Pat Crisp

Pat Crisp

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Sneads Still Growing

The history of Sneads is so interesting that it is hard to determine where to start and about what to write!

The new strip malls, the wonderful ball field/sports complex, the school consolidation, sports teams continuing to excel, good schools with extremely bright, well-rounded young people, a strong community feeling, with several very strong churches to help guide and teach strong family values, just makes Sneads a very special place to live and to raise one’s family.

The Great Depression hit Sneads very hard, as it did so many other areas of the county. The banks closed, people were out of work, had little money and food was scarce. It seems, though, that people who live in the “country” are more self-sufficient, as we can grow all sorts of food and we have that special Southern survival instinct. However it was hard for everyone, but we survived and the South seemed stronger after things settled down.

In fact, the Community House is an example of what could be done at a very difficult time. The Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) provided work for people during President Roosevelt’s administration. This program would pay workers to work rather than receive charity from the government. Many excellent buildings were built in Jackson County, not to mention it was under these programs that the Florida Caverns were cleared of rocks and made possible for everyone to enjoy the caverns today as one of Florida’s special tourist attractions

The Log Cabin Community House Project was initiated in the center of town near the water pump, and under the direction of the Sneads Woman’s Club, a wonderful log house was built which stands today as a testament to hard work and dedication, over 75years later. The Community House has served many different needs during those years and after being refurbished in the early 70’s by a joint effort of the Sneads civic clubs, the “Old Lady” stands today as a testament to a wonderful community which values the efforts of those who lived before us to make our lives more enjoyable today.

The school experiences and the churches make a small community work! When we live spread out as in a rural community, coming together at school, with parent involvement, and coming together to worship, gives the adhesiveness that draws its people together.

School has always been a very important part of the Sneads experience, but it has not been easy! The first log schoolhouse was built in 1881, but was soon moved to a larger wooden building in 1884 and served until 1889, when, on that same location, a two-story schoolhouse was built, which served until 1912 when it burned..

After the fire classes were held across the street in the Hugh Woolridge home, which housed the entire school, grade one through ten. In 1921, a two-storied school building was built on the property at the present school site. It was a very sound building of brick on the first floor and the second floor of wood.

It was used from 1921 until 1934, when the top of the building was moved away and the first floor of brick became a portion of the next school building, with wings being added behind the original building. An auditorium, stage, and ample classrooms were included in this construction. This was done at the same time of the Community House and the government programs paying people to work was the basis for this building. Completed for the 1937-38 school year, it was a wonderful addition to the education of Snead’s young people. Sadly, February 24, 1939 saw this building go up in flames. The school year was completed in homes, school buses, churches, the Community House and “open air” classrooms.

During the 1938 school year, under the same work-for-pay programs, the Sneads High School Agriculture Building was built and was also used for classrooms during the time it took to rebuild, as was the Sneads High School Gymnasium, also built by local people and government payroll. Between the school buildings being replaced, the gym was partitioned off and used for classrooms.

The new building was completed in 1939 in time for the 1940 school year. Unexpectedly, the graduating seniors of 1941 found a large number of the gentlemen drafted into the Armed Forces very soon, as World War II was calling all able-bodied men over 18 to serve.

This building served very well until a fateful day in March of 1991 when it also burned. Just after midnight, lightning struck the building during a horrible thunder storm and $2,000,000 damage was done to the building which burned out of control due to the high winds of the storm. However, not damaged were the school’s library, guidance office, band room, two gyms, the lunch room and the Ag Building. Classes were held in these partitioned buildings until the school was rebuilt in 1993. It is a modern brick building, a $2 million dollar gymnasium, a lunchroom, library, and up-to-date equipment with computer labs and modern audio-visual equipment. The wonderful building standing today is responsible for housing many outstanding young people who have received a wonderful education in the Sneads school system

Several years ago, it was decided to consolidate Grand Ridge Schools and Sneads schools. Meeting with great concern, the consolidation went extremely well. Today, Sneads High School is the only high school and Sneads Elementary School is housed in the former Lillie Blanks Elementary School building. The consolidation was completed with Grand Ridge hosting the only Middle School and an Elementary School.

