“Battle of Marianna lasted thirty minutes,” an old man tells me. “An attack on our hometown, Yankees killed and wounded a quarter of our men.”

The live oaks on Highway 90 are covered in moss. When heading east, you’ll see them. They are enough to make you dizzy.

This is the Panhandle.

In my short life, I’ve seen Trustee’s Garden in Savannah, I’ve eaten fifty-dollar shrimp in Charleston, I’ve touched the Cadillac Hank Williams died in.

But Highway 90 is as Old South as it comes.

These mossy trees carry chiggers that will eat a man alive. But they are magnificent—the trees, not the chiggers.

Off 90, there’s an uneven road that leads to a dirt arena. The Circle D Rodeo Arena sits in the middle of the sticks.

Once, I saw a rodeo here. The place was crawling with Wranglers, Ariats, and Skoal rings.

I watched a kid take a fall that should’ve broken his legs. He shook it off and pranced away like Mary Lou Retton.

Later that night, I saw him limping so bad he could hardly walk. Two men held him upright.

Downtown Marianna is a treat. They have stores, old churches, a stunning post office. A Winn Dixie.

There are mansions with columns. The historic houses aren’t flashy—just inviting. Folks on porches watch traffic.

One little girl is walking a Labrador on the sidewalk. She doesn’t have an adult with her.

You don’t see that in big cities.

A century ago, a Civil War battle was fought on these streets she walks on.

“Battle of Marianna lasted thirty minutes,” an old man tells me. “An attack on our hometown, Yankees killed and wounded a quarter of our men.”

Confederate Park has a white monument that stands tall. It’s not here to honor war. It’s here to remember farmers, shopkeepers, and anyone who died defending their home.

That’s enough history for one day.

Still, you should know, people here haven’t changed altogether. They will still protect their own with stiff faces.

Just yesterday, there was an incident. A man broke into a local home. He was armed and dangerous.

Jackson County deputies canvassed the area with hounds. They followed his scent through the mossy trees like they were on a coonhunt.

Marianna schools were on lockdown.

One teacher says, “Told my kids, ‘I don’t care if you pee your pants or tee-tee in a tin can, you ain’t leaving this classroom.”

Teachers said silent prayers and kissed foreheads all day. A braver lot of public servants, you will not find.

Deputies didn’t find the man. They think he hopped the train out of town.

He better have.

This area isn’t a place the evening-news reporters like to show you. It’s too sleepy for good ratings. It’s a place where men wear boots to booster club dinners. Where funerals are multi-county events. Where rural grannies still dip snuff.

A place where teachers are two steps away from comic-book heroes. Where average people once died in their streets because these mossy trees were home.

Where old times are not forgotten.

A fella could get used to Jackson County.

25 comments

  1. Butch Real - May 4, 2017 2:24 pm

    Almost 70 years old. What you write brings back wonderful memories of my life in in a small town in the South. Also have some fond memories of Brewton . Keep on doing it.

    Reply
  2. Cathi Russell - May 4, 2017 2:25 pm

    It is truly a beautiful place!

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  3. Judy Riley - May 4, 2017 2:26 pm

    Welcome to MarryAnna, Sean!! I haven’t lived here all my life..but over half of it. When I moved here downtown was thriving. I knew the names of all the clerks in each store. Downtown closed at noon on Thursday….and then came Walmart….and my heart is still broken. I still frequent those businesses downtown….you know the ones with “The South shall rise again” attitude. I grew up in a very small town in Kentucky. I’m home.

    Reply
  4. Susan Victoria - May 4, 2017 2:41 pm

    Look Away, Dixie Land. I’m from Macon. Live in deep South Texas now on a road with a number ‘stead of a name. Made me miss home.

    Reply
  5. Pat Crisp - May 4, 2017 2:52 pm

    What a nice article! I am the President of the Chipola Historical Trust, the only organization in the County who is dedicate to historical preservation and awareness and WE LOVE MARIANNA AND JACKSON COUNTY!!!

