Fayette County once included parts of Jackson, Calhoun and Gulf
by Dale Cox
Two Egg, Florida – Fayette County was a short-lived entity that resulted from one of the most interesting political fiascoes in Florida history.
Named for the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolution, the county was a political boondoggle of the first order. It was created by the Florida legislature in 1832 and included lands east of the Chipola River in today’s Jackson, Calhoun and Gulf Counties. Modern cities within the territory of the “lost county” include Malone, Bascom, Greenwood, Grand Ridge, Sneads, Altha and Blountstown.
The idea for a new county originated in the fifth year of a fierce political battle between the Jackson County towns of Marianna and Webbville over which would become the permanent county seat. The two communities each staked legal claim to the title (and still do, for that matter).
Webbville was the older of the two towns and became the seat of government after the county’s courts met temporarily at the “Widow Hull’s” near today’s Waddell’s Mill Pond, the Big Spring of the Choctawhatchee in what is now Washington County and Jackson Blue Spring. It was a prosperous little community with a hotel, tavern, stores, law offices and a cluster of residences.
Marianna, meanwhile, was founded by Robert and Anna Beveridge well after the establishment of Webbville. The former Baltimore merchant and his wife, however, had the backing of some of Florida’s most influential political leaders. Richard Keith Call, an ally of Andrew Jackson and the territory’s former delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, had a financial stake in Marianna as did many other Jackson supporters.
Webbville ultimately won the battle when the U.S. Congress – which had control over affairs in Florida during its days as a U.S. territory – named the town as seat of government even though it had been settled on a land section reserved for school purposes. The Florida Territorial Legislative Council could not overrule Congress but did the next best thing. It levied fines against any public official who did not do business from the courthouse in Marianna. The result was a wholesale shift of the county’s governmental offices from Webbville to Marianna, even though the former remained the official county seat.
Webbville promoters were not willing to give up the fight and pushed a scheme to give away half of Jackson County. The move would shift the voting balance of power away from Marianna, which benefited in elections from the voters east of the Chipola, and anchor it firmly in western Jackson County.
A flurry of intense lobbying followed and the Webbville clique convinced the members of the Legislative Council that the people of eastern Jackson County would be happier if they could govern themselves. The effort worked and the Council approved “An act to organize a county to be called the County of Fayette” on February 9, 1832. The new county included all of the land from the Chipola River east to the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee River system.
The Council further eliminated any possibility of a similar county seat fight developing in Fayette County by incorporating the “Town of Ocheesee” at Ocheesee Bluff in what is now Calhoun County. The action designated the new town as the seat of government for the new county.
The celebration in Webbville, however, was short-lived. When Gov. James D. Westcott realized the motivation behind the move, he vetoed a bill calling for a new election to determine a permanent seat of government for Jackson County. He wrote to leaders of the Legislative Council that he was “averse to disturbing the quiet of the county by raising the question again if it can be avoided.” Webbville’s dream of winning an election after giving away the part of the county containing many of Marianna’s supporters was dashed.
Westcott also recognized the mistake he had made in approving the bill to create Fayette County. “Had I anticipated the agitation of it, when the bill for forming Fayette county was under consideration,” he wrote, “it would have formed an additional objection to that act.”
The governor’s hindsight stopped the election that would have made Webbville the popular choice as county seat, but came too late to stop the formation of Fayette County. Construction went forward on a courthouse and jail at Ocheesee and officials for the new county assumed their posts.
Fayette County did not last long. The Legislative Council responded to pleas from residents in its northern areas and reunited them with Jackson County in the 1833 session. The now reduced Fayette was left with only the areas from the Chipola to the Apalachicola south of today’s Jackson County line. The citizens of that area filed a petition of their own on January 15, 1834, requesting an end of the two year old county.
Fayette County disappeared from the map of Florida on February 1, 1834. The Legislative Council repealed its earlier act creating
Webbville’s final effort had failed. Although Fayette County became a reality, it was short-lived. Just one year after the creation of the new county, the Legislative Council responded to pleas from residents living in its northern areas and reunited them with Jackson County. Ten months later, on January 15, 1834, the residents from the remaining part of Fayette County filed a similar petition in Tallahassee.
Fayette County disappeared from the map of Florida on February 1, 1834, when the Legislative Council repealed its earlier act creating “the County of Fayette.” Florida’s lost county had lasted only two years.
Ocheesee Landing, site of the town of Ocheesee, is now a public boat ramp in Calhoun County. The map at the bottom of this page will show you how to find it.
The memory of Fayette County also survives in Marianna, where Lafayette Street is the city’s main thoroughfare. It was called Fayette Street until the early 20th century.
Learn more about Ocheesee in this story from Two Egg TV’s Rachael Conrad: