Western Florida

Westward from Jacksonville, a railway runs through the pine forests until it readies the rushing Suwanee River, draining the Okifenokee swamp out to the Gulf, just north of Cedar Key. This stream is best known from the minstrel song, long so popular, of the Old Folks at Home. Beyond it the land rises into the rolling country of Middle Florida, the undulating surface sometimes reaching four hundred feet elevation, and presenting fertile soil and pleasant scenery, with a less tropical vegetation than the Peninsula of Florida. Here is Tallahassee* the capital of the State, one hundred and sixty-five miles from Jacksonville, a beautiful town of four thousand population, almost embedded in flowering plants, shrubbery and evergreens, and familiarly known from these beauties as the “Floral City,” the gar-dens being especially attractive in the season of roses. The Capitol and Court-house and West Florida Seminary, set on. a hill, are the chief public buildings. In the suburbs, at Monticello, lived Prince Achille Murat, a son of the King of Naples, who died in 1847, and his grave is in the Episcopal Cemetery. There are several lakes near the town, one of them the curious Lake Miccosukie, which contracts into, a creek, finally disappearing underground. The noted Wakulla Spring, an immense limestone basin of great depth and volume of water, with wonderful transparency, is fifteen miles south-ward.

Some distance to the westward the Flint and Chattahooehee Rivers join to form the Appalachicola River, flowing down to the Gulf at Appalachicola, a somewhat decadent port from loss of trade, its ex-ports being principally lumber and cotton. The shallowness of most of these Gulf harbors, which readily silt up, destroys their usefulness as ports for deep-draft shipping. The routé farther westward skirts the Gulf Coast, crosses Escambia Bay and reaches Pensacola, on its spacious harbor, ten miles within the Gulf. This is the chief Western Florida port, with fifteen thousand people, having a Navy Yard and much trade in lumber, cotton, coal and grain, a large elevator for the latter being erected in 1898. The Spaniards made this a frontier post in 1696, and the remains of their forts, San Miguel and San Bernardo, can be seen behind the town, while near the outer edge of the harbor is the old-time Spanish defensive battery, Fort San Carlos de Barrancos. The harbor entrance is now defended by Fort Pickens and Fort McRae. Pensacola Bay was the scene of one of the first spirited naval combats of the Civil War, when the Union forces early in 1862 recaptured the Navy Yard and defenses. The name of Pensacola was originally given by the Choctaws to the bearded Europeans who first settled there, and signifies the ” hair people.”