A Brief History of Washington County, Florida
Washington County was created in 1825, and was nearly twice the size of the State of Delaware, stretching all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. After a century of boundary shifts, the county, with over 382,000 acres of rolling hills covered with thick stately pines and mixed hardwood forests, now covers a vast portion of the central Florida Panhandle. Over a span of more than 150 years, Washington County has seen Native American, Spanish and English cultural influences.
Economic growth in communities such as Caryville, Chipley, Ebro, Vernon, and Wausau developed around forestry industries, such as milling, turpentine production and naval stores. Agriculture, livestock, poultry and agribusiness were strong aspects of the maturing economic scene.
Named after George Washington, the areas was first settled by those seeking both economic and political freedoms in this frontier land of vast timber and mineral resources. Inland waterway transportation brought about heavy river settlements. The arrival of railroads in the late 1800's boosted economic, social and political developments. Vernon, the geographical center of the county, derives its name from George Washington's Virginia home, Mt. Vernon. The pioneer town was also the site of major Indian settlement. The county courthouse was located in Vernon during the early part of this century until a railroad town in northeastern Washington County, Chipley, became the new and present county seat in 1927.