Waddell's Mill Pond & History
The 170 acre Waddell's Mill Pond is edged with cypress and shares a rare limestone overlook and cave along it's perimeter. The Pond was originally dammed prior to the Civil War by plantation owner John R. Waddell to provide power for a water mill. Although the mill is long gone a more modern dam still maintains the water flow from Waddell Spring to the Chipola River.
The history of the spring and pond are a draw to historians and visitors of the area. According to the Jackson County website, archaeological research here has revealed the presence of two mounds, a Palisades Village site, and a cave inhabited during the last century or two before the arrival of the Spanish in Florida (1300-1400's AD). Believed to be ancestors of the Chacatos or Chatot (not to be confused with the Choctaw), they were original settlers of the Chipola River during the 16th and 17th century. The Waddell's Mill Pond Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There has been some indication that the 17th century Spanish mission of San Carlos de Chacatos might have been located adjacent to the large cave at Waddell's Mill Pond. Franciscan missionaries established a church in 1674 at a Chacato Village somewhere west of the Chipola River. However, research has yet to reveal any true evidence of an early Spanish presence in the area, leaving some of this as speculation.
According to early records, the Bellamy Bridge area which now encompasses a walking trail winding through the floodplain forests of the Chipola River, was used as a crossing by Marcos Delgado in 1686. As a Spanish explorer, he was appointed by the governor of Florida to look into reports of a French settlement along the Mississippi River. Delgado led his small force of Apalachee Indians and Spanish troops on a western route from Mission San Luis around the area which is now the capitol city of Tallahassee.
Delgado reported seeing herds of buffalo (American Bison) in the area. After crossing the Chipola, the explorers moved on to the vicinity of Waddell's Mill Pond in western Jackson County where they eventually reached the towns of the Upper Creek Indians around today's city of Montgomery, Alabama, never having made it to the banks of the Mississippi River. The Battle of the Upper Chipola took place around 1818 during the first Seminole War resulting in some 230 women, children and Red Stick warriors captured in the vicinity of today's Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail.
Bellamy Bridge is Florida's "most haunted" thanks in part to folklore of ghost stories surrounding the death of a young bride, Elizabeth Jane Bellamy, whose wedding dress caught fire shortly after the ceremony leaving her in agony until she succumbed to death a few days later. She is said to haunt the former site of the old bridge as a testament to her unrequited love of her new husband due to her early demise.
In 1821 Florida was transferred to the United States from Spain. The Waddell's Mill Pond area led early settlers down the "Spring Creek Trail," across the line from Alabama into this part of Jackson County even before the official transfer. The abundance of free-flowing water fed by the spring led to farming developments along the banks and outflows of its course. One of the farms, owned by the "widow Russ," became the first meeting site for the court of Jackson County, shortly after it's establishment in 1923.
In the decades prior to 1850, large plantations were established in the mill pond area. As the Civil War broke out, John R. Waddell was the established owner of the spring and surrounding property. As a successful businessman and planter, he utilized the flow and dammed the stream across his land to create the mill pond as we know it. Increased in size throughout the last century, Waddell's Mill pond is an established Jackson County historical landmark situated just off the old road that linked Marianna and Campbellton, Florida. The area teems with abundant wildlife surrounded by beautiful farmlands.