The county of Walton turned another year older Dec. 29 and the occasion did not go unnoticed, thanks to local historian Brenda Rees.
Rees hosted the ninth annual "countdown to Walton's 200th" birthday celebration at her home on Eastern Lake. She started the event in 2004 to call attention to Walton County's rich and old history.
WaltonCountywas founded on Dec. 29, 1824 and named for George Walton, Jr. Walton's father, George Walton. Sr. signed the Declaration of Independence for the state of Georgia.
Walton, Jr., served as the first Secretary of State for West Florida in 1821 under Gov. Andrew Jackson, and served as Secretary of State for the Territory of Florida from 1822 to 1826.
Walton, Jr. also served as acting governor of Florida when Jackson left for Tennessee to pursue his presidential bid.
Rees founded the Countdown to 200 event in 2004 to highlight Walton County’s significant history. During her research of the county's history, she found that the wrong date for Walton’s founding was published in several books and she felt that founding this celebration would help set the record straight.
In addition, Walton is one of the older counties in the area. While Walton County will be 200 years old in 2024, it will be 2113 when Bay County turns 200, and 2115 for Okaloosa County.
Walton was carved out of Escambia County, one of Florida's first two counties created in 1821 and Jackson County, founded in 1822.
During the Countdown to Walton's 200 celebration, each year, Rees reads the poem "Octavia" that Edgar Allan Poe wrote for Walton's daughter, Octavia, who he met once. Octavia was an author and world traveler.
As the sun is setting at her back, following the reading, Rees leads her guests in raising a toast to the county's founding.
This year, she also named an honorary George Walton, Jr. and an honorary Madame Octavia Walton Le Vert. In honor of their marriage in 2012, Rees gave the honor to her new son in law and daughter, Paul and Lauren Rees Wolfe.
"We have a great time at the celebration toasting one of Florida’s most historic and beautiful counties," said Rees. "Those still around in 2024 will celebrate Walton’s bicentennial and share wine that has been set aside each year (in anticipation of the event).”