Bearhead, FL


After several years of having no reference for Bearhead I received an e-mail from Janet Walden Miller who has graciously allowed me to add her recollections of Bearhead here to complete the record.Here are Janetís words edited slightly as I combine the inputs from her two e-mails:


I have been working on my own family history for a couple of years and just happened upon the Muscogee site today while looking up some information on Bessie Pittman.First let me say, I loved the site and esp. the old stories by Mr. Merritt.It gives me a glimpse of NW Florida in the days when my dad and siblings were growing up.


Bessie Pittman was not related to our family but she was mentioned one time in connection with Amelia Earhart and I decided to look her up again now that the Internet has so much information available. The story that my aunt Marie told was that, many years before, she saw an article and photo in the newspaper of the famous aviatrix Jackie Cochran and immediately recognized her as Bessie Pittman whom she knew growing up.She said at the time Bessie was proclaiming that she was born in Tallahassee, FL and she thought it was a bit unfortunate that Bessie felt the need to alter her personal history.Many years ago I learned that Jackie Cochran was very mysterious about her origins and that is confirmed even by Wikipedia today.Apparently, her fame made her reluctant to share her humble beginnings and it must have been quite difficult for her to keep her secrets secret.


My dad and his siblings were born between 1900 and 1916 and I always had an impression that Bessie was about the same age.Obviously she was a bit older than my aunt Marie who was the youngest and the one from whom I heard about Bessie, a.k.a. the famous Jackie Cochran.My aunt claimed to have gone to school with Bessie at one point and thus was sure of the identification.


On your Bessie Pittman page, I noted that you were not able to locate a Bearhead, FL and thought you might enjoy knowing exactly where it is.I grew up there myself so I know it exists.Bearhead is located on Highway 90 about 6 to 6 Ĺ miles West of DeFuniak Springs.It used to have a water tower to refill the L & N trainís water tank but that was torn down when the trains quit using water for steam.The tower was located alongside the tracks about 100 feet West of where the Boy Scout Road intersects with Highway 90 today and that is where the Bearhead sign used to be.


My dadís family lived a couple of miles south of Bearhead when they were younger but they moved up to Bearhead later onto 20 acres of land that my grandfather bought.It was called Walden Plains on the land maps but we always just called it Bearhead.I donít know exactly where Bessieís parents were living at the time but my grandfather built a small sawmill in 1916 and I wonder if Mr. Pittman actually worked for him when they were there.I suppose this must have been before the Pittman family moved to Muscogee?Iím also presuming that Mr. Pittman worked for Southern States Lumber Co. at some point.


I presume it was named by the railroad to identify the location of the water tower.There was never much of a community there, probably no more than 6 homes at the most.The last time I passed through there, it was not much to brag about.


About 3 miles west of Bearhead, there was a Rathead sign on the railroad when I was a child.Recently, I learned there was also once an oil well there and was so surprised because I never heard of oil being present in NW Florida!Oil apparently seeped to the surface in 1929 and there was an attempt to extract it.It didnít amount to much so it soon disappeared.


I enclose a photo from the oil rig that I got from the Florida Archives.You can see the railroad in the center of the photo.



This probably would have been much like what Bearhead looked like about the same time which would have been after Bessie Pittmanís family departed.


West of Rathead is Mossy Head which was a fairly good sized community at the turn of the century and is still an active community today.I only mention it because I think of the three places as sisters on the map of Walton County.