The history of Sneads is so interesting that it is hard to determine where to start and about what to write!
The new strip malls, the wonderful ball field/sports complex, the school consolidation, sports teams continuing to excel, good schools with extremely bright, well-rounded young people, a strong community feeling, with several very strong churches to help guide and teach strong family values, just makes Sneads a very special place to live and to raise one’s family.
The Great Depression hit Sneads very hard, as it did so many other areas of the county. The banks closed, people were out of work, had little money and food was scarce. It seems, though, that people who live in the “country” are more self-sufficient, as we can grow all sorts of food and we have that special Southern survival instinct. However it was hard for everyone, but we survived and the South seemed stronger after things settled down.
In fact, the Community House is an example of what could be done at a very difficult time. The Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) provided work for people during President Roosevelt’s administration. This program would pay workers to work rather than receive charity from the government. Many excellent buildings were built in Jackson County, not to mention it was under these programs that the Florida Caverns were cleared of rocks and made possible for everyone to enjoy the caverns today as one of Florida’s special tourist attractions
The Log Cabin Community House Project was initiated in the center of town near the water pump, and under the direction of the Sneads Woman’s Club, a wonderful log house was built which stands today as a testament to hard work and dedication, over 75years later. The Community House has served many different needs during those years and after being refurbished in the early 70’s by a joint effort of the Sneads civic clubs, the “Old Lady” stands today as a testament to a wonderful community which values the efforts of those who lived before us to make our lives more enjoyable today.
The school experiences and the churches make a small community work! When we live spread out as in a rural community, coming together at school, with parent involvement, and coming together to worship, gives the adhesiveness that draws its people together.
School has always been a very important part of the Sneads experience, but it has not been easy! The first log schoolhouse was built in 1881, but was soon moved to a larger wooden building in 1884 and served until 1889, when, on that same location, a two-story schoolhouse was built, which served until 1912 when it burned..
After the fire classes were held across the street in the Hugh Woolridge home, which housed the entire school, grade one through ten. In 1921, a two-storied school building was built on the property at the present school site. It was a very sound building of brick on the first floor and the second floor of wood.
It was used from 1921 until 1934, when the top of the building was moved away and the first floor of brick became a portion of the next school building, with wings being added behind the original building. An auditorium, stage, and ample classrooms were included in this construction. This was done at the same time of the Community House and the government programs paying people to work was the basis for this building. Completed for the 1937-38 school year, it was a wonderful addition to the education of Snead’s young people. Sadly, February 24, 1939 saw this building go up in flames. The school year was completed in homes, school buses, churches, the Community House and “open air” classrooms.
During the 1938 school year, under the same work-for-pay programs, the Sneads High School Agriculture Building was built and was also used for classrooms during the time it took to rebuild, as was the Sneads High School Gymnasium, also built by local people and government payroll. Between the school buildings being replaced, the gym was partitioned off and used for classrooms.
The new building was completed in 1939 in time for the 1940 school year. Unexpectedly, the graduating seniors of 1941 found a large number of the gentlemen drafted into the Armed Forces very soon, as World War II was calling all able-bodied men over 18 to serve.
This building served very well until a fateful day in March of 1991 when it also burned. Just after midnight, lightning struck the building during a horrible thunder storm and $2,000,000 damage was done to the building which burned out of control due to the high winds of the storm. However, not damaged were the school’s library, guidance office, band room, two gyms, the lunch room and the Ag Building. Classes were held in these partitioned buildings until the school was rebuilt in 1993. It is a modern brick building, a $2 million dollar gymnasium, a lunchroom, library, and up-to-date equipment with computer labs and modern audio-visual equipment. The wonderful building standing today is responsible for housing many outstanding young people who have received a wonderful education in the Sneads school system
Several years ago, it was decided to consolidate Grand Ridge Schools and Sneads schools. Meeting with great concern, the consolidation went extremely well. Today, Sneads High School is the only high school and Sneads Elementary School is housed in the former Lillie Blanks Elementary School building. The consolidation was completed with Grand Ridge hosting the only Middle School and an Elementary School.
Many fine educators have served as principal of Sneads High Schools, Elementary Schools and Middle Schools, and that high quality of education continues to send exceptional young people to serve their fellow man in all parts of the world.
As mentioned, World War II saw great changes in our area of the world when our young men and many older men were drafted and sent to all parts of the world. Those who were unable to serve, for whatever reason, had to work very hard at farming. Everyone had a Victory Garden, and all other essential jobs had to be filled by those men and women who were not serving in the military services. Some worked at the Wainwright Shipyard in Panama City. Almost everything was rationed-gasoline, sugar, shoes, bacon, meat, and tires. Everyone had a ration book. Life was hard!
Marianna Army Airbase was opened at the present airfield. Some jobs were available there. Women did jobs they would have never imagined. Fields had to be planted and harvested. The government brought in German prisoners for a time to help with harvesting the crops. The war was over in 1945, and life slowly returned to normal for those who returned unharmed.
In 1949 the East Unit of Apalachee Correctional Institution, originally established as a first offenders’ training facility, was opened which offered employment to many in the Sneads/Grand Ridge/Chattahoochee area and beyond. The institution has since been enlarged with the addition of the West Wing and the Department of Corrections has provided employment for many area men and women.
The Sholtz Steam Plant, a subsidiary of Gulf Power Company, began operations in 1950, helping again to provide the area additional employment.
The Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee has provided employment for many area residents for many years, as has the District Office of the West Florida Electric Association.
Jim Woodruff Dam, completed in 1956, at a cost of $46.5 million dollars, is a great blessing to this area. It provides hydro-electric power which is used by Florida Power Company. It also provides an enviable amount of wonderful recreation with Lake Seminole and Lake Seminole Park. The dam and subsequent lake were built and are maintained by the U.S. Corp of Engineers. Three Rivers State Park is located off River Road in Sneads and was constructed in 1958. Lake Seminole attracts sportsmen from all over the nation and is a favorite place to hunt, fish, water ski and boat. It is especially enjoyed by many in the area year-round.
The dam allowed for commercial use of the lake and the Apalachicola River. For a time a new venture was using the river, beginning in 1960, when the Jackson County Port Authority was organized. For many years it was a vital business on the river, but is now in private hands and the Port Authority no longer exists.
Sneads continues to be a very important part of Jackson County. It provides a gateway from the east into Jackson County and provides the area with fine young people to be educated at Chipola College and beyond, to fill the labor pool with talent and skills, to make life in our area much more worthwhile because Sneads, Florida is a special place in which to live, grow up, and raise families. CONGRATULATIONS, LOVELY CITY!
Note: The publication Sneads Memories has provided much of the information contained in this article. It is highly recommended that one secure a copy of this fine publication, compiled from memories of local Sneads residents, some no longer with us. It is an invaluable resource for future generations. The writer wishes to express her appreciation for such a publication making it possible to share information with those not fortunate enough to live in Sneads, Florida over the past 100 or so years. .