Many fine educators have served as principal of Sneads High Schools, Elementary Schools and Middle Schools, and that high quality of education continues to send exceptional young people to serve their fellow man in all parts of the world.

As mentioned, World War II saw great changes in our area of the world when our young men and many older men were drafted and sent to all parts of the world. Those who were unable to serve, for whatever reason, had to work very hard at farming. Everyone had a Victory Garden, and all other essential jobs had to be filled by those men and women who were not serving in the military services. Some worked at the Wainwright Shipyard in Panama City. Almost everything was rationed-gasoline, sugar, shoes, bacon, meat, and tires. Everyone had a ration book. Life was hard!

Marianna Army Airbase was opened at the present airfield. Some jobs were available there. Women did jobs they would have never imagined. Fields had to be planted and harvested. The government brought in German prisoners for a time to help with harvesting the crops. The war was over in 1945, and life slowly returned to normal for those who returned unharmed.

In 1949 the East Unit of Apalachee Correctional Institution, originally established as a first offenders’ training facility, was opened which offered employment to many in the Sneads/Grand Ridge/Chattahoochee area and beyond. The institution has since been enlarged with the addition of the West Wing and the Department of Corrections has provided employment for many area men and women.

The Sholtz Steam Plant, a subsidiary of Gulf Power Company, began operations in 1950, helping again to provide the area additional employment.

The Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee has provided employment for many area residents for many years, as has the District Office of the West Florida Electric Association.

Jim Woodruff Dam, completed in 1956, at a cost of $46.5 million dollars, is a great blessing to this area. It provides hydro-electric power which is used by Florida Power Company. It also provides an enviable amount of wonderful recreation with Lake Seminole and Lake Seminole Park. The dam and subsequent lake were built and are maintained by the U.S. Corp of Engineers. Three Rivers State Park is located off River Road in Sneads and was constructed in 1958. Lake Seminole attracts sportsmen from all over the nation and is a favorite place to hunt, fish, water ski and boat. It is especially enjoyed by many in the area year-round.

The dam allowed for commercial use of the lake and the Apalachicola River. For a time a new venture was using the river, beginning in 1960, when the Jackson County Port Authority was organized. For many years it was a vital business on the river, but is now in private hands and the Port Authority no longer exists.

Sneads continues to be a very important part of Jackson County. It provides a gateway from the east into Jackson County and provides the area with fine young people to be educated at Chipola College and beyond, to fill the labor pool with talent and skills, to make life in our area much more worthwhile because Sneads, Florida is a special place in which to live, grow up, and raise families. CONGRATULATIONS, LOVELY CITY!

Note: The publication Sneads Memories has provided much of the information contained in this article. It is highly recommended that one secure a copy of this fine publication, compiled from memories of local Sneads residents, some no longer with us. It is an invaluable resource for future generations. The writer wishes to express her appreciation for such a publication making it possible to share information with those not fortunate enough to live in Sneads, Florida over the past 100 or so years. .

Sneads Continued to Grow

It is difficult for us to envision this North Florida area totally overgrown with tall pine trees and large hardwoods which had never been cut.

There were very few fields as we know today where you would see acres and acres of cleared land. The soil in this area has always been prime soil for pine tree growth. Jackson County’s virgin forests were just waiting to be “picked”. One big problem was quite evident, however. How do you move large pine trees from the forest to a place where they can be used to build homes, businesses and ships, a great distance from their growth source? Obviously, they could be floated down the rivers and creeks, which many were, but one had to get them to that water source with absolutely no adequate roads and equipment.

