History of Niceville
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Historic Niceville, Florida was originally Boggy, Florida. The area was in Escambia County in 1821 when the Territory of Florida had only two counties, Escambia to the West and St. Johns to the East, divided by the Apalachicola River. Its location was in Walton County when it was formed in 1824 from portions of Escambia County and Jackson County. Today it is in Okaloosa County formed in 1915 from portions of Santa Rosa County and Walton County.
In the 1840's William Nathey from England settled at the head of Boggy Bayou. In 1857 he built the gristmill. The old mill site is on the south side of Trout Lake on Eglin's Golf Course. The millstones are Niceville's oldest artifacts.
During the Civil War the area was actively contested by Union and Confederate forces. Union forces were deployed to end Confederate blockade-running and to destroy salt-works on the Choctawhatchee Bay. Families in the area had members that served on both sides. Some of their descendants reside in Niceville today.
Mail service to the area was established in 1868. The Boggy Post Office was located about 100 feet from a wharf close to where Mill Creek flows into Boggy Bayou. By 1880 qualified residents could vote there. Benjamin Oswald was the community's school teacher.
In the early 1900's, some area families received their Homesteads from the Federal Government. Two of the first churches still in existence today are the First Baptist Church and the Niceville United Methodist Church.
Boggy, Florida became Niceville, Florida on November 5, 1910. It was in Walton County five more years before Okaloosa County was formed.
The Woodmen of the World sponsored an annual picnic at Niceville. Citizens attended from every section of the county arriving in log carts, automobiles, launches and steamboats. Activities included fishing, swimming, boating and talking politics. After dinner the candidates present were given an opportunity to address the people. The platform was then cleared for the fiddlers and the remainder of the afternoon was for dancing. The W.O.W.'s Hall was located near the First Baptist Church.
Niceville grew as roads were improved. In 1916 Congress passed the Federal-Aid Road Act but the beginning of World War I took priority for federal funding. In Okaloosa County elected officials and citizens took it upon themselves to build and improve existing roads. Instrumental in this effort was its County Commissioner, B. P. Edge.
Early in Florida's land dispensations some parcels along Choctawhatchee Bay, Boggy Bayou and Rocky Bayou were transferred from the United States to the State of Florida and from the state to the railroad companies. The railroad companies in turn sold land to the lumber and timber companies. The land could be developed after the trees were removed and the swamps were drained.
Robert E. Lee McCaskill, a third generation resident of Walton County, was the most imposing personality in the early development of the area. After several business transactions he owned the Boggy Mill Company, the Consolidated Land and Lumber Company and the Mutual Land and Lumber Company. After acquiring these businesses located at Niceville he was in a position to control development. He had land offices in DeFuniak Springs, Pensacola, and at the Tribune Building in Chicago. Marketed as 'The Riviera of America' perhaps Niceville's name was chosen for Nice, France situated on a beautiful bay with a temperate climate along the French Riviera. As interest in the local area grew he marketed land along the Choctawhatchee Bay as "The Vale of Paradise". On one promotional map it reached from Black Point near Shalimar to White Point near the Mid-Bay Bridge in Niceville.
The primary occupations in 1910 and 1920 for those living in Niceville were laborers at the turpentine farms, sawmills, shipbuilding and fishing.
The oldest existing school in Niceville is located on the corner of Crestview Highway (SR 85) and Nathey Street. On May 17, 1924 George Nathey deeded to the Okaloosa County School Board for $1 seven acres from his father's homestead for a new high school. The building was first damaged by fire, then by a hurricane. Postmaster Lula Edge, also a member of the School Board, was instrumental in rebuilding the school in 1938. Laborers were provided by the Works Progress Administration. The school was first named Niceville High School and then Niceville Elementary School. In 1962 to honor her commitment in preserving the school it was named Lula J. Edge Elementary.
In 1926 4-H Camp Timpoochee, located on Choctawhatchee Bay at Niceville, was established as the first residential 4-H camping facility in Florida. It was one of the first 4-H residential camps in the nation. Camp Timpoochee is one of four 4-H camps in use in Florida today.
Two Civilian Conservation Corps units were located at Niceville. On June 19, 1933 Camp Bigby #1402 was organized. On October 1, 1940 Army #1413 was organized. Among the duties of the CCC camp participants were fire tower construction, erosion control, seedling plantings, mosquito control, building of recreational facilities and construction of landing fields.
A fire in January 1934 destroyed almost all of the business section of Niceville located along Boggy Bayou on Bayshore Drive. Space was made in Adolph Finck's Restaurant to accommodate businesses most effected. It represented the bay country's first and only complete arcade; a post office, the Niceville Fish Company, a grocery, a restaurant, a bakery and the bay country's only draft beer dispensary. The Niceville Masonic Lodge occupied the floor above.
In July 1938 Niceville had a population of approximately 1500. It was numbered among Northwest Florida's enterprising towns. An election showed overwhelming sentiment for a proposal to incorporate. The vote was 329 to 4. The first Mayor was J. M. Reynolds. The first City Council included Claude Meigs, Wallace Spence, G. B. Anchors, Herman Anderson and Thomas Powell. J. W. Windham was named Clerk and Hughie Holmes was named Marshal. The first consideration for the incorporated city was a water system and a cold storage plant for the benefit of the all important fishing industry.
Among Historic Niceville's assets are beautiful natural surroundings, the military, educators who uphold the tradition of Niceville's excellent schools, churches, newcomers and caring locals who maintain its small town charm. Niceville celebrates its fishing heritage annually during the third weekend of October when it hosts the Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival.