Walnut Hill Does Not Have Any Walnuts?

Oh, yes! It does!
School History

In 1886, the first school (a one-room log building) was built in Walnut Hill. The first school was only a three -month long session and had eleven students attending. Mrs. Annie McMillan was one of the first teachers, and her salary was only fifteen dollars per month. (Compare this to a current beginning teacher's salary of $1,900.00 per month.) According to Mr. Robert Thrower, the 1886 date for the building of the log school and church is not likely correct. This is the year that Mrs. McMillan taught her first term of school. The buildings were erected earlier, likely right after the Civil War. Mr. Elbert Allison, one of the school's early pupils, said that the year the building was erected still unclear, but the number of the building was carved or painted on a small board and nailed over the front door (now a window facing the Community Center). The nail holes where the sign used to be are still visible. Supposedly back in those days, community members nailed a number over a building according to the order of its construction. For instance, if the school building had been built first, it would have had the No. 1 over its door. Information is still being sought as to the school building's exact number.

Next, in 1909 a two-room school building was built. The community put democracy to work when a petition resulted in a consolidation of the two schools. Mr. Ernest Ward walked as far as three miles to sign this history-altering petition.

In 1919 two four -room brick additions helped Walnut Hill schools meet the community's growing needs.

In 1921, a new six-room building was constructed just east of the Walnut Hill Station. It was named Ernest Ward School in memory of the determined man who promoted the important petition of 1917. In the year 1925 to 26, the first PTSA was started, four rooms were added, and a school bus was secured. The first high school 10th grade graduates included Clarence Walker who was integral to my research of Oakgrove and Walnut Hill.


Walnuts in Walnut Hill

1. First, it was my guess that some northerners who were used to seeing walnut trees and not pecan trees might have seen pecan trees here and thought they were a different kind of walnut, and so called the area Walnut Hill.

2. This is not true. There are walnut trees in Walnut Hill. In fact, there is one by Gloria Sanders's house near Pine Forest Rd. There's also one in Don Strickland's yard on Hwy. 97. (Mr. Strickland is a strong supporter of Walnut Hill baseball through the years.)

3. According to Mr. Robert G. Thrower of Walnut Hill, the area behind Ernest Ward Middle School extending from the Little League park around to Hwy. 97 contained many walnut trees. He learned this information from Mr. Joe Robbins who is now over 100 years old. Mr. Robbins told of accompanying his father to see a man who crafted gun stocks from walnut wood obtained from this area. This presence of walnut trees was confirmed by Mr. Elbert Allison, who grew up in this same neighborhood, but who passed away many years ago.


Click here for additional information on Walnut Hill, including a map. Information compiled by Northview student, Cherreba Henderson.

Walnut Hill Trivia Not So Trivial

  • Mr. Ernest Ward walked from Bay Springs to Walnut Hill to organize the school consolidation petition. He enlisted in the military but died of pneumonia just before the end of the war.
  • In 1914, a one-room school was built for the Southern States Lumber Company's children.   It was also shared by Baptists and Methodists for services, showing the town's sharing attitude. According to Mr. Thrower, the old log school and a log church were built at the same time. The church building was torn down to make room for the present Annie Jones Methodist Church. The logs were hand hewn from virgin yellow pine trees nearby, and according to Mr. Horace Ward, floated to the building site after heavy rains associated with a hurricane. In 1947, Mr. Thrower's family moved to Walnut Hill. His father rented the old school house for them to live in until he could build a house on the farm land he had purchased. During the month of Sept., a hurricane blew through and the water flowed knee deep over the entire site.
  • The first recorded settler was John Gaylor. He received a land grant from the Spanish Government while Florida was still a territory of Spain. The document states he settled on the land prior to 1816. He received the grant with the stipulation that he would raise cattle for sale to the Spanish in Pensacola. His home was a short distance from the Little League park.
  • Walnut Hill's role in the Civil War--The Gaylor grant land was later acquired by a Mr. Bud Williams, at some time prior to the Civil War. Mr. Bud farmed and raised cattle. He built a supply shed alongside the railroad in what is now Atmore, Alabama. For years, Atmore was known as William's Station. The name was changed in the early 1900's. Mr. Bud was a staunch supporter of the Southern cause. he actually served as a spy for the Confederacy. Civil War records show that he was captured by Union forces, under the command of Gen. Steele, but was released the next morning because he convinced the Yankees that he was just an innocent person on his way to Pensacola. The records state that "he knew nothing." During the latter part of the war, a detachment of the 13th Florida Calvary camped around Mr. Bud's home. The Florida 13th Calvary was assigned the responsibility of detecting/preventing Union invasion from Pensacola. Since Mr. Bud's home sat alongside the old Pensacola to Tensas road, this was a logical place for encampment. A number of the confederate soldiers died during the encampment period and were buried nearby. This cemetery site was still recognizable as late as 1947. There were never any permanent markers, only native stones to mark the grave sites.
  • The Pensacola to Tensas Road--Long before any permanent settlers, a road passed through Walnut Hill. The road was actually built by the British during their claim to Florida. It was the major overland route to Mobile via Tensas, then by boat to Mobile. this was the route taken by General Andrew's army on their way to Pensacola, when Florida was ceded to the United States. A stage line was operated on this road, and according to Mr. William A. Brown, a relay station was located near the Gaylord/Williams homestead. These stations provided food and overnight accommodations for the stage passengers and crew, along with fresh horses for the stage. The average day's travel was about twenty miles or less, due to the entremely poor condition of this "two rut" road.
  • The turn of the century home was built in 1900. A dog run house, it was later used as a barn. It is inhabited by yours truly. We live next door to Ernest Ward, descendant of the Ernest Ward spoken of earlier.

Ernest Ward Middle

Walnut Hill Ruritan Building

Turn of the Century home in Walnut Hill, Florida

Learn of the genesis of Oak Grove, Florida.

Return to the Oakgrove/Walnut Hill, Florida Site.