Jefferson Davis Smith's General Store was the first building on the right at the corner of Jefferson and Lafayette Street, (now Buddy's Appliance Store) looking west. He sold furniture and other things, but his main items were buggies and wagons. You will note the dirt streets appear to be extremely rutted from the wagon wheels. Andrew Dykes told us that Marianna dirt streets were either dusty or muddy. There wasn't much in between, and he emphasized how badly the city smelled, particularly in rainy weather, because of the location of the much used hitching posts down the center of town.

On the extreme left of the street scene there are some covered wagons which brought fish and oysters from the coast on cold days in the fall and winter.  (Note winter season by tree leaves.) Smith states that the oysters were a favorite of everyone and they were sold for fifteen cent per dozen, with crackers, and $1.00 for a hundred in the bag.

He also states that there was a water system installed about this time. He says that out in the middle of Jefferson Street there was a small two-story building that was used as City Hall, with a "calaboose" (jail to us). South of this building, also in the middle of the street, was the power plant of the city waterworks and electric generating plant. There was also a tall water tank and a ground reservoir, all installed about 1900. This was later moved down to the bottom of the hill near the railroad (where you see a later water tank today).

J. D. Smith’s Buggy and Wagon Store

We don’t have any photos of the entire scene in the middle of Jefferson Street, but the overall photo of Mr. Smith’s Store does show the water hydrate and perhaps the water reservoir in the extreme lower right of the photo. This very large building was moved back to Market Street to prepare for the new building in 1902.

Interior of Smith’s Store

The interior store scene includes Mr. Smith and his niece, Willie Smith. He is standing beside a beautiful buggy, and you can see several items of furniture and wall hangings and a wonderful baby buggy.

Early 1900’s photo

In 1902, J.D. Smith and Robert Daffin built the series of stores filling almost the entire block that were later occupied by J.D. Farrior and B. Schreiber. The east most stores had similar architectural design, with the center store appearing to be three separate buildings in one, as it is today.

Smith’s corner store later housed the original Citizens State Bank, which was soon moved across the street. Many Marianna folks remember Hightower’s Drug Store, there for over 50 years. George Farley occupied some of the building for many years. At the time of this photograph, the large two-story wooden building was still there on the west end of the block, as the awning of the old building can be seen through the trunks of the two trees. Robert Daffin built the Daffin Building several years later.

There is one very early model car parked in front of one of the stores. Since doctors were the first to have automobiles in our area, and Hightower’s Drug Store was known to be in that part of the building, perhaps the doctor has come for some medication. The trees are still down the middle of the street, almost all area folks are still using their buggies, wagons or horses for transportation, and the point where Green Street goes past the Plaza area is still sloping greatly, not level as it is today. Do note THE street light in the middle of “Fayette” and Jefferson Streets. You can also see some electric lines running toward the Plaza if you look carefully.

It is not possible to see the bank building, built in 1902, through the trees, but it would have been there at this point in time.

These buildings on the north side of the street have been in constant service since the early 1900’s and are still serving the public very well today, which proves the quality of their construction work and materials at that point in history.

The Liddon Building under construction

C. C. Liddon has built his very large four-story building on the south side of “Fayette” Street. The photos show the enormous size of the building. This building sat where SunTrust Bank is today and was torn down to accommodate the new bank. For many years it housed A. J. Cobb’s Insurance Agency, Dr. J.Y. Folsom’s dental office, several other offices, and a number of businesses on the ground floor. There was no elevator.

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.

Early Highways and Railroads

North Florida was the final leg of I-10 through Florida, connecting Jacksonville to Los Angeles, California around 1980. I-10 changed our area in many different ways, but if we go back about 100 to 150 years, we had another type of interstate travel which was very different, but equally important!

During the 1800's, the river, the first interstate travel system, was about the only way one could travel a long distance in the South. There were steam powered ships and paddle boats, and some smaller boats which were pushed with long poles up and down the smaller, shallower waterways. The Chipola River had active river traffic for many years.