Steamships began to make regular runs between Apalachicola and Columbus, Georgia. However, the traffic depended on the depth of the water and weather conditions. Mail, passengers and products were moving from one area to another, stopping regularly at several ports along the river bank. Port Jackson was a very busy port as was Neal’s Landing. Several of the larger plantations also had docks that could receive the steam ships plying the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers. (Remember that the Flint River begins as groundwater seepage near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, joined by tributaries down its 212 mile length, joining the Chattahoochee River which begins as teardrops seeping out of rocks on the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, getting larger and larger as streams, tributaries and creeks empty into the southbound waterway as it flows to the point where Florida and Georgia join at the present Jim Woodruff Dam and the two form the Apalachicola River which flows to the Gulf of Mexico near Apalachicola.)

In Dale Cox’s The History of Jackson County, Volume One, he tells that by 1830 steamboats were carrying 5,000 bales of cotton per year down the Apalachicola for shipment to New England, Europe and the world. Wealthy speculators came from the north, and large plantations sprang up throughout the area. Vast fields of cotton appeared in the rich basins of the rivers. For the next twenty or so years the rivers were the normal way of moving people and products from one point to another. Steamships ran the distance on a very regular basis.

Then, along came the railroad! As the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, after years of negotiations and very difficult construction conditions, finally had trains running from Pensacola to Sampson’s Landing near Sneads in February 1883. This entire North Florida area was opened up to railroad accessibility to the Apalachicola River, where, when conditions were favorable, the products could be gotten across the river to River Junction near Chattahoochee and transported to points in all directions by the rail service that was present there. Gradually the railroads were completed to the west, making rail service available to New Orleans. 

This photo demonstrates the difficulty the railroad companies and the road building people had to deal with when building railroads and highways in this area.

In Shofner’s Jackson County, Florida-A History, he reports that in 1883 Sneads was the only booming community in the county. Sneads Memories tells us that in 1899, Gabriel Smith dug a well and put a public pump near the Old Spanish Trail which ran through the town. The old pump, under a shed now, still remains. Smith’s desire was that all who drank from the well would always want to return to Sneads.

Cotton production was being supplemented by lumbering and watermelons. As transportation became more available with the rail system, some side tracks to other communities were added. Lumbering and turpentine production was beginning to be a major money crop and many communities were established around the saw mills and the turpentine stills in the area. Cypress, Grand Ridge, Aberdeen, Alliance, Bascom, Dellwood, Parramore, Paront, and several other small communities were mostly planted there as locations of sawmills, turpentine stills and commissaries where supplies were sold to the workers. These stores were necessary to meet the needs of the workers who were generally paid very irregularly. They would shop in the commissary stores and charge their purchases, having their commissary bills deducted from their salaries on payday.

This type of turpentine wagon and like wagons loaded with pine tree logs totally destroyed the dirt roads in the areas where they were cutting the pine trees to sell, making travel for the public very difficult. The photo was in downtown Marianna in the early 1920’s with the old Chipola Hotel in the background. We can count 14 oxen pulling this heavy load and can only imagine the actual weight the load of turpentine might have been. Rosin was the product left over after the turpentine had been distilled.

Sneads continued to prosper with the naval industry producing turpentine. Some operations were the largest naval companies in the South. When they had collected the turpentine for the appropriate period of time, the trees were cut and shipped out of the area. Millions of board feet of lumber and saw logs and thousands of barrels of turpentine had been shipped from Jackson County by 1920, but there were still enough raw products available to last for many years.

This pine tree has been prepared to bleed the turpentine into the cup at the bottom of the cut. This was an example of the turpentine industry and what was being widely done in this area of Florida during the late 1800’s and to early to mid-1900. By then the large paper mills began to work with the trees and pulpwood and extracted the turpentine at the mills.

