CRESTVIEW — While the nation pauses today to reflect on the 9-11 terrorist attacks, locals also remember another 9-11. On Sept. 11, 1915, Okaloosa County was born.
Okaloosa's origin is traced to Laurel Hill newspaperman and state Rep. William H. “Bill” Mapoles, who tried to sway fellow legislators to create a new county, historian N. Allen Robinson wrote in a series of 1975 Okaloosa Consumer Bulletin articles.
With Walton and Holmes Counties, Senator B.H. Lindsay's support, and a provision that voters in the affected area give it their blessing at the polls, Mapoles’ bill passed on June 3, 1915.
Voters in eastern Santa Rosa and western Walton counties voted 2-1 and a 4-1, respectively, to form a new county on Sept. 11, 1915.
The new 9,000-resident county’s seat was temporarily established in an industrial building in Milligan. On Jan. 3 and 4, 1916, state auditor E. Amos inspected the new county.
“New record books have just been installed and opened up and the business of the county is proceeding satisfactorily,” he wrote in a report to Gov. Park Tramell. “Each county officer seems to be zealously striving to do his full duty and is manifesting much interest in the work entrusted to his keeping.
“The County Boards are using care and good judgment and appear to have the best interest of the county ever in mind. The county commissioners are especially to be commended for the economical and business-like way in which they are managing county affairs.”
A NEW COUNTY SEAT
Mapoles, foreseeing growth 13 miles south of Laurel Hill, moved his family and newspaper to Crestview in September 1915, and championed his new hometown as the county seat.
Other county residents who shared Mapoles’ belief in Crestview’s potential signed a notice to incorporate themselves in a municipal form of government. They met Feb. 22, 1916 at the Congregational church to create the city and select officers.
On March 6, 1917, voters chose between Baker, Crestview and Laurel Hill as their county seat. In an April 3 runoff, Crestview beat Baker by about 80 votes.
In 1918, a yellow brick courthouse was built on property donated by the Crestview Land Company on the site of today’s county courthouse, anchoring Main Street's north end.