It took a two-year battle in the state Legislature before eastern Santa Rosa County and western Walton County voters went to the polls on Sept. 11, 1915.
They voted overwhelmingly to form a county that would provide local government access closer to their homes.
Twice Laurel Hill newspaperman and state Rep. William H. “Bill” Mapoles 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 backing from Walton and Holmes counties Sen. B.H. Lindsay, and a provision that voters in the affected area gave it their blessing at the polls, Mapoles’ bill passed on June 3, 1915.
On Sept. 11, 1915, it was up to the voters.
With a 4-1 margin in Walton County, and 2-1 in Santa Rosa, voters gave themselves a new county.
The new 9,000-resident county's seat was temporarily established in a Milligan industrial building. On Jan. 3 and 4, 1916, state auditor E. Amos inspected the area.
“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.”
Mapoles, foreseeing growth 13 miles south of Laurel Hill, moved his family and newspaper to Crestview later in September 1915, and championed his new hometown as the county seat.
Other county residents shared Mapoles’ belief in Crestview’s potential.
An item in the Jan. 21, 1916 Okaloosa News stated, “Miss Francis Hilton, of Baker, was here Wednesday and bought an adjoining lot to the bank building. Miss Francis says that she don’t know for certain where the court house will go, but believes Crestview will get it. Therefore she wanted to buy some property here. She says that she likes the appearance of things here mighty well.”
Garden City resident J.T. Green said, “Everybody in his part of the county is for Crestview for the court house,” the newspaper stated.
Another article in the same issue stated, “The business conditions of everything at Crestview is 25 percent better today than it was today a week ago, and 100 percent better than it was three months ago.”
A public notice also appeared in The Okaloosa News' Jan. 21, 1916 edition:
“Notice is hereby given that we the undersigned citizens, residing in Section 17, Township 3 North, Range 23 West, Tallahassee Meridian, will meet at the Congregational church, at 3 o’clock p.m., on Tuesday, the 22nd day of February 1916 for the purpose of incorporating ourselves into a municipal form of government and to select officers according to the laws and constitution of the state of Florida.”
The first signature beneath the announcement belonged to Okaloosa News Editor W.H. Mapoles.
Voters agreed and, on March 6, 1917, they 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.