BRIEF HISTORY OF JASPER and CONTACTS
Set in the North Florida lowlands 83 miles west of Jacksonville, 90 miles east of Tallahassee, 35 miles south of Valdosta Georgia, 32 miles north of Lake City, the town was founded close to supplies but far enough away to retain some independence and solitude. Jasper is believed to rest on land originally thought to be the site of Miccosukee Indians, a sub tribe of the Seminole nation. The 1823 Treaty of Moultrie bought the Indian lands and the population was required to move east of the Suwannee River. This allowed settlers to move into the area. A suspected Indian burial mound is located at Baisden Swamp just on the outskirts of Jasper. Six miles north of Jasper along the Alapaha River an established Indian village called Halato Micco once stood, suggesting the type of Indian inhabiting the area where artifacts of pottery, spear points, and arrowheads are often found.
During the Second Seminole War (1835-42) pioneers throughout Hamilton County began assembling into a frontier village for mutual protection against Indian raids. By the end of the war, they were referring to their little clearing in the wilderness as ‘Jasper’ in honor of the Sergeant William Jasper, one of the best known ‘Southern’ heroes of the Revolutionary War.
Sergeant Jasper had recovered the patriot flag in the face of British cannon fire during the battle of Fort Moultrie, June 28, 1776 just days before the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776). Jasper was later killed in the attack on British held Savannah, Georgia in 1779. Many of the first wave of pioneers who emigrated to Florida in the 1820’s and 1830’s were from South Carolina.
The town was located on the old Georgia-Florida military/wagon road that later (1930’s) became US 41. During the last year of the Civil War (1865), Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, ordered a railroad constructed between Live Oak, Florida and Lawton, Georgia to deliver Florida beef and vegetables to Lee’s besieged Confederate Army of Northern Virginia defending Richmond. The railroad ran through downtown Jasper. It was too late to save the Confederacy but proved to be an economic asset to Jasper linking it with Savannah for cotton, timber, and produce export.
After the Civil War, Henry Plant acquired the Confederate railroad and used it as the primary ‘route’ into Florida of his freight and passenger service. Plant died in 1899 and in 1902 his heirs sold his railroad to The Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) which continued passenger and freight service through Jasper into the 1970’s. The ACL merged with the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) in 1967 to form the Seaboard Coast Line (SCL) which in turn was acquired by the CSX in 1985 during the massive national downsizing of railroads. Their track through Hamilton County was dismantled and sold.
Today the City of Jasper owns the old Confederate railroad bed inside the city limits (Central Avenue) and Progress Energy owns the abandoned beds north and south of the city. The Georgia Southern Railroad, traversed the town in 1885 linking Macon Georgia and Palatka Florida. Their tract remains active to this day as a freight line to PCS and Lake City.
Jasper’s economic prosperity from the Civil War (1861-65) to the Vietnam War (1965-75) was due primarily to the railroads that served the town. In the late 1960’s, the Federal Interstate Highway System was completed through north Florida and the age of railroads ended. But it was the railroads that built Jasper into the County Seat and the largest town in Hamilton County.
The City of Jasper has a population of 1,700 (approximate)
Mayor Darnell Lumpkin
Vice Mayor Gerald Lewis, Jr.
Chairperson Kathy Avriett
Council Member LaBarfield Bryant
Council Member Jay Daigle, III
City Attorney Rhett Bullard
City Manager Charles Williams
City Clerk Jennifer Hightower
Finance Department 386-792-7172
Director Margaret Harper
Public Works Department 386-792-1212
Director Harry Davis
Fire Department 386-792-2211
Chief Josh Waters
Police Department: 386-792-1130
Chief Jeff McGuire