Marianna, Florida is one of the oldest towns in the state.
It was founded in 1827 and was one of the important agricultural centers of north Florida's plantation economy before the Civil War.
In northwest Florida in the Panhandle, it is the county seat of Jackson County and is located on US-90 and Interstate 10. It has a population of about 7,000, and is about 66 miles west of the state capital of Tallahassee.
One of the earliest settlers in the area was a Scotsman named Robert Beveridge. He came to the area in 1827 and surveyed the city of Marianna on top of a hill with a view of the Chipola River.
The middle name of Beveridge's wife was Maria; his partner's wife had the first name of Anna. The clever Scotsman put the two names together and came up with Marianna.
Marianna is the location of the grave site of the Confederate Governor of Florida, John Milton. It is also the historic site of the Battle of Marianna, a Civil War skirmish.
The town was defended against a army of about 900 Union soldiers. The defense was mounted by 150 old men and boys.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church was in the middle of the Marianna Civil War battlefield. The men of the town were outnumbered as they tried to defend the area and many fought and died within the church.
The church ended up burning down around them. It's been referred to as "Florida's Alamo". It was later rebuilt and the adjacent cemetery holds the graves of the men who fought.
Governor Milton owned a plantation of about 10,000 acres named Sylvania. It was located about 8 miles east of Marianna.
The Governor was steadfastly opposed to the Confederacy reuniting with the U.S.A. after the Civil War.
In 1865, Union troops were marching on Tallahassee and Governor Milton allegedly killed himself with a gunshot rather than go back to the Union.
Marianna is known as the "City of Southern Charm" and is a quiet, quaint and charming town, officially a "Florida Main Street Town".
There is also an abundance of natural beauty with its spring-fed rivers, natural springs and parks, and it's home to Chipola College.
The first house to be added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places was the historic home of Theophilus West, added in 1972.
He is named a "Great Floridian" and served as a prominent doctor, Jackson County's 1st school superintendent, Mayor of Marianna, and then a Florida State Senator representing Jackson County.
Much of the rest of downtown was added to the register in 1997, which added 181 buildings to create the Historic District.
The Russ House is an example of restored properties in town. It was built in 1895, and was restored in 1995.
It serves Marianna today as the Chamber of Commerce offices. It is on Lafayette Street, also known as US-90.
The town's historic district has many examples of Victorian homes, some restored and others not. The one below is known as the Old Stone Hotel and was built in 1905.
The countryside around Marianna is also beautiful. The nearby Chipola River is a tributary of the Apalachicola River, and is extremely clear.
The Chipola is a Florida-designated paddling trail, with 51 miles of trail. It runs through river swamps, and caves and limestone bluffs can be seen in the water, and has 63 freshwater springs.
Blue Springs, also known as Jackson Blue Springs, is also near Marianna. It has a temperature of 69 degrees all year long, and is a popular destination for cave divers.
The spring is a First Magnitude Spring of Florida. The spring supplies water to the Merritt’s Millpond reservoir, a nationally known fishing site.
Blue Springs Recreational Park is a great place to bring the family on a hot day, with popular visitor activities such as swimming, boating and fishing as well as snorkeling and limited scuba diving and training.
There is a variety of vegetation including cypress and magnolias, many birds and wildlife. The County recently added upgrades such as new boat docks, volleyball courts, picnic areas and a new playground for the little ones.
Florida Caverns State Park is close to Marianna and is Florida's only state park with direct access to caverns.
There are daily guided tours of the limestone caves from Memorial Day to Labor Day where you can explore the large underground rooms, complete with LED lights.
The park also offers tent and RV campsites, swimming, a boat launch and canoe rentals, and multi-use trails for wildlife viewing, biking, hiking and horseback riding.
The Civilian Conservation Corps along with the Works Projects Administration worked to carve out and expand the caverns and develop the State Park, as part of Roosevelt's New Deal to create jobs during the Great Depression in 1933.
Although federal funding was topped in 1942, the park was able to open that year due to the workers' contributions.
Hurricane Michael did significant damage to the park and the town in 2018, but much has been restored and the park is open for use.
Downtown Marianna has a nice assortment of shops and restaurants with good food, and is a fine place to visit.
It's southern culture is proudly displayed by a Confederate monument in a prominent downtown location.
Marianna is on US Highway 90, one of our favorite Florida roads. It is a good laid back way to travel the length of the Florida panhandle.
Highway 90 parallels big old bad I-10 in this part of the state and is separated by only a mile or so in Marianna.