CRESTVIEW — A small gathering Wednesday evening recognized the significance of one of north Okaloosa County's most historic cemeteries.
The Crestview Historic Preservation Board selected Old Bethel Cemetery as the location for the panel's second historical landmark marker. The first is in front of Conyers Masonic Lodge.
Board chairwoman Ann Spann called the cemetery "one of the most historic sites in Okaloosa County" before unveiling the green and white cast metal marker.
The marker also recognized the significance of Old Bethel Church, a log structure that stood on the cemetery grounds into the early 1960s.
Spann praised Old Bethel Cemetery Commission members who worked closely with Historic Preservation Board members to place the marker.
"We appreciate it," commission secretary Betty Miller said. "I have parents, grandparents and great-grandparents (buried) out here."
The marker also recognizes the role that Austinville, located on a stagecoach route between Milton and Geneva, Ala., played in Crestview's development.
Griffith Ferry — established around 1850 to transport goods, people and the stagecoach over the Yellow River, about a half-mile from the cemetery — was critical to the commerce route.
Austinville, the town in which the cemetery once stood, was a stagecoach stop and one of the first post offices in the area, Spann said.
Spann said local oral history describes a mass grave of Confederate soldiers buried within a circle of field stones in the cemetery's oldest section.
University of West Florida archeologists — even using ground-penetrating radar — couldn't find evidence of bodies below the markers, she said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.