Hickory Hill, also known as Orange Hill

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

Between the Chipola River and the Holmes Valley is a range of small hills that reach an elevation of about 300 feet. One of these hills was named Hickory Hill and later changed to Orange Hill. Stage Coach records show that there was an establishment here in 1821. Early settlers were Bell, Allen, McMillan, Davis, Home, Miles, Thomas, Everett, Whitaker, Perkins, Mercer, Kent and others. Davis Porter Everett, Stephen Rowe and Herman Mercer were Baptist Ministers. In 1831 Everett, later known as Orange was a polling place for an election of congressional officers. In the bid for statehood the Hickory or Orange Hill district voter 3 to 3 on the proposed constitution. The County as a whole voted 54 to 15 against the proposed constitution.

In the mid 1940's Rev. Herman Mercer joined his brother in the Orange Hill area. He named the area Mount Carmel but the other residents in the area thought that Orange was more appropriate since many of them were growing oranges in great abundance at the time and they thought it was more Floria-sounding.

History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul. - John Dalberg-Acton

The family of Stephen Perkins was murdered by a band of fugitive Creek Indians near their home at Orange Hill on August 31, 1842 just as the Second Seminole War was drawing to a close. Only one young boy survived. The proclamation that was meant to end all hostilities had been signed on August 14 bu the bearer of this information had been unable to locate this band of Indians. News of this massacre spread quickly throughout the settler. They banded together to track down the Indians. Following a trail North of Orange Hill another Washington County legend was born. The legend of the Indian Oak tells the story of the band of soldiers coming upon a a wounded brave and his squaw. The full story can be found in E. W. Carswell's book, " Washing, Florida's Twelfth County".

Everett and Mercer were alumni of the Macon, Georgia institution (later Mercer University). Records indicate that theres men may have and visions of a similar institution of learning on Orange Hill. In 1851-52 Orange Hill was the site of Florida's first Baptist education institution. It was named the Orange Hill Male and Female Academy. hHis was not, however, the first educational institution on Orange Hill. In 1847, Horne, Everrett and Baltzell founded a boarding school and held classed here serving students in Washington and Jackson County. The Academy gained a fine reputation preceding the Civil War. The Academy served the children of the numerous wealthy plantation owners that existed here prior to the War. Orange Hill was home to many large commercial and domestic agricultural establishments or plantations. The Everrett family operated one of the largest plantations in the area. These plantations grew cotton, peanuts and corn. They had gristmills and sawmills. Satsuma was the product that was grown in abundance on the hill which boasted having cleaner air and more moderate climate that the surrounding area. In fact records show that on many occasions the temperature on the top of the hill was warmer than at the base of the hill.

Following the Civil War not much happened on Orange Hill. Then in 1878-1880 talk of a Trans-West Florida Railway, and a railway connecting Tennessee to Saint Andrews brought hops alive on the Hill. Orange Hill was considered a natural crossing point for these proposed railroads. A city was platted and recored with the county in anticipation of a land boom. The plat showed the railways passing on the lower elevations of the Hill. However, the railway routes were changed and passed north of Orange Hill and the north south railway passed them by to the eats. These events left Orange Hill isolated and many residents moved to the new railroad town of Chipley.

The legend of "Harry's Bay" took place in a thick swampy wetland on the eastern base of Orange Hill. This bay was heavily timbered and the sun seldom made its way through the canopy. It was a scary, foreboding place made even scarier by the tales that surrounded.