While there were many smaller rivers in the southeast, a large number of them flowed into the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, the major rivers servicing Georgia and eastern Alabama to move products and people into and out of our area. The smaller rivers allowed people and products throughout the South to use many rivers to connect with the larger rivers to travel for business, for pleasure and to relocate their families from one area to another.

Homer Hirt remembers, as a child, hearing his aunts telling how they took "excursions" on the river boats, going to visit relatives via the river. He wishes he had listened more intently as they told their wonderful stories.

The Chattahoochee and the Flint Rivers merge at the Alabama, Georgia and Florida state lines, which are located very near the Jim Woodruff Dam area. At that point they become the Apalachicola River which continues flowing to the Gulf of Mexico near Apalachicola.

It is very difficult for us to imagine a time that there were no real roads in our area, as we know them, or in most of the South. The Spanish Trail, now known as US 90, was totally unpaved. Horses, buggies and wagons did not require much road base, and travel was slow and very difficult.
A trip from Tallahassee to Marianna was a 2-day horse-back or carriage trip. As late as the early 1920's it was reported that a trip by car from Marianna to Jacksonville was several days in length, with multiple break-downs, flat tires and road hazards to overcome.

The first cars which came to the Marianna area around 1908 were shipped to Atlanta by rail from Flint, Michigan. J. D. Smith had a contract with the Buick Company to provide the cars as he ordered them, and he didn't order until the car was sold. Milton Smith tells that his job was to ride the train to Atlanta and drive the car back to Marianna. He says the 90 mile road from Atlanta to Macon was a sand-clay graded road, but from then on, via Americus, Albany and Bainbridge, it was just a well-worn country road, with a few creeks to ford. The doctors were the first automobile customers in our area as this new means of transportation greatly increased their ability to make house calls, even if it was over extremely rough roads.

Products which were carried from our area on the river included tobacco, cotton, syrup, honey, salted fish, vegetables in season, turpentine, lumber and other products produced in this area. However, the ships brought products which were needed here and produced in other parts of the country.

Many of the larger plantations along the rivers had their own landings so they could receive and send products without having to haul them so far. Neal's Landing, Snead's Landing, White's Landing, Ocheesee Landing and many, many others made up the river interstate system.

Apalachicola had a huge canning industry as they canned oysters and shrimp which were shipped out to all parts of the country. At one time, Apalachicola was known as "The Seafood Capital of the World" and was the second largest cotton port on the Gulf of Mexico.

Milton Smith tells in his historical compilations that between 1828 and 1916 there were 126 steamships commissioned to operate out of Columbus Georgia, with many others commissioned from Bainbridge, Georgia and Apalachicola and other places along the river. This would indicate that the rivers were a very important part of life in this area during those years, doing a brisk business of hauling products, people, and sometimes animals up and down the rivers.

The Dunaway family tells of their ancestors coming to Neal's Landing with all their worldly possessions on the paddle wheeler, the M.W. Kelly. They settled on Nubbin Ridge Road near Greenwood, the area where two Dunaway families still reside over 100 years later.
Many families have a similar story. The Lovic Sexton family, as did many others, came through Georgia and up the river from a landing on the Apalachicola River. Other families came down the river from areas in Georgia or Alabama or beyond, all by the paddle wheelers and other ships serving the rivers flowing through our area. The Sexton family and many of the descendants of those other hardy families still reside in our area today.
In 1883, rail service was completed from Pensacola to the Apalachicola River, a distance of 170 miles. Marianna and Milton were the only two stations on the line. Soon afterward a rail bridge was built across the Apalachicola River. The train service added much to the river traffic when millions of acres of pine forests furnished great supplies of timber. These virgin pine forests produced huge logs. The production of turpentine and rosin and the main cash crop of cotton, the "lifeline of the South", were an important part of this change from only river traffic to "North Florida-and-beyond" rail service. Many short-line railroads were constructed throughout the area to bring products from the out-lying areas to the rail centers.
Train service was beginning to be available by the late 1800's and that made business and pleasure travel much more comfortable. River Junction at Chattahoochee was the first place in our area to have train service connected to the northern areas of the country.

