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January 10, 2014

Suwannee Past: Wellborn, part 2

Live Oak — Information submitted by Eric Musgrove, county historian

As mentioned in last week’s article, the community named “Wellborn” started in 1860.  However, its roots lie decades prior to that with the establishment of the adjoining community of Little River around 1830.  The completion of the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad through Suwannee County in 1860-1861 (besides indirectly giving the community its name) allowed Wellborn to expand as settlers availed themselves to the railroad access that ran through the middle of the village.  On November 27, 1863, in the midst of the War Between the States, the Florida Legislature corrected the original boundary line between the counties of Columbia and Suwannee.  The correction affected the entire town of Wellborn (spelled “Welburn” in the Legislative Act), stating that all of its citizens would be considered citizens of Suwannee County.  The community’s location on the eastern border of Suwannee County, coupled with the old county line, had proven problematic for citizens who didn’t know if they lived in Columbia or Suwannee County!

By the end of the Civil War Wellborn was steadily growing, in part because of its easy railroad access.  Meanwhile, the older community of Little River, only a mile or two south of Wellborn, struggled to continue its 30-plus year existence.  The death knell of Little River sounded in 1866 when George E. McClellan passed away.  McClellan was Little River’s founder, prominent business owner, and postmaster.  With McClellan’s death, Little River’s fate was sealed.  The older community remained on maps until at least 1874, but Wellborn had surpassed it long before.

Wellborn played a role in the selection of the permanent County seat, since at the time it was one of six polling places in the County.  The selection of Suwannee County’s permanent seat, as well as the purchasing and construction of the courthouses in Live Oak, will take several future articles to discuss in detail.  However, the short version of the county site selection is this:  in January of 1869, the Florida Legislature had changed the laws to allow citizens to decide upon the location of their County seat.  As a result, the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners ordered an election held to allow the citizens to choose the location of the County seat.  The first election was held on March 27, 1869; none of the sites gained a majority of the votes and there were problems with the voting (such as votes by deceased citizens and others voting twice).  Individual polling site results are not shown in the minutes, but no doubt the majority of Wellborn citizens would have voted in favor of Houston due to its proximity.  A new vote was demanded because of the voting irregularities; safeguards were put in place to make sure that dead people did not vote, nor could people vote more than once.  This second vote on May 15 resulted in a comfortable majority of voters selecting the Parshley site in Live Oak over the old county seat of Houston.  Wellborn’s results in the second election showed 21 in favor of the Parshley Lot in Live Oak and 25 in favor of the old Courthouse Lot in Houston.  After certification of the vote, Nancy Parshley submitted a deed for recording in the Clerk’s Office for the lot upon which a Courthouse would be built (and now stands).

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