In cooperation with RiverWay South, the Holmes County Historical Society hosted a small group of travel writers as they toured through the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee River region Friday, March 3. RiverWay South is a regional rural tourism organization that encourages sustainable tourism through public and private partnerships to preserve and promote the unique resources of the Apalachicola and Choctawhatchee River Basins in Florida.
Randy Torrance, President of the Holmes County Historical Society led this group on an informative tour of a few of the historical sites of interest of Holmes County. This group tour was a part of the Public Relations firm of Laurie Rowe Communications of Panama City, hosted by agency president, Laurie Rowe and director of media relations, Ruth Sykes. The tour group consisted of; travel blogger Melody Pittman of Vero Beach, authors and hikers Sandra Friend and John Keatley, both of Sanford, Florida
The focus of the Holmes county tour was the Historic Highway 90 corridor. Beginning the day at the core of Hwy 90 with breakfast at the Holiday restaurant, it was then off to the Historic Wait’s Mansion for a guided tour by Historical Society Vice President, Dan Smith. The group of writers were able to see the beautifully restored and furnished 1920s two-story Mediterranean Revival style house located at 209 West Kansas Avenue in Bonifay.
The tour group also visited the Holmes County Museum, also on Kansas avenue, led by society president Randy Torrance. During this tour the writers were told of many of the sites of historical interest of Holmes County and were able to see the extensive collection of memorabilia and photos of the Historical Society. A brief stop at the gravesite of Bonifay founder, G.W. Banfill and his beloved cat was also a highlight of the tour.
Following those stops, the tour group was led to the New Effort Community Church, the site of the 110-year annual Mother’s Day sacred heart shaped note sing and a walking tour of the church cemetery. This cemetery holds the remains of Charles Harris (age 18) and Corbin Dyson (age 22), both from Holmes County. These heroes were the first recorded casualties of WWII who lost their lives when the destroyer USS Reuben James was torpedoed by German submarine U-562 on October 31, 1941.
The group also visited the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce, met Ashley Pettis of the Holmes County Development Commission, saw the site of the annual Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo in Bonifay, and enjoyed lunch at M&W BBQ on Highway 90.
It was then off west to Westville for a quick stop at the railroad trestle at the Choctawhatchee River and the old Westville Post Office. It is believed that the post office would have been where legendary author Laura Ingalls Wilder would have mailed letters to her family and friends during her brief residency of Holmes County of 1891-92. Adjacent to the post office would have been the Westville railroad station at which she and her husband Almanzo would have arrived to Holmes County.
From Westville, the group traveled to Ponce de Leon for a guided tour of Vortex Spring. Spring owners and staff gave an extensive walking tour of the beautiful grounds, sharing its history and its present and future renovations and improvements. Following this tour, and bringing the Holmes County tour to a close, the group was led to the serene settings of Ponce De Leon Springs state park.
Following the brief tour of Holmes County, the group was off to neighboring Walton County for a visit to their sites of interest as they had already visited Washington County. Society President, Randy Torrance wishes to thank everyone that made this tour possible. “It is through opportunities such as this, that we are able to make our vision of making ‘History within Reach’ a reality.”