DeFuniak Springs Herald-Breeze – December 28, 1972

How DeFuniak Springs Acquired Its Name

By Anna Reardon, Staff Writer

The man for whom the town of DeFuniak Springs was named, was a Frenchman, according to his grandson, Colonel William Q. DeFuniak of Santa Cruz, California. He is thought to have been born in Rome, Italy although a biographical encyclopedia dated 1878 gives his birthplace as near Trieste, Austria. Several records agree that his birthdate was August 15, 1839.

Frederick DeFuniak’s grandparents fled from France during the French Revolution, taking with them their twelve-year-old son. Alfred; thus they escaped the guillotine and took refuge in Rome. It is believed that Alfred returned to France and attended the St. Cyr Academy, which was founded by Napoleon. When Alfred grew to manhood he became an officer in the Papal Guards and married a young lady from Trieste, Austria. Born to this couple was a son, Albert, a daughter, and a son, Frederick.

When the elder Count DeFuniak died, his title descended to Albert and Frederick became a baron under the European traditions of nobility. During the era of Napoleon III, Count Albert DeFuniak became a cavalry officer in the French army; later he was lent to the Turkish army as an instructor, stayed in Turkey, renounced his Christian religion and all rights pertaining to his title. He changed his name to Mehetnet Ali, served as Governor-General of Albania and was assassinated about 1875. At the time of his death, the title “Count” descended to Frederick DeFuniak.

According to some records Frederick DeFuniak spent his boyhood in Rome and other parts of Italy. When about fourteen, he was sent to Vienna where he studied civil and mechanical engineering at the Austrian School for Engineers, later graduating from the Polytechnic High School in August, 1857. Upon graduating, he went immediately to Cairo, Egypt where he was engaged as an assistant engineer on the Alexandria and Cairo Railroad. In 1859, he returned to Italy and entered the military. He was a leader in the fight to remove Austrian domination and unify Italy.

In May, 1862, Frederick DeFuniak left Rome for the United States, staying several months in New York City, learning the language. The DeFuniak family history indicates that he had been offered a commission in the Union Army which he declined. He is said to have been placed under surveillance by Secret Service agents. He fled his hotel under cover of darkness, leaving behind his clothing and other possessions, crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky, then into Tennessee where he joined the Confederate Army. He carried letters of introduction to Generals Dix and Beuregard.

While serving as an engineering officer on the staff of General Richard Taylor in West Tennessee, Frederick DeFuniak was wounded. He was dropped off at the plantation of Captain Richard Browning at Hernando, Mississippi, where he was nursed back to health by Miss Olivia Browning. In story book fashion, he and Olivia Browning were married after the war. (Captain Browning, Olivia’s father, was killed at the battle of Atlanta.)

After the end of the Civil War, Frederick DeFuniak became a civil engineer for several southern railroads, most importantly the Louisville and Nashville Railway; where he was promoted to Chief Engineer and General Manager.

About 1880 the L. and N. decided to build the Pensacola and Atlantic division through the wilderness of northwest Florida. A construction camp was built at an open pond where a railway station was to be built later. Officials of the L. and N. agreed that this would be an ideal resort location. It is not clear whether Frederick DeFuniak ever visited the area, but the story goes that he and several other officials met at the exclusive Pendmen’s Club in Louisville, flipped a coin or rolled some dice to decide who would have the honor of having the new town named for him. Frederick DeFuniak won, so that is how the town acquired its name.

Captain DeFuniak was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a corresponding member of the Austrian Society of Architects and Engineers and a member of the Roman Catholic Church. He was fluent in English, French, Italian, Turkish and Greek languages. He is described as a “fair” portrait painter, fond of scientific investigation and above all, a mathematician of unusual excellence.

His personality is described with such terms as politeness, lack of ostentation, somewhat retiring, genial in company, a wonderful organizer and manager. He is said to have been one of the leading engineers in the United States and that he commanded a high degree of respect both professionally and socially.

