Monticello–Seat of Jefferson County Florida

Monticello: Seat of Jefferson County Florida

By Anne Haw Holt

Beginning around 1819 as an Indian Trading Post called Robison’s Corners, Monticello and Jefferson County were officially established in 1827, eighteen years before Florida became a state. The town and the surrounding county were settled by families from Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Prince Murat, Napoleon’s nephew was one of our early settlers. James Gadsden, Richard Call and others became Florida leaders. Many of those early families’ descendants still live here.

Filled with beautiful, well-kept antebellum and Victorian homes, Monticello boasts several exceptionally handsome public buildings as well as three structures designed by Atlanta Architect Joseph Neel Reid. Monticello’s quiet streets are beautifully shaded by pecan and magnolia trees and great live oaks hung with Spanish moss. Yards are green and filled with azaleas, magnificent heirloom camellias and other flowering shrubs.

Jefferson County Courthouse, Florida

Jefferson County Courthouse, Florida

Located in north-central Jefferson County at the intersection of the Georgia-Florida Parkway (Rt. 19) and the Old Spanish Trail (Rt. 90) Monticello is conveniently located a short twenty-five minutes east of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital and twenty-two miles south of Thomasville, Georgia. Known as Florida’s “Keystone County” Jefferson is the only Florida county that reaches from the Georgia line south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The beautiful, rolling land around Monticello is green with farms, great hunting plantations and protected conservation land, bordered by the strange, ancient, occasionally disappearing Aucilla River on the east and drained in the south by the brilliant, spring-fed Wacissa River. A good part of the magnificent St. Marks Wildlife Refuge at Newport, Florida (on Route 98) lies in Jefferson County.

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Canoeing the Aucilla with friends

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Birds in Jefferson County Florida

 

BIRDS IN JEFFERSON COUNTY

by Anne H Holt

Wood Storks on the Aucilla

On boat trip down the Aucilla to Apalachee Bay and up the Pinhook River I saw a gathering of Wood Storks. There were at least nine birds, resting on the limbs of a dead tree. One particular stork turned his back to us and spread his wings. He appeared to pose as I snapped shot after shot. It’s hard to imagine from a picture how big Wood Storks really are—they sometimes show a wing span of eight feet.

Wood Storks on the Aucilla River

Wood Storks on the Aucilla River

 

Jail Swift

Jail Swift

A Swift in the old jail

Sleek, black and timid, I first thought this creature was a large bat, but closer it definitely is a bird. It appears to be attempting to hide in the shadows in the basement staircase of the old jail on Dogwood Street. One or two windows in the building are broken so she found a fine home.

 

A Watch Hawk on High Street

Songbirds usually greet the day with joyous song in our huge oaks. One screams cheap, cheap, cheap until you want to spend the day shopping. One morning I woke to an almost eerie silence. No bird sang. This hawk is the reason. He perched high in a tree among the Spanish moss and seemed to regard me as an unwelcome intruder. Even the squirrels stop chattering and stay hidden until he moves on. He nests in the park across the street.

Could this be a young Carpenter Hawk

Could this be a young Carpenter Hawk?

An Owl in the Monticello Ecological Park

This bird apparently does not like humans in his park. He lies in wait for a certain runner who regularly visits the park in the early morning –bursts from under the boardwalk—beating the air with his wings to make a startling noise—certainly hoping to frighten the human intruder away

Turkeys in the Monticello Ecological Park.

A flock of wild turkeys, I don’t know how many, hide in the old growth forest—enjoying the freedom and safety of acres of dense, untamed wilderness with plenty of water. These birds occasionally forget to be circumspect and gobble their joy at the abundance of food nature places before them.

Mississippi Swallowtail Kite in the Monticello Ecological Park

This bird was just visiting—skimming along — twitching his tail. Darting away into the tall trees.

SMALL TOWNS HAVE LONG MEMORIES

Barnhill House - E. Washington Street

Small Towns Have Long Memories

By  Anne H. Holt

An exhibit of historical photographs of “Founding Families of Jefferson County” is showing in Jefferson Arts Gallery, open 10 PM to 2 PM every Wednesday and Saturday. The free Exhibit will run through February, 2016. Many of these photographs evoke interesting memories in visitors who have lived the area for years or are descendants of our founding families.

Families from Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina started coming to the town we call Monticello around 1820. They found a few families already here, the Alexanders and others. There was a trading post kept by someone named Roberson or Robertson, perhaps located at the corner of present day Pearl and Jefferson Streets. The spot where our beautiful Jefferson County courthouse now sits was known as Roberson or Robertson’s Corners.

Sometimes a man would come before his family, to find a place to develop a plantation. Wisely, he would search for “old fields,” those burned over areas in the rich red hills where for many years, the Apalachee kept the land cleared and raised their corn. Siting a plantation on old fields meant a planter could raise a crop the first year, not have to wait to clear land before he could plant. That first crop could make all the difference in his success.

Old Bellamy Road and fields off Avalon Road in Jefferson County, Florida

Old Bellamy Road and fields off Avalon Road in Jefferson County, Florida

Monticello is an extremely small town. Respect for our town’s past glory runs deep. Our shady street are simply lovely. The town is surrounded by the beautiful “Red Hills” of Florida, gracefully rolling hills that still prove congenial to small-scale farmers, breeders of Thoroughbred race horses, planters and conservationists who love the lush and inviting landscape.

The town itself still has many well-preserved houses, shops and small businesses. They all look as though they sprang up of their own accord through the course of a long and virtuous history.

Monticello and Jefferson County’s long history is always with us. The descendants of families who settled here in the 1820s and before live on Washington, Jefferson, Madison and other Streets in Monticello. Plantation families live in Lloyd,Silhouette of William Bellamy - Jefferson County, Florida Lamont, Ashville, Aucilla, Waukeenah and Wacissa. Descendants of founding families work in our shops, run small farms and businesses and serve in City and County offices. Tiny towns have long memories.

These photographs of early families evoke wonderful stories of romance, historical gossip, even tales about duels fought in the “no-man’s land” along the Georgia state border. I’ve been told that there are two families in Jefferson County who do not speak to this day because of a duel fought before the Civil War. Oh, they say there was a Jefferson County judge who sat in the cupola of the Courthouse and played the violin on summer evenings.