HOLMES COUNTY, FLORIDA

PROSPERITY COMMUNITY

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By Anna Paget Wells (used with permission of publisher Sue Cronkite) from the book "Heart and History of Holmes County". This book is chock full of pictures and what has been used within this web site is only a small amount of the book.  It can still be ordered from Sue Cronkite or from the Holmes County Advertiser, 112 E Virginia Avenue, Bonifay FL 32425; phone 850-547-2270; fax 850-547-9200

Prosperity is a word with multiple meanings in Western Holmes County. It is a place, the name of a school, a former post office, a condition, and a state of mind.

For the area’s residents of long ago, it is a combination of these. It is a word that awakens many memories. One of these early residents was Mrs J E Clark of DeFuniak Springs. Another is Dan W Padgett.

It was Duncan Wilks, Mrs Clark’s father, who named Prosperity. "Because the establishment of a new post office suggested the coming of prosperity."

Mrs Clark said her father was a South Carolinian, from Chesterfield County. He taught school there for a while and then entered the naval stores business. That’s what attracted him to Florida in about 1886, Mrs Clark recalls.

"The Florida timber was unworked and was so rich in turpentine," she explained. "He settled at the Mobley Still, about six miles north of Westville."

"At that time," she said, "There was no post office nearer than Westville. Eventually we did get a post office and it was located at the home of John Brownell. He was also postmaster."

"My father was a well-educated man and many people south his advice. So, when he was approached about a name for the new post office, he suggested that it be named Prosperity. I was about 11 years old at that time. Now I am 84, and all these years it has been Prosperity."

Mrs Clark recalls attending a one-room school in the community, but she couldn’t at the moment recall the school’s name. She later taught several years in similar small schools in the area.

In fact, one of her prized possessions is a little school bell. It was with this bell that she signaled the start of classes and called the pupils in from "recess", the school activity pupils in that era traditionally liked best.

Mrs Clark, for 17 years after moving to DeFuniak Springs, operated what she calls "a flower business". She was retired a few years from that. "Those were busy but happy years," she recalled.

But so were the years at Prosperity. There were sad times there, too. Her mother died at Prosperity. "Our family was a big one," she said. "My father remarried – to John McDonald’s father’s sister (former State Senator John McDonald was later administrator of Huggins Memorial Hospital in DeFuniak Springs). She was wonderful to all of us. We couldn’t have had a better step-mother."

Mrs Clark’s comments were prompted by a recent newspaper article, which feature Prosperity and Two Egg. Said that article, in part: " … it’s quiet in Prosperity, population about 75; the sky is clear blue and the Choctawhatchee River, though a muddy brown, isn’t polluted. Prosperity is 10 miles south of Sweet Gum Head, and 55 miles of Panama City."

The name Prosperity is being preserved largely by the school. Mrs Mozelle Shepherd, mayor of neighboring Westville, is principal of the school. It has five classrooms and an enrollment of 93. There’s talk about closing the school and sending its pupils to school in Ponce de Leon – about nine miles to the south.

Padgett, like Mrs Clark, was prompted to comment after reading the newspaper article. He said the school is actually about two miles from the Prosperity post office site." The place where Prosperity school is located is called Cedar Springs", he said.

Some recent maps show a Cedar Springs Church nearby, and some slightly older ones show a Cedar Springs School. This may have been the school Mrs Clark attended as a girl. She recalls walking in deep sand left on the road to the school by rains that eroded the adjacent hillsides.

"There is a Cedar Springs Church across the road from the school," wrote Padgett.

"Back in the 1920s and 1930s there was a one-room schoolhouse there which was called Cedar Springs School. I attended this school when I was in the second grade. It closed in 1935."

"The location of Prosperity was on a hill where John M Brownell lived. He was my grandfather and my mother still lives at the foot of the hill. He homesteaded 160 acres there in 1894."

Padgett recalled his grandfather’s frame and log house. "The house, kitchen, commissary, blacksmith shop, smokehouse, hay barn, syrup-making shed, 14 horse stables and sheep shearing pens are all gone," he wrote. The old dirt road that divided them has given way to a paved road running to the back of where they all were located.

"There may not be much sign prosperity in the area, but it is still rich in good soil, growing pines, spring water, clean air, happy people, and memorable history."

With those sentiments Mrs Clark and many other former Prosperity residents find themselves in hearty agreement.

(Mr E W Carswell wrote this story around 1970)

MORE ABOUT PROSPERITY

The writer was born in Prosperity on Apr 21, 1903 while my father had gone for Mrs Davis, a midwife. Mrs Davis gave me my first bath and "Ollie", a name that caused me some problems because it is commonly graded as a masculine name. My middle name, "Anna", was given to me by Anna Green Hammond. To further complicate the situation my family and friends nicknamed me "Annie". Sometimes my mother affectionately called me PollyAnna – a slight corruption of OllieAnna.

At the time of my birth, Padgett & Laird operated a small sawmill in Prosperity. While I was still an infant, we moved back to the Leonia area. The late Walt Brownell told me in later years that he gave me my first buggy ride. He took my mother, my brother Dan and me on a buggy so we wouldn’t have to ride on the moving wagon pulled by a team of oxen.


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This page was last updated:  17 June 2002, 08:42 PM