Walls put up gristmill on bluff
Published 6:36 am Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I am continuing with the history of Escambia County as it was written in 1934 by Ethel Hoomes. This account is going to take some time so stay with me.
A brother of Reverend Walls erected a small gristmill near “the bluff” in 1818 and a few years later Thomas Mendenhall built a sawmill near Fort Crawford. Very little of his lumber, however, was sold there but it was carried on rafts to Pensacola. Before this the whipsaw had been used. The lumber that the houses of Ft. Crawford were built with lumber cut with one of these whipsaws.
Escambia County is situated in the southern section of the state, and lies along the northern boundary of Florida. It is bounded on the north by Monroe and Conecuh Counties, and on the east by Conecuh and Covington, on the south by the state line, and on the west by Baldwin County. It is 54 miles long from east to west and 18 miles from north to south. It has an area of 604,160 acres or 972 square acres.
Escambia County has an elevation of from 150 to 300 feet. It is divided into two general divisions, uplands and lowlands. It lies within the coast plain and has 28 different types of soil. The uplands consist of a series of broad ridges broken by a well-developed drainage system and the lowlands comprise the river bottoms. The upland division soils vary from gravelly sand and gravelly sandy loam to sandy loam and fine sandy loam and clay. The Norfolk, Greenville, Ruston, Orangeburg and Susquebanna are found in the uplands, and the Kaimai, Cahaba and Ocklaknee are more extensive in the lowlands.
The proximity of the Gulf helps to give a general uniformity to the temperature throughout the year. The annual average temperature is 66 degrees, the average rainfall is 52 inches and there are about 260 days of growing season.
Escambia County is largely drained by Conecuh River, which flows across its entire area. It follows a winding course and near the Florida line there are many cut-offs, dead rivers and lakes in the low marginal bottoms. Its principal tributaries are Sepulga River and Murder Creek. Escambia River, usually known as Little Escambia, flows in a southerly direction through the country and with its tributaries it drains the central part. The Escambia flows into the Conecuh River just below Flomaton, and they form the Escambia River, which discharges into the Gulf through Escambia Bay. Little River drains the northwestern part of the county and the Perdido drains the southwester section.
Murder Creek is a large creek, which has its source in the northern part of Conecuh County, flows southward through Escambia County, and unites with Burnt Corn Creek just before the combined stream flows into the Conecuh River. The creek is not navigable, but along its banks are found small gristmills, lumber mills and tanneries.
The aboriginal name of the creek is not known but it got its present name from a bloody tragedy that took place near the crossing place of the old trading path from Pensacola to what is now Conecuh County, then occupied by the Creek Indians. About 1786 Colonel Kirkland, a Royalist from South Carolina, with several Royalist friends, started to Pensacola from the home of Alexander McGillvary upon the Coosa River, They were accompanied by one of McGillvary’s servants as a guide. The party carried a good bit of money. They met a packhorse party near Murder Creek, returning from a trading expedition to Pensacola. The party consisted of Istillicha, a Hillabee Indian, known as “Manslayer” because of the number of murders he had committed, also a white man, called “Cat” because of his desperate and criminal character, and a Negro named Bob, who also had a cruel and bloodthirsty record.
Both parties encamped when night came. About midnight the cruel wretches fell upon Colonel Kirkland’s party and killed all of them except three Negroes, one of whom was McGillvary’s servant. The criminals were pursued as soon as the tragedy became known. The “Cat” was arrested and taken to the scene of his crime, where he was hanged, but the others escaped.
We will continue with this next week.