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
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.
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
In 1919 two four -room brick additions
helped Walnut Hill schools meet the community's growing
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
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
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
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
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
here for additional information on Walnut Hill, including a
map. Information compiled by Northview student, Cherreba
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
- 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
- The first recorded settler was
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.
Hill's role in the Civil War--The
Gaylor grant land was later acquired by a
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
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
Ernest Ward Middle
Walnut Hill Ruritan
Turn of the Century home in
Walnut Hill, Florida