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Sneads, a River Town With a Rich History

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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!

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