Florala History

Stories and Information of Florala, Alabama

Lake Jackson

Early pictures of  Lake Jackson

See the Legend of Lake Jackson below in right hand column

This photo shows the Colonial Hotel and a person (or two) fishing on a private covered pier. The pier above is in approximately in same location as the current Florala Wetlands Park pier. Standing behind the hotel is the water tower.

Chautauqua Building (left), Lake Jackson

This picture above shows two boats in front of the current Florala State Park. The building on the left is the Chautauqua building and the building on the right is the Colonial Hotel (The Chautauqua Building was also known as the Chautauqua Auditorium). The Chautauqua Institution, founded in 1874 and named after Chautauqua Lake in NY, is very active today. A close viewing will reveal a cow on the shore behind the sailboat. It was common to let cows graze around the lake, about the only good use marshy land could be put to at the time. Cows also grazed in what is now the Florala Wetlands Park on the west side of the lake. The current State Park pier would be situated approximately in front of the hotel. The date of this picture is about 1905-1910.

The picture above picture, right, shows the Colonial Hotel in later years sans the first level porch. The hotel was eventually destroyed by fire in 1965 as was the Chautauqua building in 1913.

 

The Chautauqua Building and Colonial Hotel are out of view to the left in the picture above right. The distant view is of the north shore of the lake. As seen, a gorgeous oak grove (Britton Park) once stood where a shopping center (Piggly-Wiggly) is now located. Upon enlargement, the “Lake House” (the original home of Mrs. F.A. McLean, built in the late 1800′s) , is visible to the right of the oak grove. At this time, the house had an unobstructed view of the lake. This picture was likely taken in the 1930′s. Hardly visible to the immediate left of the Lake House is the WC McLauchlin house. The Lake House is currently a Bed and Breakfast: The Lake House Bed & Breakfast.

Current day Lake House, 5th Ave (across from Baptist Church)

Florala, Past and Present

Moonlight on Lake Jackson. It is in the Springtime and all nature seems aglow with the mellow light of the solemn moon as its rays light up the sleeping city and extend out over the waters of the lake a soft and subdued radiance.

Yonder on the northern shore is where a band of gaudy Indian warriors were met by a small company of frontiersmen in a fierce conflict for the supremacy of the region. Underneath that cluster of pines lie the bones of a dozen white men. Beside these bones lie strange medieval implements of war and the crucifix with its iron-bead chain tells of perhaps a priest that met his death with the others. From the number of arrowheads that lie buried beside these bodes the Indian band must have been very large, and small wonder that the company of explorers met their doom.

Over on the south side we see an old tree with broken trunk and splintered sides shining in the light of the moon. That is all that is left of the gigantic oak that sheltered General Andrew Jackson the night he slept on the banks of the lake. And just beyond that old tree at the top of the hill is where the belles and beaux of ante-bellum Montgomery, Troy and Union Springs, were wont to camp for weeks in the summer while on their annual pilgrimage to the famous fishing grounds. These gay beaux may have angled for something other than the finny tribe; perchance if those old tress could speak they would tell of ardent wooing and the plighting of many a trouth in the silent watches of the night.

But all this romatic history has been made long since, and now beside the lake sleeps the little city of Florala. The atmosphere has changed from that of the primeval to the modern, warriors have given place to captains of industry and a part of the beating pulse of the nation lies subdued and quiet after a day of activity. The only thing left to remind us of the days of your is the beauty of the lake and the touch of romance that is ever present where fair women and noble men are found. For yonder is seen a boating party just emerging from the shadows of the south side of the lake. An old song floats out over the water and we feel our pulses quicken with recollection of the days when we were young and full of sentiment, the song, of story.

The boats glide over the water to their moorings, the young people depart for their homes, and the night is once more still. Florala peacefully awaits the coming of the dawn when another day’s struggle will begin, when the romantic will give place to the prosaic and the citizens start anew the onward march toward the realizations of a great city.

- The Pensacola Journal, Sunday morning, February 9, 1908

Above: Sisters Ruth Hughes and Inez Hughes (Harper) on  a lake Jackson outting (date unknown). Boating on the lake during this era meant providing your own propulsion… with oars, an activity ladies did not shy away from.

Jessie Cornelia Ray and Birdie Hughes at the lake (ca 1907-10)

Florala News, Sept 14, 1911 – “Miss Birdie Hughes threw a party in her home on Fifth Street, Miss Tommie Davis wore a lovely gown. Score cards were passed out by little Miss Inez Hughes. Score was kept by Miss Winnie Sheppard”.

A postcard picture of the location which is now the Florala State Park. The railroad track from the L&N depot to Mannings Landing is clearly visible. It ran in front of the hotel. Trees were cut from this area, likely for a good lake view. The sender of this postcard said they had a “swell time” … fishing at Lake Jackson.

On rare occasions ice forms on Lake Jackson. The picture above shows a hearty soul who in all probability did little sailing that day. These pictures appear to have been taken on the south side of the lake where cold winds from the north would have blown the ice.

