HISTORY MYSTERY: Was Destin Once in Walton County?
A reader asked if Destin was once in Walton County. Another History Mystery of Destin is that Destin has actually been in Walton County twice and in a total of five different counties since the United States acquired Florida from Spain in 1821. So what happened?
When West Florida and East Florida were acquired from Spain, there were only two counties in the new Florida Territory. On July 21, 1821 all of what had been West Florida was named Escambia County, after the Escambia River. It stretched from the Perdido River to the Suwanee River with its county seat at Pensacola.
All of what had been East Florida, under English and Spanish rule, became St. Johns County. Named after the St. Johns River, it had its county seat at Saint Augustine. Saint John’s County contained the entire Florida peninsula to the Suwanee River on the west.
As settlers moved into Florida, additional counties were formed when there were large enough pockets of population to justify a new county. The two original counties of Escambia and St. Johns were divided into new counties and those new counties were often divided further into additional counties until today there are 67 counties in Florida. Initially most of the new counties formed were in west Florida as that is where most of the early population growth occurred. What we know today as Destin was in Escambia County from July 7, 1821 until Aug. 12, 1822.
The third county formed in the Florida Territory was Jackson County. It was created in 1822 out of the eastern portion of Escambia County. It was named after Andrew Jackson, the first Territorial Governor of Florida, and extended from the Choctawhatchee River on the west to the Suwannee River on the east. What we know today as Destin was in Jackson County from 1822 to 1824.
In 1824, Walton County was created as the 11th county in the Florida Territory. It was created out of Escambia and Jackson Counties and was named after Colonel George Walton, the secretary of the Florida Territory from 1821-1826. The first County Seat of Walton County was Euchee-Anna. In 1886, the county seat was moved to the new railroad town of DeFuniak Springs. Destin was in the newly formed Walton County that was formed on December 29, 1824, but for less than one year, until Dec. 8, 1825, when Washington County was created.
In 1825, Washington County was created as the 12th county in the Florida Territory. It was created on December 9, 1825 out of Walton and Jackson Counties. It was named after President George Washington. The first county seat was Vernon, but in 1927, the county seat was moved to the new railroad town of Chipley. Walton County lost Destin when it was moved to newly created Washington County on Dec. 9, 1825 and Destin remained in Washington County for nearly 90 years.
On May 17, 1913, Washington County lost a large area with the creation of Bay County. At that time Walton County acquired the area along the Gulf of Mexico from Bay County (Phillips Inlet) to Destin. Destin was once again in Walton County where it remained for just over two years until late 1915.
On Sept. 6, 1915, Okaloosa County was formed from the eastern portion of Santa Rosa County and the western portion of Walton County. Okaloosa County was the 52nd county in Florida. Okaloosa was the name of the steamboat that brought passengers from Milton to Pensacola. The name “oka” and “lusa” come from the Choctaw Indian words for Black Water. Destin has remained in Okaloosa County ever since Okaloosa County was formed and probably always will.
So you see, while Destin has not moved, the county it was in has changed a total of six times. Moreno Point or East Pass or Destin, as it has been called over the years, was originally in (1) Escambia County. Then it moved from Escambia County to: (2) Jackson County; then briefly to (3) Walton County; then to (4) Washington County where it remained for nearly 90 years; then briefly back to (5) Walton County; and finally to (6) Okaloosa County where it has remained for the past 100 years.
H. C. “Hank” Klein is a Destin historian who visits often and lives in North Rock, Arkansas with his wife (the former Muriel Marler of Destin). Klein recently published a historic book about Destin's pioneer settlers. DESTIN Pioneer Settlers...A Land History of Destin, Florida from 1819-1940 can be obtained from Amazon.com, Tony Mennillo of Arturo Studios at 850/585-2909, Dewey Destin's Restaurants, in Destin, the Magnolia Grill in Fort Walton Beach, or Bayou Books in Niceville. Klein can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.