    I invite you to come again, give me a little notice and you’ll have the royal Marianna-Jackson County welcome! You can tour those wonderful mansions, eat in some of the best food places in the world and have the TIME OF YOUR LIFE in our little piece of Heaven on Earth! We get to live in the country”

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  6. Pat Crisp - May 4, 2017 2:58 pm

    Thanks so much for your article! I am the President of the Chipola Historical Trust, the only organization totally dedicated to historical awareness and preservation. WE LOVE JACKSON COUNTY AND MARIANNA!

    We would invite you to come back again and give us a few minutes notice and we can have you touring those mansions with the big columns and the mossy trees! They are beautiful and full of interesting people you would enjoy meeting!

    We love living here, one reason being that we get to live in the country setting but we are one hour from Dothan, AL, Panama City and Tallahassee! Everything anyone could want to really live is either here or within a very short ride away!

    We invite you to come back! We’ll show you REAL hospitality!!!

    Thanks again for the lovely article. You truly caught the spirit of the area!

    Reply
  7. George - May 4, 2017 2:59 pm

    Live in Albany, GA and go through there going to the beach! On top of all you said, Marianna also has some good antique shops.

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  8. Maxine - May 4, 2017 3:08 pm

    I wished I were as eager to read my scriptures daily as I am this blog…

    Reply
  9. Sarah - May 4, 2017 3:21 pm

    William Elijah Fulgham, my great grandfather, defended his family and home in the Battle of Marianna. He was in his 60’s. Marianna has changed a lot since the 1960’s. There were dress shops that had nicer clothing than Dillard’s.

    Reply
    • Judy Riley - May 5, 2017 3:17 am

      Sarah, those shops you speak of….are the things I miss most. I moved here with my husband and two children from Atlanta in 1972. Downtown Marianna was lively all week…but on Saturday….it was hopping!! Miss it so much!!

      Reply
  10. Beverly Stovall - May 4, 2017 5:10 pm

    Look Away – Look Away
    Dixie Land
    Old times there are not forgotten!

    Reply
  11. Lynda Gayle Knight - May 4, 2017 5:43 pm

    Only in the South! Love visiting old town who have preserved some of their old main streets, architecture, and celebrations and even “Deoration Days” at church cemeteries.

    Reply
  12. Sandy Park - May 4, 2017 6:01 pm

    I love reading your stories about the south. I grew up in the north and I’m sure we have many similar stories but the storytellers are far and few between. There’s just something about the south that keeps calling my name…so glad I found you to lead the way.

    Reply
  13. Becky - May 4, 2017 8:38 pm

    I am so loving reading your work! Keep it up! One day I’ll get back on mine! StoriesILoveToTell.

    Reply
  14. Karen Bethea - May 4, 2017 10:50 pm

    Tears in my eyes…Late 1960’s…went to Chipola when it was a Junior College in Marianna…spent MANY days at Merrits Mill Pond – and in the freezing water behind the old mill house, that I am sure is no longer there….tore up and down dirt roads with friends, went to the Marianna School for Boys every Christmas, which would be interesting to you and is no longer there, to see the Christmas Displays….and Mama’s house in Campbellton, although 20 +- miles away from Marianna, would go on “lockdown” when one of the “scamps” interred there would escape…Good Lord, I love Marianna…during Viet Nam, watched Ed Sullivan one night and decided to do a “drive” for Christmas cards for fellas serving there. Put up boxes around town and got so many cards that Mrs. Bell, Campbellton’s Postmistress dreaded seeing me coming…Marianna Caverns where I as well as 6 or 7 other idiots decided to go “caving”…never so scared…never did it again…but Marianna Caverns – my first date with the young helicopter pilot from Ft. Rucker that I was dating and would marry 43 years ago. I love Marianna….

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  15. Judy Miller - May 4, 2017 11:24 pm

    With so many towns tearing down their Civil War Monuments/Memorials, I’m glad to see places that still are proud of and respect their soldiers!!!
    Just an ole’ Yankee here, who doesn’t see the need to try and change the history of any area!!

    Reply
  16. Ruth Lutz Whitten - May 4, 2017 11:51 pm

    I loved the article about Marianna where I was born and spent most of every summer growing up. I have so many memories–the people, the downtown where I loved to shop at The Parisian and Watson’s Drugstore, Bible School at the Presbyterian Church, swimming every day at the pool or Blue Springs, I could go on and on. You think it is pretty now but you should have seen it back in the 50’s when all the trees and houses were still standing!!!!!