The DeFuniak Herald – February 28, 1935 – Obituaries and Old News Items

In the death of J B Ward which occurred Monday at his home in North Defuniak, the county lost a resident who bore several distinctions, he was the last remaining Federal pensioner from the Civil war in Walton Co, he was among the older residents in co, being in his 91st year at time of his death, having been a resident for 80 of those years.  Services were held Tuesday at Sandy Creek Baptist. Five grandsons, Clyde Brown, Reginald Davis, Lloyd Davis, Alton Ward, Charley Davis and one great grandson Ray Howell acted as pallbearers. J H Ward was born in Henry Co, Ala in May 1844 and removed to Walton co with his family a dozen years later. Survived by 4 children, one son having died, 10 gr children and 19 gr grands.

The death of Mr Charles Sutton Padgett occurred about the time the sun went beyond the horizon on Sunday February 10, at his home. Services held in the home on Monday, interment was at Sandy Creek cemetery, Holmes Co.  Charles Sutton Padgett was born in Walton Co on Feb 20 1855, the son of Mahala and William Padgett and was reared on a farm in the same vicinity in which his death occurred.  He is survived by his aged wife Margaret Morrison Padgett, 3 sons, Billie, Alexander and Charles, one sister, Mrs J M Miller of Ponce de Leon, 2 brothers, W S of Dady, Fla and E S of Ponce de Leon.

F. Q. Tervin,  who suffered an heart attack on the street in DeFuniak earlier in the week, died at his home abt 4 o’clock this morning. Funeral arrangements have not be completed at this time.

Three more arrests in the hit & run death of Judge Pearce’s death. Bascomb Guilford has been arrested for the second time, and the mail carrier’s father John H Guilford was indicted for attempting to bribe Della Massey, the alibi witness of the defendant, and she was accused in a perjury indictment. The Guilfords were arrested late on Saturday at their Daleville home. The older Guildford posted bond of $500, but the mail carrier did not post $1,500 on charge of first degree manslaughter until Sunday, having spent Saturday in Houston Co. jail. Miss Massey was also arrested and did not post bond.

30 yrs ago: from Feb 23 1908 Breeze:  Reuben Landrum died at the home of his brother, C A Landrum.

25 yrs ago: from Feb 24 1910 Breeze:  Ben Sallas of Elam, claimed to have shot his brother-in-law,  W F Nixon accidentally but Co Judge Parish ordered him held for grand jury.

15 yrs ago:  from Feb 24 1920 Breeze: Miss Sarah Gillis, 85, died at home of her niece in Pensacola.

10 yrs ago: from Feb 26 1925 Breeze:  Mr & Mrs Campbell Morrison are the proud parents of a fine boy baby, who arrived on Feb. 25th.

[Summarized by Lois Danley and Sharon Watson]

The DeFuniak Herald – February 21, 1935 – Obituaries

The death of Mrs M A  Stinson, wife of the late Dr W H Stinson, who died in 1918, occurred Sunday morning at her home on Guava Street following an illness of about 2 weeks. Services were conducted from the home Monday morning at 11:00.  She was Missouri Ann Colquitt and a native of Alabama, having passed her 80th birthday, being born on Aug 5 1854. Dr & Mrs Stinson moved to DeFuniak from Rose Hill abt 35 yrs ago. Survivors are 3 children: W I & Cecil both of this place, and Mrs George Burkhart of St Petersburg, 4 gr children and nieces & nephews.

Hal Richardson died early Tuesday at his home on 12th street of pneumonia. Hal C Richardson was born in Sept 1890 at Darien, Ga., son of Mr & Mrs David Eugene Richardson. When he was eight yrs old his family moved to this place. In April 1922 he was married to Miss Christian Currie, daughter of Dr & Mrs D J Currie, paster of the local Presbyterian church for many years. A World War vet and member of post American Legion. Survivors are his widow, and one son, Hal Jr., one brother J P Richardson of this place and 5 sisters, Mary Richardson also of Defuniak, Mrs Quarterman McCaskill of Marianna; Mrs Reed Walker of Darien, Ga, Mrs Jim Northcutt of Notasulga, Ala and Mrs Robert Oliver of Centenary, S C.  Service on Wednesday and interment in family lot at Magnolia.