In 1907 the Bank of Sneads was organized. There were a number of mercantile stores, a livery stable, a drugstore, a naval stores depot and a cotton gin. Cotton, corn, peanuts (mostly for hogs), sugar cane and watermelons were the main crops. Hogs and cows added income, as did the “moonshine business” between 1915 and the 1920’s. C.C. Liddon’s General Merchandise Store was in business from 1897 until 1972 when it was leased by Big Bend Industries, a garment factory, planning to supply 200 badly needed jobs. (Note: This is the company expansion which brought the Sid Riley Family to the area. Sid was the manager of this operation.) Earlier, Sneads also had two doctors, a barrel shop, and a barber shop, known as “The Up-To-Now Tonsorial Artist.”

An agricultural inventory of Jackson County in 1924 revealed: 50 tobacco farms with 700 acres, 2,000 acres of watermelons, 100 acres of cucumbers, 100 acres of cantaloupes, 2 strawberry farms, 25 bee apiaries, 7 Satsuma groves, the largest sugar plantation in the state (in Grand Ridge), 2 peach orchards, 25 acres of blueberries, 3 large dairies, 2,500 pullets, and 4,200 hogs, in addition to thousands of acres of peanuts and cotton. There were 15 turpentine stills, 15 saw mills, a veneer mill, a barrel mill, and a hardwood mill. In spite of the Depression Jackson County produced 19,000 bales of cotton, while the rest of the state produced 39,000.

The Victory Bridge replaced the ferry across the Apalachicola River in 1922. U.S. 90 was completed from Tallahassee to Pensacola, and its paving in 1926 was considered as a great turning point for Jackson County.

Note: The three publications mentioned in this article are invaluable resources to writing these articles. Deepest appreciation is expressed to all who contributed the information in these very important and informative publications.

Sneads, a River Town With a Rich History

Due to its location on the river the land on which Sneads is located may be the oldest area settled in this part of Florida. The Indians left many relics which have been uncovered by archeologists over the years. Sadly, many of the Indian settlements are now in Lake Seminole since the Jim Woodruff Dam was built in 1947-1957.

According to the late 1990’s publication, Sneads Memories and Dale Cox’s The History of Jackson County, Volume One, the Native Americans were here long before time was denoted as A.D. The Kolomoki Civilization, the Mississippians, the Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole people, and perhaps before them, the Yucki and Hitchiti were in the area.

The largest known Mississippian settlement was the Curlee Site near Sneads, occupied around 1000 A.D. It was a large village and mound on the Apalachicola River located near where the old U.S. Bridge crosses between Chattahoochee and Sneads. It was a large village with massive fields that supported the villagers. It was also a trading center for the Indians who took advantage of the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers (which this writer chooses to call “the first Interstate Highways.”)

The Indians had many settlements in the area and seemed to be able to work with, or at least tolerate, the Spanish as they came with their soldiers and with the Spanish missions, namely Mission San Luis near Tallahassee and later the Spanish Mission, San Carlos de Chocatos located on the bluff at the west end of Jim Woodruff Dam, the present site of the Apalachee Correctional Institution. There was still some Native American activity here as late as the 1760s, when the English began to come through the area using the Old Spanish Trail (which was north of U.S. 90 which we now know as “the Old Spanish Trail.”) It had been used by the Spanish who were here earlier, and it actually went from the Sneads area to Blue Springs, over the natural bridge at the present day Florida Caverns State Park, and then southwest to the natural bridge at the Econfina. The Spanish Trail has also been described as being very near the route that State Highway 2 follows today, passing near the Waddell Mill Pond area. In 1832, Andrew Jackson was sent to the area to try to get the Indians to accept money for their land and to move westward. His efforts certainly could be considered successful and by mid-1838 the Apalachicola Indians, as they were called, were soon among those leaving for the west in what is known as The Trail of Tears. We know that many of those leaving the area did not live to see their western settlements.

Soon ferries were operating at many points along the river, some being pulled from pullies on a cable stretched across the river. As the steamboats, which were soon using the river from Apalachicola to Columbus, Georgia, approached the area, the cables were dropped to the bottom of the river to avoid the paddles on the river boats as they passed on their regular trips from Columbus to Apalachicola and returning, bringing mail and carrying supplies from the Sneads area, and distributing supplies to settlements along the rivers from Apalachicola to Columbus.

