Florida/Suwannee County Timeline

1821 – Florida is acquired from Spain and becomes a territory of the United States. Two counties, St. Johns and Escambia, are created on 21 July 1821. The border separating these newly created counties is the Suwannee River, St. Johns County to the east and Escambia County to the west. What we now know as Suwannee County was then part of St. Johns County.

1822 – On 12 August, 1822, two additional counties are created; Duval county was carved out of St. Johns County, and Jackson County out of Escambia county. The Suwannee River formed the boundary between these newly formed counties. At this time, the future Suwannee County was part of Duval County.

1824 – Florida Territory continues to grow in populations, so once again more counties are added. The current Suwannee county becomes part of Alachua County on 29 December 1824.


1832 – Continued population growth cause new counties to be added. On 4 February 1832, the future Suwannee County becomes part of the newly formed Columbia County.


1835 – The Second Seminole Indian War begins in 1835 and lasts until 1842.

1845 – Florida becomes the twenty-seventh state of the United States on 3 March 1845.

1855 – The Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Railroad begins building tracks from Jacksonville to Lake City in 1855 and completes construction in 1859. The Pensacola and Georgia Railroad from Tallahassee to Lake City begins construction in 1855 and is completed in 1861.

1857 – Construction begins on an east-west railroad, known as the Pensacola and Georgia Railroad Line, across North Florida. It is completed in 1861.

1858 – Suwannee County becomes a county in its own right on 21 December 1858. At that time, there are only 200 families living with the county boundaries, with a population of about 2,000 people. Houston becomes the first county seat.

1859 – The first post office in Suwannee County is established in Houston on 22 December 1859.

1860 – The community of Wellborn is founded at a time when cotton is king and one of the largest cotton warehouses in the area is located within its town limits.

1861 – The Civil War breaks out, and Suwannee County furnishes 250 men for service in the Confederate Army. The Confederacy desperately needs supplies from Florida, so construction of a railroad from Dupont, Georgia to the railroad crossing Suwannee County is begun. Its completion comes too late to do much for the war effort, but it will later prove to be what makes Live Oak prosper in the city’s early years.

1866 – The Live Oak post office is established 26 June 1866.

1868 – The county seat of Suwannee County is moved from Houston to Live Oak on 1 August 1868.

1869 – The Florida Legislature changes its laws to allow the citizens of a county to choose their county seat, and the first election is held on 27 March 1869. There are six polling places: Houston, Wellborn, Live Oak, Columbus, Plowdens, and Boston.

1878 – The Live Oak community is incorporated as a town on 24 April 1878. Luraville is settled in 1878, and has a population of 75 by 1886.

1880 – The town of O’Brien is established. It is originally called Obrine. It soon boasts two churches, sawmills, a turpentine still, cotton gins, and five stores. It will later change its name to Obrine Station, before finally settling on O’Brien as its permanent name.

1881 – There are 49 schools in Suwannee County, nearly double the number of 28 in 1879.

1882 – The town of McAlpin is settled.

1886 – New Branford, formerly known as Rowland’s Bluff, is incorporated as a town. The name will later be changed to Branford.

1892 – Live Oak’s oldest existing business, the B. W. Helvenston and Son Insurance Agency, is founded.

1900 – The number of public schools now totals 82, 57 of which are for white students; 25 for black students.

1904 – The Suwannee County Courthouse, which is still in use today, is built.

1907 – There is an attempt to relocate the capital of Florida from Tallahassee to a more central location, and the City of Live Oak is proposed as the new site, but the attempt fails. The state capital still remains in Tallahassee today.

1908 – After building the Live Oak, Perry, and Gulf Railroad (affectionately known locally as “the Loping Gopher”) to serve his sawmill, and later freight and passenger traffic, Thomas Dowling moves his lumber mill to the west side of Suwannee County. The community that evolves from that move will eventually become Dowling Park.

This timeline of Suwannee County history was prepared by Jinnie Hancock, President of the Suwannee Valley Genealogy Society.