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Holmes County's Traveling Capital

Submitted to The Heritage of Holmes County, Florida by Holmes County Heritage Book Committee

Holmes County was created by the Florida Legislature early in 1848 and the legislature directed the circuit court and county commission to meet at Hewett's Bluff itil an election could be held to choose a permanent county site. In March 1848 the election was held and Hewett's Bluff was selected as the first county sear as it was nearer the enter of the county. It had no buildings for the accommodation of the county business or for court officials and other attendants upon court. A second choice voiced it to Bear Pen. Perhaps the small building there was insufficient, but for some reason it moved again. The financial condition of the county and the people, also, did not justify an attempt to build at this time.

Pittman Ferry was selected next. County Judge James S. Caulk lived here. During good weather court was held out under the trees and when inclement wether prevailed, court convened in his house.

Holmes County Dedication Sign

The citizenry was sparse and were not well-rooted, so to speak, in this new land and they hardly knew how to depend on themselves or anyone else in their movement. Therefore it was some time before the edge wore off of their indecision and they could settle on a location that could be made permanent. 

Still a location adapted to the convenience of the entire county had not been found. The county site at Pittman Ferry was not to be permanent, so leading men came to the decision that the cent of the. county would be the appropriate place. They found this point to be about six miles east of Pittman Ferry and a stake was driven down out there in the woods at the head of Sikes Creek to represent the county site.

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No arrangements could be made for building so Holme County's traveling capital was bound for another journey. This time across the river to Cerro Gordo., on the west bank of the Choctawhatchee, where it remained until 1895.

The court house at Cerro Gordo was constructed of wide planks, dressed by hand and put on in what was know as "cottage style". This was a very neat looking building. The lumber was secured from one of the few saw mills in this section at that time, located on Pittman Creek and operated by Tom and Dan Barker. This first courthouse was erected by by Tom Pittman and Jack Mathis for $650. The building was never painted. A whitewashed picket fence surrounded the court house.

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The jail was very substantially build of logs and provided with a stout door. This was checked both ways with lines one inch apart, giving it system and beauty. Nails often penny size were driven in every cross. The fastening what a prisoner was incarcerated, as in other things, corresponded to the economy at the times and instead of the luxury of a lock the door was secured with a good lightwood rail propped against it and the prisoner was safe. No getting out. 

In 1888 an election was held to mover the county seat with Bonifay receiving 117 votes, Westville, 104; Ponce de Leon 60; Turner Springs 23; Bear Pen 17; Cerro Gordo 11 and Pittman's Ferry 6. As no majority was received by anyone community the county seat remained at Cerro Gordo. 

Another election was held in 1889 with Bonifay receiving 114 votes; Cerro Gordo 110 and Westville 28. In August 1894 yet another election on the county seat was held with Bonifay getting 343 votes; Westville 294; Cerro Gordo 92; and Pittman's Ferry 29. Still no majority but the matter was finally decided in yet another election in September of the same year with Westville receiving 301 votes; Bonifay 179, Pittman's Ferry 88 and Cerro Gordo 10. After four elections in seven years Westville became the county seat where it was to remain for the next eleven years. 

Still the location of the county seat issue was not settled and in 1905 a bitted and hard fought election was held, this time with Bonifay receiving 580 votes and Westville 491. Once again Holmes County's traveling capital was to move again, this time to Bonifay.

After the election several wagons with heavily armed men traveled from Bonifay to Westville to transfer the county records to Bonifay. It was stated that a fire cracker going off could have led to gun fire but nothing happened and the transfer was made without incident. 

Fifty-seven years after Holmes County was established Bonifay became the permanent county seat of Holmes County.