Porter-Durden-Walden Store | Jackson County, FL | c. 1890s
In the early days of Florida settlement, the western panhandle of Florida had been linked by primitive roads, but as time went on, the citizens of the area hoped for a better connection to the bigger markets of the region for access to sale and purchase of goods.
And the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War would finally bring that opportunity when intense lobbying from residents of this part brought pressure to the state legislature to approve the Pensacola & Atlantic Railroad (P&A).
In 1881, the line was authorized to lay tracks from Pensacola to the Apalachicola River and as a result, a boom of towns began to emerge along the line.
In a small community near Marianna, FL, the Porter Family had relocated from Grand Ridge, Illinois. They bought up land in the area and decided to name this new town along the tracks after their beloved home in Illinois. Around 1890 or 1891, the Porter Family built this structure as a store and post office to serve the local community, as well as travelers on the railroad. It was next owned by the Durden Family and then finally, owned by Sue and John Walden, who gave it its most common name, Walden Store.
Locals have fond memories of visiting the store and report that it was always well stocked with flour, sugar, and vegetables, as well as a wide array of hard candy. One local recalls his childhood days when a porch was attached where he would pass the afternoon with his girlfriend. He shared a memory with me of sitting there with her and carving their initials.
John and his wife Sue would run the store until 1974 when health problems led to Sue and her daughter Velma taking over. In 1995, John passed away and the store closed for good. A new owner bought the property in hopes of restoring it and at that time, it was moved a few hundred yards back from the road where it had stood, shaded by oak trees.