In 2004, local historian Brenda Rees started an event to call attention to the discovery she had made about the founding of Walton County.
Through her research, she found that John Love McKinnon's date of 1828 for the founding of the county was incorrect. She discovered that Walton County was actually founded Dec. 29, 1824, four years earlier.
McKinnon authored and published a "History of Walton County" in 1911.
"McKinnon's 'History of Walton County' had numerous errors left uncorrected for decades and generations," said Rees. "The wrong founding date and early border were all people knew until highlighted and corrected in 2004. This is significant in that South Walton was in the original 1824 border, but was left to Washington County in McKinnon's book."
Rees brought the finding to light at an event she hosted at her home on Dec. 29, 2004, that she named Walton County Countdown to 200 Celebration.
"Many Walton County residents were unaware of this accurate date as the McKinnon book had the wrong date of 1828, as well as other border and early history errors and omissions," said Rees. "Those errors and omissions have been corrected over the past 14 years with this annual event highlighting Walton County history."
Rees held the 14th celebration at her home Dec. 29, 2017, with about 25 people attending. The theme this year was "1824."
Rees has kept a sign-in sheet each year of people who have attended. In past years she has hosted up to 80 people.
Each celebration has been held at sunset on Rees's dock with a sunset toast and a reading of a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe for Octavia Walton, Walton County's founding governor's daughter who is believed to have named Walton County.
"We will promote the event more as it gets closer to 2024 and add more events," said Rees.
She said that joining Walton County for a 200th year celebration in 2024 will be Leon, Alachua, Nassau, and Mosquito counties. Mosquito was changed to Orange County on Jan. 30, 1845.
The poem, written for Octavia by Poe in 1827 reads:
"When wit, and wine, and friends have met
And laughter crowns the festive hour
In vain I struggle to forget
Still does my heart confess they power
And fondly turn to thee!
"But Octavia, do not strive to rob
My heart, of all that soothes its pain
The mournful hope that every throb
Will make it break for thee!"