    Reply
  17. Tabatha Truett - May 5, 2017 3:57 pm

    I was born here in Jackson County in a Shack By a Black Lady in 1972 …I’ve Never Left… My Papa David Bright Would Tell Me and My Sisters Stories as We Grew Up of Marianna…The Good Old Days… But Yes We Still Believe In The Old Ways and God and What It Means To Be a Southerner… Where Neighbors Care about One Another and Where We Honor Those That Died for Our Freedom..We Stand Up for What’s Right just Like It should be …I was Taught that Your Word is Your Honor …. I Love Listening to The Elderly and Reading Books ..You Can Learn A lot from Just Listening To Old Folks….This Is my Home Born and Bred…

    Reply
  18. Bruce Miles - May 5, 2017 7:37 pm

    My family came to Florida in 1848 and there have been Miles’ here ever since. Was born in Graceville in ’52 and moved to Sneads in ’53 and was raised there. Moved to Marianna in ’73, and with the exception of an 18 year job-related tour through Alabama and Georgia, have lived there ever since. Jackson county is my home and where my heart and soul will always be. There is no place like it. I have enjoyed your stories on the area and the Panhandle in general. Please keep ’em coming. Thank you from a north Florida native.

    Reply
    • Janet McQueen - May 7, 2017 1:02 am

      Bruce have some Miles blood in me. My great grandmother was Molly (Rebecca) Miles she married my granddad Eulon Taylor. I was born in Graceville but raised in PC. My husband and I live in G’ville now after spending 20 some odd years in the military. We love Jackson County but I miss the old days when things were a little better economically for these small towns.

      Reply
      • Bruce Miles - May 7, 2017 11:34 pm

        There ya go, Janet. We are family . . . .

        Reply
  19. Emily C. Bailey - May 6, 2017 12:28 am

    Lived in Marianna for 3 years. Went to Marianna High School. Yes I remember Ms Roberta Carter and Mrs Speed. They were wonderful teachers. Worked in Cristo’s and the Thrift Shop.
    My Brother died in WWII and his name is on the memorial there at the court house. Samuel J. Culver.
    Moved to Atlanta after getting married and still live here. Marianna is a historical city that is worth doing research on, and I did mention it in my Memior that I wrote a few years ago.
    Emily Culver Bailey May 5, 2017

    Reply
  20. Sam Hunneman - May 6, 2017 4:02 pm

    As a Maine-iac, you’d think I might not appreciate this post, but I spent a very hard month in Marion, SC back in the ’60’s when my dad had a heart attack during our drive back from Florida. We were absorbed by the community in amazing ways – folks looking out for me while my mother dealt with hard realities of how serious things were, folks fetching my brother when he came in from Key West (Navy at the time). When things eased up a bit, I was taken horseback riding by one of Pop’s doctor’s daughters, and there were helping hands when I came down with measles in the midst of it all, just to add interest. I brought home a bag of Spanish moss… no chiggers, but one very woozy frog who got dumped out of the strangely moving paper bag before we left for the airport.

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  21. Ruth Otwell - May 25, 2017 2:39 pm

    Indeed, Hwy 90 is a great route to drive through countless old Southern towns. This is the land of my people, some of whom died in the burning of the church during that Civil War battle. I used to go with my grandparents on a Saturday afternoon to shop there at the dime store for a souvenir because Marianne was the “big town” with real stores , at least compared to so many of the communities and crossroads in the area. Thanks for the memory refresh.

    Reply
  22. Beverly Wynn Bua - November 3, 2017 8:43 pm

    I was born in Marianna, in a little house on Wynn Street, 82 years ago. My Daddy moved his law practice to Miami right before the end of WWII..have relatives there yet, and love to visit. I expect I will be returning permanently one day to be buried in the Wynn family plot , in the churchyard of St Lukes Episcopal church right there on Lafayette Street.
    Thanks for your vignette about the lovely town of my ancestors. You have reminded me it will be a wonderful homecoming………..

    Reply

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