If the proper point could be established today, under the water of Lake Seminole, near where the Flint, the Chattahoochee and the Apalachicola Rivers merge, one could fish in two states, three rivers, four counties and two time zones at the same time! That spot is also the point at the southern tip of Seminole County Georgia, which was the starting point of Andrew Ellicott’s surveying between Georgia and Spanish Florida in 1799.

The earliest white settlers were reported to have come around 1818. They were the Carpenters, the Carraway and Gorrie families. In 1822 the Pope family came to Sneads as William Stuart Pope, Sr. was the Sub-Agent for the U.S. Government still trying to work with the Indians to settle their land disputes. Early settlers were also Lewis Taylor and Gabriel Smith who homesteaded the land and staked out their claims. According to Edgar Boykin, the only survivor of the group in 1894, who stated that Taylor and Smith divided the town between themselves, with Taylor claiming all the land north of the railroad and Smith taking all the land south of the railroad tracks. Smith was the section foreman on the railroad and worked the construction crew while the railroad was being built.

The records seem to indicate that Mr. Andrew Barksdale, the first white settler to hold title to lands in the Sneads area, acquired his land from the State of Florida in June of 1856 and sold at least a portion of it to William Pope in 1861. The Town of Sneads came into being as it was incorporated on Friday, October 26, 1894 when the 45 legal voters living in the Sneads area could vote on the matter of incorporation at Dr. Snead’s store. The majority of the 37 who voted cast their vote to accept the organization of Sneads. Prior to this, the area had been called “Gloucester” in honor of the early settlers of the area. A number of the descendants of these original families still reside in the Sneads area. In April 1988, it is stated that the Town encompassed four and one-half square miles, with approximately 2,150 people residing there in 1997.

Sneads was selected for the name of the new town in honor of Doctor Walter Snead, a dentist, who had arrived in the area around 1872. He practiced his dentistry up and down the Apalachicola River and had a general store named Sneads General Store. He served as one of the first Councilmen in Sneads and later moved to Marianna, where both he and his wife are buried in Riverside Cemetery.

Of course, only the men were allowed to vote in 1894. As we read last week, it was almost twenty-six years later that women were allowed to vote, and the first woman in Florida to vote was Mrs. Fay Bridges, who voted early that August 26, 1920 morning at the polling place in Sneads, Florida!

Jackson County Schools Story continued

This writer has always wondered how several of the school buildings in Jackson County were built in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The question seems to be answered in Jerrell Shofner’s Jackson County, Florida, A History, and in J. Randall Stanley’s History of Jackson County.

You will recall from a previous article that there were 127 schools in Jackson County in 1919. Around the turn of the century, the authorities realized that school districts could bond their respective districts, charge the citizens taxes, tear down the old buildings and build new, nicer buildings. Sneads was the first School District, in 1913, to issue bonds, and other districts followed. Suddenly, the Board of Public Instruction was devoting a great deal of their time keeping the school’s finances on an even keel.

Strangely, Shofner tells that in 1920 the school board declined to assist Malone in establishing a high school (ninth through twelfth grade classes). If the people of Malone wanted a high school, they would have to do it themselves—which they did! For a number of years Beall Mercantile Company paid the salaries of the four teachers and higher level classes were offered. Interestingly, Roy Beall initiated competitive basketball in the area and he served as the volunteer coach from 1920 until 1946. The state finally assumed some responsibility for the Malone school in the 1930s. (It should be noted that Roy Beall’s basketball teams were very competitive.)

