Historical Sketch of Okaloosa County

Historical Sketch of Okaloosa County


(First entry, p. 55)
Okaloosa county, in West Florida, consists of four ranges of townships extending from the Alabama line on the north to Santa Rosa Sound and Choctawhatchee Bay on the south. With the exception of a narrow coastal strip of dune sand and sandy flatwoods, the entire county consists of sandy uplands with a clay subsoil.(1) The Yellow River, traversing the county in a southwestwardly direction to empty into Pensacola Bay, is fed by numerous small streams that rise in the ridges which parallel its swampy course on the north and south.(2) Elevations range: from only a few feet above sea level along the Yellow River(3) to more than 230 feet in the northern ridge.(4)
The county is forested in the north by longleaf and slash pine, with an intermixture of cypress along the basin of the Yellow River. The rest of the county, including practically all of the Choctawhatchee National Forest area, is covered by longleaf pine and scrub oak. As in other parts of West Florica, second growth stands are characteristic in Okaloosa county and constitute roughly 70 percent of the forested area.(5)
During the English occupation of Florida, 1763-83, Bernard Romans saw the swamps along the Yellow River, then variously known as Chester River, in honor of Governor Peter Chester, Yellow Water, or by its Indian name, Weelanee, as potentially valuable rice lands, but the English withdrew from Florida before any effort could be made to develop them. Romans foresaw that the contour of the country would make road building difficult, although the Spanish trail from Pensacola to St. Augustine traversed it, crossing the Yellow River a few miles above its junction with its main tributary, the Shoal River.(6) The old trail had fallen into such disrepair by 1824, when Congress authorized the building of a military road from Pensacola to St. Augustine, that it was abandoned in favor of a less circuitous and easier route following the coast line between Pensacola and Choctawhatchee Bays. Since the better lands of this region lay to the north, this section of the military road was never travelled much.(7)
1. See Fla. State Geol. Survey, "Generalized Soil Map of Florida", 1925.
2. George Charlton Matson and Samuel Sanford, "Geology and Ground Waters of Florida", U. S. Geol[.] Survey, Water Supply Paper 319, Washington, 1913, p. 401.
3. Id.
4. Henry Gannett (comp.), "A Dictionary of Altitudes in the United States", U. S. Geol. Survey, Bulletin No. 160, Washington, 1899, pp. 117-118.
5. I. F. Eldridge, "Forest Resources of Northwest Florida", Southern Forest Exp. Station, Forest Survey Release No, 33, New Orleans, June 18, 1938, p. 2 and fig. 1.
6. P. Lee Phillips, Notes on the Life and Works of Bernard Romans, DeLand, 1924, p. 121; Mark F. Boyd, "A Map of Road from Pensacola to St. Augustine, 1778", in Fla. Hist. Quart., vol. XVII, no. 1 (July 1938), p. 14, plates 1-2.
7. Mark F. Boyd, "The First American Road in Florida", in Fla. Hist. Quart., vol. XIV, no. 2 (Oct. 1935), passim.


State Library of Florida, WPA - Historical Records Survey, County Histories


Brief history of Okaloosa County, Florida collected by the Works Progress Administration's Historical Records Survey.

Note to Researchers: Though the WPA field workers included extensive citations for the factual information contained in these county histories, it should be noted that these historical narratives were produced in the 1930s by federal government employees, and might reflect the inherent social biases of the era.