South Walton History

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In the early years, Walton County was known for its...

The sandy beaches were dismissed by the early settlers. The loam of the hill areas was much more valuable to them for growing staple crops of corn, soybeans, peanuts, and sugar cane.

South Walton’s famous sugar white sands aren't sand at all. They’re quartz crystal silica that originated in the Appalachian Mountains.

South Walton is home to fifteen unique bodies of water called coastal dune lakes. They are naturally fresh water and separated from the Gulf’s saltwater by only a natural berm of sand. Heavy rains can breach the berms causing an “outfall” from the dune lakes. This creates a rare brackish ecosystem where both fresh and saltwater species thrive.

Like the coastal dune lakes, the Choctawhatchee Bay was once filled with fresh water. In 1926, the same hurricane that carved out Destin’s East Pass turned the Bay into a saltwater body.

South Walton didn’t have electricity until 1942 when Van Ness R. Butler helped organize Choctawhatchee Electric Cooperative (CHELCO). The first telephones came to the area in the 1950s.

Grayton Beach’s founder, Army major Charles T. Gray, built a homestead around 1885. The only remaining original building from Major Gray’s time is a two-story home known today as the Wash-A-Way, built by the Walton Land & Timber Company at the end of County Road 283.

The Truman Show movie starring Jim Carey and Ed Harris was filmed on location in Seaside and included a few locals as extras. Charles and Charlie Modica of Modica Market can be seen in the grocery scenes. Truman’s house still stands on Natchez Street. Proceeds from filming established the Seaside Neighborhood School. But don’t going running on the dunes these days like Truman and Sylvia! They are protected and, when caught, you’ll pay a hefty fine.

Freeport was first known as La Grange and later Four Mile Landing. The name Freeport didn’t come to being until the Civil War. At that time, Four Mile Landing began to be referred to as Freeport simply because there was no docking charge or import goods tax at the port area of the junction of Four Mile Creek and LaFayette Creek.

The area called Miramar Beach was once known as Shoals, Florida. It was homesteaded in 1904 and grew as a citrus farming community. In 1924, citrus canker hit the orange trees and they had to be burned and the area was abandoned by many of the farmers.

Santa Rosa was one of the first forays into planned community development. In the early 1900s, Hogtown Bayou was a bustling city center of nearly 1,200 people. When the crops failed, the residents left by steamboat and the town was an abandoned ghost town for many years. 

Point Washington grew as a logging community. Historic Eden Gardens Park was the home of prominent logging maven, William Henry Wesley and the Wesley Lumber Company until just after World War I.

In 1937, the old Grayton Butler was the only supply and commodity store in the area. Now a restaurant, it also hosted community dances.

Just off Mack Bayou Road, an enormous half-moon-shaped ancient Indian burial mound. Protected by the local Creek tribe, it predates them by thousands of years. Many of the artifacts were dug up by the University of Florida and are on display at the Tallahassee Florida State Museum.

Gulf Cemetery, located on Highway 393, was designed by the Federal government in 1914 to be a community cemetery. It was the major burial ground for the old town of Santa Rosa. Homemade tombstones and unknown white crosses give honor to the early settlers.