The writer’s mother, Ruby Weston Malloy, often told of the school bus she rode from the Lovedale Community to Malone in order to get her high school education. She had attended Central School near the Lovedale Church through the eighth grade. The School Board had contracted with Wilbur Logan to retrofit an old flatbed truck into a school bus of sorts, with some sort of covering and seats running down each side of the bed of the truck. The older children of the Lovedale Community were picked up each morning during school season and transported back and forth to Malone over very rough, very dusty or very muddy roads, with the temperature inside the “ bus” the same temperature as it was outside, regardless of the season. However, education was very precious to those young people, and they, along with many, many others in Jackson County, under similar circumstances, were quite proud to have the opportunity to graduate from high school, which Ruby did in 1930.

When the Kynesville School was burned in 1922, construction of a new building was financed by county funding and a variety of voluntary contributions. In 1922 there were still 56 special school districts in the county with authority to raise taxes, and there were 105 different schools. However as better transportation became available consolidation became more and more common. However some of the one-teacher schools, such as Hasty Level, Hickory Pond, and Pittman Hill, still existed as late as the early 1950’s.

Evidently these taxing districts were very important in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s as the county built five very large schools during a five to ten year period. Marianna High School was built in 1927, with Greenwood, Cottondale, Campbellton and Sneads following during the 1930’s.

This timing of this construction is what has always intrigued the writer, because these were the dark years of the Great Depression. Jackson County was at a total standstill because there was so little available money. The banks were struggling. Most banks were closed. Shofner reports that The Peoples Bank of Marianna was in receivership, the banks in Cottondale, Sneads and Graceville were closed. The Bank of Graceville was using the Dothan Bank and Trust Company as its depository. After Roosevelt was inaugurated in March 1933, he said that the solvent banks could reopen, and very soon the First National Bank, Citizens State Bank, the Bank of Greenwood and the Bank of Malone were permitted to reopen.

All that is said to underline the question: “How did the Board of Education manage to build those five fine buildings during that timeframe?”

Nevertheless, they were built and most are still standing today, several being used very effectively almost eighty years later.

In 1947, the State Legislature designated that there would be only one school district in the county. Over the years the state has assumed more and more of the responsibility of funding the schools in the State of Florida.

History states that in 1890 the budget to operate the schools of the county during 1891 was $10,550. By 1949-50 that budget was $1,121, 097, with salaries being $818,500 of that figure. Buildings under construction at that time were approximately $301,764 with $125,000 designated for the Marianna High School Gymnasium, $93,764 for an elementary school at Marianna and $83,000 for the gymnasium at Malone.

In 1950 there were approximately 10,000 students enrolled in public school in Jackson County. 6,000 were in the white schools and 4000 in the African-American schools. At that time there were twenty three white schools in the county, including eight senior and five junior high schools. There were also forty three African-American schools, including two senior and four junior high schools.

At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year there were approximately 6,824 students enrolled in public school in the county. The budget for this period was $62,081,065 with teachers’ salaries being $25,313,000 of that figure. There are no school buildings under construction at this time.

The Jackson County school system is the second largest industry in the county, following only the prison industry.

Today there are also two private schools in Jackson County. Day Spring Christian Academy is in Marianna with 142 students serving K-3 through 8th grade. They plan to add 9th and 10th grades in the next school year. Victory Christian Academy in Sneads has 40 students, grade K-3 through grade 12. There are 253 students in the county who are registered as ‘Home Schooled”.

In the current school system senior high students who qualify can be dual enrolled and take classes at Chipola College, with all tuition and book expenses covered by the Jackson County School Board. This is a wonderful opportunity for higher education while still enjoying the normal high school experience. A few very dedicated students have graduated from Chipola with an AA Degree a few days before they received their High School diploma. There are many remarkable students from Jackson County schools who excel beyond every expectation, and many who go to universities and on into adulthood to succeed in every area of their lives. Jackson County schools continue to produce outstanding young people who excel extremely well in their future endeavors.

The school system in the county has changed a great deal in the last hundred years, but the importance of receiving a degree from high school is even more important today than it was so many years ago. The State of Florida and the tax-paying Jackson County property owners continue to provide millions of dollars each year to guarantee a quality education for our Jackson County students. May we never take our educational system for granted!

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