Walton County Heritage
Association and Museum

Preserving the History and Heritage of Walton County, Florida

Knox Hill Academy

The Historical Marker at the site of Knox Hill Academy gives an abbreviated history of the school:

The Knox Hill Academy, a boarding school, was founded in 1848 by the Rev. John Newton (April 22, 1814-Nov. 21, 1871), who was also the head master and a Presbyterian minister. It was first located near a spring northeast of the Morrison Place on Knox Hill. The original sponsors were the Campbells, McLeans, Gunns, Morrisons, Gillies, McCaskills, McPhersons, and McDonalds. It replaced the log Henry School House. The first building was a split log house built on the top of a hill and furnished with single desks and blackboards. Slates and chalk were used for writing. Eighty-four to 100 regular pupils attended. In January 1859 the academy was moved to a large, two-story frame building north of the original site. Class for older students was held on the second floor and the younger students on the first floor. This academy was highly acclaimed and provided education for students from West Florida, Southwest Georgia and Southern Alabama, from Pensacola to Tallahassee. It also included a laboratory for chemistry and physics. Reverend John Newton closed Knox Hill Academy in 1871 and moved to Mary Esther where he opened a school. Reverend Newton's motto was: "You must learn and obey."

John Newton died on November 25, 1893, near Pensacola. The death date given on the Historical Marker is actually that of his second wife. It has also been discovered that Newton did not attend Amherst College. It is believed he may have attended Amherst Academy, which was what we would now consider a high school, rather than the college. Unfortunately, the records of the academy were destroyed by fire in 1838.

The following history of Knox Hill Academy was prepared by Pattillo Campbell in 1966 for the Okaloosa County Public Library:

Knox Hill Academy
Founded in 1849

Prior to the establishment of Knox Hill Academy, the Scotch had dotted the Valley with little, round-log schoolhouses. There was a school at the Ridge, at Knox Hill, at the Valley Church, at Eucheeanna, at Mossy Bend, at Hickory Springs and at Colonel McKinnon's place. Professor Henry taught at Knox Hill, Eucheeanna, and several other places; Reverend Robinson taught at the Valley Church; Major J. M. Landrum taught at Eucheeanna; Dr. A.D. McKinnon taught at Mossy Bend; and Mark A. Cook taught at the school which Colonel McKinnon had for his own and his neighbors' children. Education at the these schools, however, appears to have been confined to the elementary level, and a need was felt for a more advanced educational institutions.

John Newton (4-22-1814 - 11-25-1893), born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, educated at Amherst College, who had taught a school for the Scotch people in North Carolina, came to Florida in the fall of 1848. He was invited to Euchee Valley and, at a meeting of the Scotch, it was decided to organize a school to be conducted by him. The school commenced in the Henry School House that stood near a spring northeast of the Morrison place at Old Knox Hill several hundred yards northwest of where the Academy was built. Almost immediately, however a good-sized, split-log house was built on the top of the Hill and furnished with single desks and blackboards and the school was moved into this 1 building. A year or two later, a large, two-story, frame building was constructed in front of the log building. From its beginning, the school bore the name of Knox Hill academy, later referred to as Old Knox Hill Academy to distinguish it from the school opened in January, 1859 under the same mentor at a location two miles to the north, where the building had been moved.

Mr. Newton left the school in 1854, paid a short visit to California, then taught several years a Marianna and Orange Hill (Washington County), returning to Knox Hill academy when it opened at the new location. During his absence, the school had several different teachers. His second tenure was from 1859 until 1863, when he moved with his family to California, where he remained until 1866. During his absence, the school was taught by some of his old pupils. He returned and taught at the Academy again for a year or two, then lift permanently. The school was continued for many years with some of his former pupils or their children serving as teachers.

Under Newton, the Academy taught students at all educational levels from the primary through the first year of college work and, outside of his own scholars, the only two assistants he ever had, were Angus I. Gillis and Daniel G. McLeod, two of his former pupils. At times, attendance exceeded one hundred, with students from Pensacola, Marianna, Milton and adjacent counties in West Florida and Alabama boarding nearby. The wide variety of subjects taught is shown by an examination of the list of text books issued - copy books, readers, arithmetic boards, geometry books, algebra books, Latin texts, Greek texts, copies of Family Worship Book, Psalms and Hymns, History of the Church, home and Foreign Record Book, etc.