Early pictures of Lake Jackson. The “Quillin Bros Druggists” were responsible for many of the old pictures of downtown Florala and the lake.

 

The two pictures of Lake Jackson in the moonlight may have been taken in the 1940s.  The mast and sail of a sailboat are seen in the picture on the right. Both pictures face east.

 

When there were few lights around the lake, it was a dark and mysterious place on a perfectly calm night.

 

Picture taken in 1938

 

This picture was taken before the oak grove (seen across the lake) was cut down for the shopping center. It was common for local fishermen to keep their wooden rowboats in the water where they chained them to cypress trees for “safekeeping”. If not attended to, which included most of them, they would fill with water from the rain and/or from their leaky joints, and sink.  For many, the end result was a deteriorating water-logged boat frame partially submerged with the bottom stuck in the sand. Ironically, they remained secure from other forms of misfortune by the enduring padlocked chains that hung around the swelled cypress trunks. Sometimes only a locked chain was left. (In Chinese tradition, a lock on a chain means everlasting love). But none remain now.

Other early “fixtures” on the lake (up to the 60s) were abandoned rickety fishing piers that were left to weaken in the elements. These were enticing to those, mostly kids, who were game to test their weight-bearing capacities. Some were linked to shore by walkways consisting of single planks laid end to end from post to post over the water grass and lily pads. As the lumber deteriorated and drooped near to, and sometimes into, the water, an achievement was to traverse to the end and back without getting wet. A dunking in Lake Jackson, however, particularly on a hot summer day, was not the worst of penalties for losing one’s balance. Such fishing piers likely fell into disuse and not maintained due to the emerging popularity of motor boats for fishing about mid-century. Also, all shoreline on the Alabama side of the lake eventually became owned by the state of Alabama.

Origin of Lake Jackson

Lake Jackson (408 ac) was thought to be formed when deep limestone faults occurred that filled with water. The water caused dissolution of the limestone which created caverns. The caverns ultimately collapsed forming the “bowl” of the lake, the bottom of which filled with sediment. On average Lake Jackson is 12-14 ft deep. “More recent” collapses, actually many many years ago, formed two major deep depressions in the lake of 24-28 ft on the north and south sides. The lake is said to be fed almost entirely by rainwater. Since 1971 the shoreline has receded about 60 ft for a length of about 1000 ft on the northwest side. Of interest is that Lake Jackson is in the Yellow River watershed (ie, its waters drain southwest into the Yellow River to Pensacola Bay). Just north of the lake, across 5th Ave, water drains in the opposite direction, northeast, and ultimately into the Pea River. The area from Lakewood, FL/Britton Hill (2 mi east of Lake Jackson – the highest natural elevation in Florida [345 ft]), along Hwy 54, 5th Ave into Florala, and Hwy 331 north from Florala, is a ridge that acts as watershed divide. This explains why the old city dump north of the lake never polluted the lake water. Runoff from the dump drained northeast away from the lake.

At least on one occasion Lake Jackson suffered an “insult” when a ditch was dug to drain water from the lake to power a sawmill. As the 1940 description above states, it “caused lots of trouble”. This sawmill was located east of the Baptist church on the north side of the lake and north of 5th Ave.  The “ditch” was likely a wood-framed sluice (millrace) overfilled with dirt. We have no pictures of it. Fortunately, good sense (and a low lake) prevailed and this venture was ended and the waterway filled in. Depressions in the sidewalks on both sides of 5th Ave resulting from this project are evident today. Supposedly a lot of the fill was organic material.

Depression in lawn resulting from the millrace.

In the 60s, the lake was dredged on the east side. This dredging pumped sand onto the shore which was marsh. This was approximately where the RV park is today.

 

The Colonial Hotel and Lake House are visible (barely) on this postcard

This is a rare 1909 postcard with a view from the east side of the lake. The view is basically facing west and shows the east side of the Colonial Hotel. The hotel was built in 1906, therefore it was 3 years old or less when this picture was taken.

 

Lake Jackson 2011

3 Comments

  • By kole, July 24, 2012 @ 12:38 am

    loved it noce history thank you so much. fun trying to compare now to then.2012 ps. please add future pics across from passed ones. thx-

  • By Ricky Chambers, June 26, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

    Enjoyed reading this history and seeing the old pictures. Some of which seem to be actually where our home now stands on the Florida (southwest) side of Lake Jackson. Thanks!

  • By John Calvert, September 11, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

    Coming from Florida, we hit a deer with my truck and limped on into Florala. A locale shop worked hard to put a new radiator in my truck so we could get on home the next day. However, we spent a wonderful night in our trailer at the state park. The folks of Florala were very nice and we plan on coming back to spend a few nights occasionally on the beautiful lake shore. A nice little park that is worth planning for an overnight stop. Thanks to your community that helped us in this time of need.

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