Saturday, January 12, 2008
Waddell Mill Pond - Jackson County, Florida
Waddell Mill Pond, located just off the old Campbellton to Marianna Road in Jackson County, was an important Northwest Florida landmark at the time of the Civil War.
Located on the massive plantation of John R. Waddell, the pond was formed to power a mill constructed by Waddell decades before the war. The mill no longer stands, but the refurbished dam still exists on private property.
On the morning of September 27, 1864, just hours before the Battle of Marianna, Union troops halted at the Waddell house (located on the ridge overlooking the pond). Among the family members and enslaved laborers who gathered at the front gate to see the soldiers was young Armstrong Purdee, the 8-year-old son of one of the Waddell slaves. According to Purdee, the soldiers remained in column in the road while "scouts" or foragers went out to survey the area. They also ransacked the plantation, taking livestock and provisions and destroying items that might be of value to the Confederate war effort. They did not have time, however, to destroy the mill.
As the column prepared to move on, Purdee remembered that one of the Union soldiers asked him if he wanted to go. He answered, "yes." The soldier then pulled him up onto the back of his horse and they rode off together. Purdee witnessed the Battle of Marianna first hand as he rode through the fight on the back of the soldier's horse. Taken to Pensacola, he was retrieved by his father after the war and eventually became Jackson County's first African American attorney.
The Waddell Plantation is one of the few original large farms in Jackson County that retains its name and is still largely preserved as a single block of land. The property is fenced and not open to the public, but the pond can be seen through the trees from the grounds of Springfield A.M.E. Church.