In the attached list of patrons of the Academy during the periods shown (the first and last periods under Newton), the masses of the children of the respective parents are shown where available.

List of Patrons of Knox Hill Academy
with Names of Attending Children
[in parentheses]
9-24-1849 - 12-24-1854

Blain, James (John, Mary)
Campbell, ???? or John (Catherine)
Cook, J.W. (Eliza, George)
Douglass, Angus (Sarah D.)
Fisher, George D. (Marshall, Louisa, Luther)
Frater, Louis (John)
Gillis, Angus (Murdock, Catharine, Archibold, William, Jeanette)
Gillis, Mrs. Margaret [Widow of Murdock D. Gillis] (Catherine, Angus, Sarah, Daniel)
Gillis, Neil (Donald, Catherine, Elizabeth, Flora, Daniel)
John, Daniel G. (Colin, William, Daniel Campball)
Kirkpatrick, Dr. L.D. (Mary Carhman, Mont, James Keith)
Landon, J.M. (Alonza)
McCaskill, ??????? (Alexander)
McDonald, John (Daniel, William)
McDonald, Peter (Sarah)
McDonald, William (Daniel, Flora)
McKenzie, John (Margaret, Nancy, Sarah)
McLean, Daniel G. (Angus, William, Nancy Alexander)
McLean, Daniel M. (Elizabeth)
McLean, Hugh (Abigail, Sarah)
McLeod, Alexander (Alexander, Daniel, John, Duncan, Flora)
McPharson, Neil (William, Sarah Isabella, Malcolm)
McRanie, Duncan (Jackson)
McSween, M. (Philip, Robert, Elizabeth)
Miller, Ashley (Elizabeth, John, James)
Moore, William (Margaret, William, Nancy D., Daniel, John)
Morrison, John (Archibold, William, Murdock)
Morrison, Murdock (John, Sarah)
Ray, Daniel (Isabella, William, Colin, Mary)
Ray, John P. (Nancy, Sarah, Colin, John)
Russ, Samuel (Robert, Thomas)
Simons, Captain Peter (Peter, Alfred)
Wright, Hon. B.D. (Henry, Hambleton)
Yonge, Henry (Edward)

Other Patrons During Period

Anderson, Norman
Atwell, George
Campbell, Colonel Angus
Killae, John
McCallum, Dougald
McDonald, Norman P.
McKinnon, John P.
Moore, Oliver
Morrison, John P.
Skipper, Abraham

List of Patrons of Knox Hill Academy
with Names of Attending Children
[in parentheses]
3-1867 - 7-31-1868

Beck, Mrs. Mary (Emma)
Campbell, Mrs. C. (Mary)
Campbell, J.L. (Angus)
Campbell, N.P. (Alexander, William)
Day, B. (Sarah, Millie)
Douglass, Angus Curry (John, Charles)
Gillis, Angus (Daniel, Mary)
Gillis, John (John, Nancy)
Gillis, Malcom (Georgia)
Gillis, N.S. (Elizabeth, Sarah)
McCaskill, A.L. (Mary)
McCaskill, Christian (Mary)
McCaskill, K. (Isabella, Daniel, Malcom)
McDonald, A.P. (John, Peter, Sarah)
McDonald, D.P. (Sarah, Daniel)
McDonald, Mrs. Isabella [unknown child]
McLean, James (Duncan, Nancy, Flora)
McLeod, Alexander (Isabella, Christian)
McSween, Dr. Philip (Nancy)
McSween, James (William , Daniel)
Morrison, John (Malcolm, Mary, Angus, Jennet, Margaret)
Morrison, John P. (Nancy, Neil)
Monroe, A. C. (William)

Other Patrons During Period

Ball, John
Bowers. G.
Calhoun, Mr.
Campbell, N.J.
Flournoy, Mr.
Garrett, Mr.
McKinnon, A.D.
Owens, J.

©2009 Walton County Heritage Association, Inc.