This week I would like to highlight the signage and monuments which are all across the front of the Courthouse Square. I feel we often see them there, but do not take the time to really look at them and remember the significance of the events, and particularly, the people who are being honored in each instance.
The latest and most prominent monument, erected by American Legion Posts 42, 241, 100 and 302, is on the northwest corner of the square. It is a granite tower honoring all those from Jackson County who lost their lives fighting for America, beginning with World War I.
There are thirty-one men listed on the side headed by WORLD WAR I. Two sides of the monument hold the names of those who lost their life in WORLD WAR II. There are thirty-six names on one side and an additional thirty-seven on the second side of the monument for WORLD WAR II. The forth side holds the eight names of those who were killed in the KOREAN WAR, the VIETNAM WAR with eighteen names, and one in AFGHANISTAN, for a total of 131 people “KILLED UNDER HOSTILE FIRE”, which is noted on one side at the base of the monument. On another side of the base is stated “AND IN MEMORY OF ALL VETERANS.”
The monument is highlighted by two flag poles, one holding an American flag, a State of Florida flag and the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) flag, all flying at half-mast right now in memory of the children in Newtown, Connecticut. There are also three benches around the monument, landscaping and a walkway to the handicapped ramp at the Courthouse. Everyone is invited to sit and reflect on the supreme sacrifices made by these individuals and their families.
Nearby is a historical marker placed there in 1961 by the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials. It commemorates the Battle of Marianna and states: “On Sept. 27, 1864, Gen. Asboth’s force of 700 Federal cavalry from Pensacola arrived in the Marianna area to forage and secure Negro recruits. Confederate forces of a few hundred home guardsmen barricaded the streets of Marianna and withstood the first assault but were forced to surrender when they were outflanked. Confederate casualties were 26, Federal about 55. Marianna was spared, but St. Luke’s Church, situated in the middle of the battle, was burned.” The Florida emblem graces the top of the marker.
On the east side of the square is another historical marker with the heading “JACKSON COUNTY”. It states that “On August 12, 1822, the year after the United States received possession of the Floridas, an Act of the Territorial Legislative Council divided West Florida into two counties -- Jackson and Escambia. At that time, Jackson County included all territory between the Choctawhatchee and Suwannee Rivers, an area which now encompasses land in seventeen North Florida counties. Jackson County is named in honor of Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Territories of East and West Florida. The county seat is Marianna, incorporated November 5, 1828.” This marker was erected by sponsorship of the Jackson County Historical Commission in cooperation with the Department of State in 1972.
Actually, Jackson County was the third Territorial Council County, as there were originally only two, St. Johns, with land from St. Augustine to the Apalachicola River and Escambia County, all lands west of the river. Jackson County, from the Suwannee River to the Choctawhatchee River was carved from the mass of land forming those two counties. The Florida emblem also sits in the center of the top of this historical marker.
Sitting nearer the Courthouse is a Confederate Monument erected November 30, 1881, stating “IN MEMORY OF THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS OF JACKSON COUNTY, FLORIDA.”
On two sides of the monument it says, “THE WARRIORS TRIED AND TRUE, WHO BORE THE FLAG OF OUR PEOPLES TRUST, AND FELL IN A CAUSE, THOUGH LOST, STILL JUST, AND DIED FOR ME AND YOU. WE CARE NOT WHENCE THEY CAME, DEAR IN THEIR LIFELESS CLAY! WHETHER UNKNOWN, OR KNOWN TO FAME, THEIR CAUSE AND COUNTRY STILL THE SAME – THEY DIED – AND WORE THE GRAY.” And on the fourth side, “IN GOD WE TRUST.”
This monument has stood through three Courthouses now. Several weeks ago, when the men finished the stucco work on the Courthouse, they volunteered to refinish the lower portion of the 1881 monument. It looks very fresh with the new coating on its base.
One other monument stands on the northeast corner of the square. It is an Eternal Flame monument. It is a tower of granite also, placed there by the Veterans and Citizens of Jackson County, stating that it is “DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO SERVED FOR OUR FREEDOM.” There are emblems of each branch of the service: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Merchant Marines. There is also the POW-MIA emblem and an American flag. The flame is never extinguished. There are also benches here for people to sit and contemplate the meaning of the monument and the sacrifices made by those who serve in the six branches of service.
It is hoped that the explanation of the historical markers and monuments on the Courthouse Square will help the public to better appreciate their purpose, and perhaps encourage all of us to really look at the monuments and take them much more seriously as we contemplate the sacrifices made by so many for our American freedoms.