As train service was developed over the years, rail service took over much of the needs of the river, and by 1915 no more ships were being commissioned to serve the river traffic and the river traffic gradually declined. Thus the romantic era of the river steamboats became "a thing of the past."

With our modern-day travel so efficient, we should never forget the heritage we have which developed over the years to make all of our wonderful means of transportation a reality. An hour on I-10 to Tallahassee surely does beat a two day trip on a horse, doesn't it?

Downtown Marianna 1910

This photograph was taken about 1910 in downtown Marianna from a high point of the bank building, looking east. We can establish the approximate date it was taken by the few very new automobiles. A photo we have which was taken about five years earlier, has no cars in the photograph. This area is now the Confederate Memorial Park where the Confederate monument and the gazebo are located.

This photograph has written on it: "Main Street Marianna, Sat a busy day."

Saturday was the day the farmers came to town from their farms throughout the area, some from miles away, by-way-of their only means of transportation, horses and buggies or wagons. Their families often came with them to purchase food items they could not raise themselves, medical supplies and dry goods which they needed for making their clothes and for other household items.

Trees were planted from the corner of the property in the middle of town to the Courthouse, with hitching posts all along the area. The trees provided shade in the hot weather and water was furnished in the area for watering the horses. A great deal of the area shown is covered with horses and buggies or wagons on this particular day.

You can see the fire bell on a tower with a weather vane on the top of it to determine the wind direction. This bell was rung when there was a fire, but, the fire wagons were located down the hill near the railroad. The fire wagons were pulled by men holding onto a long rope, the length of which was determined by how many men showed up to pull the fire wagon. We are told that there was a piece of metal on the back wheel of the fire wagon which clanged every time the wheel turned. That let people know that the fire wagon was coming! Oftentimes, they said that the clanging noise got less and less often as the men tired of pulling the wagon and began to go slower and slower. We have no records of how many fires were extinguished by whatever method they had available, but we do know that there was a very bad fire in downtown Marianna in the late 1800's or early 1900's and it was determined that there would never be any more wooden buildings built in downtown. Many of the buildings standing today were actually built in the early 1900's, as is obvious in this photo.

Directly in front of the area where the horses are tied, you will note those buildings also look very much as they do today. The west most two story building has the same sign on the top of it today as it did in this photograph. It was found in the attic when Main Street Marianna was encouraging renovation of the downtown buildings in the early 1990's. It was returned to the front of the building. It was, and still is known as The Russ Building. Yes, the same family who owned The Russ House.

You can see The Daffin Building, and all the buildings east of there, looking very much as they do today....105 years or so later!

Back to the photograph, you will note all the dirt streets. We are told by old-timers that it was either dusty or muddy, not much in between. The trash blew from inside the open doors and windows of the stores, and garbage collection was not a high City priority item, according to reports we have been given. You can see evidence of the trash in the photograph.

You will also note that electric wires are running through the area, and underneath, on the same poles, sagging very low, are the telephone lines which are furnishing a very new service to town. We don't know exactly where the electricity was being generated at this point in time, but we do know that the dam at US 90 on the Merritt's Mill Pond did generate electricity at one time.

On the upper right of the photo, the further-most building showing is the front facade of the original Citizen State Bank which burned some years ago. It was located on the corner of Lafayette and Jefferson Streets. On the corner of Lafayette and Green Streets you see the four-storied Liddon Building, torn down to build the SunTrust Bank, formerly Citizen Bank. On the right side of the photograph there are buildings along where the cars are parked, one of which is a boarding house. The original Chipola Hotel would be on the extreme right of the photograph, though not shown here.

Two very interesting things are shown in the lower right hand of the scene. There is a 3-sided box full of sand, and another crude contraption with a tin roof. These two facilities were for storing the "droppings" of the horses, and the sand was used to spread over the area to help with the "stench" that occurred when it was hot and/or wet. These were essential services for the "clientele". The livery stable was near the bank building immediately west of the area, so all of that "service" for the horses worked well together with their business.

We are indebted to Floye Brewton who found this photo at Sadie's Flea Market near Dothan some years ago and brought it back to Marianna. Pat Crisp bought it from the estate sate held after Floye's death.

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