A portion of a mill foundation found during the survey
Photo by Gregory Mikell
Source: Pensacola News Journal
Twenty-five miles Northwest of Pensacola, near the Alabama state line, Muscogee Mills was once a thriving community. Built in the 1870s around one of the area's most important lumber mills, it had a church, a school, 100 houses and several hundred residents. But the timber disappeared, and Muscogee Mills soon followed.
Southern States Timber Company closed the mill and sold the town, and by 1938 it was deserted. In the years since, the mill has faded into history. Now preservationists are trying to salvage the footprints that remain of the old town before they are lost forever.
A recent survey commissioned by the Northwest Florida Water Management District documented the last signs of Muscogee Mills to protect what remains of an important part of Northwest Florida's history. The survey, which was conducted by Panamerican Consultants Inc., recorded a total of 47 sites on district land in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. Frank Milstead, 83, was the postmaster at Muscogee Post Office in the early 1950s, and he remembers people coming to break bricks off the old buildings to clean and sell after the mill closed.
"There are probably a lot of houses in Escambia County built with bricks from those buildings," Milstead said. At Muscogee Mills, officials found the remaining brick foundations of two of the lumber mills, a well, a canal, and a railroad grade. It also documented the Old Muscogee cemetery, which dates to the 1870s and was vandalized heavily in the 1980s.
Researchers also discovered remnants of prehistoric settlements near the Perdido River, including artifacts dating as far back as 8,500 B.C. William Cleckley, director of the division of land management and acquisition with the Water Management District, said the district owns more than 207,000 acres in Northwest Florida, and they can protect historical sites on their land by limiting development and controlling access.
"Cemeteries dating to the 1800s, sawmill sites and a prehistoric village shell midden will all be preserved as a result of these findings," Cleckley said. Milstead, who still lives near the old mill, said he doesn't think people thought about preserving history when they were tearing down the buildings to sell the bricks, but he's glad that something is being done to protect what is left. "I think it would be a good thing," Milstead said. "I wish it would have happened 50 years ago."