Mr Norman Gillis died on Friday, Feb 15, he was called “Uncle Norman” by many.  Funeral services were conducted on Saturday from Valley church, interment was in Magnolia cemetery. Norman Gillis was born 85 yrs ago at the Pensacola Navy Yard, a mere child when his family moved to Knox Hill, abt 1916 he moved to Defuniak.  He was married to Miss Nannie McSween and 4 children survive this union. Survivors are his widow, 2 brothers, Duncan of this place, Daniel of Panama City, a daughter Miss Kate and 3 sons, Alwyn of Orlando, Angus Of Akron, Oh. and Wm Campbell Gillis also of Akron, Oh.

Angus Davis aged abt 50 yrs killed himself shortly before midnight Tuesday at his home at Freeport, by a self-inflicted shotgun wound.  Davis made his home with a brother, William and a sister, Christine. Mr Davis had been in poor health and it was thought that he committed suicide in a fit of despondency over his condition.  Services were held Thursday, interment in the Davis cemetery, an old burial ground NW of Freeport.  He is survived by 3 brothers William, James & Alex Davis, sisters Christine & Mrs Arthur Stanley, niece, Dottie B Stanley.

[Contributed by Lois Danley and Sharon Watson]

The DeFuniak Herald – October 4, 1923

Santa Rosa News

Mr. Herman Weston moved his family into town last Friday so it would be handier or the children to attend school. He also moved his sawmill last week out on the Jack Martin place near the Gulf where he expects to put in a busy season.

Mr. Ward S. Paham and Mr. Moore motored here from Crosby, Ala., last Tuesday bringing the sad news that a sister of Vernie Shivers had died the day before and took Mr. Shivers back with them.

Miss Ruby Mathews of DeFuniak Springs spent a few days in town on business

F. S. Stallworth the West Florida Grocerie man transacted business in town last Friday.

We were pleased to see the smiling face of W. F. Hall of Freeport in town last Friday.

Jack Stringer went to DeFuniak last Monday where he will resume his studies in the T. I. I.

Rev. John Garnett of Camp Walton was in town most of last week to assist with and oversee the painting of the M. E. Church and also to conduct services Saturday evening and Sunday.

Mr. Fred Crookshank has just about completed the painting of his residence on Wilson Ave., and it certainly looks fine.

Have you seen the latest style for mules? We have a pair of mules in our town that is wearing pantaloons. Now we are not making fun of the mules. We rather think it is a very bright idea and one that it would be well for others to imitate.

Somebody, [presumably] some [n—–s,] got away with some of Mrs. Green’s chickens last night. Its a pity if people must steal that they can’t pick out somebody besides a widow lady to steal from. But woe! unto them if they are caught at it.

“Dad” Butler and D. W. Shunk drove over to Grayton Beach last Sunday on a tour of inspection.

Mrs. Bessie Noyes our former Postmistress arrived here from Mobile, Ala., last Sunday evening on the “Sarona.” Mrs. Noyes has many friends here who are glad to see her again.

The Civic League held a meeting at the home of Mrs. E. T. Ziel last Friday. Among other business transacted it was decided to give a fox social at the school house on Friday evening Oct. 19th, the proceeds to be used for the school. It was also decided to have a “Bazaar” sometime in December the date to be set later.

We have two Women’s Clubs here and we are all working together for one purpose. That’s to raise money for two more months of school. We have six months but we feel that eight months would be better. We did not have any trouble in raising the money last year and we feel confident that it can be done again. Now we are not writing this for the sake of handing ourselves a bouquet. But it might help others. As we happen to know that there are other communities where they don’t have as much as six months school. Don’t just fold your hands and say, “It’s a shame our children can’t have more school, but we just can’t help it.” Just put your heads together and raise the money as it is surprising how quickly a sum of money can be raised if everybody will work together.

The Breeze – September 9, 1920

Mrs. E. W. Thorpe was the first woman in Walton county to register for voting under the constitutional amendment which gave woman the power to vote. Mrs. R. Buchanan, Mrs. J. C. Prescott, Mrs. H. Thornber, Mrs. Anna Vinson and Mrs. Geo. Ward followed in that order, and Miss Bessie Tervin was the first single lady to register.